Review: The Fifty Shades Trilogy (Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, Fifty Shades Freed) by E L James

Friday, April 13

Titles: Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, Fifty Shades Freed*
Author: EL James
Series: Fifty Shades Trilogy
Genre: Erotic Romance
Publisher:  The Writer's Coffee Shop, 2012
Format: E-Book, soon to be out in Print
Date:  Available April 3-17, 2012 in Print. E-book currently available.
Reviewed By: DD

*This book was purchased by the reviewer for her own reading enjoyment

Summary from the publisher:

When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms.

Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.

Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.

My Musings:

I was quite reluctant to read this series. Why? I generally do not enjoy things that are really popular. If the mainstream enjoys it, then by definition it is usually watered down with not enough spice to tickle my fancy. I am so excited that I can review these, because my honest opinion is that people are really getting the wrong impression about these novels.

Back to the curse of popularity. Let's take the Twilight Megadramamoviebooks for Instance. (Apropos? I think so.) The premise of these novels did not interest me in the least. And sadly, my first instinct was right on. I Didn’t like them. For me, painful to read and boring. I DNF’d Eclipse. Luckily I borrowed that hardback and didn't buy it.  I'm STILL not sure what the hype is about. I think the tween age group had a lot to do with this unstoppable train. Luckily there were movies, so I could fill in questions when needed. And I thought the movies were quite good (Breaking Dawn the exception because I haven't seen it...I Know.. I will eventually).  Hunger Games? Care NOTHING about it. Maybe my opinion would change if I bothered to pick those books up. I don’t want to see the movies and I don’t want to read them and I don’t care to see the movies either, even if they have sparked something in society that makes everyone think they're awesome.

Now, I have been hearing about this ”mommy porn” (that moniker sucks, not what it is at all) for probably a good 6-9 months. When I caught wind that it was original fanfic modeled after the Twilight Twosome of Edward and Bella, I thought pfffffttttttt. Puhleeze. Not wasting my time. But alas, peer pressure and morbid curiosity got to me and I downloaded the first. And then the night after that I downloaded the other two. I AM TOTALLY HOOKED. I Will always be hooked.

Let me just preface with this: Are these books explicit? Well, yes. They are. But I have read way way way more explicit. And as outrageous as people think, or should I say assume these are, the language is not so explicit that you’re thinking “wow, this is porn.” I did not think that in the least. If you’re looking for a Sophie Oak novel, this is NOT it.

Christian Grey is a messed up dude. Really. He had a god awful and traumatizing start to life. In fact, without spoiling, the title comes from his own quote. “I am Fifty Shades of Fucked Up”.  He happens to be a gazillionaire, because he is obsessed with not being hungry or wanting for anything. It has driven him to extreme heights. And some extreme lows, as his wealth, peculiar personality, intelligence, success, and all that entails tends to alienate people.  He has been in constant therapy his whole adult life. He knows from where his proclivities and need for absolute control began.

And about Christian’s proclivities. Here is the bottom line, so that no one thinks this guy just gets off on hurting women. Christian’s mother was a brunette, beautiful woman, whom he could not help. He was a toddler. You love your parents regardless of what they do or how they treat you, especially if it is a single parent situation and that’s all you’ve got. She was promiscuous, neglectful, and let her pimp/boyfriend/whatever beat and emotionally torture her son. Christian is a child. He has no outlet for the feelings of betrayal, anger, and the love of a child for his mother. He closes himself off. Without giving too much away here, he is adopted into a loving home but rarely speaks until he is older, and then  becomes an angry volatile teenager. He meets a woman that allows him an outlet for his anger. In a way, she stunts his emotional development in the adolescent stage. That is a major part of this story, although it does not happen on the same timeline.

Christian is an extreme dominant because he wants to punish women that remind him of his mother, who basically ripped out what soul he was developing as a child. Most people would say to a woman, “well, you tend to marry someone like your dad.” That goes for both sides, and sometimes the reasons one is attracted to another person are frightening. There are multiple times he tells Ana “I would really love to beat the shit out of you right now.” But as strange as this sounds, it’s not like you think. Frankly, I sometimes think she deserves it.

Christian is not a rapist, he is not a sadist, although he would like to believe that of himself.  He enters into arrangements with consenting women and lives a lifestyle that is alternative to most but normal and comforting to him. This is his outlet. He has to have this part of his life to remain balanced, or so he believes. He works, he has a personal trainer, he has staff that fixes his meals, drives him around, and protects him. He has a family. He has sex. He lives the life of a young attractive man with millions and millions of dollars. None of it is odd to him.

Anastasia Steele is where people could possibly get annoyed with this book. She is a beautiful, slim, albeit awkward young woman. Uber intelligent with a vocabulary to rival Webster’s Dictionary. Her mother is on the third or thirteenth marriage by now. Affectionate and adoring of her daughter, but a little flaky. Her real father died when she was very young. Her “Dad” is her stepdad, Ray. To Ana, this is her true Father. Loving and steadfast, but not always warm, Ray  has taught Ana  how to take care of herself but not necessarily how to give of herself.  Ana is immersed in books-not of the electronic variety, but of the hardback classic variety. Apparently so much so that she has managed to chug along thorough her entire college education, in this day and age, without a COMPUTER or SMARTPHONE. Wow. This was really annoying to me. And just not possible. However, the story is told in first person POV, so we MUST get over this annoyance and into the business of getting to know Anastasia. And we do. Her true personality unfolds during the novels, and I really warmed up to her.  She is witty and bright. She is a virgin. She has a few friends. She has had dates. She rooms with her best friend. But she has never met someone who touches her deeply enough to even entertain a sexual relationship. I don’t even think she is expecting it. She seems the girl that could be 30 and be like….”I haven’t had sex yet? Oh well.” However, when she stumbles into Christian’s life, her world stops and continues on in a completely different direction.

Anastasia tells this story, but make no mistake: It is centered on Christian. He is pouty, overbearing, sweet as sugar then cruel, mercurial, immature yet mature beyond his years, and Sexxxxy (the Capital S is there for a reason).  He is in all ways a contradiction. Christian and Anastasia's relationship is the proverbial roller coaster. And a wooden one at that. It is exhausting and jerks you back and forth. It wears you out. But it’s rewarding. Kind of like real relationships. 

You ask, “Why haven’t I talked about the Elephant in the Room??? What about the Sex? The BDSM elements? I thought it was Raunchy? What about the Mommy Porn that is sweeping the nation?” Well, here is why I haven't mentioned it. I can %100 percent tell you that in my opinion, the forefront of this book is not about Sex. Or what goes where. Or what implements or accessories are used in "playrooms". Or “ooooo!!!” “aah!!” “omigod” noises.  Don’t get me wrong: Sex is all over the place in this book. Multiple orgasms. Everywhere. All the time. To the point where you wonder WHY they are having sex AGAIN. They can’t keep their freaking hands off each other. This is an I-AM-IN-DEEP-FALLING-OFF-A-CLIFF Love Story. Sex here is just an outlet and metaphor for what is going on. And there is sooooo much going on. This is about Christian and how he views Sex and uses it as a weapon or as expression of his love. It teeter totters back and forth and everywhere in between, and you, nor Anastasia, are ever sure which of the Fifty Shades are behind it. Their lust knows no bounds.

Good idea or not, Christian wants to Fuck when he is angry, confronted, conflicted, happy, in love so deep he can’t stand it, and scared out of his wits he will lose the best thing that has ever happened to him. It’s how he expresses himself. Anastasia is so covered up and consumed with her own feelings that she ALWAYS says yes. The one time she doesn't say yes is a turning point for both. Her biggest fear is losing him. And his, losing her. She will submit to his demands to an extent. She just wants more and more moments to be with him and near him, and desires nothing more than to make him happy, fulfill him, and be enough for him without sacrificing herself. They both feel unworthy of each other for different reasons, and their struggle with self-abhorrence is laced throughout. They constantly challenge the other emotionally and sexually. Sometimes the result is anger, and sometimes the result is a new dawn of understanding. The moral here is the lengths one will go to when they have met the one person that they are divinely welded to for life.

Are there aspects of this series I did not like? Well, of course. No story is perfect. I’m not sure how schooled the author really is on this type of lifestyle. I'm sure experts would say she knows nothing about BDSM. She has the psychology of it nailed, however. There are some redundant phrases, college professor type vocabulary, and several repetitive words that make me want to punch my iPad (biting lip issues, the blatant misspelling of Louboutins, the word “clamber”) as well as the unbelievable lack of technology for someone living in this millennium that I mentioned above. That being said, there are emails back and forth between the two of them that are lovely, funny, entertaining, and sweet. My favorite parts of the books are in those emails.

The ending is fabulous, and there is some bonus material that took my love of this entire saga novels up a even higher because we get to hear Christian's thoughts and know what he is thinking when he is hit by this truck named Anastasia. He is on fire to capture Anastasia and it's hot. These bonuses also fill in some blanks that you have been waiting a good 1300 or more pages to find out.  As far as the skin on skin part goes, I actually thought there was a little too much Sexing. (WHAT? Yes really). Some scenes lost their impact. I wanted to Slap Anastasia multiple times (and so did Christian). We know that she is a little naïve of this World, and wants to establish her own way and her own personal independence. But WHY did she have to challenge him ALL the time? Why did she have to do things that she knew would make him mad and scared? Subconscious Motivation for Punishment? Possibly. Not really Too Stupid to Live, but “Too stupid to keep your Dominant Man from going Buck Wild Ape Shit.”

I'm not sure what the real definitions of  "Character Development and Character Arcs" are because i'm not really schooled in literature. I just like to read.  But I can say in my opinion the Characters were OUTSTANDING. Christian and Ana truly blossom in this whole story. They are both more compassionate and more mature people for having met one another. They are just better because they are together. There is nothing I love more than a writer who can make me weep with her words. I couldn’t stand when these two hurt each other. It hurt me. Made me cry. To me, that is the sign of a good story.  I've said that so many times and have repeated myself ad naseum about that point, but it's so important to me in a novel. When you care about the characters, it’s good. Really Good.

Now, who should they cast in the movie? Hmmmmm. If you didn’t know, the movie rights have been picked up. I’m not sure about Anastasia. I think that any beautiful willowy brunette actress with good chops could pull her off. I know Ryan Gosling is a favorite for Christian, But I don’t like him for this role at all. I daresay he’s a little whimpy for it  (Don’t Hit Me. No pun intended) This character needs to be masculine but not meathead. His face needs to completely transform with a smile. Physically Beautiful in Every Way. Refined. Lovable. And most of all, a Kick Ass Character Actor. I am not sure who could ever fill this role. I don’t know if anyone can. It will be interesting to see who is cast. Luckily, I have read the books, so I’m not reading and filling my head with whatever actor is chosen for the role. I have my own version of Christian Grey firmly embedded in my brain.


Overall: 4.95 Stars. (Excellent. All you critics and haters go take a hike. I find it hilarious that this “your woman messed up, she needs to be punished” mentality is so shocking. It's not a new concept. Just look at some advertising from the 50's. All you outraged naysayers get over yourself.)

Sensuality Rating: 4.95 (MOST would consider it Erotica. It’s very erotic. However, I’ve read more vulgar language and descriptive scenes than this.   They do really hump like rabbits though. Lotta sex here. Let’s just say comparatively that someone like Joey W Hill would get a 5+ some for a rating.)

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lorimeehan April 13, 2012 at 7:17 AM  

I have these book on reserve at the library. When I heard of these books I wasn't sure if I'd read them because they are about a on going relationship and not wrapped up in each book. But I've read several blogs about them so I changed my mind. I just hope I can get pasted the first person thing. It usually drives me crazy. But well see. I think I like your blog the best. It gave me some really good onsite. Thank you

Andrea April 13, 2012 at 7:36 AM  

I have a love/hate relationship with this series. I read the first 2 books and was a bit obsessed with them for a couple weeks. It was like a train wreck and I couldn't look away. I don't see the appeal of Christian and find Ana irritating but for some reason I can't put the books down once I start them.

I won Freed a couple months ago but still haven't started it, I really should read it soon.

Oh, and I totally agree with you about the porn label, there are much more explicit books out there than these.

erin April 13, 2012 at 12:37 PM  

Hmmm... thanks for a very thoughtful review. I tend to shy away from the flavor of the month books and this might be no exception. But... I'm willing to give it a try if it's a truly good story, never mind the hype or the current popularity. Still thinking....

Sheree April 13, 2012 at 3:58 PM  

Thanks for the review. It just solidifies my belief that I really shouldn't read this even when it does arrive at the library because it sounds like Anastasia and Christian will really annoy the hell out of me (much like Bella and Edward did - and without any interesting world building even). If I don't particularly care for either of the main characters in a book and there's nothing else interesting going on, then the book is truly a waste of time for me (I've read plenty of erotica and bondage books already). So, thank you for giving me the info to make up my mind.

DC April 13, 2012 at 5:34 PM  

Thanks Everyone for the Comments. I really did not expect to like this series in the least, but I was so suprised. I really urge everyone to read it if you are a lover of Romance. Just forget about the Twilight jump off point. In my opinion, there are no similarities except maybe the physical attributes of the two main characters. - DD

Ivy April 14, 2012 at 5:35 PM  

Wow. I have Fifty Shades of Grey and only bought it because it was on Sylvain Reynard's list of books to read. Loved Gabriel's Inferno so took a chance. Got it long before all the hype started. Still haven't read it & didn't want to get the others until I'd read it.
I haven't and won't read the Twilight series or Hunger Games nor have I or will I watch any of the movies. They don't interest me at all.
After this review it's moved up my TBR, which is really scary. Not sure I'll ever catch up at this point.
Thanks for the thoughtful review.

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