Fifty shades of red: Trilogy strains sense and sensibilities


In no way, shape or form is E.L. James' "Fifty Shades" trilogy fine literature. A good read, yes, but nothing you want anyone other than your best girlfriends to know you're reading.

OK, maybe your partner/husband/lover, just so he/she will know why you're suddenly more interested in neckties -- and afraid to roll your eyes, lest he/she should press his/her mouth into a hard line .

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Rolling my eyes, I kept reading past the point where I wanted to cast the first book aside in disgust. "Fifty Shades of Grey"  and its sequels "Fifty Shades Darker" and "Fifty Shades Freed" unmask a love story tied up in the shadowy realm of bondage and discipline, domination and submission between dashing young billionaire Christian Grey, 27, and naive virgin Anastasia Steele, 22, about to graduate from college and step into more unfamiliar territory than she ever imagined.

The English/literature student literally trips and falls at Grey's feet and he swoops her up and into his mercurial world. First-time author James literally trips all the way through this poorly executed trilogy.

Early in the first book, we read the very detailed contract that will give Christian total control over every aspect of a relationship with Ana. It makes her squirm. It made me squirm, and not in a fun way. I wanted to trash the book after Steele's brutal spanking.

Then I felt a stirring deep within my belly. How could I review the book if it was headed for Mount Trashmore in Cedar Rapids? So I plodded on, handcuffed to my assignment.

And before you know it, I cared about Grey and Steele, both products of  their forlorn childhoods -- Grey neglected by his crack-whore mother and hideously mistreated by her pimp; Steele, helplessly spinning beside her flaky mother's revolving door of husbands.

The only saving grace of this twisted trilogy is the way Steele turns the tables on Grey. By the time I'd raced through Book 1, I was ready for Book 2. And then, halfway through, I got bored and had to set it aside for a day. Deadline looming, my blood racing, I picked it up again, the story picked up again, and when it was over, the cliffhanger deftly manipulated me into picking up Book 3. Only to be bored again.

I set it aside after about 100 pages, then, determined to have the upper hand, I resumed my reading, only to get swept up in the intrigue of shock! an interesting plot twist that shatters their souls. My five-hour sprint to the finish left me spent, basking in the release from this part of my assignment.

That's my overarching experience with this hot-selling trilogy. My interest ebbed and flowed, in the opposite direction the author probably intended. The sex became boring, the trite phrases annoying. I wanted to skip the sex and get to the good parts -- the seemingly constant danger that loomed over the head of a man who thrives on danger.

I like a good thriller, minus the "thrills" in this case. Grey bought her clothes, Steele put them on, he took them off, they blew each other's minds. Rinse and repeat.

The books obviously stirred feelings deep within readers' bellies, but phrases like that grow tiresome very, very quickly.

I see no Pulitzers in the author's future, no Academy Awards for the promised movie trilogy, but first-time British author James has found the Holy Grail of the publishing world: the next big thing. One that turns red faces into heaving chests of green, straining to break the bank.

Sex sells. And sells-out, in so many shades.


Title: "Fifty Shades of Grey," "Fifty Shades Darker," "Fifty Shades Freed."

Publisher: Vintage Books, a division of Random House Inc.

Cost: Each: $15.95 paperback, $18 large print, $9.99 eBook, $50 compact disc, $24 audio download; trilogy bundled: $47.85 books, $29.99 eBook, $155 compact disc

Author's website:


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