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Racy, disturbing novel ’50 Shades of Grey’ gains cult following

DENVER — When you think of romance novels, “Fifty Shades of Grey” may not fit the bill of what comes to mind.

It started as an independent book published by a small company in Australia, but word of mouth and e-book downloads have propelled the novel to cult-like status. It’s been picked up by major publisher, Random House.

At Denver’s Tattered Cover bookstore, readers have already been interested.

“We had customers coming in asking for it, looking for it, desperate for it,” said Cathy Langer, lead buyer at Tattered Cover.

But this novel may not be for the faint of heart. In fact, it’s not romance, it’s considered erotica.

“He has what she tends to call the Red Room of Pain,” said Denver romance author, Jenn LeBlanc.

In addition to writing, LeBlanc leads the romance fan group, Denver Lady Janes. She described “Fifty Shades of Grey” as titillating, but extreme. Surprisingly, it started as fan fiction for the famous “Twilight” novels.

“All those ‘Twilight’ moms who wanted a little bit more from the story would probably appreciate it,” said LeBlanc.

But not all readers were impressed.

“I expected more sexual exploration openness between two loving people, instead it really is a relationship about abuse,” said Rita Lenz.

Lenz doesn’t plan on reading the rest of the trilogy.

“I found myself very conflicted, and I found the story very disturbing,” she said.

Despite differing views, the response is overwhelming and bookstores are responding.

“I made a significant initial buy so we’ll have lots of copies for the initial rush,” said Langer.

This may not be the book for first timers but LeBlanc believes romance is for everyone, and it can certainly help everyone in the bedroom.

“I don’t expect my husband to ride up on some white steed with a knife and sword and rescue me from my dishes, that’s silly,” she said. “But you know, if I just read about that I might want to discuss other things with my husband, because he’s there!”

“Fifty Shades of Grey” is available on e-book readers now, and the newly released book versions will be in stores April 3.