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Linda Hilton

Reader, Writer, Merciless Reviewer and Incurable Romantic

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Abuse Indeed -- Of the reader, of the authors, of the victims

Fifty Shades Of Abuse - #OneVoice, Eve Thomas

Poorly formatted, typos and grammatical errors abound.

(Additional update -- see comment 10 July 2013)

(Additional update 27 June 2013)

Although Fifty Shades of Abuse was pulled from Amazon distribution several days ago, and although "Eve Thomas" posted on Twitter that she was "reformatting" the book, the "second printing" (oh, the irony, it burns) remains poorly formatted. It is still double-spaced like a manuscript page, still has no paragraph indents, still has sentences that break in the middle of lines.

In other words, it's still a piece of poorly formatted, "Oh, look, I can upload right to Kindle Direct Publishing!" garbage.

(Additional update 21 June 2013 -- as noted in the body of the review.)

(Additional updates 15 June 2013 -- see comments of this date)

Update and more complete review -- 3 June 2013

The usual disclaimers: I was lent the Kindle edition of this book by another reader who had purchased it. I do not know the author personally, but I have had numerous and acrimonious encounters with her, her supporters, and/or her sockpuppets on Goodreads. I am an author of historical romances.

The not quite so usual disclaimer: I hold a BA degree in Women's Studies from the Barrett Honors College of Arizona State University - West Campus (2000). I hold an MAIS (Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies) with an emphasis in sociology and gender studies from Arizona State University - West Campus (2003).

I come to the reading of Eve Thomas's anthology of accounts from victims/survivors of domestic violence with more than a passing knowledge of the subject. My personal library contains many texts on domestic violence, domestic abuse, rape, and gender relations.

I also bring my own personal experience of non-violent abuse. Been there, done that.

All right, given all that, I began reading my borrowed copy of Fifty Shades of Abuse after I had already read and commented on the reading of the free sample. Others had commented as well, both defending Ms. Thomas and her project and denouncing them. I will not challenge any of those comments or support them; I will only give my personal impression.

The first chapter is Eve Thomas's story, complete with her rambling letter to E. L. James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey. This chapter also contains Eve's allegations of being bullied by reviewers on Goodreads. As one of the reviewers who criticized some of Eve's previous works, I find it very regrettable that she chose to put that charge in her book without citing any of the relevant facts or allowing the accused any response. But then, I've called her a bully in the past, and that is a bully's tactic.

There are some things about Eve's personal story that don't ring quite right, but it is after all her story and her book. I'll take it on face value.

But when Chapter Two, couched in the protective mantle of anonymity, presents virtually the same vitriol against E.L. James and her book, warning bells rang in my mind. In tone, in style, in anger, Chapter Two read exactly like something written by Eve Thomas herself.

Furthermore, I found the story itself just not quite believable. A little over the top, you might say. I find it hard to believe that the perfect lover turns into a violent abuser literally overnight because he reads a book. People just aren't like that. The author(?) of the story states that she and her partner had "dabbled" in BDSM before he read the James book, so perhaps he wasn't the perfect partner after all. Perhaps . . . oh perhaps so many things. It doesn't make any difference what the possible explanations are because by this point, I just simply did not believe anyone other than Eve Thomas had written this diatribe against E.L. James.

So I moved on to Chapter Three, which is another tale that contains no documentation. It's another tale, by now all too familiar, of the young and innocent woman who marries the man of her dreams and then he becomes an ogre. The writing is the same style as the previous chapters. The grammar and punctuation, the run-on sentences, the voice, the style -- it's just more Eve Thomas.

Chapter Four is slightly different in that it's supposedly from a young man Eve "met" through the Chelsea Krost show. Eve gives no further information about him, nor does she even identify who Chelsea Krost is or what her show is. This is an example of lack of professionalism in the presentation -- not giving the reader sufficient information to understand what's being presented. I had to Google it. Most writers who publish non-fiction know enough to provide their readers with sufficient basic information to know what's going on. Eve Thomas apparently knows virtually nothing - NOTHING -- about how to present these stories in a professional manner.

But sadly, the young man's story was told in the same style as the previous ones. Same voice, same grammatical problems, same formatting problems. Again, I couldn't help get the impression that except for gender, this was just another retelling of Eve Thomas's story by Eve Thomas.

I considered that perhaps Eve selected stories that felt comfortable and familiar to her, by people whose circumstances were similar to her own. Same socio-economic and educational background. Same general age. Same. . . everything. So far, all the victims/survivors were young heterosexuals who had gone into relationships with no understanding or experience. In their naivete they didn't know what was happening around them or have any means to get out. But not one of them, not one, was a competent writer. All of them made the exact same grammatical mistakes as Eve. All of their stories were poorly formatted for the digital edition. All of their stories followed the same trajectory.

All those red flags were waving enthusiastically.

Chapter Five was slightly different in content, but identical in its unbelievability. Now we have another naive young woman in an abusive relationship, but rather than get out of it, she finds another relationship -- actually, a series of them -- on the side. And the relationships she establishes outside her marriage are, according to her, BDSM relationships. According to her account, she is still married to an abusive man she doesn't love, but is in a Master/slave relationship with another!

She describes her M/s relationship as not abusive, though it does occasionally involve "punishment." Clearly this is a counter to what has been termed the BDSM nature of Fifty Shades of Grey.

I admit I know just about nothing about the BDSM lifestyle, and I also admit there's nothing in the tiny bit I do that makes it attractive to me. But my understanding -- which could be wrong and I'm open to correction (without punishment, however) -- is that the "SM" in "BDSM" stands for sado-masochism, which is the deriving of sexual pleasure from the inflicting (sadism) and receiving (masochism) of physical pain. It seems to me, therefore, that there's something factually wrong about the account in Chapter Five that says

BDSM, isn’t all about “yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir” stuff – its having someone care for you and set you rules to help keep you safe. It’s nothing like the 50 shades of grey books although some of it – such as the “sex scenes” can occur.

Voice, One; Thomas, Eve (2013-05-16). Fifty Shades Of Abuse (#OneVoice) (p. 47). The Eve Thomas Foundation. Kindle Edition.

So the author of this story admits that there are some similarities between her M/s relationship -- including the sex scenes! -- yet still says "It's nothing like" the James book? Sorry, but it can't be both!

Update: 21 June 2013 -- I considered making this update a spoiler, but it's really essential to understanding a major point of my criticisms, so it's here, albeit a bit awkward.

As a result of my comment regarding BDSM, a Goodreads member who had read my review contacted me through PM and provided me some information about the lifestyle. One of the nice things about admitting you don't know something is that usually someone who does know something will share that knowledge, and that's exactly what happened in this case.

What she told me was that not all BDSM relationships involve all aspects of that description, and that some M/s (Master/slave) relationships may not involve any sado-masochistic behavior at all. In a way, I should have known at least that not all BDSM relationships are exactly alike, any more than all gay relationships are alike or all heterosexual relationships are alike, or any other generalization about "kinds" of relationships.

But what this points up is that a competent editor of such a collection of first-person accounts would have provided that kind of informative context so readers, even reasonably well-educated ones like me, wouldn't make erroneous assumptions. Eve Thomas's little opening and closing remarks offered virtually nothing in the way of explanation, and as "editor" she had not helped her contributors to do so.

In fact, the author of this particular chapter might, contrary to my statement, have been 100% accurate -- except that Thomas's lack of editing competence actually stripped that "raw" narrative of all its power. There is so much more to the true job of editing than cleaning up typos and eliminating run-on sentences. Good editing gives the writing power and beauty and strength and emotion and impact. All of that was lost.

(End update.)

There were many other things in this chapter that just didn't ring true, but by the time I'd finished it, I had lost all trust that I was reading real people's honest accounts of their abuse.

I felt no connection with any of these people. I didn't feel sorry for them at all, because I just didn't feel they were real. They came across as figments of someone's imagination, someone who wanted lots of stories of abuse but didn't know how to put real stories together.

None of the individuals had a history, a family background, an educational background, an employment background. Not everyone writes their story exactly the same -- how they met their partner, how the abuse started, how it escalated, how it ended. Tolstoy was at least halfway correct: Unhappy stories are unique, but so are happy ones. There's nothing unique about the five stories I read, nothing unique about the individuals.

I tried, as a writer, to figure out what might have happened here. Had an author created these people but, not knowing exactly how to differentiate them from herself, only created their abuse? Was the tale of Eve Thomas, told with so many capitals and exclamation points, the only genuine story because it was hers, but when she began to create other stories, other fictions, she didn't know how? She couldn't get into the skin of a character who wasn't her?

We've all read those stories with the Mary Sue heroine who is the author as she wishes she were, all perfect and gorgeous and irresistible and beloved and wise and. . . well, you know what I mean. Was Eve Thomas projecting the single most important chacteristic of her own existence -- her abuse -- into fictional abuse victims who were, in essence nothing more? Because that's all that was there. Just. . . .abuse. Chapter Five could almost have been described as abuse porn.

After reading five chapters, I quit. Other than Eve Thomas's opening chapter, I don't think any of them are genuine. And that's sad, because genuine victims of abuse and violence deserve have their stories told and read. But if in fact the stories are just fictional creations, it's also cruel of Eve Thomas to put something out there that isn't what she wants people to believe it is. Lacking any documentation to the contrary, I can make no other conclusion.