I’ve said this on more than one occasion. I’m often the last one to jump on the hottest new thing. Call me skeptical, but just because something is hot doesn’t mean I’m going to rush headlong into buying it. Apparently all those warnings about not jumping off a bridge just because everyone else is doing it stuck. Thanks, Mom!
Nevertheless, not long ago I caved in and started reading “Fifty Shades of Grey” for two reasons. One, I listened to a podcast on Slate discussing the book, and it piqued my interest. The conversation was an intelligent critique of the story and romance in general. Plus, the podcast made me laugh. Secondly, my husband bought the book for me, so I started reading it.
I know this book is a hot button topic for many authors, so I don’t want to start a discussion about fan fiction, quality of writing, etc. All I’ll say about it is writing is tough and books don’t write themselves. We each do the best we can at different stages in our development. Any work that encourages people to read and opens them up to trying a new genre benefits us all. I’ve had more opportunity to discuss my books with people who never read romance until they picked up “Fifty Shades”, and I’m grateful for that. I was also very excited to have “Lady Amelia’s Mess and a Half” suggested to fans of "Fifty Shades of Grey" as a romance that "serves up love like we like it" by B&N. Click here to view the B&N blog
What I would like to discuss is how I went into the experience only halfway open minded and I was pleasantly surprised. From the beginning, I found this book compelling. Honestly, I’m not 100% sure what hooked me in those first few pages. I’ve been asking myself this question over and over again. I felt neutral about the heroine. I thought the hero was scary stalker-like and the repeated reference to his long, long fingers and messy hair made me picture Edward Scissorhands.
The dialog made me chuckle. What twenty-seven year old man uses phrases like “beyond the pale” and “press his suit”? Oh, that’s right! MY twenty-seven year old, eighteenth century Regency gentlemen. And granted, I’m out of touch with the twenty something crowd, but even when I was in my twenties, no one used the word smitten. That’s something a grandma would say and her grandchild would roll her eyes—uh, I mean politely listen and “hold her counsel”.
But these are minor things in the grand scheme of the work. They didn’t turn me off and apparently they don’t bother tons of other readers either, which just goes to show perfect writing does not mean a book will speak to readers. So what is it about “Fifty Shades”? For me the answer is I can identify with Ana Steele, especially as the story progressed.
A long time ago I was twenty-one, naïvely hopeful, and eager to find love. I was also very curious, and Christian is a mystery to solve. I felt Ana’s awkwardness and I was embarrassed with her. I wondered if Christian Grey would have taken me in, too. He has moments when he’s playful and tender, which makes it seem like he has the capacity to love. Yet, he also clearly has severe intimacy issues. Watching Ana enter into a relationship with Christian was like watching a speeding train race for a brick wall. I wanted to shout, “No! Trust your instincts. He really is a control freak!”
Ana lacked confidence, but Ms. James showed us flashes of her defiance and in the end, she is much stronger. I believed in her character arc. I know some people don’t like heroines who make ‘stupid mistakes’, but I think it makes a character seem more real. I don’t know how anyone avoids making mistakes in her life. Yes, mistakes are painful, embarrassing, and can make you want to hide under the covers, but they are also opportunities to grow and learn about ourselves.
I’m looking forward to reading the other books, so I guess you can count me in the group of people lined up to jump off the bridge. Sorry, Mom.
When was the last time you were pleasantly surprised by something you didn't expected to like?