So now that we’re past the initial “sexual tension” (manipulation and coercion) and “sex” (a side effect of said manipulation and coercion), the author is apparently trying to cram more world building in while simultaneously boring me. I tend to use a lot of dialogue in my writing. For me, it serves several purposes: characterization, world building, sometimes plot advancement chief among them. Sometimes I wish there was more dialogue here to give me a break from the pages and pages of summary and telling-not-showing. Unfortunately, in this book, dialogue seems to exist for the sole purpose of pissing me off, so maybe I should be more grateful.
The book tells us that “the ‘good’ Vampires rarely killed their prey.” This makes me roll my eyes. Tanis keeps telling Gillian not to hold him and Aleksei to human standards. Does that apply solely to misogyny and abusive behavior toward her? Apparently, because it doesn’t seem to apply to morality when it comes to killing. Why make it an issue of morality at all? Apex predators–which is what vampires are–kill. It’s a matter of survival rather than morals. I could understand, I suppose, if human morality imposed upon a vampire’s behavior relating to the murder taboo, but then where’s the line where the reader CAN start holding vampires against human standards? There’s opportunity for nuance here, especially since we’ve been told vampire society is so complex, but I suppose that’s expecting too much.
The narrative reassures us, once again, that “neither [Rachlav] was capable of rape or forced seduction.” I’m going to start calling this voice Gaslighting Gremlin. Why, of course that coercion and physical abuse and manipulation never happened! They’re simply not capable of doing any of those things. I guess it’s a good thing Gaslighting Gremlin is always right, since Gillian is all hot and bothered by Dante and is especially susceptible to vampire charms. Aleksei notices her personal humidity index:
…but of course he’s a Perfect Gentleman. Out of the blue, he tells her they’re going to Egypt to talk to Osiris, and she’s going with them. She says, “Aleksei, I am only here for a month. I’d like to finish your therapy before you go gallivanting off to visit mummies.” Because Aleksei’s therapy is exactly what she should be concerned about with Dracula breathing down their necks. I do not understand how I, as a reader, can be expected to understand the urgency of the situation with Dracula when Gillian herself pretty much tells us he’s less important than the meaningless therapy subplot-that’s-not-a-subplot.
Aleksei is actually fairly reasonable here. He points out that, according to the plot setup itself, “You have the permission of your organization and I have an obligation to keep you safe at all times. I cannot be assured of your safety if you are not with me.” I hate that the dickhead vampires are right more often than Gillian is. I hate that the men are the (occasionally) reasonable ones while Gillian is reactionary and stupid. It’s the subtle things that are the most damaging when it comes to sexism.
Gillian tries to tell him she has another client and can’t leave him, but Aleksei notes, “Unless your other patient is in immediate danger to him or herself or others, you do not need to remain here. I do know something of your professional code of conduct.” But who are we kidding, Aleksei seems to be the only one who knows or cares about said code of conduct.
Aleksei basically badgers her into going, and Gillian takes a break in the shower to ruminate about what’s going to happen. *SOB* Just when I thought we were going to actually do something.
Oh, now it’s time for a dream sequence. A sex dream sequence. …’kay. She’s having sex with an invisible man. I started wondering why the fuck this was happening, and then.
Tanis walks in, and immediately the dread sets in. He sees she’s having a dream, “opening her deep pink sex to his hungry gaze.” THIS was my mental image.
Yeah, I don’t know why. I’m sorry. I think my mind was trying to take me elsewhere to distract me from what’s about to happen next.
Tanis moved to her bed, unable to stop himself, the tangy scent of her orgasm hardening him to a painful ache. Easing himself over her as he loosened his pants and fit his hips into the cradle of hers, he took her mouth in a deep kiss as he pressed inside her.
I find this not only utterly loathsome but personally upsetting. She is asleep, and he just walks in and starts fucking her.
When you are asleep? You cannot consent. Unless this is a structured relationship wherein Gillian gave her prior consent (such relationships exist within BDSM in particular) to be fucked while asleep, this is absolutely, unequivocally rape. After that dubiously-successful consent conversation when they first had sex, how dare this author try to pass this off as okay. And oh, it’s totally okay, because Gillian wakes up and is totes into it.
You could argue, I guess, that Gillian is okay with it, so it’s not rape. But, see, I don’t care at this point that Gillian is reacting positively or neutrally to these incidents of abuse. What I care about is the fact that the author seems to think this is totes acceptable behavior. GODDAMMIT I HATE THIS BOOK.
So they have mind-blowing sex with dueling tongues again.
Remember how Gillian drew a hard boundary earlier about not letting him bite her? Well, he’s apparently dicking her so good, now she wants it, so she tells him to bite her. Let me just show you this incredible demonstration of literary prowess:
Tanis nipped her shoulder again, the barest of cuts, but not enough to make blood well to the surface. He would not violate her trust in a vulnerable moment. Blood he would have, but not from a sexual feeding. His mouth fastened on her, but his teeth didn’t penetrate. The flavor of her blood burned on his tongue. Spicy, sweet, tangy and light. He drove deep and Gillian came. She cried out, a sound so uniquely feminine and erotic that it brought him over the edge with her as her body clenched over his.
WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE. He’s biting her but not biting her and won’t take blood but is taking blood and she apparently tastes like Sriracha. Oh, but wait, it goes on.
“Arching back, his body exploded
…delivering his seed deep against her womb.”
Words that don’t belong in sex scenes:
I would argue that “seed” is kind of gross, but if that’s how the character thinks of it, fine. I guess even “womb” might work, but that always makes me think she’s getting pregnant from this interlude. “Delivering,” however, is what happens when I call my local Indian restaurant and pay them money to bring me some sweet, sweet butter chicken and bindhi masala. And let’s talk about that preposition against. If his dick is against her “womb,” that means he’s all up against her cervix, which I’ve heard told is exceptionally painful rather than sexy.
Gillian is emotional because he’s “just so sweet” to her. He insists, “You deserve tenderness and caring, Gillian.” I just…
I see we’ve moved from manipulation and coercion to contrived sweetness. ALL IT TOOK WAS RAPE. This scene is so gross.
She also says, “I offered my blood and you didn’t take it. Why?” EXCEPT HE TOTALLY DID TAKE IT. Didn’t he? I mean, am I misreading that paragraph?
Tanis says he wants to take care of her. Gillian refuses, again. On the one hand, I understand. Who the fuck wants this guy to “take care” of them? On the other hand, I’m fucking tired of this “I want to take care of you!” “But I can take care of myself!” discussion that’s happened at least 57 hojillion times already.
Thank god that’s over. There’s a sudden and awkward transition where they fly to Egypt. This seems like it would make a good chapter transition, but this book has already demonstrated it has zero sense of pacing whatsoever. So as not to make this recap painfully long, I’m going to split it here.