Fifty Shades Darker (Fifty Shades, Book 2)
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In last month's Fabio Files, I reviewed the first novel in E. L. James’s infamous Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, and this month I’ll review the second book in the series. Unfortunately, James doesn’t show much growth as a writer in this second installment and instead gives readers more of the same from the first novel.

As the title implies, things take a darker turn in Fifty Shades Darker. Ana begins to explore her sexuality more fully through her exploits with Christian, though never to the extent that he truly desires—or so she thinks. As such, Ana is plagued with self-doubt and insecurity, always worried that he’ll run back to a former lover, or “Mrs. Robinson,” the supposed “cougar” who first introduced Christian to the BDSM lifestyle years ago.

I found everything about Ana to be weak, right down to the way she takes her tea (and that’s not an exaggeration—she only dunks her tea bag once into the hot water!). She’s becoming a little more empowered through her relationship with Christian, and she finds that she enjoys some of their carnal activities, but her stilted vocabulary (still with the “holy cow” and “down there”) betrays that empowerment.

Christian, on the other hand, is growing even more as a character. We learn more about his past and his fractured childhood, and we begin to see why is he is the way he is. I still found him to be oppressive and borderline demeaning to Ana (and not just in the bedroom), but at least I understood the why of his mercurial moods and overbearing demeanor. For the second time in as many books, I found Christian to be my favorite character.

In the first book, the “bad guy” or villain was Ana and Christian’s relationship itself. In the second, we’re introduced to a more traditional villain—or villains, since, at first, it appears that there are two. One turns out to be a red herring (and another source of jealousy and insecurity for Ana), and the other is such a stereotypical bad guy that I almost sprained my eyeballs from rolling my eyes so much. It was as if the author learned everything she needed to know about villains from watching movies on the Lifetime Channel. I give her credit for attempting to inject some tension other than what we already see between Christian and Ana, but it just comes across as amateurish.

Then, of course, there are the sex scenes. Again, I found them to be underwhelming. I understand that I’ve read hundreds of romance novels involving varying degrees of kink (wait until you folks get a load of what I’m currently reading!), so I might be a “smut snob,” but, really, the scenes are nothing special. I expected James to ratchet the hotness up in the second installment, but she doesn’t. It’s just more of the same.

There are many things that will spark debates among women: which brand jeans to wear, to bottle feed or nurse, etc. Anyone who has read the forums on any of the women-centric websites can tell you that. And the varying opinions of the Fifty Shades books are no different. All I can do is suggest that you read the books and make your own decisions. And if you’re a bit OCD like I am and can’t stop yourself from reading all of the books in a series no matter how little you might enjoy the writing, then stay tuned for my review of the third and final installment in the series, Fifty Shades Freed.

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