Well, here we are. The big, dangerous, tense standoff between Tanis and Gillian. Wonder what’s going to happen.
I’ll give you a hint:
Tanis is pissed that Gillian is smoking, drinking, and lying, i.e. he’s a paternalistic douche. Gillian tells him to fuck off, basically, and his “golden eyes literally [shoot] sparks.” Literally. I mean, what are we talking, here?
No one is injured, presumably, by the eye sparks, though he’s “aggressive, male, and very dominant.” Rather than describe someone’s characteristics or manner, isn’t it better to, you know, show them instead?
Gillian reacts like, well, Gillian. She yells at him and calls him a pretentious prick (which she’s right about), though she says “an entirely sober Gillian would not have started this line of rudeness to begin with.”
I’ma stop you there and just point you to this entire chapter.
Tanis grabs her. They grapple. He’s a hundred times stronger than she is and gets her pinned. She says…wait for it…
“Well, fuckadoodle doo.”
I just want you to savor this moment. After reading this, I spent the next hour periodically giggling over that intensely lame phrase, which helped me get through the next part without breaking my Kindle by throwing it against the wall. I would almost think this was meant as comic relief. Almost.
Tanis says he needs to teach her a lesson. They keep grappling. She kicks his “rock hard, amazing abs.” What a weird, sexual descriptor for a fight. She ends up across his lap again.
He spanks her.
HE. SPANKS. HERRRRRRRR.
Maybe I don’t need to enumerate how many kinds of fucked up this is. BUT I WILL ANYWAY. Let me give you the context.
To her abject horror, she did the utmost girly thing she could have. She was very inebriated and a whole lot scared, and when he didn’t immediately release her, she reached up and slapped Tanis across the face. It shocked him more than inflicted damage, but it served as a goad to push him over an edge he didn’t know he had.
Later, Tanis would not be able to recall what had come over him, but he had never encountered a female of any species with so much audaciousness and so little common sense. Before the slap and her last scathing comment, he had been prepared to let her up and lecture her as soon as she calmed down, but not now.
Determined that this young female learn some manners, Tanis was swift and resolute. It was obvious no one had ever cared about her enough to take her to task for her insufferable insolence and inclination toward physical aggression. Rectifying that situation was his pleasure for the evening.
Let’s start at the beginning.
1) Why is slapping someone in the face “utmost girly?” (PS, grammar alert: utmost is not an adverb and therefore cannot be used to intensify girly.) Surely slapping isn’t solely the domain of women–no, not women, but girly women.
2) The mid-paragraph POV shift is so awkward and she does it so often.
3) The part about “so little common sense” is surely accurate, but the fact that he takes it upon himself to punish her for it is where I go
If I had the time, I’d research and write out the entire history of paternalistic douchebaggery about acceptable female behavior and the “correction” of any behavior that fell outside the norm. So at first he was going to “just lecture” her on the virtues of being an acceptable, compliant, submissive woman, but now he’s going to fucking SPANK HER because she slapped him for being shitty. At this point, I don’t give a single fuck that she’s had her own bad attitude. He isn’t just going to hit her back. He’s going to punish her for being a woman, because it pleases him, in a completely humiliating and degrading way.
There are not enough rage gifs in the world.
I’m not against spanking, when it’s consensual. Kink spanking is a thing. It actually sounds kinda fun. But this is not kinky, sexy, OR CONSENSUAL. Gillian is clearly scared and humiliated (THE TEXT SAYS SO), but he cares about her so much he wants to teach her a lesson oh my god you guys my left arm is going numb
I’ll stop now, because I could write an entire fucking treatise on this shit. Gillian manages to get up and punches him in the mouth, which is the one violent reaction she’s had thus far that I’m completely on board with. Alexei intervenes, “inserting his body between Gillian and Tanis.” The combination of “insert” and “body” makes me think of Anita Blake, which makes me picture Alexei sliding his dick in between them.
Gillian runs off into the woods away from Paternalist McDickerson and Passive McStagedressing, which I cannot blame her for. She’s torn up about it, and this is the first bit of genuine emotion we’ve seen from her. That would be appropriate and good if it weren’t written so poorly. One of her remarks is “Hathor’s hells,” which seems out of place considering that, to my understanding, Hathor was an Egyptian deity with mostly positive associations. Had you said “Sekhmet‘s hells” instead, that might be an actual curse.
We’re treated to some weird, bullshit backstory about how “her temper [had] gotten her into the Special Forces in the first place.” Seems slightly odd to me that special forces of any branch of the military would want a temperamental loose cannon in their ranks, but okay…let’s see what the story is.
So she was part of a security detail during the “Human-Vampire Peace Talks,” a small bit of worldbuilding that’s somewhat interesting. Some vampire propositions her and “Gill had refused because he was an insincere prick.” Or…because she was on the job? Whatevs. Anyway, he insults her, so she
throws her career out the window tells him to go fuck himself, thereby jeopardizing peace talks getting the attention of a psychologist who wants to hire her for a “Clinic for Paramortal Understanding and Intimacy.” Gillian’s boss takes her side, claiming that he’s amazed she didn’t kill him outright, and “he had new recruits and diplomatic liaisons who would have killed the Austrian Vampire just for making a pass in the first place.” Where the fuck does this guy find his recruits, anger management programs?
Anyway, so her “punishment” is basically to go on a black ops mission. Somehow this is supposed to redeem or…or something. The book tells us
“it would send a clear message to all the delegates that she was being entrusted with further responsibility rather than being officially reprimanded.”
WHY WOULD THEY EVER DO THIS?
Some hothead in security insults a member of a diplomatic entourage, and she gets fucking promoted? Don’t get me wrong, I’d have been so incredibly pissed, too, if this asshole was hitting on me, but this is past the level of the personal offense. If you have a problem with someone at a very sensitive political gathering, would you seriously handle it this way? This is the issue I take with Gillian’s reactions. It’s not that they’re wrong, per se. She has a right to get pissed and a right to throw punches and yell. But the fact that she does so at the worst moments possible makes her stupid. This is the book’s version of empowerment: her only reaction is violence, regardless of context.
The chapter limps to a close with Gillian’s “wounded pride and tingling butt.”
Jesus fucking Christ. The first time I read this chapter, I just went “IS THIS REAL LIFE??” but the more I thought about it, the more it infuriated me. Tanis fucking assaults her, and the narrative basically tells us it’s okay and no big deal. It’s a blow to her pride, and that’s it. Weirdly, this is the moment where Gillian’s reactions are completely appropriate and I sympathize with her. It’s too bad it had to be in the context of assault. It’s even more disturbing infuriating in the context of what happens in the next couple of chapters (I don’t feel like I’m giving away much by saying she ends up fucking Tanis). If I seem like I’m overreacting here, it’s because I am so tired of seeing paternalistic behavior, much less violence, treated like it’s no big deal in romance novels. lol he wanted to teach her a lesson though! Fuck you.
- Sexual politics. This is the ultimate fucked-up sexual politics chapter. Let me be clear: Tanis’s behavior is not just a character quirk. If you want him to be kinda sexist because he’s old school, fine. If you want him to be kind of an ass at first, fine, though that “I’m an asshole until I put my dick in you” trope is so, so tired. If you want to portray this later as an unhealthy relationship, fine, but that is clearly not what’s at work here. There are no indications in the narrative that we’re supposed to believe that’s where this is headed. What makes it especially egregious, in my mind, is that we have these flashes of insight where we can tell the author knows this is fucked up, but she’s doing it anyway. Gillian is shaken up by what happened, as well she should be. She got put over the knee of a predator who probably has a foot in height on her and outweighs her by a hundred pounds and physically assaulted. But yanno, it’s just her pride that’s wounded. It’s the kind of hideous “bringing the woman down a peg” bullshit that makes me blow my stack.
- Professional ethics. Not much in that arena in this chapter, unless you count the flashback scene, but that was pretty bad, endangering a diplomatic negotiation for a personal issue.
- Competence. So I’m actually going to reverse this a little from calling Gillian’s general competence into question, since I’ve done that enough previously. I’ve come to realize that, although Tanis is pretty on point about his criticisms of Gillian, it’s not because he’s actually perceptive. It’s that he assumes incompetence because she’s a woman. And the worst part is, the narrative actually tries to prove him right.
Goddammit, I hate this book.