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'50 Shades of Grey': What is the appeal?

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A mother and the owner of her own celebrity news and review blog, haveuheard.net, Von Holten admits it wasn’t the easiest read – at first. “Initially, I had to put it down,” she says. “The sexual part was just, it was disturbing to me. At one point, I couldn’t even read it. I wasn’t enjoying it.” But in the name of her book club, Von Holten persevered, and this time, she couldn’t put it down. “Once you get through the initial shock, like anything else, you become desensitized in a way, I think,” she says.

Von Holten went on to finish the next two books in the series on her own.  In her review of the book on her blog, Von Holten wrote: “If you do read the series, consider yourself warned.  Once you pick it up – there is a 99.9999% chance you will not put it down.”

"50 Shades of Grey" tells the story of the very unconventional “romance” between the dashing, wealthy Christian Grey, a tycoon with a taste for the whip, and the innocent Anastasia Steele, a college literary student who willingly enters into a complicated dominant-submissive relationship with Grey.

“It’s erotic and sadomasochistic,” says Rose Fox, Publisher Weekly’s fantasy and romance reviews editor.

It's also a spin-off of sorts on the Bella and Edward dynamic from the popular young adult "Twilight" series. Although James created different lovers and a different plot, she drew her original inspiration from the romance between the "Twilight" characters – one a 100-plus-year-old vampire and the other an innocent young teen.

"Twilight," however, has been noted for its rather chaste depictions of love and romance.  "50 Shades of Grey" takes readers into a very different universe.

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