Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Redemption, Chapter 7

We’re back with Gillian, who is being enthusiastically greeted by Daedelus (who she calls Daed) and Kimber. And by “greeted” I basically mean “groped,” since Daed immediately starts rubbing her shoulders and a page later has her over his shoulder. It doesn’t even surprise me anymore when men just take their liberty in touching women, particularly Gillian. Daed calls her “princess” and “puddin” and generally treats her like a creepy uncle rather than one of her bosses. He repeatedly ignores her requests to go away and fuck off, acting like she never even said anything. Jesus Christ it’s gross.

Going back to nicknames, Kimber returns to “Kemo Sabe.” Now, out of all the characters in these books, Kimber is among those I mind the least, but the fact that she was introduced with the racist-ass Lone Ranger reference continues to gall me.  For those who don’t remember, Kimber is of indeterminate-origin-but-not-white, and she thinks of herself as the Tonto to Gillian’s Lone Ranger. Because why not have your non-white sidekick take on the role of an unapologetically racist non-white character? Also, we’re reminded that Kimber, despite not being white, has light hair and eyes. Now, I’m light-skinned and have cousins on the non-white side who are blond, so I’m not dismissing that light-skinned people of color exist. But the narrative has gone to great pains to downplay Kimber’s acceptably-white appearance, and it’s just as gross as Daed’s behavior.

Oh, so Perrin is watching Daed harass and basically assault Gillian and has a reasonably upset reaction…right up until he’s “furious with Gillian for her seemingly calm reaction to that ruffian. Did she like that? Did she expect him to behave like that?”

vector drawing of a man with an incredulous expression

Are…are you fucking serious right now? What on this planet would make him think she expects him to act like that? Even given his social isolation and ignorance, I don’t know why the fuck he’d go there. Actually, yes I do: more manufactured conflict that’s executed in the grossest way imaginable.

Perrin confronts Gillian with a tirade, demanding to know whether she wants him to act that way, presumably when they fuck. Predictably, he thinks Gillian and Daed are fucking, and he’s jealous. Gillian explains that it was “just friendly banter,” even though it didn’t objectively seem all that friendly. Have you ever been in a conversation with, say, Person A and Person B, and Person A is recounting an experience with Person B like it was fucking hilarious, and Person B clearly didn’t think it was funny, but they do that thin-lipped awkward smile? That’s pretty much this, and it icks me out.

…but not as much as what happens next. Perrin goes,

“That man is someone important in your life, yet he allows you to be here, with me?”

He allows her.

He. Allows. Her.

He allows her.

He allows her.

what kind of bullshit is this? you people must be out your damn mind

Can there not be ONE penis-owning being in these books who does not also come with some bullshit factory-installed schema of extreme misogyny? JUST ONE. IT’S ALL I ASK.

Gillian explains that Daed isn’t her lover and she doesn’t even like him, which immediately undermines the whole friendly banter thing from earlier. She informs him, as a reasonable therapist would, that if he’s unhappy with what’s going on or if he wants a new therapist, she can get him one. He reacts by asking if she wants to get rid of him.

Now, this isn’t an unrealistic reaction for someone in therapy for attachment issues, which Perrin clearly has. It might not make my eyes roll like they’re in a perpetual motion machine if this weren’t written solely for the purpose of manufacturing conflict, just like everything else in this fucking book. This is exactly what I hate about romance novels: the persistent misunderstandings that represent the only tension, and it’s stupid tension that could be worked out if the situation were discussed in a reasonable manner like fucking adults. This is worse, though, because there’s the addition of mental health stuff, which is just realistic enough to be offensive when it’s done poorly.

a three-toed sloth whispering in a woman's hear. "Sshhh...just accept it."

Oh, here we go. Gillian busts through professional ethics like the fucking Kool-Aid man:

“I will tell you something I have never told another patient….If I had met you outside of this situation, at the theatre or at a coffeehouse, just a man and a woman, meeting one night, I would have been attracted to you and I would not have hesitated to show you that interest.”

Well THAT’S NOT INAPPROPRIATE AT ALL. Can you imagine if your gynecologist or prostate doctor or whoever was like, “Hey, I just wanted to tell you that if we weren’t in my office, I’d still totally be into looking at your vag/in your ass.” Gillian is providing a professional service to Perrin that’s not any different; how utterly contemptible is it for her to suddenly cross that line? Oh, but then she’s quick to tell him that they can’t fraternize for at least a year after their therapeutic relationship ends. What the actual fuck! She’s going to hit on an emotionally vulnerable patient but then tell him they can’t even be friends? Jesus Christ.

But of course, despite his attachment issues, Perrin is perfectly understanding and doesn’t have whiplash from her hideous mixed messages. Now I’m getting whiplash, because now they’re making out. There’s some truly gag-worthy description of kissing that sounds about like this:

goat wagging its tongue

man making a disgusted face

AUTHORS, STOP DESCRIBING KISSING. They kissed. It was hot. If you want to say they used tongue, fine, but please god don’t describe how wet the kiss is.

What would a Gillian makeout scene be without “erectile tissues” being involved? They move over to the couch and she’s straddling him “as though he were a horse,” which seems to be a thinly-veiled commentary on how hung he is, because there’s no such thing a dick that’s anything less than gigantic in this universe. He gets freaked out and tells her they have to stop…but ostensibly because he’s about to come too quickly, not because he’s actually freaked out.

Chapter ends.

Takeaways

I have so little to say about this chapter other than that it’s so fucking annoying on so many levels. I’m sure there’s meant to be plenty of sexual/romantic tension between them and it’s supposed to be sexy, but it’s about as attractive as a dead fish that’s been sitting out in the sun for hours. It’s so manufactured, but I’m not even sure how it was manufactured or why. Why does the sex scene need to be here, and how the hell did their little spat over Daed lead to them presumably going to fuck in the next chapter? One thing I do know about romance in stories is that the first scene is supposed to come at a climax (pun mostly not intended) of a relationship, not just some random conversation that’s an easily-resolved misunderstanding. If it’s going to happen after Perrin witnessing something and getting jealous, why can that thing not be Aleksei and not Gillian’s stupid asshole boss?

Oh, Avery, you know it’s because not one single person involved in the production of this book gives a single shit anymore.

phoning it in

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Redemption, Chapter 6

After Perrin’s giggle fit, there’s some obvious flirting, which then moves straight into kissing.

I guess this is okay, since this is supposed to be sex therapy and all, but this scene doesn’t feel like therapy at all. This is straight up first-date makeout. Just like when Gillian made out with Tanis and then Aleksei, she stands there “passively” while he kisses her, just to add an extra layer of gross. Does standing there like a blowup doll make this therapeutic?

While they’re kissing, Gillian wonders whether his gargoyle blood just affected his face (hence the mask) or whether “he [has] more disfigurements beneath his clothing.” You’re a class act, Gillian. Worrying about whether his dick is ugly is exactly what you should be thinking about when you’re ostensibly making out in a professional capacity.

Happy Bunny pin that says, "Since you're gross, shouldn't you be smart?"

They make out some more and we’re informed that Perrin has been starved for touch most of his life, which is his real problem. “He radiated need, want, desire, longing…most of it wasn’t even sexual.” Then why is this sex therapy? It seems to me like sex is the last thing she should be doing. I don’t need to be a therapist to know this. Sex is not the only way to fulfill the need for touch. It’s a good way and there’s nothing wrong with it, don’t get me wrong, but seriously, why is that the first place a therapist goes to? Is she not sexualizing touch for him in a way that will become unhealthy?

I know, too nuanced a question for these garbage books.

lower your expectations

Predictably, she’s having a hard time controlling her emotions around him. This is when a GOOD therapist and a reasonable person would step away and ask someone else to take over Perrin’s case, isn’t it? But no, of course she won’t, because that would eliminate the love triangle tension and make Gillian and Aleksei have to work out their conflict like fucking adults.

….y’all, I found the best meme for Gillian ever.

I realized you will be the worst therapist ever. Your only concern is how quickly you can get a hot load in you

This is exactly how she is. She actually gives zero shits about her clients, despite every effort by the narrative, other characters, and herself to convince me that she does. When she’s with male clients, all she can think about is her personal humidity index, and when she’s with the one female client she’s ever had, Bullwinkle, she constantly dehumanizes her by calling her a “creature.” Lest it seem like I’m harping on the therapist stuff, I’ll remind you that Gryphon is apparently a mental health professional herself. She knows this shit, or she should. It personally offends me when someone portrays their own profession, which is one most people have misconceptions about anyway, in such a bullshit manner. It would be like me writing the worst, laziest, least ethical teacher I could possibly write.

Perrin jumps on the diminutive nickname train and calls her “Gilliana.” This guy is seriously a milder-mannered cipher of Aleksei. This is just lazy writing, but it also doesn’t take a genius to realize how unhealthy it is for Gillian to be fucking a nicer version of her abusive boyfriend.

Gillian talks to Helmut about her problem controlling her emotions. She actually questions herself (!!) and wonders if she should reassign him to a different therapist (!!!!)the answer is yes

Of course, we all know this pattern by now: Gillian displays a moment of wisdom and insight, and Helmut swoops in to reassure her that her reasonable instincts are silly and she should continue anyway. He tells her since he’s part Sidhe, Perrin emanates sex vibes, which he can’t control, so it’s not her fault that she can’t control her own emotions. Which we already knew, because Gillian spent several paragraphs describing his sex appeal in previous chapters, plus every dick-wielding asshole in this book has preternatural sex appeal anyway. This is not a fucking surprise, but she acts like Helmut just told her there’s evidence of life on Mars.

Now she talks about setting boundaries for Perrin. While I’m actually kind of proud of her for this attempt, it’s a little late for that. She should have done that from the outset, especially if sex is supposed to be involved. You don’t just wing that shit. Of course, this is really indicative of how Gillian lives her life in general: a complete lack of planning that inevitably results in disaster. She would be a terrible road trip buddy. You’d get a hundred miles down the road and she’d realize she has no idea where she’s going, doesn’t have a map, forgot her cell phone, forgot to fill up the tank, and doesn’t have any money left for gas because she blew all of her money on pork rinds, Doritos, and Mountain Dew. And then she throws up all over the car because she forgot she gets carsick. And then she wants to stop at a rest area in the middle of nowhere so she can have a serious conversation with you about planning the trip. And then she wants to borrow your cell phone to call Helmut, who assures her that she’s doing great and is right on track.

Which is exactly what he does, saying, “You’re doing our profession proud and lending credibility to it.” I know I’ve said I’d avoid ad hominem attacks, but I’m so fucking annoyed I’m going to throw one out anyway: I’m sure this is what Gryphon tells herself when she’s writing this trash.

This is the result of any such road trip with Gillian:

Oregon Trail: You have dysentery

The scene drones on and on. They talk about Perrin’s mask and how Gillian is going to let him determine when it comes off. Finally Gillian goes up to bed and runs into Aleksei, who…apologizes for his behavior. I wish I could muster some satisfaction from this, but I’m becoming inured to these moments by now. I certainly don’t trust any moment of wisdom or progress, knowing it won’t last more than a nanosecond. Indeed, Gillian stomps off to bed without bothering to have a discussion, and I’m sure that’s the end of that.

We jump into Puff the Magic Vampire’s head as he’s being all dragon-y and shit. There’s some garbled information about master vampires’ abilities and vampire lords and vampire lines that only half makes sense. We’re reminded that Aleksei is now the head of his own bloodline (pun intended), and he’s not sure what to do with that. It’s actually a halfway decent character conflict moment, which is followed by an equally decent thought train about how he needs to earn Gillian’s respect and trust and not be such a misogynist dickbag. Oh, Puff the Magic Vampire, if only I believed you’d actually succeed.

Aleksei goes to the nearest village to feed, though he doesn’t hunt; he has a list of willing “donors,” which apparently means he can roll into the cafe and pick out a human meal whenever he wants to. We pause for exposition again for several paragraphs, this time to assure us that the whole village loves the Rachlavs, and the whole arrangement between them and the townspeople sounds suspiciously like how a mob runs things. After chatting with the locals in the cafe, someone asks if he needs to feed, and a bunch of people stand up, unprompted, to offer to feed him.

a woman looking creeped out

do not want

animated gif of a man closing door and saying "nope"

I’m not sure if creating sycophants is a side effect of leveling up in vampiredom, or if this is unintentionally creepy as fuck. Aleksei protests that he doesn’t want to feed from his own people (then why was the donor list created? Who knows), but they insist, and he feeds from several of them. Apparently it “[makes] them feel like they [are] important enough to help their benefactor.” Jesus Christ this is right up there with the creepy sex painting. Maybe even worse. What’s especially creepy about it is that I’m sure we’re meant to see this as this wonderful, generous thing the townspeople are doing to demonstrate how awesome Aleksei and Tanis are.

Some weird summarized conversation happens between Aleksei and Tanis about Tanis wanting to be free from his bond with Dracula, so Aleksei is going to “treat him like a new conversion,” which I assume means treat him like he’s being turned into a vampire for the first time. I’m not sure where this is coming from or why it needs to happen now, but whatever. Blah blah blah, there’s some shit about how blood exchanges work that would be interesting somewhere else but is absolutely meaningless right now.

And now we’re back with Gillian, who is still calling Bullwinkle “the hideously ugly creature.” She leads a group therapy session with Bullwinkle, Samuel (Frankenstein’s monster) and some of the fey, then heads toward the Rachlavs’ guesthouse…wearing a sword, because she’s going to practice with Finian and Trocar lately. Okay. There’s a moment where it seems like something might happen, but it’s a false alarm, naturally. Jenna shows back up, and Gillian apologizes for being busy lately. Jenna tells her not to apologize and Gillian says, “I can’t help it. I’m Jewish, but heritage anyway. The guilt comes along with it. It’s like a legacy.”

….Why does this even need to be here? Why does she need to be Jewish, and what the fuck does it matter? WHY IS ANY OF THIS EVEN HAPPENING

why

why the fuck not

Jenna makes a Friends reference I don’t get because I’m like the only American who never gave a shit about that show, and someone grabs Gillian from behind and throws her into the air. There’s this bit of anticlimactic brilliance:

Dimly she knew that if something really bad had been sneaking up on her, Jenna would have said something.

Well, that’s good to know. You’re a real pal, Jenna.

Well, unless Tanis or Josh Holloway from Lost were standing in her line of vision without their shirts while the sneaking was going on. Then she’d be screwed for sure.

End chapter.

Takeaways

JESUS CHRIST what is the point of all this shit? This is Gryphon and this book right now:

kids' activity page with a bucket and stars that says, "I can be a bucket filler!"

This is nothing but trying to toss words and ideas into random buckets in hopes of filling them enough to make books. At this point, I sense regret–which incidentally tastes like Five Hour Energy–pouring from Gryphon’s every keystroke at having signed a multi-book deal. I wonder if she realizes she has about a book and a half’s worth of C-grade material, and she’s trying to string it all together. It’s about as attractive and useful as Trump’s comb-over.

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Redemption, Chapter 4-5

La la la, more of Perrin’s backstory. If you’ve read, seen, or heard of The Phantom of the Opera, this is not unfamiliar. It’s one of those things I don’t give a crap about, but I pretty much know it already. This goes on for literally pages. At what point does this become straight-up plagiarism? I’m not sure. I don’t know how many physical pages this story takes, but I counted eight flips of my Kindle app’s pages before there was even a whisper of something original.

Perrin finds the book Laroux wrote about him and goes crazy for a while until he sees a TV show about therapists who help paranormal people. In a weird little coincidence, he sees Gillian’s picture on a magazine Jenna dropped while they were passing through France. tl;dr here they are.

Gillian cries over his story, and he’s impressed with her super-empathy.

End of chapter. Not even kidding.

That chapter took 4% of the book. Four percent! Of crap that is completely ripped off from someone else’s story.

Jack Nicholson looking dumbfounded

Chapter 5

This is the first sentence of this chapter:

Dalton, Lord of the Light Court, found Gillian sprawled in a chair in the library, swearing at her laptop as she meticulously entered data on a private session, an hour before.

Tom Hanks giving his laptop a confused look

…an hour before what? Does this chapter take place before the last one? Did she start her data entry an hour earlier? Did she start swearing an hour earlier? Have we reached another wrinkle in space-time?

Keeping in mind that Perrin is part fey, Gillian asks Dalton and Finian (formerly known as Purple Prince) what the “rules and standards” are for mixed-species children. Short answer is that the Light Court doesn’t like them, but the Dark Court hates them less. Gillian wants to know if they’re racists, which…seems pretty obvious to me.

Bullwinkle shows up with Pavel, and Dalton and Finian beat feet because they don’t like shapeshifters or something. Trocar assures Bullwinkle that he doesn’t mind that she’s a whatever-she-is because Grael don’t “stigmatize anyone’s heritage unless that being carries a portion of Grael blood.” So whatever you are, that’s fine, unless you’re not purebred one of us, in which case fuck you.

don't make sense make dollars

Trocar takes Pavel hunting for some reason, and Gillian sits down to have a therapy session with Bullwinkle, who was cursed to become a moose because of her vanity. Given that the moose can’t speak or write (because hooves), I’m not sure how this was communicated. Gillian keeps referring to Bullwinkle as “it” and “the creature” and “Moose,” rather than “she” and her name, which is Tuuli. Only I get to make fun of your stupid cultural associations, Gillian. Worst therapist ever.

Gillian figures out that Bullwinkle can hold something in her mouth and type on the computer, but she only knows a fey or an elf language, so Gillian scurries off to find someone who can translate. She wants to avoid Aleksei but spends an entire page thinking about him, and then he and Tanis catch up to her. There’s some stilted “hey how you doing” conversation and then all forward motion grinds to a halt as it’s explained, yet again, that Rachlav Central is housing Gillian’s patients, who are all making progress. As a side note, there’s apparently group therapy sessions too.

As we finally meander back to the actual conversation, Aleksei says he can help Bullwinkle because he’s telepathic. Bullwinkle agrees and please god let this go somewhere please please.

a zombie saying, you are boring me to death, and i'm already dead. you are boring me back to death.

Aleksei also keeps referring to Bullwinkle as “the wretched creature” and “the pitiful creature,” because everyone thinking of Gillian’s client as something less than a person creates an excellent therapeutic environment. Oh, also she’s super ugly. Like, super super ugly. Gillian and Aleksei both remark on this. wtf?

True to form, Aleksei turns his pity for Bullwinkle’s loneliness into masturbatory self-pity because maybe now that he fucked up with Gillian he’s destined to be lonely for the rest of his days.

abloobloobloo

Aleksei says she was cursed by a Light fey, and “It will be lifted when she is loved by one lesser than herself and returns that love to its originator.” Like…she has to be loved by someone who’s even uglier? We don’t know, but boy, I can’t wait to find out.😐 Bullwinkle apparently gets what they’re saying and wanders off “honking to herself.” I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but apparently she honks. Now, a moose sounds like a big cow to me, but this is what I picture:

Unintentionally hilarious but also uncomfortable. The narrative seems to be doing its best to make this character out to be completely ridiculous but also wants me, the reader, to take her seriously. I mean, you could argue that’s true of the entire book series, but that’s another thing.

After an awkward exchange with Aleksei, Gillian wanders off to see Perrin, who’s playing the piano in the most tragic manner possible. Given the sheer amount of attention lavished on this character, I’m guessing we’re headed straight for love triangle town. Admittedly, love triangles are sort of lost on me, 1) because I don’t like my romances to end in heartbreak for one party and 2) I’m poly, so my solution is, why not just do both?

porque no los dos?

We slither right into Perrin’s head. Of course he finds her ravishingly gorgeous and arousing. I’m getting some serious parallel vibes to the first scene from the first book with Aleksei, only with more tragic piano playing. He asks her if she wants him to play anything, and she starts asking him if he can play stupid pop culture shit like Three Dog Night and Shania Twain. It’s now been repeatedly established that he’s extremely reclusive. Why the hell would he have heard of Shania Twain?

Also, he keeps responding with oui and non rather than yes and no. This is such a lazy shorthand to show a character’s nationality. Like, he’s the Phantom of the fucking Opera, we know he’s French. Literally two of the first words you learn in a foreign language are yes and no. You don’t keep using those words in your first language. That’s just one of those little things I find really fucking annoying.

understands you speaking in english, answers you only in french

Oh, and now he wants her to sing, which she’s predictably terrible at. Another lazy shorthand. Is your character an insufferable Mary Sue? Give them a flaw that has zero bearing on the plot and zero consequences, that will make them three-dimensional! Like in Mass Effect, Shepard is somehow less of a Mary Sue because they can’t dance. At least Shepard is objectively badass and is (can be) likeable.

Perrin laughs at her terrible singing, and that’s “the first time in his entire life, Perrin, the former Ghost of the Opera House, laugh[s] out loud with another living being.” Aww, ain’t that cute.

And the chapter limps to a close.

Takeaways

What happens when you’ve run out of external plot, which was pretty fucking thin to begin with, and you’re contracted for two more books? You guessed it!

panic and write a love triangle

It’s probably worth noting that one of my pet peeves in books is manufactured conflict, which romance novels excel at. Maybe romance readers would have an easier time accepting this, but my eyes seem to be stuck in a perpetual motion machine and they haven’t stopped rolling since the book started.

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Redemption, Chapter 2-3

Chapter 2

Despite feeling insulted by Aleksei’s accusation of prostitution, Gillian insists that she has “tremendous compassion” for prostitutes. She has compassion for them but doesn’t want to be put in the same box. “There was a world of difference between what they did and what she would be required to perform as a licensed sex therapist.”

woman flipping the camera off enthusiastically

You self-righteous asshole.

This is everything that’s wrong with how people treat sex work. It reminds me of a scene in an episode of Dexter where Debra is talking to her sex worker contacts and says something about being a fucking whore. One of them says, “What’s wrong with being a fucking whore?”

Fucking nothing, that’s what. Pitying sex workers, which is essentially what’s going on here, is not different from vilifying them.

We’re given a treatise about how legit the “Miller-Jackson Center for Intimacy” is, just to make absolutely sure that we know this form of sex therapy is totally on the up-and-up and is nothing whatsoever like prostitution. Finally, in a perfect case of the pot calling the kettle an asshole, Tanis goes to talk to Aleksei about his behavior. He belts Aleksei, too, which I actually find kind of funny. Now apparently Tanis is the Defender of Gillian’s Professional Credibility, and he’s suddenly turned into a reasonable person to boot. He calls Aleksei out for his bullshit in a way that is completely opposite from his previous characterization. Remember when Aleksei was the flaccid but more reasonable one and Tanis was the temperamental asshole to match Gillian’s temperamental asshole?

Dear Talia Gryphon:

i want clarity specificity and consistency and i want it now

I know. Too much to ask.

Aleksei realizes the error of his ways, and Tanis flounces away. I can see this going two ways: 1) Aleksei apologizes and the situation is never brought up again, or 2) he’s going to sulk and keep Gillian at a distance for the rest of the book because he is a fucking hideous man child who can’t handle his guilt over his shitty behavior.

Meanwhile, Gillian is chatting with elves, who apparently call themselves the First People.

a bear holding its paws up and text saying "how about no"

Is this some skeezy appropriative bullshit about First Nations, or is it just more tone-deafness? I’m guessing it’s the latter, but that doesn’t make me feel any better. To add to this, “They were warm, open, very wise, but retained a freshness and purity about them…” Maybe I’m looking too much into it, but it stinks of some noble savage crap.

After speaking to her noble savage friends, Gillian decides she doesn’t want to sleep in the same bed with Aleksei, so she…goes outside? Wha?

First of all, from what we’ve seen, Aleksei hasn’t spent a single night with her. Second, I thought vampires had to sleep in the ground. Third, if the first two aren’t true for some reason, isn’t Rachlav Central a giant fucking manor house? Surely there’s a spare bedroom or a couch she could crash on? Instead, she wanders out to spend the night cuddling with Trocar in the elf camp. Who even knows.

Trocar is Really Mad at Aleksei, by the way, because he’s So Loyal to Gillian.

And…uh. That’s it for that chapter, I guess.

Chapter 3

Helmut shows up with Gillian’s new clients the next night. Aleksei rolls in to greet them because he has to interfere with everything. After being a passive-aggressive dick, he wanders away and Gillian meets her clients. One of them is Samuel Frank, whose voice is “deep and thick with a hollow fluid sound.” How is a voice both thick and hollow?

Oh. Oh, you guys. It’s Frankenstein’s monster.

woman wearing an "are you fucking kidding me" expression

Gryphon recounts the events of Frankenstein with what we’ll call some poetic license. Now, Frankenstein is one of my favorite books, and I find it personally insulting to have it used in such a manner, especially because the monster’s name is Samuel Frank, for fuck’s sake. He apparently needs treatment for depression and body dysmorphia, which is pretty accurate, but given that Gillian is the worst therapist in the world, I’m sure these things will be treated with the same gentleness and sensitivity you’d use to clean off your grill after you burned your steak on it.

The other client is…you guessed it…Bullwinkle, who’s actually a fey under a “polymorph spell.” Oh boy, this one sounds even more exciting.

Finally, there’s this guy–

phantom of the opera

–er, Erik Perrin Talbot Garnier, who “prefers to be known as ‘Perrin Garnier’ and addressed as ‘Perrin,‘” according Helmut’s unnecessarily complicated explanation. He looks basically exactly like the Rachlavs, which is to say he’s a hulking sex behemoth with long hair and a poet’s shirt, and he’s gorgeous and “purely beautiful.” Does she ever get attractiveness fatigue? I mean, does she look at average dudes now and throw up because they seem so fugly in comparison, or does the astonishing beauty of every penis-wielding creature in this world get boring?

Gillian wonders why someone this gorgeous needs a sex therapist, because apparently attractive people have no sexual problems. As a side note, she has one more client who’s apparently super private. This could be of no possible significance, could it? I’m betting it’s Dracula in surprise.

Perrin’s emotions seem to be expressed by his cape, which “flutter[ed] gently, almost docilely, as if he were afraid to make any wrong moves and risk her disapproval.” I lol’ed. Is the damn cape a separate character or something?

Did my American readers ever watch Eureeka’s Castle when they were little? This reminds me of Magellan the Dragon and his tail:

Apparently Perrin gives off mad sex vibes, and of course he’s creepily turned on by her: “hard, hot, pulsing, aching-for-release aroused.”

a little girl freaked out by an overflowing coke bottle

She also wants the D real bad, though no mention of her personal humidity index this time. She thinks “Dear, sweet, timid, inhibited Perrin was one lapsed ethical moment away from being a sexual predator.” Wait, what? Because he’s sexy, he’s verging on being a sexual predator? This is the other side of the spectrum of the abhorrent sexual politics in these books. Men, especially sexy men, are inherently sexually dangerous, and if they don’t watch themselves really carefully, they’ll turn into rape goblins. Fucking GROSS.

Apparently he’s part Sidhe, whatever the fuck that means, but there’s something else and he’s hesitant to tell her. We’re told more about Gillian’s amazeballs empathy for no particular reason, because these are totally facts we should be finding out in the third book rather than the first, and then Perrin decides to tell her his family history. He’s the product of a gargoyle raping a fairy, who then abandoned him. He was raised by “gypsy players,” because why not add in some racial stereotyping, who made him perform for money. He hates himself because nobody ever wanted him.

He keeps on like this for a while because he feels safe with her, which I can only attribute to her amazeballs empathy, which has apparently improved quite a bit because I can’t imagine anyone feeling safe with her. He goes on to retell The Phantom of the Opera, and eventually she realizes that story was “true.” I fail to see how this situation requires sex therapy, but I’m sure we’ll find a reason. Oh, and apparently he’s suicidal too, because the situation wouldn’t be complete if there wasn’t an ultimatum on her head: fuck me or I’m dead.

Charming.

End of chapter.

Takeaways

I see we’re back to blatant pop culture wanking and boring talky scenes with no redeeming values. Is it too much to ask for cultural references that aren’t part of the western canon? OF COURSE IT IS.

This chapter:

a woman looking unimpressed and rolling her eyes

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Redemption, Chapter 1

Well, friends, another day, another book. I’m actually a little morbidly excited about this one, because from what I’ve read, it’s bad (like, especially bad). Shall we take bets now on how the title of the book is not going to factor in the plot at all?

Before we get started, I just want to point out that the book’s Amazon page has no information about the book. And it was published in 2008. I can only assume this is the publisher’s way of trying to hide the fact that Gryphon is shoe-horning the fucking Phantom of the Opera into this book.

Yep. This ought to be good.

Rachlav Central has apparently become a hotspot for paranormal folks. There’s a passing mention of Dracula, just to remind us that he’s out there before he’s never mentioned again probably, and humans are apparently aware of this vampire turf war. I don’t recall this ever being mentioned before. We’re given an update about where everyone is and what Gillian has been doing, which is seeing clients and having meetings and “hunting for Dracula’s associates.” She sounds pretty busy. I have no idea how much time has passed; it could be two hours, it could be another two years given how space-time seems to work in these books.

Gillian and Aleksei have been fighting a lot because Aleksei wants to protect Gillian and Gillian has the gall to have her own life and her own shit to do out from under his thumb. I’m totally in Gillian’s corner here, which is where I find myself more often than not these days. Weird feeling.

Helmut calls Gillian with a request to meet with a client. Apparently she’s a licensed sex therapist, which…in this world means she’s authorized to have sex with clients.

Okay. Okay, FINE. Sexual surrogates are a thing. I’ll stretch my imagination and my patience, even though I can only think this is going to turn into a fucking disaster sooner than later. Of course, these books don’t need sex therapy to do that.

Gillian is hesitant because Aleksei is “old fashioned” about relationships (which we know is code for abusive and manipulative), but all Helmut has to say is, “Gillian, you are a trained professional. If you don’t want to take the case, that’s one thing. But you cannot refuse a client merely because your boyfriend might get jealous.” On the one hand, Helmut kind of has a point. If this were a different, non-sexual situation, I might agree with him. Her personal problems are her personal problems and ought not bleed into her professional life. On the other hand, Gillian is drawing professional and personal boundaries FOR ONCE, and she immediately gets slapped down by a male character.

katy perry saying

She has the right to refuse a client she doesn’t feel like she can or wants to handle. From what I’ve read, as long as she hasn’t started seeing the client and simply decides not to help him anymore, she has every right not to take the case. At least one sex surrogate I’ve read about won’t actually have sex with someone in a committed relationship. Some therapists won’t work with people with personality disorders. Boundaries. What I don’t like about the situation is her reason why she refuses, namely that Aleksei has her so afraid of his reactions that she hesitates to do her job. It’s less about her and more about the fact that he is a giant twatwaffle.

a waffle with the word

In the midst of this, there’s a weird sentence: “That was an admonishment. She could recognize them with astonishing regularity anymore.” The word “anymore” confuses me. I kind of get what she means, but it seems to imply the negative when phrased that way, that she doesn’t recognize them. That said, she sure does get admonished a lot, especially when she tries to advocate for herself.

tl;dr Helmut is bringing sex client and a different client from their “Russian expedition” to her. …what do you want to bet that’s Bullwinkle? Goddammit, I thought I’d escaped that embarrassingly stupid character.

Gillian goes to talk to Aleksei, who has a new nickname for her, angela. Why not just combine them all and call her piccola guerilla bellissima angelina carissimma? PGBAC for short.

PGBAC breaks the news that she’s taking on a sex client, which goes significantly more reasonably than you’d expect. (Of course, you know that’s not going to last long.) He asks her not to take on this client or any client that needs her to sleep with them. PGBAC acknowledges that he’s being honest with “no power struggle,” which I have a hard time believing. Again, I’m conflicted, because while your partner has the right to ask you not to sleep with someone else, even for professional reasons, he’s such a douchebag on a normal day that I trust his motives.

Gillian, being the reactionary contrarian she is, suddenly decides that because he asked her not to do this, she’s totally going to do this.

“I know you did not just tell me not to do my job. I know you did not just say something to indicate you are jealous because you don’t trust me to know what I am doing or that you don’t approve of my professional abilities.”

He…actually did not say anything to indicate he didn’t trust her to know what she’s doing, for once. Literally all he said was that he doesn’t want her to take sexual clients.

a group of kittens looking back and forth

Now she’s just being a shithead. She protested to Helmut for exactly this reason, to preserve her relationship, and now she’s like, “Fuck it, I’ma do it because Aleksei doesn’t want me to.” Now that’s a healthy relationship dynamic, isn’t it? They need some fucking couples therapy.

Up until now, Aleksei has been astonishingly reasonable, but now he’s pissed. I think I would be, too. I’m polyamorous, so I have a fundamental disconnect here, but if I were monogamous, I might have a problem with it. It’s not just therapy, it’s sex, which is its own special circumstance, IMHO. That aside, her reaction is really what’s more pissifying. The conversation is basically going like this:

Aleksei: “Please don’t do this.”

Gillian: “HOW DARE YOU QUESTION MY PROFESSIONAL ABILITY I DO WHAT I WANT”

Her sudden fury, which is completely at odds with what she told Helmut, really says as much about her insecurities as it does about Aleksei’s. She tells him that her professional relationship with the client has nothing to do with their personal relationship, which is true, but he won’t budge.

Like…they both have valid points, and now they’re both being shitty about them. The tipping point is Aleksei’s extra layer of shittiness. He says she doesn’t need the job because he’s rich, so she shouldn’t take this client because it’s tantamount to being “a paid courtesan [as opposed to one who works for free?] for some stranger with sexual problems.” She blows her top at being called a prostitute and punches him in the face.

 I’m not so much pissed that she belts him as I’m pissed that the author is treating this as the insult that finally gets her to snap at him. Not the physical abuse, not the emotional manipulation, not the not-so-subtle threats and intimidation. Being called a prostitute. This idea is so deeply embedded in the sexist bullshit that is rife in these books, and in the world in general. A woman exchanging money for sex–which is not actually what she’s doing but I’ll get to that in a minute–is literally worse than a woman staying in an abusive relationship, because women having sexual agency outside of a relationship is unacceptable, and treating sex as labor is also unacceptable.

irony

So even as she’s trying to assert her sexual agency outside of her relationship, and even as she’s trying to assert her agency regarding her labor, the narrative is doing its good goddamndest to undermine exactly that. What perfect, ugly irony. This moment is a microcosm for everything that’s wrong with these books. Every time there’s a modicum of progressive insight, it’s cut off at the knees instantaneously. Gryphon is that karaoke singer who knows all the words of the song but gets every single note wrong. I can’t even tell if she’s trying to sing it and just failing miserably, or if she’s just up there because her friend begged her to sing and she’s drunk enough to agree.

Let’s not forget that she’s not actually selling sexual services anyway. She’s selling therapeutic services, which may involve sex. It might seem like a fine line, but it’s not. It’s an entirely different kind of labor. That’s not to say that selling sexual services is any less legitimate, but it’s annoying as fuck that the comparison is being made. It’s okay for Gillian to provide therapeutic services until it involves sex, meaning that sex is apparently the line in the sand as far as acceptable labor goes.

Gillian runs out to her car and Jenna, Pavel, Tanis, and Trocar follow her. Tanis has a new nickname for her: piccola sorella, which means “little sister.” I haven’t complained about the Italian endearments lately but JESUS CHRIST THEY ANNOY ME. Tanis just laughs when she tells them what happened and says,

“You seem to be accruing similar experiences with both of the Rachlav brothers. To date, we’ve both insulted you enough to cause you to lose your temper…and you have, as you put it, ‘decked’ both of us…All that is left is a spanking from Aleksei and everything will be even. I’m still one up on him in that area.”

lolololol

ISN’T THAT FUNNY THAT THEY’RE BOTH ABUSIVE DICKBAGS YOU GUYS LOL

Gillian actually giggles about this, and all Trocar has to say is, “You are braver than I thought, my friend.”

queen elizabeth looking unimpressed

Takeaways

We’re off to a rollicking start! Situations that could be nuanced but are instead made ridiculous by stupid characters and awful sexual politics, a promise of more stupid pop culture characters, and an early appearance by Gaslighting Gremlin. I can already tell this book is going to be bad for my blood pressure but great for my rage boner.

As a side note, if the title of the book is an indication that it’s supposed to redeem the series, I’m afraid it’s about as successful as Napoleon in Russia.

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conspiracy, Chapter 17

93% of the way through the book. What do you want to bet it’s going to end right in the middle of a plot point?

Dr. Evil making air quotes around the word "plot"

It’s a safe bet.

Gillian and Trocar go off to investigate the dampening field, whatever the fuck that is. I’m starting to wonder if it has something to do with Gillian’s personal humidity index from the first book. Just a whole field of wet pussy. That’s an attractive thought, isn’t it?

Gillian brings her gun “just for shits and grins,” though that seems more like a wise move than a whim. It just goes to show you that any time Gillian does something intelligent, it’s completely without thought or by accident. Then there’s a few weird paragraphs that seem to serve to emphasize that Gillian, as a human, is completely inferior to Trocar’s elfliness.

They stumble across part of the dampening field, which was apparently done by “several lesser magic users,” which I assume rules out Dracula as the perpetrator. What the actual fuck IS this thing?a man looking confused and text that says "I have no idea what's going on"

The scene also bounces between Trocar’s POV and Gillian’s, sometimes sentence to sentence, so I can only assume the author has abandoned the idea of third-person POV and has just gone full omniscient. One thing I will give this scene is that it contains some halfway decent forward momentum and description. They can both tell something is up and go to investigate.

Then they’re accosted by goblins. How fun, another species we’ve never seen before that’s introduced as an afterthought. And…wow, you guys. Gillian actually tries diplomacy. Diplomacy. That doesn’t involve knives or guns. And she’s actually polite! Who are you and what have you done with our Gillian?

a movie style poster for invasion of the pod peopleThe goblins want to know what they’re doing lurking around. Gillian can’t come up with a response because, as history has shown us, she’s an inept liar. This has always seemed really concerning to me considering she is/used to be Special Forces, but I think we can make an educated guess that there’s an extremely low bar for competency in Special Forces operators in this world.

Trocar steps in and basically says they’re out in the middle of the woods to fuck, but he says it in the creepiest way possible: “I think the reason should be obvious to such connoisseurs of Human delicacies.” Did he really have to refer to her like she’s a slab of fois gras? I liked him all right for about 30 seconds, but he’s doing his damndest to paint himself as just as big a dickbag as every other penis-wielding sentient being in this world. The goblins know they’re lying and start grabbing their crotches (????), which is apparently a signal to attack.

Trocar acquits himself well with his various s00per assassin weapons, and Gillian apparently fights with her gun. In the pitch-dark. Ah, there’s our Gillian. Welcome back from Pod People Land. She doesn’t hit anyone she doesn’t mean to hit, of course.

plot armor

What follows is a short but actually halfway decent fight scene that’s interrupted when the werewolf pack comes in and saves the day. Because of course we can’t have a fight scene that Gillian actually wins without any help. I’m increasingly convinced that everyone but Gillian is the protagonist in these books. It’s like an extended volleyball game and she’s the ball. She’s just a fuckable prop, and everything else is either abusing her or saving her.

So after the needless deus ex lupus machina, Gillian and Trocar go to Aleksei’s meeting with the Fey. There are some general exclamations as they show up, and Trocar tells them they’ve been investigating the dampening field. There’s a weird exchange between one of them, who Gillian calls the Purple Prince, and Trocar. Purple’s response to this announcement is to say, “And how might we have prevented this, Grael?” I had to read this several times to make sure I wasn’t somehow missing something. Maybe this is a reasonable response, but not knowing fuck all about the dampening field, I don’t know what “this” is or what needed to be prevented.

Aleksei tells them to STFU, and Purple asks whether they want war with the Twilight Court. What? This whole conversation is like talking to a Tea Party member, just half-baked nonsensical accusations that are only tangentially related to anything that’s going on.

“Hey, maybe we shouldn’t cut Medicare funding–“

“WAR ON CHRISTIANITY”

“…what? Dude, no, Medicare doesn’t have anything to do with–“

“MURICA FUCK YEAH”

There are apparently some brownies (the Fey kind, not the kind you eat a whole pan of accidentally on purpose) there, which the other Fey don’t appreciate. Gillian preaches at them all about cooperation, etc. etc. Apparently the pod people have reclaimed her. She talks about stopping evil and one of the Fey asks her how evil is defined. Apparently this is now a Philosophy 101 class? Philosophy 101 with the Tea Party. Sounds exciting.

I’m pretty fucking bored right now. Here’s the short version.

teal deer (tl;dr)

All the Fey sign the so-called Osiris Doctrine, that thing from a couple chapters back that Helmut said could start a war, but it probably won’t because these books have absolutely no follow-through. Just like the last book, entirely new characters show up. Apparently Purple Prince is actually a prince and his name is Finian. New dude is named Dalton.

After the whole business with the doctrine is concluded, Gillian and Aleksei go back to Rachlav Central. Aleksei has a new name for her, angelina. When she falls asleep, he reflects on how awesomely awesome she is and how she’s conflicted between her “nurturing side and her confrontational side.”

Gillian wasn’t domesticated; she was restrained for the moment by her own volition. When he left her, she was muttering in her sleep–growling orders to someone or something.

And…on that weird note…the book is over.

Takeaways

If Gillian wrote a book, this is exactly how it would be, unplanned and poorly executed while trying to explain and justify itself every step of the way. I’m more and more convinced that this was all written in one long narrative and someone chopped them up into books blindfolded with a machete. Do all of them end in such random, nonsensical fashions? The main action has been over for a few chapters. At least, I think so, because I’m still not sure what the main action was even supposed to be.

Rather than closing the book there, we have to squeeze in some unrelated forward motion in the last couple of chapters that should really be in the next book. I can only assume that this is some kind of attempt to draw the reader in for the next book. Oddly, it’s effective if only because now I’m frustrated and kind if pissed that the story has been cut short and I want to keep reading because I think, this time, maybe this time, the book will actually carry through a plot to its conclusion.

a picture of a beach with text that says "dream on, dreamer"

Fine, I’ll fucking shell out the eight bucks for the next book. You got me, Talia Gryphon. You got me.

Note

Expect radio silence from me for the next few days. The new Dragon Age DLC releases tomorrow, and complete silence will descend over our household while we play, only to be punctuated by shrieks of dismay as Bioware inevitably fucks us over. I don’t plan to surface until I’ve had enough of that beautiful abuse.

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conspiracy, Chapter 16

Aleksei turns into a dragon again to carry Gillian back home, basically just to prove he can.

Gillian was entranced and not the least bit worried. Trocar was right. She did feel safe with Aleksei. Safe with a Vampire. How far had her standards fallen?

That’s an excellent question! Here’s your answer.

cliffgif

Though it’s definitely because he’s an abusive prick rather than because he’s a vampire, but at least she’s onto something.

I wonder how big he is at this point. Is he regular dragon size? The narrative doesn’t really say.

They arrive back at Rachlav Central, and strangely no one is all that concerned that Puff the Magic Vampire is flying in with Gillian. Tanis just tells him he shouldn’t have turned into a dragon where everyone can see him “Because now everyone will want a dragon.”

puff the magic dragon

Like…as a pet? Does he mean everyone will want to be a dragon? I don’t get it.

Everyone is licking Aleksei’s asshole about his “elevation in status,” but he wants to talk to Gillian. He says “Good evening” to everyone and she protests because, “Hello? Hammer Horror Films? B-movies? Bela Lugosi? Dracula?”

what the fuck am I reading?

Another stupid obscure reference to pop culture that could have been explained a couple chapters back when Gillian and Jenna were rolling their eyes at the other vampire saying the same thing. This shit is so disjointed I don’t even know what the hell anymore.

Aleksei picks her up, again, and runs up to the bedroom before “tossing her unceremoniously onto the bed.” This is what I picture, minus the smiles at the end.

girl bouncing off bed

Who the fuck does that to someone they’re ostensibly in love with? If this is the tone for the sex that’s certainly about to occur, I’m not sure I’m on board.

Oh, but of course it is. We have dancing tongues

dancing tongues and text that says, "Every day I'm shufflin'"

And Aleksei has suddenly developed the ability to light candles with a wave of his hand. In contrast to the narrative’s clumsy efforts to make Gillian seem more like a person and give her limitations, Aleksei is quickly leveling up into Grandmaster Gary Stu territory.

NSFW below because sex.

So she’s going to blow him. His dick apparently has a “velvet tip” because he’s fancy like that. “Aleksei thought he would explode when her mouth closed over him.” Are we going to see more hot jets?

willy wonka scene with cream spilling over everyone

Also, is he circumcised? It sure seems like it, even though 400 years ago in Europe he would have zero reason to be unless he were Jewish. But why should I expect any sort of attention to detail at this point?

lower your expectations

Scenes like this make me wonder two things: 1) how some of my characters would describe sex acts, especially the prudish ones, and 2) if I could write a scene like this just for the hell of it and manage to make it as ridiculous as these. I don’t know if I could match the majesty of some of these descriptions.

Aleksei can’t take it because she’s blowing him too good and he “drag[s] her up his body, trying not to be brutal.” I don’t know, that sounds pretty brutal. Like, did he grab her by the neck, or what?

So there’s more fucking, lots of velvet and canals. The only time it is appropriate to describe the vagina as a canal is when someone is giving birth. He wants to bite her and she decides to let him. Apparently Aleksei thinks this means they’re going to exchange blood and that this is Serious Yo. As he’s telling her this, “he [is] struggling not to roll her under him and plunge into her furiously as he felt fresh wetness bathe him.”

man singing "can you feel the love tonight" in the shower

Yum.

Anyway, he at least has the grace to tell her this is a commitment, which of course makes her freeze up. She asks if he can just take her blood, and he basically laughs at her and talks her into it. I’m sure this would be a more romantic scene in a different context. God knows in my future books there will be blood bonds and whatnot. I love that shit. But I am still completely unconvinced that Aleksei is even someone you’d want to spend the weekend with, much less the rest of your life. And now she’s going to bind herself to him permanently?

road sign that says "don't do it"

Apparently his tongue is made of rough velvet, which makes me think of how a cat’s tongue is barbed. One of my cats likes to lick ears, and a rough tongue sounds like the least sexy thing I can think of at the moment.

What follows is pretty decent description of sex and blood exchange. If you’ve ever read another vampire novel, you’ve probably read this scene, so it’s nothing extraordinary, but nothing that makes me giggle or gag for like three whole pages.

She says she thinks she loves him but he isn’t sure, and he laughs at her again. The narrative, which I assume is in his voice now (though it may well be the author trying to insist despite her having zero reason to) that she actually does love him and she’s just too scared to admit it. Seriously, what an overconfident dickbag. Could it be that she is actually not sure, either because you’re a complete twatwaffle or because she has commitment issues or for some other reason? No, of course not. You know her better. You fucker.

god, I hate you

She falls asleep, but he’s still horny. This angelic soul decides not to wake her up to fuck her again. Isn’t he such a nice guy? For whatever reason, he decides to leave rather than spend the night/day/whatever with her.

Gillian wakes up sore the next day, which is a pleasant surprise considering it’s not often you read about the aftermath of a hard dicking from Sex Behemoth Puff the Magic Vampire. Aleksei swings by and wants her to take her pants off again because his saliva has healing properties. Okay, that’s…actually kind of clever and sexy.

So they go down to meet Trocar, who asks if they’re ready to go. Wait…go where? Only now is there a vague paragraph of what they intend to do. I guess Aleksei is meeting some of his people and Trocar wants to “diffuse the dampening fields.” I’m confused…I thought the wards that were keeping Aleksei’s power locked up were already gone? If not, what the fuck is a dampening field? Who even knows.

Now Gillian and Trocar are…back in Dante’s castle?

am i the only one around here who doesn't know what the fuck is going on?

Oh, JOY, Dante shows up and wants to apologize to Gillian for raping her. He swears he’s never done it before and he’s Really Really Sorry and I think I might be physically ill just reading this shit. It seems Trocar has done something to him…? I don’t know what, but now he wants to make it right. Which she agrees to. Oh sweet Christ.

I honestly don’t know what to say about this. My personal philosophy is not one of revenge, and I don’t believe that many people deserve to be locked up forever based on their crimes. But as a victim of sexual assault, myself, I have a very hard time saying yeah, she should totally give him a chance to redeem himself. There is no “making it right” when it comes to rape or murder. He obviously had violent intentions toward her from the first time they met. It’s not something that just happened. Shit was premeditated, repeated, and happened over a period of time. The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced his stupid rocks should have been dropped in the bottom of a lake.

Please do not tell me he is going to be redeemed and will become a fucking hero later on or something.

on a scale from one to even, i can't

I don’t know why this is happening.

THEY’RE STILL TALKING.

Oh my god.

Oh MY GOD.

Dante claims he was being controlled when he raped her.

animation of a person having a freakout and knocking a computer off the desk

NO GRYPHON DO NOT FUCKING PULL THIS FUCKING SHIT

Oh, and Gillian claims there was a “violation of [Dante’s] confidentiality” when Aleksei came in and that it’s her fault. IT’S HER FAULT BECAUSE SHE TOLD SOMEONE HE RAPED HER.

IT’S.

HER.

FAULT?

She has ZERO fault in this. NONE. Absolutely NONE. What confidentiality does this motherfucker have about the rape he committed against her? What fucking provider-patient privilege does someone have when a violent act takes place against the provider? I’m no expert, but it seems like common fucking sense that Dante shattered that privilege all on his own.

gollum yelling

We’re 92% of the way through this book. Thank god. My heart can’t take this.

Remember that thing where just when the book tries to kill me with a rage heart attack, it takes a swift turn into ridiculous and stupid?

road sign saying "hairpin turn 4000 feet ahead"

Grace, the other ghost, wanders in and instantly wants Dante’s ghost dick. This is also SUPER gross in its way, but I’m worn out from rage and all I can do is roll my eyes.

I’m so confused. Gillian is letting them have “Ghost peer therapy” all of a sudden despite the fact that Dante is an admitted rapist and Grace is enchanted with him or what the fuck ever. Every time I think Gillian could not possibly be a worse therapist, she proves me wrong. She has a paragraphs-long thought train about how he’s a narcissist and he’s looking at Grace “as if he’d devour her.”

THEN WHY DON’T YOU FUCKING STOP HIM?? Why are you letting him “make things right” at all? IS THIS REAL LIFE?

Grace asks to be released from the body she’s inhabiting and wants to stay with Dante.

i may vomit

Seriously though. Gillian is letting this woman stay with the man who raped her. She is as reprehensible a slimeball as Aleksei. This is not only unbelievably irresponsible, it’s fucking criminal. She even has the gall to admire Grace’s looks in her true form as a spirit and remarks on how she has nice tits what the fuck. Dante and Grace go off together, and Gillian talks to the owner of the mansion about letting Dante have group therapy sessions there.

!!!!

A rapist hosting group therapy sessions. WHAT IS THIS SHIT

In a summarized phone conversation, which really ought to have been written out, Helmut gives Gillian a pass for the alleged breach of confidentiality because Dante fucking raped her. Good man, Helmut. At least you have some goddamn sense. After a paragraph of drivel about Dante and Grace needing a new therapist, the chapter limps to a close.

Takeaways

The theme in Key to Conflict was that the conflict was generated by Gillian doing absolutely ridiculously stupid shit and the vampires being foam-at-the-mouth sexist. The theme of this book seems to be a scene that’s halfway decent immediately followed by a scene that’s some heinous mix of ridiculous and infuriating. Oh boy, I sure can’t wait to read that third one. I’m going to have to start keeping chewable aspirin next to my desk when I review this shit.