There are life’s guilty pleasures, and then there is the guiltiest spectacle of them all: the Fifty Shades of Grey spectacle. It’s time to review this precious pearl of literary genius, so I’m going to dive on in. Hold me.
When we last left our romantic icons, Ana Steele and Christian Grey, they were newly engaged and facing (a) Ana’s ex-boss, Jack Hyde, whom Christian fired in a fit of jealous pique when Jack made a pass at Ana and (b) Christian’s “Mrs. Robinson,” the woman who initiated him into his life of BDSM. Can these two crazy love birds find happiness and contentment? Thank goodness E. L. James doesn’t keep us hanging and gives us the GIFT that is Fifty Shades Freed.
The tale opens just after Christian and Ana’s wedding, as the two bask on their European honeymoon. They bicker, rock the headboard, bicker some more, and have make-up rocking of the headboard. While enjoying their romantic interlude, Christian learns that someone apparently tried to sabotage part of his building. Enter the “plot” portion of the festivities. The threat to Grey Enterprises increases, and we are meant to be on the edge of our seats in anticipation of how this AWFUL THING will transpire. There also continues to be friction in the Grey marriage. These two argue about the same damn thing all the time, followed by furious headboard rockin’.
So there’s your story.
While this one shares certain similarities with Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker, in Fifty Shades Freed, James actually attempts – gulp – style. There are flashbacks, seemingly set at even intervals, but then mysteriously dropped. Until, that is, the epilogue, where they show up again. Clearly E. L. James realized that we don’t read these books for STYLE. I mean, really.
Let’s get to the good stuff, shall we? Because, let’s face it: we also do not read these books for their plot. Please. There are more important things to anticipate.
THE BUTT PLUG SHOWS UP!!!!!
I know some of you have waited in breathless anticipation, and you will not be denied! We also meet the flogger AND the cross is used AND the grid. Insert jumpy claps here. Christian and Ana continue to Know Each Other in the Biblical Sense in different locales, including – but not limited to – an airplane, a yacht, a couch, a shower, a bathtub, a picnic blanket and – thank GOD – the red satin bed in the Red Room of Pain.
But you know what is not used in any romantic situation whatsoever? The grey tie! I am bereft with grief. I got attached to that tie, and while it makes a brief appearance, it does not do so wrapped around anyone’s appendages. It’s a tease, and I am not amused.
Also missing: any sign of a competent, coherent editor. What IS present is the same repetitious writing. It takes less than three pages for the first smirk to appear. And this time? Christian and Ana aren’t the only two who smirk. Other characters get in on the action. I suspect that E. L. James is f-ing with me. We also get bitten lips, rolled eyes, lips pressed into a hard line, frowns and sighs.
But a new play has entered the repertoire: Christian rubs his nose down the length of Ana’s nose.
Naturally, this being E. L. James, he does that A LOT. Almost as often as one of them says, “Hmmm.” Clearly the message is that in the absence of the ability to write dialogue, insert a breathy moan.
And now, an excerpt. Feel free to use this as an interpretive dialogue:
Hmm … my Fifty wants to tumble.
“Don’t bite your lip,” he warns.
Compliantly, I release my lip. “I think you have me at a disadvantage, Mr. Grey.” [They call each other Mr. and Mrs. Grey ALL THE TIME, as if they forgot their first names.] I bat my lashes and squirm provocatively beneath him. This could be fun.
“Surely you’ve already got me where you want me?” He smirks [!!!!! – of course he does] and presses his groin into mine once more.
Ah, language. Its mellifluous use is a lost art, isn’t it? Thank goodness E. L. James is here to reinvigorate writing.
As I typed that, I mistakenly wrote “goddess,” rather than “goodness.” That brings me to another repetition: Ana’s subconscious, complete with the half moon glasses and disdain, shows up again. The inner goddess is not as present, but that subconscious school marm sure is. Oh, lucky us.
So is Fifty Shades Darker worth the read? OF COURSE IT IS. You can’t stop at their engagement! You need to read about the wedding and the honeymoon and the corporate intrigue and the early months of their marriage and the in-laws and the Evil Ex-Employee and the Evil Ex-Dominatrix. You can’t stop at the second one! You must read this!
Oh, it’s awful. Don’t get me wrong about that. It is just as badly written and edited as its predecessors. But, as I have said before, it is literary crack. So bad for you, but so addicting.
A plus: at the end, we get a brief glimpse of Christian’s point of view. And then – AND THEN – E. L. James says, “That’s all … for now.”
OH MY GOD – THERE WILL BE MORE! Please let it be. For the love of Mark Twain, PLEASE LET THERE BE MORE.