Can a young, preternaturally successful corporate executive overcome his 50 shameful secrets to find true love?
Andrew Shaffer (Great Philosophers who Failed at Love, 2011), writing as Merkin, skewers both E. L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey and Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight in his debut novel. Both series are certainly ripe for parody, yet Shaffer misses a real opportunity by indulging in easy, crude jokes, rather than incisive satire. Shaffer’s Anna Steal, like James’ Anastasia Steele and Meyer’s Bella Swan, suffers from a relentless interior monologue. Unfortunately, she offers little in the way of thought or advice, but instead wonders how elevators work and gulps in awe of Mr. Grey. Anna meets Grey while interviewing him for Boardroom Hotties, the magazine her too-often-hung-over roommate writes for, and the attraction is instantaneous. Grey quickly seeks to acquire Anna, dazzling her with his wealth by purchasing Wal-Mart just to give her the afternoon off for a date, buying Washington State University just to relieve her of taking tests, flying her about in his fighter jets and helicopters, ordering two of everything on the room-service menu, and whisking her away to a private island. Yet Grey has “dangerous” secrets. Unlike Edward Cullen, who was a lethal vampire, or Christian Grey, who sought the perfect submissive for his domination, Earl Grey indulges in rather tame danger. His secrets include a fondness for spanking, swimming in silver thongs, dressing up as an elf, and decorating with black velvet paintings. Warning Anna about his kinky sexuality, he introduces her to his Room of Doom, where they play Bards, Dragons, Sorcery and Magick. More a Master of Dungeons and Dragons than BDSM, Grey shocks Anna not with his deviance but his self-delusions.
Anna may learn to laugh with, instead of at, Grey, but the constant lampooning leaves the reader numb.