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E. L. James

Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James Primer (and Books Like 50 Shades)

Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James Primer (and Books...


Fifty Shades of Grey is a self published work by a British author using the pseudonym, E. L. James.  It was originally published along with the two sequels, Fifty Shades of Darker and Fifty Shades of Freed, in its entirety, as Master of the Universe on, a site that hosts what is known as fan fiction.  Master of the Universe reimagined the Bella and Edward love affair set in contemporary Seattle, Washington with Bella as the young college graduate virgin and Edward as the masterful billionaire with secret sexual predilections.  This collection of submissions has since been deleted.

Where to Buy:

The ebooks can be purchased at Amazon and Barnes & Noble:


The print books can be ordered directly from the publisher. These books are print on demand and may take a few weeks to reach you.


Comparison of Text:

Master of the Universe begins with this:

I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror. Damn my hair, it just won’t behave, and damn Rose for being ill and subjecting me to this ordeal. I have tried to brush my hair into submission but it’s not toeing the line. I must learn not to sleep with it wet. I recite this five times as a mantra whilst I try, once more, with the brush. I give up. The only thing I can do is restrain it, tightly, in a pony tail and hope that I look reasonably presentable.

Rose is my roommate and she has chosen, okay, that’s a bit unfair, because choice has had nothing to do with it, but she has the flu and as such cannot do the interview she’s arranged with some mega industrialist for the student newspaper. So I have been volunteered. I have final exams to cram for, one essay to finish and I am supposed to be working this afternoon, but no – today – I have to head into downtown Seattle and meet the enigmatic CEO of Cullen Enterprise Holdings, Inc. Allegedly he’s some exceptional tycoon who is a major benefactor of our University and his time is extraordinarily precious… much more precious than mine – and he’s granted Rose an interview… a real coup she tells me… Damn her extra-curricular activities.

50 Shades of Grey begins thusly:

I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror. Damn my hair – it just won’t behave, and damn Katherine Kavanagh for being ill and subjecting me to this ordeal. I should be studying for my final exams, which are next week, yet here I am trying to brush my hair into submission. I must not sleep with it wet. I must not sleep with it wet. Reciting this mantra several times, I attempt, once more, to bring it under control with the brush. I roll my eyes in exasperation and gaze at the pale, brown-haired girl with blue eyes too big for her face staring back at me, and give up. My only option is to restrain my wayward hair in a ponytail and hope that I look semi-presentable.

Kate is my roommate, and she has chosen today of all days to succumb to the flu. Therefore, she cannot attend the interview she’d arranged to do, with some mega-industrialist tycoon I’ve never heard of, for the student newspaper. So I have been volunteered. I have final exams to cram for, one essay to finish, and I’m supposed to be working this afternoon, but no – today I have to drive a hundred and sixty-five miles to downtown Seattle in order to meet the enigmatic CEO of Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc. As an exceptional entrepreneur and major benefactor of our university, his time is extraordinarily precious – much more precious than mine – but he has granted Kate an interview. A real coup, she tells me. Damn her extracurricular activities.

Throughout the MoTU series, the names of the most important characters in the Twilight series appear including Esme as Edward’s “Mom” and Irina as the predatory Mrs. Robinson.  These names are changed in the published version of the books.

Background of fan fiction

Fan fiction are works of fiction written by individuals that take inspiration from another work. Bridget Jone’s Diary, for example, is fan fiction of Pride and Prejudice.  Famous authors such as Naomi Novik began writing fan fiction.  You can learn more about Fan Fiction at the Organization of Transformative Works.  MoTU was one of the most popular series on, a repository for free fan fiction.  During the height of its popularity, an auction for the series raised $30,000.  The author appeared on a fan fiction panel at the 2010 ComicCon and attended a three day conference in DC thrown by her fans.

Publishing Path

E.L. James then contracted with The Writer’s Coffee Shop to produce a commercial product for sale.  These ebooks were sold and in print on demand.  On February 21, the publisher announced that over 100,000 copies of the book has been sold with over 90% of those in ebook format.

The book has become a sensation in New York City where Upper East Side women are  reading it in droves.  While some are comparing this to the Story of O, romance readers know this series falls within the erotic romance category, a category of books where the sexual relationship is the vehicle for the relationship arc.

On March 10, 2011, Vintage announced it had won a bidding war for the books, paying seven figures for the three Fifty books (and possibly others) for North American rights.  Vintage, a division of Knopf|Random House, released new ebook editions on March 12, 2011, and a 750,000 print run of trade paperbacks will follow.

Romance definition

A romance is defined as a story whose primary focus is on the relationship and the emotional arc between the individuals in the relationship.  A romance book is marked by having an uplifting and satisfactory conclusion.  Some readers call this the “Happy Ever After” or the “Happy For Now” ending.

Tropes within Fifty:

  • Strong erotic component driving the relationship arc
  • Internal personal angst
  • Clashing personalities
  • Caretaker Alpha Male


BDSM is a popular trope within the erotic romance genre.  One of our reviewers is a scholar has this to say about BDSM:

BDSM is a combination of the acronyms of the main elements of a variety of non-standard sexual practices: Bondage/Discipline (BD), Domination/Submission (DS), and Sadism/Masochism (SM). Bondage can include any sexual restraint, from the most vanilla of sex play with scarves and blindfolds, all the way to elaborate rope bondage, rope suspension, and the Japanese erotic rope art, Shibari. Discipline ranges from the practice of “punishing” naughty submissives during encounters that often include role play, to specific fetishes like over the knee (OTK) spanking, and caning. Domination and submission refer to sexual identities and practices in which one partner is submissive to a dominant partner, doing what they are ordered to do, usually, but not always, in sexual situations. Sadism and masochism are much more specific sexual paraphilia: sadists receive pleasure and sexual arousal from inflicting pain on their partners, while masochists receive pleasure and sexual arousal from having pain inflicted on them.[i] A BDSM romance, therefore, must explore Regis’s elements particularly through, by, and with one or more of the “kinky” sexual practices encompassed by the acronym. Rather than using a kinky activity merely as spice to sex, as a standard erotic romance might, in BDSM romance the kinky activity must be integral to the characters’ emotional trajectory and to the relationship they build together. However, although the BDSM label encompasses a wide range of activities, in general, most BDSM erotic romances construct the relationship between the characters using the mutually-constitutive pairing of Domination/Submission (D/s). That is, two (or more) protagonists establish an emotional and physical relationship, overcome the emotional barriers between them, and achieve their happy ending, through exploration of the D/s dynamic in which one protagonist sexually dominates the other.[ii]


[i]. In real life practice, although rarely in the BDSM romance genre, the term BDSM as a whole also encompasses a wide variety of sexual fetishes like foot or rubber fetishes.

[ii]. Very few BDSM erotic romances explore the romance between the characters through Sadism/Masochism instead of Domination/Submission. Some exceptions include Anah Crow’s gay male romance, Uneven (Round Rock, TX: Torquere Press Publishers, 2007) ( A | BN | K S ); A.M. Riley’s gay male romantic suspense, The Elegant Corpse (San Francisco, CA: Loose Id, LLC, 2008) ( A | BN | K S ); Victoria Dahl’s heterosexual, male-dominant novella, The Wicked West (Don Mills, Ontario: HQN, 2009) ( A | BN | K S ); and Heidi Cullinan’s Nowhere Ranch (San Francisco, CA: Loose Id, LLC, 2011) ( A | BN | K S ).


The author has not written any other books.  We would like to make the following recommendations:

  • Recently I read Sylvia Day’s Bared to You and it has a lot of notes that resonate for the 50 Shades crowd complete with a young recent college grad and a young, commanding and magnetic billionaire hero. Both come from traumatized backgrounds and feature a push/pull relationship.  If you like 50 Shades, I think you would like this book.
  • For dominant males like Christian who take care of everything you may like Blue Eyed Devil ( A | BN | K S ) and Smooth Talking Stranger ( A | BN | K S ) by Lisa Kleypas. These books feature wealthy men in a contemporary setting who want to take care of the heroine.  Reader Ridley recommends the Lorelei James series beginning with Long Hard Ride ( A | BN | K S )
  • For deep intense emotional angst you may like Passion ( A | BN | K S ) and Patience ( A | BN | K S ) by Lisa Valdez.  The latter book contains BDSM themes as well.  Sweet as Sin by Inez Kelly is another story featuring a lot of emotional tumult and a tortured upbringing like Christian. You can find a Review at Kati D’s site.
  • If you have an interest in exploring BDSM further, other than the above recommended titles, you may be interested in Natural Law ( A | BN | K S ) by Joey Hill; Sweet Persuasion ( A | BN | K S ) and Sweet Temptation ( A | BN | K S ) by Maya Banks; Lean on Me ( A | BN | K S ) by Cherise Sinclair; Slave to Love ( A | BN | K S ) by Nikita Black

If you are interested in learning more about romance in general, you may be interested in the following. Again, I urge you not to be deterred by the covers of these books.  There are some amazing books inside.

  • Welcome to Temptation ( A | BN | K S ) or Bet Me ( A | BN | K S ) by Jennifer Crusie; Just One of the Guys ( A | BN | K S ) by Kristan Higgin; Here Comes the Groom ( A | BN | K S ) by Karina Bliss (don’t let the cover deter you); Yours to Keep ( A | BN | K S ) by Shannon Stacey
  • Naked in Death ( A | BN | K S ) by J.D. Robb; Snapped ( A | BN | K S ) by Laura Griffin; The Darkest Hour ( A | BN | K S ) by Maya Banks
  • The Iron Duke ( A | BN | K S ) by Meljean Brook; Alpha and Omega ( A | BN | K S ) by Patricia Briggs; Slave to Sensation ( A | BN | K S ) by Nalini Singh; A Hunger Like No Other ( A | BN | K S ) by Kresley Cole; Dark Prince ( A | BN | K S ) by Christine Feehan
  • Spymaster’s Lady ( A | BN | K S ) by Joanna Bourne; Written On Your Skin ( A | BN | K S ) by Meredith Duran; Delicious ( A | BN | K S ) by Sherry Thomas; A Lady Awakened ( A | BN | K S ) by Cecilia Grant
  • Liberating Lacey ( A | BN | K S ) by Anne Calhoun (very spicy); Willing Victim ( A | BN | K S ) by Cara McKenna
Friday News & Deals: New Deals, Fifty Shades of Grey Hitting All the Papers,

Friday News & Deals: New Deals, Fifty Shades of Grey Hitting...


F&W is launching a digital book publishing company that will specialize in releasing digital copies of genre fiction from the 1940s to the 1970s.

F+W Media is launching a new digital-only imprint, Prologue Books, that aims to reintroduce readers to previously out-of-print crime, sci-fi/fantasy, romance, western and YA titles published between 1940 and 1970.

No word on whether these will be bowlderized like the Harlequin Vintage releases.  I hope this means that Charlotte Lamb books will finally be digitally released.

Which reminds me that Keishon emailed me to let me know that the Queen of Ellipses, Barbara Cartland, books are being released digitally as well. Barbara Cartland books on Kindle. I hope that these are legitimately for sale from her estate. The ePub versions appear to be for sale from this store.

With Fifty Shades of Grey making the New York Times interest has arisen from major print newspapers.  The women who are reading these series of books are not regular romance readers, but literary fiction book club readers who maybe read Kite Runner in their last group and furtively downloaded the Twilight series to their Kindles.  The paper books are hard to find, a status symbol one person told me.   Some women are even calling it Twilight for Moms.  The articles are focused on the sexual aspect of the books and how the wives are all buying gray ties and getting tingly downstairs.  The coverage could not be worse for us romance readers but given that the comparisons to Story of O will direct attention away from the romance genre.  According to the publisher, the three book series has sold more than 100,000 copies.

Interestingly enough, the articles seem to fudge on the issue of the story’s origin although it is clear that the writers of these pieces don’t know what fan fiction is.  There are a number of YouTube videos made for these books which are mashups of various movie scenes acted out by Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattison).

  • Globe and Mail  “For yummy mummies in NYC and beyond, the trilogy is a grown-up Twilight– their “mommy porn,” as some have put it.”
  • NYPost  “A guy friend of mine said he wanted to form a business looking for girls who have ‘just finished the book, before they cool off,’ ” says Brod
  • MSNBC “I downloaded a copy and don’t think I put it down until I finished it, despite what the pilot on my flight to Florida said,” she told “I can say, along with many other women I’m sure, that reading this book is very good for your marriage!”
  • Kate Davies reported that Jay Leno incorporated Fifty Shades into his monologue last night and another person emailed me to say that it was on the Today show this morning.

You can read Lazaraspaste’s epic review of Fifty Shades of Grey here.

I don’t know what to make of this article in the Washington Post about Oprah’s net negative effect on book sales.  Apparently because the books that Oprah recommended were hard to get through sales of breezier fiction declined. Or something.  And that is a bad thing.

When Oprah told people to go read books like “Anna Karenina” or “Love in the Time of Cholera,” romance and mystery sales plummeted. People were too busy marching through 862 pages of Tolstoy to breeze through their usual summer reading.

Chris Keeslar, the last editor left at Dorchester, found a new home at  Never heard of them? Don’t worry, no one that I know of has either.  It is a new digital romance publishing house.  This seems like the late 2000s where new digital publishers sprang up overnight.

Linda Hilton did some research on reviews at Amazon. It’s a pretty fascinating post. Here is a longish excerpt posted with permission:

Of the 13 reviewers who gave Daughter of Deceit 5-star reviews, six have no other reviews on file. Five of the remaining eight have other reviews, but only of other books by Haynes, either under that name or writing as Jerri Hines. The remaining two reviewers, identified as “Ruby W.” and “RCardello,” have reviewed other books, but they have given all of them 5 stars. “Ruby W.” reviewed four of Haynes/Hines’ books, giving all of them 5 stars.

Interestingly enough, Ruby and “RCardello” also reviewed books by Annette Blair, and of course gave them 5 stars also.

According to Jerri Hines’ blog both Annette Blair and Ruth Cardello are friends of hers.

And while there’s nothing wrong with friends helping friends, it does appear to me — if not to anyone else — that only friends and family members of Carrie James Haynes/Jerri Hines are giving Daughter of Deceit 5 star reviews. (Edited to add: One of the 5-star reviewers of Daughter of Deceit is identified as “Ramona.” Another of Haynes’ novels is dedicated to her mother, whose name is Ramona.)


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