I'm going to have to admit something, and here goes:
I think 50 Shades is the better book.
There. I said it! The writing here is probably a little better in the strictest, most technical sense. But for all her faults, Anastasia Steele was not unpleasant to be around, really. At least, years later, I don't remember her being as unpleasant to be around as the main guy is in this thing. Max! Sorry. Yes. Max. I do not care for Max. And this chapter really makes me wonder if I'm supposed to like him.
Obviously you don't have to like the main guy in a book. But an unlikable character in a romance novel is a pretty tough needle to thread, I think! EL isn't pulling it off so far, but who knows!
Oh and as silly as the stakes are in Fifty Shades at least they're introduced quickly. Right at the top BAM! Here's this guy, and here's our narrator, and there's something between them, so will they or won't they? And then it gets pretty weird pretty fast with the thing where CG wants Ana to sign a bunch of paperwork before they can get bizzy but at least the story doesn't waste a lot of time before letting us know what the book is about.
I still don't know what this book is really about. We've got Max grieving and dealing with his brother's widow, but no particular sense of how that will play out. And we've got Alessia, who wants to play the piano.
Now, of course we know that these two things are going to intersect, because that's why both stories are in the same book. But I feel like we're getting fairly far into this thing and still haven't been offered much in the way of a roadmap. Still not sure where an actual conflict is going to emerge. Here's a hint: not in this chapter!
Max is in a cab, and he talks to his friend Joe on the phone, and also they have a mutual friend named Tom. They do sword fighting together sometimes but they can't right now because Max is too busy telling people what to do with his dead brother's money and it's all very interesting. JK! It's not good!
Max goes to some club to unwind because of how stressed he is after all this rich-guy stuff. I am still not over the fact that Max is technically some type of aristocrat and people sometimes refer to him as the Earl of Trevethick. Oh and also I've already done that upperclass twit of the year reference so I can't do that again yet and that's very disappointing!
Anyway Max is also a model. Have we talked about that before? His whole deal where he's technically an Earl and he's a DJ and a model on the side--I dunno. It feels childish to me. It feels like a kid who wants to be either an NFL quarterback or an astronaut when he grows up, and I hate it.
So yeah he meets a lady and they end up back at his place and they talk an intolerable amount. You hate to see it. I'm going to do one of my favorite unfair things where I give you just the dialogue and it seems even worse to you than it did to me, since I was reading it interspersed with other business.
--Let's go to bed, Posh Boy.
--All good things, sweetheart. Let me put your coat down.
--Fuck my coat.
--We're not going to make it to the bedroom at this rate.
--Let me see your place, then, model-slash-photographer-slash-DJ. Do you act, too? Great view, by the way. Nice piano. Have you fucked on it?
--Not recently. Not sure I want to right now. I'd rather bed you. Let's go to bed.
The one thing of note in this scene is that tonight's lady keeps clawing poor, poor Maxim with her long fingernails. But he has a solution!
Basically this book is all about differentiating Max from Christian. So you see, Christian Grey did BDSM because his first lover abused him into kinkiness, which based on those other books, I understand must be some kind of disease you get from doing too much sex. Watch out folks!I tie the silk around her left wrist and thread it through the slats of the bed’s headboard, and then, taking her right hand, I deftly tie her right wrist to the other end of the restraint. With her arms outstretched, her nails are rendered harmless, and she looks fantastic.
Max, on the other hand, only does kink in self defense. He doesn't really wanna tie up his date. He has to tie up his date on account of how her fingernails are too long. You see? He's not Christian Grey! He's a totally different guy! Max didn't choose the kink life. The kink life chose him! The scarves in his nightstand? They are for self defense. In case of an emergency!
I genuinely don't see any other reading of this.
Oh also Max goes down on his date. I feel like CG never did, or like, maybe he did but like in a kind of token, symbolic way. Doesn't matter. I'm not going to check.
I assume that we are also meant to differentiate this sex scene from future sex scenes. The whole thing with the fingernails and all--I expect it's sort of meant to be unpleasant, because this is a conservative novel which demands that the good people organize themselves into family units with a man in charge.
We're going to see Max move from incorrigible rake to family man. He's going to go from casual sex (obviously bad! so unfulfilling! too many fingernails!) to married guy sex. (so much better! way hotter because maybe they have a baby! nice girls have shorter nails!)
Max's relationship with his brother's widow is symbolic of his general disrespect of the family unit. Breaking things off with her, and becoming monogamous with Alessia will once again showcase the triumph of the pater familias! That's why both Max's brother and father are dead. It's basically patriarchy. Max is a sort of non-royal king who hasn't yet properly claimed his crown, but he will by the end of the book.
Look, don't be surprised. This goofus is a literal Earl. Those are the people doing Brexit, for god's sake! [Editor's note: I just check for spelling and stuff, not facts.]
Yeah, I just thought I'd share that with you. I particularly enjoy the fact that Leticia is a human-rights lawyer. Because here you thought that Leticia was just some unpleasant caricature of a horndog at the club! A vapid sex object, is what you thought she was! But no. She's a human-rights lawyer, so don't you feel just awful about all those gross assumptions you made? That's right! I thought so.I watch the rise and fall of her breasts as she sleeps. Out of habit I go through my ritual of recalling everything I know about the woman I’ve just fucked. Twice. Leticia. Human-rights lawyer, sexually aggressive. Older than me. Likes to be restrained. Likes it a lot. But forthright, assertive women typically do, in my experience. She’s a biter, screams on orgasm. Vocal. Diverting….Exhausting.
Oh also all confident women want to be tied up in bed. Thanks EL James! Yes yes, assertive women all secretly want to submit in bed, because that brings natural balance to the patriarchy, or something.
Anyway, Leticia dips out before morning, and then Max wakes up, and Alessia is there cleaning his house, and he's like, "Hi. Who the hell are you?"
And that's the end of our chapter!
Now, this was, to be fair, a shorter chapter. So of course less happened. But also this is a book by EL James, so yeah not much is going to happen. That's one of her trademark quirks!