Fifty Shades of Grey
You are probably either going to love this one or hate this one. There are things in this book that I was able to overlook simply because the emotional aspects of the story and characters really drew me in and I was very wrapped up in Ana and Christian's story. Was there repetition? Sure; the "Inner Goddess" references got a little tiresome. Were there strangely British phrases and terms spouting from the mouths of supposed Pacific-north-westerners? Quite a few. Was Christian's status as a 27 year-old gazillionaire in a somewhat non-specific business which sounded like a cross between Richard Gere's job in "Pretty Woman" and Bill Gates a bit hard to swallow? You'd better believe it. Yet I was enthralled as I loved Ana's voice.
For those of you who dislike a first person narrative this will be a tough read for you because not only is it first person, but it is first person present-tense. I think that was used effectively here as it heightened the sense of urgency as well as the dramatic "what-next" tension of the narrative. I also loved that Ana was an inexperienced young woman with a lot of doubts but also a very clear sense of what she wants and what she will accept. The push-pull between her desire for Christian's love and her wide-eyed "holy crap" experiences with how he conducts his love-life were really well done. I think the exploration of sex and BDSM from the her viewpoint was really nicely managed.
Christian is, to me, one of the best male leads in romance that I've read in a long time. I have all sorts of love for tortured-past heroes and he sure fills that bill. I also love stories about men who like to be in control and need to be in control and demand to be in control and then get that rug pulled right out from under them by a guileless woman. These books do a really nice job of showing his evolution from an emotionally damaged man to someone willing to risk a lot for love. I'm a sucker for that.
The BDSM aspects of this book might shock some readers. I for one thought they were pretty tame and barely crossed into anything other than light bondage and minor discipline. I find it funny that some reviewers complain that the sex is too wild and too perverted while others complain that it doesn't go far enough. I try to remember that sex and sexual fantasies are deeply personal to each person and what one person finds strange another finds too mundane. I don't think these books really go into the actual "real" BDSM lifestyle at all; they hint around it with the contract and the Red Room of Pain, but these are not the ultimate focus of the relationship. It doesn't read to me as a condemnation of the lifestyle because Christian's entire self-view is really effed up, so on the one hand you have his own self-loathing assessment of why he prefers what he deems to be sadism and on the other hand you have Ana's inexperienced viewpoint that shows her understandable hesitations and questions about what all this means to her and just how far she can allow it to go. I think this is one of the books strong points as it explores the negotiations that should go on in any relationship dealing with BDSM. The fact that what Ana is willing to do versus what Christian is wanting to do are two different things... well, I think that's true to an extent in all bedroom negotiations.
The true strength of these books is the emotional pull they exert. I really think that for a book to be well-written it not only has to be composed of well-structured prose, but also has to have a great story and a great emotional interface with the reader. Of course not all books resonate the same with all readers. It doesn't make the book bad, it makes the book not that reader's cup of tea. Well, this book hit all the emotional and story-telling marks for me. I wish a really good editor had gotten their hands on it before it made the leap from fan-fiction to "print", but on the other hand I was able to love it to pieces just as it is, so I'm quite content with it. My concern with the editing has more to do with the public perception of romance novels as a "trashy" genre in the first place. This is not at all the case. There are tons and tons of well-written romance novels out there and the fact that this book is now spearheading public perception of the genre is in some ways great and in some ways a little frustrating. Great because romance novels do often have the all-consuming emotional pull and impact that this book does, but frustrating because it really bothers me to read "well this is just a romance novel, you can't expect it to be well-written" in reviews and comments all over the internet!
For those of you who think this is a great book and you would like to read more like it, I would direct you to several great romance blogs smartbitchestrashybooks; smexybooks; allaboutromance; dearauthor (to name a few off the top of my head). They publish great reviews and can help direct you to your next romance novel/erotica book of choice. Some reviewers have recommended "The Story of O" or the Sleeping Beauty books (by A.N. Roquelaure) and if your interest in Fifty Shades of Grey was the sexual/erotic/BDSM aspect of it then go ahead and try those, but I would caution that those are not romances and do not have similar emotional arcs at all to these books. If you want romances with a little more edge to them then you might be better off with books by Cherise Sinclair or Maya Banks.
For those of you who didn't like this book or hated this book for whatever reason, please have a little respect for those of us who love it. We are not morons. We are not simply supporting it because we read Twilight and couldn't live with ourselves till we saw Edward and Bella doing the dirty. We are not sex-starved housewives. We are not people with no discriminating taste when it comes to literature. For whatever reason these books worked for us and reading them was a joyful experience. I feel bad that they didn't work for you as well, but I'm not silly enough to think that just because I love something everyone else must also love it as well! Peace to all and happy reading!