In the last chapter, I pointed out how C.F. Grey was playing the Edward Cullen bad boy YA trope card of the push/pull. He displays obvious horniness and desire, constantly thrusting himself into the heroine’s life, even to the point of crossing the bounds of respectability, but his “nobleness” is demonstrated through his acknowledgement that what he’s doing is stepping over the line and dangerous. “The smart thing would be for you to stay away from me while I constantly keep appearing in your life. No, seriously, you don’t want to be near me, which is important to remember as I hover over your every move.” It’s the old trick of making someone an awful human being, but then saying they’re good because they’re aware of and regret how awful they are, while continuing to be awful.
Welcome to an entire chapter of this.
After her drunken escapades and fainting of the night before, Ana wakes up in the bed of C.F.’s hotel suite, where he took off her pants (with the old “they had vomit splattered on them” excuse), tucked her in, put orange juice and painkillers on the nightstand for when she wakes up… and, we learn later, spent the entire night sleeping next to her.
Instead of getting Ana home, where she could be cared for by her close friend and roommate, Kate – who C.F. instead left behind at the bar for his brother to fuck – C.F. took it upon himself to spend the night with this woman he’s met twice and rescued from death by bicycle. Now, okay, to be fair, he didn’t do anything untoward aside from sharing the bed with her, and even then, in a sleeping way. It’s creepy, especially given knowledge of where things are going, but fine. I’ll give him that. He didn’t leave her alone to choke on her own vomit, and only removed the clothing that was soiled. There. I’ll let you have that one.
So she wakes up, fully turned on by the situation – that subconscious voice of Awesome Ana barely chimes in at all anymore – especially when Grey walks in, all sweaty and flushed from his morning exercises. They talk as he fills in her confusion, then he hops in the shower and… as you can guess, the majority of this chapter is about Ana being horny. Every page furthers the flow of blood to her loins, and when she hops in for her own shower, she notices that the body wash smells like him (I think it’s the other way around, sweetie) and starts playing with herself as she imagines running Mr. Control-Freak Grey all over her body.
She’s interrupted before she thinks to start exploring the shower head settings, and towels off, discovering the lacy blue lingerie and new clothes Grey’s assistant, Mr. Buzz-Cut, bought for her. She has a moment where she imagines Mr. Buzz-Cut being stone-faced and professional as he shops for lingerie for his boss’s latest fling, and I suddenly lock onto another story I wish this book was about. Seriously, the uber-professional assistant always cleaning up after the bondage loving boss and his harem of sex slave interns would make for a great cynical satire, and a much better book than Ana’s holy crap sexual awakening.
Anyway, Ana shows up for breakfast and Grey keeps bossing her around and he forces her to eat and keep eating and finish your plate, “that’s a good girl.” Almost everything Grey says to Ana is an order of some kind. He never asks her what she wants, just tells her what he wants her to do. And when he’s challenged, he just points out that it’s what she should be doing anyways and all he’s doing is being the logical voice of reason. And Ana goes along with it. It’s almost as though (FORESHADOWING) the life of dominance and submission is something she never knew she’d been searching for her whole life!
Even though it’s never once been reflected in the way we’ve actually seen her live her life. Never once has she been shown as seeking out others to tell her what to do. Never once has she come off as lost and looking for guidance. She’s stable. She’s capable. She’s fully independent and – at least in the first chapter – has a clear head and friends and a job and goals and is just wrapping up her education. She isn’t longing for fulfilment or guidance. Ever. At all. On the flip side, she isn’t so ragingly independent that the story is about her being “tamed”. And, no, I’m not saying strongly independent women should be tamed, just looking at archetypal story structures (Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew) the book had a potential to mirror. It would have opened a whole ‘nother can of worms if it had gone that route, but at least I would have understood it and what it was trying to say. Here, I don’t get it. I don’t see how this pending relationship is building off of some need in her life she’s discovering, because, structurally, the story hasn’t established any such need as being there.
Maybe it’s just that, like Bella Swan with Edward, she isn’t drawn to Grey because he’s dominant. Soft Dom’s use mental dominance over physical dominance, there are people who are curious how to be a soft dom. But because he isn’t normal, He’s frustrating and dangerous and knows when to quit even though he doesn’t, but he isn’t some everyday boring dope who asks her out on everyday boring dates because he everyday boring finds her everyday boring hot. I get that normal is boring, but the fact is, neither Bella nor Ana has ever experienced normal. They turn down all potential suitors, never giving them a chance and seeing what comes of it. I’m sure their authors have, but having a character turn away relationships based on the foresight given to them by the author’s own personal experiences is sloppy writing. These characters haven’t been through those life experiences yet, so the choices and assumptions they make don’t feel natural and realistic.
And who they do choose, wow. Yes, Edward and Grey are different, and extremely hot, and frustrating in a way that I guess can be alluring, but the complete lack of doubt on the part of their respective heroine makes absolutely no sense. There should be more conflict, more requiring of the men to prove themselves instead of dragging out the revelation of their reasons to ridiculous degrees. Here, Grey gives Ana an orgasm when he says he wants to bite the lip she’s always gnawing on, but then continues to go on about how he’s a Dark Knight, not the heroic White Knight she imagines, and refuses to answer her few questions as he tells her to keep eating, then sets a date where he promises to explain it all.
And after all his explaining about how he’s bad and he wants to wait until she knows the truth, what happens when they get in the elevator so she can head to work? He says “fuck it” and forces himself on her. He pins her to the wall with his hips, his erection poking her in the belly, clenches both of her wrists with one hand while using the other to yank her head back by the ponytail, then starts tonguing her tonsils.
On the one hand, this is not the same as when Jose forced himself on her because these two have expressed interest in one another and Grey was the one who wanted to hold off on further contact until he could explain things. On the other, the violence of it so closely mirrors Jose’s attack, and comes just one chapter later, that it just can’t feel anything but uncomfortable. The narration is all about how Ana loves it and wants it and how it makes her feel alive, but all I can think about is how Grey is essentially forcing her to re-enact the attempted rape she experienced the night before. I don’t know if there’s something intentional in this, if “James” is trying to mirror the two events as a statement of how one is “okay” but the other is not, but it could equally as likely be yet another example of sloppy story structure brought on by the fanfic chapter-by-chapter style of writing.
Oh, and Ana totally gets horny over Grey’s toothbrush, fingering its bristles as she imagines them tickling along Grey’s gums. And then she uses it. And Grey gets turned on when he learns she used it.
Crap Count: 3 uses. With 3 uses of “Holy shit!” to shake things up a little.