Thursday, January 17, 2013

I finished 'Fifty Shades Darker' - thoughts

You can read my review of Fifty Shades of Grey here. I'll give you my impressions of Fifty Shades Darker in a moment - but first! I have a new release that just came out yesterday.

Here's the blurb: Food and sex – sex and food: two great things that can be even better together!  From soothing chocolate to spicy meatballs the stories in this brand new erotic anthology edited by two masters of the genre - M.CHRISTIAN and ALYN ROSSELINI - feature stories by the crème-de-la-crème of sexual and literary cooking and will tickle your sensual taste buds and stir your pot of erotic thrills.

Basting lovers, cooking orgies, steaming hot encounters, straight as well as queer taste treats ... the stories in HUNGER: A FEAST OF SENSUAL TALES OF SEX AND GASTRONOMY will push boundaries everyone's pleasurable buttons – both erotic and gastronomic: these are stories that will arouse, amuse, amaze, and whet your appetite for more!


My contribution is called "Hungry Things." Follow the link to read a short sample; you'll notice the working title of the book was A Lover's Feast: Sensual Food Tales. "Hungry Things" is a sexy tale of George Gordon, Lord Byron and John William Polidori, transported to a modern setting. The physician Polidori has a consuming passion for the poet, even as Byron is struggling with his disordered eating. It's not about trying to make an eating disorder "sexy." It's about trying to love someone who's trying to rally the strength to fight something potentially life-threatening and not always rising above.

I've been fascinated with Polidori since I read Gothic by Richard Davenport-Hines.

I've been fascinated with Byron ever since 12th grade, when we read "Sonnet on Chillon" in British Literature and Mrs. Hess told us Byron was bisexual. The rest of the class was like, "No! Ew!" but that seemed perfectly natural and normal to me.

Hunger is available now from Renaissance E-Books, and it will be available from Amazon and through iBooks soon. You can get it right from your iPad or iPhone. I have not seen it pop up on GoodReads yet, but I imagine it will once it hits Amazon. (Update: Goodreads link.)

I've read the first three stories in my contributor's copy so far. "A Meal" by Susan St. Aubin is, in part, about the proper amounts and types of foods to eat so as not to ruin the sex that might come afterward. It's also about jealousy and the balance of power in open relationships. It's honest writing, and I really appreciate that. "Jeb's Wife" by Dominic Santi is about three military buddies and, well, Jeb's wife, who become a foursome when said wife becomes pregnant and insatiable. It's scorching hot - really sexy stuff. "The Sweetest Burn" by Giselle Renarde describes the erotic pleasure/pain possibilities of mole poblano - Mexican food porn in the more literal sense. (See, because when people tag posts with "Mexican food porn" on Tumblr, they're just pictures of really yummy-looking Mexican food. It's not actual porn.)

Without further ado, thoughts on Fifty Shades Darker by E.L. James.

I remember that I quite enjoyed the first book, which ended with Ana and Christian breaking up. The last sentence: "I curl up, desperately clutching the flat foil balloon and Taylor's handkerchief, and surrender myself to grief." This is like The Twilight Saga: New Moon ending with the blank pages that signify Bella's depression, and I wanted to know what happened next.

Somewhere - possibly on another book blog - I read a snippet of Darker and it involved another woman. I wondered if perhaps Christian and Ana were going to let another woman into their relationship. That's not the case, though. (Spoilers if you haven't read it yet.) There's Leila, a mentally unstable woman who used to be Christian's submissive. When Leila's boyfriend dies, she becomes vaguely threatening to Ana and Christian, but mainly to herself. There's also "Mrs. Robinson," the older woman with whom a teenage Christian had a relationship; Ana considers her abusive and hates her with a passion.

But Christian never suggests adding either of them to his relationship with Ana. If anything, Ana and Christian's relationship is much more conventional in this book than in the previous one; they become engaged.

In my review of the first book, I called Christian Grey an alpha but not an alph-hole, suggesting there are reasonable limits to his controlling behavior. I don't think that anymore. Early in Darker, when Christian gets into Ana's bank account without her knowledge or permission, I really started to dislike him.

I still sympathize with his horrible childhood. I'm confident that my favorite romance heroes are the really damaged ones - see, for example, why Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward is my favorite romance novel - but that shouldn't be an excuse to give a character a pass on emotionally abusive behavior. Or should it? This is fiction, after all, not an actual relationship in which I am a participant. I enjoy Heathcliff as a character in Wuthering Heights even though he's physically and emotionally abusive to his wife, Isabella, and abusive to the woman he essentially forced to become his daughter-in-law, Catherine Linton the younger. I can't help feeling that much of Heathcliff's negative behavior is really the fault of his mistreatment by Hindley and betrayal by Catherine; they forced him into an untenable position.

In real life, I would never tolerate his behavior in a domestic partner. In life, I make no excuses for domestic violence - one instance is reason for an immediate end to a relationship, no questions asked. Fiction is different. In fiction, the author gets to control the consequences of all the characters' actions.

I'm of two minds on this, because whether it's right or wrong, I care about Ana and Christian as a couple. I didn't really love Darker - the middle part bored me, with no real crisis to move the plot along briskly. I feel like it dragged out (but that have been, in part, because I left the book at home while my hubby was in the hospital and I read it only in little snippets each day). Ana comes into conflict with her sexual predator boss Jack (the embodiment of the entitled male privilege mentality), but she handles that like a ninja, although it does seem at the end that Jack will try to get some kind of revenge on Ana and Christian. There is a moment in which it seems Christian and his helicopter are in some danger, but this isn't until almost the end of the book, and it's resolved within a few pages.

Do I want to read the third book? Of course I do - I hate to leave a trilogy unfinished. But I don't have the same enthusiasm for this series that I had when I read the first book. I can't even really remember why I liked it so much in the first place. Yet somehow, I still want to be reassured that Christian and Ana will get married and live happily ever after.

On the plus side, I don't think Ana used the word "crap" quite as many times as she did in the first book.

No comments: