Aug 16 2012 4:30pm

Same Shades of Effed Up: Jamie McGuire’s Beautiful Disaster, Sylvia Day’s Bared to You, and E. L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuireHow many times has the suggestion “If you liked that, then you’ll love this” been targeted to the eager readers who devoured E. L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy in recent months?

Two novels out now have made major headway in book sales because of this very method of exposure: Bared to You by Sylvia Day and, more recently, Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire. Having read each of the novels, there are some obvious commonalities, yet as a whole, each story is quite different from the others. With content ranging from youthful billionaires to BDSM to tattooed, underground boxing college students, it may appear that the three titles, in fact, share little besides the colors on their covers.

Initially, any similarities could be quickly dismissed between Beautiful Disaster and the other two novels because of its lack of a twenty-something, obnoxiously wealthy male lead. But all of these heroes have similar backstory: each of them has been through (many) relationships without one ever really sticking, until they meet the female lead, of course, and they are somehow persuaded to give up skirt-chasing forever. They also share other disturbing proclivities, including the need to possess said love interest, to the point of obsession and “co-dependency,” not to mention falling apart at the idea of losing the girl (which, in fact, they all do at some point or other). There is a fine line between a connection and an obsession, each of which Christian Grey, Gideon Cross, and Travis Maddox teeters on constantly.

There could also be something in the nature of the damaged characters in each novel; both James’s and Day’s books are focused on the male leads suffering major mental and/or physical afflictions from their respective pasts. In McGuire’s book, it’s obvious the male protagonist is insanely hot tempered and has total apathy towards members of the opposite sex. He is emotionally stunted, due to losing his mother at a young age. But it’s McGuire’s heroine, Abby Abernathy, who has much more reason to be concerned about her past coming to light. It’s actually interesting to see how the author quietly hints at Abby’s upbringing through the beginning of the novel. The reader tends to be so focused (at least this reader was) on Travis, the larger than life college playboy, who comes across as sweet at times, and a downright asshole at others, that when Abby’s truths come out, it’s like “Whoa! Where did that come from?”

That’s not to say that Abby is the only female with issues. Bared to You’s Eva is a total work in progress also. Having been sexually abused in her past, she is working hard to reclaim her own life, despite the best efforts of her mother to smother her at every turn. While the men take the cake for their supercilious demeanors, the ladies hold their own when it comes to taking center stage in all of the dramas.

Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. JamesFurther parallels appear in all three novels as each story is told in first-person narrative, through the perspective of the female lead. This seemed an appropriate choice in all of them, as it highlights each characters’ abilities to completely delude themselves into believing that they could/would hold out their emotions from the men chasing them. Each of these women only manages to succeed for so long before completely giving in to the temptation or sheer overpowering will of their male counterparts. The women all share the susceptibility to full-on self-denial. Then again, it could be argued that this is a universal human foible. Whatever the case, a good portion of each tale is led by the resistance at least attempted by the females.

Once they’re together, the concept that each of the couples understand is that love is not just a simple thing; you don’t just find it and live happily ever after, as much as we all wish we could. As deluded as they are about many facets of their relationships, they all come to realize that it will take hard work to make a success of their endeavors. The characters may be able to wax poetic about a mutual ownership, much like Abby says here,

When we met, something inside both of us had changed and whatever that was it made us need each other. For reasons unknown to me, I was his exception, and as much as I had tried to fight my feelings, he was mine.

but fortunately, this doe-eyed sentiment is offset by the harsh realities of “real” life. This brings each of the books from the brink of nauseatingly sweet romance to the more realistic, conflicting, ideas or emotions present in either an epic love story or a disaster waiting to happen.

Bared to You by Sylvia DayThe stories are differentiated by the age group featured. Both Fifty Shades of Grey and Bared to You feature twentysomethings making their way in the world, having been through decided difficulties, and discovering the nuances of adult life. Beautiful Disaster, on the other hand, relates more to first year college students and thus includes the typical partying, tests, frat BS, etc. that accompanies the student set. It could arguably be considered a “new adult” book in this regard, where it’s not quite that innocent, quick read of a YA novel, but also not entirely mature enough to be considered a ‘grown-up’ read. There is sexual content, but none of the BDSM, Dom/Sub subject matter that the others either feature or hint at as upcoming in further books. This facet alone may detract from the story for many readers because it’s a little less relatable.

Reading enjoyment is such a subjective matter, biased by previous reading material, personal moods, and a myriad of other external factors. So, will fans of E.L. James enjoy reading Beautiful Disaster? Or can McGuire and James’s works truly be compared to the damaged players found in Bared to You? There isn’t really a simple answer to that question. They all offer something different and approach their tales in varying styles. The ultimate deciding factor will come from readers’ tastes. Bared to You has a few very mentally unstable characters which may appeal to fans of psychologically intense dramas. Fifty Shades of Grey is more of a light read, with some sad moments from Christian’s past. Despite those hardships, it’s also the most humorous of the three. Beautiful Disaster comes across with a curious melange of Hollywood movies, such as 21, Fight Club, and Twilight. Whether you like any or all of these elements, each of the books has unique elements that distinguish it from the others.


Jackie Lester imagines a day when she can make a living as a writer. Until then, she reviews eclectic books at My Ever Expanding Library and lives in small-town Ontario with her daughter.

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Jena Briars
1. CutMyTeethOnKleypas
Hmmm. Considering I couldn't get past page 25 in Fifty Shades, I thought I would give Bared to You a try... I normally don't go for the erotica BDSM stuff. I've also got the impression from listening to a podcast interview (at SBTB) that Bared is MUCH more complex and well-written, whereas Fifty Shades is just... sort of flat and boring to some readers. We'll see... Has anyone else read Bared???
Elizabeth Halliday
2. Ibbitts
I loved the 50 Shades trilogy. Initially, I read it just to see what all the hype was about, but it turned out to be a really sweet love story. I am drawn to strong female leads, and Ana turned out to be just that, even though it didn't appear so in the beginning. And I found Christian to be the kind of man I find most compelling: a man strong enough and brave enough to be vulnerable to the woman he loves. It was one of those series that just kept getting better and better the more you read.
I also loved "Bared to You". It looks to be much more complicated than 50, but that's to Sylvia Day's advantage; I wouldn't want to read a carbon copy of someone else's work. Bared starts off more slowly and leads the reader more covertly into erotica, but gives the sense that, in the end, it will prove to be a steamier ride than 50. I am really looking forward to book #2!
3. jadaleigh
Just got done reading Beautiful, which finished up the lineup listed above. I loved all three story lines...Bared is my favorite and the character do seem to have more depth. Beautiful went into good depth of character, but I found myself thinking it was a bit YA (I didn't know that it was kinda was when I read it). Then it ended... all wrapped up in a nice little package. However, it makes me wonder if I got jipped in college in never meeting or just seeing my Travis!
4. Rose Red
I really didn't enjoy the Fifty Shades trilogy, in spite of enjoying BDSM erotica at times. Christian was just too controlling and damaged, and Anna always having to walk on eggshells was just too unpleasant for me. It reminded me a lot of Lora Leigh's Men of August series, with 3 controlling, emotionally and sexually damaged men and the women that agreed to their terms of love. I much rather read erotica where the people live normal, everyday lives but enjoy the BDSM scene as more of an occasional enjoyment or mutual stress reliever.
5. charvey135
I've read all three of the books and enjoyed them all. I loved Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire, perhaps more than the others; partly because it lacked the intense erotic scenes the other's have and partly because it was really well-written. Fifty Shades is an intriguing story but, I feel, could have used one or five more edits before publication. Also, Fifty Shades drove me crazy with the pace; thirty or forty pages for one day the end, they get married after knowing each other (perhaps) three weeks. Bared to You did remind me of Fifty a little bit, except that both heroine and hero had complex backgrounds and (I felt) the writing flowed better.
Anyway, all three books have these intense, possessive, sexy, scintillating male characters in'd think their flaws would be too much to handle, but somehow in just makes you want them more!
Mara Gillott
6. MaraGillott
I've read the Fifty Shades series and Beautiful Diaster and I have to say that I am a sucker for a guy that is really screwed up in the head and for dysfunctional relationships. There is alot of critisisms of novels like these two where one partner seems hell-bent on saving or changing the other and the pain and fustrations they put themselves through in the process. Isn't that a bit more real than Jack and Jill that are seemlingly perfect for each other but spend 300 pages coming up with some stupid screwed up reason why they shouldn't be together? I'd much rather read the book about the two that really shouldn't be together but cannot stay away despite everything they put each other through inadvertantly. I'd rather see "my men" possessive to their core and even do things like kill for their women because they love them so much. I like to see "my women" struggle and not need to be showered with gifts or presents and really just want the man in the end, no matter how that means she needs to take him. I like to see them get rough with each other and rip clothes, and not have sex that is all rainbows and confetti.
7. ness
I have read over 250 erotic romance books since discovering they even existed a short while ago. I must say that the 50 shades triliogy was up in my top ten favorites. Then I found Bared to You and thus far they are neck and neck. I look forward to Sylvia's next in the series. I recommend both series to anyone who likes this genre.
8. love_doped
i've read bared and fifty shades and bared and i have to say that bared is a winner for me... the writing style, the characters are much refined then fifty.. plus i didnt really liked the writng style of fifty... the emails were the only asset that stood out for me! plus eva is a kick-ass, not taking shit type of heroine... i simply adored her!
9. Love
I am all the way for bared to you... I like that Eva can stand up for herself and dont take shit. She is not weak compared to Ana in 50 Shades of Grey. I like the chemistry between Eva and Gideon even if Gideon still needs to open up more about his past. I am hoping we will learn more about him on the fourth book.
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