So far, the entire book has been this:
The action, especially, has been the first one. “Oh, this is finally going somewhere–oh, nope. Just another throwaway scene.” We’re 52% of the way through the book and absolutely goddamn nothing of significance has happened. I can’t even use the “well, it’s a romance, so they’re building romantic tension” reasoning anymore as a desperate attempt to find some reason behind all this bullshit. What minuscule forward momentum there is, occasionally, is completely undercut by the fact that Gillian isn’t involved in any of it.
I will say, though, that reading books like this gives me a good sense of what not to do ever ever.
Anyway, Gillian goes back to Dante, who “apparently [does] have connections” like he told her. wtf? This is the kind of stupid sentence that’s very common in this book. It’s like saying, “He frowned. Apparently he was angry.”
Dante says ghosts are with Osiris and Dionysus because of reasons that are relatively reasonable. Apparently they’ll treated as second-class citizens by Dracula, though why, we’re not told. We’re also given a list of other paranormal creatures, presumably by way of worldbuilding and scope. Needless to say, this fails miserably. She mentions the Sluagh, which I had to look up. How fucking hard is it to add a sentence explaining any terms you can reasonably assume the reader will be unfamiliar with? As I’ve said before, you can’t rely on the reader’s assumed knowledge of the paranormal in order to fill in your lazy worldbuilding gaps.
There’s some mention of the Sidhe being depicted by human media as ridiculous (i.e. Keebler elves, Santa Claus, Disney characters, etc.) which might be amusing if it weren’t a) self-indulgent and b) a subtly uncomfortable and fallacious comparison to the depiction of human minority groups in the media.
However, I’m entirely convinced that these paragraphs are constructed around this one sentence:
J.R.R. Tolkien, in contrast, was a hero among the Fey, having brought Elves and others into the full glare of celebrity; as was TSR and related companies for Dungeons & Dragons and other role playing games, and author Laurell K. Hamilton with her Merry Gentry series.
As Mrs. Giggles points out, Talia Gryphon was once Laurell K. Hamilton’s bodyguard, and LKH is responsible for Gryphon’s unfortunate book deal. Mrs. Giggles says this is on LKH’s official website, but quite frankly I can’t be arsed to track that information down.
As I was trying to confirm this, however, I stumbled across some horrifying information.
I really don’t want to cast aspersions on Ms. Gryphon’s own professional competence based on how she represents her profession in her book, but I kind of want to. The number of things she fucks up that I, a layman, can spot is astounding and shameful. And I know, I know, that I’m meant to think Gillian is this amazing therapist. This makes me sincerely sad.
PS, if you ever want to read a good female law enforcement character written by a practicing therapist, read Toby Neal. I’ve read her first two mystery books. Her main character, Lei, is an honestly flawed but sympathetic heroine who’s troubled but competent. And infinitely more likeable than our beloved Gillian.
Back to the action-free info dump. Vampires are sending envoys everywhere, blah blah politics, this could be interesting if I cared. The narrative calls Aleksei a “VIP in Fangdom” HURR HURR GET IT YOU GUYS FANGDOM FANDOM HURRRRR
The narrative also tells us Tanis is “a target but not an obvious one.” I…what? How is the brother of a “VIP in Fangdom” not an obvious target? If I were Dracula…well, first, I’d have been smart enough to kill Gillian, and second, I’d definitely kill Count Rachlav’s brother. Anyway, Tanis is going to run off and be the envoy.
Gillian is unhappy about this because she’s worried about him and also they’re fucking. Gillian gives in, “recognizing male muleheadedness in the Reborn.” Well, first, I’ve never seen her refer to the “Reborn” before, so I can only assume she means vampires. Second, the idea of “male muleheadedness” irritates me, and I’ll explain why: both vampires are described as sex objects in a really ironic way. Much is said of their looks, their sexiness, their sexual prowess, their physical strength, but nothing of their intelligence or charm or shrewdness or competence. It could very well be that they don’t have any of those things (and indeed, I’d have to say they don’t). The only character traits they seem to possess in abundance are stubbornness and protectiveness.
This is a perfect example of how patriarchy affects men, too. It certainly doesn’t affect assigned-at-birth males the same way, given that most cultures in the world grant socialized privileges and advantages to these individuals, but really, everyone suffers. If men can only be sexy and powerful but not smart or competent, for example, what does that say about women?
What it says is that in order to be empowered, women need to ape men and be sexy and powerful, but intelligence and competence don’t matter so much. Sound familiar? …yeah.
Gillian thinks about her relationship with Tanis and “what her life would be like if he weren’t in it.”
So basically, he’s going to die. Got it.
She says, “liking him had come easily, despite his chauvinistic overtones.” Overtones? His entire character is nothing but chauvinism with an overtone of jackass. What is there to like about this guy?
Apparently they’ve been banging for months, which is news to me, because I’ve been given very little idea about how much time has passed. This is something I think a lot of authors forget or don’t think about (including myself), but this book is already so frustrating, it’s just another thing that loses me. I’m pretty sure this chapter exists solely because someone told the author she needed more worldbuilding and some time needed to pass before the next red herring action-that-goes-nowhere scene.
The narrative tells us that Gillian’s “major flaw” is that “she had no idea how to truly love someone.” Standard romance character flaw, but let’s not act like it’s the only goddamn one. She says, “If Tanis had forced her to confront [her commitment phobia], he would get Gill at her worst: a first class bully.“
STOP RIGHT THERE.
Being a bully is no fucking joke. It is a bad, bad thing. If Gillian turns into a bully when confronted about her problems, that is a bigger fucking flaw than being commitment phobic. It means she makes people’s lives hell because she doesn’t get her fucking way. This is the definition of bullying. (Just a Wikipedia article, but I’ll throw a trigger warning out there anyway.)
If Gillian is indeed a bully, fuck her.
But sadly, I don’t think this is really what the author means, because that sentence is shortly followed by this one: “Sometimes being a bitch was all she had.” Being a bitch is NOT THE SAME THING AS BULLYING.
I need a nap.
She’s finally starting to catch on that Aleksei has the hots for her, but she insists she’ll wait until after the year-long waiting period is up before she thinks about her own hots for him. We’ll see how long that lasts. I’m doubtful that this trend can continue if, as I suspect, Aleksei is supposed to be the Real Love Interest. Maybe that’s why we’re fast-forwarding through the plot at this point.
Now we’re in Aleksei’s head:
His normally high tolerance was being strained at every turn. Gillian’s proclivity for getting into hazardous situations was wearing thin as his newly evolving feelings for the little blonde shrink were growing more intense.
My fucking god, must we toss in the objectifying bullshit every time someone thinks about her? I should start paying better attention and try to figure out if he ever directly thinks about her by name.
Aleksei is turning bitchy because he’s distracted by his massive feelings boner for Gillian, and everyone notices. They “[gave] him a wide berth and [let] the Lord of the Manor climb his own pinnacle.” I’ve never heard this phrase before, and it strikes my ear wrong. Maeti notes that “the pinnacle was looking more and more like Gillian’s lithe and lush form every night.” Which makes me wonder if they’re already boning? I don’t know what the fuck.
Sekhmet and Anubis seem to have the same reaction, but then it seems like the author voice intrudes to say,
People who are happy in their own committed relationships tend to be monumental pains in the ass. They believe that everyone needed to be paired up and deliriously happy, just like them.
…wow, that’s…bitter. I don’t feel like this is Gillian’s voice, either. Now, I’m in a committed relationship, and I don’t believe everyone needs to be “paired up.” I mean, for one thing, we’re poly, so pairing is of less import to us than monogamous people, but also, I’m not an asshole who assumes everyone even wants to be in a relationship. Thanks for that.
Oh, here we go, we’re now going to discredit the other female characters by saying that Sekhmet tries to have “girl talk” about Anubis’s sexual prowess. (If I haven’t mentioned it before, Sekhmet and Anubis are a mated pair, which makes no sense, as to my knowledge, these two characters have never been associated in Egyptian mythology. I don’t always follow mythological canon in my own work, so I can give this a pass, I guess.) The salient point here is that Sekhmet, who is, by all mythological accounts, a badass, as been reduced here to a giggling, doting girlfriend. It’s gross.
Cezar brings Pavel around to apologize, and Gillian has the (alleged) good grace to say it was her fault. At least she kinda-sorta recognizes that. Aleksei comes in and is threatening. Two weird things in this narrative exchange:
1) Pavel is referred to as a “budding alpha wolf,” and is earlier referred to as dominant, yet he is terrified of everyone and everything, and completely shy and retiring.
2) Aleksei notes that “Pavel and Cezar join the Gillian Key Admiration Society.”
Number two especially strikes me, and it’s one of those moments where the author shows some self insight, but I’m not sure I can rely on it as self insight. Is she actually aware that she’s making her universe bend around her idiot Mary Sue and is making fun of it, or is this the most unintentionally ironic thing ever?
Cezar invites Gillian to a pack meeting “and to run with them if she would like,” whatever that means. It’s a nice gesture of goodwill, and Aleksei hates it. “He trusted Cezar implicitly, but wasn’t up for Gillian cavorting about in the midst of all that teeth and fur.” Either he trusts Cezar to keep control of his pack or he doesn’t. Why is he upset?
When the werewolves leave, Gillian promptly turns to him, her eyes “snapping in anger.” I…don’t think eyes work that way. What an awkward phrase.
Aaaand she punches him without warning for being an asshole to Pavel. While a dressing down is warranted, has she learned nothing about becoming violent with these vampires? For fuck’s sake.
She tells him not to babysit her and thinks, “The entire company of resident Vampires were on her like white on rice as if she were a delicate little flower. Drove her nuts.” She is obsessed with being delicate. Next comes this:
Reading her thoughts readily, since she was broadcasting like AM radio, he managed a smirk. “You are delicate, piccola. Much more delicate than you imagine.”
For some reason, stupid, patronizing, or otherwise offensive statements are nearly always accompanied by poor craft in this book. This sounds like a veiled threat, in addition to being paternalistic, and also, I hate the way she tosses in mind-reading as if it were a given, and I also have no idea what “broadcasting” means. There’s absolutely no world building surrounding this. How do vampires read thoughts? Can they do it all the time? Can other people learn to keep this from happening?
Gillian says, “Damn. Shit. And hell,” thereby cementing my mental image of her as a 13-year-old who’s trying out curse words for the first time. She goes on about how sexy Aleksei is when he’s mad, which, along with every fucking thing else in this book, is highly troublesome. He has the potential to do her serious harm, but oh, she wants to climb him like a tree! I get the fantasy–that’s what PNR is based on, after all–but it’s still fucking creepy in this context when she’s been actively threatened and physically assaulted by these vampires in the recent past.
Gillian lectures him that she’s capable, blah blah, and this is my favorite part: “I know exactly what I’m doing. I am being careful. I am being mindful of my safety.”
Really? So that whole thing with Pavel was her being mindful of her safety? As is her repeated wandering off by herself and getting into stupid scrapes? Okay then.
Oh, but wait. BUT WAIT.
Far from exploding in fury, Aleksei regarded her with glacial calm, as the deep beautiful voice rumbled from his chest. “Perhaps it would drive home the point of just how vulnerable and easily overpowered you are if I demonstrate exactly what little effort will be required to put you over my knee.”
I already hated Aleksei pretty bad, but NOW I FUCKING HATE HIM EVEN MORE. He knows that Gillian was humiliated and disturbed by Tanis’s completely fucking repulsive behavior. He saw it happen and didn’t do fuck all, which was bad enough. Now he’s threatening her with exactly the same thing? I cannot express how terrible this makes him.
For once, Gillian is right: “We are not living in the fucking seventeenth century! You can’t just spank someone because they don’t agree with you!“
I am so glad she said this, but then I immediately wonder why the fuck she never said this to Tanis. Am I supposed to think she came to this realization over time? WHAT?
And here’s how Aleksei responds: “I am an Old-World man; if I must resort to direct methods of convincing you, I will. That you will be alive to hate me is a small price to pay.“
Remember that part in Twilight where Edward basically stalked Bella and kept her from going anywhere? Remember that part where it was fucking abusive?
YEP THAT’S THIS TOO
Gillian is afraid of him, as well she should be, and Aleksei has smoothly stepped into Tanis’s place as resident asshole. Gillian wants to know why her remaining alive means so much to Aleksei, which is really kind of sad. This would be a genuinely good and characterizing moment in a book that wasn’t as hatefully stupid as this one.
Aleksei gets in her face and tells her she matters to him and calls her a bunch of Italian endearments WHY ITALIAN GODDAMMIT
This is the romantic turning point, it seems, brought to you by Chauvinism and Abusive Behavior. Oh boy!
Gillian looked at him as a man for the first time. Not as a patient, not as a Vampire, not as a resource, but as a man who was trying desperately to put her needs above his own even if he pissed her off doing it.
Again, a potentially decent moment in a context that was less hideous.
Except then we have a whole paragraph of excuses, how he’s really old and from a different time etc. etc. and he has bad habits about women etc. etc., because apparently when you live for centuries you stagnate in one mindset instead of adapting, just like humans never ever change or adapt throughout their decades of life–
She finally realizes he’s falling for her. They Want Each Other, y’all. There’s some bad description about how turned on they both are and they’re about to fuck when the phone rings.
Thank god that’s over.
I haven’t been annoyed in a chapter so much or so often in a while. Everyone is behaving terribly about everyone else, there’s a bunch of dumb nonsensical shit, and then there’s some eye-rollingly blatant ass-licking for LKH. AND THEN we’re back to the sexual politics that make me want to throw up.
This book is dumb. It makes no sense. I hate it and I hate everyone in it. But it has transformed from silly-bad to stupid-bad to aggressively bad and wrong. Let’s not forget the part where Gryphon is supposed to be a mental health professional.