Posted by Carly at Mar 15, 2012 5:40 am
Warning – LONGEST Blog EVER ahead!
Intro – Why I am doing this blog – For the last couple of months in my “real” life – the life where people call me Karen not Carly – where they know I write romance and some read my books, others don’t – everywhere I go, people ask if I’ve read THAT book and what did I think (usually they ask in a sort of scandalized way, as if they can’t believe they’ve read it themselves). That books is Fifty Shades of Grey.
About a month ago, I did a blog post (or should I say rant) about my feelings on the Fifty Shades of Grey series’ hoopla. (Click Here to read). That day I focused on my frustrations – nonromance readers oohing and aahing over this “erotica” book when they normally wouldn’t read “those” books (meaning Romance – what I write). A lot of people on the blog misunderstood my post and most of the ensuing discussion was about whether or not they’d read the Fifty Shades series of books. Not surprising since I was fairly unclear in what I thought. But in my “real” life, when people asked, what I replied was – if you want good erotic romance, I can recommend books but it drives me crazy people are talking about this one book, which I’d heard wasn’t all that good. And no, I hadn’t read the series.
After a Twitter discussion regarding Dr. Drew’s show (which I didn’t see/couldn’t find here), and the continuing buzz now on national media, I decided I needed to know what the fuss was all about – if nothing else so I could have an intelligent conversation about the books when people asked me my opinion. I should add, I’m not exactly proud of my earlier replies to people about the books – I know better – I should at least read something before I have something not so nice to say – and usually if that’s the case, I wouldn’t post it in public. That’s not who I am. So last weekend, I read all three books in two days.
MY MEA CULPA – I’m here to say, in my humble opinion, from someone who HAS read erotic romance and books that are hotter and go further than Fifty Shades, I WAS WRONG. I ENJOYED The FIFTY SHADES BOOKS VERY VERY MUCH. Not everyone in the Romance community agrees and that’s fine. We can agree to disagree. What I think we all know is that this series has sparked renewed discussion about Romance and hot books in general. People are READING Romance and that’s a good good thing.
Before get into my thoughts on Fifty Shades, I just want to let you know and to encourage you to read through to the end and discuss - There will be a giveaway at the end – Fabulous author friends – Lauren Dane, Maya Banks, Shayla Black, and Roni Loren- have agreed to give away a SIGNED copy/copies of their fantastic erotic romances – And I’m in as well, doing a signed giveaway of my books (none classified as erotic romance but hot in their own way). Right now that’s 6 giveaways/winners! So if you liked Fifty Shades and are wondering what else is out there for you to read, I’m giving you a chance to find out. Read on to the end to discover out how to be eligible.
To people who have never read BDSM style books before or Erotic Romance – you probably find the concept hard to understand or comprehend beyond the sizzle factor. The truth is, there are wonderful books in this genre, authors who write and understand the lifestyle of Dominant/Submissive and truly do both it and Romance justice (OK I’m assuming they do since I don’t know of the lifestyle except for these books/authors but I’ve read enough to understand). If you haven’t, I’m thinking you’re judging Fifty Shades on the “sex” factor and I have issues with that. But that’s my problem. Let’s remember – by it’s definition – BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Dominance and Submission) is an erotic preference and a form of personal relationship involving the consensual use of restraint, intense sensory stimulation, and fantasy power role play. CONSENSUAL. Let’s remember that. More importantly – it’s SAFE, SANE and CONSENSUAL.
There are a number of things floating out in the ether about the Fifty Shades series and I’d like to hit on them and tell you my feelings –
1. I’ve heard the books were poorly edited – I didn’t find any more errors than my own books have by big publishers. Yes, I make mistakes, editors don’t pick them up, and I’m called on them all the time in emails from readers. I’m human I do the best I can. So do the publishers/copy editors. I will give E.L. James the same benefit of the doubt.
2. I’ve heard the books are too much money 9.99 per book. Yes, for what we can pay these days for books, this is a lot of money. That said, I pay that much for say, a Berkley Heat Trade book. So to me, if I love an author or story, I don’t want to do it often, but I will pay that price in the right circumstance. In this case I did it for each of the 3 books in the series.
3. I’ve heard the books are too long – YES. And this goes to editing as well. Honestly this could have been written and told in one longer book or two books max. Book 3 went on way too long. That said, book 3 wraps up so much emotionally, it’s not worth skipping it. If you are going to invest, know you are investing in all 3 for a full read/flavor. Then again, you’re paying 9.99 so at least you know you are getting length for your money.
4. I’ve heard it said that Ana is a weak heroine who let the hero walk all over her – To me, Ana was NOT a weak heroine. She wasn’t some naive virgin seduced into a lifestyle by a megalomaniac Dominant. Although she was a virgin and ignorant of the lifestyle until she met Christian Grey, by definition she had to be a strong heroine to put up with the Fifty shades of dysfunction and issues a man like Christian brings with him. And if you look at the changes in both the hero and the heroine by the end of the books, you KNOW there is growth on both sides, a must in any good Romance novel.
5. The book started as Fan Fiction – Bella and Edward from Twilight – My understanding is that yes this is true – does that somehow diminish what it is now? I’m unfamiliar with Fan Fiction, so I’ll abstain from judgment there.
6. The books presume that Dominance and the need for certain Kinky WTFuckery (can I tell you how much I love this expression?) – can be explained by an abusive past and can be cured – I tend to take books one at a time. I certainly don’t agree that everyone into the lifestyle has issues that drove them there nor do I agree that you can “cure” someone of a certain deep set need to control. That said, I’ll take these books and say there was enough explanation and depth to THIS HERO for me to accept it. Was he wrapped up too neatly in a red bow at the end? Probably. Hey it’s a ROMANTIC FANTASY. And I LIKED Christian’s kinky WTFuckery and thought the heroine was well in control of her life and her decisions and when it went too far, SHE WALKED.
7. Fantasy – This “Mommy Porn” description, this “Oooh we can read these books on Kindles and hide the covers and nobody will know what we’re reading, the giggling on the news by respected newscasters – this is insulting to those of us who write Romance and work damned hard at it. Women have fantasies. Men have fantasies. Men are more visual creatures. Women turn to fantasy wrapped up in a happy ending and no matter how we reach that ending – even if it includes the need to be dominated, it shouldn’t be shameful or embarrassing and the media certainly shouldn’t be telling us it is. Oh and while we’re at it, I don’t want to know my books (or these books) are spicing up someone’s marriage. Yes, I’ve gotten mail to that effect. TMI, people. TMI.
An Aside – added this past Tuesday morning - Just watched Good Morning America cover the book. I’m offended on behalf of all Romance writers at the whole giggling mommy porn thing. This probably sounds odd from someone whose book, The Bachelor, was unveiled with smoke and innuendo and beach trash comments on LIVE! With Regis and Kelly in 2002 – BUT – it’s not odd. 1. Kelly is not a news show, she’s a talk show. 2. Kelly said she wanted anti-Oprah books – though she called them beach trash, she meant it in a fun way – she reads them – she likes them. 3. I KNEW what was coming. Sort of. But GMA, a news show, covering a book that went viral – went too far and was insulting, not unbiased. Hey – going viral – word of mouth alone selling these books and bringing them national attention is a GOOD THING and I hope the author is laughing all the way to the bank – I resent the mainstream media giggling over the titillation value of these books. This isn’t the Victorian Era.
My Opinion of the series in a Nutshell – - Stripped of the hype, and the fact that yes, the books went on too long, at heart I found a beautiful love story. The story of an extremely wounded hero – and the special woman who invests in his life, his love, and understands what she has to accept in order to be with him.
Like every other woman who loved these books, I fell in love with Christian Grey. Unlike the women who came to these books ignorant of the Romance genre, I’ve seen elements of this story before – I wasn’t shocked by the sex or the Dominance or the Erotic turns or the darkness of the hero’s past. In fact these books are TAME in comparison to many I’ve read. As a writer, I found Christian Grey compelling, wounded, and flawed – and yet because he knows this about himself, because he gets help throughout the story, there was a realness to it all that I just adored. The emails between the hero and heroine? SHIVER. Fantastic!
Were there fantasy elements? Yes. What Romance novel doesn’t have fantasy elements – in this case the self made, sexy as sin, millionaire sweeping a young woman off her feet and giving her a wealthy lifestyle most people can only dream of. But just like in real life, there are drawbacks to every situation and Ana, the heroine here, truly has to decide if she can live with him and his demons. She can because she loves him. Not because he comes with all the wealth. I think at heart, that’s what I loved most about her. Even though she could be frustrating – sometimes too independent – sometimes too compliant – there were more times that I understood WHY she gave in – because he needed her – and she wasn’t losing herself in the process. I saw that. I believed that. And putting aside some of the vast repetition of scenarios necessary to allow the books to be in 3 parts and go on as long as they did, it was the hero and the heroine and their love and understanding of each other that kept me coming back for more.
The Kinky WTFuckery? Well, that’s SAFE, SANE, and consensual between them and thousands of people are reading these books – that ought to tell you something – and it’s not that all women want to be dominated or abused in their real life. They may dream of giving up control, it’s a fantasy, a relinquishing of power and letting someone else know what’s best for you because you TRUST THEM. That’s what I found between these characters. Consent. Trust. And Love.
My Rant – Aimed at people who don’t read or claim not to like Romance, or “those books” – Fifty Shades of Grey, like the authors I’ll recommend below, are NOT erotica for the sake of erotica – not as I’ve been led to believe by many of the articles in the papers discussing that “dirty little secret book” women and housewives are reading. Fifty Shades was a thoughtful look into how someone ended up relying on this type of lifestyle for his very salvation and how he over came a painful past to become the person he is today – and like in every Romance novel – how real, enduring love can change and help you out of the dark and into the light. If you are reading it for titillation value, you’re missing the point. And if you are reading it for that, I guarantee you are NOT a Romance fan, you don’t understand why Romance novels sell the way they do, why they appeal to women and even some men, and why they are not churned out books but carefully crafted, well thought out books with depth, emotion and occasionally humor and/or suspense. And if you don’t read THOSE books – that’s fine, you’re entitled – but don’t claim to fall in love with Christian Grey (hero in Fifty) and then turn your nose up at the genre because you read only high brow Oprah books. If you’ve read and liked or loved Fifty and you still won’t try a Romance … your loss. Rant Over.
Another Aside -written this past Wednesday night - and the blog is going live tomorrow. I’m sorry for the length. It wasn’t planned. But every day something new blows up about this series and so kept adding into what was already written above. But don’t worry, I’ll be rewarding your patience with me at the end!
FOR THOSE WHO LOVED FIFTY SHADES AND WONDER WHAT OTHER EROTIC ROMANCE NOVELS THEY CAN READ? MORE after the jump.
LIST OF BOOKS
As I mentioned, I thought Fifty Shades was TAME compared to many books I’ve read – Christian’s past that we don’t see held the heavier elements of the BDSM lifestyle, than you read between the pages here. Some are in these books. If you liked Fifty, I encourage you to give these authors a try – and if you haven’t read me, though I don’t write Erotic Romance, just hot (some say sizzling), contemporary Romance, I suggest you start there. (Shameless self promotion over now!)
If you’re interested in an author who delves into BDSM well with great Romance – Cherise Sinclair comes to mind. I appreciate the Dear Reader she puts at the beginning of every book, the warning so people don’t think it’s so easy to find love in a few days in this kind of environment, and she cautions care. I like that. Master of the Mountain, and the Shadowlands series are very good books of hers. Love them.
A HUGE favorite of mine – Huge – Shayla Black’s Wicked Lovers series - starts with Wicked Ties and keep going!
A very good friend of mine who I recommend all the time – Lauren Dane – wrote a series of books beginning with my favorite, LAID BARE, which stayed with me for a long, long, time in part because she deals with such tragedy along with hope, and a family’s adjustment to a committed menage situation.
Another great Erotic Romance author is is Maya Banks and her Sweet Series starting with Sweet Surrender and Sweet Persuasion, which contains a total power exchange with a contract like 50 Shades, and Sweet Temptation.
A new to me author who blew my mind with her sensual, hot hot hot books – Eve Berlin – Desire’s Edge.
I also found good books suggested at author Roni Loren’s blog – HERE – Roni wrote a Berkley Heat set at a BDSM Resort. I enjoyed Roni’s book, Crash Into You – classified as a Contemporary Erotic Romance and in her Blog, What to Read if You’ve Read #50 Shades of Grey And Want More BDSM Romance, she gives you a similar list to what I’ve put here.
This is by no means a comprehensive list but it gives you a place to start!
Whew. The longest blog ever has finally come to an end. So now your reward. I’ve enlisted a few of my author friends to do signed book giveaways – 6 winners total!
SIGNED BOOK GIVEAWAYS:
1. Lauren Dane is generously giving away LAID BARE (one of my all time favorite books / characters),
2. Maya Banks is offering up Sweet Persuasion;
3. as well as Sweet Addiction (brand spanking new so it may take longer to send),
4. Roni Loren is giving Crash into You
5. Carly Phillips _ that’s me! is offering a reader’s choice backlist book (subject to availability);
6. And Carly Phillips’ Serendipity – the first book in my current small town Romance series about the hot, sexy, and estranged Barron Brothers.
TO BE ELIGIBLE TO WIN - just comment below – participate in the discussion. All those who post something are eligible! Winners chosen at random and announced on Sunday.
So let’s start the discussion about Fifty Shades of Grey and all Erotic Romance – some jumping points in no particular order – or talk about whatever moves you -
1. Have you read the Fifty Shades books?
2. If so, did you enjoy them? Why or why not?
3. Are you new to Erotic Romance and if not, did that influence whether or not you liked it?
4. If you are new to Erotic Romance, are you looking to read more?
5. Do you prefer Erotic Romance? Or just more HOT Romance (similar to myself and Janelle’s contemporaries?)
Thanks for visiting and putting up with me through this!
FYI – adding this early Thurs AM – I’m can tell already not going to be able to reply to each and every post but I AM reading them and THANK YOU for visiting and posting!