When literature student Anastasia Steele is drafted to interview the successful young entrepreneur Christian Grey for her campus magazine, she finds him attractive, enigmatic and intimidating. Convinced their meeting went badly, she tries to put Grey out of her mind - until he happens to turn up at the out-of-town hardware store where she works part-time.
The unworldly, innocent Ana is shocked to realize she wants this man, and when he warns her to keep her distance it only makes her more desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her - but on his own terms.
Shocked yet thrilled by Grey's singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success – his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving adoptive family – Grey is man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a passionate, physical and daring affair, Ana learns more about her own dark desires, as well as the Christian Grey hidden away from public scrutiny.
Can their relationship transcend physical passion? Will Ana find it in herself to submit to the self-indulgent Master? And if she does, will she still love what she finds?
Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.
Brianna: I read Fifty Shades of Grey right before the book made the morning news shows circuit. There was quite a bit of buzz surrounding this BDSM novel on Twitter, which piqued my curiosity. I think the thing I was most curious about was the Twilight fan-fiction aspect.
J9: I skimmed it last summer when a friend, who likes BDSM erotica, recommended it. I detest first-person narration so when I say skim, I mean skim. But I re-read it this week and found it impossible to not think, “geesh, what’s the big deal with this book?”
Brianna: I thought the same exact thing. From what I saw on Twitter, most people either loved this book or they hated it. And which ever way they gravitated, they felt pretty passionately about their verdict. Me on the other hand, I’m in the middle.
J9: I’m actually with you, I didn’t hate or love it. But mostly I don’t see what the whole erotica hoopla is--this book is no different than many erotic romance novels out there; this one just went mainstream quickly.
Brianna: I don’t get what the hoopla is over this book either. I don’t read a lot of BDSM (I’m actually very new to the genre) but I can’t imagine why THIS book is all the rage. There surely has to be better BDSM books out there, right?
J9: I am in NO way into the BDSM lifestyle so I’m no authority but I’ve read more than a few BDSM books for review and this one seemed to use the same parts the same ways. I do wonder though, if people (women) may like the uber-sexualization of the Christian/Ana relationship which was a YA romance in the Twilight books.
Brianna: Did you go into Fifty Shades of Grey knowing it was Twilight fan-fiction? And if so, did it scream TWILIGHT to you? I knew before hand but to be honest, I didn’t think of Twilight a single time when I read Fifty. Yes, I realize (now) that there are similarities (a lot of them actually) but when I was reading this book, I wasn’t thinking about it.
J9: It was common knowledge back last year when I read it that this was an erotic retelling of the Twilight romance so I also knew going in but I’m a totally weirdo and haven’t even read the Twilight books (don’t hunt me down!).
To me the best part of this book was the non-sexual emails between Christian (ahem, Mr. Grey) and Ana. The email back-and-forth had real humor and heart, IMO.
Brianna: Yes!! That was probably my favorite part of the book. There lie the true feelings and words between these two characters. It was a shame they weren’t that true and honest with each other face to face.
J9: I agree. But I have to give props to the author for introducing the BDSM lifestyle in such a simplistic, straightforward manner. The author has Christian create a contract for Ana which introduces her to the boundaries (or lack thereof) in the BDSM relationship and this enables the author to make the BDSM lifestyle easily accessible to readers like me who are unfamiliar with it (and may find it creepy.)
Brianna: I understand the need for a contract but that contract became too much of a focal point. It was like every conversation between Christian and Ana mentioned that damn contract. It was like Christian was shoving it under Ana’s nose every chance he got.
J9: Oh yes! This contract leeches the emotional connection out of this romance and makes it much more of a business agreement, so much so that Ana wonders if this makes her a whore. I think the author included this fear of Ana’s suspecting that readers may feel the same way!
Brianna: I don’t know if this would be considered a ‘like’ or a ‘didn’t like’ but I give the author some kudos on creating such a sick f*ck of a character. The man himself said it best: Christian Grey is fifty shades of fucked up. That guy is seriously damaged. The whole Ms. Robinson thing was quite disturbing but what made it even more so was that Christian was okay with what went down and how it went down. He doesn’t see what was wrong with that whole relationship.
J9: I agree, the author made Christian a totally messed up character but what disappointed me most in his characterization was that THAT messed up sexuality was all the readers know about him. He’s so two-dimensional in his BDSM lifestyle. I suppose this may be due in part to the first-person narration by Ana so she can only tell readers what she knows about Christian but his refusal to examine his unhealthy introduction to the lifestyle was a real miss in my opinion.
Brianna: You’re right, I think we did miss out on quite a bit about/from Christian’s character because the story is told from Ana’s POV. There’s so much more to Christian and his ways. I’m wondering if the reader gets more from Christian’s past in the next two books...?
J9: There may be; I haven’t read them and I’m not going to. I’m a little squeamish about the BDSM sex as it mixes with power so much and that’s slightly uncomfortable for me to read. I think this kind of BDSM pushes the envelope on what romance is versus erotica. In fact, I’d argue that since there is no HEA (happy ever after) that Fifty Shades isn’t even romance. I also think this book is a classic example of people wanting to say it’s a romance since few people admit to reading erotica.
Brianna: I don’t know how I would classify this book. Erotica seems to be fitting. Speaking of ‘pushing the envelope’, there’s a scene at the end of the book (97% into the Kindle edition) that just felt so wrong (read: belt). It was demoralizing and very disturbing. I don’t understand why Ana let herself be degraded and hurt for as long as she did. Why didn’t she say one of the safe words?!! That was the million dollar question that was screaming in my mind when I was reading that scene.
J9: I was totally wigged out by that scene too. And I felt the scene was made worse because Christian seemed so emotionally disconnected from Ana’s pain. I also have to talk about this other scene where Ana’s biology becomes sexualized with Christian. I can’t say too much without giving everything away but it icked me out because it was a bodily integrity issue for me (think shaving rules, clothing rules, birth control rules!) and Ana gave this away to Christian so easily. Plus, as a woman I can’t imagine this-thing-I-can’t-say being sexualized in ANY way!
Brianna: I know exactly which part you’re referring to. This scene, too, stood out for me (and not in a good way). I’ll say it - one word: tampon. Those who have read Fifty Shades of Grey will know exactly what what we’re referring to. And for those who haven’t, let’s just say that tampons and love scenes do not make for smexy times. Do I even need to explain why? And what happens with said tampon is just disgusting. It completely ruined the scene for me.
Another problem for me was the lack of editing. In the beginning of the book especially, there was an abundance of facial expressions used. It’s like the author went through every single type of smile imaginable: wryly (twice), pleasantly, kindly (twice), a ghost of a smile (twice), suppresses a smile, rueful, humorous, a hint of a smile, small, widens, all within the first 10 pages. I think we get the gist; there’s a lot of smiling going on. I did a search on my Kindle for this book and, I kid you not, there were 286 results for ‘smile’ in this 380-page book. Smile much? And don’t get me started on the blushing! I searched this too and there were 119 ‘flush’es plus 39 ‘blushes’.
And who the heck whispers that much? Christian and Ana whisper when there’s no need. Okay, maybe I’m being nit picky but it was annoying.
J9: Ah! I agree, the editing was laughable in the original e-book (before Random House bought the rights) And the “blushes” and “flushes” were S.I.L.L.Y. mostly because this was used to illustrate Ana’s innocence and that’s lazy writing in my opinion in “telling” and not “showing”.
Brianna: While I didn’t love Fifty Shades of Grey, I didn’t hate it either. But I will admit that it’s book crack; I simply could not put it down until I had finished reading it. I give Fifty Shades of Grey 2 frogs. Will I read the next 2 books? It’s hard to say. I can’t justify paying 10 bones for each ebook. I *might* read the next two for sheer curiosity, if nothing else.
J9: Curiosity killed The Book Vixen? LOL Post your reviews here since I’m not reading the next two! I didn’t love or hate the book. But I would have been upset to have wasted ten bucks on the book, so I guess that means I recommend borrowing it from the public library--even if the wait is 6 months, as I hear it is for most public libraries! And nope, I’m not spending any money on the next two books. In fact, since I have no emotional investment in Christian and Ana, I’m not going to borrow the next books from my library either. I'd rate it 2 frogs.
Brianna and J9’s Rating:
Our question for you - Now that we’ve read the uber-popular Fifty Shades of Grey (and you know what we liked and didn’t like), what BDSM book(s) do you recommend we give a try?