So I have now finished the 'Fifty Shades Trilogy' and here is my review on all 3 - possible light spoilers.
Firstly the obvious bits - I feel the problem with E L James is that she doesn't write plots - she writes sex with overarching themes. The first book was sex, with the theme of signing a BDSM contract, the second was sex with the overarching theme of finding out the secretive back story of Christian. The third book to it's credit, actually had a bit more of a suspenseful plot which had some tension and added some interest to the story. As a result, the very repetitive and filler-like sex scenes were actually dialed down in this book - some of them were even left at a cliffhanger for your 'Inner Goddess' to put your own 'oh my's' 'down there's' and 'shattering's' in as you pleased. This I feel was a definite growth of the writer and should have been discovered much earlier!
Of course, there's nothing wrong with books just about sex with vague themes to keep a semblance of a 'story' - just look at the current free-list for a lot of examples as to how successful this genre is! The problem is that E L James makes sex boring - who would have thought it? The constant repetition and over-used catchphrases, the inability to give body parts their actual names 'down there' and 'my sex' give the whole thing a somewhat childish manner. The repetition doesn't stop to the sex either - in the first book, the BDSM contract (which is about 3 of my kindle pages, smallest font) is copied out needlessly in full three times, and all 3 of the books have emails in them which seem to do very little to further the plot.
Ok, so the sex is bad and the plot isn't that great either - something which I'm sure has been pointed out in many of the 1 stars reviews across this trilogy. My next problem is the message of the piece. I'll make one thing clear before I start - I have no objection to BDSM - a way of feeling in control in the bedroom is fine by me. My problem with the story is the parts outside of the bedroom; Christian is a controlling and abusive man, he stalks Ana, buying her company to 'keep her safe', he gets access to her bank accounts (to put money in we are assured), he has people follow her, stops her from seeing her friends and whenever she tries to gain a semblance of independence he uses sex as a weapon. Although I have no problem with this as a character trait for someone - Christian himself was given a very in-depth build of character with the most layers which was interesting to read. My problem with this is there is nowhere in the book where this is particularly categorised as a problem - Ana gets mad at him a lot and then he'll turn his steely grey eyes onto her and she's having sex with him before the sentence is even finished. The one time when she does try and show him how wrong his life-style is and leaves him, the next book picks up with her being unable to live a normal life and not eating or sleeping because she wants him back. When he tries to stop her seeing people and she defies him, the next plot twist has something bad happen to Ana because she went out - he was only trying to protect her and she is put into danger because she didn't do as he said. The book leaves it up to the reader to draw these things as being 'unhealthy' in a relationship.
I think it is extremely telling that this book started as Twilight fan-fiction - the characters are all similar - the clumsy, naive Bella/Ana, the rich, controlling, secretive Edward/Christian, the best friend who wants more Jacob/Jose, the plots also follow a similar path - I'd describe Fifty as a realistic Twilight. I think this book, if anything shows how unhealthy Stephanie Meyers characters and messages are - when a man leaves you - you are nothing, that men are there to protect you from danger and that defying them is dangerous. The problem being that although the BDSM theme ensure that a more adult audience is intended for Fifty - Twilight is on the Young Adult sections of our stores with a very similar and dangerous message.
*Phew* sorry, rant over - overall, not recommended.