Ready for the ongoing adventures of Cami, who is totally not Abby, and Trenton, who is totally not Travis? Despite these characters being the most shameless carbon copies from an author’s previous work ever, I weirdly like Cami so far. I have no idea why. It’s kind of like liking the characters in a horror movie, where you can’t help but like them because you know something terrible is inevitably going to happen to them. Beautiful Oblivion is not quite unlike a horror movie. [Ariel says: Yeah, come to think of it, even after finishing the series I don’t hate her like I did Abby, which is saying something.]
We enter yet another scene that takes place in the bar Cami works at, one where she’s actually working for once. It’s been two weeks since Cami stared juggling her bartending job and being a part-time student with her new job as a tattoo parlor receptionist and her new job constantly babysitting a whiny, entitled Maddox boy.
“We’re having a good time tonight.” [Cami said.]
“We are? I’m sitting here by myself,” [Trenton] snapped.
Unsurprisingly, she points out that the stress and the schedule are starting to wear on her. Somewhat surprisingly, other characters in a Jamie McGuire novel correctly identify enabling for the first time ever.
“I still don’t understand why you’re doing this for Coby,” [Raegan] said, a residual frown still on her face.
“It’s just easier.”
“I’m pretty sure it’s called enabling. Why would he straighten up, Cami? He has you to bail him out after a two-minute guilt trip.”
I do have some genuine praise to offer the novel here, for actually recognizing that this is a complicated issue, and allowing that complexity to flesh out the characters as fallable, and believably so, however briefly. Moments like this allow characters to be flawed in a human way, rather than in a glorified antihero way, which gets grating (see: literally any Maddox). [Ariel says: Spoilers, but I continue to like how some of this is handled, specifically in regards Cami and Coby’s relationship. It makes you understand why she helps him and it sets their relationship apart from any she has with the other brothers who blur together for me. However oh my fucking god I can’t wait till you meet the dad. I can’t even.]
Finally seeing the bartender lead characters bartending tells us what a night at the Red is like. We have men acting like assholes, women serving the same purpose that a sexy lamp would, and our mandatory Blia-isms (“Holy cow balls!”, if you’re keeping track.) As a bonus, we also get this insanely overwritten description of Reagan’s attempt at crowd control.
Raegan groaned, lined up five shot glasses, pulled the stack of napkins to the lower shelf, and then tipped a bottle of Chartreuse upside down. She overpoured the shot glasses, and then ran a thin line across a clean section of the bar. She flipped a lighter, and fire erupted.
Why were the shot glasses necessary? A thin line of what? It’s almost impressive how McGuire’s prose can contain way too much detail AND not enough detail simultaneously.
Remember last week when we were talking about unlikeable characters? This chapter really highlights the difference between “good” unlikeable characters (those that offer the reader a cathartic glimpse at worse sides of humanity) and “bad” unlikeable characters (that the novel just expects us to like but doesn’t offer any actual humanity for the reader to indulge in). Take this asshole at the bar:
“You got Zombie Dust on tap?”
I shook my head. “Only in October.”
“What kind of bar is this? That’s one of the top ten beers ever made! You should have it year-round!”
What an asshole, right? Zombie Dust is a fantastic beer (in case you’re curious), but why would he think anyone gives a fuck about his loud, rude opinion? Hell, how would he know if it’s even available year-round? This is a character it feels good to hate. Now, contrast that with…
Trenton frowned. “You’re missing your shirt,” he said.
I looked down at my leather vest. Yes, my tits were out to play, but I worked at a bar […] “Are you saying you don’t approve of my attire?” Trenton began to speak, but I put my finger against his lips. “Aw, that’s cute. You thought I was really asking.”
What an asshole, right? Well, not if you were to ask Cami, who spends the entire chapter responding to his controlling, presumptive behavior with an internal quandary about why does he make me feel this way omg
Trenton had always stood out to me, but I’d never tried to get to know him well enough to figure out why. […] The thought of waiting in line didn’t appeal to me.
My girlfriend, reading this post over my shoulder, added her frustration that we’re supposed to think the female lead has strength of character because she defies him, but she doesn’t really, because she inexplicably still has these thoughts. Why? LOVE. DON’T ASK QUESTIONS. [Ariel says: Right?? That was my same exact complaint with Christian/Ana, Abby/Travis and Gideon/Eva. OMG she is so strong because she rolls her eyes when he orders her around, but then she does exactly what he says most of the time or soothes him with the sex until he stops being angry.]
The book proudly showcases that Trenton is a real piece of work, but inexplicably excuses some of his worse qualities to try to convey him as likeable in spite of them, which doesn’t work if you, say, actually read the book. If Trenton seemed like an entitled asshole before, this chapter cranks up his post-Twilight controlling and predatory male dreamboat qualities up to 11. Thousand.
- Trenton turned, and then shook his head. “Don’t tell me what to do.”
“Then get the hell away from my bar”
- “You ’bout done?” Trneton said from the other side of the stall.
My entire body tensed. “What the hell are you doing in here? This is the girls’ bathroom”
- The moment I stepped outside [for a break], Trenton stood next to me, pulled out a cigarette and lit it, and then lit mine. “You should really quit,” he said. “Nasty habit. Not attractive for a girl.”
I mean, to each their own and all, but I feel like being stalked to the bathroom and told how to behave more attractively by a man you’ve expressed no interest in and explicitly told you have a boyfriend should prompt a little less “OMG I CAN’T HELP BUT LIKE HIM” and a little more…
Trenton’s obnoxious, “you know you want it” behavior continues, in ways that stop even making sense and bizarrely escalate to the surreal.
- “I’d offer you my jacket, but I didn’t bring one,” Trenton said. “I have these, though.” He held his arms a bit away from his body.
- His t-shirt featured two pale bluebirds, above the words DO YOU SWALLOW?
So if Trenton’s behavior already has you fuming, you might not want to read the rest of the post, because he’s about to go from obnoxious, entitled man to the literal definition of a sexual predator. The alcohol-abusing sexist jerk from the tattoo parlor (No, not Trenton. The other one.) shows up at the bar.
“Look, Jeremy! It’s the bitchy secretary!” Clay said […] “I’ll take a bottle of Bud, Bitchy! And you’re not getting a tip, because you kicked me out the other night.”
“Want me to do it again?” I asked.
“I can take you into a dark alley and bend you over,” he said
Luckily for Cami, Trenton is there to stand up for how he cares about treating women with respect and not like objects by treating a woman without respect and like an object.
Trenton pulled Kylie against his side and pointed at her. “Is this your girl?”
“What about it?” Clay asked.
Trenton grabbed Kylie and leaned her back, planting an open kiss on her mouth. […] Trenton slide his hand down her side and then cupped her ass
PHEW! THAT’S TOTALLY DIFFERENT!
And the book does the “it’s not sexual assault if she likes it” thing by having yet another female character act like a mindless floozy giddy at the idea of male attention if he’s hot enough.
She kissed him back, and for a few seconds they were both more than enthusiastic. […] Kylie was more than pleased.
Oh, AND he beats him up.
I jumped over the bar, but not before Trenton got a couple of punches in. Clay was already on the ground, bleeding.
To recap, in this chapter of Beautiful Oblivion, the romance novel, Trenton 1) followed a woman who has rebuked his advances into the bathroom, 2) repeatedly told her how to behave in ways he found more attractive, 3) physically assaulted someone whose advances she also rebuked (but in a BAD way!), and 4) sexually assaulted that guy’s girlfriend to get back at him. Are you wet yet?
Because Cami might be!
What did it matter to me if he was a man whore who stuck his tongue down someone’s throat just to piss off her boyfriend? […]
Trenton’s face compressed. “You and me… we’re just friends, aren’t we?” […]
“We’re friends.” […]
I was in trouble. Big, disastrous, Maddox trouble.
Question of the day: Fuck, marry, kill! Trenton Maddox, Christian Grey, Gideon Cross. I eagerly await the overwhelming torment in your comments.