(Catch up: Volumes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.)
The gang arrive in Aspen and head to Christian’s fancy house there, while talking about skiing and what have you. Ana’s the only one who’s never been there before and has also never gone skiing.
“I’m hoping my husband will teach me how to ski.” I glance up at my man.
“Don’t bet on it,” Christian mutters.
“I won’t be that bad!”
“You might break your neck.” His grin gone.
Oh. I don’t want to argue and sour his good mood, so I change the subject.
Jesus Christ, Christian literally couldn't be less craic if he tried. CHILDREN GO SKIING but suddenly it’s far too dangerous a pursuit for his fragile, idiot wife? When learning to ski, you’re starting off on teeny tiny little slopes and the actual worst that will happen is you fall down into some soft snow, or maybe get slightly tangled in a mesh fence and kick yourself in the arse with the ends of your skis while trying to get up again. Y'know. So I hear. Shut up, Christian.
Ana notices that Kate is being quiet and wonders what the problem could be.
Then I remember. Aspen…Christian’s house here was redesigned by Gia Matteo and rebuilt by Elliot. I wonder if that’s what’s preoccupying Kate. I can’t ask her in front of Elliot, given his history with Gia. Does Kate even know about Gia’s connection to the house?
Excuse me, but what the fuck was this sequence of sentences, exactly? And why does Ana think everyone is as fixated on Gia Matteo as she is? They get to the house and Christian continues to be irritated by literally nothing.
Mia grabs Ethan’s hand and drags him farther into the house. Christian narrows his eyes at their departing figures, his mouth thinning.
Imagine having to spend an entire weekend with someone who reacts like that to his sister showing her friend/boyfriend around his fancy holiday home that he never uses. No wonder Kate is quiet, she’s probably planning her escape from this awful fucking trip. Christian shows Ana around the house, and everything is state-of-the-art and sleek and reminds her of his Escala apartment back home, so I guess that means it’s completely devoid of any personality and about as much fun as a slap in the head. Ana is once again overwhelmed at the wealth that is now hers too and will definitely, DEFINITELY never get used to it, no siree. Also, let’s take a look at how terrible EL James is at describing things:
The interior décor is stark and reminds me of the great room at Escala - all white walls, dark wood, and contemporary abstract art.
The state-of-the-art kitchen is all pale marble countertops and black cupboards.
These two descriptions happen within half a page and I’m all throbbing forehead veins and disbelief that this author is so outrageously successful.
Ana brings up Gia again and asks Christian what her involvement was with the house. Christian is like “why are we talking about Gia?” and I’m like “DUDE I KNOW, RIGHT?” at which point Ana asks him if he knows that Elliot previously had a fling with Gia.
“Elliot’s fucked most of Seattle, Ana.”
“Mainly women, I understand,” Christian jokes.
I think he’s amused by my expression.
Jesus Ana, just because you stayed in reading Jane Austen for your entire life before meeting Christian doesn’t mean everyone else did too. Ana then spends the rest of the chapter internally referring to Elliot as “manwhore”, because she’s a judgmental fucking bitch. Christian then mentions that before meeting Ana, his family thought he was gay.
I giggle and begin to relax in his arms. “I thought you were celibate. How wrong I was.” I wrap my arms around him, marveling at the ridiculousness of Christian being gay.
Because, hey, we’ve already had rampant misogyny and a smattering of racism in this series already, why not go the whole hog and throw in a spot of homophobia too?
The gang (a term that makes them sound like way more fun than the shower of shallow, self-obsessed idiots that they are) tries to decide on an activity for the day, but it starts raining, so the proposed hike is out. Instead the girls are going shopping, Ethan and Christian are going fishing and Elliot needs to get a watch battery, apparently. Mia brings Kate and Ana to a fancy boutique where they buy dresses and do you want to know what the shop is like on the inside? Of course you do, because it’s “all pink silk and faux-French distressed rustic furniture” and there are literally no other ways to convey what an interior looks like than “all something and something”. While Kate and Mia are in the changing rooms, Ana sees Elliot come out of a jewellery shop across the road, BUT HE’S WITH DEMON WOMAN GIA MATTEO. They cordially say goodbye and Ana is agog because WHAT COULD HE POSSIBLY BE DOING IN A JEWELLERY SHOP WITH A FEMALE ACQUAINTANCE WHEN HE’S RECENTLY BEEN ACTING A BIT DISTRACTED WITH HIS GIRLFRIEND, HMM?
Anyway, Ana says nothing to the other two when they emerge from the changing rooms and they pay for their stuff, while Ana hates on the shop assistant for absolutely no fucking reason.
The young sales assistant - who has more gloss coating her lips than I have ever seen in one place - smiles at me.
“That’ll be eight hundred and fifty dollars.” What? For this scrap of material!
I blink at her and meekly hand over my black Amex.
“Mrs. Grey,” Ms. Lip Gloss purrs.
Wearing LIP GLOSS. For SHAME.
Afterwards, Ana asks Kate how things are between her and Elliot and wonders whether she should tell Kate about seeing Elliot with “Miss Well-Groomed-Sexual-Predator” and Ana's little nicknames for all these female background characters can fucking well do one. Kate says she doesn’t want to talk about it right now and indicates to Mia, who is out of earshot.
I give her my I-completely-understand-and-will-respect-your-privacy nod.
I do my someone-needs-to-pry-the-fucking-hyphen-key-out-of-EL-James’s-laptop dance. It’s very sexy. And angry. Mostly angry.
They go back to the house and drink strawberry daiquiris in front of a roaring fire, even though it’s summer and usually around 20°C and upwards in Aspen in late summer. I know this because I checked. Also, who the hell drinks frozen cocktails in front of a blazing fire? Oh wait, I forgot what I was reading. Nothing makes sense in this book.
Kate mentions that she thinks she’s in trouble with Elliot for getting Ana into trouble when they went for a few drinks after work and no one got kidnapped or raped.
“You heard about that?”
“Yes. Christian called Elliot; Elliot called me.”
Now hold on a fucking second. Christian called Elliot, because he’s Kate’s boyfriend to tell him, what, exactly? To rein his woman in? Because Elliot is in charge of what Kate does and that’s how relationships work? I hope Christian gets eaten by a fucking bear while he’s out fishing. That bear would be a goddamn hero.
Christian gets back from fishing, Ana runs him a bath, but they end up boning instead and leave the bath running.
“Shit, the water!” I struggle to sit up, all post-orgasmic and dazed.
EL JAMES, YOU ARE THE ACTUAL WORST AT DESCRIBING EVERYTHING.
They’re all going out for dinner that evening so Ana gets ready and puts on her new dress. It’s silver and short and backless and she looks sexy in it.
I’m all legs, especially in the high-heeled Manolos and my indecently short dress.
I just can’t.
Also, because she looks so damn good in it, she needs Christian to approve before she can wear it out of the house. Which is honestly just too depressing to make fun of. So, Ana goes to the door of the room and calls for Christian to come take a look – no wait, what am I saying? She EMAILS HIM OF COURSE, even though he’s in the same fucking house, because it’s been AAAGES since he’s had the opportunity to change his email signature to something relating to the conversation that is both HILARIOUS and WITTY and NOT AT ALL TEDIOUS.
He comes into the room, tells her she looks “…wow” and then fingers her, telling her “this is mine”, but just like all the other times he does stuff like this, it’s not sexy because he literally believes that Ana’s vagina belongs to him, along with the rest of her. Amazingly, he’s allowing her to wear the dress out in public, with the caveat; “be a good girl and don’t bend down”.
Anyhoodle, they all go out for dinner and Ana continues to obsess over Gia and is “half expecting to see Gia calmly saunter her well-groomed ass across the restaurant to us.” It’s very strange how Ana acts like “well-groomed” is an insult. It’s also the third time in one chapter that she’s described Gia as such. And this is coming from someone who gave us a detailed rundown of precisely how well-groomed she is now, while looking at her reflection on the yacht. So, they’re having dinner, when – oh my god, never saw this coming – Elliot proposes to Kate. Ana’s reaction, which is pretty much her reaction to everything, is “Holy shit!”
Amount of times Ana says “Holy shit!”: 33
“Holy crap!”: 23
Kate says yes and the whole restaurant applauds, because everything came to a standstill at that moment, of course. Everyone congratulates them, and Christian’s comment to Kate is “I hope you are as happy in your marriage as I am in mine.” I kinda love how he doesn’t realize what a massive burn that is.
Mia wants to go clubbing, so they all head to the fanciest, most exclusive spot in Aspen, where Ana and Christian take turns being jealous fucking morons because the staff are friendly, i.e. doing their jobs.
Ana is wearing Mia’s trench coat to cover her arse, (at Christian’s insistence, because of course you can wear that dress darling, as long as you cover it up entirely) and hands it over to the cloakroom guy:
“Nice coat,” he says, gazing at me intently. Beside me Christian bristles and fixes Max with a back-off-now glare. He reddens and quickly hands Christian my coat check ticket.
The female staff wear a uniform of black hotpants and a shirt, with a little red bowtie. It sounds pretty cute, but is unfortunately ripe for Ana’s infuriatingly condescending nicknames for tertiary women all throughout this horror show of a series.
“Let me show you to your table.” Miss Satin Hot Pants flutters her eyelashes at my husband, flicks her long blond hair, and sashays through the entryway. I tighten my grip around Christian, and he gazes down at me questioningly for a moment, then smirks as we follow Miss Satin Hot Pants into the bar.
Kate and Elliot are all giddy and excited and at one point, Kate squeezes his thigh and they kiss, prompting Ana to shout "Get a room!" at them. Ana, who was fingered by Christian in a lift WITH STRANGERS IN IT in the last book.
Mia drags Kate and Ana onto the dancefloor, but not before Christian “growls” at Ana not to bend over and when she gets a head rush from standing up, he tells her to drink water, “a warning clear in his voice”. Not concern, not tenderness, a warning. Awesome. They go dancing and Ana thinks about how for the first twenty years of her life she “chose reading over dancing”, because apparently the two are mutually exclusive and "Jane Austen didn’t have great music to move to". Excuse me, but Jane Austen was ALL ABOUT dancing and music. "To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love", ring any fucking bells, lady?
When Ana feels a pair of hands on her hips that then squeeze her arse, she assumes it’s Christian, but - uh oh! – it’s not. She spins around and screams at the creepy dude to get his hands off her. He’s all “hey baby, it’s just a bit of fun”, which is pretty much exactly the kind of attitude that cunts like this have when they go around sexually harassing women in nightclubs. Ana slaps him and for once I’m like “YES, I can actually relate to Ana for once, having done the same thing myself and she was dead fucking right in her actions”, until she, as usual, finds a way to ruin it by shoving her rings in his face and shouting “I’m married, you asshole!” So you see, creepy guy, you’re feeling up another man’s property and if she was single then it’s definitely no big deal to put your hands on a woman, uninvited.
Of course, Christian suddenly materializes and punches the guy, knocking him to the ground. The dude legs it and Ana has to force Christian to look at her, essentially proving that this is all about Christian being mad that someone played with his toy and nothing to do with whether Ana is actually ok or not. Remember, he was MAD AT HER when Jack Hyde tried to assault her in the last book. This is his M.O. Ana gets him to dance with her and we find out that the reason why she slapped the guy wasn’t actually anything to do with righteous female anger, but because she knew how Christian would react and it was the thought of some “nobody” making Christian lose his self-control that actually made her mad. Anastasia Grey, making lemons out of lemonade since 1989.
They dance and drink a bit more and then it’s time to go home. Ana is drunk and tired, so Christian takes her shoes off and then leads her into the bathroom, where he takes her makeup off, like she’s a fucking child who can’t take care of herself. Now, imagine for a moment, that you’re coming home after an eventful night out with your boyfriend or husband and he sits you down, tells you to close your eyes and then goes to town on your face with cotton wool and some cleanser. I don’t think your reaction would be “Holy crap, he’s holding a cotton ball!”, followed by meekly sitting there, it’d be “what the fuck are you doing you weirdo, give me that, you’ll take my fecking eye out.”
While Christian undresses her for bed, Ana notes how it's "progress" that he's not mad at her for once, but mad at someone else. Progress. It's progress that he's not mad at her for getting felt up. And the worst part is that it's actually true.
Christian orders Ana into bed and has some calls to make. She pleads with him to join her, but he won't because she's tired and needs to sleep and if he gets into bed with her they'll have to have sex and it's not like he can just lie down beside her and not paw at her long enough so she can have a snooze. Don't be ridiculous.