Yes yes yes yes yes! Ignore my gasping cheers, excuse my clammy hands, but this is such exciting news from the world of words.
Because after six books, three Hollywood movies, and countless beatings in the red room of pain, author EL James has put down her throbbing pen for good.
You could say she finally climaxed, tied her end and sailed off into a sunset colored Fifty Shades Of Gray.
Released this week, Freed is the highly anticipated final installment in the Fifty Shades series, which has sold more than 165 million copies worldwide. It’s an incredible success!
Only Harry Potter and JK Rowling have sold more books than EL James. But even she certainly couldn’t wring another drop of sweat-soaked passion from her lovers Christian and Anastasia and their tied-up adventure that has become a worldwide phenomenon.
Pictured: A still of Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey
To her devoted fans, James is the mistress of mummy porn, an author whose rousing bondage bonkbusters are adored and revered. They were even turned into a trio of hit Hollywood movies, shot in full-screen buttockarama and starring Jamie Dornan as Christian Gray and Dakota Johnson as his bendy lover, Anastasia Steele.
But for purists and snobs – like me! – Miss James is responsible for the most immortal prose ever to appear in print. And part of her brilliance is that she doesn’t disappoint any of us with her new book.
Once again, she created a carnal yet corny world where characters are “wound tighter than an old-fashioned watch” and excitement is measured by tongues “greeting each other in every language.”
Pictured: A still from the Fifty Shades Darker trailer starring Marcia Gay Harden
Not to mention — apologies in advance — nipples that ‘elongate’ and sometimes even ‘pebble’. SCREAM! People don’t just do terrible things in her books, they say terrible things. “That’s my idea of Sunday worship now,” Christian says, after a bit of a rompy-pumpy weekend. Fair. If you prayed that it would all end, then your prayers have been answered.
Freed is the final chapter in the six-book series that chronicles the relationship between the handsome, sadomasochistic Seattle billionaire Christian and the understated but captivatingly beautiful Anastasia.
They met, got married and now have a child named Teddy – and give or take some rubber clamps – that’s about the gist of it. The first three books are told from her perspective, while the last three tell the same story, but from his perspective.
Pictured: EL James (Erika Leonard) at the 2017 premiere of Fifty Shades Darker
Has that authoritarian gender reassignment really been successful? Is Gray’s view of events completely authentic and believable? EL James may think she can write from a masculine point of view and live in any of Grey’s psychosexual cracks.
But would your everyday male bondage freak even know what a dreamcatcher was, let alone describe his fiancée as one, as Christian does on Freed’s opening page? Or pause to note on page 425 that the Greek deli’s lamb chops were “transferred into a Pyrex dish” at the exact moment when his “lust surges south like a tidal wave”?
I wonder. Especially since that was just seconds before Christian wrung Anastasia into a pair of leather cuffs and a blindfold before feeding her “the best hummus in Seattle.” What must that girl go through to get a bite to eat! No wonder her pittas were toasted. I suppose a baklava is out of the question? Stop.
Freed begins with the pair blissfully in a boat shed, after a celebratory lovemaking after his marriage proposal, which she accepted.
“Come on, put your panties back on and let’s get back to the party,” he says in a typically hair-raising manner. But not before the author gives him a fresh spring cleaning with the awakened feather duster.
His character may be the most toxic man since Casanova, but suddenly he’s talking about repurposing the festive flower arbor by sending the flowers to a retirement home. So green and friendly!
Many chapters later, he compliments Anastasia on her post-baby body. “She’s lost weight since Ted was born and I know she wants to lose more weight, but to me she’s just as sweet as ever,” he remarks thoughtfully. Then it’s straight back to peeling off her clothes and giving her a good old beating.
Gray is gleefully obsessed with his fiancée’s hair, which is “wild and shiny in the morning light” and later “tumbles around us both, creating an auburn refuge.” As always, the main driver – excuse me – is their sexual relationship, sometimes so feverish that Grey’s masculinity is almost a character all of its own. I mean, by the end of the book, if you only knew the name, you’d buy it a drink in a bar.
At various points in the 755-page story, it is impatient, heavy, bursting and eager. Sometimes it is ‘still dressed’. Every now and then it gets “saturated” or “served” — thank goodness for that. Elsewhere it’s “bursting with anticipation” and occasionally it’s “straining” because those potatoes aren’t going to rinse themselves.
Sometimes it ‘rejoices’, sometimes it ‘grows up’, sometimes it is ‘approving’. Sometimes you think he walks into Grey’s favorite sushi restaurant and orders spicy tuna rolls himself. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if that were the case.
Still, Fifty Shades deniers can make fun of what they want – the numbers speak for themselves. The first erotic trilogy, translated into 52 languages, captured the imagination of women around the world – so much so that the publishers even claimed a baby boom – a “grey boom”, with a record number of babies born in February 2013.
EL James deviated from the Christian Gray path for a moment. In 2019, she released a novel called The Mister, which features a Cornish aristocrat who fell in love with his demure but captivatingly beautiful Albanian cleaning lady, as one does.
The Honorable Maxim Trevelyan, aka Lord Trevelyan, 13th Earl of Trevethick, had a winning way with women (“As you please, I growl and stab her”), but he was no Grey. It wasn’t long before she returned to the gold mine that began more than a decade ago as an exercise in escapism on her commute to London.
And then turned her into one of the richest authors in the world, now said to be worth over £120 million – a fortune generated not only by the books and movies, but also by the Fifty Shades merchandise ranging from lingerie and jewelry to whips and bottles of wine, which the author himself helped design.
Perhaps the secret to this incredible success lies in the fact that beneath the beating and enslavement, Fifty Shades has a very conventional romantic story.
EL James knows what her readers want – Cinderella for a more sexualized age. In many ways it’s nothing new, because Freed – like all her books – has every rom-com cliche in the book.
Christian Gray is not only dark and dangerous, but also a troubled man with emotional wounds. It is broken and Anastasia is the only one who can fix it. At first glance, she is strong and self-contained, but also harbors doubts about herself and her attractiveness.
She is a vehicle for the insecurities of millions of women; a channel for the old-fashioned longing for a dominant man, a knight in shining armor to sweep us off our feet and save us from our mundane lives. Fifty Shades is nothing more than a fairy tale with extra spanks. Will Freed finally free us all from the adventures of our broken hero and his strangely eager wife? They have been through a lot in six books and three films.
He survived a helicopter crash, she somehow survived his cockpit.
From horrible beginnings to creepy endings, they still love each other after all these years.
“You’re the three wishes of Aladdin’s lamp, the state lottery, and the cancer cure all rolled into one,” Anastasia says when the curtain finally comes down.
“No Ana, you are,” Gray says.
And they lived happily ever after. We hope.
FREED: Fifty Shades Freed As Told By Christian by EL James is published this week by Arrow for £8.99.