'50 Shades' of disappointment

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Review: Book’s lack of substance made it a turn-off

By Jennifer Garcia

Those who are not fans of romance or erotic novels should steer clear of “50 Shades of Grey.” Though that sums up the feelings on this particular book and the review could end there, let’s take a closer look at what made this book so disappointing.
After hearing rave reviews, it was only natural to be curious. Despite the fact that romance and the erotic genre have never been of interest, the praises of this book were sung repeatedly and it was too tempting to pass up.
The tome, written by E.L. James, is the first part of a trilogy and introduces the reader to Anastasia Steele, a recent college graduate, and Christian Grey, a multi-millionaire who carved out a place in the business world at a young age.
The couple meet by chance, when Steele’s college newspaper reporter friend Katherine Kavanaugh becomes ill and is unable to keep her interview appointment with Grey. Being the good friend she is, Steele steps in and agrees to interview him on Kavanaugh’s behalf.
Despite the fact that she finds him attractive, Steele dismisses any thought of becoming involved with someone like Grey because of his status in the business world and because she believes that he would never be interested in someone like her.
But as luck would have it, Steele is wrong. She soon discovers that there is a mysterious side to Grey, when he shows up at the hardware store where she works, and makes a purchase.
She seizes the opportunity to tell Grey that Kavanaugh needs to have photos to go along with her story and soon, a photo shoot is set up, during which Jose Rodriguez agrees to take pictures of Grey. Rodriguez also happens to have a romantic interest in Steele, but she does not feel the same.
The story begins to drag a bit until the next time Steele and Grey meet when she drunkenly phones him — and like the ultimate stalker, he shows up at the bar and takes her to his hotel room to recover. The cat-and-mouse game ensues and Grey wines and dines Steele after her college graduation, all the time, telling her that he is no good for her.
Naturally, after a few “dates,” Steele begins to fall for Grey, but he remains a mystery, able to find her wherever she is and seemingly always tracking her every move. She wants more than just a date here and there, but Grey doesn’t want to bring her into his world, despite the fact that he is falling for her.
Once Grey reveals why he’s so reluctant to have a relationship, the couple continues to see one another, while Steele tries to figure out if she’s willing to submit to the sort of arrangement that Grey wants.
Doing so would mean that she will never really be his girlfriend, only a sexual partner. It seems that not only is Grey afraid of intimacy, but he’s also immersed in the BDSM world and wants Steele to be his submissive.
Steele, in all her innocence, is reluctant, but cannot help wanting to spend time with Grey, in the hopes of eventually forming a relationship. Once she finds out what his intentions are, she reveals to him that she is a virgin. He responds by helping her out of that situation and then pushes his BDSM agenda, part of which involves a written contract between the two.
The contract not only would dictate how many times he is allowed to see Steele, but also where she lives, what she eats and how she dresses. Despite her intense attraction, she is not sure she can live that way.
The book is chock-full of sex scenes. In fact, that’s mostly what it’s made up of, so it’s not hard to imagine waht made this a New York Times best seller.
 James describes the encounters in great detail between Grey and Steele. When they aren’t having sex, Steele is whining about Grey’s intimacy issues and why she isn’t allowed to touch him.
Grey keeps telling her that she’s bewitched him and takes her to meet his family, all the while sending her mixed signals. One minute he’s hot, the next he’s cold.
The book goes on like this until the end, never straying from the sex scenes and confusing messages between the couple. Grey gives Steele the impression that maybe she can change him, then the next minute, he’s giving her the brush-off.
Perhaps the most annoying aspect of this book is the fact that James keep referring to the fact that Grey is turned on by Steele biting her bottom lip; imagery that reoccurs every few pages, but enough to be a turn off to the reader.
Is there much more to this book than sex and lip biting? Not really. One might wonder what’s wrong with Steele and why, despite her reluctance and the fact that she should know better, she keeps flirting with the possibility of entering the contract.
It’s also possible to examine the intimacy issues that Grey has and wonder why he turned out the way he did, but there’s really no clear reason in this particular book.
Instead, the reader is left thinking that in lieu of Steele meeting her prince charming and living happily ever after, she’s set on a one-way trip to hell, with Grey, the over-protective, jealous, control-freak, BDSM stalker in the driver’s seat. Perhaps the second book, “Fifty Shades Darker,” gives an inside look at Grey’s psyche.