Fifty Shades of just ok.

The latest to get the Girl-with-the-dragon-tattoo-watercooler-buzz seems to be Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James.  Apparently this started out fan-fic on some Twilight board or something.  And the author doesn’t deny it.  So, those looking to chastize for it being of that caliber good for you for noticing.  Otherwise, no one is claiming that she is the next Jane Austin.

Christian Grey and Ana Steele.  They meet at his office when Ana’s roommate, who arranged the interview and was supposed to conduct it, falls ill.  Because Ana is so unprepared for the interview, having not been well prepared with even a bio from Kate, leaves him with the impression that she is someone with a slightly different personality.  He is intrigued by her, and he is a Dom, looking at her as a potential Sub.  He introduces her to sex for the first time, and then tries to get her to be part of his BDSM world.  Along the way, between all the kinky and not so kinky sex, they fall for each other.  But they really do live in two different worlds.  Throughout most of the story, the big question is will she or won’t she try to stay with him, to sign his contract setting out the rules and demands of this type of relationship.  He says he will try to give her more – but, will they manage?

He has a sorted history.  He was adopted.  His birth mother was a crack whore.  And, it seems like she physically abused him too (or someone did) since he can’t stand to be touched.  And he has scars all over his chest.  A friend of his adoptive mother’s introduced his to the BDSM world when he was only 15 (Ana calls her Mrs. Robinson, and does point out the pedophile nature of the relationship even though he doesn’t see it that way).  And Ana is very jealous of Mrs. Robinson especially once Ana learns they are still friends and business associates.  Ana has met his family, and he has met hers.  Kate has all along thought something was fishy with him.  Ana struggles with her feelings for him, the arousal she gets from participating in certain things with him, and the little bit she knows of his background (which help her make a little sense as to why he enjoys what he enjoys).  But Ana wants more and she doesn’t like that some of what he wants scares her too.  He has certain stalker like tendencies.  And he has a list of rules – that he wants her to follow so he is always in control.  But the rules are a challenge for her.  Not just because she doesn’t understand some of them (and I had to google a few myself!) but because she has a sparky spirit that doesn’t like to take orders and be pushed around the way he pushes her.

The categorization as “Mommy Porn” is interesting.  I can see why it has been dubbed that.  (Although then I am left to wonder, is certain other stuff “Daddy porn”?)  Being a fan of the PNR genre, with JR Wards early installments of the BDB being some of my favorite, the explicitness in this book didn’t bother me.  Even the bondage we see is mild compared to what I was imagining after reading a number of other reviews.  I can’t say this is great literature, but what in this genre is?  And, unlike many of the other reviews I have read, I won’t slam the author for the character that is Ana because if you try to understand her, I think her indecision and then snap reaction at the end are really by products of her naiveté and inexperience, and the emotions that she was written with.  If she really was falling in love with the man, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to be so very confused and to want to find explanations for his behavior,  to try to see if she can change some of it, and to see if she can stand some of it. Especially once you consider the fact that there are emotions that come with a first sexual relationship too.  But the whole things was… just… ok.  Not great, not terrible.  A little exciting, not face-flushed inducing. Certainly not worth the embarrassment some have over reading it.  It was… ok.

Sure, the dialogue is cheesy but that’s the norm with all things in the Romance section.  Sure, the romance buds very quickly.  Sure, there’s some big dark struggle that’s looking like it could keep them apart.  And sure, there are characters who know our couple and who they really are and can recognize that they are in love before they do.  It’s not like the Romance Novel Formula doesn’t sell.  And if the formula bothers you, then the entire genre probably bothers you.  This may not be anything earth-shatteringly new or refreshing, but I would guess that’s exactly why it is so popular.  Everyone who purchases out of the romance section is looking for that formula.

I wasn’t originally planning on reading this.  But everyone seems to be reading it, so I picked up a copy.  It was ok.  But I am not sure I see what all the fuss is about either.  I will read the other two, because I am a sucker for series, even bad ones, and because one of the things that keeps this book from being terrible, is that I think the struggle Ana faces knowing Christian isn’t a devil, he’s troubled and disturbed but playful too when he lets he guard down, is genuine and real enough to make me curious as to what is in store for these two characters – to see if they can save each other.  The nature versus nurture battle seems to be shaping up with regards to the type of person Christian will be in the end, and I for one am curious.

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