Jan 262013
 

On a strictly literary and technical level, Freed is actually a worse book than its predecessors. EL James’ prose remains about the same, her characters are no better developed, and Ana’s response to everything is to flush or think “Holy shit!”

Furthermore, the plot is shapeless. Fifty Shades of Grey had the will-she-won’t-she-sign-the-contract plotline to create tension and give events some structure, though the contract was later abandoned. Darker was about whether they would stay together. Freed opens with Ana and Christian already married, and from there the plot was fight-makeup-fight-makeup, interrupted by one artificial crisis after another, usually resolved in the next chapter, or completely irrelevant events like the entire cast going to Aspen for no good reason. Then it’s back to scenes from a really bad marriage, as Ana feebly struggles against Christian’s controlling regime.

There’s no character arc either either. Despite all the sex, stalkings, car chases and kidnap and ransom schemes, Christian’s attitude towards Ana is basically unchanged by the end of the story. From one of their earliest meetings, the moment when Christian saves Ana from being hit by a bicycle, it’s clear that Christian sees it as his responsibility to look after Ana, with the implicit assumption that she can’t take care of her self. That continues right through to the end, when Ana, near comatose, hears her husband and her step-father both talking about her as if she was a little girl in need of a spanking. Ana, for her part, is so immature that it’s apropos. So, one-percenter Bluebeard meets dim-witted girl-woman and they live happily ever after.

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Dec 312012
 

Will this be the big Scene that the whole series has been building up to? Or will EL James screw with us once again?

“So you want to play?” he murmurs.
“Yes.”
He says nothing, and I risk a quick glance . . . up his jeans, his denim clad thighs, the soft bulge at his fly, the open button at the waist, his happy trail, his navel, his chiseled abdomen, his chest hair, his gray eyes blazing, and his head cocked to one side. He’s arching an eyebrow. Oh shit.
“Yes what?” he whispers.
Oh.
“Yes, Sir.”
His eyes soften. “Good girl,” he murmurs, and he caresses my head. “I think we’d better get you upstairs now,” he adds. My insides liquefy, and my belly clenches in that delicious way.

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Dec 302012
 

We get the backstory on Christian and Elena, and it’s straight out of a Penthouse letter.

“It was a hot summer day. I was working hard.” He snorts and shakes his head, suddenly amused. “It was backbreaking work shifting that rubble. I was on my own, and Ele—Mrs. Lincoln appeared out of nowhere and brought me some lemonade. We exchanged small talk, and I made some smart-ass remark . . . and she slapped me. She slapped me so hard.” Unconsciously, his hand moves to his face and he caresses his cheek, his eyes clouding at the memory.

[...]

“And you know something, Ana? My world came into focus. Sharp and clear.
Everything. It was exactly what I needed. She was a breath of fresh air. Making the decisions, taking all that shit away from me, letting me breathe.”

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Dec 302012
 

Christian obviously gets off on Ana being restrained and totally dependent, feeding her in the hospital bed.

Ana thinks about Christian being a father, and persists in thinking about Christian’s flaws as being the fault of Elena or his birth mother, not male influences in his life or the fact that society rewards near sociopaths like Christian handsomely.

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Dec 302012
 

Ana is semi-conscious in a hospital so she can hear various bits of exposition from other characters, as well as things like:

“If you don’t take her across your knee, I sure as hell will. What the hell was she thinking?”
“Trust me, Ray, I just might do that.”

There’s a domestic discipline sub-sub-culture of BDSM, in which the fantasy is wives being treated like daughters, but it’s jarring to hear it like this, from Ana’s step-father. Christian and Ray can bond over the difficulty in keeping women under control.

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Dec 302012
 

Jack Hyde is somehow out of police custody and is holding Mia hostage (or so he claims). He uses Mia’s cell phone to tell Ana to withdraw $5 million in two hours. He wants revenge on Christian and Ana for getting him fired. Ana must not tell Christian, the police or anybody else. (Hyde doesn’t specify anything about what form the money should be in; maybe he’s never heard of dye packs or marked bills.)

Ana has a Goon drive her back to the Grey suite, without telling anybody what’s going on. (Perhaps she learned something besides mild bondage from Christian.) She decides to follow instructions, go to the bank and get the money. (She also takes Leila’s loaded gun from Christian’s drawer.)

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Dec 292012
 

Ana now has a proverbial bun in the oven, thanks to a bunch of skipped medical appointments and Mr. “I hate condoms”).

Perhaps I shouldn’t tell Christian. Perhaps I . . . perhaps I should end this. I halt my thoughts on that dark path, alarmed at the direction they’re taking. Instinctively my hand sweeps down to rest protectively over my belly. No.

Well, at least she considered abortion.

(Does this mean Jose is going to fall in love with the fetus?)

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Dec 292012
 

Ray’s still in the hospital and it’s Ana’s birthday. There’s very little kink content in chapter 18, even less than the Aspen chapters.

I could take this opportunity to discuss how a D/s relationship should handle the intrusion of a real life crisis like the serious illness of a family member, but I wouldn’t call what Ana and Christian have a D/s relationship. It’s really a marriage that occasionally has BDSM play. There isn’t an overarching agreement that regulates their interaction. Ana has been more involved in their BDSM interactions, but this particular plot thread is very slow. We’re in the last third of the book three, and their BDSM relationship is still in the very early stages.

If you’re interested, Ray wakes up when Ana reads the sports section to him.

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Dec 262012
 

I think EL James ran out of good ideas a while back, and now she’s just throwing random plot developments at us. To wit: Ray, Ana’s step-father, is now in hospital. What follows is boiler-plate medical drama.

I also think that someone should have told EL James it is okay to use scene breaks more than she does, because after the call about Ray, we get a couple of pages on the logistics of Ana informing her work superiors and leaving her office. At least Christian is understanding and supportive when he finds out about this.

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Dec 262012
 

Before she meets Leila, Ana gets an inkling of just how much the Christian Grey Goon Squad has been controlling her life.

“Mrs. Grey, Leila Williams is on your proscribed list of visitors.”
“What?” I have a proscribed list?
“On our watch list, ma’am. Taylor and Welch have been quite specific about not letting her come into contact with you.”
I frown, not understanding. “Is she dangerous?”
“I can’t say, ma’am.”
“Why do I even know that she’s here?”
Prescott swallows and for a moment looks awkward. “I was on a restroom break. She came in, spoke directly to Claire, and Claire called Hannah.”

You’d think Ana would be wondering a few other things, such as: who else is on this list? Her mother? Ray? Jose? Kate? Can she see the list? Is Hannah, Ana’s assistant and actually another employee of Christian’s, screening her calls? And maybe, how does she get the hell out of this gilded cage?

Instead, Ana finds it funny that she’s only saw this crack in the invisible fortress Christian has built around her because the Goonette, her bodyguard/duenna/minder, was in the bathroom.

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