cover image The Mister

The Mister

E.L. James. Vintage, $16.95 trade paper (512p) ISBN 978-1-984898-32-6

In this uneven tale of love and passion, James (the Fifty Shades series) crafts the contemporary equivalent of a Regency romance: a privileged English rake seduces the hired help, whose innocence reforms his wicked ways. Maxim Trevelyan, the newly minted Earl of Trevethick following his older brother’s untimely death, prefers to lose himself in meaningless flings and his musical pursuits. But when he meets his new house cleaner, Alessia Demachi, an undocumented Albanian immigrant on the run from human traffickers, Maxim is surprised to feel protective of her. As he shelters her at one of his family’s estates, the two succumb to mutual attraction, falling headfirst into a relationship that proves to be a sexual awakening for the virginal Alessia. When her enemies finally track her down, Alessia and Maxim must rise to the challenge to secure a happy future. The story’s plausibility is undermined by the unbalanced power dynamic between the protagonists, Alessia’s portrayal as a chess and music prodigy who’s oddly oblivious of modern society, Maxim’s initial sulky unlikability, and the depiction of Albania as hopelessly behind the times. Readers will cheer the occasional moments when Alessia claims her own agency, but there’s little else to recommend this middling erotic romance. Agent: Valerie Hoskins, Valerie Hoskins Assoc. (Apr.)