Yes, the writing is clunky and the book lacks polish. There are plenty of little things that don’t ring true (Anastasia doesn’t have a computer; she trips over a clean, well-lit floor; the dancing in the nightclub scene), and I could have done with a bit less of the inner goddess. But overall I found the book fun. Everyone in the book is nice, including the brooding Mr. Grey. The story is quite upbeat, and it’s easy to read. If you’re in the right mood to fantasize along, you can have a good time.
The book probably isn’t going to win any awards for the Most Realistic Depiction of Kinky People. The kinky person here is high-functioning but emotionally damaged. Of course that’s necessary to raise the emotional stakes in the story—if Ana were having a relationship with a happy, well-balanced person who happened to like spanking, the conflict wouldn’t be nearly big enough—but it’s still disappointing. The BDSM is rather mild—I was kind of waiting for it to start. Some BDSM-themed books (Sleeping Beauty Trilogy, Story of O) plunge quickly into activities that would endanger life and limb, but Fifty Shades keeps things tame. Where Anne Rice’s masters hang their slaves up by their wrists all night, Christian Grey “aims for pink.”
The book combines easy reading, romance, erotic spice, and better writing than your average pulp romance with some kind of genre-busting spark. I hope it will help open the door to distinctive, well-written, entertaining, and well-produced erotica hitting the mainstream.
Reviewed from a library copy of the book.