Beautiful Redemption Chapter 15: Liis and Thomas Fly To Chicago, Have Feelings

Before we get into today’s chapter of Beautiful Redemption, I’d like to take a moment to honor one of my favorite things on the internet, which to my amazement turned ten years old on Wednesday. I am speaking, of course, of the fanfiction Half-Life: Full-Life Consequences.

Any really dedicated BBGT fans out there might notice that the story features “zombie ghosts”, which is how I referred to House of Night’s red fledglings for the few books before we were given an actual name for them, which was 100% totally a reference to this fanfic. Because it made as much sense as anything actually happening in House of Night.

Anyway. Here’s today’s equally comprehensible chapter of Beautiful Redemption.

Beautiful Redemption: Chapter 15

Liis and Thomas arrive at the San Diego airport and almost make it two lines into this chapter without having an argument.

“Let me carry that,” Thomas said, sliding my leather tote off my shoulder and onto his.
“No, I’ve got it.”
“Liis, girlfriends like this stuff. You need to get your head on straight. Stop being an agent, and start playing the part.”

Ok, so let’s see if I got this right. Women aren’t supposed to want to carry their baggage when they’re someone’s girlfriend, but they are allowed to want that when they’re an agent. Man, there’s a lot of space between those two categories. Being a woman must be complicated.

Although to be fair, Liis does seem to be having a surprisingly hard time with this whole undercover thing for, you know, a secret agent.

“I’m not sure you’re going to the bachelor party.”
“Trent is proposing to Camille at the bachelor party, right?”
“Seems that way,” he said, his voice suddenly quiet.
“If she can go, I can go.”
“She’s a bartender.”
“I’m an FBI agent. I win.”
Thomas stared at me. “I mean that she might be working the party.”
“So will I.”

This is Liis’s real job, right? How is she so bad at this?

30 rock how do you do fellow kids

Liis does explain her position a bit more, telling Thomas that she knows seeing his ex get proposed to will be hard for him.

“Look, I’m not leaving you to witness that alone. I’m not even in love with Jackson, and I can’t imagine how awkward I would feel being present while he proposed.”
“How did the next morning go? You never said.”
“He was gone. I called his mom, and she said that he got home okay. We haven’t spoken.”

Jackson exited the story as he lived in the story: not remotely interesting or consequential.

Thomas laughed once. “Showed up at your place, begging. What a vagina full of sand.”

I googled this to see if it’s a real expression. It got fewer results than our blog gets hits in a day, so I’m skeptical. Incidentally, I strongly recommend not googling “vagina full of sand”.

Thomas and Liis have another tense discussion about how they’re not dating despite both of them clearly wanting to.

“You’re married to the Bureau, Liis. Everyone knows it.”
“Exactly what I’ve been trying to tell you. Relationships are a waste of time for people like us. […] I wouldn’t even come second. I would be third.”
He shook his head, confused. “Third?”
“After the woman you’re in love with.”
At first, Thomas seemed too insulted to argue

Ugh, I can’t even make any “just fuck already” jokes because they did in the first chapter. Well played, Jamie McGuire.

Thomas tells Liis that he put away the picture he had of Cami in his apartment. Cami is pleased with this news, despite it being super weird that he still had that picture out in his apartment at all. Thomas also confides that he feels weird about this whole plan to force his brother to join the FBI, although it feels weird to the reader for totally different reasons, e.g. it still makes no fucking sense. Which even the book seems to know.

“You’re not doing anything to him. You’re the messenger.” […]
He clenched his teeth as he always did when he was annoyed. “You keep saying I’m protecting him, but if I hadn’t told my director about Travis and Abby, he wouldn’t have to choose.”
“That’s true. Prison would be his only choice.”

THEN WHY IS THIS SUCH A CONFLICT?

makes no sense

Liis points out that the way they’re going about their mission is impossible, since they have so much personal stuff going on jeopardizing the mission, which is very close to a lot of that personal stuff. She gets Thomas to admit that he’s nervous about seeing Cami, but he also says that he’s happy for his brother. Thomas decides to switch the topic.

“But I don’t want to talk about Camille. I want to talk about you.”

This gets cliche fast.

“How old were you when you lost your virginity?”
“You… were my first.”
Thomas’s eyes nearly popped out of his head. “What? But you were engaged…”
I giggled. “I’m just kidding.”

Thomas admits a bit more of his feelings.

“That night with you… it changed everything. I was going to give it a few days, so I wouldn’t look completely pathetic when I knocked on your door. I came to work that morning and immediately told Marks that he was coming with me to Cutter’s. I was hoping to run into you again.”

But feelings are boring. Let’s get a juicy plot twist about Sawyer and Val!

“No one will tell me why they dislike him, except to say he’s a bastard or an asshole. Neither you nor Val will give me anything specific. He helped me unpack. He was at my condo all night and didn’t try to sleep with me. He’s got the sleazy barfly thing going on, but he’s harmless.”
“He’s not harmless. He’s married.”
My mouth fell open. “Excuse me?” […]
He leaned closer. “To Val.”

Oh man, I can’t wait to hear how this is supposed to make sense.

“It’s true. They were like Romeo and Juliet at first, and then it turned out that Sawyer has a small issue with commitment.”

You know you’re reading a good love story when the characters in it refer to Romeo and Juliet as the pinnacle of romance and not as a story about horny teenagers .

“Val has sent him divorce papers several times. He keeps dragging it out. They’ve been separated for almost two years.”
My mouth was still hanging open. “But… they live in the same building.”
“No,” he said, chuckling. “They live in the same condo.” […]
“So, why won’t he divorce her?” I asked.
“Because he can’t find anyone better.”
“Oh, I hate him,” I snarled.

…but they’re not even together anymore? This… does this make any sense? Even by weirdo dude logic standards?

The conversation moves on, and they go back to talking about Liis. Specifically, how well Thomas knows Liis. It includes gems like “You like Fuzzy’s Burgers” (where her friend makes her go there for lunch all the time) and “You hate milk”, so some of the entries on this list are kind of weird choices.

“Then, play the part and pretend that you think I’m perfect.”
“I can’t recall thinking otherwise.” Thomas didn’t crack a smile.
“Oh, please,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Does my first FD-three-oh-two ring a bell?”
“You know why I did that.”
“I’m not perfect,” I grumbled, biting the corner of my thumbnail.
“I don’t want you to be.”
He scanned over my face with such affection that I felt like the only other person in the fuselage. He leaned toward me, his eyes fixated on my lips. I had just begun to close the gap when the flight attendant approached.
“Would you open your tray table?” she asked.

Man, so much going on there. Thomas says he thinks she’s perfect and also not-perfect, which makes Liis feel “like the only other person in the fuselage”, and then they get cock-blocked by a flight attendant. If so much as an almost-kiss is this tangled up in nonsense, I cannot wait to see this proposal they’re going to.

Liis reflects on her feelings for Thomas and their mission for the upcoming weekend. It’s one of the better constructed moments here, and does do a good job of making me sympathize with her confusion – and dare I say kind of excited to see how she deals with it in the next few chapters:

Since we’d met, I had done nothing but deny my feelings for him […] Even if it was just for appearances, I hoped that pretending would satisfy my curiosity. If Thomas seeing Camille changed anything, at least remembering the best memories of the weekend would be a better alternative to mourning our fake relationship when we got home. […]
“I have to admit, I thought this would be easier for you. I know it will be distracting to be in Chicago again, but are you sure you can do this? It’s important.” […]
“When we set down, not even you will be able to tell the difference.

 

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5 comments

  1. Andreas Reply

    “Women aren’t supposed to want to carry their baggage when they’re someone’s girlfriend, but they are allowed to want that when they’re an agent.”
    But … but … aren’t women supposed to be these wonders of multitasking? Each sitcom ever told me that! So why can’t a woman be a girlfriend AND an agent?
    /mind blown

    I just realized something. Girlfriend and agent. Is that even possible in this book? Or will Thomas forbid Liis from doing such dangerous work as soon as they are finally together and bully her into quitting the job? Or fire her for her own good? And then we get some horrible sickly-sweet “10 years later”-epilogue in which Liis realizes that her smart, strong, manly, male, masculine husband was totally right in doing so?

    Heavens. Please tell me, I’m not right. ><

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  2. wordswithhannah Reply

    If I’d picked this book up on my own and started reading it, I think this would be the point where I put it down (or possibly last chapter). I don’t know why I’m continually surprised at McGuire’s insistence on dragging out nonsensical plots far past their expiration date or throwing in random characters/character reveals like the audience is supposed to give a damn. That’s her entire M.O. at this point, and if she didn’t do it, her entire body of work would be a single book’s worth of novellas. If that.

    I don’t mind it when internal conflict is the primary obstacle between the protagonists – if done well. When the answer to “Why isn’t the main couple from getting together and confessing their love for each other?” is “BECAUSE REASONS”, you suck as a writer, which is doubtless why she keeps throwing harebrained subplots to the wall and seeing what sticks. It creates artificial tension, by distracting from the actual, easily-solvable problem and so the narrative continues spinning its wheels.

    Having Thomas grapple with his residual feelings for Cami is a believable obstacle for them to overcome. There’s a lot of narrative potential. But going back and re-reading the first chapter, you’d never guess that this would be the case. Hell, if you went back and re-read Beautiful Who the Fuck Remembers Trent’s Title you’d never guess, either, because their relationship was boring, strained, and basically over before the book even began.

    TL;DR: This book is really, really terrible. And I have a lot of feelings.

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  3. callmeIndigo Reply

    I may never get over “I felt like the only other person in the fuselage”. For one thing, from a strictly literal standpoint that would also mean there’s no pilot and would probably indicate terror, but even if I take off my annoying pedant hat it’s just so bizarre. Because McGuire could totally have said “room” and nobody would have thought it was weird, but even if she didn’t want to do that for some reason “fuselage” is such a needlessly technical word for this situation. Just say “plane”! Everyone will know what you mean regardless of airplane part knowledge and nobody will start thinking about the literal interpretation of it because it won’t have a weirdly clinical tone!

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    • matthewjulius Post authorReply

      see, I thought “only person in the fuselage” was just a little funny because I just couldn’t tell if it was supposed to read as funny or romantic, but now I’m reading all of this and laughing my head off

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  4. bookbaron Reply

    Is it just me or was that like the rudest flight attendant ever? No please. No excuse me, ma’am. Just lower your tray.

    Which also… Why? I mean I could understand if they were landing soon and she or he snapped at them to put up the tray table. But most planes don’t serve food just snacks now. And they won’t ask to lower a tray table if they are just passing you peanuts and a drink.

    And I don’t know why this bothered me more than anything else in the chapter.

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