Nestled in the picturesque Lake District of northwestern England, the Damson Dene Hotel looks at first glance like a typical English countryside hotel. But its bedside tables hold a shocking secret. Instead of placing the traditional Gideon Bible at arm’s reach, the hotel has put in each of its 40 rooms a copy of E.L. James’ best-selling erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey.
Hotel owner Jonathan Denby told NBC News that in a secular society, it was “wholly inappropriate” to put a religious book in someone’s bedroom. He confessed that the novel, which started life as Twilight fan fiction, wasn’t his first choice of replacement. In fact, he hasn’t even read it. “I was thinking originally of putting in a book by Ayn Rand — Atlas Shrugged was my first thought,” he said, but “because everybody is reading Fifty Shades of Grey, we thought it would be a hospitable thing to do, to have this available for our guests, especially if some of them were a little bit shy about buying it because of its reputation.”
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Fifty Shades of Grey traces the relationship between a business magnate and a young college graduate, with explicit depictions of bondage and submissive acts. Since the Damson Dene’s dirty little secret has emerged, the hotel has received dozens of angry e-mails — not from Britons, but from Americans — demanding that the Bibles be restored beside the beds. Writing on his personal blog, Denby revealed that he has been called a “puppet of Satan” and that several people e-mailed him “pretending that they were just about to make a booking the Damson Dene, but had changed their mind.”
Unsurprisingly, the move has also attracted the ire of local parish priest Michael Woodcock, who told the Westmorland Gazette that “it is a great shame that Bibles have been removed from rooms and very inappropriate to have been replaced by an explicit erotic novel.” He added, “The Bible remains a source of comfort and inspiration that many people do find helpful.”
However, Wayne Bartholomew, the manager of the hotel, has been quick to point out that “the Gideon Bible is full of references to sex and violence, although it’s written using more formal language, so James’ book is easier to read.”
Ironically, the previous owner of the hotel was a Methodist group that was responsible for putting the Bibles in the rooms.