Despite booming sales, critics say erotic trilogy is literary bust

His hand eagerly skimmed down the side of her neck towards her chest, slowing only to trace the line of her collarbone with fond fingertips. She squirmed anxiously beneath him, but he had her pinned down tightly, leaving her barely room to breathe.

Are you hooked because the above is a scintillating piece of prose, or because a steamy sex scene was about to ensue?

It is most likely the latter, which could lead one to ponder if the wildly popular Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy has landed itself alongside record-breakers such as J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins.

Publisher J. Ellen Smith of Champagne Books suggests that most readers are no more than “simply curious” about the book. The novels have been so hyped up through social media and by word-of-mouth, she says, that everyone has gone to the nearest Chapters – or done a discreet download online to avoid any embarrassment in the checkout line – only to find the book was laced with “bad grammar, trite phrases and overdone clichés.”

“The book has an okay storyline, but the writing is bad and is clearly in need of proper editing,” Smith added. “It gives publishers a bad name when they are more concerned about meeting market demands than editing someone’s work.”

From unpublished to best seller

The steamy series has sold more than 31 million copies worldwide, so how poorly written could it really be?

Local romance novelist, Pamela Yaye, said it has much to do with not onlyDespite more than 31 million readers, critics find the books lack literary merit.

Photo illustration by Anna Brooks nailing your target audience – and no, not the Fifty Shades type of nailing – but developing a believable fantasy a reader cannot help but get lost in.

“Women like Fifty Shades of Grey because it’s the fantasy,” Yaye said. “A troubled, sexy, rich businessman falls in love with a simple heroine the everyday woman can relate to. It’s every woman’s dream to have a man like the protagonist love her wholeheartedly and unconditionally.”

So it would seem that the book succeeds in possessing the fantasy element and cleverly baiting its target audience, but are these the only factors that constitute a publishable novel?

Christine Mains, an English professor and doctoral candidate at the University of Calgary, said that no matter the platform, a publishable book is one that “reaches a broad audience and tells a story that audience connects to in some way.” Mains also added that many of her colleagues would agree that the book is poorly written.

“I read lots of sexually explicit stories written by women, for women, much of it of a lot better quality than this book that struck it lucky,” Mains said.

Who reads romance?

Calgarian Nicole Simpson, an avid fan of the trilogy, said she picked up the book because a friend told her it was a “must-read,” and ended up enjoying it immensely.

Top Five Must-Read Romance Novels:

1. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – What could spice a romance novel up more than throwing a little time-travel in the mix?

2. Peyton Place by Grace Metalious – The best-selling classic that changed the world of romance writing.

3. The Outsider by Penelope Williamson – Yee-haw! Grab a saddle and hop on this wild western romance read.

4. Bared to You by Sylvia Day – Rumored to be the new-and-improved “50 Shades.”

5. Dream Man by Linda Howard – Thriller meets romance in this high-suspense read.

“The writing could be better. I got pretty sick of ‘her breath hitching’ and ‘desire pooling hot in her belly,’” Simpson said. “Desire pools in other places for me,” she added with a smirk.

Repetitive language aside, Simpson admits the books sucked her in because the storyline was engaging and she grew attached to the characters.

Yaye added that there may be so much speculation revolving around the quality of writing in the book because, “erotica is not a genre everyone is used to reading.”

She said, “It’s one that doesn’t require sophisticated plots with lengthy, elaborate sentences, which is something that can turn a cultivated reader off.”

The simplest stories are often the ones that attract the broadest array of readers, and can be especially more appealing for those looking to just kick back and wolf down a “junk food story,” she added.

“Look at James Patterson, for example. His books are the simplest in the world to read, but they sell like crazy.”

abrooks@cjournal.ca

Editors note: The article previously stated that the name of the book being critiqued is called 50 Shades of Grey. The book is actually called Fifty Shades of Grey. We are sorry for this error.