Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Guest Blogger Jen's Take on Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

Written October 2011:

I was going to resist going all fan-girly on this wonderful book, but I can't help myself! Truly one of the greatest romances I've EVER read. And I want to thank God for indie publishing, because as I've found out (even more and more, recently), that there is such unknown and rising talent out there in this world. To find it and know it for myself makes me feel insanely privileged as a reader...and lucky. 

In premise, this is a classic fairy tale: rich boy meets plain Jane, sweeping her off her feet. Anastasia, about to graduate from college and enter the world of publishing, is asked by her sick roommate to conduct an interview in her stead. The subject is one Mr. Christian Grey, 27, billionaire CEO and owner of Grey Enterprises. As he will be speaking at their commencement, the school paper wants to feature him. Ana, who fancies herself plain, clumsy and still (disappointedly) virginal, goes to interview him in Seattle. Grey is fascinated by her...and his pursuit begins. What unfolds is unlike the fairy tales we remember. Grey has appetites and desires that little Ana has never experienced the likes of...He's a Dom, and one with a VERY tortured past, despite his youth. Ana must decide if this beautiful, captivating, tortured man is a risk she wants to take. She’s not a natural submissive and Grey doesn’t do “love”. Her heart is on the line. 

Loving this book was so easy for me. It’s mesmerizing. Anna’s first person narrative shows she’s innocent, but also smart, witty, and so truthful in her emotions. As a reader, I became her, experiencing her all turmoil and confusion. Grey is one of the most fascinating characters I’ve ever read (and it’s all about the characters, is it not?). He could’ve been so one-dimensional in his Dom-ness, but that would be too easy. He’s a puzzle, surprising you at every turn; predatory, but tender and oh so unbelievably hot. In his words, he’s “fifty shades of fucked-up”, so he can be quite scary, too. The level of tension that permeates the scenes could burn a city down. And yes, this is erotica, so it goes quite a bit beyond just tension . Of note, there’s a playlist for the book compiled by the author on her website. Various pieces play as background music for certain scenes. I did actually play those pieces while reading and was even more captivated. There’s everything from La Traviata to Springsteen to Sinatra; eclectic like me, so I was a happy girl. It ends on a cliffhanger, so beware. The sequel is already out, thank God. I won’t say more other than to state that a lack of experience reading BDSM should not be a turnoff. This is not a pain book. It’s not edgy. It’s about two people who don’t in any way seem to fit, trying to conquer love. 

Addendum, April 2012:

Since I've written the above review, this whole series has blown up into a phenomenon. I like that I read it before the hype. It might have colored my opinion. And while the success of this series is well deserved in my opinion, all the haters kind of make me sad...especially when it's other authors in the erotica genre. Everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion. But I don't really love when authors bash other successful's smacks of jealousy. Why did THIS series rise above its indie, e-fic roots ad not other well written series? Hard to say. We all know of amazing unrecognized talent out there. And it has to be frustrating for authors that put their heart and soul into their works and don't get what they feel is their due. There are no doubt many factors why this series hit it big, not the least being the connection that readers found with the characters. I'm happy for EL James...and kind of annoyed at those who can't be happy for her.


  1. I'd like to preface this with everyone is has the right to love what they love (I love and mainly read M/M stories) but I want to explain why people take issue with this story. It's much more than jealousy.

    I think why people are upset isn't that this became a hit but how. E.L. James used her fanbase from the fanfiction community and knowledge/contacts as a TV executive to gain the success. (I wasn't interested in this story when it was fanFiction so I don't see how it would appeal to me now. Tampons in a sex scene do not do it for me.)

    Another issue people have with the story is how the Dom/Sub lifestyle reflects very very little of the truth. Oddly enough another Fanfiction 'The Submissive', the one Masters of the Universe (50 publishing) was based on, shows a much more honest and actuate depiction of how these relationships work. The similarities between the two stories are unsettling. (The Submissive was out a good 2 years before MotU started posting on There is also the topic of sexual abuse of a minor that seems to put off many too.

    More over there is an issue of editing (or lack there of), grammatical errors (Say no to ellipsis), and countless other technical issues that give others valid reasons to question this books success.

    As a read those things may not matter, which is the readers right, but does lend it's self to call into question the quality of the work from a literary stand point. It also shows it's really all on who you know.

  2. Thank you for your honest comment Mel... always very much appreciated!

  3. Yes, I too appreciate your honest comments, Mel. All your points are absolutely valid. I didn't read this as fanfic, but did know of its origins as such. I can see this as upsetting to other authors of purely original works. I've read Twilight and felt that the connection between the two was minimal, at best, so this never struck me as a big negative as a reader. I also didn't pick up on the number of editing issues that experienced writers and editors might. I have a feeling I am in the majority of the reading public in that I'm not that observant (lol), even though I read voraciously in a number of genres. I can also see how those in the BDSM lifestyle would be put off. It's not authentic at all! But entertaining for many? Yes. And that's all many of us look for in a story.
    Unfair advantages are a turnoff...and would certainly explain why a work considered mediocre and poorly edited would become a bigger success than it would otherwise. And if the above reasons are why authors take issue with the work, then that's totally understandable. But the majority of the reading public is either unaware or doesn't care, for good or for bad. Which may be another issue. I do feel though, that to the public and reading community, other romance and erotica authors' outright condemnation of the work as trash, especially without having read it, appears...distasteful. I've read some pretty damn baaaaddddd stuff in the genre that these books would run ragged over. Even stuff from NYT bestselling authors. I won't mention names, lol. Hopefully, the success of the 50 books will garner many new readers to the erotica genre and be a boon for the industry. There are many, many authors out there who deserve recognition for their amazing stories.

    Jenn Fraser

  4. In my opinion, complaining that one of my books isn't having this phenomenal success is a total waste of time. One cannot predict what readers will love or hate. Meteoric success is often being in the right place at the right time. Negative comments can often do as much to generate positive interest as anything. As an author, I have my own standards for excellence and goals I want to achieve. The success of this book doesn't change that, though it stings when I read the clumsy editing and lazy word choices. Oh well, my debut series has a lot of that too. It is what it is. I think, that like homoerotica, this series cracks open the door for readers curious about the genre to learn more. Is it true to the lifestyle? No, but let's not forget it's fiction, not a lifestyle primer, and those who are looking for an education in fiction are misguided. As authors, we are obliged to do our research and make sure our facts are accurate, but at the end of the day, it's a work of fiction and how far or little a reader chooses to suspend belief is totally up to them. If this series sheds more interest on the genre, I'm happy for it, for I write it, too, and have several more books in process already. If not, I still will write them. It's about sales and Doubleday is certainly proving that.