Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Redemption, Chapter 8, part 2

Gillian stomps away from Aleksei to the library, where she runs into Luis the Puerto Rican vampire. Remember Luis? I didn’t either. He was a blip on the radar as a member of Gillian’s team, and he was a “plant” who was controlled by Dracula. The narrative does a half-decent job of reminding the reader who he is. Why he’s there, who knows, except to add another nickname to Gillian’s repertoire: “muñeca de bebé.” I wish I hadn’t Googled that phrase before I just pasted it into Google Translate, because I got this:

creepy baby doll

oh god why

Luis brought along none other than Oscar Gray, who you might also barely remember from the first book as one of Dracula’s cronies. Uh, what? Ooookay. I’m going to go ahead and give the narrative the benefit of the doubt–I’m either an eternal optimist or an eternal idiot–and call this dramatic irony.

His voice is apparently “pure upper-class Brit.”

WrongAnswer

Oscar is clearly an analog for Oscar Wilde, who was fucking Irish. Fucking Irish is not fucking British. So fuck you, fucking book.

Gillian wants Luis and Oscar to sign a confidentiality agreement because the house has become, in Luis’s words, “a nut house for crazy Paramortals.” I almost forgot about this, and I still find it weird. Oscar exclaims, “I think this is a smashing idea, truly!” Apparently we’re going to be aggressively reminded of his Britishness with every other statement despite the fact that he is not supposed to be fucking British. He and Gillian have some stupid banter about what to call the place–sanctuary, haven, retreat, what the fuck ever–and Gillian quotes Galaxy Quest. It has never been more apparent that this is some word vomit in an attempt to stretch the “story” to fit Gryphon’s book deal.

guy with a condom on his head

This guy is more successful.

Gillian toddles off to bed. Meanwhile, Aleksei and Tanis are exchanging blood to break Tanis’s connection to Dracula. Aleksei asks Trocar to watch over them. Why? The narrative goes out of its way to explain that Aleksei and Trocar doesn’t really like each other.

They’re going to do this ritual or whatever in the family crypt, which in my memory hasn’t been mentioned before. We’re in Trocar’s POV, and he mentions that the blood exchange is weird and incestuous. Well, it wasn’t weird and incestuous until you made it that way, dude.

Apparently vampire feeding is always accompanied by a glamour of some kind? It’s explained this way:

Without it, feeding could be torturous, even cruel. It was not a good feeling when someone with inch-long fangs nailed you in your carotid artery without glamour to shield you from what he was actually doing.

….

When it was employed, the prey or victim, depending on your perspective, experienced the equivalent of speedy foreplay with a shattering climax at the end.

baby-gifconfused-gifidkgood-luck-charlie

Wow, okay, so the narrative is really going out of its way to portray this as sexual and incestuous.Now, I don’t really have a problem with consensual incest in books. I know that’s probably an Unpopular Opinion Puffin, but there you go. But, again, why? We’ve seen absolutely no mention of this glamour before now, so I have to conclude that this bit of worldbuilding was created specifically for this scene.

Predictably, the book insists that IN NO WAY is this sexual.

the lady doth protest too much

This is one of those moments when narrative clumsiness produces unintentionally LOL-worthy material. Had the bit of worldbuilding about feeding being sexual appeared WAY earlier, Trocar’s observations might make more sense, but this is like someone standing up on a bar, gesturing to their crotch, and screaming, “I’M WEARING NO PANTS, DON’T LOOK AT MY DICK!”

So, Aleksei is draining Tanis of blood. I did a quick Google to find out how much blood is in the average human body. Apparently it’s about 1.5 gallons (5.5 liters) for a 180-lb (81.6 kg) person. Assuming this is a bit more because the Rachlavs are behemoths, that’s a fuck-ton of blood to ingest. Apparently nobody can agree on how much the human stomach can hold, but that list estimates 4 liters on the high end. Having recently been gorging myself at buffets in Las Vegas, I can attest to the discomfort this causes. I know I’m asking way too much from these books to be realistic in any way, but I have to find my amusement somehow in all of this mind-numbing shit.

lower your expectations

Tanis panics, like you do when you’re losing all the blood in your body, and Trocar steps in to calm him down with a spell. Aleksei says some ritual words and now he’s apparently about to pass out, so Trocar has to step in again. He struggles with Tanis, who wants to finish eating Aleksei real bad, and ultimately points a crossbow at him, “the one Vampire he could claim as a friend.” Wait, they’re friends?  When did this happen?

show don't tell

This could be an interesting scene if, like every other goddamn scene in these books, it hadn’t had its eyeteeth cut out. If we’d established Trocar’s friendship with Tanis, there would be quite a bit of tension. The idea of a vampire blood exchange being dangerous enough to need a mediator is an intriguing one. It does beg the question of why the fuck Aleksei hasn’t brought this up to Gillian, however, given that he wants to form a blood bond with her. I can only hope this results in Gillian chewing Aleksei’s face off when they do it.

The chapter ends in a weird exchange I don’t really understand even after reading it several times. The gist seems to be that they’re not sure what effects the “conversion” will have on Tanis before it’s complete. None. I’m going to guess it’s none.

Takeaways

One of the many, many reasons these books are terrible is the complete lack of follow-through. There are so many dangling threads the story looks like that shirt you got at Hot Topic 20 years ago and have worn every day since until it’s literally falling off and you can see through it. Like a shirt from Hot Topic, it’s tried too hard to be cool and edgy and now it’s just a ratty piece of shit.

There are a few intriguing ideas sprinkled here and there. I wish I could give Gryphon more credit for cleverness, but those ideas are so rare it seems like they happen on accident. As they say, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

 

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Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Redemption, Chapter 8, part 1

NSFW for some stupid clinical sex talk.

This chapter starts out with, “Gillian wasn’t at the top of her class for nothing; she knew what was the matter and got off him immediately.” 

Oh no, I’m pretty sure it was nothing, or else her class (I assume she means paranormal psychology) was comprised of her and my two boneheaded cats. I read that as “got him off immediately” at first, and I actually wasn’t all that surprised to read she’d make him orgasm even after he said no. That’s what these books have brought me to, a complete lack of surprise at nonconsensual sex acts. 

guy with a straight face

In any case, she gets out of his lap, but she doesn’t go far, and she stares right at his giant dick, remembering Aleksei’s giant dick under similar circumstances, which reminds her it’s been a while since she’s had some. Whatever. She tells Perrin they’ve gone far enough tonight and uses the word “erect,” which makes Perrin blush. She tells him, 

“Erection, penis, vagina, masturbation, orgasm are all perfectly acceptable, clinical words. None of it is dirty or wrong, understand?”

animated erection

If you ask me, at no point during actual sex, casual conversation about sex, or writing about sex should the first three words be used, and the last two are questionable. Saying “erect” actually makes it dirtier and wrong-er somehow. Clinical, yes. Sexy? Jesus Christ no.

She says she’s going to show him something he’ll like, and she comes back with…a flavored condom. What on $deity’s green earth makes her think this is something a sheltered Victorian whatsit will enjoy a latex tube flavored like a Jolly Rancher? Perrin is mortified when she unwraps it and puts it over her fingers to show him how it works, as I believe most people would be when having a condom demonstration sprung on them. 

condom

She says she wants to give him a blowjob before they fuck, a notion that horrifies him for some reason. I know some cultures have proscriptions against oral sex, but is Victorian-era France one of them? Who the fuck knows.

I can’t tell whether he’s against the idea or is super into it, as he’s gesticulating toward his “heavy sex” while simultaneously being like WAT R U SRS THO. She puts the condom back in its wrapper and tosses it back on the table (please PLEASE don’t tell me she fucking uses it later), then gives him a “body parts aren’t dirty,” or, as the book calls it, the “Our Bodies, Ourselves” talk. I actually think this is what a sex therapist should actually be doing. Working to eliminate shame and forming some sex-positive thought patterns is a useful outcome of therapy. Does it require banging? Absolutely not, but this is a goddamn romance novel and we seem to be reaching the limit of pages without sex in a romance novel, so we better put some dick in there. This is the healing cock, only in this case we’re healing the cock.

Gillian tells him she wants him to be “a little more dominant, Perrin. Not forceful, not brutal, but confident, assured.”

spitting water

I have so many thoughts here.

So, she doesn’t think forceful and brutal are good attributes, despite the fact that literally every dick that’s been in or near her until Perrin has been that way, and she doesn’t see that as a problem. Is she trying to make Perrin into the kind of partner she wants, or is it classic Gillian Irony?

irony

I KIND OF get what she’s saying here, but using the word “dominant” in a sexual context has a specific meaning, and “confident, assured” in this context does not necessarily mean dominant despite her equating the two. Being a submissive can require an awful lot of confidence and assurance, too; it’s hard to give yourself over to someone if you’re not confident in yourself.

I’m going to guess she not-so-secretly thinks Perrin is a pussy and is going to try and mold him into a Rachlav-style abusive asshole. Safe guess.

She gets up to leave and decides to kiss him. And then…

sweet jesus

He “swat[s] her butt.”

SERIOUSLY WHAT THE FUCK IS IT WITH MEN AND SLAPPING HER ASS

Gillian reacts appropriately:

Gillian was annoyed. “Just what the hell do you think you’re doing?” 

“Practicing being more dominant?” Perrin was making an attempt at his humor skills again.

Really though. REALLY THOUGH. First, how does Perrin equate ass-slapping with confidence and assurance, second, how does he even go from not even being able to handle being aroused to hitting her, and third, oh YAY, now this book is going to add a mangled version of BDSM to its sins?

grumpy cat face

Oh, no, Gillian isn’t into BDSM because “relinquishing control was completely foreign to her.”

"O rly?" owl meme

I’m sure this is meant to be a virtue rather than a dangerous character flaw that has repeatedly put her and everyone around her in danger.

As Gillian leaves, she has an “epiphany” that “Perrin [is] truly an innocent.” There’s some pseudo psychological analysis, by which I mean some shit that’s been obvious from the first two paragraphs of their interaction. There’s some references to random deities, Cronus and Hera, which I guess is supposed to be some vague reference to the spirituality of this world.

Are we done with this shit yet? Please?

Of course not. She runs into Aleksei, who is has now gathered a few shreds of maturity to cobble together some so-called genuine concern for her wellbeing. There’s some weird shit where she shares her thoughts–unintentionally, I think?–or something, and he calls her his lover and his girlfriend. She decides now is a good time to give him a speech about how she’s determined the status of their relationship.

“I have been your lover and I was your girlfriend. I know you’ve apologized for what you said, and I forgive you for that. But, Aleksei, we waited nearly two years, then moved really fast into a very intense relationship. I just want to take a couple of steps back, that’s all. Really get to know each other before we get into full-blown commitment mode. Do you understand?”

“You are breaking up with me?” He wasn’t insulted; he was stunned and stared at her in disbelief.

“See, when you say things like ‘breaking up,’ it sounds so silly coming from a Vampire Lord who is as erudite and concise in formal speaking as you are.

I just have to break in here and wonder if a margin note from Gryphon’s long-suffering editor was accidentally left in. Continuing:

“We are on a break, Aleksei. Just a break. I don’t want you to go away; I don’t want to leave. I just want some space right now so I can get everything sorted out in my mind. I know that’s selfish of me, but I need some time here. Are you okay with that or do you want to tell me to go to hell and to forget it?”

Jesus, what an asshole. Taking this out of context from Aleksei’s consistent abuse, because the narrative surely wants to pretend this has been an equal relationship from the beginning,  this is typical Gillian selfishness. Avoiding your lover and then, when he expresses concern–because you seem grumpier than usual–determining that you’re on a break with no input from him, is a real dick move. More on this at the end of the post.

Tanis breaks in on the brain phone to tell Aleksei to STFU and just agree, which he does, adding another nickname, “dolcezza,” to the pile. Apparently this means “sweetie.” Whatever.

Gillian admits she’s scared (gasp!) and they have a moment that would be tender if it were in another book. And if it weren’t ruined by this from Aleksei:

“I will continue with my life as intertwined with yours as it is and hope that your road will lead you back to me.”

Translation: you can’t get rid of me.

gross baby face

Grosssss

Takeaways

On second thought, I’m not 100% sure how I feel about Gillian’s “we’re on a break” decision. Aleksei has mostly controlled the relationship up until now through his abusive behavior. I can’t really blame Gillian for taking control of it now. Ultimately I blame the narrative for being as subtle and nuanced as an elephant dancing ballet.

This is the problem I’ve consistently run into in these books. There’s huge cognitive dissonance between the reality of the situation and how I’m supposed to read the narrative. There are moments when I’m in Gillian’s corner because her reactions are reasonable given the awful behavior of the people around her, yet those are precisely the moments when the narrative is trying to insist that she’s being unreasonable, and vice versa. I absolutely don’t believe that Gillian is as abusive as Aleksei or the other twatwaffles she hangs around; this is clearly not the case. However, she’s still a terrible fucking person all around. Is this a result of being constantly surrounded by twatwaffles, or is she an asshole all on her own? It’s hard to tell, and maybe it doesn’t even matter. She’s a terrible protagonist.

you're a bad person