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Dakota Johnson and Jaime Dornan in "Fifty Shades Freed." (Universal Pictures)

"Fifty Shades Freed" is the third and final movie in the series, so there's no way I was going to miss this one, and not just because I'd pay good money to look at Jamie Dornan's abs for two hours. As a reader of the books by E.L. James, I've been invested in the series from the beginning. And look, I'll admit it: Epic cinema this is not. But, the movies are fun and romantic and they make just enough sense to stay vaguely entertaining.

Villains are dispatched in short order (usually in the first scene or two), the sex is graphic enough to make it too embarrassing to watch with your mom (speaking from experience, sadly) and there's pretty much a guaranteed happy ending built in. Sure, I wish Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) had a bit more personality, but did I mention Dornan's abs? Sometimes you can't get everything you want.

Honestly, no one I know watches a "Fifty Shades" movie expecting a cinematic masterpiece. Instead, we all come at it for more fun reasons. Maybe we like the escapism aspect of dating a billionaire. Maybe we're secretly intrigued about what goes on in that "red room." Whatever your reasoning is, embrace it as elegantly as Ana eventually embraces Christian's sexual proclivities. Just with maybe less blindfolds.

Whether you're excited about "Fifty Shades Freed" for the story or the steamy scenes, I've got you covered. Here are six solid reasons for going to see the new movie if you haven't already, and the books you should read when you're jonesing for more Anastasia and Christian Grey.


You know who you are. You've read E.L. James' series from start to finish. You've highlighted certain chapters. You cried at the end of book three. For those diehard fans of the books, the movies are more than just a fun watch: They're an experience. And often an emotional one. I'm not even going to suggest a new book series for you, because let's face it, you're not ready to move on yet. So instead, pick up a copy of "Darker," James's new book in the series told from the point of view of Christian. The book dives deep into Christian's mindset during the events of "Fifty Shades Darker," offering insight and explanations into his actions throughout the story. If you've been dying to know what Christian was thinking during his helicopter crash or why he fought so hard to get Ana back, this book will fill in that missing information and more.


The "Fifty Shades" movies have been criticized for not showing truly kinky sex, but try watching this movie with your mom and then we'll talk. Regardless, two people fully enjoying themselves and receiving true pleasure? I'll take it. There are lots of steamy new reads out there recently, and plenty that will get you just as hot and bothered as Ana and Christian. But trust me when I say you can't go wrong with a Kendall Ryan book. Sexy, fun and super romantic, her books are well-written while still being extremely hot. "Torrid Little Affair" is the latest in her "Forbidden Desires" series, touching on a lot of elements that are sure to appeal to any "Fifty Shades" fan, including a powerful boss with a tortured past, a heroine who is more than a match for his alpha ways and enough sexy scenes throughout. You'll be fanning yourself reading this book!


If you're less interested in Christian's mysterious "red room" and more in it for the sweet couple-y moments, then there's still plenty to love here. At its heart, "Fifty Shades" is definitely a love story, where two people find solace and courage in each other. For those all-out romance fans, pick up a copy of Allison Winn Scotch's new book, "Between Me and You." Like Ana and Christian's story, this is not a straightforward tale of an easy love. Instead, Scotch explores a marriage on the brink, introducing us to a couple who are no longer in the first flushes of love. With circular storytelling, Scotch shows what comes after the marriage and the kids, and how to rediscover those everyday moments of being in love.


Ana and Christian have certainly come a long way from the first book and film, where their lack of trust and willingness to open up drove a wedge between the two. Now that everything is close to perfect, it's nice to step back and reflect on how we got here. Enter: "Happy Together," a new book by Suzann Pileggi Pawelski and James O. Pawelski. Their self-help guide breaks down what goes into a successful long-term relationship, including spending time together, positive communication, healthy passion and more. If you're wondering how to make your love life more like Ana and Christian's, well then, maybe let that fantasy go. These two are fictional, after all! But if you want to build a realistic, healthy love, then definitely try out "Happy Together."


First of all, no shade. I'm with you. And, especially paired with Dornan's face and all around sexiness, there are certainly worse reasons to buy a movie ticket. If you're in it solely for the eye candy, then try "Down on Me," by J. Kenner. It's a friends-to-lovers romance that promises to be super steamy. Even better, it's the start of a series called "Man of the Month," where Kenner assigns different sexy men to a month of the year and writes the story of their romances. It's like a literal hot guy calendar in book form.


Even after reading all of the books, I ended up watching the first movie by accident. It was a rainy day, it popped up on HBO, and I was bored. This is an easy movie to stumble into, is what I'm saying. So maybe you were clicking through the channels and you became so fascinated that you couldn't click away. Now you're invested. Or at least, morbidly curious. Or maybe even a little concerned for what the film's popularity says about gender roles, society, etc. Don't worry, there's room for you here too. If you're deeply conflicted over your reaction to the film, then try reading bell hooks' new book, "All About Love." Hooks is one of the best contemporary writers on gender, women and politics, and her latest collection of essays is a deep look into how society perceives love. If you find you need a little thoughtful cultural criticism on romance after watching "Fifty Shades Freed" (and I don't blame you!), this is a great place to start.

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