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When college student Ana steps in at the last minute to cover an interview of a local tycoon for the uni paper, she never imagines how what is supposed to be a one off meeting will change her life completely over the months to come. She has no plans or expectations to see him again, but Christian Grey knows what he wants and takes great pains to get it, so with Ana now next on his list of target acquisitions, she has very little hope of escaping unscathed. Swiftly realising that he is not your average wealthy bachelor, Ana falls head first into a foreign and confusing new world she has no clue how to navigate. With pressure on to sign on the dotted line or leave and never return, Ana has to decide how far she's willing to go to follow her heart, and when she should listen to the screaming voices in her head instead.
Being firmly marketed as at best risqué and at worst hideously kinky, I was aching to get my hands on this one because no one loves a bit of filth as much as I do. And I wasn't disappointed as it's supplied in generous amounts. I showed a friend over dinner the other night, and flicking through her eyes widened as she came across one blush-worthy passage after another. The US press are calling it Mommy Porn but then they can be a conservative lot, can't they? It's not that bad, and in some ways it's a book just as much about psychological pain as it is the physical stuff, but at the same time you probably wouldn't want to discuss it with your grandmother over afternoon tea for this isn't just a bit smutty, it's properly x-rated in places.
For the first few chapters I was drawing comparisons between this and 'Unsticky' by Sarra Manning but then Christian and Ana crossed a line that Grace and Vaughn never did, and things really got interesting. It's a step beyond even the rudest bits of Sex and the City but it's not entirely outlandish and at no point did I feel the urge to put the book down in disgust. Instead I was intrigued about where the story was going and, knowing it was just the first in a trilogy, not as frustrated as I might have been when the number of pages left dwindled and I knew the end was nigh. A lot of the reaction to the book seems to stem from the limits it has, or rather doesn't, the lines it's not afraid to cross. Playing to the shock factor, it's probably less for those already ensconced in the BDSM world, more for people whose sexual preferences are a bit vanilla. Or perhaps currently vanilla but intrigued by the thought of spicing things up, maybe adding some sprinkles. The writing is direct but not crude, and many phrases Christian and Ana come out with I've said or had said to me too, so it scores highly on authenticity too. It's pure escapism of the kind only fiction can provide but it also feels like it has the potential to be real too.
There's more to it than just filthy, disgustingly deliciously dirty deviant sex too. Christian is in his late 20s, Anastasia in her early 20s, so there's no cougar or sugar daddy difference for people to moan about. Of course they're coming into the relationship from different perspectives - her a final year student without a job post- graduation, him a household name multi-millionaire - and yet there are many similarities too. They both have family histories that have shaped the people they are when we meet them. Ana has seen her mother pick up and discard one husband after another and has either deliberately or unconsciously decided to move slower herself, while Christian has had a childhood that merged neglect with abundant love. Both have self confidence issues, some more obvious than others, and both have pendulum moods and thoughts that swing from one extreme to another in a heartbeat.
The book is clichéd in many ways but wildly surprising in others. Christian may be rich and powerful, but Ana loves him in spite of, not because of, these things and though she has no real income of her own, promptly turns down even his less outlandish gifts. He has an obsession with her eating, but rather than wanting her to stay trim he wants her to eat more, partly to finish what's in front of her to avoid waste, but also to keep her strength up - for what he has in mind, she'll need it. There's a surprise on every page and while some of them are of the erotic nature, there's a fair few that are more ordinary, day to day things.
It is a filthy book, but it's filthy in the best kind of way and thankfully neither the cover nor the title give away just how naughty the contents are (if you're getting the print version rather than the e-book you've nothing to fear because the cover is subtly discreet, and only the reader really understands the significance of the neck tie). This is important because if like me you're drawn in early on, you won't want to put it down and will read it anywhere and anytime to move on with the story, no matter how public the setting.
This book prompts an additional question to the one you might normally judge a book by. Would you be friends with the heroine, in this case Ana, if you met her in real life? Perhaps. But more importantly, would you want to sleep with Christian, knowing all you do about him? And that one's a resounding f*** yeah!
This is erotic fiction that firmly falls into the by women for women category. I'll be buying copies for all my girlfriends this year but my own version came courtesy of www.thebookbag.co.uk where this review first appeared.
On Amazon today (April 2012) this is the #1 book, with the second and third in the trilogy in 2nd and 3rd place on the top sellers list. It's £3 delivered and it will be £3 very well spent!
The amount of people reading this on eBook is impressive (myself included). The whole 'my inner goddess does a triple back flip and grins' does get on my wick though. Oh, and Ana's almost constant use of the words 'Holy Cow'. We are not Bart Simpson. But other than that, its essentially a love story with a bit more thrown in.