7 Alternatives to '50 Shades of Grey', the gateway drug of romantic fiction

By Marie on Jan 21st, 2015


The '50 Shades of Grey' movie will be coming out soon, on Valentine's Day to be exact, because nothing says sweet, sweet love like a thorough whipping in the 'red room of pain'. 'But what about people who are into that sort of thing?', you might object and that is totally fine, for connoisseurs of kink know better than the rest of us that '50 Shades' has as much to do with real BDSM as a loving relationship with frequent accusations of cheating. That is to say, nothing at all, even though your Ex might have told you differently.

And that brings us to the topic of the article, or as you can call it, the rant that begat the idea for this post. Considering the sheer amount of great romances released each year, one really wonders how it came about that it was EL James' book which exploded into mainstream pop culture consciousness.

As a way of making sense of this phenomenon, I like to think of '50 Shades of Grey' as the gateway drug of romantic fiction. Why? 4 reasons. 1) Gateway drugs don't have to be of high quality, instead they are cheap and accessible which makes them widely popular. 2) Even your mother has heard of them, so they are easily obtainable. 3) They make you feel good initially, but you'll quickly learn that there are better ways to fulfill your cravings. Which is why 4) you will soon move on to the better stuff, without looking back.

For the sake of this article - and the metaphor, of course - consider me a pusher then, for I'd like to present 7 book alternatives to '50 Shades of Grey' for those who enjoyed the book but suspect they could do better. I'll guarantee that the stories are not just more exciting, but that the reading high will last longer with less regrets the morning after.
  • #1For tormented heroes, read 'Heart of Obsidian'

    If you like tormented heroes, consider 'Heart of Obsidian' by Nalinih Singh

    Just like Christian Grey, Kaleb survived a horrific childhood with a sadistic parental figure. But unlike his shady counterpart, Kaleb is not using these experiences as an excuse for taking it out on the heroine. Instead, she's pretty much the only one he does not want to see suffering.

    Yes, you could argue that this, too, might not be exactly a healthy point of view - but mental health is clearly not high on the list of hero qualities anyways when it comes to fans of '50 Shades of Grey'.

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  • #2For sexual experts, read 'Curio'

    If you like sexperts, consider 'Curio' by Cara McKenna

    Sexually experienced and proficient men are the romance book equivalent to hipster cupcake shops: you might be surprised how many are out there, yet the surprise is altogether a pleasant one. Of course, that heroes know what they're doing makes total sense, considering romantic fiction is not only read for the romance, but also the smut. Which is why one sometimes wonders about the lack of skill on display (I am looking at you '50 Shades' deflowering scene).

    Didier, the male lead in Curio and professional women pleaser, could not be anymore different. Hired by Caroly to get finally rid of her virginity he is gentle, thoughtful & accommodates her every desires. Plus: great* communication skills

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  • #3For billionaire daredevils, read 'Driven'

    If you like billionaire daredevils, consider 'Driven' by K. Bromberg

    Are you feeling the love for big boys with big toys and big… ? Well, Colton Donavan, race car driver extraordinaire and billionaire playboy may just be the thing for you.

    Taking a page, or five, out of the '50 Shades' formula, the plot is hardly going to be a surprise. But it can be argued that the man is hotter, the prose is better and the luxury is top notch - even though the heroine is definitely absolutely not at all, no no no, interested in his fabulous riches. Of course not.

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  • #4For innocent heroines, read 'Breathe'

    If you like naive and innocent heroines, consider 'Breathe' by Kristen Ashley

    Sweet, shy librarian Faye hooks up with the town sheriff after having been in love with him for forever. God thing his wife has just been murdered, so now he is available… Wait, what?

    Comparing almost any romantic heroine to Anastasia Steele is superfluous. They kind of win by default, is what I'm saying. What's fun about Faye, however, is that she is horny - she, herself, and not her inner goddess. Even though she is appropriately sweet, shy and blush-y for the virginal librarian trope, once the sex is a go, she's all in! Come to think of it, one reason for all that enthusiasm might be that she is not required to deep throat like a pro after only two seconds around a dick.

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  • #5For possessive heroes, read 'Dragon Bound'

    If you like possessive heroes, consider 'Dragon Bound' by Thea Harrison

    Dragos, you see, is a dragon shifter and thus possessive by nature. Jealously guarding their treasures is what dragons do, and once he sets his sights on the heroine one thing becomes clear for this dragon: there is no finer thing (person) to have and hold than Pia.

    For those who love possessive heroes, but could do without the stalking, temper tantrums and general lack of maturity this is a great book.

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  • #6For proper BDSM, read 'Master of the Mountain'

    If you like BDSM, consider 'Master of the Mountain' by Cherise Sinclair for a more realistic portrayal of kink

    It is amazing what you can get out of a D/s (dominance and submission) dynamic when the dominant inclinations are not just badly camouflaged mental health problems. Ms Sinclair not only serves up a delicious feast of hot sex scenes involving all kinds of tricks and toys from the BDSM toolkit, but also explores the emotional implications of D/s role playing and power exchange.

    Taking the BDSM community's mantra of safe, sane and consensual to heart, her books are not dire affairs of dubious consent and abusive behaviour but instead provide a realistic - as far as romance books go, that is - and often light-hearted look into alternative lifestyles.

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  • #7For dangerous heroes, read 'Halfway to the Grave'

    If you like dangerous heroes, consider 'Halfway to the Grave' by Jeaniene Frost.

    Bones is a master vampire bounty hunter, which means that he is super powerful, super skilled and super menacing at times. He also used to work as a male prostitute in Victorian London, so he is super at other things, too. Nowadays he makes a living by catching the baddest of paranormal creatures.

    Did I mention how dangerous the hero is? But instead of making his lady love afraid of him, after some initial negotiation the big bad vampire rather chooses to train her so that she becomes just as kick-ass as he is. Because nothing is sexier than a heroine who can defend herself.

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    Now, what do you think of our selection? Do you have more book suggestions for our readers? Let us know in the comments.