“Mindless sex…there’s a lot to be said for it. No commitments, no expectations, and no disappointments,” reads the opening line of The Mister, the latest offering from EL James, the woman behind Fifty Shades of Grey. Perhaps she has a point there. Mindless writing on the other hand is something wholly different, and this 520 page monstrosity, is unforgivably packed full of it!
There is just no two ways about it…The Mister is f**king terrible; an atrocious crime against writing. I have struggled harder to finish this book the last couple of weeks than I ever have reading something, and I have read some bad books over the years, let me tell you.
Now, I should probably say that I have never read Fifty Shades of Grey (and most definitely won’t be after reading this) and acknowledge that I may not really be the target audience for this type of book. But, then again, I’m finding it hard to believe this piece of cringe-inducing writing and poorly drawn characters would appeal to any audience.
In her 50 Shades follow up, James replaces sadistic tycoon Christian Grey with coked up aristocrat Maxim Trevelyan. Trevelyen is supposedly a man of many trades, flitting between jobs as a model, photographer, DJ, composer, and bed hopping between a seemingly endless slew of women. He’s pulled from this easy life of privilege with zero responsibility or consequences when his brother Kit, the Earl of Trevethick, suddenly dies, meaning he must assume the title now as the next in line.
And instead of teenage virgin Ana Steele, this time out, we have early twenties virgin Alessia Demachi, an Albanian running from an abusive father, an abusive potential husband and abusive sex traffickers, who finds herself in London and in a job as Trevelyan’s “Daily” (or cleaner to most of us in the 21st century). She’s also a self-trained master pianist who sees sound as colour due to having synaesthesia, because, why not?
There is a skeleton of a decent story there – woman with nothing flees abusive life, manages to set herself up in the UK, falls in love with a rich Lord, all while being hunted down by the men she has fled from. But instead of focusing on writing a compelling story, James wastes time writing the same thing over and over again, with Maxim and Alessia fawning over each other and masturbating in the shower every night because they are so hard up for each other but not brave enough to say anything. When they eventually do admit their feelings, this is replaced with ramblings about boring, excruciatingly awful sex scenes that are neither well written or arousing.
You’d be forgiven for thinking you were reading the offerings of some horny 13-year-old, because half the time the author seems to have a very limited idea of what love, sex and intimacy really is. The rest of the time, it seems as if she went to the Joey Tribbiani school of writing, learned to use a thesaurus on every sentence to try and sound smart, resulting in characters that sound like Google Translate rather than anything human.
This is all mingled in with page after page of how Alessia plays perfect piano despite never having a lesson and the over the top descriptions of the “blues and greys” that are produced from her tapping away on the keys, due to her synaesthesia. It’s obvious the use of the piano, and composing songs, is being used to try and class up this affair, but it fails miserably, and becomes mind numbingly boring after the twentieth time we hear about her playing, while Maxim creepily watches from a shadowy corner.
Speaking of Alessia, she seems like she could have been a likeable character (had there been a more equipped writer at the reins) in that she starts off being resilient in the face of the atrocities she has experienced back in Albania, and just determined to make a life for herself in London. But very quickly you go off her, because one glimpse of Maxim’s bare arse as she stumbles upon him while cleaning is all it takes for her to descend into being a crazy, obsessive moron, who searches her employers bins every morning for used condoms, jealous of any woman who sleeps with the man she met only days ago.
With Maxim, James shows she has a complete lack of understanding of how most men act and think in real life. She also desperately tries to show that he has layers beneath the pompous, womanising demeanour she has created for him, but it fails miserably. Take for example her trying to explain away her main character sleeping with his dead brother’s widow, days after his death, as him dealing with his grief and wanting to comfort her in her time of need.
But, that’s not even as bad as he gets. The story unfolds with alternating chapters that are written from the point of view of either Alessia or Maxim, so we get an insight to their thoughts. Maxim lusts after Alessia, which is fine in itself, except he comes across quite rapey in that he keeps having to hold himself back from pouncing on her. James is trying to make it seem like Alessia is the luckiest girl ever to have this handsome, rich man so disarmed by her that he has to stop himself from assaulting her, which is just plain weird.
Ultimately, if James cut out all the terrible cliches and unnecessary bullshit, to just the main story and tried to develop it a little better, she might have been on to something worth talking about here (big emphasis on MIGHT). But as it stands, it’s an overlong, boring, excruciatingly awful read, with characters that lack any likability, emotional maturity or sensuality (which is perhaps the worst of all, considering what James is striving for here).
Perhaps the worst thing of all is that the book didn’t really have a conclusion, which leads me to the horrific thought that a sequel could be in the works. If you ask me, James should steer clear of writing a follow up, just sit back and enjoy the amazing (if not warranted) success she had with Fifty Shades of Grey, and leave the writing to better equipped authors.
Here’s just a selection of some of the awful writing in The Mister:
I sit up, my mood grim in the harsh morning light. It’s time to hit the basement gym. Running, fucking and fencing, they all keep me in shape.
I take a slug of my drink and scan the room. That’s what I want now: a hot, willing woman, skinny or otherwise. It’s Let’s Fuck Thursday.
She comes quickly and loudly. Screaming and straining against silken straps. I sit up between her thighs, my mouth slick and wet, and I flip her over and slap her arse. ‘Hang in there,’ I mutter, and slip on a condom. ‘Hurry up!’ Fuck, is she demanding! ‘As you wish,’ I growl, and thrust inside her.
My whole body tightens in a hot, heavy rush as desire hits me like a demolition ball. Fuck a duck!
I groan, reluctant to wake. A large part of my anatomy is also enjoying my dream. Fortunately, I’m on my front, so my erection is pressing against the mattress, hidden from my sister-in-law.
‘Caro. Please. Let’s not go over that again. We can’t. Besides, you said you were on.’ ‘Surfing the crimson tide has never been an issue for you,’ she scoffs.
She gives me a glorious smile that I feel in my groin.
A melted piece of mozzarella escapes out of the corner of her mouth. With her index finger, she pushes it back in and sucks her finger clean. My body comes to attention.
I’m so hard and want nothing more than to grab her hand and wrap it around my erection. I’ll probably explode if I do.
Her moan is soft and husky as her head falls into the palm of my hand. It’s music to my dick.
I kiss that spot behind her ear and slip my hand inside her pyjamas and slide my fingers over her sex. She’s shaved!
Or maybe she has some misplaced loyalty to the fucking arsehole from Buttfuck, Nowhere, who has a spurious claim on my girl.
Her giggle is breathy, and it speaks directly to my groin.
He tilts his pelvis forward so she can feel his erection against her hip. His eyes alive with carnal humour.
I rip open the packet, take out the rubber, and, pinching the end, quickly roll it over my eager dick. ‘There. All done. We just have to get your knickers off.’