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

Remember what I said last chapter about not having anything to snark because Aleksei and Tanis were well-behaved?

I should’ve known that wouldn’t last.

TW: lots of mentions of rape plus some absolutely reprehensible abusive behavior.

Gillian is upset and understandably furious about the horrifyingly creepy painting. Once again, I feel for her, and more and more I’m starting to understand her plight. But once again, the narrative treats this situation as if she just needs to come to terms with her feelings for Aleksei, not that he’s an abusive dickbag creeper. Because this is a romance novel, I know she’s going to stay with him, so I know I’m supposed to believe Anubis and Gaslighting Gremlin, not Gillian.

Fuck.

Aleksei comes in and tells her, “You need to stop being afraid, piccola,” to which she tells him to fuck off: “I don’t need some wiseass fossil from the Old World telling me what to think or feel.”

nuns from Sister Act saying hallelujah

GO GILLIAN. But then there’s this. If you’re drinking or eating anything right now, I recommend you set it aside.

The little twerp had just called him a fossil. And here he’d been prepared to be understanding and patient.

“Fossil?” he repeated. “Perhaps Tanis was correct about you needing better manners.”

21 Signs You’re in an Emotionally Abusive Relationship

Wow, Aleksei, you’re so beleaguered by Gillian and her completely valid point. Why does she make you treat her like this? Maybe it would be a good idea to fucking SPANK HER AGAIN, amirite?

Oh, no, he wants to “kiss some sense into her” instead, because it’s not abusive if it’s sexual.

ewan mcgregor slamming down a paper in anger

They’re interrupted when Trocar barges in. Thank fuck for Trocar. My digestive system can’t handle any more of this.

Aleksei tells Trocar that he better protect Gillian when they go deal with Dante. Gillian notes that she hasn’t told Aleksei about Dante’s “sexual escapades

IT WAS RAPE IT WAS RAPE IT WAS RAPE JUST CALL IT RAPE

Was I Raped? | RAINN

(Hint: THE ANSWER IS YES GILLIAN YOU WERE RAPED)

…which might actually have been a good move considering that it would probably just add more fuel to Dickbag Rachlav’s abusive, stifling “protectiveness.”

Trocar replies, “Of course, with my last breath, I will protect her. Not that I have noticed she needs protecting, mind you.”

Now, Trocar is wrong because Gillian is utterly incompetent at everything, but I’m glad SOMEONE is pointing out that she doesn’t necessarily need teh menz to fucking babysit her all the fucking time. I actually kind of like Trocar despite his Darky McDarkerson persona. He’s the least patronizing man in Gillian’s immediate circle (that is a low fucking bar, granted). Why doesn’t Gillian end up with him instead?

Because this is romance and Gillian is Meant for Aleksei. Of course.

Gillian marches out of the room and Aleksei says,

“I love her and want to understand her, but I find myself torn between wanting to cherish her such as she deserves or simply putting her across my knee for how she behaves.”

You disgusting twatwaffle. I hate you.

My goodwill for Trocar evaporates with his next remark: “She has been known to bring that type of confusion to males of many species, Vampire. It is a gift of hers, really.”

Oh yes, because being pissed off about how she’s being treated means she deserves more patronizing abuse.

god, I hate you

Gillian and Trocar are going to “a client’s home,” which is confusing considering I thought they were going to deal with Dante. Maybe they’re going to deposit him back in his castle? I dunno. Anyway, we bounce into Trocar’s head and he’s wondering who could have created a “dampening field,” which I assume was the thing that was keeping Aleksei from his vampire s00p3rp0w3rz. This is an interesting thought that demonstrates Trocar’s knowledge of and interest in magic, though I do wonder why the hell Dracula doesn’t immediately spring to mind as the culprit.

Apparently they are indeed bringing Dante back to the castle he was haunting because “If we disassociate a spirit from their haunt willingly, it’s the same as murder.” Uh…why? Of course we’re not told. There’s a paragraph that mentions debates about whether a ghost can legally be considered a living being, which would be mildly interesting if it actually constituted a reason for why disassociation would be equivalent to murder. Especially since Dante proved he’s not bound to the castle because he followed Gillian around to rape her while she sleeps.

Trocar wants to destroy Dante, but Gillian thinks “the Ghost needed further therapy and a chance to get past his crime.” Okay…fine. If her professional opinion is that Dante’s sexually abusive behavior can be stopped with therapy, that’s fine. But if that’s so, she should be the last person in the universe to continue that therapy. He. Raped. Her. If that is not a fucking conflict of interest, I don’t know what the hell is.

Trocar and Gillian do a ritual to un-bind Dante from the stones, and in the middle we’re treated to some explanation of their professional and personal relationship, something that would’ve been appropriate in the last book. Better yet….

show don't tell

Gillian tells Trocar not to kill or castrate Dante and they finish the ritual. Then, in the book’s words, “everything went to hell.”

And immediately in the next paragraph–no section or chapter break, nothing–we’re in Pavel’s head. We’re reminded of how gorgeous he is. He wants to learn to learn how to use the computer, because why not interrupt the beginning of a tense scene with something as mundane as a computer lesson?

well why the fuck not

Kimber is Pavel’s “lady love,” which I either forgot or didn’t know, but I should have guessed considering no one is allowed to stay single in this universe. While Pavel is getting his lesson, he mentions he’s glad Gillian is getting rid of Dante because he “molested” her

IT WAS RAPE

Oh, I see. The purpose of this scene is to incite Aleksei’s righteous anger over the loss of His Woman’s virtue or some shit. He gets taller and more gorgeous, which is apparently meant to indicate that he’s leveled up to his full powers. I’m sure this means he’s going to storm in and save the day.

screen capture of Donald Trump

HAY MY NAME IS ALEKSEI

diagram of an ancient Greek deus ex machina machine

Osiris calls him on the brain phone and shows him how to use his new powers…

wtf.

He is a dragon. He is a motherfucking vampire DRAGON.

puff the magic dragon

Thank god for the semi-regular bouncing between rage-inducing paternalism and patently ridiculous shit. It plays havoc on my bipolar brain, but at least I’m not forced to sustain bile-producing rage.

Dracula is the next person to call him on the brain phone, and he’s able to sever his link to Dracula (who you might remember is his vampire sire). He’s a Badassy Badass, yo. As I suspected, this scene is solely to let Puff the Magic Vampire swing his giant dick. He lands at the castle and the owner is just like, “Oh hey what up.” Then they hear a scream and Aleksei “blurred with speed” (blur is not a verb goddammit) up to her.

But Gillian and Trocar apparently aren’t actually in any danger because there’s just some ridiculous comedy of errors going on. Apparently Gillian left Grace, the other ghost, in the bag with Dante, and Trocar’s spell released her too. Trocar is yelling at her for the boneheaded move, QUITE REASONABLY I feel, and they’re arguing about whose fault it is.

whut

Aleksei wants to know what’s going on and threatens Gillian yet again. He’s mad at her for not telling him Dante raped her because “You are supposed to share your feelings with me. Not just your body.

rage flame

No. NO NO NO. She is under no fucking obligation to tell you SHIT, you absolute slimeball. She says she didn’t know how he would react, and I bet she was afraid he’d be pissed because he is twice her fucking size and he has been repeatedly violent with her. She’s afraid of him! Jesus fucking Christ THIS IS A ROMANCE NOVEL.

I really do not understand why these situations are set up this way and why Gryphon keeps making Aleksei behave in such reprehensible ways. Is it because she wants Gillian to assert her independence? Are there not a million better ways to do that that DO NOT make the male romantic lead into a terrible person?

Oh my god. Now apparently it’s a violation of confidentiality if she tells him Dante raped her.

bert from the Muppets saying are you fucking kidding me

Let me remind you that Gryphon is apparently a therapist herself. If she thinks a therapist is violating confidentiality by telling someone a client raped her, this is something SERIOUSLY wrong. And now she’s insisting that Dante didn’t hurt her!!

I need to hit something.

Aleksei manipulates the situation by saying he loves her. Die. DIE MOTHERFUCKER. She’s startled as fuck because being pissed at someone for not revealing their rape is the absolute worst fucking moment to say “love” for the first time. Trocar basically shoves her out the door with him and oh my god if my blood pressure gets any higher my heart might give out.

End chapter. Thank god.

Takeaways

At 75% of the way through the book, I suppose we were long overdue for some unforgivable vampire behavior. It sure didn’t fucking take long after the vampires rolled back into the picture, did it?

Christ, these books were written like they took a stock romance novel template and crammed as much horse shit in as possible, then laced it with poison, and reading it is like smearing it on your face and up your nose. Well, gotta have a scene where the hero blows up because he has to save the heroine, so better have him swoop in as a dragon, except he didn’t really need to, and better have him confess his love for her except in the worst moment and the most manipulative way possible. It’s full of superlatives, but all the wrong ones.

that is one big pile of shit

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conspiracy, Chapter 14

Chapter 14 starts with what seems to be a resolution (of the legislative kind) regarding vampire behavior drafted by Osiris, basically saying that vampires pledge not to kill anyone when feeding and that all beings are created equal, etc. It draws from the Declaration of Independence, because apparently that’s the only legal/constitutional statement worth making, despite the fact that NONE of the vampire lineages are American. Oh, also, it’s called the “Human Declaration of Independence” rather than American, because apparently humans are all American. Is it any wonder the rest of the world thinks we Americans are egocentric maniacs?

the world according to americans

The document actually reads like an official document, without any “holy gawd” or “fuckadoodledoo,” even. I’m impressed. I’ve no idea why this document is significant or why Osiris drew it up, however.

Gillian and Aleksei are reviewing the document together and she remarks that Osiris is “older than the gods themselves.” Um…did she forget that Osiris is the name of an Egyptian god and therefore ostensibly he’s regarded as a god? I feel like there’s a lot of these boneheaded comparisons in these books.

They’re extremely turned on by each other and Aleksei develops a troubling condition in which his “groin [is] tight and heavy.” I’m really surprised she didn’t say “corpuscles engorged his erectile tissue” or something. She wanders away and Tanis comes in looking disheveled and only wearing one shoe. (???) Apparently Jenna has been banging his brains out. To my utter shock, neither Rachlav makes any dickbag remarks about needing to teach their women lessons or ANYTHING. It’s like they’ve been replaced by pod people. What am I going to snark now?

woman making a disappointed face

But, yanno, they’re still calling her by the obnoxious diminutive pet names, so there’s that.

Gillian is debating what to do about Dante the rapist ghost, who, you might remember, is trapped in some stones in a way that’s still not quite clear to me. She says she “can’t keep him locked up forever,” to which I wholeheartedly disagree. He repeatedly raped you and manipulated the shit out of you. He is clearly, unrepentantly bad. If he were human, maybe I’d feel differently, which makes me conflicted, but then again he is obviously a fucking psychopath, and you can’t fix psychopaths.

They also have to deal with Grace, the ghost who helped kidnap Tanis (or something? Her role was unclear). Tanis argues that they can’t let her go because she was a traitor and she’ll go back to Dracula if they do. Which is a good point, but what the fuck with the double standard? Release the rapist whose affiliations are completely unknown (he might well be working for Dracula too), but keep the ghost who was obviously–at least in my mind–manipulated through her infatuation with Tanis locked up?

does not compute

Gillian calls Team Shit for Brains in to deal with Dante–why she needs all of them, I dunno–and then flits out of the room again. Aleksei and Tanis have brother talk about Gillian still being a “spitfire,” and STILL no paternalistic bullshit. Could it be that someone told Gryphon to knock that shit off, and she actually listened? COULD IT?

This is a very talky scene with a lot of short conversations, which I wouldn’t hate if they actually moved the plot forward. Well.

Dr. Evil making air quotes around the word

In a phone conversation, Helmut expresses concern that Osiris’s declaration could lead to open war if someone violates it, which could be messy. It’s a good point but…isn’t there already a war? Like, right now? The whole Dracula thing? O…kay. Gillian says she knows, dammit, because she’s a soldier. Then there’s this:

“You are a healer. Do not forget that part of yourself.”

That got her attention. “Healing what? What exactly have I done? Helped a Werewolf with a mild neurosis? A Vampire or two with fangxiety? Oh, and let’s not forget the Ghosts. Let me see, the last two Ghosts wound up with one molesting me and one being a spy for the enemy. Yeah, I’m doing just great with that healing thing.” Now she sounded bitter and her agitation was enough to get Aleksei’s attention from downstairs.

“You are an angel, piccola. You have helped me more than you will ever know.”

Jesus and angels

Come on, Aleksei. The one time Gillian has a flash of self-recognition and you have to bend over to lick her ass with bullshit praise. She is the worst therapist, seriously. If she’s having a crisis of confidence, she ought to have one.

Oh, let’s also not forget fangxiety.

gross clint eastwood

Nothing will do but Helmut join Aleksei in licking Gillian’s ass. Since she’s demonstrated nothing but complete incompetence thus far, the narrative has to work extra hard to insist that she’s the most amazing sentient being to ever walk the planet.

Gillian expresses concern that she can’t be a good soldier and a good therapist at the same time, which I’ve been saying from the absolute fucking beginning, but Helmut basically says “get over it, you’re fine, get back to work.” That’s the end of that brief moment of insight.

Apparently she’s still actively working as a therapist despite this whole war thing, and she wants to start a “Ghost Group for Shattered Spirits.” I’ve always thought therapy for paranormal beings was an interesting premise, but in execution I can’t think of it as anything more than fucking stupid. This one in particular is dumb, because it’s been established (as much as anything is established in these books) that ghosts are supposed to be bound to the places they haunt. This is even mentioned on the next page. But whatever, gotta stick something clever in there to show Gillian doing her job.

whatever

Gillian mentions needing Trocar to release the spell he used to bind Dante to the stones, and Helmut says, “Be careful, Gillian. He is a Grael.” Motherfucker, you’ve been traveling with him for however long and you’re just now cautioning her? Also, what the hell does that even mean? Why the caution? Who knows.

She’s apparently setting up an office in the guest house she first met Aleksei in at the beginning of the first book. I can only assume this signals another shift away from Dracula toward more boring random therapy sessions.

Scar from the Lion King saying

Kimber reports in and says Trocar’s coming and the head of the Russian sex trafficking/pedophile ring has been caught. Blah blah.

Oh god.

Ha.

HAHAHA.

She thought briefly about another woman she’d heard of in America: a legendary zombie raiser from Saint Louis who kept company with another Master Vampire. Gill wondered if that woman ever had doubts about herself and her abilities. Somehow she didn’t think so.

Natalie Portman laughing

Louis CK and Robin Williams laughing

George Takei laughing

hyena laughing

Oh, Gryphon, you are priceless. ❤

Also I have news for you: Anita doesn’t question her actions because she is a fucking psychopath.

Now we’re at mirror gazing and back to patronizing remarks from Aleksei. Gillian is still 30 for now, but she still fills out her uniform “admirably.” Wtf? Now, I’m turning 31 in a couple of months (for real, as I haven’t skipped three years of birthdays like Gillian apparently has), and I don’t think I’d say I still look good for 31 or whatever. I’m 31, not 75. It’s not as though being on the “back side of thirty” is over the hill, and she’s still somehow managing to strap her sagging bits into a pleasing form.

Apparently she doesn’t see what Aleksei sees in her, despite the narrative telling us how gorgeous she is, repeatedly and often. Hey Gillian, I have a book for you.

cover of a book called Humblebrag: The Art of False Modesty

Aleksei pops in on the brain phone and says, “Perhaps it is your short temper that intrigues me and your lovely petite body which I desire pressed against me, piccola.” Ah yes, we’re back to this shit again. “Sure, honey, I love that you’re small enough that I can physically control you and you have no ability to regulate your own emotions so I can control that too.”

We’re told again that she’s commitment-phobic and she worries that she’ll get into this relationship and discover she doesn’t actually want this, to which Aleksei responds, “You are thinking too much again, bellisima. We will get through this together but you will not run from it.

a woman looking dismayed

warning warning danger will robinson

21 Warning Signs of an Emotionally Abusive Relationship

This is single-handedly the creepiest statement ever made in these books. Possibly even the creepiest thing that’s ever happened in these books, even worse than the spanking. In what way is this not a threat? How am I supposed to read this?

OH MY GOD IT GETS WORSE

She wanders out into the hallway and finds a painting of herself in the dress she wore in the first book. Here is the description.

What pissed her off was that the image was lying on the bed in the master suite she’d just vacated. The eyes were liquid and filled with need, legs bare of hosiery or shoes, skirt almost indecently draped over her thighs. The painting was of her, of a woman waiting for her lover and knowing beyond doubt that he would come.

I retract my previous statement! THIS is the single creepiest thing that’s happened in these books. IS THIS SUPPOSED TO BE FLATTERING?

Anubis, who’s filling in for Gaslighting Gremlin, shows up and is like, “Oh yeah, that Aleksei’s a pretty good painter huh?” He tells her, “Little sister, you are not angry about the painting, you are angry about your insecurity in your feelings for Aleksei.” And also, “You look like a woman in love, Gillian. That is what bothers you. That is obvious to everyone but yourself.

ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS RIGHT NOW

I

WHAT

FUUUUUUUUUUUU

dexter making a disgusted face

jim carrey trying not to puke

No no cat gif

a man throwing papers into the air to show he's done with this shit

looks like it's fuck this shit o'clock

End chapter.

Takeaways

My reactions to this chapter ranged from eye rolling to giggling to horrified to shaking my fists at my screen and making the people next to me in the coffee shop give me strange looks. Maybe it’s just because we haven’t had a gratuitously awful statement in a while and my numbness to it has worn off, but what the actual fuck? He painted her without her knowledge in the old-ass vampire version of a sneaky sex photo without her consent, obviously before they were even together, and then had the fucking gall to hang it in his house where he knew she’d see it? That is fucking awful! And then when she gets mad about it, fucking Anubis rolls in to laugh at her and tell her why she’s really mad, like she doesn’t actually have a right to be horrified and livid by such invasive behavior. I can’t. I can’t even.

woman flipping the camera off enthusiastically

RUN FOR IT GILLIAN

RUN FOR IT

But of course you’re not going to.

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conspiracy, Chapter 13

I did another chapter because the last one was so short.

Fair warning: this is an especially image-heavy post for those on slower connections. It’s also especially NSFW because sex.

Team Shit for Brains–or at least Gillian, Jenna, and Pavel, because who the fuck knows where everyone else went–arrive back at Rachlav Central. Everyone is super happy to see Gillian, god knows why, and Jenna lets out “what could only be described as a fangirl ‘squee’” at seeing Tanis.

Now, I feel the need to mention that Jenna and Tanis have never met. I went back and looked just now. Jenna surfaces in the last 1% of the previous book, well after Tanis has been rescued. I don’t even recall how they first came in contact via email. I’m not one to knock online romances, given that my four-year relationship began online, but when has Jenna even had time to pursue this romance? They’ve run hither and thither across Western Europe for god knows how long doing completely random shit.

God, whatever.

Aleksei vampires over to Gillian, wearing all black, cape included, because of course he is. And… “What he did was take her breath away.” Jesus Christ, this is the kind of nonsensical phrasing I’d expect from my freshman-level college writing students. I don’t even understand why you would write something like that. He took her breath away. THERE.

a paper that's been marked with red pen and text saying

This is what this book’s editor should have done, but apparently they called in sick for the duration of the editing process.

So Aleksei kisses her and

Gillian forgot herself and was soon where she’d wanted to be since she’d met him over two years before, wrapped around him like a coat.

  1. TWO YEARS? What the actual fuck? The narrative gives the impression that it’s been maybe a few months since Gillian rolled into Rachlav Central. At some point toward the end of the first book, it’s mentioned that it’s been six months, and I didn’t buy that either. Now we’re supposed to believe it’s been a year and a half since they went to rescue Tanis? Did Gillian and the rest of Western Europe slip into its own pocket of the space-time continuum?
  2. This is the only thing that comes to mind when I read “wrapped around him like a coat.”

Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs dancing

Aleksei carts her off into the woods so they can fuck. I’m already trembling in anticipation of what’s sure to be a superb sex scene. He carries her up to a “glade” in the mountains, which reeks of that scene from Twilight where Edward and Bella lay stiffly next to each other and stare for hours. I can only hope this will be more titillating.

While undressing her, Aleksei finds her surgical scars and is understandably concerned because “in her unique way of leaving out the important parts of a story, she hadn’t told him how close she’d come to death.” I really have to say that that is the trait I hate the most in her. She must be a compulsive, pathological liar. Half the time there’s absolutely no reason for her to not tell the whole story, and the other half there’s every reason for her to tell the truth because it affects other people: to wit, the fact that she’s on Dracula’s shit list, which she neglected to tell half of Team Shit for Brains.

Anyway, sex proceeds apace, and it’s pretty standard PNR fare. Not bad, not awesome.

Especially NSFW from here on.

He starts eating her out and she tells him to stop because she “owe[s] [him] one.” Can we put a moratorium on treating sexual acts like they’re debates about who’s buying dinner? This crawled out of the same bubbling cesspit as the rest of the gender politics in this book. For one, it implies (well, more than implies) that the relationship is built on debt, where the man demeans himself to give the woman pleasure, therefore the woman owes him something in return. Two, it takes away agency from both of them by prescribing some arbitrary set of rules for behavior. Like, what if he doesn’t care for blowjobs? What if she doesn’t? What if he just wants to eat her pussy and she just wants her pussy to be eaten?

goat wagging its tongue

Thankfully he says, “There is no scorecard.” I give the narrative props for this, but given his long-ass track record of hideous misogyny, it’s spitting on a wildfire.

This happens for a while…

Frodo sticking his finger in a ring

…then plundering tongues…

another goat flapping its tongue

…then stupid Italian endearments. In this scene alone we have carissma, bellisima, and piccola guerriera, which, as you may remember, Tanis called her first. Awkward. She gets on top and gets him into her “silken sheath,” which sounds like something you’d buy with your $40 katana you got from that store in the mall when you were sixteen. We also have “silken channel” and “silken place, past the tight bands of her canal,” both of which remind me more of industrial architecture than sex. But she does say g-spot, so kudos there.

But then comes this.

He felt his [body] empty into hers in hot jets.

willy wonka scene with cream spilling over everyone

The only hot jets in my life are the ones at the gym’s hot tub, and that is not very appealing.

but wait there's more

This takes the cake.

He waited until the last shudders ran through him, the last of his seed being pulled into her with her own sucking caress.

Tim Gunn shuddering

Okay, so if you know a little about how orgasms work for those of us with factory-installed vaginas, this is not inaccurate. It is, however, the single grossest way I can think to describe that bodily function. I actually physically cringed.

So she wants to do it again but is hesitant to say so. He doesn’t have a problem with it and gets hard again but she says,

“My Gawd….How does an old guy like you do that?”

woman making an

Grumpy Cat saying

THIS IS NOT FACEBOOK OR YOUR IM CHAT WINDOW YOU DO NOT SPELL IT “GAWD” IN A PUBLISHED BOOK

Also on the subject of the space-time continuum, Aleksei reminds her that he’s not old because he was only 35 when he was turned into a vampire. Okay, one, 35 actually was kind of old pre-modern medicine, especially 400 years ago. Two, he’s now 400! By anyone’s estimation, that’s old.

He thinks she’s also 35 and she corrects him to say she’s 30.

wrong try again

At the beginning of the book, she was 25-26, I forget which. If we’re to believe that space-time has warped repeatedly and it’s been two years since then, she’s now 27-28. That is not 30. Again, where the fuck is her editor? If she can’t be trusted to keep track of this shit (PS, these books were published like five months apart, so it’s not like there was a huge gap where things might have been forgotten), someone should have.

She asks him if he prefers “generationally differential relationships,” which, aside from being super creepy, is pretty fucking obvious, and he replies, “I always prefer to have the upper hand where you are concerned.”

you don't say

 End of chapter.

Takeaways

In some ways, this wasn’t bad. Bog standard sex scene. For the briefest of moments I also don’t despise Aleksei’s entire being.

However.

I just want to gawk for a moment over astoundingly bad this writing is. I’ve been writing most of my life, and I have written some absolute shit, as every writer has. But I honestly don’t think (and I’m not being egotistical here) that I have ever written anything as bad as some of the shit in this book. It’s not 100% noxious, but I have to stop several times in each chapter to squint or shudder or roll my eyes solely at the diction or cadence of the writing. Some of it I think is just a matter of trying to get words on the page and not caring how they come out, which is indicative of the laziest editor in the world. Some of it, though…you have to try to be that bad.

Sucking.

Caress.

I’ll leave you with that.

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conspiracy, Chapter 12

Random thought: I wonder what the hell the titular conspiracy is, or is the title just supposed to be nifty-sounding?

Team Shit for Brains just escaped into a tree, and they’re in a chamber inside that’s carved from the wood. Gillian is apparently claustrophobic and freaked out that Jack might have Fey at his disposal who could open their little tree hideaway. Wow, is it just me, or are these little flashes of wisdom getting more frequent?

McNeill (and presumably Claire, who hasn’t had fuck all to say in several chapters after trying to hump Trocar) expresses confusion about what’s going on, and Gillian informs them that she’s in trouble with Dracula.

Bill Murray looking confused

…wait, they didn’t know this? I mean…I guess it’s possible they didn’t know (and I can’t be arsed to go back and look for the specifics), but it still seems odd. They also weren’t aware that Gillian is also on Jack’s shit list. McNeill makes a very astute point:

“You insulted a sexual sadist Vampire serial killer and you didn’t think that was an important detail to share with Scotland Yard?”

Yeah, you’d think, wouldn’t you? But we all know Gillian doesn’t share important information unless it’s forced out of her. Jenna jumps right in and says, “Hey, it’s not like you would have believed her.” Well what the fuck wouldn’t they? What’s so unbelievable about “Volatile incompetent person pissed off a dangerous vampire?”

Now everyone is acting like there’s no way Gillian could have known Jack was after her.

Tim Curry with a disbelieving look on his face

Are you fucking serious right now? There was no way to predict that the murderous vampire who chased you out of the hospital, the reason you fled from London, might follow you? I am actually kind of insulted that I’m supposed to suspend my utter, contemptuous disbelief long enough to think Team Shit for Brains is just that terminally stupid.

Apparently McNeill still has his BlackBerry (I am totally judging him for still having a BlackBerry), and everyone sends off emails to their respective superiors plus Aleksei. Because apparently they still get cell reception in a tree cave in the middle of nowhere, France.

Everyone passes out for a while, and when they leave the tree, the cavalry, which is in this case Interpol and Scotland Yard (they must have made excellent time from England) has already showed up and secured the manor-fortress. Charles and the Kenyan vampire are dead as well as some other faceless enemies. Dahlia is understandably upset, and we’re told what a good grief counselor Gillian is. Oh, yes, I’m just sure she is.

Dahlia is apparently to be carted off by her Fey brethren so she doesn’t “die of a broken heart.” Because OF COURSE SHE WOULD. She had no purpose in life other than to be Charles’ stage dressing, so she has to be shuffled offstage before she wilts away.

eyeroll cersei lannister

Gillian gets to go back to Romania and “resume her cover.” Uh, excuse me, what cover is there to resume? If a thief stole all the towels from a nudist beach, there would be more cover there than Gillian has, by the narrative’s own admission. Remember (you probably don’t because I barely do) when she was sent to Russia for the child trafficking thing? Team Shit for Brains was ostensibly sent because they were high profile.

Gillian et. all wander off to rest at a hotel. Apparently Jenna has been exchanging “salacious and sordid” emails with Tanis. Gillian, you fucking hypocrite. You fucked Tanis within days of meeting him after he fucking SPANKED you, and then you got hot and heavy with his brother. I’m not judging, but neither should you. If the woman is fool enough to get on that abusive asshole’s dick, that’s her business, not yours. She claims she wants Jenna to be happy, but

She just didn’t want to examine her own feelings for Aleksei too deeply at that particular time and Jenna’s single-minded sexuality toward his brother wasn’t helping her keep her own thoughts in check.

What the fuck does Jenna’s email porn have to do with Gillian’s feelings for Aleksei? They’re brothers, yes, but if my best friend wanted to bang my partner’s brother (sorry for that image sweetie and Christina), I can’t say it would inspire me to consider my relationship with my partner. Also, why shoehorn a relationship (or whatever) between Jenna and Tanis into the story? It’s like every woman who drifts into the story must immediately be paired off with one of Gillian’s awful circle of acquaintances, probably so they can be shuffled off stage.

I mean, I write books with a lot of romance in them and people do tend to find partners (usually multiple partners because that’s just me), but there are some truly random matches here. What is the point?

what is this? I don't even

By the way, tell me you don’t picture Gaston when you think of the Rachlavs.

Well, I guess that’s it for this chapter. I should have known after a couple of chapters of halfway decent pacing, we’d stumble back into the quicksand pit of Fuck All Happens.

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conspiracy, Chapter 11

You guys. I had a revelation. I suddenly understand Gillian so much better now.

I’ll explain that in a bit.

Gillian wakes up crying, and Trocar is comforting her. For some reason, which I thought I would have to chalk up to her emotional constipation, she shoves him away. He calls her “Petal” and “Gillyflower.” I had almost forgotten about these particular charming pet names. Now, I’ll remind you that Gillian was/is Trocar’s commanding officer. You know, in the Marines. If Gillian is close to their team and they’re a bit impertinent as a matter of course, fine. But calling her ridiculous pet names is not only wildly inappropriate, it just makes Trocar one more of a sea of mudfish flopping around in the overflow of a septic tank that is the gender politics of this book

mudfish with their mouths open

You know, these ones.

Literally everyone in these fucking books, the author included, has some sort of diminutive for Gillian. Literally no one respects her boundaries. Literally everyone smothers her with “concern” and “protectiveness,” by which I mean abusive restrictive behavior. Is it any fucking wonder that she does stupid shit when she finally manages to wriggle free of these fools, when it’s probable she never EVER absorbed decision-making skills? Is it any wonder she flips her shit at the slightest provocation and can display no emotion other than anger for more than thirty seconds at a time? Whenever she does, someone runs over to dry hump her with concern to assert their dominance.

dog humping a little girl's leg

I still despise every fiber of her being, but I don’t think she’s malicious, just completely ridiculous. And now I get why.

Anyway, so we’re in Trocar’s head now. He goes outside and spots Dahlia and Charles, and they have a short conversation–for what reason I don’t know, other than to establish that Charles knows Trocar is a drow Grael and apparently that Grael use daggers. And then we go back to Gillian. What an exciting way to spend a page.

Apparently Scotland Yard is trying to track down the “African tribe” responsible for Charles’ family’s curse in hopes that they’ll release it somehow. Well, given that Africa’s a big place and there are over 3000 tribes, not to mention the fact that it’s now been 200+ years of devastating colonization between then and now…godspeed, moon cats.

We’re taken through a play-by-play of Gillian’s counseling session with Charles, because this is exactly what we need to be doing right now.

Neil deGrasse Tyson in a whatever shrug

I won’t comment on the effectiveness of Gillian’s therapeutic technique since I know fuck all about dealing with an actively suicidal person, except to say that the whole time in my mind I’m thinking of Gillian’s voice as displaying less emotion than Siri. She finishes up the session by saying, “I’m not trying to [change your mind], Charles….I’m trying to help you change your own mind.”

Because that doesn’t sound creepily manipulative at all.

Gillian decides she needs to consult others about the situation. This is literally the first time in either book that she’s decided she can’t make a decision on her own. My nanosecond of appreciation for the character growth is stymied by this sentence: “Gillian wasn’t so egocentric that she would make a judgment call on something this complex all by herself.”

a woman making a disbelieving face

ooooorly?

Though, I really can’t decide if her ego is inflated like a tick about to pop, or if it’s just terrible chronic insecurity and an inferiority complex.

During a conference call, ostensibly about Charles’s case, she starts to daydream about Aleksei again. There’s some inane discussion about how to handle the case, and she admits she “can’t help Charles, not with the time frame [she has].” Wait, what time frame? And why the fuck did you drag me through two chapters of stilted therapeutic dialogue if you can’t help him.

Helmut (the mentor, who’s been about as useful as a wall hanging this whole time) tells her to go and rest and she has this weird thing to say:

“Separating the characters in the movie is a sure sign the person off by themselves is going to get butchered by the axe-wielding maniac. Are you trying to get rid of me?”

what3

Here’s another gem that pretty much sums up the delightful gender dynamic of Charles’s and Dahlia’s relationship: “Charles was characteristically stoic….Dahlia just as typically cried and clung to Charles’s arm.” Literally all this woman has done is cry and beg Charles not to kill himself. Never was there a more appropriate characterizing gif:

A girl in a cheerleader outfit crying in her car

My name is Dahlia and I’m a crying cheerleader!

Four dudes who are apparently Interpol agents show up ostensibly to take Charles into custody. Because he’s apparently the killer they’re after, you might remember. There’s yet another oddity:

“Good evening,” the Vampire said, eliciting rolled eyes from Gillian and Jenna.

Why did they do that? It was so stereotypical, Gill thought to herself, watching the procession file into the house.

what, what?

 I…I….what the hell? Greeting someone with a “good evening” is stereotypical? I am so confused. This book tries so many times to be clever (at least, I assume that was supposed to be clever) and just completely biffs it. It’s like Gryphon is swinging for the bleachers and instead

a little boy trying to swing at a wiffle ball and hitting another boy in the head

Apparently the shapeshifter Interpol agent is Egyptian and the vampire is Kenyan. This seems awfully specific given the narrative’s rather sweeping mention of an “African” tribe earlier in the chapter. I’m not sure why the hell this is even relevant except maybe as a quarter-assed attempt to shoehorn some racial diversity into the book.

Oh, well. Jack just turned up. I’m almost impressed that he’s clever enough to insert himself into the investigation and gain access to Team Shit for Brains this way, but given the astoundingly low bar for cleverness in this book, I’m not that impressed.

Trocar tells Gillian et. al to run and decides to be a hero, facing Jack (and presumably the others) down alone. This is actually an engaging moment, so I’m waiting for Gryphon to pull her punch at any moment. To absolutely no one’s surprise, the narrative half-skips, half-stumbles along in a ridiculous mixture of bad cadence and completely stupid, inappropriate irreverence.

Gillian heard the gurgle of blood from a sliced windpipe before she smelled corpuscles spilling. She turned back, hand going to a nonexistent pocket with a nonexistent gun. Damn. Hell….and fuckadoodle doo. She was still wearing Jenna’s jogging pants. No pockets and definitely no gun.

a man in a suit looking annoyed

Jesus Christ I hate her juvenile way of cursing. Again, I’m sure “fuckadoodle doo” is a stupid attempt at comedic cleverness, but it’s completely inappropriate in a scene that’s supposedly trying to be heroic. And let’s talk about that first sentence. For one, what an awkward fucking sentence. Two, I can’t fathom why you’d whip out the word “corpuscles” other than to show off your knowledge of a random scientific term. If you were wondering, as I was, a corpuscle is a cell, like red or white blood cells…so basically she’s saying she heard a gurgle and then heard blood spilling.

IS THAT SO FUCKING HARD?

Here’s the tl;dr version of the rest of this scene:

an entire baseball team stumbling over each other and failing repeatedly

McNeill fires blindly at someone standing in the doorway, which thankfully is not Charles (where the fuck is Charles?) or whoever else is in another part of the house but not in this scene. Then “Claire’s gun joined his in making a lot of noise.” (TIL guns make a lot of noise.) More vampires come skipping in and Trocar apparently can deal with them too. But oh, here comes Charles and…apparently the Interpol agents aren’t a cover for Jack but are actually the good guys? I don’t fucking know.

Another amazing line: “Dahlia was screaming bloody murder since this was an occasion that called for it.” This sounds like the world’s best anti-joke. It reminded me of this:

I don’t even know what’s going on anymore, except that Gillian isn’t fighting, again. This would be okay because the sense of helplessness adds to the terror in the situation–or at least, the terror that’s intended to dominate the situation which is instead completely undermined by the ridiculous prose.

Jack has somehow managed to slip past Trocar and comes over to creep on Gillian. Gillian contemplates negotiating for her friends’ lives and telling Jack to take her and let them go. Holy sweet mother of god, is she actually being self-sacrificing?

a person with coke bottle glasses with an amazed look on his face

This is kind of an amazing moment for me and for these books. This is absolutely the first time Gillian has done anything that wasn’t whiny and self-aggrandizing despite the narrative’s attempts to insist otherwise. I am actually impressed.

Which of course means the air is let out of that satisfaction balloon immediately because Charles shifts into his Manbearpigasaur form and bounces over to rescue them.

diagram of an ancient Greek deus ex machina machine

Zuberi, the Kenyan vampire Interpol agent, gets munched by Manbearpigasaur, who is apparently indiscriminate. Gillian can tell Jack is calling for help, presumably using the brain phone, and a bunch of other vampires and shifters rush into the house. …apparently they’ve been waiting there the whole time? Why they didn’t come in in the first place and zerg the fort? Oh, right, plot armor.

Team Shit for Brains plus Dahlia book it out of the house. Dahlia opens up a doorway in a tree, and they all pile inside. End chapter.

Takeaways

The sad thing is, this has been the best chapter in both books, narratively speaking. There are some spectacularly stupid lines, but shit actually happens, and there’s actual tension. The thing is, Gillian isn’t actually involved in any of it. All she does is lay there. I have to give her kudos for her tough decision to sacrifice herself to Jack, but of course that moment’s teeth were instantly knocked out by the arrival of Manbearpigasaur. How much better would this book be if Gillian actually made the deal and Jack carted her off?

SO MUCH BETTER.

Also, let’s talk about Dahlia. She is a Fey. We’ve met other Fey (Trocar and that Legolas guy in the first book who made an appearance for all of ten seconds) who are objectively pretty badass, yet all she does is wring her hands and cry about Charles. During this scene, I just picture her like this:

bella swan staring blankly

Then literally the only thing she does is give them an escape route.

I have to give credit to Gryphon  here for actually attempting to fit the situation into the larger Jack plot, but it’s a pretty weird, clumsy attempt. We’re steered into this Charles plot as if it’s now the main focus of the book (and after being constantly jostled around from plot to plot, our numbness is understandable), and then Jack inexplicably pops back in. How did they not think this might happen?

This is the book right now:

puzzle pieces in the wrong places

Except Gryphon is using a mallet to violently cram in pieces where they don’t belong.

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conspiracy, Chapter 10

Surprise, y’all! I’m back for more hatereading. When last we left Team Shit for Brains, they had just bumbled around a high-walled fort of some kind and been accosted by a terrible Manbearpigasaur. Pavel and Trocar tried to fight it and everyone else was generally useless, and they were saved by a woman who comes bursting out of the fort. It seems Manbearpigasaur’s name is Charles, and he’s the owner of the fortress-manor-house-thing. His wife is Dahlia.

Everything else further in the past is so fucking random and nonsensical it almost doesn’t bear recounting.

So at the beginning of this chapter, we’re introduced to Charles the Manbearpigasaur, who bears a Curse (again with the random capitalization) passed down through his family, who is “descended from the original Beast of Gavaudon [sic],” by which I can only assume she means the Beast of Gévaudan, a legendary maneating wolf creature in France. I understand spelling errors happen, but seriously? Gévaudan was an actual place. Like on a map. Presumably, Gryphon did enough research to at least read the first three lines of the Wikipedia article (like I did), but she couldn’t be arsed to spell it correctly, and her editor was so blinded by bitter tears and self-hatred that they couldn’t be bothered either. Lest I seem like I’m getting pedantic about a small error, I’ll remind you that such an error would be way more forgivable if these books didn’t already aggressively suck sweaty monkey balls.

At any rate, the curse on Charles’s family came from their involvement in the slave trade, when one of them kidnapped the grandson of a shaman. For whatever reason, the curse only affects male descendants every second generation. It’s actually pretty interesting stuff (if a bit random in places), but why the fuck is it here?

James Franco shrugging

How much do you want to bet this has zero bearing whatsoever on the plot? Every time there’s something mildly interesting, I get my hopes up and then I’m cockblocked by the author’s complete inability to follow through. WHEN WILL I LEARN.

Gillian is already super invested in Charles’s plight, and it looks like we’ve stumbled into another situation where Gillian gets to be the worst therapist in the world. You know, I’d be fine with this, because I’m pleasantly surprised when Gillian actually gives a shit about anyone who isn’t herself, except that THEY’RE STILL BEING CHASED BY JACK THE RIPPER.

As a side note, Gillian and McNeill (the stick-up-his-ass fey-blooded detective who’s also there for no reason) apparently grok each other about this issue. I hate that I immediately wonder whether Gillian is going to end up in an awkward and unfulfilling UST situation (because she’s a One Vampire Woman now and she can’t bang anyone else because she Belongs to Aleksei) with him like she is with 90% of the men in this shit show.

I forgot that Gillian is actually injured, and holy god, she’s actually feeling it. And there are actual emotions. Could…could it be…she’s actually evolving?

I don't usually get my hopes up, but when I do, people normally fuck it up for me

…and by ‘people’ I mean ‘Gillian.’

She notes that “everyone [was] depending on her decision skills.

C3PO from Star Wars saying we're doomed

Ah, so this moment of vulnerability predictably turns into fantasizing about Aleksei. I actually wouldn’t mind this if the narrative’s attempt to make her more emotionally vulnerable didn’t make her more vulnerable to a Trump-level abusive douchebag.

screen capture of Donald Trump

HAY MY NAME IS ALEKSEI

Long story short here, Gillian is starting to figure out that Charles is responsible for the murders in this region. I had to follow the erratic Hansel and Gretel plot bread trail back to figure out what the hell she’s talking about, and I remembered that they’re supposed take a detour on Scotland Yard’s behalf, because apparently there’s literally no one else to resolve this relatively minor issue in the middle of an ostensible vampire turf war.

Oh, yeah, did you forget about that war that’s supposed to be going on? ME TOO.

Cillian Murphy sighing and taking off his glasses

Gillian suspects that Charles is trying to commit suicide by “death by cop.” Dahlia confirms that Charles wants to die (which is stated repeatedly), and McNeill has this moment of observant brilliance:

“Death by cop?” Brant interjected. When Gillian and Helmut looked at him, surprise on their faces, he supplemented, “I do try to keep abreast of things, you know. It is my job.”

What a genius this guy is! They’ve only been talking about Charles being suicidal for like a page and a half.

captain obvious

Now we’re subjected to a pages-long treatise on Charles and Dahlia’s backgrounds as well as their marriage, because this is exactly what we should be doing and where we should be at 58% through the book. Charles’ family kept the curse a big secret, he didn’t discover it until after he and Dahlia married, Dahlia is a real trooper and a devoted wife because of course she is, and she serves no function except to be the humanizing feature for a bestial male character.

Mrs. Potts from animated Beauty and the Beast

Now all this needs is a fucking teapot.

Dahlia offers them rooms, which they refuse for reasons unknown, and the chapter ends.

Takeaways

You know, this is not a bad chapter. In fact, narratively speaking, it’s not bad at all. If this were a different book.

Let’s review everything that’s happened in the book so far, shall we?

  1. Gillian and her team head to Russia to stop a child trafficking ring run by fucking Boris and Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle.
  2. They then end up in London and play in a haunted house for a while for no damn reason.
  3. Jack the Ripper turns up again out of the blue.
  4. Team Shit for Brains detours to France to investigate murders, and now she’s doing impromptu family therapy with a cursed wolf creature.

Jesus Christ, PICK A PLOT. Any plot. I’m starting to think Gryphon is only capable of brainstorming and beginning a halfway decent plot, but she can’t follow through. It’s like the book is a party and Gryphon is having a really good time, but then she leaves and gets carsick, and she has to ask the driver to pull over so she can hurl the plot into someone’s front yard. So far she’s forcefully ejected plots back and forth across Eurasia and shows no signs of slowing down.

Come on, book. We could’ve had something here. Maybe it would’ve been a Hot Pocket instead of a gourmet meal, but it would be something.