Beautiful Redemption: Chapter 21
Back at the office, Liis is hard at work trying to crack the case of why we’re supposed to care about the subplot with the double agent working for the Yakuza.
“[He’s] getting brazen, almost sloppy. He’s falsely identifying locations. I feel like something is getting ready to go down.”
“I’m working on it.”
“We have to remove him before he gets wind of Travis’s recruitment anyway. What are we waiting for?”
“A staged accident. That’s the only way Tarou won’t know we’re onto him and Benny.”
Is it? If you say so, I guess? I understand literally nothing about this subplot.
Thankfully, the chapter skips over to something that makes sense: Liis and Thomas’s love story. Relatively makes sense. Look, how much time do you want to spend with that Gordian knot of how the FBI needs Travis to use his connection with Benny because something something the Yakuza, Travis beat up a Yakuza head’s son one time something something spies?
Thomas asks Liis to lunch, and she lies and says she has plans with Val. He asks what she’s doing for dinner, and she says she’s working late. He asks her how late. Then he just goes to her office, slams the door shut, and asks what’s going on. It’s so sexy how these Maddox boys just can’t take a hint!
“You’re avoiding me, and Constance said you were on the phone with a car dealership when she walked by. What’s going on?”
Why would anyone just go around telling people that? Girl code violations aside, what context is this even good office gossip in?
“Uh… I need a car?”
“Why? I drive you to and from work.”
“I do go to other places besides work, Thomas.”
I like how Liis has enough of a spine to respond with common sense answers to Thomas’s insanely possessive line of questioning. It’s still absurd that we’re supposed to take this man seriously as a romantic contender, since this is some straight up “dude who overestimates his appeal on The Bachelorette and will inevitably get cut way sooner than the trailers make it look like he will” shit.
Thomas tries to apologize for calling Liis “Camille” the previous weekend. I don’t get what the big deal is. I accidentally call Liis “Camille” all the time (many thanks to our readers who constantly point out when I fuck up the names of the interchangeable characters in these stories).
“I’m sorry I called you Camille. We were talking about her, tensions were high, and I could hear her and Trent laughing. It was an honest mistake.”
“You’re right, Jackson. I forgive you.”
What’s weird is that even by being a character with absolutely no personality, unique qualities, literally anything, somehow Jackson is more memorably not-Thomas than Camille is memorably not-Liis.
Thomas continues the proud Maddox tradition of immediately going from “ok, I’ll respect your wishes” to “lol jk didn’t say no takesies backsies”:
“I won’t chase you, Liis. If you don’t want me, I’ll let you walk.”
“Good,” I said with a relieved smile. “Saves us both a lot of time.”
He begged me with his eyes. “I didn’t say I wanted you to.”
Eventually Thomas stalks off all sad that his charms have somehow been resisted. Val shows up to blame Liis for how this is totally all her fault, apparently. The book can’t figure out how to comedy without Val and Liis having a conversation that almost requires them to willingly misunderstand the conversation they’re in.
“I agreed to try something similar to a relationship, and then he admitted to still being in love with Camille. Then, he called me Camille, so…” […]
“He called Camille?” she asked, confused.
“No, he called me Camille— as in, called me by her name by mistake.”
“In bed?” she shrieked.
…ok. As absurd a leap as that last one is, it’s definitely the funniest.
Apparently this is a good time for the narrative to skip ahead two weeks, explaining that from that point on Thomas politely avoided Liis. As nice as it would be to leave the story there, Thomas isn’t the only asshole dude in this book that the book desperately wants us to not think is an asshole.
Later, Liis runs into Sawyer at the bar, and now she knows about Sawyer and Val’s secret marriage.
“Just sign the papers. How hard is that?”
“Contrary to popular belief, ending a marriage is hard.”
“Really? I thought it would be easier for a cheater.”
“I didn’t cheat!” I arched an eyebrow. “Her”— he gestured to his eyes and head—“ thing was driving me nuts. Do you have any idea what it’s like to be with someone and not be allowed to have any secrets?”
Can we take a moment to appreciate how weird it is that an actual plot point in this realistic (bear with me) novel is that one character is so intuitive that it basically has the narrative function of a superpower? Because everyone talks about it like her being particularly intuitive is a supernatural ability, but at the same time no one actually acts like it’s weird. It would be like if you took Frasier, but if Roz had laser vision, and everyone only just found it mildly annoying.
Sawyer explains that he couldn’t live with Val’s… (sighhhhh) super intuitive abilities and wished that she would… (sighhhhhhhhhhhhh) “stay out of my head” (good lord, all the subtle clues that this is the first self-published one). So he cheated on her to try to encourage her to stay out of it. Which thankfully everyone immediately agrees was the worst plan.
“I was an idiot. But she won’t let me fix it.”
I craned my neck at him. “You’re still in love with Val?”
Thankfully, we don’t have to care about this plot twist for much longer, because Thomas shows up at the bar.
“No shade, Maddox,” Anthony said. “I just promised I’d have her back from now on.”
Thomas looked confused.
“He means, no offense,” I said.
“Oh,” Thomas said.
“The usual?” Anthony asked, seeming annoyed that I’d had to translate.
I’m annoyed that it took four sentences to go over “so ‘shade’ is slang now!”
Some young men walk into the bar, say something racist to Liis, then leave the bar. Which would seem super weird, if 1) Thomas didn’t leave at the same time, and 2) Chekhov’s gun. So, obviously, we next encounter those men unconscious, “lying in matching puddles of blood”.
After Liis and Sawyer call the police, who arrive on the scene and do police stuff. Liis goes back to her apartment and Beautiful Redemption slowly fulfills the “A Maddox Gets Insanely, Unjustifiably Violent, But It’s Supposed To Be Ok Because Love” prophecy.
I turned to press the elevator button. It was smudged with fresh blood. I glanced around and then used the inside of my blazer to clean it.
Seriously, why is this coded as the highest tier of romance in these books?
“The racist bastards insulted you.”
“So, you tried to beat them to death?” I shrieked.
“No, that came after I heard them casually mention that they hoped your route home included a dark alley. […] Some people are belligerent, predatory assholes their entire lives until one person comes along and beats the shit out of them. It gives them a new perspective.”
OK, BUT WHO DOES THAT SOUND LIKE?
Drunk Thomas briefly confides that he tried to call Travis to wish him a happy birthday, but Travis hung up on him. He also confesses that he’s “trying to keep it professional at work, but I can’t stop thinking about you”. As frustrating as these novels are, Liis does manage to atypically stand up for herself:
“Liis… do you have feelings for me?”
“You know I do.”
“Do you love me?” […]
I let out a faltering breath. “I don’t want to be in love, Thomas.” […]
“You’re lying. How can you have such a strong personality and be so fucking afraid?”
“So what?” I snapped. “You would be scared, too, if I told you I was still in love with Jackson and you were way, way out of your emotional comfort zone.”
“That’s not fair.”
I lifted my chin. “I don’t have to be fair to you, Thomas. I just have to be fair to me.”
I mean, it’s all pointless because we know that she’s going to end up with him and he’s going to experience precisely zero character growth to actually address any of her concerns. But that was nice for now.