Wednesday, April 25, 2012

50 Shades of Grey - No Total Redemption, Please

I have recently started the third, and last, book in the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy. Make no mistake, the 50 Shades books are, at their heart, romances, pure and simple, albeit somewhat twisted. I am not normally a reader of romances.  They are mostly so predictable (this is at the insistence of publishers who issue specific guidelines about how and when plot twists must occur). Hero and heroine in romance novels typically hate each other until they love each other. It takes them most of the book to first, fight against, and then accept their mutual feelings.

It is the twistedness that makes the 50 Shades series interesting. Christian Grey is a unique and compelling hero. He is devastatingly handsome and fabulously successful but a severely abusive childhood finds him unable to reach sexual satisfaction as an adult except when acting as a Dominant, visiting bondage and discipline upon his Submissive partner. Guaranteed, author E. L. James tells you all you ever wanted to know about how B & D works in great and titillating detail, if in fact, you did want to know. Even if you think you didn't, you might find it more fascinating than you anticipated.

One minor problem I had with 50 Shades was the same one I had with the Twilight series. Is it really believable that worldly and sophisticated men like Vampire Edward and Dominant Christian fall in love with oh-so-innocent and rather ditzy heroines, like Bela and Anastasia Steele? Well, yes, I guess the story demands it because our ladies must be virginal and trusting in order for true love to conquer all which, we know from the start, despite some setbacks and misunderstandings, is what is going to happen.

I have only barely started Book Three of 50 Shades and already Christian and Ana are married with Christian having moved beyond his most controlling and negatives desires. This is my other small problem with the series. I don't believe much in people changing dramatically and quickly, even for love. Can Ana really cause such a metamorphosis in Grey's behavior when years of therapy couldn't?

Of course, we've been set us up for this. Christian, other than his sexual hang-ups, is good and kind and wonderful. He's a terrific employer, a philanthropist whose business goal is to develop technologies to help poor people....his mega-wealth being an almost incidental side effect. He is loving toward his adoptive family. He's even "kind" to his Submissives if you can get past butt plugs and floggers and nipple clamps and all the other accouterments of B & D he keeps in his playroom which Ana calls "The Red Room of Pain".

By Book Three, we're down to just the most erotic and playful and voluntary elements of B & D like hand cuffs and spanking. Ana is in full command at this point. Yes, he can still get angry and domineering but all she has to do is a) protest or b) vamp him and it's all over but the shouting.

I like my heroes to be as much anti-hero as hero. In my own books, the Rafe Vincennes series, ( or (, the first novel is Sociopath? Rafe's second grade teacher wonders whether a 7-year-old can merit that diagnosis. It is a question readers have to decide for themselves. Rafe too has the love of a beautiful woman but despite that, he remains flagrantly unfaithful. He believes society's rules don't apply to him. Bypassing cops and courts, he perpetrates his own brand of retribution upon those who harm him or his. Rafe too, has his good side, but he is definitely a 50/50 proposition, equal parts dark and light,  and it will be ever so. He will not be converted; he will not be redeemed.

And this is what I hope: that at the end of Book Three of the 50 Shades series, Christian still has a bit of his dark side because it is that which sets him apart and makes him more appealing than the general run of romance heroes.

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