My Thoughts on the Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy by E.L James

Feb 1, 2012 by

By now most of you have heard about the hoopla surrounding the very popular Fifty Shades trilogy by E.L. James. Fifty Shades of Grey has an astounding 4,300 reviews on Goodreads and all three books are currently the top three best selling digital books on Amazon for erotica. There’s also quite some controversy surrounding E.L., this series and how it was published. From what I understand, Fifty Shades of Grey was originally titled, Master of the Universe and was Twilight fan fiction. The Twilight fan fic readers became obsessed with this book (and what’s now the second and third book, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed) that E.L. decided to publish it, or Writer’s House Coffee Shop Publishing approached E.L. to publish it with them. Fifty Shades of Grey has sold more than 30,000 copies sold since May 2011 (at $10 a pop for an ebook, this confounds me).

The phenomenon surrounding this trilogy is both incredible and scary. I can promise you because of the popularity of the Fifty Shades trilogy, you’ll see more of these stories blatantly based on fan fiction being published in the coming years that will most likely sell well. Writers publishing fan fiction as original fiction isn’t something new. Take a look at all the sequels and sometimes annoying retelling’s of Pride and Prejudice as an example. But that’s allowed because Pride and Prejudice is a free domain book. Writing and selling fan fiction based on Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series isn’t free domain and it gets sketchy because of the issue of copyright. But I have to hand it to E.L. Because of the obsessive nature of Twilight fans, she took her story to a platform, knowing if she invoked Meyer’s characters and inserted them in her own story (even if she used the names like Edward, Jacob, Bella and so forth) regardless if her own characters were no where near Meyer’s characters in terms of personality or character traits, she’d have a hit on her hand.

It’s been awhile since a series made me roll my eyes and felt such raging annoyance over the actions of two characters. The last time I felt this way was while I read Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series and the character of Jericho “Le Douche” Barrons. James’s Christian Grey isn’t a Barrons (thank God), and very early on I couldn’t help but compare Christian to Roarke from JD Robb’s In Death series. But the only comparison between Christian and Roarke is that these two men are incredibly handsome and rich. Christian is a disturbed megalomaniac, while Roarke doesn’t need any form of therapy and  is everything a hero and man should be that women should proudly admit they’re attracted to.

Since Fifty Shades of Grey is based on Twilight, I really thought it would be exactly like Twilight, sans the paranormal element. Other than Ana accepting Christian and all his faults, much like Bella does with Edward, and the Pacific Northeast setting, I can’t see any other comparisons between Fifty and Twilight. Fifty Shades of Grey is a Harlequin Presents on over the top crack that combines the characters and plot of the 1986’s cult classic soft porn- 9 ½ Weeks. (I would be very surprised if E.L. said she never saw 9 ½ Weeks because the comparisons are so glaring) The way Christian Grey is portrayed reminded me of Mickey Rourke’s John who seduces and almost destroys Kim Basinger’s Elizabeth with his unhealthy sexual kinks.

Christian Grey is one unhealthy minded individual all because of his past. His mother was a crack whore and Christian was a victim of her pimp who abused him physically and possibly sexually. Christian is saved and adopted by a married couple who gives him a nurturing and loving home where he can overcome his abuse. At fifteen, Christian ends up having a pedophilic, S&M relationship with one of his mother’s friends. From that five year sexual relationship, Christian becomes even more unstable with his sexual desires. The only way he can find sexual gratification is through BDSM or types of kinkery fuckery as he calls it. Christian fully admits he’s fifty shades of fucked up. But even though Christian is emotionally and mentally unstable (he doesn’t like to be touched) he goes on to do great things. By the age of twenty-seven he’s extremely rich, powerful and runs his own company. Women fall at his feet, but because he’s never had a long term relationship with a woman, his family, who loves and adores him (his parents and a younger brother and sister) assumes he’s gay.

When Fifty Shades of Grey begins we meet Anastasia Steele, a soon to be college graduate who hopes to get a job in publishing. Her roommate Kate was scheduled to interview Christian Grey, the CEO of Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc, but since Kate is sick, Ana will do it in her stead. And from Ana’s meeting with Christian, her life will become a wacked out smutty version of Alice down the rabbit hole. The moment Christian meets Ana, he decides there’s something special about her and wants her for his own. Ana’s a virgin who doesn’t realize how beautiful she is. Every man she comes in contact with lusts after her. Christian lusts after Ana also, but his lusting is more of the obsessive kind. Christian wants Ana to be his latest conquest and become his sexual submissive. Ana at first is wary of Christian because he’s too overpowering, seductive and dares to woe her with his fortune and amazing knowledge of wine and force feeding her because she doesn’t eat and Christian hates that (his crack ho mommy starved him as a kid and his charitable self longs to make hungry people around the world have enough nourishment). But when a richer than Midas, hot as sin, brooding male wants to give you the world and allow you to walk on the wild side with him as a f’ed up form of therapy, what’s a woman like Ana to do?

Ana accepts Christian but with some reservations. Ana is new territory for Christian and even though he wants to eat her up and spit her out, he tries his best to treat her with care. The first time they make love is near perfect.This love scene zings with smoldering emotion and hotness. But then Christian tells Ana he can’t stick with the vanilla and in order for them to be together she has to be open to his dark BDSM side where he wants to hurt her in order to find satisfaction. He lays it all out on the line and through emails and a not so legal binding contract, it’s up to Ana to accept the terms and let Christian have complete ownership of her body, heart and soul.

The first two books, Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker deal with Ana accepting Christian and allowing Christian to own her. Fifty Shades of Grey is pure crack reading. I couldn’t get enough of it even with the massive length and lack of editing that’s desperately needed. Christian does walk that fine line and we get a small taste of how unsettling he is. But when Ana allows Christian to unleash his disturbing kinkery on her, it’s all vanilla, the one thing Christian is against. The build up and final outcome is weak. The most BDSM Ana experiences by Christian’s hands is bondage and a belt he uses to smack her ass that leads to her walking out on him. This is all after a much heated discussion about Christian using a cane on Ana. I was expecting something right out of movie, Pulp Fiction and the scene where they bring out the leather covered, gagged-ball gimp. (If you seen Pulp Fiction, then you know exactly what I mean).

The second book, Fifty Shades Darker is pretty much a rehash of the first book. Only after three days from when Ana has left Christian, they’re back together. Again Ana must decide if she’ll be the willing victim to Christian’s sexual depravity while Christian courts her with outlandish gifts and using manipulation to get what he wants. But now Ana is dealing with a sexual predator of a boss who wants to destroy Christian. The reason for this is revealed in the third book, Fifty Shades Freed where Christian and Ana are now married and Ana’s ex-boss is out to for revenge against them both.

By the time I started reading Freed, I was pretty much bored with Christian and Ana’s emo issues. Ana thinks Christian is scary because of the way he reacts to her, especially when she doesn’t behave. Christian threatens to beat the shit out of Ana when she dares to have more than one drink with Kate at some club while he’s away for a night and can’t keep watch over her. Christian uses verbal threats to the point of overkill. He’s all bluster and talk and never does more than that. Christian comes across more as a spoiled rich boy who has tantrums when he doesn’t get his way. Why Ana is so attractive to him stupefies me. So what if he’s rich and handsome? What else does he have to recommend for himself? He uses threats as scare tactics that never go anywhere and his issues and depravity we’re told about never come to completion.

When all is said and done, the reader has been taken on a snooze worthy ride that doesn’t deliver. This trilogy is more like riding in a bumper car at an amusement park.

Fifty Shades Freed is the perfect example of every stereotypical semi-erotic romance. The amount of times Ana breaks down in tears because Christian is so mean and the mentions of channeling her inner goddess when she has sex with him made me want to strangle her. Everything here is like an ice cream sundae with gummy bears on top because it’s sickly sweet.

And don’t get me started on the lameness of the ending and the care bear epilogue.

I really can’t understand why this trilogy has the massive fan base. Everything introduced from the characteristics of Christian and Ana to the lacking suspense and action is nothing new. The reading community at large has been conned and doesn’t seem to care.

The HEA here isn’t believable and the romance a poor substitute of what a real romance novel should be. To me, a romance is all about empowerment and strengthening the main couple. If the hero or heroine walks out on the relationship, the author hopefully has done a good enough job where you believe both main characters will carry on with their lives and be a better person for knowing one another. E.L. James has failed miserably with this trilogy. While I believe Ana would be able to survive without Christian, I can’t say the same with him. Christian would end up making Ana’s life miserable and becoming a true, psychotic stalker in every sense of the word where their ending would be a murder suicide that brings to mind another movie from the 80’s-Star 80. (Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House)

Finale Grades:
Fifty Shades of Grey: B-
Fifty Shades Darker: C
Fifty Shades Freed: C-

Overall grade for the Fifty Shades trilogy: C

Other opinions on the Fifty Shades trilogy:
Jessica at Read React Review: 50 Things About 50 Shades (Of Grey)
The Book Pushers giveaway and review of Fifty Shades Freed
Heartbreaker & Heroes reaction to Fifty Shades of Grey


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  1. Great post! I love the pictures and I really like your overview for the series.

    I am positive I will have a very similar reaction to all three books, but I find the first one too amusing to put down and much more tolerable than Twilight. I suspect it’s because Ana is in college not high school, but either way I’ll have to read all of them.

  2. I read the first book in the trilogy for an online bookgroup recently, and I have to say…I just don’t get all the praise that is being lavished on this book. I think I was the only person who was underwhelmed and has no intention of reading the next two books in the series. Everyone else is still talking about them months after it was the book club choice. I just don’t get it.

  3. But… but you still gave it a C! That’s an okay grade.

    I pretty much hated the first book, so I didn’t read the others, but your review of the series matches the sequence of my reactions to Fifty Shades of Grey: 1. Mm, this is cray-cray and poorly edited, but entertaining; 2. annoyed; 3. this book is total BS; 3. bored; 4. snort-worthy ending. I honestly do not understand the appeal of these books AT ALL.

  4. Put me in the loves these books to bits camp. Of course I love Barrons too and I know you DO NOT AGREE :). I even loved the 3rd book. Maybe the characters’ emo matches my emo or something, but I’m re-reading FSoG for the 4th time and STILL LOVE IT. I didn’t know this was Twilight fanfic before I read it but man did I see the similarities in the first book. Ana is like Bella with a few years on her and a tad more agency. Christian is like Edward in looks and in the amount of power he has — translating immortality and strength to wealth and real-world power. Ana’s voice is very similar to Bella’s too, so I would bet they did start out as real fanfic. I know these books aren’t high-end examples of writing, editing or plotting. I know they don’t hold a candle in quality to many other books I’ve read, but they are also the only books I’ve ever re-read this many times in this short a time-period. Go figure.

  5. Oh, I might have to read this. I’m always so curious about books that everyone loves that I usually end up reading them just to see for myself why. Though, I’m getting the feeling that I’ll come to the same conclusion as you.

    Loved your pics! Especially the Care Bears.

  6. Iced Camaro

    Actually I have watched 9 1/2 weeks and I can definitely see the similarities. Hell, even Mickey Rourke’s character, John has the surname Gray. Coincidence?

  7. Anonymous

    I want to thank you for writing such a honest review of this series. Most people are blinded by the fact that this was a twi-fic and rave about it. I dont understand the appeal. I wish everyone who thinks about reading it, read your review first.
    I was deeply involved with the twi-fandom when this story was being updated regularly on fanfic sites. The fuckery that the author left in her wake is still felt. you should google her name along with angestgoddess003.

  8. Anon: I’ve read the fandom wank and have heard many things about how James started. How long ago was the original fan fiction written and posted?

    Also, I’m surprised by the large fan base these books have acquired. But it doesn’t seem to matter for James because she’s sold very well and will most likely go mainstream and published with one of the 6 big NY publishers for her next series.

  9. Anonymous

    I saw this on the my husband and I saw this on the today show. And he was the one who said lets read this together all these women say men should read this. I am only on the first book. I do not want to read anymore of them. I am trying to finish this in hopes that this poor abused girl wakes up and realizes how dumb she is being. But by the comments here I see that is not going to happen. My husband asked if this is what women really want a man to treat them poorly, beat them and show such little respect. I said no. There is one thing to spice up a relationship that you have had but even then it has to have love and respect from both parties. I have not finished the book but I have told him that if Kate was a friend and she knew what was going on she would smack ana herself and tell her that a real man can have hot sex with you and not treat you like a dog.

  10. Anonymous

    What would you say to a 21 woman who was about to enter into a relationship like this? Talk about going back two centuries, what the hell did we fight for in the 70’s and 80’s ladies? wake up and smell the coffee. Sub-Dom bullshit, you can intellectualize it all you want, it’s about a man child who doesn’t have the intellectual capacity to handle a woman who thinks for herself and a 21 year old who thinks she can change him. Imagine Ana was your daughter, what would you say to her.

  11. [* WordPress Simple Firewall plugin marked this comment as “trash”. Reason: Failed GASP Bot Filter Test (checkbox) *]
    Well said. I suppose it is like everything else where the masses follow the trend because everyone else is doing it. Although I agree with you on all counts regarding 50 Shades, what has gotten to me, more than the book and it’s content, are the thousands of copycats that burst onto the scene. (this article is three years old)
    Now you can’t turn a corner online without some bondage bad boy looking to dominate his ‘woman’ screaming from the internet. Romance is waning, I love a great steamy sex scene but that can’t be all the book is about. I have to look pretty hard to find an author nowadays who can set a love scene and play it through without some emotional battle or the overuse of the word cock. I am hoping the fad passes and we can all get back to reading quality romances without billionaires needing to smack or belittle their woman. Not my thing.


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