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By now you must have heard about the incredibly popular erotic-trilogy by E L James which starts with Fifty Shades of Grey.  I finished reading it a week ago, but work had sapped all my literary strength which is why I dawdled with this review.

The story is a ramped up version of a Harlequin Romance.  Anastasia Steele is young, innocent and beautiful. Enter the leading man, Christian Grey– gorgeous, rich and cultured.  There must be something wrong with him, right? No guy is that perfect.  Is he a vampire? A werewolf? A zombie?

Grey’s major flaw is that he is emotionally compromised and is incapable of having meaningful sexual relationships with women.  His only sexual relationships have been in the form of BDSM.

Yet, Ana has affected Christian in ways that he did not expect, and his dark, jaded heart begins to care for her.

Reviewers have called this Twilight for Adults.  For some discriminating readers, that’s the kiss of death.   I did not let such reviews deter me.  I dallied with Fifty Shades and it’s time to kiss and tell.

Here is what was hot and what was not.

Hot: The leading man.  Grey is well-mannered, educated, cultured and knows how to take control.  A girl could fall for that.

Bothered: The author needs to rethink descriptions of his facial expressions because he is constantly smirking.  I counted approximately 30 times in the book that Grey smirks. Allow me to illustrate my point:

  • “No, not redecorating,” he says quickly, then smirks . . . .  (Ch. 2)
  • “I could always take them off.”  He smirks.  (Ch. 2)
  • “I can recollect some quite probing questions then.”  He smirks at me. (Ch. 3)
  • He smirks.  “Old enough to know better.” (Ch. 10)
  • I stare up at him completely dazed, and he smirks down at me. (Ch. 12).

Grey isn’t the only one who smirks.   Ana smirks a lot, too.

  • I can’t help my smirk.  (Ch. 1)
  • “Your Company or your company?” I smirk.  (Ch. 5)

I think I am more disturbed by all the smirking than the stuff that goes on in Grey’s playroom.

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Hot:  The sex scenes.  It’s steamy and way more explicit than your usual romance novel. 

Bothered:  The references to Ana’s inner goddess gets annoying pretty quick. Ana’s libido is described as an inner goddess who rejoices with sensuous glee every time Grey wants to get it on (which is a lot).

  •  …my very small inner goddess sways in a gentle victorious samba.  (Ch. 5)My inner goddess glares at me, tapping her small foot impatiently. (Ch. 6)
  • My inner goddess is doing the merengue…. (Ch. 9)
  • My inner goddess sits in the lotus position looking serene except for ….  (Ch. 10)
  • My inner goddess is jumping up and down, clapping her hands …. (Ch 11)
  • My inner goddess frowns at me. (Ch. 13)
  • My inner goddess jumps up and down with cheerleading pom-poms…. (Ch 14)

I think her inner goddess should go jump in the lake.  There’s more, but I’ll spare you the cringe-worthy details.  Can’t the author think up some other way to say that Ana is just as hot for him as he is for her?

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Hot: Descriptions of music throughout the book from Thomas Tallis to Britney Spears.  It’s unique and interesting. It sets a good seduction scene.

Bothered:  Descriptions of music throughout the book from Thomas Tallis to Britney Spears.  There’s too much of it, and it sounds contrived.  I mean who has the energy to constantly have mood music going on everywhere?  Arguably, it is all a fantasy, but  “fantasy” should not mean “cliche.”

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Hot: The email flirtation.  Scattered throughout the book were email conversations which I found to be witty and fun. The author does a good job of drawing out the characters’ personalities through this dialogue.  I think the dialogue was stronger than the narration.

Bothered:  The constant references to using a BlackBerry.  Grey is supposedly a tech- savvy, acquisitions and mergers guy with his own private plane and helicopter.  He uses iPods and Macs, and yet he’s running around Portland and Seattle with a BlackBerry  when most business and personal users now prefer the iPhone?  It’s the equivalent of Jack Berger’s New York lady-protagonist traipsing around Manhattan in a scrunci.

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I have a fair number of criticisms about the author’s writing, but I still thought it was an entertaining read overall.  if you’re looking for great writing, don’t pick this up.  If you feel like reading something steamy and entertaining, go for it.

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