I picked this up because.... I don't really know why. It makes me feel awkward seeing little old ladies clutching this novel in their hands. It topped best-seller lists internationally and has sold over 31 million copies - becoming the fastest selling paperback of all time, beating out Harry Potter. It started off as Twilight fan fiction (here's the link with the original names.) But honestly, the only similarities I drew were; the descriptions of the characters - Anastasia and Christian both look like Bella and Edward - and that Christian is domineering like Edward and Anastasia is subservient like Bella. The plot-lines vary greatly.
It is definitely a trashy read, but with more merit than the typical erotic romances portrayed by Mills & Boon. Despite the fact the that the main character Ana annoyed me to no end and the writing style bothered me, it was really hard to put down and I managed to read it very quickly. The New Zealand Herald got it right in saying that it "will win no prizes for its prose" but it was an easy read if you "can suspend your disbelief and your desire to ...slap the heroine, you might enjoy it." And again with The Columbus Dispatch - "Despite the clunky prose, James does cause one to turn the page."
Subbing for someone else, Anastasia interviews corporate magnate Christian Steele. She is instantly attracted to him, but also finds him intimidating. Next thing she knows, he turns up at her workplace, buying cable ties, rope and masking tape - come on Ana, use your brains! He asks her out for coffee and asks if she’s single and Ana learns he isn’t the boyfriend type. Ana goes out drinking with her friends and ends up drunk dialing Grey, who comes to pick her up because she’s so drunk. Her friend Jose attempts to force a kiss and is stopped by Grey. Ana leaves with Grey, and wakes to find herself in Grey's hotel room with him revealing he would like to have sex with her. Grey insists that she sign a NDA so she won’t talk about what they do together and takes her to his playroom full of BDSM toys and gear. There Grey informs her that there will be no romance, only sex. Grey realises that Ana is a virgin and agrees to take her virginity without making her sign the contract. Ana and Grey later meet up to go over Ana's hard and soft limits. Ana is spanked for the first time by Christian, which leaves her both aroused and confused by the interaction. She also manages to get a job with Seattle Independent Publishing. Ana asks Grey to punish her in order to show her how extreme a BDSM relationship with him could be. Grey fulfills Ana's request, beating her with a belt, only for Ana to realize that the two of them are incompatible and she leaves him.