Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conflict, Chapter 15


That’s how much I care about the wolfponies surrounding Gillian.

She reaches for her gun–I guess she plans to test supernatural reflexes against her own–but then realizes it’s loaded with regular ammunition rather than silver.

Yeah. So.

Pretend you’re a self-described Special Forces officer who’s an expert in the paranormal. You know things like werewolves exist, and you carry a silver stiletto knife that you like to inappropriately attack people with. Would it not occur to you to, I don’t know, maybe keep silver ammunition around?

lower your expectations

The werewolf grabs her hand “in jaws that would have made a shark proud,” but she’s talking about what would happen if she were nicked by its teeth. Huh? It just bit her, didn’t it?

She stands still while the werewolves surround her, pissed off because she’s so close to the house but in terrible danger. WHY DOESN’T SHE YELL FOR HELP FOR FUCK’S SAKE? If she’s ten feet from the door and vampires have super hearing, why the actual fuck won’t she open her trap and yell? And why isn’t she reacting to the fact that her hand is in a werewolf’s mouth?

All of a sudden Aleksei shows up and says, “Do not move, Gillian. They are here at my request.


Aleksei tells her to go for the door. She does, then he tells her to stop. WHYYYYYY

Without explanation, he tells her to stick her hand out. I still don’t understand how she got her hand away in the first place and why she’s not bleeding all over, but I have to assume the werewolf didn’t grab her hard enough to break skin. The head werewolf sniffs her and Aleksei tells them to protect her. He’s Very Scary as he does this, and Gillian seems to be impressed. “Looking up at him made her feel rather small and delicate. He was so much taller and his frame much more massive.” YES OH MY GOD WE GET IT SHE’S TINY HE’S A BEHEMOTH. I’m starting to think this is meant to be some kind of macro/micro porn.

Predictably, Aleksei is furious about Gillian going off alone and coming back after dark. I almost agree with him on this one, except no Rachlav worry would be complete without some abusive behavior. “He grabbed her, shaking her just hard enough to frighten her a little. He was furious. ‘Dammit, you could have been torn apart!'”

maybe go fuck yourself

Having an emotional reaction to the idea of someone you care about being in danger is one thing, but I hate, hate that it’s completely acceptable for either one of the Rachlavs to act like this, or to try to teach her a lesson. That is, essentially, what he’s doing here, in this disgustingly paternalistic way. I don’t have any beef with him pointing out her stupidity–in fact, later on the page, he says, “disregarding obvious safety measures is inexcusable,” and he’s completely right. But her idiocy doesn’t excuse his bullshit, either. What’s the worst part is that both behaviors are completely excused.

Aleksei threatens her: “Do not put yourself at risk again, Gillian. I will take action next time.” It seems Passive McStagedressing has turned into Tanis Stand-in, using threats of violence to…prevent her from being a victim of violence. This is the logic of Key to Conflict, everybody.

Tanis shows up and is also mad as well, but, generous fella that he is, he chooses not to lecture/threaten her as well because “she didn’t need both of them yelling at her.” Stand-up guy.

Tanis wants to bang, but all of a sudden he’s worried about propriety. “‘I do not want to assume that you would want me in your bed, piccola.”



Gillian replies, “‘Tanis, relationships don’t work that way. You are welcome unless I tell you specifically that I want to be alone.’


If you’re in a relationship, it is (maybe) assumed that you don’t mind the other person’s presence unless otherwise stated, but they’re acting here like being a relationship automatically means consent to sex at any time unless explicitly stated otherwise. This is so, so wrong and so, so harmful. It’s like the author has no idea what consent actually is or how it works and certainly has no conception of what constitutes sexual assault vs. sexy times. Has she never heard of partner rape, for fuck’s sake? Gillian and Tanis have been fucking for…I don’t even know, exactly. A week? A couple weeks? That by no means assumes any consent whatsoever. What the fuck is so wrong with saying,

“I’m not sure if I’m welcome in your bed.”

“Well, you’re welcome.”

“Okay, cool. We’ll bang, okay?”

Though what the conversation should really look like is this:

“I’m not sure I’m welcome in your bed after I’ve repeatedly sexually assaulted you.”

“Get the fuck away from me.”

“Noted. Bye.”

Well, they’re going to have sex, of course. Gillian notices he might be jealous, but she thinks, “Jealousy? Tanis? No, not possible.” …why not? Just because you’re in a casual relationship doesn’t mean jealousy can’t happen if someone else is sniffing around your sex partner.

Tanis fingers her. Now, as someone with a factory-installed vagina, I do not in any way find this sexy. If you’re not doing anything with them fingers, it does not feel good. Maybe this is personal preference, but I really hate it when it’s just like, *stab*

frodo ring

And here comes the ridiculous love talk: “Let go, cara mia. I am here to catch you.”

wave flowing into a hole in the sand

Now, in future Twisted Tree books, there’s some heavily romantic shit going on and I can see something slightly corny, if sweet and well-meaning, coming out of at least one character’s mouth. But we’ve had no indication that this is in Tanis’s character. He goes from rampant, aggressive, sneering misogynist to trying to be fucking Pablo Neruda or something.

This is just another bog standard romance sex scene with dueling tongues…

Princess Bride swordfight

but absolutely nothing remarkable. There’s no chemistry, no tension, no urgency. I’ve read very few sex scenes that are actually remarkable in this or any book, which is a shame. If you’re going to write in the romance genre, shouldn’t you go out of your way to write good sex? I can even excuse something that’s a little cliche if I enjoy the characters. Emotion matters more than anything in sex, either physical or written. And I give negative fucks about either of these characters.

Gillian has more sex dreams and sees “a glimpse of light-colored eyes. Whether blue, green, or gray, she couldn’t tell, nor would she fully remember.”

isn't that just convenient

She keeps waking up late in the day even though it doesn’t seem like she goes to bed that late. She must sleep a lot. Her room is wrecked and she looks/feels “like she’d done the entire Carpathian Olympic team.” Given the fact that she was asleep all night and Tanis was there presumably at least part of the night, this doesn’t disturb her at all??

Jump forward a few weeks, and “she hadn’t shared the gloomy news with the Vampires. No sense in alarming everyone.” ACTUALLY THAT WOULD MAKE TOTAL SENSE WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU. It’s like this goddamn book is going out of its way to contrive conflict by withholding pertinent information because otherwise there would be no conflict.

Gillian makes friends with the female vampire guard, Maeti, who becomes “a wonderful friend and confidante,” though we don’t actually see them interact other than a summary. I have to wonder if this is Gryphon tossing in a few paragraphs in order to pass the Bechdel Test, except it doesn’t even do that, because those paragraphs mention Maeti’s lost mate.

There’s some mildly interesting stuff about what the vampires are doing, going off to meet with allies and such. The problem is, Gillian continues to do absolutely fuck-all while everyone else is doing shit. In the context of this infodump, Aleksei explains how a vampire is made from four blood exchanges, but a vampire’s human lover can “[enjoy] aspects of longevity, fast healing, resistance to diseases, heightened senses and a telepathic connection with their lover” with less than four.


Oh, here’s Gillian doing something. She’s collecting intel from the vampires for the IPPA and the Marines about vampire society, etc.–with consent of the vampires, we’re assured. She also gains another therapy client, a werewolf named Pavel who’s developed an allergy to werewolf fur. This is actually kind of charming, which means it’s going to end up maimed and badly executed and probably just going to make me mad.

Pavel has some backstory about having a crush on a girl and her father being unhappy that he was a werewolf. The father sends dogs after him and he gets torn apart by them. Despite being an allegedly “dominant male,” Pavel is “useless for anything but an all-out fight.” If your allergy is so severe you can barely be around your own packmates, how the hell can you be dominant? For that matter, how can you be useful in a fight? When it’s cottonwood season and my allergies/asthma are working in tandem to make me hate life, all I can do is hide indoors and shower frequently. Hay fever does not a good fighter make.

doge face

The alpha werewolf, Cezar, thinks Pavel’s allergy has something to do with his trauma and wants Pavel to talk to Gillian, so we’re about to have another therapy session. Pavel is gorgeous, just like every other man in the book. They start their intake session…

…and the chapter ends.


Out of 15 chapters, I think two or three of them have actually ended in a way that makes sense. I have the Kindle version of this book, and it doesn’t have page numbers, but I have to wonder if they’re split by page number instead of by…actual sense.

A lot happened in this chapter, which is certainly more than I can say for previous chapters. It’s too bad none of it is actually a result of Gillian being proactive. The wolfponies get all up in Gillian’s business, Aleksei stops them, Gillian and Tanis fuck, the vampires do things while Gillian takes notes, someone else suggests that Gillian play therapist to Pavel. The only times Gillian takes initiative and does things herself, it’s something stupid and against all sense or reason. Then the vampires chastise her, which she would deserve if not for the nauseatingly paternalistic way they do it.

I just realized something. The image in my head of both Tanis and Aleksei is this guy:

tommy wiseau, the room


Chapter fourteen is here. Chapter sixteen coming soon.


2 thoughts on “Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conflict, Chapter 15

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