Helyce: Like most of you, I am not immune to the chatter that occurs on our favorite review blogs, Goodreads or Amazon’s reviews. So, it’s no surprise that I was alerted to the book, Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. I read the back blurb, read a few reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, marked it “to read” and promptly forgot about it. It was only after I joined Twitter a few weeks ago and saw the chatter there that I decided to bite the bullet and finally read this book. I became addicted. It was impossible not to read the second book immediately upon finishing the first and thankfully, book three released recently, finishing this incredibly emotional ride for me.
I became quite enamored with Christian from his first scene with Ana, as she bumbled her way through her interview. His calm demeanor in lieu of Ana’s obvious distress was intriguing to me. His power and confidence came through quite clearly. I didn’t care for Ana initially. Whether it was because the author’s description of her didn’t jive with who I imagined with Christian, I don’t know. Probably. As the story moves forward, and we learn more about Christian and his kinky-wtfery, the contracts, previous subs, etc. and ultimately, Ana’s decision to walk on the wild side I have to admit that my level of comfort was definitely challenged. I’m no prude, I know this lifestyle exists out there, but how does a young woman, a virgin at that, with no experience whatsoever, come to the conclusion that this is something she wants to experience, no matter how hot the guy is. Even with that thought rolling around the back my head, I could not stop reading. Of course, it turns out Ana wasn’t ready for Dom Christian, in all his glory as she decides to leave him at the end of book one. I think it was our first true glimpse of Christian with all of his walls down, when he simply says to Ana, “I don’t want you to leave”.
Tori: Like Helyce I was on the fence reading this trilogy. Everyone I knew was like, “Read it!!! Read it!!!”, but I wasn’t really interested so I marked it to read and promptly forgot it. When I had some down time I opened Fifty Shades Of Gray and found myself slowly becoming drawn into this erotic contemporary. I wanted to see why everyone kept saying they wanted a Fifty all their own. While I enjoyed the smexyness of Fifty Shades Of Gray, I was more taken by the everyday occurrences. The dom/sub contract and watching Ana and Christian negotiate over each point. I liked how we were able to hear Ana’s POV as she tries to understand what this world is, what it entails, and how she fits into it. Sexy Christian wasn’t enough to make her overcome her fears and just leap into the fray. Christian appealed to me with his confusion. LOL Here he is attracted to a woman who for all intents and purposes is not looking to be with him because of his sexual preferences. She’s not a sub and isn’t looking to be dominated. Christian has only been with women who know the score and want him not only for looks and power, but for his kinky-ness. What to do with an innocent? He starts out, I believe, wanting to train her to be the ultimate sub but plans change when she begins to teach him how to be just a man. The leaving scene was harsh and I blame both of them equally. She for pushing and him for allowing. I admit I gave him kudos for continuously preaching the rules of a sub/dom relationship at her. She chooses to never take it seriously and it results in heartbreak for them both.
Helyce: In book two, Fifty Shades Darker, we are treated to Christian’s attempt at a more vanilla lifestyle. He’s decided that Ana is too important to him, that his life is better while she’s in it and he’s willing to make some sacrifices in order to continue his relationship with her. I found this to be somewhat of a turning point for Christian. Ana could not change Christian; he had to want it himself in order for him to succeed. But change, he did. In deciding that he wanted Ana, he was willing to make these sacrifices, to a point. But old habits die hard, and we do still see stalker Christian, over protective Christian, Dom Christian and really pissed off Christian, just to name a few. I loved the character growth that we saw in book two. We get more background on Christian’s childhood via his memories and nightmares which just broke my heart, while at the same time providing details that explained so much about his issues with food and being touched. While I think both Ana and Christian showed significant growth herein, am I the only one who noticed that while Christian was soundly making an attempt to stay out of the playroom, Ana was consistently tempting him back into it? I remember re-reading certain passages to be sure because I found her to be the instigator in several of their playroom antics. While Christian may have taken the reigns once they were in there, Ana was always there by choice. This fact caused quite a lot of confusion for me. Wasn’t this exactly why she left him in book 1?
Tori: Agreed. I was a little peeved at times with Ana for pushing so hard but I understood why she did. He was trying so hard to be what she needed, but she was also trying to be what he needed. She was trying to find them a happy medium and explore her own sexual preferences at her own pace. Hearing about Christian’s past and abuse at the hands of Mrs. Robinson (and yes, I consider it abuse) was heartbreaking but I absolutely loved how Ana stepped up to the plate and wasn’t shy about letting her opinion be known.
Helyce: All in all, I think I would have been content if book two had ended prior to those last few paragraphs introducing the new villain, but no, the author had more to say.
Tori: I thought the villain was stupid. LOL
Helyce: I didn’t know what to expect from Fifty Shades Freed, though the title itself infers that Christian may in fact experience that final push into the light, taking that last step to leave the darkness of his past behind him. Ana and Christian are married and on their honeymoon. Prior events leading up to and including the wedding are shown to us via flashbacks. It seems all is well with our newlyweds…for the most part. Over protective Christian is nearby, but I’m not surprised. I’m used to him by now. When Dom Christian shows up after a certain beach scene, I’m not surprised either. In fact Ana totally pissed me off here; she knew how he felt about going topless. They had discussed it, in detail, yet she still took off her top. Makes one wonder, does Ana enjoy being punished now?
Tori: Fifty Shades Freed bombed for me. Emotionally draining, it merely recapped book two and we were subjected to continuous battles between Christian and Ana. Over, and over, and over. *sigh* Ana repeatedly tries to maintain some level of independence and not go completely under Christian’s thumb. I do admit at times she could have handled it all better. He seems to do a 180 and becomes even more dominate and unreasonable. I really felt he wanted a master/slave relationship at times. I was so tired after reading this installment. Their tugging back and forth wore me out. I don’t think I could have been around them for long period of times without smacking them both and telling them to grow up, get along, or leave each other. The beach scene made me mad but the name scene had me jumping ship. He did what he did in both situations to teach her a lesson. And a childish lesson it was. You don’t embarrass the person you love in order to “set them straight”. But you could be right Helyce, Ana did do things that could lead to naughty punishment. J
Helyce: Near the end of the honeymoon, an arson attempt is made at Christian’s headquarters back home. Clueless as to who or why, Christian has his whole security team working on it. Upon their return to the states the threat becomes all the more real. While Christian is away on business an attempt to kidnap Ana is thwarted, and the villain is arrested. It’s no surprise to the reader who it is, but we are still left with lots of questions, the biggest one being “why?”
Tori: I thought the plot was weak and underdeveloped. The villain’s reasoning was childish. It certainly wasn’t worth prison, possibly death.
Helyce: I have to say that I feel this book dragged in some places. There are a ton of sex scenes, and some seemed really unnecessary. Sex for sex sake never works for me, no matter how hot it is. And it really got old that it was used to “fix” whatever problem Ana or Christian was experiencing at the time. I was not surprised by Ana’s pregnancy. I thought the author hinted at it quite a bit, though if you’ve never been pregnant, you might have missed it. Of course, Christian’s response to the news was extremely harsh, but this is when control freak Christian makes his appearance and c’mon people. We are well into book three now, were you really that surprised at his reaction? I truly was not. Hurtful as his words were toward Ana, I would have expected nothing less from him.
Tori: I think we all expected his childish reaction to the pregnancy but where he goes from there??? That would have broken the deal for me. I loved Ana’s punishment for him. When she tells him to, “Smell the coffee and grow the fuck up,” I died. At times, Christian is so much younger acting then Ana and like I said earlier, he seems to regress tremendously in here. I just couldn’t shake the recycled storyline feeling in here. Do we really learn anything new?
Helyce: I really enjoyed how the author chose to end the final threat in this story using Ana, Christian’s true weakness. The villain’s connection to Christian’s past was totally unexpected and provided that last piece necessary for Christian to connect the dots and close the door on that part of his life. I especially enjoyed the epilogue, letting us glimpse future Christian and his extended family, happy, in love, content.
Tori: The bank scene. I had a total “WTF” look on my face. I know I did. James once again uses the treat of Ana leaving Christian to promote tension in the story. And seriously…what woman would do this? She was pregnant and not only risked her life but the life of her unborn child. I was so amazed when Christian didn’t blow up over this. And I repeat, the villain was weak and whiny. It felt like an add on.
Helyce: In conclusion, I think the author succeeded in what she set out to do. I experienced every emotion possible as I read this series. I balanced on the fence of comfort/discomfort many times, but not once did I consider not going forward. Were there things I disliked about this book? Yes, of course. I especially hated Elena. I blame her for much of Christian’s fucked-upped-ness. But then again, Christian Grey as we knew him, simply would not have been.
Tori: While I enjoyed the first two, I think Ms. James would have done better to end it at book two and inject the epilogue there. Neither Christian nor Ana really grow in book three and the storyline is nothing more than a repeat of book one and two- sex and our couple trying to find common ground. I thing I resented throughout the series was everyone telling Ana she could save him. What a burden to put on someone’s shoulders. All in all, an interesting series that certainly found it’s place on a lot of book shelves.