Pandora’s Box: 50 Shades of Grey

50For those who’ve remained blissfully unaware, 50 Shades of Grey is the latest publishing phenom. Discussed obsessively everywhere from the Today show to Newsweek, the plot can be teased in just a few sentences: Christian Grey is a 27-year old billionaire in modern day Seattle who proposes an unusual relationship to graduating student, Anastasia Steele.  He offers her a contract in which she would agree to serve as sub to his dom every weekend for a period of months.

We decided to subject the book to the scrutiny of our Pandora.  This time it’s Sandy AAR and Jean AAR who open Pandora’s Box.

Jean AAR: I really wasn’t sure what to expect, considering all the buzz, but there also seemed to be a lot of hyperbole in either direction – either it was the greatest thing since the Pill or the worst thing ever published.  So I kind of took it in stride.  If I had to grade it, I’d give it a C+/B-.  Parts of it are weirdly compelling, but other parts are just downright amateur.  Still, it’s not really any different from hundreds of other romance novels.

Sandy AAR: I agree.  It’s a romance novel.  I kind of land in the B- territory.  I thought it was kind of like an HP in a weird way. Mysterious gazallionaire meets virtuous student and sweeps her away to his lair yadda, yadda, yadda.  But then there’s the sex.  Which is actually pretty raunchy.

JW: Do you think the raunchiness gets tiring, or becomes unnecessary, especially in the second book?  I haven’t read the third book yet, but I feel that if you took out two-thirds of the sex, edited heavily, and compressed, there’d be a B/B+ in there somewhere.

Sandy: Yes, the sex did become repetitive.  But I think the sex – specifically, the BDSM –is a reason for a lot of people to come to the party and, if you took that out, what you’d have here is an HP.

JW: I have a huge problem with the diction, particularly in the first book.  In the first place, it’s set in Seattle.  In the United States of America.  Anastasia is American.  Then why the hell is she going around talking about singlets, arses, and Christian telling her she has “damned cheek”?  Unless I missed the boat and those are all prevalent American terms, I think the (British) author really should have just set it in the UK.  Minor, I know, but man it bugged me.

Sandy: Therein the author reveals her amateurism.  Nope, those are not Americanisms and it’s damned cheeky of the author not to get it right.

JW: There’s some old-school usage that’s completely out of place.  “Vixen.”  “Smitten.”  And a handful of other terms I don’t remember, but that really jarred coming from the mouth of a 27-year-old man in 2012 Seattle.

Sandy: What?  You thinkest that a man of youthful vintage would not speak thusly?  Okay, so the language kind of sucked.  I’ve read plenty worse in today’s romance novels. It’s not any more anachronistic than that proverbial London secretary and the sheikh.

JW: Third: UST, aka Unresolved Sexual Tension.  This deserves it’s own category.  Before I slam it, I have to know: Do people actually use this in real conversation?  Would middle-aged, thrice-married women like Anastasia’s mother just casually throw it into her speech?  Because it sounds very, very wrong.  And considering the term’s fanfiction antecedents, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was just the author throwing a shout-out to her fans or something.

Sandy: I had to google that too.  Well, truth is I didn’t bother to.  But, no, it was new to me a well.

JW: Fourth: What in bejeezus are grey flannel pants?  Like, pajama pants?  A 27-year-old natty billionaire walks around wearing white linen shirts and grey flannel pants?  Give me a break.

Sandy: I’ll cut the author a break here.  Flannel in this case refers to a very fine type of suit material and not fuzzy jammy bottoms.

JW: At first, I was a bit derisive of the predictable BDSM Man Turns Vanilla With Love of Good Woman progression, but there’s valuable development in the second book regarding this, particularly chatting with the psychologist, that I think ultimately saves the day.  I do find the sex repetitive, emotions over the top, and not a smidgen of subtlety anywhere.  A good editor (and a better writer) could have cut this down to a very decent two volumes.  Haven’t read the third book, but I’m not exactly raring to go on it.

Sandy: Well, truth be told, I found the BDSM kind of squicky and I skimmed it.  Just not my thing – not, for the eleventy-thousandth time, that I’m judging anyone.  But, yes, the message was very clear that Christian was screwed up and that was expressed by the way he withheld himself and had to control his sexuality.  It was all about control with him.  When it became less necessary – i.e, thanks to the love of a good woman – the more vanilla he became.   For someone who enjoys the BDSM stuff, I’m betting that the second book is a lot less enjoyable than the first since they’re basically off that and into more vanilla in the second book.

JW: I think some of the criticisms about the BDSM aspect (that it’s a copout, etc.) are a bit unfair.  The author’s not actually saying that BDSM is bad, and vanilla is good, just that when Christian, in particular, was screwed up, he could only find a solution through BDSM.  She is not saying that BDSM itself is screwed up.

Sandy: I don’t think she has to.  Screwed up Christian is into BDSM, happy Christian is over it.  What’s the implication here?  I think we ‘ll have to disagree on the author’s intentions.

JW: The thing I like best about Ana and Christian are the email exchanges, mainly because they cut to the chase, and the snark comes across more genuinely than in their conversations.  I do like the character development over the first two books, and I see their relationship as equal, if not equitable.  But the archetype (young virgin and worldly billionaire) is too pronounced, particularly in the first book, for total comfort.  Original, this book is not.

Sandy: Original?  Not by a long shot.  I agree that the email conversations (minus all the Mac-longing, not that there’s anything wrong with that) were revealing.  And, hey, he gave her a really cool car and the latest MacBook Pro and that adds up to a “modern” version of an HP.  Yep, I’m back to that.  Minus the BDSM, that’s the crux of the story.  A handsome, remote, immensely wealthy and powerful man and the virginal young student.  With kink, of course.

My guess is that the majority of the women who’ve gone crazy for this book are turned on by the man more.  If they only knew there a’s a handsome, remote gazillionaire on every street corner in romance land, they’d be one of us.

JW: And I think that’s ultimately what makes the book sort of work.  Because if you take out the sex, there actually is a story and character development.  Which is more than you could say of a lot of romance novels.  It is really HP-ish though, except, I feel, taken back a decade or so.  I’ve mixed feelings about it: On the one hand, it seems a lot less contrived to have a 21-year-old virgin rather than late-20s virgins dotting HP land.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with virginity, etc. etc.)  But on the other hand: Really?  Like, really?

And I have to say, I’m back to my original reaction: I really, really don’t get it.  Yeah, there are worse books out there.  But there are also waaaaaaaaay better books, and authors, that I’d kill to see get this kind of attention.

I would be really interested to see what E.L. James comes up with next.  I think there’s potential, with a good editor at hand.  And I also have to admit that it feels good to have romantica, as mediocre as it is, gain some mainstream press, even if most of it is extremely derogatory.

Sandy: I saw the author interviewed on the Today show the other day and she is as genuinely puzzled by the popularity as anyone.  I think that a lot of the disdain is motivated by sour grapes – understandable, though that may be –but  she took the money and ran with it.  I won’t get into the fan fiction discussion, but she wrote the story and the Bella/Edward connection is minimal, at best.  She won’t be this lucky again, I’ll bet, and will soon disappear into the sunset, happily clutching her royalties.  I’m hoping for a better book the next time something hits this big.

- Sandy AAR and Jean AAR

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52 Responses to “Pandora’s Box: 50 Shades of Grey”

  1. Shebbie says:

    Great article! I agree with a lot of the points listed here. I read the first two books before all the hoopla and I cannot think of anything in them that made me want to read them again. I enjoyed them, but I have read so may books that are much better this is series. There were a few things that annoyed me about both lead characters. I also found myself skipping most of the sex scenes (and that is something I do not normally do). I just did not find them all that hot, even for “BDSM lite”. And the third book annoyed me the most (too much “Mr. & Mrs”, gah we know you’re married!). I too am waiting to see what the author comes up with next, because this series really seems like a fluke that went viral.

  2. DabneyAAR says:

    The book has been criticized as a Twilight fanfiction. I haven’t read it–did youall see any resemblance?

  3. AAR Sandy says:

    Dabney, the characters are, I suppose, Bella and Edward archetypes, and the story takes place in the Northwest, but that is about it. But then how many books are there with powerful, remote heroes and doormat heroines? Many. (Make that many, many, many.) Other than that, it’s an original story.

  4. Hannah E. says:

    My guess is that the majority of the women who’ve gone crazy for this book are turned on by the man more. If they only knew there a’s a handsome, remote gazillionaire on every street corner in romance land, they’d be one of us.

    I really think this is the main reason why this trilogy exploded. Most veteran romance readers who have reviewed it seem to agree that it’s nothing groundbreaking. But to a bunch of non-romance-readers, this is new and amazing stuff. The first romance novel I read wasn’t very good, but I was so excited about it because I hadn’t previously known enough about the romance genre to realize how much I would enjoy it. I think that’s why so many women are going crazy over these books. I just hope it makes them interested in trying some high quality examples of the genre.

  5. LeeF says:

    “I really wasn’t sure what to expect, considering all the buzz, but there also seemed to be a lot of hyperbole in either direction – either it was the greatest thing since the Pill or the worst thing ever published. So I kind of took it in stride. If I had to grade it, I’d give it a C+/B-. Parts of it are weirdly compelling, but other parts are just downright amateur. Still, it’s not really any different from hundreds of other romance novels.”

    Yep, Jean, you have said it all in one paragraph.

  6. LJ says:

    “I think that a lot of the disdain is motivated by sour grapes – understandable, though that may be –but she took the money and ran with it. ”

    Would you STOP with this? Honest criticism of a bad book is not sour grapes. When you guys rip into a book, do we call it sour grapes?

  7. AAR Sandy says:

    No, you don’t, LJ. Point taken. Actually, I was referring more to the disdain that’s coming from the FanFic community. I should have been more clear.

    • bethany says:

      AAR Sandy: No, you don’t, LJ.Point taken.Actually, I was referring more to the disdain that’s coming from the FanFic community.I should have been more clear.

      the disdain is definitely not sour grapes. it’s more the author’s behavior in the community which is pretty tight-knit and supportive of one another in general. just not a fan of someone who puts themselves on a pedestal at every opportunity when there are LOTS of fantastic fanfiction authors out there. yes, she has definitely hit mainstream popularity but I would have to add that a lot of the initial steam was provided by the fanfiction community that James seems very eager to ditch altogether.

  8. Janet W says:

    I really enjoyed the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy and I certainly don’t fall under the umbrella of never having read a romance before. So many things distinguished Fifty from the regular fare — too long to list but let’s just mention cover, title, emails, a thorough discussion of birth control options, a book that didn’t end with an HEA, the endless relationship discussions.

    If the 100% “original” email exchanges are any indication, I think we can look forward to more engaging books from E. L. James. About that “disdain coming from the FanFic community” — that’s not universal. Many of the fanfic community are supportive of James. Could we agree it’s a mixed reaction?

    p.s. Sandy, thanks so much for fielding the grey flannels question — I know exactly what James meant and I thought it was a good look :)

  9. LJ says:

    Thanks Sandy.. There are many aspects of this book that bother me. The fanfiction one is extremely minor. I live outside of Seattle and the poorly researched geography of the area is one of the things she got – really wrong. Another is the college culture (I’m a student). The “fake” BDSM is another biggie (again I know something about this) – I could go on and on. Probably for paragraphs. A common defense is that it’s fiction so these things don’t matter, except that they do because they kick me out of the story. This isn’t an alternate universe.

    It just feels like she wanted to write something but didn’t feel like doing the heavy lifting so she made stuff up in areas that required research. I mean – did it HAVE to be Seattle? Why not London where she could have gotten the culture and geography correct? And why BDSM when she’s obviously got some sort of prejudice against it and in writing it the way she did, pissed off the BDSM community?

  10. bjw says:

    I liked all three books. I was very curious about the subject matter because while I am an avid romance reader, I am new to the subject of BDSM. It seemed to be BDSM “lite” and I didn’t find it offensive. With all of Christian’s control issues, I found it rewarding to see his genuine love and concern for Ana take over. He really cared about her and her happiness. When she declared her love for him, he was stunned and moved. Clearly, this was someone who was completely involved with sex without any love or commitment. For heaven’s sake, his relationships were CONTRACTUAL!

    I’ve read comments from women on other sites wondering how a modern woman would be attracted to a story about a woman giving control to a man. You know, when you have a full-time job, a husband, three kids, two dogs and a house, there’s something very attractive about a man who takes you to bed and has you just feel and not think about anything except what you’re feeling. I also think Ana was the one who had the control.

  11. PatH AAR says:

    ARE there any good editors left in publishing these days? Since I read four or five books a week and the editing gets weaker and weaker (not “weeker” as I saw in a recent book), I wonder if authors aren’t their own editors and editors aren’t merely acquirers these days. Hoping that an author gets a good editor just might be a lost hope.

  12. xina says:

    I enjoyed all three books very much, but really, really didn’t expect to. I downloaded them months ago, and just let them sit. Then when all the hoopla started, I sat down and read them, and darn it, I really liked them. So, I’m not a newbie to romance novels. Have read my share of good, bad and indifferent, and it is true, nothing much new here in the bedroom. However, I did like the building relationship, that inner goddess (some hate her others like her) and those e-mails. I happened to enjoy the third book the most and I feel I am in the minority there. What I can’t understand is the HUGE popularity of these books. I was out to lunch with a friend recently, who reads, but not romance novels. I almost spit out my wine when she tells me she’s reading Fifty Shades of Gray, and so is her mother (she’s 80). Wow…just wow. We discussed, had more wine, discussed and I ended up giving her a list of romance novels that I love. I do think, and I’ll stand behind this, that these books wouldn’t have been nearly as popular if
    the covers were typical of a romance novel. I do think romance may be able to reach more readers if the covers were to improve. Love it or hate it, the covers are outstanding. I can’t help feeling happy for the author. I wonder if she has any other books in her and if they would sell. If I were her, I’d probably just be happy with the three. Go out with a bang. :)

  13. lauren says:

    It took me 5 years to read Twilight and that was only because my niece was a fanatic…I found it silly and laughed through most of the books. I will most likely read this series too but waaaaaaaay down the road maybe 5 years! :)

  14. LJ says:

    @bjw says

    You missed the point completely. Ana ‘cured’ him of his ‘need’ to be a dom and he ‘needed’ to be a dom because he was damaged.

    These plot points? Seriously offense to people in the BDSM community. You don’t need to be cured of being a dom or a submissive any more than you need to be cured of being gay. In addition, the previous subs were protrayed as being psychologically damaged and his previous BDSM partner was portrayed as a Mrs Robinson child abuser.

    We won’t even GET into Ana’s negative comment throughout the books on BDSM because she’s a hypocrit.

    How is this BDSM positive in ANY WAY?

    • xina says:

      These plot points? Seriously offense to people in the BDSM community. You don’t need to be cured of being a dom or a submissive any more than you need to be cured of being gay. In addition, the previous subs were protrayed as being psychologically damaged and his previous BDSM partner was portrayed as a Mrs Robinson child abuser.We won’t even GET into Ana’s negative comment throughout the books on BDSM because she’s a hypocrit.How is this BDSM positive in ANY WAY?

      But why should this book offend the BDSM community? It’s not like Fifty Shades Of Gray is a how-to manual or even a memoir. It’s fiction, made up stuff. Just like the true historians are offended by the mulitude of dukes running around romance historical fiction looking for brides. We all know that isn’t authentic, but we gobble up the books anyway, and most of us aren’t bothered by it. Those that are offended, just stay away from those books. I would think the same would go for the BDSM community.

  15. LJ says:

    OOPS… migraine medication is kicking in. Sorry folks

    “@bjw says”

    just @bjw

    “Seriously offense”

    Um, seriously offensive.

  16. LJ says:

    Please stop calling it BDSM-lite. I really, really challenge you to find anyone in the BDSM community to has anything positive to say about it.

  17. bjw says:

    @LJ

    My sympathies; I am also a migraine sufferer! Hemiplegic migraines since the age of 7, so I hope you feel better soon.

    I apologize if I offended anyone in the BDSM community, but I must confess my ignorance regarding political correctness in this area.

    I didn’t feel that Ana “cured” Christian. I don’t look at BDSM as an illness but rather a preference. I think he simply changed; maybe came to another place in his life. My preferences and philosophies changed dramatically after I fell in love; whose don’t?? Love is a life changing experience

  18. Tesa says:

    Really enjoyed reading the conversation here and can even agree on a lot of the points. I’m actually a veteran reader of romance and I thoroughly enjoyed the entire trilogy, and I did that even though I can see a lot of those style/diction issues that are pointed out here and recognize that there are better romance writers who get no recognition at all. I just think there’s a space for people to acknowledge that they love a book or author, but get that not all of the pieces are perfect. It happens to me all the time: I thoroughly enjoy some books that are panned and can’t get into some that send people into fits of delight (i.e. Outlander). And I think that’s okay.

    I do think that the tropes we see in FSoG are fairly common, but aren’t a lot of the tropes we see in romance? Isn’t what distinguishes an author from another often how they can create complexity and new dynamics from basic plot structures? We have beauty and the beast, cinderella, Pride and Prejudice in a hundred different romances, but some of them are phenomenal and others don’t go the distance. I’m sure there are a lot of new readers just titillated by the BDSM sex, something they’ve never read, but there are also plenty who have read it and things more explicit, but still felt this book hit all of the right spots, sometimes because of these obvious stylistic flaws too. What I hope is that EL James’ exposure prompts non-romance readers to search for the fiction that’s being declared better and more developed, because that means new consumers for the genre. That’s always a good thing.

  19. Carrie says:

    If 50 Shades of Grey gets more people reading romances instead of badmouthing them, then I happy for its success. Unfortunately, for some critics of the genre the books will simply cement the notion that romances are trite, derivative, poorly written, badly edited and are only popular because they satisfy some women’s voyeuristic tendencies.

    In the end I can only hope the positive impact outweighs the negative.

    • Tesa says:

      Carrie: If 50 Shades of Grey gets more people reading romances instead of badmouthing them, then I happy for its success. Unfortunately, for some critics of the genre the books will simply cement the notion that romances are trite, derivative, poorly written, badly edited and are only popular because they satisfy some women’s voyeuristic tendencies.In the end I can only hope the positive impact outweighs the negative.

      I tend to think even the best writer of romance wouldn’t change the minds of people who are determined to judge based on genre alone. 50 got a lot of new readers from book clubs, where people are sometimes forced to read something they wouldn’t normally pick for themselves. Word of mouth and then the publicity whirlwind helped it. I don’t think we can hold the author responsible for writing a book that isn’t what some might deem a better sample of romantic fiction. Even she didn’t know she’d be fielding movie adaptation offers. And even though there are three books, this is essentially a debut, one that obviously a number of people don’t find all that stunning.

  20. Carrie says:

    Wanted to add: I agree with xina, romance covers need an upgrade. I may enjoy naked male chests, but overall those covers keep a lot of people from reading the books, and keep the books from ever being taken seriously. I don’t think 50 Shades would have gotten where it is with one of those fake-sexy dom covers you so often see on erotica. The cover is seriously classy.

  21. Claire says:

    I’ve gotten to the second book.. really enjoyed the first and so far… my only complaint is that I wish it had been condensed down into two books. The anachronistic language stood out but it didn’t bother me too much.

    I don’t get the complaints around the net that this book doesn’t accurately portray the BDSM culture. Why does it have to?

    Theres a new Newsweek story from someone in real life BDSM who said she’s been raped a few times so I’m sure I don’t want “real” BDSM portrayal.

  22. Jean Wan says:

    I find it extraordinarily limiting to say that this book doesn’t represent “true” BDSM. Like a sexual preference/need can be limited to one-size-fits-all? Or divided into frauds and true believers? Whatever.

    FSoG is a story. Yeah, in the story Christian goes from BDSM to vanilla – but it works in the context of the story.

    And I, for one, actually liked the inner goddess. Those bits, and the emails, are what give me hope for this author.

  23. LJ says:

    @Claire

    People in vanilla relationships have been raped a few times too. Bad example and low blow, really.

  24. LJ says:

    @Jean Wan

    in a genre that already faces discrimination and prejudice i.e. the comment about rape? Yes, let’s continue to promote the stereotype that people who get involved in BDSM are sick and need to be cured.

    Had E.L Grey given us some positive characters? Perhaps my view might be different but hey? Guess what? She didn’t!

    And it does matter if it’s true? Yes! Just like it matters if women are portrayed as ‘real’ characters. And don’t give me ‘in the context of the story’ crap. How about if Christian had been gay and Ana had cured him. Would that have worked in the context of the story?

    Unbelievable.

  25. Stephanie says:

    My husband got me the first book because he kept hearing about it at work – in an oil refinery. He asked me what the big deal was and I was at a loss. I didn’t find it particularly groundbreaking, not even the sex regardless of classification. And why didn’t she place this in London? I can’t tell you how many times I wished I had the paperback version so I could throw it every time someone fetched something. It was a huge problem for me as it kept me from engaging in the story.

  26. LJ says:

    @xina

    Why should it matter to the BDSM community? Oh I don’t know? Because the book is being referred to as a BDSM book? Because it treats BDSM as a disease that needs to be cured? Because all the characters who are a part of the BDSM community in the book have something psychologically WRONG with them?

    Because the author and retailers try to SELL the book to us (overpriced too) only to have us waste our time and money reading it and then when we try to warn other people OFF who might also be interested or part of the BDSM community? We’re told we’re over reacting and that “it’s not real” so we should just chill out and not be offended.

    Yet if this was a standard romance and the author had crapped all over women or women’s rights? Oh boy.

    • Tesa says:

      LJ: @xina
      Why should it matter to the BDSM community? Oh I don’t know? Because the book is being referred to as a BDSM book? Because it treats BDSM as a disease that needs to be cured? Because all the characters who are a part of the BDSM community in the book have something psychologically WRONG with them?
      Because the author and retailers try to SELL the book to us(overpriced too) only to have us waste our time and money reading it and then when we try to warn other people OFF who might also be interested or part of the BDSM community? We’re told we’re over reacting and that “it’s not real” so we should just chill out and not be offended.Yet if this was a standard romance and the author had crapped all over women or women’s rights? Oh boy.

      I’m assuming you’ve either only read the first book or didn’t read any of them, only because there are characters who make it blatantly clear that BDSM is not the problem, nor are Christian and Ana’s sexual proclivities in general. I won’t give away who these characters are since some are still reading the trilogy, but even Christian talks about mutually satisfying relationships between himself and former partners that ended without incident because both parties decided to move on, not because they were cured of the BDSM disease.

      And I must ask, is BDSM only supposed to appear in novels where both parties have no emotional or psychological issues? Because that hasn’t been the case even in books by authors who are seasoned writers and have been praised for their portrayal of the lifestyle, Joey Hill for instance. One of her best novels features a heroine who has a very hard time accepting her submissive tendencies, and she’s been badly abused. I don’t see that portrayal as an indictment of BDSM either. In fact, what I see in FSoG and often in books with BDSM elements is the lifestyle as a means of defining and exploring sexual boundaries. That’s what’s ultimately at issue in FSoG, that Ana and Christian are ambivalent and cannot create and articulate boundaries. I don’t think EL James has ever said this was THE BDSM novel to beat all, and it’s marketed as erotica in general.

      And also, the idea that they completely vanilla is also subject to debate, especially if you did not read all three books.

  27. erika says:

    What an interesting discussion. I’m happy this book is receiving so much attention. Finally a book I like is getting hyped and is in the spotlight. Finding books as engrossing as the FSoG triology has been a challenge.

  28. kathy says:

    I loved this book but whats an HP? And don’t one of you think to yourself , well of course she liked this book she dosen’t even know what an HP is:)

  29. chris booklover says:

    Sandy:

    In what sense is Ana a doormat? Isn’t she the person who ultimately dictates the terms of the relationship while Christian is the one who has to change?

  30. Janet W says:

    Kathy, there are a million acronyms I still don’t know — HP stands for Harlequin Presents — now do I agree with that assessment? I’m not really an expert in contemporaries … it’s interesting to everyone chime in tho.

    Ask me how Christian compares to duke in Regency times and then we’re talking :)

  31. Rebecca says:

    Kathy, I think HP is a Harlequin Presents.

  32. Mirole says:

    OMG, there are so many people here that I’d like to quote or respond to that it would make my post embarrassingly long.

    Chris book lover: that was my first thought too while reading Pandora Box.
    Yes, sometimes Ana vacillates or seems afraid of Christian’s ire but in the most important things she sticks to her guns.
    If she were a doormat, she would not have done what she did at the end of FSoG. I just reread it and it’s even clearer for me that she’s far from being one.

    In fact, part of her appeal for Christian is that she challenges him unlike all his prior women and he finds it refreshing.

    Xina: I totally agree with you about the role of the cover in the books’ success. So maybe some good will come out of this and the big romance publishing houses will take notice. I am sure they all wish they were part of this success..
    I don’t quite agree with you and those who say they cannot understand why these books became such a great success and there are better romance books that deserve equal/greater success on the strength of their better writing. I’ve just looked up my top 10 romance and while I agree most of them are better written, all of them are very formulaic romancy

    • xina says:

      Mirole:

      I don’t quite agree with you and those who say they cannot understand why these books became such a great success and there are better romance books that deserve equal/greater success on the strength of their better writing. I’ve just looked up my top 10 romance and while I agree most of them are better written, all of them are very formulaic romancy

      I agree with you here also. I didn’t mean to say that the writing was bad, because I thought it was good. Two problems I did have was that I thought it was a bit lengthy and that parts could have been shortened up a bit, especially book three. And also, the language, the voice didn’t sound American. I wouldn’t have minded if the books were set in London. But anyway, I loved the series and feel the author deserves all the attention her books are getting. I say, good for her.

  33. Mirole says:

    [Sorry, I accidentally posted an unfinished post, so I continue]

    Or I also have two Heyer’s in my Top 10.

    I agree about many flaws of the FS trilogy but the thing is they make me so absorbed and involved in them that I did not really pay attention to all those small details like typos (incidentally, I read book 3 in Vintage ebook edition and it had two or three typos at most) or Britishisms (incidentally, English is my 2nd language and I was taught the British English so The Britishisms did not bother me at all). I am also in the camp who loved the interplay between Ana’s inner goddess and subconscious (with a rare appearance of inner bitch).

    I am sincerely interested in her hearing people’s opinions why ore romances

    I am sure that a big part of the book’s success is their erotic content. So
    what other erotica/erotic romance novel you would say is more worthy of
    this success? For me what’s valuable here is a great story. In most erotic romances the story felt like a filler between the sex scenes. The only one that captivated me at the same level (but unfortunately was too short) was The Willing Victim by Cara McKenna.

    As to BDSM, I am with those who say there is no one-size-fits-all BDSM scenarios. I agree that some of Ana’s thoughts re BDSM are not quite politically correct but that what makes her human for me. Remember, she is new to sex and does not know anything about BDSM at all.

    If, on the other hand, the story were written in the 3rd person and the author expressed the same attitudes, I agree that would have been basis for outrage for the BDSM community. The fact is the majority of women are vanilla and they can better relate to non-submissive Ana than to a heroine of a perfectly-written BDSM book.

  34. Mirole says:

    I am sorry I left a sentence unfinished in the middle of my post. I wanted to ask (most sincerely, and you may convince me) which of the mainstream romance do you consider more worthy of the success the FS trilogy is now enjoying?

    I remember reading Black Ice by Anne Stuart and thinking it could be a great movie but I cannot see even that book as successful on the same level as FSoG – there’s too much competition in the thriller/suspence market.

    Speaking of film adaptations, I am amazed that the British have not tried to convert a Heyer into one the wonderful miniseries they are famous for.

  35. Julie B says:

    Why are American readers so bothered by the anachronistic language? British set historical romances are full of supposedly 19th century English aristocrats who speak and act like modern day Americans.

    • LJ says:

      Julie B: Why are American readers so bothered by the anachronistic language? British set historical romances are full of supposedly 19th century English aristocrats who speak and act like modern day Americans.

      And reviewers often point that out, don’t they? When things are wrong and anachronistic? So when a book is supposed to take place in, say, Seattle and it references things, places and oh, culture that is completely WRONG for Seattle? It grates.

  36. Moriah Jovan says:

    Why are American readers so bothered by the anachronistic language?

    Because it was intended for and marketed to an American audience, which means she couldn’t be arsed to write it correctly.

  37. LJ says:

    @Tesa

    No, I read the first two novels.

    “because there are characters who make it blatantly clear that BDSM is not the problem,”

    Except that it IS because Christian’s NEED to be a dom is based on his childhood trauma and then Ana ‘cures’ him of his need to be a Dom through love. How is that not treating it like a disease?

    And then we have two other characters in the book, His former lover who is a chil abuser and a former sub both of whom are psychologically damaged and are used to drive the plot?

    Oh yes, this is a BDSM positive book.

    You’re telling me I didn’t read it? You must be kididng. I wanted to throw my ereader through a window.

    And no, don’t be ridiculous, of course BDSM books can deal with psychological issues. Anabel Joseph has written a book that covers this issue almost exactly. The difference is, she managed to deal with it without treating BDSM like a disease. She also managed to feature BDSM positive characters just as she has dealt with many psychological issues AND BDSM at the same time without ‘curing’ either the Dom or the Sub of their inherit need to practice BDSM.

    AND she didn’t treat every character over 40 like a pariah.

    • Tesa says:

      LJ: @Tesa
      No, I read the first two novels.
      “because there are characters who make it blatantly clear that BDSM is not the problem,”Except that it IS because Christian’s NEED to be a dom is based on his childhood trauma and then Ana ‘cures’ him of his need to be a Dom through love. How is that not treating it like a disease?And then we have two other characters in the book, His former lover who is a chil abuser and a former sub both of whom are psychologically damaged and are used to drive the plot?Oh yes, this is a BDSM positive book.
      You’re telling me I didn’t read it? You must be kididng.I wanted to throw my ereader through a window.And no, don’t be ridiculous, of course BDSM books can deal with psychological issues. Anabel Joseph has written a book that covers this issue almost exactly. The difference is, she managed to deal with it without treating BDSM like a disease. She also managed to feature BDSM positive characters just as she has dealt with many psychological issues AND BDSM at the same time without ‘curing’ either the Dom or the Sub of their inherit need to practice BDSM.
      AND she didn’t treat every character over 40 like a pariah.

      Obviously, I’m going to agree to disagree, and choose not to take what’s becoming a discussion fraught with unnecessary tension personal. I’m not suggesting that you read anything that you find objectionable, but I would hope that you do understand that it’s a trilogy for a reason with conflicts that are not resolved until the end of the third book.

      1) Ana does not cure Christian of anything. They find a level of kinky fuckery that works for both of them.

      2) Christian is screwed up regardless of his sexual preferences. It is NOT the BDSM scenes he’s flashing back to, it’s his trauma. It’s not BDSM that messes with his idea of intimacy, it’s being prematurely involved in ANY sexual relationship at 15 with a grown woman.

      3) Taylor, Mrs. Jones, the therapist, both sets of parents, just a few of the characters over 40 who are not social pariahs.

      Suffice it to say that interpretations of the plot are entirely subjective, as is clear by the range of opinions on this blog.

  38. LJ says:

    @Tesa

    Oh and why would I go on to book 3 when the author spent the first two books insulting BDSM at every opportunity? No thank you. Even if they did manage to branch back into BDSM Ana’s hypocritical behavoir, the misogynistic and ageist tendancies of the author towards women over 40?

    Yeah… I’m real thrilled about approaching the third book.

  39. Erika says:

    I didn’t see any negativism in FS triology towards BDSM. I saw hostility towards a grown woman seducing a troubled teen into BDSM.

  40. pamelia says:

    @LJ: I can appreciate your sensitivity on this issue. Just look at the number of reviewers on Amazon who deem the books “smut” or “depraved” simply for exploring the BDSM lifestyle in any way (and they’re not even getting into the inherently positive/negative skew on the subject within the book itself). I’m just a moderate participator in some games with my hubs and on first read of the first book I got my hackles a little up — it didn’t make me dislike the books at all, but it did make me say, “Is she saying BDSM is caused by trauma?”. I’ve read the first 2 books 4 times though (really really love these books despite the horrendous edit) and I see it a little differently now. As others have mentioned, this is a first person account by a very young woman so you have her inexperienced WTF is this reactions coloring everything. You also have a very effed up man with self-loathing steaming from his pores so his own opinion of why he needs control is just as skewed as his self image. Since the books so intensely focus on the two of them well it does get colored that way although I thing they evolve to a better understanding/relationship.
    I actually like that they negotiated into the sexual relationship which they eventually came to in book 3 (if you can bring yourself to read book 3). One of the basic necessities of any BDSM relationship is compromise and communication of limits/desires etc. So I think James got that right.
    But this is just my take on the issue and I can only respect you for yours, because I know if you’re more than just a casual practitioner then you get rubbed the wrong way on these issues all the fricking time since our culture is so sex-negative to begin with. At least these books are actually starting a more culture-wide conversation on BDSM and if know-nothings like Dr. Drew and Katie Roiphe would stfu long enough for actual doctors/psychologists and real feminists to express their views then maybe everyone will learn something new.

  41. Parker Long says:

    Here’s a very funny parody of 50 Shades called Fifty Shades of Black and Blue Ouch!

    http://www.amazon.com/Fifty-Shades-Black-Blue-ebook/dp/B007X5V6CQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335373928&sr=8-1

  42. Nora says:

    I found Fifty Shades of Gray a little like some guy’s wet dream. Although not an expert on BDSM, it just seemed to me to be…..well, a bit unoriginal. I felt as though I was reading about some horny, immature single guy’s idea of romance. It’s not a book I’d read again or even recommend to someone. In the beginning of the story Ana sounds more like a high school kid than a college girl about to graduate, and ever so often her words retreat to that high school level of thinking/speaking as the story progresses. But I did like the cover!

  43. I think Barnes & Noble have single nights at various stores. I am married now, but I used to go to them a few years back. Nice atmosphere and you don’t have to deal with “bar” people. Is there one near McHenry? I am by Midway so the clostest one to me is Oak Brook.

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