Confronted with the reality of Christian's darker side and singular sexual tastes, Anastasia broke off their relationship, believing that she couldn't be the woman he needed. But as she begins her new job as an assistant editor at a publishing house, memories of Christian still consume her thoughts and her desire is still for him alone. When he comes to her, proposing a different sort of relationship, she can neither deny nor resist the pull he has over her. She believes that finally they might be able to share the kind of love and romance she's wanted all along. But as they resume their passionate love affair, the reality is much different than she thought, presenting unexpected challenges. Christian must face and reveal the horrors of his past before Ana can fully become a part of his life, while Ana must deal with the anger and jealousy stirred up inside her by the women who were a part of his life before she met him. At the same time, she's wrestling with the most important decision of her life. Together, they must also face the outside forces trying to keep them apart before they can find their happy ending.
I must say that having now read two of the Fifty Shades books, I really don't understand why they've gotten such a bad rap. I realize they aren't going to be everyone's cup of tea, and with wildly popular books like these, they're going to pick up some curious readers who don't typically read the romance genre, but that IMHO, is more a reader problem than a genuine issue with the books. Is the writing absolutely perfect? Perhaps, not. There is some repetition, but in an otherwise wonderful story, that's a very minor thing that's easily overlooked, at least for me. Fifty Shades Darker was every bit as enjoyable as Fifty Shades of Grey. As a whole, these books are deeply romantic and emotionally complex in ways that many other romances aren't. The characterizations are extremely well done, exhibiting depth and complexity as well. Christian and Anastasia each go through a fair bit of growth in this book, learning to compromise with each other in their relationship, while also dealing with some very stressful situations caused by external factors. Yet they always come out stronger as a couple in the end. Fifty Shades Darker concluded on a much higher romantic note than the previous book, but there's still a bit of a cliffhanger in the reveal that someone is out to do Christian and Ana harm, which is still going to make it difficult to wait for the final installment. Like with this one, though, I'm going to force myself to engage in delayed gratification by taking a little break over the month of December to read new releases by a couple of my favorite authors, as well as some Christmas stories, but it's going to be tough.:-)
I think I may love Christian more after reading this book than I already did, if that's even possible.:-) After the way the first book ended, I knew something would have to change for him to reconcile with Anastasia. Without giving too much away, I can say that I absolutely love Christian's way of apologizing and groveling. He's vulnerable even though he's still trying to stay in control. He also has a way of expressing his love without actually saying the words. I'd have totally caved too.;-) I also liked how he already started opening up a little about his past in the first chapters and how he was willing to take things slower at Ana's pace. Christian tears at my heart, because sometimes he's like a lost little boy who needs reassurance and to simply know that he's loved, even though he doesn't think he's lovable. I love his protectiveness, even if it is a little stalkerish at times. I fully understand that his need to protect Ana, his fixation with food, and his general need for control stem from his early childhood abuse. Occasionally he can be a bit aggravating, particularly with his reticence about his past, but I like how Ana challenges him to see things differently and how he's willing to make accommodations for her. Also his frustrating moments don't last long before being quickly mitigated by him doing or saying something sweet. And when he finally does open up and completely let Ana in, it's so heart-wrenching and emotional, but so beautiful at the same time. I love how Christian continues to experience a lot of firsts with Ana, things that he's never done with or for any other woman. I like that he does his best to protect her from the exs who start causing trouble for them, and it's so wonderful how she makes him see everything in a whole new light and that he's willing to change so much for her. I felt like these things showed that Ana means far more to him than anyone or anything else.
Ana is a lovely young woman, who is mature beyond her years. She still finds it difficult to understand why a gorgeous man like Christian wants plain little old her, but she knows that she loves her Fifty to distraction and can't live without him. That doesn't stop her from worrying that she might not be enough for him because of his proclivities, but she gradually comes to a place of accepting what is true in the present and trying not to borrow trouble. In spite of numerous shocking revelations, Ana is so very loving, forgiving, and understanding of Christian's past, including his exs who cause her no end of grief in this book. That doesn't mean she's a pushover, though. I love how she stands up to Mrs. Robinson. Grrr ... that woman makes me angry too. And I also loved how she didn't let her pervy boss get the upper hand on her either. In addition to standing up to others, she usually doesn't hesitate to tell Christian when something is bothering her, which shows that she won't be a doormat even with the man she loves. When his actions hurt her, she gently works with him, probing and asking questions to get him to see her point of view. Ana is so very patient with Christian, especially with his reticence about his past. I love how she's willing to compromise in their relationship, in the same way that Christian compromises for her and that she actually enjoys some of his kinks.;-)
Before I started reading Fifty Shades Darker, I was a little concerned that the "darker" might mean that Christian and Ana would be going to some darker sexual places, but if anything it was the exact opposite. That's not to say this book wasn't super sexy, because it most definitely was. They just explore a different aspect of their sexual relationship that's sweeter and eliminates the fear, while exercising an even higher level of trust and compromise. To me, those are two of the most important elements in any real relationship and what makes these books so genuinely romantic to me. The "darker" aspect was really more about them navigating the treacherous waters of Christian's past and overcoming the outside forces that threaten their happiness. It's a beautiful love story that's about two people, one who's deeply broken but trying to find his way out of the dark, and the other who is completely accepting of him, flaws and all, coming together and figuring out what the future holds for them. I couldn't have written a more perfect and wonderful romance if I tried. I'm completely enamored of both Christian and Ana, and I can't wait to see how this journey ends for them in the final installment.
Note: This book contains explicit language and sexual situations, including bondage, spanking, an act of public intimacy, use of sex toys, and anal play, which some readers may find offensive.
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