Review: The Mister by E L James

Bentley’s Grade: B

Title: The Mister
Author: E L James
Publisher and Date: Vintage 2019
Page Length: 494
Genre: Erotic Romance

Brief Summary:
Maxim and Alessia occupy very different stations in life. He is an earl. She is his house cleaner. Until recently, Maxim enjoyed a responsibility-free life and a steady stream of self-confident and experienced women. But when he sees Alessia, barefoot and clutching a broom in his kitchen, he falls for her like he’s never fallen for another woman before. Alessia is drawn to him, too, but her traumatic past and distrust of men work to prevent her from expressing her feelings to Maxim. It doesn’t take long for danger to come knocking at Maxim’s London door, forcing Alessia and her Mister to flee to his home in Cornwall—the perfect place for first times by the sea. 

Despite my initial skepticism, I have to say, I actually enjoyed E L James’ newest novel, The Mister. As I read, I found myself looking up at the page number and thinking, there’s no way this is going to be wrapped up in 100 pages… in 50 pages… in 10 pages. I genuinely wanted to keep reading, and not just for the steamy bits, which was an experience in complete contrast to that of reading the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy (the sex scenes were what made it possible for me to finish those books).

The novel offers a nice balance of female and male perspectives, alternating between Maxim’s first-person POV and third-person limited for Alessia’s sections. The pacing is very good—the tension builds steadily over the course of the book, employing just the right amount of backstory and exposition. I felt the pace start to drag a bit around chapter 23 (which did, at first, seem quite cumbersome); however, the slowdown is necessary in order to create the surprise effect when ___ and ___ arrive in ___. (Sorry, didn’t want to give away any spoilers.) Although the knight-in-shining-armour theme drives the plot, James manages to create a fairly well-rounded female lead that is both dependent on the male protagonist and also fully capable of saving herself. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s mostly Alessia’s lack of financial means that limits her ability to be her own knightly saviour. And speaking of cliff hangers, I was left with many questions at the end of the novel, which I suspect means a sequel is in the works.

I think James could work on varying the description as it tends to get somewhat repetitive, especially in the steamy moments. There’s also room to improve the dialogue, which doesn’t always feel natural, and is, at times, quite cliché. I realize that I keep comparing The Mister to Fifty Shades, but I think this is because the latter was so poorly written that I assumed the writing would be much the same in this novel. The Mister’s plot is much more developed and (somewhat) less predictable, and there are far fewer grammatical errors and typos. And thank goodness for that! (When I read Fifty Shades, I seriously thought about proofing the entire series, but opted out seeing as though I didn’t think I could afford that many red pens.)

Whatever critiques can be made about dialogue, style, and typos, cannot be made about the sex scenes. You will not be disappointed! The sex scenes are very different than those in Fifty Shades, however, so don’t expect any cuffs or whips here, ladies—things are much more sensual and “vanilla,” though this is in no way meant to be a criticism. And, I might be getting a bit greedy here, but I could’ve used a few more steamy moments between Maxim and Alessia. Just me? Anyway… For those of you who are curious about erotic fiction, I would recommend starting with The Mister before diving in to Fifty Shades—it might help ease you in to the genre.

All in all, The Mister is a good follow-up to the Fifty Shades trilogy. If erotic fiction is your jam, then The Mister will not fail to meet your needs. 

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