The book buzz at the moment is the resurgence of erotica for the chick lit genre. It’s all because of one little trilogy – Fifty Shades. The three books are Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed. Mia Freedman talked about them a while ago so I thought I’d have a look-see at just how naughty this erotica could really be. My, oh my. It was an eye-opener. So, deep breath. Ready? Let’s do this thing.
The steamy content has women everywhere, well, a bit hot and bothered. Although not everyone loves it, with three county libraries in Florida banning Fifty Shades from shelves. And then ditching the ban due to public demand. Only in America.
And now there are rumours swirling that the trilogy is going to be made into a movie. Names linked to the Universal-optioned project include Alexander Skarsgard (from True Blood – *swoon*!) and Ian Somerhalder (Vampire Diaries – *shrug*). Girls to play Ana Steele (yes, our fair maiden’s name is Anastasia Steele – could you get any more Mills&Boon if you tried?) include Amanda Seyfried (meh) and Selene Gomez (triple meh).
Anyhoo, back to the book. Is it worth reading? Well, have you ever read a Mills&Boon? If not, then don’t pick this up, unless you’re pretty keen for some reasonably well-written sex scenes. And lots of ‘em! But you have to wade through some very very ordinary text before the clothes come off. And if you’ve never read a Mills&Boon before then you’re probably not the cheesy romance type. And that’s all this is – cheesy romance with a hefty dose of sexy salts thrown in. Mills&Boon on steroids. Big, ballsy, hefty steroids.
I have a long love affair with Mills&Boon romances, cutting my teeth on Sweet Dreams romances and Sweet Valley High books when I was in school. I graduated to Mills&Boon by Year 11 and while I never loved them as passionately as I loved Sweet Valley High, they were a fun way to pass a couple of hours. I probably read one or two a year. So by no means am I a heavy consumer, but I do love a good romance with a happy ending. And the hero is always good looking with lots of money. Not a bad combination.
So, the writing is bad. Just how bad is it? Here’s a sample from the opening pages:
I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror. Damn my hair – it just won’t behave, and damn Katherine Kavanagh for being ill and subjecting me to this ordeal. I should be studying for my final exams, which are next week, yet here I am trying to brush my hair into submission. I must not sleep with it wet. I must not sleep with it wet. Reciting this mantra several times, I attempt, once more, tro bring it under control with the brush. I roll my eyes in exasperation and gaze at the pale, brown-haired girl with blue eyes too big for her face staring back at me, and give up.
Yeah. It’s exactly the sort of writing to be found in a Sweet Dreams romance novel for young adults. It’s very childish and a bit amateur hour. I believe this trilogy began as a fan fiction project written about Edward Cullen and Bella Swan of the Twilight saga. The Fifty Shades author would publish her work, one chapter at a time. It grew in popularity and caught the eye of an e-publisher. The rest is history.
A lot is made of the sex scenes in these books. And boy, oh boy, there are a LOT of sex scenes. And oddly, they are much better written than any of the scenes out of the bedroom, or the bondage room as it turns out.
Lead character Christian Grey is a super-rich and has a bondage room in his apartment, completely fitted out with hooks in the ceiling and a wide variety of sex toys, including whips, chains, blindfolds, ropes and butt plugs. Yup, butt plugs. Never thought I’d find myself writing about butt plugs, but there you have it.
He falls in love with Anastasia Steele, a young uni grad who is into prim English classic literature, such as Tess of the D’Urbervilles. He wants her to become his ‘submissive’ – basically his sex slave. And so begins a fairly slow-paced, predictable trajectory of emotionally charged wooing and swooning.
If you like boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy rescues girl stories then this is worth getting into. I read it on my iPhone – avoiding the inevitable embarrassment of reading on the train. It also allowed me to read late into the night without a reading light bothering my husband.
Speaking of husbands, it’s been said that husbands are reaping the benefits of their wives getting into such sexy prose. Yesterday’s Sunday Mail (where I was quoted talking about this trilogy) reported that in the US sales of rope have skyrocketed as women try to re-enact some of the sex scenes played out in the book.
I don’t know about that, but I do know that this book really sets your pulse racing. And yes, some of the sex scenes are on the kinky side. There’s some blindfolding going on, a little bit of whipping, and in one scene the butt plug gets a turn.
But for the most part it’s plain old ‘vanilla sex’ as they refer to it in the book. In the bedroom. Or in the shower. Or in the bath. A few steamy kissing scenes in a lift, but mostly it’s just a lot of rampant sexing going on.
Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed is mostly titillating on the implied use of the sex toys, on the idea that the sex toys exist. Anastasia is a character who we all can easily connect with – she’s small-town ideals, a bit conservative and very inexperienced. It’s not a huge leap for many mums to understand her or ‘get’ her. I think this is a crucial key to the trilogy’s success.
Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the series. The writing dramatically improved as the books progressed. I’m not sure if that’s because the writer improved or the sub-editors improved. Either way, by the final pages, things are ticking over nicely and the reader is invested in the characters’ emotional development.
I’d say, if you’re on the fence, give it a go. Stick with the first one until you get about a third of the way in. If, by then, you’re not hooked, by all means put it down. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, eh?