Osiris sends Anubis, Sekhmet, and some other lackeys back to Romania with the Rachlavs and Gillian. Aleksei wants Gillian to stay in the main castle rather than the guesthouse. Predictably, “Gillian grumbled about protocol and propriety.” Since when is personal safety “protocol and propriety?” This woman is such an idiot.
There’s some description of the house and the lackeys Anubis and Sekhmet brought with them. Gillian takes a fancy to the female, named Maeti, which I just bet means she’s going to end up horribly murdered.
Aleksei shows up wanting to have a therapy session. The narrative tells us he hasn’t thought about his “gold digger” ex in a while (neither have we) and he’s feeling much better. Gillian notices a painting of Aleksei and Tanis when they were younger and that they have Italian clothing (because she’s apparently an expert in 17th century fashion? Yeah, I dunno). Wait, are we finally getting an explanation for the weird Italian phrases Tanis likes to throw out?
…nope. Aleksei says the family had a home in Tuscany, which I assume is the 17th century equivalent of a vacation home. His mother liked Italian fashion more than Romanian fashion. That’s it. Still no justification for Tanis using only Italian words when referring to Gillian. Stop trying to make it make sense, Avery. It’ll just hurt more.
Aleksei asks Gillian if it’s possible he’s “healing.” I assume he means the fangxiety.
Gillian actually gives a fairly nuanced answer which is that “sometimes, life-or-death situations cancel out minor day-today [sic] annoyances and thoughts,” so he might have had some kind of breakthrough and didn’t realize it.
Can I just stop and point out the mangling of that idiom? It gives me terrible flashbacks of student work peppered with things like “could of” and “should of.”
Anyway, she wants to make sure this isn’t a temporary thing and points out that when their crisis is over, his life will go back to normal and he might feel the same way he did when she showed up. Makes sense, right? Aleksei replies, “And why would that be a concern, Gillian?“
I WONDER. What the fuck kind of question is that?
More therapisty talk that’s not super interesting but a little more like an actual therapy session. Aleksei recognizes he needs to reconnect with the world, etc. It would actually be a relatively important emotional moment if it weren’t executed so awkwardly. As they’re talking, the POV keeps hopping, and we’re reminded over and over again that Aleksei wants to bone Gillian and Gillian is starting to want to bone him, too.
Aleksei wants a hug to celebrate his breakthrough. She does not want to do this because suddenly she’s remembered she’s supposed to be professional. But she does it anyway. This one I have to blame on her. I mean, come on, there are only so many passes you get for being under the thrall of abusive people before I call you stupid for playing along with them for no reason.
This, this is what passes for romantic tension in this book.
So they hug. Aleksei “carefully kept his lower body away from her.” That sounds mighty awkward. Also, if he’s as huge and she’s as tiny as the narrative says, how does he not notice if he has a boner? Seems like she’d be rubbing her face against it.
Aleksei says she can stop being his therapist, and she agrees. He and his giant boner flee. Anubis is outside in the hallway and bugs him about his feelings for Gillian. Anubis tries to advocate for Gillian using the tired old “what about her feelings?” thing and they go back and forth about her having a choice about whether to sleep with him without actually offering her that choice. This is my surprised face.
We go back to Gillian and are told that she jumps up and locks the door as soon as Aleksei leaves. Uh, why? Is she so uncomfortable that she feels threatened? The narrative doesn’t say. Gillian says, “Shit, hell and damn,” because she’s thirteen years old and just one relatively tame curse word won’t do. I don’t think she’s ever just used one. She wonders if Aleksei is really into her or if she’s “off her nut.” I’ve never heard this phrase before, but it sounds awkward. All of a sudden she’s having an emotional crisis about her emotions vs. professional ethics, because, as I mentioned in Chapter One, said ethics are only applicable when convenient to the story. Chapter ends.
This chapter exists solely to make an ethically prohibited situation into an ethically frowned-on situation. Fine, this is a romance novel, and a lot of the narrative tension comes from the sexual/romantic tension. I have no problem with that. But the fact that she’s suddenly whipping out the inconvenience of the therapist-client dynamic after everyone but Aleksei ignores it for like ten chapters is annoying. I suppose I have to give the author credit for at least severing that relationship before they start fucking.
My biggest beef with this book, aside from the horrendous misogyny, is the sheer laziness and frequency of narrative shortcuts. Characters tell me things, but I never see them, nor any evidence of them. I have no idea how to feel, but I’m told what to think and how to see things. All this contributes to the already shitty pacing. The narrative is just dragging along at this point, and I keep waiting for something interesting to happen. Then something does happen, but oh, it’s completely inconsequential.
How many times will the author try this ploy to cover up the lack of tension and over-arching plot? Oh, my friends, just wait.