For those of you who already miss the annual Goosebumps reading, don’t worry. Today’s chapter of a recent erotic romance is considerably more horrifying.
Calendar Girl (February): Chapter 6
A week later, Mia and Alec fall into “a regular routine” of “Stills, eating, sex. Painting, eating, sex.” They’ve never left the building. There’s “nothing more to our relationship other than working and fucking.” Mia comments on how she misses her family and Wes.
My dad, who hadn’t woken from his coma but had been moved to a convalescent facility to be cared for by the state. Gin said it was an okay place, nothing special about it. […] The doctors didn’t know what his mental status would be if he woke up.
If you’re already kind of horrified that we’re supposed to find her situation with Alec largely glamorous and thrilling, you might want to stop reading now, because this only gets worse.
But before we dive into Artsy Arts Time, it’s time for Mia to have a phone call with her younger sister! For some reason. I guess she’s a character? Because totally out of the blue, she gets a weirdly long scene that develops her character almost as much as Mia’s. Which is kind of embarrassing.
“Hi, Mads. How you doing?” I asked. […]
“Eh, you know me.”
“Getting ready for class.”
“What’s this one?”
“Forensic Pathology,” she answered. […]
“Isn’t that the study of dead people?” […]
“Yeah, technically it focuses on determining the cause of death by examining a corpse. The autopsy is performed by a medical examiner, usually during the investigation of criminal-law cases and civil-law cases in some jurisdictions…” She went on, but I had blanked out after she said examining a corpse.
“You’re going to cut up a dead person?” I couldn’t contain the shock in my voice. […] “I know what psychos do, and I don’t want my baby sis anywhere near that shit. You’re golden, baby. I don’t want you tainted by what the scum of the Earth do.”
Soooo I’m sure this is supposed to read like Mia’s being protective and help the reader see that she’s a caring, supportive older sister. But it really just reads like she’s stamping down on her sister’s interests that she doesn’t approve of because they’re… yucky?
Please note I don’t want this to sound like this is judgment on Mia’s current line of work. It would miss the point (and be pretty problematic) to claim that Mia is a hypocrite or something for telling her sister what a “bad” job is just because she’s a call girl. That’s absolutely not what I’m trying to say. What I am trying to say is that if this scene wants us to see Mia as a caring person, it misses the mark: Mia has agency to do the work she feels is important. It’d be nice if she respected her sister’s.
Intriguingly, it is a little ambiguous whether the book wants us to take Mia’s side or not.
“Momma Mia, you cannot protect me forever. I’m nineteen years old. Besides, you’re only five years older than me.”
“Didn’t stop me from taking care of you to this point!” I shot back.
She sighed so long I could almost physically feel the weight of it pressing back down on my chest.
I know I’m sighing too, but am I supposed to be? Are we supposed to think that Mia’s being ridiculous? Is her sister whose name I already forgot supposed to be the voice of reason? If only we spent any time learning about these characters before the story jumped into the sexy parts.
“Mia, I don’t know what type of scientist I’m going to be yet…”
“The kind that cures cancer or develops new pills that can keep me skinny forever! The kind that doesn’t deal in death!”
I’ll give you the cancer one, but I’m kind of uncertain where the moral high ground is with the diet pills.
I sat up, my hackles rising. I did not want her surrounded by the ugly in life. We’d had enough of that growing up
…did they? It’s almost like it’s hard to get invested in a story that infodumped the character’s backstory in the first few pages and then totally just stopped.
“Mia, I have to be able to find my own way. Okay? Promise me you’ll let me figure this out on my own.”
Figure something out on her own? My baby sis doing something all by herself. Without me to guide her, protect her, save her from getting shit on. I felt like a robot. Does not compute. Does not compute. I shushed my own ridiculous crazy voice aside and tried to be supportive.
Or maybe she does kind of work as a complicated, flawed character? And isn’t just… sort of a moron?
“Oh, I am! I’m also taking a botany class that’s absolutely fascinating!”
God, I have no idea what to make of Mia.
Things get more interesting to Mia once Mads mentions that there’s a cute boy in her botany class.
they’d been flirting for a couple of weeks, but he hasn’t gotten up the nerve to ask her out.
…ok but why do we need to know about Mia’s sister’s love life?
He was a year older and majoring in the plant sciences. Really liked that. Meant he was a nerdy guy.
Not to fight stereotypes with more stereotypes, but the plant class I took in college was pretty popular with stoners too.
I suggested she ask him out. She freaked. No way was my sweet, innocent baby sister going to ask a guy out. I was proud of that.
Then why would you suggest that? How did we go from “Fuck gender norms!” to the Madonna-whore complex in four sentences?
Mia narrates about how she was open and honest with her younger sister about her experiences with sex in hopes that she’d “never make the same mistakes”. It’s still unclear why we’re supposed to be this invested in this minor character. Or in pretty much any of this, really.
After my call with Maddy, I felt a lot better. […] I knew then more than ever that taking this job with Millie’s escort service was the right decision. Maddy had some extra cash in the bank, food in the fridge, and I was up-to-date on my payment to Blaine.
Like, this would mean so much more if we had ever seen Blaine.
Suddenly, Mia gets an unexpected text from Wes! He innocuously asks her how Seattle is and Mia wonders if it’s his attempt at maintaining a friendship throughout the year, but the exchange quickly gets flirty. This scene lasts about a page and I didn’t even like Wes, and I’m already so much more interested in this than in the dozen pages I had to read about Mia’s sister, because we… you know… actually spent time with Wes.
Anyway, what do I know? I’m not an artist. But you know who is.
When six o’clock hit, I made my way down to the workroom per Alec’s instructions. […] He was behind his camera, moving in a half-moon shape, taking pictures of a man standing ten feet away from him in front of a white background. A very naked, well-endowed man. Holy shit. […]
The man nodded. “You do good work. At first I thought it was going to be like porn, but this is nothing like that.”
“No, it is not,” Alec agreed softly and then clapped the model on the shoulder. “You ready for the female?”
Boy, am I curious if I’ll ever be remotely convinced he’s not a hack.
Alec explains that the premise of today’s shoot is to get stills of Mia and the male model “making love on the canvas”, which Mia immediately gets angry about before he clarifies it’ll just be staged. The rest of his explanation is just as insanely creepy.
“Mon amour, I need to have the two of you, bare, holding on to one another like lovers. Then when I have enough, I shall paint it.” He moved closer. “Of course, that is after I make love to you.”
So here’s the weird thing about writing this blog. Sometimes we fall too far down the rabbit hole. This is one of those chapters where I genuinely can’t tell if this is just a shittily-written romance novel with an unintentionally creepy male lead or if maybe he IS supposed to be a disgusting, oblivious, self-centered creep.
His hands stroked the side of my ribs, and his fingers brushed over the erect peaks. “I see you like this idea very much.”
Mia even explains that she isn’t sure she’s comfortable with this (and even narrates to the reader that it seemed “really forced”, which is a way more damning criticism of Alec’s art than anything I’ve written, even), but that she’s willing to try it because she “trusted his vision”.
First, there’s some wacky dialogue where Mia giggles at the male model and he thinks something’s wrong with his dick. It’s totes wacky.
“Oh my goodness, no! You’ve got a great dick… I mean… um… I wasn’t laughing at your size. Ugggh.”
But next, it’s just… incredibly uncomfortable. And Alec is oblivious.
Aiden got close and leaned onto his side. I looked down and could see his dick had hardened. I gulped and bit my lip, trying to shake off the creepy-crawly feelings I had seeing his excitement. I knew it was natural for a man to get hard when seeing a naked woman, but still, I didn’t like it. At all.
Alec continued spouting orders. “Pull her thigh up and over yours to hide your manhood.”
Aiden followed direction and gripped me by the knee and pulled my leg over his. That’s when his dick nestled against my pelvis, and I cringed.
“Mia,” Alec snapped. “Pretend you’re holding the man you love. Look into his eyes.”
Guys, it’s so bad.
“Mia, you’re not pretending,” Alec warned.
He realizes it’s not working. Not because his idea was a horrendous thing to spring on Mia and kind of tacky. He just genuinely can’t figure out why it’s not working.
Alec clomped down the ladder. “This is not working. Pas bon. Not good.” He brought a hand to his temples and paced. “Two beautiful bodies entwined should be magnifique, oui?”
Seriously, this dude is oblivious.
“You did not like this shoot.”
No shit, Sherlock. I sat there quietly
He proposes another idea that doesn’t really mean anything.
“I need this shot. So I have an idea. […] I will be your muse for the shoot.”
None of this fucking book makes sense.