I recently spent a good chunk of time combing the internet to see what other librarians and readers were recommending as readalikes for the 50 Shades series.* Of the fifty sources I reviewed, more than half cited Sylvia Day’s Crossfire series (thus far consisting of Bared to You and Reflected in You, with Entwined with You due for publication in June of this year) as a recommendation for people who have finished the EL James books and are looking for something similar. I can see why: they both feature controlling, wealthy men and women who are recent college graduates. Like Christian and Ana, Gideon and Eva find an almost instantaneous, obsessive, and all-consuming love as they navigate their new relationship and face demons from the past.
The primary difference between the series is Eva herself. Unlike Ana, she is not virginal or naïve. She is strong and sure of herself; she’s been through hell and therapy and knows her own limitations, even if she sometimes can’t help giving in to them. Like the 50 Shades books, Day’s series is written in the first person from the heroine’s perspective, but for the most part she eschews statements such as “He was just so . . . male” (Bared to You, 27) that recall the eyeroll-inducing phrases that were the hallmark of the James trilogy. Some spoilers in the review that follows.
After graduation, Eva Tramell moves to New York City, across the country from her loving father, in order to take an advertising job and start living her dreams. She has the support of her bisexual best friend Cary and luxuries provided by her mother and stepfather, which unfortunately also come with extreme, stalkerish overprotectiveness. A chance collision with business mogul Gideon Cross knocks her flat and kindles an instant attraction, but when he later propositions her, she turns down his offer. After he pursues a more than sexual relationship, she relents. What begins as a theoretical “no strings” relationship soon evolves into something much more complex and shattering.
Like Christian Grey, Gideon is haunted by events from his past, including his father’s suicide and sexual abuse. Gideon and Eva are both self-sufficient survivors who very quickly find themselves caught up in a whirlwind that includes episodes in which they trigger each other’s deepest fears, roommate drama, ex-lovers, Gideon’s need for control and Eva’s desire for independence, and the return of Eva’s childhood abuser. Despite numerous challenges to their relationship, they work hard to forge something lasting, refusing to give up even when that appears to be the most reasonable course of action.
Overall, I liked this series rather better than 50 Shades (which I didn’t hate). The writing was much tighter and the main characters seemed to be closer to equal; I liked that Eva has her own wealth and had sexual experience before Gideon. The second book ends with a somewhat startling admission, and it will be interesting to see where Day goes next with the plot. The elements of dominance and submission are subtler than the James trilogy, consisting mostly of conversations about control and Gideon’s assertion that Eva wants him to have total control of her pleasure, which she comes to accept as true.
Final word for librarians: If you’ve got someone in front of you who has finished the 50 Shades trilogy and is looking for more, this is a good pick, but not necessarily a something for anyone with triggers around sexual abuse.
ETA: My review of the next book in the series, Entwined with You, is here.
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*Full results to be revealed in a later post.