EL James: Fifty Shades Trilogy Book Reviews - Reading for pleasure has a whole new meaning

Fifty Shades Trilogy by EL James

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Read by Natalie and Tracy in May 2012

Natalie and Tracy recommends as fifty shades of pretty addictive reading actually!

OurBookClub selected EL James and her fabulous Fifty Shades Trilogy as perfect reading material for holidays or when you just want to kick back with a good (and thoroughly sexy) book. They are funny, entertaining, kinky, sexy, romantic, hot, steamy and garuanteed to keep you turning the pages. We have both endured sleepness nights as we devoured this series. Ms James (aka Erika Leonard) has given us one of the most unlikely, but unbelievably delicious and swoon-worthy male leads with Mr Grey. His kinky sexual tastes and his clear talents in the bedroom combined with his bossy, arrogant, possesive and controlling personality will leave you panting for more.....literally! Anastasia Steele, the unexpectedly strong and defiant woman is the only one who can change this man, loving him unconditionally and helping him to lay his demons to rest. Their passion, chemistry and continual arguements, witty banter and email exchanges will have you laughing, swooning and positively melting. These books are definitely hot and should be kept under lock and key, but they are also an addictive, guilty pleasure that will leave you breathless and hoping for a trip to the Playroom/Red Room of Pain....NOW!

With the trilogy selling tens of millions of copies so far, (interesting relatively evenly split between physical and digital versions), not everyone agrees with the hype, interestingly on the ABC First Tuesday Bookclub, they weren't so enamoured, but is that jealousy! Jennifer Byrne is wondering if the staggering success of books like Fifty Shades distorts figures and will this see the end of the print book. The highly intellectual The Sun newspaper has an interesting article penned by women and their take on Fifty Shades of Grey. The interesting thing about this phenomena and it isn't new (think back to Anais Ninn who was a trail blazer in this genre), is how it has entered cultural conversation and the word of mouth that has made the trilogy bigger than anticipated. In comparison, Stieg Larsson's best-selling "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" trilogy took more than three years to reach the 20-million sales mark in the USA. At the 2012 Frankfurt book fair (the world's biggest international book fair), publishers announced they had been swamped with erotic fiction. The next big thing is being touted as S.E.C.R.E.T. an erotic story about a young widow who joins a secret society "that recruits women to help them realise their sexual fantasies and liberate their sexual selves" - will it capture audiences? only time will tell. In the meantime, bring me Mr Grey! Fifty Shades Freed won the Goodreads Romance choice award in 2012.

Fifty Shades of Grey originally started out as Twilight fanfiction. Written under the pseudonym of Snowqueenís Icedragon and given the title Master of the Universe, the story featured two characters; Edward and Bella, who engaged in a BDSM relationship. Initially released on fanfiction websites, it was criticised for its explicit sexual content. James then removed it and published it on her own website where it was reworked with the characterís names changed to Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele before being picked up by the small publishing company, The Writerís Coffee Shop in Australia. Released in three instalments in ebook and print on demand format, it was limited by a small publicity budget. However, its word of mouth following meant Fifty Shades of Grey rapidly increased in popularity and became a viral marketing sensation. In 2012, the books were re-released via publishing giant Vintage, instantly hitting the NY Times Bestseller list.

Well the biggest news today (3 September 2013) is the casting of Christian Grey (Charlie Hunnam) and Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson). The casting of the movie, to be directed by British filmmaker and artist Sam Taylor-Johnson of Nowhere Boy fame, has seen the lead roles go to up-and-coming stars instead of the big names initially touted. Hunnam recently starred in sci-fi movie Pacific Rim and Johnson (yes the daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith) was recently seen in The Social Network and Ben and Kate. The film adaptation is one of the most anticipated Hollywood features in years - although mainly because we all want to know how will it compare. More than 70 million copies of the three books have been sold worldwide. According to reports the Fifty Shades trilogy is the fastest selling paperback of all time. The movie is expected to hit cinemas in August 2014.

EL James is a keen blogger and you can also sign up for the Facebook page to stay abreast of events.

Fifty Shades of GreyBook Cover of Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James

Natalie's Review

The first instalment; Fifty Shades of Grey introduces the us to the two main characters; Christian Grey, a gorgeous and mysterious billionaire who is interviewed by Anastasia Steele, a naÔve college student. Finding him attractive yet extremely intimidating, Ana is pretty much mesmorised by Grey but believes the interview went horribly wrong and so tries to put him out of her mind. Struggling to forget about him, she is thrown when he unexpectedly turns up at her workplace and invites her out. Despite being naÔve and sexually inexperienced, Ana is surprised to find herself wanting this man. But Christian warns her off, telling Ana he is not the man for her. This of course only makes Ana want him even more and as the days pass it would seem that Grey is also unable to control his want for Ana. As Christian propositions her with his version of a relationship, Ana is shocked to discover he is into BDSM and has a fully equipped Playroom, which she dubs the Red Room of Pain in his apartment. Grey on the other hand is surprised to discover Ana is a virgin and after showing her exactly what sex is all about, even more shocked to find that he can actually enjoy the ďvanillaĒ version of it too. Still mulling over the contract Grey wants her to sign making Ana his submissive and outlining all the rules, requirements, hard and soft limits of this relationship, the two of them embark on a passionate affair that leads to many "firsts" for both of them and Ana starts to learn more and more about the mysterious Grey. Driven by a need for control, Christian is battling some serious inner demons and while he refuses to explain these to Ana, he is adamant in his want for her. Slowly introducing her to the darker side of sex, Ana finds herself shocked at how much she enjoys and wants it. However there is a part of her that wants more, the hearts and flowers stuff from Grey and even though Christian tells her he is unable to give that to her, he eventually promises to try, surprised that she is the first woman he is willing to consider this for. He is still very controlling and at times quite stalker-ish, but he does change with Ana, and ironically it's her smart mouth and continual definance of him, combined with her innocence that earns his respect. He's simply never met a woman like her. Their witty banter as Ana continues to push Christian as well as their emails to each other are also hilarious and it's worth reading the subject line and the signature block in Grey's correspondance. However, Ana soon realises that she has fallen in love with Christian and their relationship comes to a head when she discovers that the only thing she really wants from him is his love in return, which she knows he is unable to give. When Christian learns of Ana's feelings he is shocked, unable to believe that he is worthy of her love. Instead he shows her the darkest part of him, the only part he can give her and the thing he wants the most. Even though it scares Ana, she tries to experience this part of Grey, but the pain and fear is too much and Ana is destroyed. Now realising she needs to save herself, she leaves Christian knowing she will never get what she wants from him.

When I first started reading this, I had to laugh at the obvious Twilight references. Christian (Edward) is controlling and domineering (not just in the bedroom!). He is stalker-ish, rich and fabulously good looking with fantastic hair. He has trouble sleeping and feels drawn to Ana in a way in which even he canít understand, repeatedly telling her You Are Mine. Ana too is so much like Bella itís not funny. Younger, naÔve, inexperienced, clumsy and supposedly average looking and uninterested in shopping or make-up, she feels drawn to the enigmatic Christian, a man no other woman has been able to tame. Throw in a male best friend (Jacob) who also wants Ana, Ana's divorced parents with her mother living in sunny Georgia, a fabulously wealthy Grey family (Cullens) complete with adopted siblings and a torturous past for Christian and it just screams Twilight. About a third of the way through the book though, I started to forget about all of that because the story took on a life of its own which kept me turning the pages long into the night. And yes there are differences to Twilight, the first and most obvious one being sex. There is a lot of it and it is explicit and kinky and downright naughty in some parts and all of this makes the book utterly fabulous! Christian Grey, while moody, arrogant and controlling is so deliciously naughty, youíll find yourself craving him just as much as Ana does and perhaps wishing for a trip to the Red Room of Pain yourself! The other big and perhaps most significant improvement over Twilight is the ending. Despite the fact that Ana loves Christian and he can satisfy her sexually, he canít emotionally. So Ana in an act of self-preservation that Bella could never demonstrate, actually leaves him. Yes ladies around the world, rejoice at the fact that this smitten woman can actually walk out on her man when he wonít give her what she wants Ė finally!

A lot of people have criticised this book for its obvious fanfiction origins, saying stories such as this should never be published in the first place. Yes there are undoubtedly similarities to Twilight and while I never read the original version of this, I do think it is now stand alone enough to merit publication. The other big controversy is of course the explicit sexual nature and the need for Christian to be a dominant and have Ana as his submissive. Many people are saying this is a poor reflection on women and sexuality, but I would have to disagree. As Christian explains to her, Ana is the one who holds all the power because it is her who dictates what the dominant can and canít do. Furthermore, Christian never lies to Ana about what he wants, explaining everything up front and in detail before they even hit the sack. Ana is undoubtedly inexperienced, but she walks into the relationship with her eyes open and willing to test the limits of her own boundaries. When she finally reaches breaking point, she walks, simple as that. And despite the fact that Christian begs for her to stay, because of the restrictions he places on their relationship (his need to punish her and his ban on Ana touching him), Ana wonít compromise. And that to me is an example of a strong woman who is willing to explore her own sexuality but not to the point that it compromises her integrity and I gotta say, I really like that. Having said all of that, the book is not perfect, there are a few instances of some cheesy dialogue and Anaís inner goddess and subconsciousness, while quite funny, do pop up a little too frequently at times, but if you take the book for what it is, an addictive, steamy romance that explores the boundaries of one womanís sexuality and the effects of one manís inner demons, then these are easily overlooked. Yes this book features a fair amount of explicit sex, but it's consensual and it's safe. There is also a very good reason Christian is the way he is and you can literally feel his torment at wanting to hurt her, but not wanting to at the same time. He is the way he is for a reason, but he doesn't necessarily like being this way and it will be interesting to watch what happens as he starts to realise he is falling in love with Ana too.

The next two books in the trilogy are Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed and I can only hope that these are sitting in my letter box when I get home, because to steal a line out of Anaís mouth; oh my is this story addictive and I cannot wait to learn more about Christianís past and his mysterious Dom/Sub affair with the much older Mrs Robinson when he was only 15 which has left him fifty shades of fucked up as he puts it!

Tracy's Review

On Natalie's insistence I picked up this series to read as I haven't had much luck lately in my book selection. I had read the online comments about the book and received several texts from Natalie as she was reading it and it had me intrigued. So with a glass of red wine I sat down and once I started, I didn't put the book down until I had finished. This is a hugely successful book series, even Amazon agrees that it is the Kindle's best seller after Twilight and Universal just paid $5m to option it. I liked the fact that E L James is actually London based mother of two Erika Leonard who wrote the book at her kitchen table. This book has been on the New York Times Best Seller List for the past six weeks which is no mean feat. Although not everyone agrees, some Libraries in the state of Florida have pulled copies from the shelves after they deemed it not suitable for public circulation as these libraries don't stock "The Complete Kama Sutra:, "Tropic of Cancer", "Lolita" and "Lady Chatterleyís Lover" which gives you an idea of the content.

Anastasia Steele is finishing her degree at WSU in Vancouver, Washington and gets roped into doing one final interview for her perfect and bubbly roommate Katherine Kavanagh (or Kate) who has been struck down with the flu. This interview is of course, the enigmatic CEO of Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc - Christian Grey (think Richard Gere in Pretty Woman) who also happens to be a large contributor to the university. As Ana falls into Grey's office (literally), their interview takes a twist and she finds herself unable to think of anything else but those grey eyes plus his arrogance. I have to say at this stage I had Mills & Boon just screaming at me and where on earth this story could go. Luckily the story did keep going with some fascinating characters and relationships.

Ana isn't a party girl, instead describing herself as a curl-up-with-a-book-in-a-comfy-chair-by-the-fire kind of girl (I can definitely assimilate to that) and has led a relatively sheltered life. She has many friendships with men but has never met anyone that she is attracted to. She does think she has spent too long amongst the romantic heroines of English literature and longs for that heart-in-my-mouth, butterflies-in-my-belly, sleepless nights attraction. Her strongest male friendship is with Jose Rodriguez, who has ideas that one day Ana will change her mind and want something more in their friendship, but as Kate laughs, Ana is missing the need-a-boyfriend gene, so he has to accept their platonic relationship. To celebrate their end of exams, Kate and Ana hit a bar, with Ana deciding that she might get drunk, something she hasn't done before. Unfortunately she does what most of us have done before and after many tequila cocktails she decided to ring Grey to find out more about him. This turns out to be a turning point in their initial relationship and she starts to find out how domineering he is, plus he has the ability to track her down anywhere. He soon turns up at the bar to find her turning down Jose's advances and then promptly throwing up. He didn't turn up to the bar alone and brought his brother Elliot who is instantly smitten with Kate, so they leave the bar where Ana promptly passes out only to wake the next day in his hotel suite. This starts a series of firsts for both of them in their relationship. He certainly attempts to whisk her off her feet with expensive presents and although I felt she was giving up a lot to be with him, she went into the relationship knowing exactly what she was getting into, something most of us don't get a chance to find out until much too late. This is not a book to read on the train or the bus, some of the scenes are steamy in the extreme.

However, there is more to their relationship than sex, Ana is desperate to find out about Christian and what has made him who he is and we get lots of glimpses about his past and his previous partners including the off limits topic of Mrs Robinson. When he takes Ana for a drive in his Audi R8 Spyder you can just feel the excitement he gets from being able to buy it and of course, like most women, Ana just rolls her eyes and mumbles "boys and their toys" and even he acknowledges it is great being him. He doesnít understand why Ana wonít accept all his gifts with grace, whereas she feels she is being bought and her subconscious gives this a name ďhoĒ. Their relationship is dictated by a contract that states exactly what is involved in the Dominant/Submissive relationship and it is certainly eye opening, not sure if I could ever completely obey what someone tells me whenever they want and you soon realise that Ana also feels this way. Soon Christian also delivers her a laptop and they start a series of emails (reminded me of Bridget Jones) which are funny - make sure you look out for the subject title and how Christian signs them off i.e. CEO & Control Freak, which he definitely is. Although by now I found it unbelievable that any college student didnít have a laptop and iPhone. The only person that doesn't fall under Christianís spell and charm is Kate, who is wary of Ana being hurt and forces the relationship questions that Ana won't ask into the open.

Grey is the dominant for a reason, he doesn't like to be touched and it is something to do with his introduction to life being difficult and to overcome this he wants to ultimately control someone else. I do felt that the book did border on domestic violence both physical and mental and found it hard to ignore the harder and darker side to Christian. There are parts of the book that do become a little repetitive and editing would clear those duplicated sentences out or a good thesaurus for some different words (flawless skin - I am sure there are many descriptive words for that) but it is readable and often makes you laugh. This is no literary masterpiece, but it certainly keeps you turning the page and I wonder what Ms Leonard gets up to at home.

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Fifty Shades DarkerBook Cover of Fifty Shades Darker by EL James

Natalie's Review

Ah Mr Grey, could you get any more delicious? I didnít think so, but after reading book 2, Fifty Shades Darker, oh my I have been proven wrong. Picking straight up after the first instalment, it has been several days since Ana walked out on Mr Grey. Depressed and missing him terribly, she is in a cycle of work, cry, sleep. Unable to compromise on the hard limits imposed on their relationship, Ana wonders how she is ever going to get over the man who has changed her life so dramatically. Then Christian reaches out to her, asking if she would like a lift to her friend Joseís photo exhibition, which they were originally going to see together. Unable to resist the pull of seeing him again, Ana says yes and when Christian tells her they need to talk and he wants her back, Ana is persuaded to sit down with him again (of course that steamy kiss in the alley doesnít hurt either!). After Christian proposes a new arrangement to their relationship, Ana is shocked. Not only is he willing to ditch the rules and punishment side of his personality, but he wants to do the real deal vanilla thing again, promising not to touch Ana until she asksÖ.or more importantly, begs for it! Ana, surprised at everything he is giving up for her, jumps at the opportunity and the two of them resume their steamy and sexy affair.

This is the starting point for us being introduced to a whole new side of Mr Grey! Yes he is still bossy, controlling, domineering and possessive, but he is also incredibly sweet, funny and so very sexy and romantic. It is truly swoon-worthy seeing this side of him, even his family and business associates are shocked at how much Ana has changed him. While Ana loves every second of it (and come on, lets face it, who the hell wouldnít!), she worries that it is not enough for him, that he still has needs that she canít meet. But, in the first of many glimpses into Christianís tragic past, he tries to explain to Ana that when she left him, it killed him and he never wants to go through that or hurt her ever again, willing to try anything just to have her. Opening up to her a litle more about his childhood, the reasons he is unable to be touched and some of the details of his past relationships, Ana starts to get to know the mysterious Mr Grey a little more, although she still remains insecure about whether he can really give up his needs. Even more surprising is Anaís want for some of the kinky fuckery that Mr Grey previously introduced her to and when she suggests another trip to the Red Room of Pain, she is surprised to discover Christianís reluctance. It is beyond sweet his reason for this, associating their last trip to this room with the reason Ana left him. As Ana starts to realise how much he needs and wants her, they continue their passionate and still a little kinky affair everywhere but the Red Room, and yes I do mean everywhere! However when Leila, an ex-submissive from his past appears, Ana has to contend with the wrath and envy of the women who went before her. Culminating in a scene in which Ana is threatened by the armed Leila, she witnesses the true dominant side of Christian with his submissive. Fearing once again that he still needs this and that she cannot give it to him, she freaks out, worried that he will go back to Leila. This is made even worse when Christian believes Ana is running from him once again and he literally breaks down and submits to her, revealing how truly damaged he is and finally admitting the heartbreaking secret he has kept from her about why he does this. I thought this whole scene was really well done and it certainly conveyed the hatred and agony that Christian suffers. He literally doesnít believe he deserves love and is filled with self-loathing and disgust for himself. Ana desperately wants him to understand how much she loves him and how much he deserves unconditional love, but Christian just cannot believe it. Ana was pretty annoying at times during his breakdown, selfishly making it all about her, but this admission by Christian not only opens the doors to him letting Ana finally touch him (although the earlier lipstick arrangement....wow, hot!), it also sparks a new proposition (via an important question!) and the admission of Christianís true feelings for Ana.

Struggling to make her decision, and asking Christian for time, Ana then gets the chance to talk with his therapist, gaining some more insight into both Christianís past as well as her own reluctance to move forward in their relationship. When an incident involving Christian and his helicopter finally makes Ana realise the depth of her feelings for him, she gives Christian his answer and perhaps the best birthday present he could wish for. What follows next is some seriously steamy action between the sheets, well actually in the shower and finally back in the Red Room of Pain, where both Ana and Christian get everything they want from each other! This whole scene is steamy, sexy, hot, kinky and very romantic.....As they let their families know of their engagement and head to Christianís parentís house to celebrate his birthday however, a run-in with Mrs Robinson reveals the true depths of her feelings for and her continuing need to control Christian, which finally sparks some action from Christian himself regarding their friendship. I really hated this woman and I was glad that Christian protected both Ana and himself when he told her to fuck off. His mother discovering their previous affair threw a little spanner in the works, but at least it paved the way for Elena to be cut completely from the Greyís lives. The book ends with Christian giving Ana the complete hearts and flowers thing that she always wanted and it was just bone-meltingly gorgeous, I loved this other side of Mr Grey. A small epilogue sets the scene for book 3, although it was in no way a cliff hanger like book 1.

I have to say, I didnít think it was possible to have a crush on a character such as Christian, a man who is incredibly possessive and controlling, but also has some serious violent tendencies. The reasons for this are incredibly sad and it does make you understand why he is the way he is and his struggle to change himself. It takes Anaís unconditional love for him to do this and it is actually quite beautiful how much he needs and wants her in his life (email signature: Completely and Utterly Smitten CEO, Grey EnterprisesÖ.oh fucking myÖ.). This not only allows the other side of him to come out, but also gives him a chance to enjoy a life he has previously missed out on and it was quite fantastic to watch! Oh Mr Grey what I wouldnít give for an elevator ride, a game of pool, a shower, a sail, a bath, a trip to the playroom or a private piano concert with you! My god can you show a girl a good time! I was literally fanning myself while reading some of these pages they were that steamy! This book is longer than the first, but I absolutely didnít care, unable to put it down and happy for it to never end! There are a couple of side stories going on, all of which add to the main romance and of course Ana and Christianís witty banter and hilarious emails are back and it is fabulous! Even her inner goddess and subconsciousness are out in full force! Time for book 3!

Tracys's Review

It can be difficult for sequels and even prequels to capture the same level of intensity as the original, but as we arenít talking literary classics here, it has given Ms James a certain freedom and even though I had huge expectations about the second book and they may not have been surpassed, the highlighting and marking of chapters to re-read almost drained my Kindle battery.

Fifty Shades Darker continues to detail the sexual exploits of young university graduate Anastasia Steele and uber-rich but psychologically scarred Christian Grey as they continue their BDSM relationship apace. This time it isnít all sex, well nearly, but there are also some beautiful romantic scenes where they are trying to find their place in a relationship as well as the real world Ė who would have thought that getting strapped into a harness would be erotic and romantic.

This book is not going to win any awards, but certainly delivers a big paycheque for Ms James and I suppose the question everyone is asking is why? I think it is because the book is different, breaking the mold of standard chick-lit and Mills & Boon romance novels. Or maybe after so long trying to stay away from these genres, women want a bit of fun and there is certainly no harm in daydreaming. As with Fifty Shades of Grey the writing is a bit awkward, but it certainly didnít stop me from getting hooked and devouring the book nearly overnight, to the detriment of my job. Although Natalie argues a strong case for comparisons between Twilight, I was not a fan of that series, so find it easy to ignore the conceptual similarities and accept Ana and Christian for their own characters, of course any book that gets rid of anything to do with vampires is a plus for me.

In Fifty Shades Darker Christian has a new proposition for Ana, one that he never thought he would be able to make, but she has broken through so many barriers, he realises having her in his life is monumentally more important that letting her go and of course his realisation that Ana will never become submissive must have been like a bolt from the blue for the super organised Christian. This novel is certainly more light hearted, missing the dominant undertones, how can you not smile when Christianís face lights up as he pilots his own helicopter Ė just as men do in real life when they have a new toy. We start to see how vulnerable Christian is, sometimes to the extreme and I did start to think Christian had lost his edge, becoming a doormat instead of the dictatorial and commanding man that so captured our attention, compared to Ana who is now taking a more dominant role in the relationship. Christian is totally obsessed with Ana and I did start to wonder if he sees her more as a child, although with the graphic content I hoped not, but his constant questions about whether she had eaten did wear thin. We also start to find out more about Christianís early childhood before his adoption by the Greys. It isnít nice and involves a horrific amount of abuse both physical and mentally until his mother killed herself.

This book is just as steamy as its predecessor and their kinky fuckery (donít you just love that phrase) takes them everywhere at anytime, in fact Christian just needs to look at or mention Anaís name and itís on. This novel really explores their relationship, although sometimes it is like a rollercoaster and unrealistic, but honestly, isnít the whole trilogy! We canít argue with the fact that Christian certainly unleashed Anaís sexual appetite. As they attempt to set boundaries and redefine their relationship from the original dominant-submissive concept into a more regular vanilla concept, the staff are certainly treated to some very graphic exhibitions Ė lucky that Taylor wears headphones whilst driving them. Underlying the whole story is still the BDSM history that Christian shares with his previous submissives and after meeting Leila, Ana finds herself unable to understand this bond, of course she also has her ongoing issues with Mrs Robinson. As with Fifty Shades of Grey the email banter and Anaís inner goddess provide some hilarious interludes that make you laugh out loud.

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Fifty Shades FreedBook Cover of Fifty Shades Freed by EL James

Natalie's Review

The final instalment in this trilogy starts off at the tail end of Ana and Christianís honeymoon, interspersed with flashbacks to the morning after the birthday/engagement party, their wedding day and night and the start of their honeymoon. As Christian is making good on his promised vows and giving Ana everything she wants by whisking her through Europe, they are falling more and more in love with each other and of course experiencing a whole new lot of firsts together Ė mile high club anyone? However as news of the sabotage of Christianís helicopter is confirmed, the situation gets even worse when a fire breaks out in his offices back in Seattle. Now surrounded constantly by security, Christian struggles with wanting to control and protect Ana as he worries about losing her. Ana desperately wants Christian to open up to her about what is really going on back home and while he shares parts with her, he also keeps the full details a secret, believing he is protecting her. On top of this is Anaís continual struggle to accept how wealthy Christian is and that this is now all hers to enjoy too. As Christian continues to tell her that everything he owns is now hers, they make the most of their blissful honeymoon and all the kinky fuckery that goes with it. There are plenty of sweet moments here, none more so than their trip to Versailles, his inscription on the back of her wedding gift, or the art gallery in the mountains. And of course the bedroom action is there and it goes without saying that this continues to surprise and delight!

Returning home to Seattle, Mr and Mrs Grey must now settle into the real life of a married couple, which is made even more stressful by the continual threat that looms, particularly when it appears Anaís old boss is involved (slight implausibility with Ana taking on his role at age 22 and with 1 monthís experience Ė guess it helps when your new husband buys the company). Both Christian and Ana struggle to leave their bubble and return to the real world and this isnít helped when Ana wants to maintain some level of independence in her life and career, while Christian is hurt she isnít changing her name and once again steps in to control things, almost treating her like an asset. His continual need to protect her, yet his ongoing decision to keep in her in the dark as to why was very frustrating and I could understand Anaís annoyance. They are able to enjoy plenty of make-up sex though (of course!) and Ana eventually realises what it means to Christian for her to become Anastasia Grey (which she does) - he simply wants everyone to know she is his. She also finally puts her foot down with one of the many women who flirt with her Mr Grey, much to his amusement and pride. She is now starting to really break out of her shell more and it is a subtle role reversal that sees Anastasia become the dominant and Christian the submissive Ė even if neither of them realise it just yet.

Unfortunately this doesnít last long and things once again reach breaking point when Christian is away in New York and unable to ďcontrolĒ his wife and Ana goes back on her word, going out with Kate instead of coming back home. Throw in the fact that she doesnít answer her phone and then returns home to find the stalker aka her former boss Jack in their apartment and pretty quickly everything explodes. I have to say, I was pretty shocked at Christianís behaviour towards Ana when he returned back to Seattle, surprised that after going on and on about how much he didnít want to hurt her, he could be this cruel to her. Ok, he didnít physically do anything to her, but the emotional hurt was far worse and this would be the first time I have felt slightly uncomfortable with his behaviour. Although it clearly affected him too, it was frustrating that he couldnít understand what he was doing to her. Good on Ana for both safe-wording him as well as being able to not only realise the reasons behind his behaviour but call him on it. It was good to see her tell him off and explain to him that he doesnít need to do this to her, that she loves him and will always love him and that most importantly, she is not his mother who he believes he failed to protect. Their discussions after this event were a turning point, although things are far from resolved. These two clearly have issues they need to sort out, but underneath it all there is a very deep and unconditional love between them that really drives their relationship and this whole story. Ana would do anything to help Christian heal from his demons and lay the past to rest and she believes talking about it with him, as well as confronting him on his control issues is the key. Christian however, uses his control needs as a way of coping with his past and although he loves Ana deeply, there is a part of him that is afraid that she wonít love him back if she knew everything about him, so he tries to control everything in her life to protect her. I did think this ongoing dilemma between them was very realistic and although dragged out and a little cruel at times, was a major part of their relationship. However at the end of it all, they do both deeply love each other and it is clear Ana needs Christian, just as much as he needs her. His reactions and nightmares following their fights clearly show how disturbed he is with his behaviour and Anaís willingness to understand this, demonstrate her strength and her love for him.

Having said all of that, there was still the very romantic and sweet side of Christian, which was good to see. He has changed an awful lot since the first book where he couldnít bear to be touched, never actually slept with a woman, had many different partners and resorted to dominant sex games. Now he is so deeply in love and is completely ignorant of every other woman except Anastasia. He gives her everything of his, wanting only to make her happy and fulfil all her dreams Ė he even refuses a pre-nup, constantly reminding her that everything he owns is now hers as well. Not to mention the constant contact, the nuzzling, the kissing, the I love yous, the emails, the sleeping wrapped around her Ė yes he is a different man now. Anyway, back to the storyÖ.after the whole scary Christian incident, he once again becomes sweet, whisking her and their friends away to his (their) house in Aspen. This also signals another first for both of them in where else but the bedroom and an engagement between Kate and Elliot. The story then starts to move a little quicker through time during which we see Anaís father in a car accident, bringing out the extremely sweet and caring side of Christian. Anaís birthday celebration, which brings out the gorgeously romantic side of Christian (if you donít swoon at the presents he gets for her, something is wrong with you!) and then the unexpected and unwelcome shock of Anaís pregnancy. Yep, in another Twilight salute, they have a honeymoon baby! As Ana predicts, Christian completely flips his lid at this news, storming out on Ana after he yells at her. As Ana really starts to stand up for herself, we see a drunk Christian return and discover he has been to see the bitch Mrs Robinson. Livid, Ana really lets him have it before going to work, only to discover Jack has resurfaced and kidnapped Mia, Christianís sister. As he threatens Ana, demanding money, she must do the one thing she promised never to do, pretend to Christian that she is taking his money and leaving him. A distraught Christian tries desperately to keep her, but when Ana goes to Jack and tries to rescue Mia, things donít plan out as she thought. Christian finally realising whatís going on, swoops in and saves her. Lying in a hospital, she hears only fragments of conversation before finally waking over 24hr later. And when she does, everything changes. Not only is Christian attentative, talkative and honest, but he is finally happy about the baby. There are some major discussions between the two of them over the following days, including Christian finally revealing the details of his relationship with Mrs Robinson, his knowledge that it was wrong, his story of what happened that night he walked out, his ending of their friendship, more details on his background and childhood including a connection to Jack, his fear over being a father and not wanting to share Ana and finally his acceptance and admission to Ana that he really does believe in her love for him. These pages of the story were really fantastic and reading them gave so much insight into why Christian is the way he is, as well as the depth of love Ana has for him and he for her. It was a perfect, perfect ending. Then of course, you get the bonus Epilogue, set 2 years in the future which shows just how far the Greyís have come (yes, baby number 2 is on the way and Christian is a fabulous father!) and in a final salute to the Twilight series, we get another bonus with the Fifty's first Christmas and the first part of Fifty Shades of Grey told from Christianís perspectiveÖoh my it was very interesting reading about his initial reactions to Anastasia. Even from the start, she stirred something different in him!

I gotta say with this final instalment, I absolutely loved this series. It had everything, romance, sex (kinky and vanilla!), action, tension, suspense, fabulous characters and just a great story about one womanís sexual exploration and one manís fight with his inner demons. It was so interesting to watch Christianís struggle play out over the 3 books as he fell in love for the first time and realised what his life could become, as well as see Ana push the boundaries of her own limits and try to rescue the man she loved. Not to mention that it had some of the best romance and best sex I have ever read Ė I mean one minute it was truly swoon worthy and then suddenly steaming hot! My only small gripe would be the introduction of them having kids. Yes I could see the point of it and why it was needed for the story advancement, but I was with Christian on this one, not wanting to share her for a while. In reality, they had only been together a few months, and it would have been nice to see the kids only pop up 2 years down the track. But hey, it was a minor gripe.

This is definitely a series that has pride of place on my bookshelf and definitely a series that I will pick up and read again. Mr Grey, you are one of the most delectable, delicious and downright naughty characters I have ever had the pleasure of reading. I would welcome a trip to your Playroom! Until next time, laters baby.

Tracy's Review

Okay after reading Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker I was faced with a sleep deprived decision Ė have a break or continue on. I soon found myself back at the Amazon getting the final book in the trilogy. I was prepared to be disappointed, how long can the relatively superficial relationship between Christian and Ana last. Luckily for me, it was until almost the end of this book. The plot continued to be expanded and a lot of questions are answered. A highlight was the additional chapter of Ana and Christianís initial meeting, written from Christianís viewpoint Ė Ana has always questioned what he has ever seen in her and now we know Ė she just took his breath away. We also have a chapter on Christianís early childhood and we can see how the complexities of his character started which added an extra level of suspense. Downsides Ė I donít think their relationship was ready for such a perfectly happy ending which was a bit sickly sweet. As with the previous books, this is not a literature masterpiece, but it is still gripping, is it because we donít expect much, but are grateful it is more than that!

After getting married, Ana and Christian are on their gorgeous honeymoon, where Ana finally gets to travel overseas and in particularly to England the homeland of her literary heroines. Christine continues to shower Ana with gifts including the wonderful bracelet of firsts from Cartier no less. E.L. James seems to have also introduced a bit more of the darkness from the first book Ė here we see Christian is adamant that Ana will be his and nobody else will enjoy her Ė hence covering her body in love bites, so she must cover up. I spent seven months in 2011 with my partner travelling through Europe where we spent nearly every hour of every day together and like Christian and Ana, it wasnít as suffocating as most people would expect even with the arguments. Once they are back in Seattle, they must return to their lives Ė although that isnít too shabby as Anna is the editor of the publishing company that Christian has bought out. Of course we still have the usual suspense with stalkers and ex-submissives interrupting their idyllic lifestyle.

In Fifty Shades Freed Christian has become more dominant and now dictates everything that Ana should do with her life, although she does make a stance, she usually succumbs to his wishes as she feels that is easier Ė this is a bit of a cop out. She is constantly explaining her actions but he doesnít seem to comprehend that popping out spontaneously for a drink with your best friend is not the end of a relationship, just a necessary event to keep you sane. And although Christian is superman in nearly everything he does, for some reason he is unable to cook the simplest meal, he even struggles with reheating a microwave dinner without burning himself, made me appreciate my partnerís prowess in the kitchen. The sexual content is still very gripping and interesting, you might have thought by now that they had tried and done everything, but how wrong are we. Christian and Ana continue to grow as a couple and she makes real steps in breaking down his barriers to touch and with the introduction of the pregnancy, we see Christian finally realize that his teenage relationship with Mrs Robinson was not as he had first thought. I felt it sad that the rest of the characters were only briefly mentioned at the end, but maybe there is another trilogy in store from their perspectives!


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