I may be one of the few adult females in the country who hasn’t read at least one book of the Shades Trilogy, which starts with Fifty Shades of Gray. I fully intend to read the first book—and perhaps the entire trilogy if I like the first one—but I’ve already heard a lot about it, so there may not be many surprises in store.
What did surprise me when the first book launched with a great deal of fanfare was the lack of skepticism and criticism. Having written romance and romantic suspense novels for over twenty years, I’m well acquainted with the recurring feedback that romances send the wrong messages to women, telling them “difficult men” can be transformed by love and that women can’t have a fulfilled life without love and marriage, etc. Some simply believe romance and erotica novels are immoral and women shouldn’t be reading them.
I was expecting all of that kind of feedback and more when Fifty Shades came out, but I heard none of it. The talk in the media was about how steamy the book was, how well it was selling, how women were flocking to buy it, and men—well, a few bemused guys—were concerned they couldn’t compete with the hero, who was described as a well built, exceedingly handsome billionaire. Overall, the buzz I heard was very upbeat. There was talk of the other two books, of a movie deal and the author, who was charming and conversant in interviews, seemed a little embarrassed by all the attention and yes, by the subject matter, but appeared to be having the time of her life.
I actually thought the genre had turned a corner in terms of public acceptance and was pretty stunned that it had happened with an erotic novel with themes of bondage and dominance. The first feedback I heard from readers was from relatives at a family wedding this last May. Their excitement was palpable. They reported have been up all night devouring the first book. Most had read the second book as well and couldn’t wait for the third.
That was all I needed to hear. I vowed to grab Fifty Shades the first chance I got, but alas, things didn’t work out that way. My life has been an exhausting, demanding, challenging—and occasionally exciting—whirlwind of activity on the home front—and I just haven’t had the time for erotic fantasies. Nor have I been in the mood, to be honest.
And now, before I’ve had a chance to read a word, the feedback I’m hearing is changing. Recently on a Yahoo Group, readers mentioned that the books may be sending the wrong message about relationships, i.e., that a woman has to be submissive in order to make a man happy and change herself to suit him. Also, the author’s writing style is catching flack as too simple and the books as having been written at a grade school level.
I’m not yet hearing criticism in the media. This is from romance readers, a source I consider much more reliable because they actually read the books and support the genre. Perhaps it’s inevitable that a book this successful and massively read is going to receive some criticism—and the feedback about women having to change themselves to suit a man in order to find love and happiness seems well-founded. A better message, in my opinion, is that women should want to be loved and accepted as they are. Regardless how the trilogy storyline starts and where it goes, I’d love to see that message come through at some point.
So, guess what I’m going to be reading on my summer vacation? I have my copy of Fifty Shades and will report back. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear more feedback. Has anyone else read it, and if so, what do you think?