It’s surprising who has read the Fifty Shades books, or at least the first one. Me, for instance. And other people I know whom I think of as No Dummies. I remain torn on this issue, kind of liking the out-of-nowhere fan-fiction origins – the literary equivalent of winning the lottery only with a tad more initiative involved. On the other hand, the fan fiction aspect is slightly annoying; more so is the Old Skool romance, virginal-heroine-must-redeem-the-tortured-dominant-hero theme whose problems are explicated to a far smarter degree than i could ever do in this post from the Rumpus. Not to mention the general annoyingness of the heroine, along with the not-very-inspired writing (many have suggested drinking games based on how many times Anastasia chews her lip — an action that just makes world-traveling sophisticated billionaire Christian Grey INSANE WITH LUST).
But my primary issue with the success of these books, really, is that there is so much out there in the broad area of the romance genre that is so much better written. I know this is true of many, many bestsellers. Why does Dan Brown sell so much better than writers who are so much better? And I won’t even go into the James Patterson Fictional Industrial Complex.
So as alternatives for people who are curious about books written primarily for women and that include differing amounts of nookie — and because at the Library we are embarking on a Summer Reading program for adults with the theme Between the Covers (with four weekly prize drawings! Prizes from Key West Island Books, the Tropic and Bad Boy Burrito!) — I am hereby offering my suggested alternatives for books you can read on your ereader … and not be cringing at the writing. Or the stupidity of the heroine, for that matter.
Most of my trashy romance reading is historical. However if Fifty Shades has you curious about contemporary romances, I can recommend Jennifer Crusie (my favorite of hers is called Bet Me, but they’re all pretty good). I like Lisa Kleypas, too; the one that got me hooked is called Smooth Talking Stranger. Kristan Higgins is also very well regarded; I have to admit I haven’t actually read her but I saw her at the ALA conference last year and she was charming.