Some time ago, I wrote out my initial reaction to Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. After reading the first book, though I had a few issues with it, I was still looking forward to reading the other two installments in the trilogy.
My attitude certainly changed by the time I got to the third book.
WARNING!!!!! MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!
I’m going to discuss these books in detail, therefore if you have not read them (and plan to for some reason) and do not want it ruined for you, STOP READING THIS NOW.
As I said before, the first book was difficult to put down, and I think that’s part of the reason why it was so successful. The first book really keeps you wondering what’s going to happen next. Everything is so new and there are so many questions that beg to be answered. You don’t know what’s going to happen and I think that is a huge part of what made the first book popular….that, and the fact that it had gained so much notoriety for being so full of kink and sex….so they had claimed. But to be honest, Fifty Shades of Grey wasn’t the smutty erotica everyone painted it to be. I thought it was going to be a lot kinkier than it was. Erotica I have read by other, better authors, (Anne Rice, for example) was far bolder that Fifty Shades. Sure, there was sex, and there was spanking, but it wasn’t the outrageous sexual boundary pushing piece everyone painted it to be. Certainly not a book worthy of being banned, IMO.
You want to read a crazy erotica that pushes sexual boundaries? Read Exit to Eden by Anne Rice. Or practically any Black Lace brand erotica. Or The Story of O, which was said to have given birth to the entire erotica genre….Trust me on this.
But, since I wasn’t completely satisfied, and because I had heard the book was so full of kink, I felt determined to read the next two installments and discover how the story ends. The second installment, Fifty Shades Darker, brings Ana’s insecurities about Christian’s past relationships with women (Especially his former dom Elena, an older woman who had introduced him to his sexual tastes) and dealing with her jealousy as well in addition to Christian’s controlling nature. There’s more sex (yay, of course more sex!) though it isn’t much wilder than the first book, there is an attempt at character building for Ana and Christian, and in the end there is a confrontation with Elena and Ana, in addition to a proposal….predicable. We find out a lot more about Christian and his past that has made him “fifty shades of fucked up” but Christian is evolving into someone who wants not just a sub, but a partner….Ana has finally gotten Christian to be “hearts and flowers” like she wanted….
Wait…..wasn’t this supposed to be an erotica? Sounds like a romantic drama to me…..
A major part of the second book is that Christian’s “darkness” in his past is finally coming into the light: past relationships, traumas, and his therapy (which doesn’t seem to be doing enough IMO). These things are brought in to the story to make you feel sorry for Christian and understand his motives BUT…some of the things he says, the motivations behind his actions…..well, they wouldn’t make me say “oh poor fifty” and want to marry the guy. For example: Christian likes brunettes because they remind him of…. his mother?!!!!! That’s a nice Oedipus complex you have there, son. WTF did I just read?! I honestly wanted to stop there, but I had the third book, and I was already this far in so I had to keep going…..
By the third book, I felt as though the interest and magic of the phenomenon had finally completely worn off and I honestly only kept reading just to get through it. By the third book, Ana and Christian are married and incessantly call each other Mr.Grey/Mrs.Grey. There is some “excitement” though I must admit I use the term very loosely, and by the time I was a quarter of the way in to the book, I honestly really had to push myself to get through it. That’s probably the main reason why it took me so long to review this trilogy.
The problems I had outlined in my previous entry about the first book continue to persist. Christian is too perfect and every woman wants him. Ana is constantly biting her lip and rolling her eyes. Too many references to her “fifty” and “poor fifty”… Not to mention there are too many breathy moans, sighs, lips pressed into a thin line, talk of how Christian’s pants hang from his hips and etc…. We get it, he’s hotter than any man on the planet and he’s rich on top of that. Let’s move on. Besides, she’s married to him now, such things shouldn’t be brought up again and again and again……by now it should be as mundane as a morning routine.
I really began to feel like the author was repeating herself by the second book, and it got to the point that it was simply exasperating by the third book. She uses the same words, descriptions, and scenarios over and over. The way the couple constantly addresses each other as “Mrs.Grey” or “Mr.Grey” in the third book is cute for all of five seconds before it becomes downright annoying. The ultimate bombshell for the third book was something that (yet again) I could have predicted: Ana gets pregnant.
Shocker, for a couple constantly having sex, I know.
This was possibly the part that pissed me off the most in the entire trilogy. Not only is the entire situation totally contrived and cliche, but Christian’s reaction is utterly heinous. He gets angry at Ana for getting pregnant (like that is something which is entirely ONLY her fault), calls her stupid, ditches her after she just went through the ordeal of revealing her pregnancy to a man who is obviously oblivious to her emotions, and meets up with the one person that Ana is threatened by the most (yes, that’s right! Elena, Christian’s former dom, who he KNOWS his wife doesn’t want him to associate with) and gets drunk. He blames her for something that isn’t “wrong”, gives her no support or understanding, and completely abandons her! Then, he gets upset with HER when she wants to be alone after feeling so betrayed by him!
That right there is evidence, in my opinion, that these two NEVER should have married. After that point, I hated him for the rest of the book. I couldn’t see past it. No matter what the author did to redeem him later (like describing what a great father he became in the epilogue…yeah, okay) I just despised him after that moment that he abandoned Ana when she needed him the most. From that moment, my opinion changed and I began to really weigh in on all that had transpired so far.
Their relationship is really quite abusive throughout the whole series, I soon realized after looking back at the previous books. Like a victim of domestic violence, the reader is expected to ignore and accept Christian’s behavior. Christian is controlling, constantly dictating Ana’s life from the moment he first enters it. He controls how she dresses, commands her to eat and reacts in a passive aggressive manner if she doesn’t eat as much as he’d like, he exerts control over who she talks to, and even has a firm grasp on her professional life by buying the company she starts working for. He tracks her every move and never trusts her to handle any situation on her own. There are even physical repercussions to Ana disobeying him: When she sunbathes topless during their honeymoon, he disfigures her by leaving hickies all over her breasts. In another part of the third book, to “get back” at Ana for not obeying him, he refuses to let her orgasm. Upon looking back at the development of their sexual relationship in the books, I noticed he pushes her sexual boundaries a lot as well. There are several times that Ana doesn’t necessarily want to do things with Christian that she does. Sometimes she caves because she is curious, which is acceptable. But the reasoning I realized E.L. James writes for her acquiescence—more often than not—is that she thinks she has to do this because he likes it, or that he won’t like her if she doesn’t do the things he wants. Not even a sub/dom relationship works that way. Both parties are supposed to consent of their own free will, and no one person should ever pressure the other into doing something they are not comfortable with. That goes for sex and other aspects of a relationship.
Like I said earlier, the third book began to get exasperating. Repetition after repetition. Seriously, the same exact words and descriptions over and over and over and over and OVER again. One reviewer actually posted this amusing word/phrase count:
“Oh My” – 79
“Crap” – 101
“Jeez” – 82
“Holy (shit/fuck/crap/hell/cow/moses)” – 172
“Whoa” – 13
“Gasp” – 34
“Gasps” – 11
“Sharp Intake of Breath” – 4
“Murmur” – 68
“Murmurs” – 139
“Whisper” – 96
“Whispers” – 103
“Mutter” – 28
“Mutters” – 23
“Fifty” – 16
“Lip” – 71
“Inner goddess” – 58
“Subconscious” – 82
…..And that is only from the first book.
Speaking of the last two on that list- I cannot begin to say how irritated I became with Ana’s characterizations of her “subconscious” and her “inner goddess”. It was quirky and different in the first book, and I think that’s one of the reasons why it didn’t bother me as much then. But once I completed the second book and was on the third installment, I wanted to stab both her “inner goddess” and her “subconscious”. It was also around midway through the second book, once the “spell” wore off that I began to see how poorly written the series was. (Want more examples of poor writing? This blogger has a whole post of poorly written quotes from the series.)
A “bad guy” is even introduced in the second book in the form of another man (Jack Hyde—HYDE, yeah, that’s not a clear giveaway that he’s a villain!) who wants to do naughty things to Ana. His motivations are shaky at best through the entire thing, and he’s honestly just a “Disney evil” sort of character: bad only because we need a bad guy for the story. On that note, he’s just unrealistic. The whole thing with him is unrealistic and contrived. When he sexually harasses Ana and threatens her with blackmail in the second installment, he is quickly dealt with by Christian and the police and that’s that. Hyde loses his job, goes to jail, and of course Ana takes his place…..WTF? That is not how this situation would have played out in any world even close to reality. In E.L. James’ world, Christian can just make the bad guy go away….because he can. Apparently Christian’s word is gold and there is no real need for trials and and actual policework because Christian Grey says Jack Hyde was the bad guy. So the bad guy goes away and that’s that….But of course he has to make another convenient dramatic reappearance for the third book…..which is also poorly plotted out. He kidnaps Christian’s sister for seemingly no real reason, takes Ana at gunpoint, and demands a ransom. Yeah……that’s not cliché…..Then at the end it is revealed he was at the same foster home as Christian and was jealous he got adopted by the Greys and not him…..
Really? That was the best you could come up with, E.L. James?
Another thing: where the hell are Ana’s friends and family? As the relationship with Christian grows, Ana’s best friend Kate, Jose, and her family fade into the background and are only brought up occasionally as a reminder that they still exist. E.L. James also decides in the second and third books to pair up Kate with Christian’s brother, and Kate’s brother gets involved with Christian’s sister Mia…..does no one else find that a little disturbing? Also, why does no one ever say to Ana after she gets engaged: “You’ve only known him for a few weeks, slow the fuck down!” Even once Kate finds their initial dom/sub contract from the first book during the engagement party, she doesn’t argue for very long with Ana on her decision to marry the guy.
Perhaps they are all just gold diggers and don’t care if Ana throws her life away with Christian; because although he’s fucked up, he’s also rich, so that makes up for it!
Essentially, Ana’s friends and family SUCK.
But I didn’t read this series for the amazing prose, I read it for SEX, and that’s why 99% of the people who read this series read it. The worst part is, to be honest……I was disappointed. This wasn’t an erotica series. It was a badly written romance between an abusive megalomaniac and a female character that just makes females look bad.
Wait……this reminds me of something…..
An abusive relationship made to look desirable, female lead that makes real females look awful, a male lead with hardly any personality that is developed as a tormented soul, a better guy on the sidelines who is actually worthy of the female’s affections…..
Holy shit, it’s fucking Twilight 2.0.
At some point I heard that this series was originally written as a Twilight fanfiction and it suddenly all made sense. You can even see the correlation in the characters: Ana is Bella, Christian is Edward, Jose is clearly Jacob (also funny he’s the ONLY ethnic character in the book, even more evidence of who he initially was), Christian’s sister Mia is Alice, and so on and so forth…..
I now feel ashamed I even read this trash….and liked it for a point.
I was tricked, I thought there was sex! Kinky hot crazy sex! I thought it was banned because it was so wild and crazy!
But it turns out it was only banned because it was so poorly written…..
Why they haven’t done the same for Twilight yet, I just don’t know. Hopefully it is next on the list.
I could let it go much easier, if I hadn’t happened upon a display of Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty erotic trilogy next to the 50 Shades trilogy with a sign declaring, “If you liked 50 Shades of Grey, you’ll love this!!!”
Seriously? You’re kidding right? They aren’t even on the same level!!!!
I need intelligence again….
Back to A Storm of Swords for me….my brain feels better already.