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  • Cristina Merrill 4:49 pm on 2019/05/09 Permalink
    Tags: , fifty shades of grey, new romance, ,   

    Dark Themes in E L James’ The Mister are Balanced by Emotionally Mature Characters 

    Fans of the Fifty Shades world no doubt wondered where E L James could possibly go after her bestselling books, and the answer can be found in her latest yarn, The Mister. What the novel lacks in sexy shock value—if you’re hoping for some more erotic, BDSM action, you’ll need to look elsewhere—it makes up for with darker themes and emotionally mature leading characters.

    The title character is Maxim Trevelyan, a London-based, modern-day libertine with aristocratic roots and a huge bank account who sleeps around without a real care in the world. (Superfans will note his last name is the same as the maiden name of Christian Grey’s adopted mother, Grace Trevelyan-Grey. There’s also one mention of the city of Seattle in the book. Doth we detect a sequel, Mistress James? One that features cameos from some of our old favorite characters?)

    Maxim grew up with all of the trappings of a privileged English upbringing—fancy schools, fancy homes, fancy friends, etc. Unlike the business-minded Christian Grey, though, Maxim barely has any drive to make himself useful, and instead of requiring one lucky lady to sign a non-disclosure agreement for a long-ish arrangement, he has nightly bed partners. The most anyone can say for Maxim is that he could be a great musician if he applied himself and took advantage of the many tools at his disposal.

    When we first meet Maxim, he’s just slept with his late elder brother’s widow (yes, this sounds terrible, but she’s also Maxim’s best friend and it takes two to tango) and is facing a life as the new Earl of Trevethick. Being the new earl doesn’t appeal to Maxim at all. Indeed, he’s rather emotionally drained, which is why the time is prime for the presence of a certain special lady.

    Enter Alessia Demachi, a young Albanian woman who came to the United Kingdom hoping for a better life and instead found out she was smuggled in via a sex trafficking ring. She manages to escape her guides thanks to her knowledge of the English language and some major determination. While she has a couple of familial connections who help her find work as Maxim’s cleaner, she’s still illegal, incredible vulnerable, and cannot afford to make any wrong moves. For reasons the reader will find out, going back to Albania is simply not an option.

    Maxim senses this vulnerability and, to his credit, makes it his mission to keep her safe. Yes, he wants Alessia in his bed, but he also comes to appreciate her non-physical qualities. The result is a relationship in which Maxim’s ability to truly love and genuinely adore another person is unleashed. When Maxim learns of the real danger Alessia is in, he spirits her away to his estate in Cornwall—a setting that will no doubt appease Poldark fans who are mourning the upcoming end of the popular television seriesand they get to know each other in all kinds of ways.

    Fifty Shades fans will certainly see similarities between those stories and The Mister. Like Christian, Maxim is, to put it bluntly, filthy rich. Also, the whole Angry Boy-Man theme is strong in the beginning of The Mister, as Maxim has some deep-seated family issues. Still, he lacks the emotional devastation of Christian Grey, and it takes a much shorter time for him to recognize the genuine feelings he has for Alessia. He has experienced tragedy, but not to the point where he feels the need to crack the proverbial and literal whip on another human being. And while he has money, Maxim is not exactly using it to sweep Alessia off of her feet. Instead, he uses it to help her meet her basic needs. He also makes plans to harness whatever power he has to help her gain legal status.

    As for Alessia, she doesn’t give off an air of outward confidence, but she is a very strong character. Indeed, she certainly wouldn’t have gotten as far as she has without having some guts. She and Maxim don’t have the flirtatious banter of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, but then their circumstances are quite different. Alessia barely has more than the clothes on her back and doesn’t even possess a cell phone. This is not to say the book lacks in sexy times—there’s certainly plenty of THAT and it’s often quite fun—but like the Fifty Shades books, it’s still very much about the emotional journey between the two leads. As the book progresses, the reader will learn more and more about the awful things Alessia has had to endure. It’s all quite dark. Should author James venture into more thriller romance territory, she might find an even stronger niche as a romance writer.

    On its own, The Mister is an entertaining read, one that marks a decided turn towards the author’s British roots. Fifty Shades fans hoping for an extension of that world may find The Mister a bit vanilla in comparison, but those who are willing to embrace new characters and a setting that takes place across the pond, will find plenty to enjoy.

    The Mister is on B&N bookshelves now.

    The post Dark Themes in E L James’ <i>The Mister</i> are Balanced by Emotionally Mature Characters appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Cristina Merrill 5:00 pm on 2018/01/08 Permalink
    Tags: , , curmudgeons, , , , fifty shades of grey, , , , lovable grumps, , , ,   

    Our Favorite Sexy Curmudgeons: 8 Guys Whose Frowns We Want to Turn Upside Down 

    No one wants to be tied to a grump, but once in a while we come across that brooding kind of man we wouldn’t mind cheering up. You know the type. He doesn’t give the best first impression, but once you get to know him, it’s easy to look past his gruff exterior and appreciate the wonderful man within. (And you just know all of that seriousness and pent-up longing will release itself in some very pleasant ways!) Guys like these may not always make the best Plus Ones at dinner parties, but they’ll definitely make you remember dessert.

    Here are 8 of the sexiest curmudgeons in romance who can brood all they want!

    Hareton from Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë
    No, we are NOT going in the Heathcliff direction! (True, he had it rough, but he was still awful.) Instead, let’s focus on Hareton. He wasn’t raised under the best of circumstances, to say the least, but throughout his harsh life he managed to show an innate sweetness. As he grew older he displayed a loyalty that would bode well for his upcoming marriage to young Catherine. A guy like that may not make the best impression on society, and he might curse in your presence upon your first meeting, but he’ll ultimately stay faithful to you and he’ll always be honest about his feelings.

    Sir William of Miraval in Candle in the Window, by Christina Dodd
    Sir William of Miraval is not the happiest of knights. He was blinded in battle, and his caretakers are growing frustrated with his awful attitude and poor hygiene. (Dude’s quite depressed, so he gets a pass at being curmudgeonly.) He meets his match when Lady Saura of Roget is summoned to help him get his act together. She’s blind, too, but this is a woman who know how to run a house and keep everyone in line. William soon falls in love with her, and he displays a fierce loyalty that would make any woman sigh. William, we knew that beneath that rugged, filthy, muscled exterior was a tender-hearted man yearning to break free!

    Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
    There are many mighty good reasons why Mr. Darcy ALWAYS comes up in romantic conversations. He didn’t always have the best manners, and he could hardly be called the life of the party, but when a guy is willing to help your crazy family by keeping your nutty sister on the straight and narrow, well, there’s a lot to be said for that. (Imagine a guy who stays with you even though your extended family posts weird things on social media on an hourly basis.) Mr. Darcy, you practically invented the smolder, so you can smolder all you want!

    Wulfgar from The Wolf and the Dove, by Kathleen Woodiwiss
    To be fair, this Medieval knight had an exceptionally harsh life. He was a bastard, which wasn’t easy in those days. (He and Jon Snow of Game of Thrones would probably have a great deal to talk about.) You’re also under a lot of pressure when William the Conqueror wants you to, well, help him conquer England. This attitude of his mostly changes, though, when his posse conquers Darkenwald, the home of the very proud and beautiful Aislinn. It takes a very long time until they actually get along, and boy it’s fun to read that roller coaster of a relationship. Carry on with your growling ways, Wulfgar, and flex your muscles while you’re at it!

    Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë
    Love him or hate him, Mr. Rochester was a curmudgeonly curmudgeon who needed some major intervention—and lots of time to soul-search—before he could find some inner peace and have his happy ending with Jane. True, he’d been through a lot in his life—bad marriage, saddled with a kid he wasn’t even sure was his, lost his eyesight, lost his hand, and more—but that doesn’t excuse some of the things he did. (Buddy, you might want to consider taking up poetry writing!) Still, he had some good qualities, and he ultimately changed for the better thanks to Jane. Mr. Rochester, brood as you please, and please make sure you show Jane your appreciation as often as humanely possible!

    Rocco from A Girl’s Guide to Moving On, by Debbie Macomber
    Poor Rocco’s a little bit in over his head. He’s the macho-est of macho men, and he has a teenage daughter with whom he doesn’t exactly see eye-to-eye. Fortunately he meets Nichole, the modern-day equivalent of a gently-bred lady who recently ditched her cheating husband. Rocco may be more at home in a biker bar than, well, in many other places, but he’s solid, muscly proof that surprises can come in the most unexpected of packages. Rocco, bring on the cranky. We know that inside you’re really just a marshmallow with nothing but love for your woman!

    Rhys Winterborne in Marrying Winterborne, by Lisa Kleypas
    Welshman Rhys Winterborne worked extremely hard to get to where he is. He owns a major department store, and even though he is supremely wealthy, his modest background means that society doesn’t have much room for him at their social gatherings. He’s determined to win over his lady love, and what’s more, he knows he’s not always the most pleasant man to be around. You can’t go wrong with a guy who admits his faults and is eager to prove his devotion. That said, he also shows an exceptionally sweet and caring side. Rhys, no one is fooled! Admit it. You’re a softie.

    Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades series, by E.L. James
    Christian makes all of the other guys on this list seem joyful by comparison. He spends a lot of time brooding over Anastasia and his dark past. (Christian, buddy, you should seriously consider volunteering at an animal shelter. Giving your time just might help!) And he certainly knows how to, ahem, release his frustrations. Whether his dark ways turn you on or off, no woman can deny that life with Christian would never be boring!

    Who are your favorite fictional curmudgeons?

    The post Our Favorite Sexy Curmudgeons: 8 Guys Whose Frowns We Want to Turn Upside Down appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Tara Sonin 1:00 pm on 2017/11/10 Permalink
    Tags: all in his head, darker, , , , fifty shades of grey,   

    Seven Sexy Things We Can’t Wait to Read in E L James’ Darker 

    Haven’t you always wondered what goes on in Christian Grey’s head? He’s gorgeous, he’s filthy rich, and he’s deeply troubled, but there’s nothing more enticing than that combo when it comes to romance heroes! And this time, in this new intallment in EL James’ 50 Shades series, Darker, you’ll get to relive all the steamy moments from his POV! Such as…

    His breakup with Ana
    How DID Christian cope during the (very brief) time that he and Ana were broken up? She meant what she said, but let’s admit it- we want to read about him pining for her!

    The reunion! (And an attempt at being “vanilla”)
    If you remember, Christian made a pretty big sacrifice (for him) to win Ana back: he committed to a “vanilla” relationship. Meaning no contracts, no punishments, and no Red Room. Why did he make that decision? We can’t wait to find out…

    A jealous mind, rife with passion
    One of the things Ana struggles with is Christian’s desire to control her…but it’s also what entices her about him. Part of her WANTS that…just like part of Christian wants to be rid of the traumas of his past. In the world of romance novels, jealousy can be kind of hot. We want to see Christian’s possessive side!

    A hero at the center of a mystery (or two)
    This book is where the suspense elements of the series pick up: ghosts (and ex girlfriends) from Christian’s past come back to haunt him. Was there anything he didn’t tell Ana, to protect her? How did he unravel the reason for Leila’s return? We can’t wait to see the billionaire play detective.


    Mrs. Robinson, causing drama as always
    A little drama never hurt anyone, and Christian’s ex-lover Elena provides a lot of entertainment. But the best entertainment of all? Seeing him pick Ana over her when it matters most!

    Life or death
    The plane crash was a plot twist we never saw coming in the first version, so even though we know it’s coming- we don’t know how Christian survived, or what he did after the crash.

    The proposal!
    Speaking of things we don’t know…when did Christian buy that ring!? Will we see the scene where he picks it out? And of course…what went through his mind when he proposed to the love of his life?

    Darker is on B&N bookshelves November 28.

    The post Seven Sexy Things We Can’t Wait to Read in E L James’ Darker appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Tara Sonin 6:00 pm on 2017/01/30 Permalink
    Tags: , , fifty shades of grey, ,   

    10 Reasons I Can’t Wait to See Fifty Shades Darker 

    It’s almost Valentine’s Day, which means one thing—no, I’m not talking about corny Hallmark cards, overpriced dinners, or champagne. I’m talking about Fifty Shades Darker, the second installment in the film series based on the blockbuster books. Here are 10 reasons I can’t wait:

    1. Jamie Dornan: and let us say Amen.

    Look. I wasn’t sure I would ever recover from the re-casting news that Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam wasn’t going to play Christian after all….but when I saw Jamie Dornan’s subtle, refined performance, I was converted. In the trailers for the second movie, he looks even more dangerous, determined…and just plain hot.

    9. Anastasia comes into her own, without Christian.

    The first movie ends with Ana leaving Christian because she cannot commit to his strict—and now, she’s learned, painful—way of being in a relationship. She wants more, and if he can’t give it to her, tough luck. I’m looking forward to seeing her grow stronger and able to not only call Christian on his bs…but discover her own sexuality when he isn’t dictating to her what she wants.

    1. Mrs. Robinson’s first appearance!

    Because the first film spent a lot of time introducing Ana and Christian to one another, and to audiences, we didn’t get to see a lot of their interactions with others—namely, Mrs. Robinson (played by legend Kim Basinger in this film!), the friend of Christian’s mother who introduced him to the BDSM lifestyle. Ana is not a fan of hers, as she believes she took advantage of Christian when he was young and is therefore responsible for a lot of his lack of intimacy…seeing these two go at it is going to be fun.

    1. Ana and Christian being cute.

    Once Christian eventually comes around to Ana’s idea of what a relationship means (ie, not spanking someone and then just peacing out, lol no) there is ample opportunity to see them come together as a regular couple. This means Christian learning to let go of some of his strongest controlling urges…and Ana, of course, growing into her own submissive desires.


    1. Lavish luxury to the MAX.

    The first film introduced Ana to Christian’s billionaire empire…but I’m hoping the second film will give us plebians an even greater sense of how luxurious, sensual, and no-nonsense Christian can be about money. The teasers of the masquerade ball look absolutely lovely, so let’s get even more of that! Gorgeous costumes, lingerie, gifts, and jewelry. It’s Valentine’s day after all, consider this a gift to me, movie.



    1. The ghosts of Christian’s past come to roost.

    Technically, Fifty Shades isn’t just a romance series…it’s romantic suspense, and this film is about to ratchet that up five hundred notches. Did you catch the other mystery character who made a short appearance in the trailer? That’s Leila, a former submissive of Christian’s, and let’s just say…she has some unfinished business with the businessman—and Ana could find herself in the middle.

    1. Jealous Christian.

    IRL, jealousy isn’t really fun to contend with in a relationship. But in a movie, why not? It will be awesome to see a clench-jawed Christian jealous of Ana’s relationship with her friend Jose…and her boss…and yeah, basically every guy she comes into contact with.




    Okay, maybe I’m a bit of a sadist here…but this was one of the moments in the book that made me gasp. I hope they pull it off as effectively in the movie—it is, after all, a moment with enormous implications for the future of Christian and Ana’s relationship, so it better be dramatic.



    1. Speaking of…..the proposal better be epic.

    That’s all. It just better be.



    It’s been a really long 2016 without music from TSwift. So I’m really excited to hear their song “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever.” Like, really excited. It’s the #1. Reason.

    via GIPHY

    What are you most excited to see on the big screen in Fifty Shades Darker?

    The post 10 Reasons I Can’t Wait to See Fifty Shades Darker appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Monique Alice 4:00 pm on 2015/10/13 Permalink
    Tags: a streetcar named desire, fifty shades of grey, , , him?, ,   

    Heroines Who Deserve Better Luck in Love 

    Whether it’s a result of bad luck or bad taste, some ladies really know how to pick ’em. We’ve all had a friend (or, in some cases, been the friend) who seems intent on picking the wrong guy, or who falls for a player in nice guy’s clothing, or who just seems to attract one winner after another. Maybe that’s why we love the characters below so very much—they remind us of our besties and ourselves during times when getting swept up in the crush of a romantic moment also meant sweeping our good sense under the rug. Just like us, these heroines have lessons to share as they fight to claim their own destinies.

    Nada (The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman)
    In Gaiman’s classic graphic novel, Nada is is the beautiful young queen of a great city, who falls in love with the immortal Dream King. She knows right away that their love isn’t the best idea, as humans not dating immortals is kind of a rule where she comes from. Nada tells Dream as much, and continually runs away from him. Sadly, godlike beings are not very good at accepting rejection, so Dream pursues her (note: his method of “pursuing” looks a lot like “stalking”). Finally, Nada relents and the two star-crossed lovers get together, at which point all hell breaks loose. In an act of retaliation for Dream and Nada’s union, an immortal destroys Nada’s city. Blaming herself, Nada again runs from Dream and tells him they’ll never work. Much to the surprise of no one, the super-needy and controlling Dream reacts poorly. He banishes Nada to Hell for, get ready for it: 10,000 years. Cool, right? Way to take it like a grownup, Dream. I’m sure you’ll find some way to make it up to her.

    Catherine Earnshaw (Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë)
    This classic tale is more of a hate story than a love story. Catherine is just a girl when her father adopts a young boy of similar age named Heathcliff. The two become fast friends, and, as the years wear on, fall into young love with one another. Although Heathcliff is Catherine’s true soulmate, she gives in to the cultural pressures of the day and marries a man of higher social standing. Devastated, Heathcliff retreats, returning several years later with one goal: to make life hell for the newlyweds. Now, in all fairness, Catherine is no peach either. She is self-centered, egotistical, and manipulative. However, no one deserves the kind of underhanded brutality that Heathcliff wields against Catherine and her family. With that said, it’s pretty clear that both of these characters deserved better.

    Ophelia (Hamlet, by William Shakespeare)
    Is there a heroine more wronged in all of literature than Ophelia? The poor woman just wants to get married and live happily ever after, for heaven’s sake. If only she hadn’t set her sights on Hamlet, who is about as deserving of her affection as a snapping turtle. In addition to having at least a few screws loose, Hamlet is so obsessed with avenging his father’s death that he barely seems to notice Ophelia, who clearly adores him. Hamlet becomes the standard bearer for jerks everywhere when, after he realizes Ophelia wants to marry him, he tells her she might as well become a nun. Seriously. It’s safe to say this fair maiden would’ve been better off with Malvolio or Antonio or literally any other guy in the Shakespearean universe.

    Stella Kowalski (A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams)
    If you’ve never read this classic play, you might think mainly of the iconic scene from the film adaptation, in which a desperate Stanley Kowalski (played by the inimitable Marlon Brando) screams his wife’s name beneath her window. You might even feel sorry for him, making a scene in the street like a lovesick teenager. But one thing is for sure: if you read the play, you will not feel sorry for him. Stanley Kowalski is a brute of a man who terrorizes his wife, Stella, and her sister, Blanche. Stella just can’t seem to bring herself to leave Stanley, despite his drunkenness, his jealousy of Stella and Blanche’s sisterly bond, and his bitterness over the way his life has turned out. She does everything she can to make Stanley happy, and he rewards her with cruelty and violence. Despite Stella’s devotion to her man, the story keeps a glimmer of hope alive that she will drop Stanley like a hot potato before the final curtain.

    Anastasia Steele Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
    When Ana agrees to stand in for an ailing roommate and interview a young CEO named Christian Grey for the college paper, she has no idea what she’s in for. Penthouses, expensive gifts, and unimaginable luxuries are soon flowing, and Ana feels swept off her feet. There’s only one problem (okay, fine, many problems): Christian Grey is a pompous, entitled, overgrown brat with serious mommy issues who says things like, “I don’t do romance.” Oh yes, I almost forgot—he also enjoys such hobbies as throwing temper tantrums, stalking people when they say they need some space, and ignoring boundaries in the bedroom. Ana is level-headed, smart, kind, et cetera, so it sure seems like she could find a more down-to-earth fellow. Then again, as Fifty Shades devotees would say, that wouldn’t be much of a story.

    Who are your favorite short-changed literary ladies?

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