'Fifty Shades' Trilogy Makes A Splash, But Is It Breaking New Ground?

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(Photo credit: Facebook, Vintage Books)

E.L. James' romantic novel Fifty Shades of Grey -- the first book in a trilogy that includes Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed -- has become a publishing sensation, but is the story really breaking new ground?

The story is about a virgin college student, Anastasia Steele, who meets the handsome and wealthy Christian Grey. The two engage in a complicated relationship that involves some pretty graphic carnal knowledge (think bondage, dominance, etc.).

Romance genre experts are somewhat bemused to see Fifty Shades of Grey cause such a stir, as this type of story -- BDSM moments included -- has been done before.

It's not reinventing the wheel, said Mala Bhattacharjee, the features editor of RT Book Reviews, a magazine devoted mainly to the romance genre.

Audrey Goodson, an associate editor at RT Book Reviews, read and reviewed the first book in James' trilogy. She said she really enjoyed it and gave it a thumbs-up.

That being said, she described the book as pretty standard for its type and pointed out that the plot (ie, young virgin meets really hot and rich dude) isn't exactly exclusive to the story, as readers can find variations of that same plot in many a romance novel.

In a lot of ways it's a standard romance story with a lot of erotic elements, Goodson said. It's kind of funny that it's caught on to the degree it has.

James' story started off as Twilight fan fiction posted on FanFiction.Net. It was originally titled Master of the Universe and gave readers graphic sex scenes between the characters of Bella and Edward (for those who never partook of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight books, let's just say that steamy sex scenes are pretty much nonexistent).

James rewrote the story and characters and published it as a standalone work of fiction via Australian publishing company The Writer's Coffee Shop. The trilogy is now being published by Vintage Books and will be released in paperback form in April. It's available as an e-book.

Vintage Books has denied any implications that James' work is a rip-off of Meyer's popular series.

It is widely known that E.L James began to capture a following as a writer shortly after she posted her second fan fiction story, the company said in a statement, according to an Associated Press report. She subsequently took that story and re-wrote the work, with new characters and situations. That was the beginning of the 'Fifty Shades' trilogy.

Readers who are looking for reads similar to the Fifty Shades trilogy can turn to other erotic romance authors such as Lacey Alexander and Lora Leigh.

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