Fifty Shades of Grey
by E.L. James
(Vintage, $15.95, NC-17) ISBN 978-0-345803481
****
This book has been on the bestseller list for awhile now and is an intriguing reading experience that grabs you at the beginning and keeps you tuned in. It is not your traditional romance and truly must be classified as erotica. But it is written in the same tone as a traditional romance story and has captured the right tone. It is one of an apparent trilogy and leaves the reader hanging for more.

Anastasia Steele is an independent woman who prides herself on holding her own. Just on the verge of graduating from college she is ready to build a life. With little to no family, she depends on her friends to provide her the companionship and love she desires. Christian Grey enters her life in an unexpected way. She is immediately drawn to his eyes and the aura of mystery that surrounds him. He is her exact opposite and she often fights her inner voices over the relationship she is forming with him.

They first meet when Kate, Ana’s roommate and best friend, is too sick to interview Christian for their school paper. Christian has been tapped to confer their degrees and Kate is determined to have a killer article for her last edition as the school editor. So she sends Ana armed with questions. Christian is a gentleman and unsettling. He is attracted by Ana and is amused at times at her apparent naivete. He would like to assume that she will handle their attraction, but it is clear that she is going to be a challenge for him, and that is enough to keep him interested.

The basis of the whole story is the relationship between Ana and Christian. Christian is a dominant and in the past has only had contractual relationships with women who are submissive to him. His contract is detailed and explicit – he has rules and the contract details out both hard and soft limits. He has a playroom that is filled with implements to fulfill his fantasies and, he hopes, that of the woman with whom he is involved.

This is so far out of Ana’s realm that she is frightened, intrigued, nervous and aroused – all at the same time. The story is about their negotiations and how Ana pushes Christian to rethink his priorities and even opens how he might have a real (more traditional) relationship with her. But there are more than a few complications and this is not a relationship that will easily end up with a long term commitment.

There are two things that set this story apart – the humor between the two as they banter and try to figure out the shades of their relationship. The email exchanges at times had me chuckling out loud. The other is the depth to Christian’s character. What makes him the way he is? Pieces of his past are slowly revealed and while these are at times disturbing, Ana and the reader slowly get to know Christian beyond the persona he wants people to see.

This is not a book for everyone. But if you take a chance on it, it may end up being one of the most intriguing books of the year.

--Shirley Lyons


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