Warning: The post below is full of spoilers for both Bared to You and Reflected in You.
Warning #2: The post below is pretty darned long.
I just finished Reflected in You. I really like the cover. I don’t care what series first started the trend of simple and elegant covers, but I was heartily tired of the half naked couples (often headless!) making out on my paperbacks.
But this cover!
That key ring is pertinent to the story. A turning point, a milestone, even a talisman. Now this is the kind of cover I’ll buy a book for. Industry! What took you so long, you dumb complacent mammoth!
So in book #1 of the Crossfire series began the passionate and somewhat obsessive relationship of Gideon Cross and Eva Trammel.
Gideon Cross –
- Young but ridiculously rich and powerful
- Obsessively controlling and scarily motivated, takes information gathering to a disturbing level
- Suffered parent-related childhood trauma and years of sexual abuse
- Doesn’t want to talk about his own secrets but is determined to ferret out Eva’s
- Never been in love and certainly never revealed his deeper issues to a lover
- Is very very afraid of losing Eva
Eva Trammel –
- Just out of college and already has a great job in a big city that she loves
- Has parents who live separately and the mother is married happily to someone else
- Feels unable to deny the attraction between Gideon and herself even though she finds his obsessive need for control annoying some times
- Has best friend/room mate who’s a big part of her life
Other stuff –
- They end up in bed in almost every chapter
- Manipulative jealous ex with her own issues
But most of the similarities that readers have pointed out are limited to the first book and seem superficial the deeper you go into the series. I’ll give you the differences and let you judge for yourself:
- Eva’s not a virgin. Has had years of consensual sexual experience and very much enjoys sex.
- The heroine acts her age and has the vocabulary of a college graduate and a woman in her early twenties. Doesn’t think, “oh shit, shit, shit!” or “oh fuck, oh fuck!” every time she deliberately angers the hero and then looks at him all round eyed and slow blinking, as if she’s afraid he’s going to throttle her when experience could tell her that all he’ll do is make out with her a bit. Oh man, Ana got on my nerve with all her “control freak!” and “perv!” as if using the whole word or saying something non-judgemental would make her stand out too much.
- Gideon doesn’t undermine Eva’s decisions and when she explains her own needs and limitations, he pays attention. And every time Gideon takes things too far and Eva feels her independence being threatened she deals with it pragmatically by either making it clear to Gideon that he was wrong or getting back at him on her own terms.
- Eva had childhood trauma of her own. She was sexually abused and had to go through years of therapy to get out of a destructive pattern that she’d established in her teenage years.
- Eva’s relationship with her parents and her step father is multi faceted.
- Gideon has a difficult relationship with his own family. It made no sense in the first book, but by the end of the second I could understand why Gideon has trouble talking about it.
- Gideon and Eva do resolve most of their issues through sex, but to them it’s like a reaffirmation of the fact that they want each other more than anyone else. They’re both insecure and get hurt easily, but neither want to end the relationship. In this book #2 was worse than #1. I couldn’t turn three pages without them making out. But there was actually a **good reason for this. =D
- Eva had years of therapy to understand all her neuroses. Gideon had years of practise suppressing the idea that he had to deal with his neuroses. It takes the whole of the first book for Gideon to start wanting to face his demons because otherwise he might lose Eva.
- Eva’s bestfriend and room-mate, Cary, has a history of his own and is someone Eva can lean on without worrying about being judged. He also needs Eva and we can see how much Eva has already helped Cary and how close the two of them are because of their shared history. There’s nothing ‘stock’ about Cary’s character.
- Eva’s an adult and so is Gideon and at no time did I ever feel that Gideon treated Eva as a child. The only mention of Dominant and Submissive behaviour in the book was when Gideon told Eva that she only truly gets off when she gives up control in bed and that the reverse is true for him. But this never bleeds into the power dynamics of their relationship. They’re equals.
- Gideon’s issues pose a greater danger to their relationship than Eva’s, but Eva is never disgusted by him or by his history. When I said they’re equals, I do mean they are emotional equals as well. Something that immensely bothered me about Ana in 50 Shades was that she kept saying she thought Christian’s habits and desires were perverted but couldn’t help enjoying his attentions. That girl was hypocritical as well as immature. Her whole world was black and white, where she was white and Christian was black. Grey? What grey?
There are plenty of other stuff that makes Crossfire a very different series from 50 Shades. But I hope you’ve already got a good idea.
** In the second book, Gideon and Eva begin couple’s therapy in a bid to stabilize their mercurial relationship. The one thing they refuse is abstinence even though the good doctor points out that they need other ways to prove their feelings for each other. Through out the book, they kept coming up against obstacles like trust and openness and suppressed jealousy and kept using sex to get through them. Eventually a threat came from outside and to protect Eva, Gideon started staying away from her. Eva and
I the readers went through several chapters worth of confusion and heart ache and no sex and I thought that was how Ms Day was going to end the book. But then the end arrived and I realized there was actually a purpose to all that seemingly gratuitous sex followed by days of heart break. The doctor was right and even though Gideon and Eva didn’t intend to take his advice, outside circumstances forced them to spend time apart and in the end their relationship was stronger for it. I loved that!
Something else I loved was how Eva dealt with the people who made Gideon’s childhood traumatic. I can tell this will be further explored in the book #3 and very much look forward to it.
All of this is not to say that the books are perfect. All relationships depicted in the two books are deep and well rounded and Gideon and Eva’s connection resonates deeply with the readers’ emotions, but there were still a few areas where the books were weak and I should at least mention them.
- Nathan Barker, the boy who’d raped and abused Eva when she was just a child, had been a minor and just child himself when the abuse started. He was twelve when he began to rape Eva and terrorizing her into silence, so she wouldn’t even tell her mother. It bothered me that Nathan’s character was dismissed as villainous and evil (which was too simplistic to begin with) but no one ever gave a thought to why he was like that. Was it a psychological disorder? Then why was that not discussed in the book? It’s just…Nathan’s is the only character not fully fleshed out in this series and I don’t understand that. Everyone else was given motive and plausible reasons for their behaviour, but a criminal behaviour like rape by a child (!!) was dismissed as a bully syndrome (actually Eva only once calls Nathan a bully and that was to avoid telling her dad about her childhood) while the story focused on how Eva was still scared that she’d accidentally meet the adult Nathan one day.
- The second thing was that in book #2, the whole stalker threat was happening (has anyone noticed how often stalkers provide the requisite threat in romances these day? Where are the bad-ass villains of the olden days?!) and being dealt with behind the scenes. Since the readers were in Eva’s head, we only get to know what information she gathers from other people. It was important that we focus on Eva while Gideon becomes inexplicably aloof and we only get to know the reasons later, but a whole character was brought into the story and dispatched without ever coming into full view for us. The ending made it worth it for me, but it still seemed like shaky handling that could have been done better.
- Now while Eva is no Mary Sue and doesn’t have men falling for her right and left, I was slightly disappointed when an old boyfriend came into the story and declared his intentions to pursue her. Eva, who is usually so direct and blunt, was going through a period of hurt feelings and distress with Gideon and couldn’t seem to make her disinterest clear to the guy. That was so unlike the Eva I’d grown to admire, I have to put it on the ‘cons’ list.
Gideon and Eva are strong characters that I would come back to again. Their romance and the struggle to make their relationship a functional one is filled with enough internal conflict and realistic reactions that I wont get bored on a reread easily. They are both self deprecating on occasions and Eva especially is very clear-eyed about the mistakes they make and the adjustments she has to make while demanding Gideon bend on certain matters. It’s refreshing to read about a relationship where the protagonists don’t spend days on a Big Misunderstanding or Miscommunication. They’re both too stubborn to give up each other no matter how fragile their self-worth.
A final note on Ms Day’s writing. I have said in my review of the first book that Ms Day seems to have read 50 Shades and then after a considering pause seems to have said to herself, “well, there’s a good story in there somewhere and I can tell it better.” She can, she really, really can. And something else she can do very well is describe New York city. I know many people love it, but it’s how Ms Day writes about it (mostly in the passing) that makes me want to experience it too.