96%. I hope to everything this is the last chapter.
We start out in Drangal’s head, and I guess we’re still meant to think this guy is just some schlub and not the villain we’ve ostensibly been chasing for three books. The narrative gymnastics continue, though this time it’s with all the grace of a mating giraffe:
Csangal had not been in the area for over a century but he was certain that the Vampire Lord would remember him so it was best to keep a low profile. No use in spreading the word around that a formerly local Vampire was crazy enough to be availing himself of Dr. Key’s skill.
None of that is even necessary. Just show us he’s familiar with the area. You don’t have to jump up and down screaming “DON’T LOOK OVER HERE! NOTHING TO SEE HERE!”
After some more stumbling, we switch to Aleksei and Perrin saying goodbye. They’re all chummy now, which is sort of refreshing; at least the two points of the love triangle aren’t still dick-fencing, though of course it’s just to avoid any conflict in the resolution of this useless plot. Perrin will scuttle offscreen, and the only sort-of genuine relationship Gillian has will be gone. Perrin plans to seek Gillian out after the requisite year of no contact has passed, but I very much doubt we’ll see him again. Can’t wait for another book of this shit!
What’s a scene between Gillian and a man without some gross sexism? Perrin, who’s been the least sexist man in the books, tells her “You still need looking after, sweetheart,” and calls her a brat like she’s a ten-year-old who’s too big for her britches. All of a sudden this is more like an older brother saying goodbye to his kid sister. Charming!
Gillian and Aleksei remind us that Gillian’s mentor, Cassiopeia, will be visiting (probably on the last page if the fine tradition of everything-is-wrong-about-this pacing in these books), then Aleksei asks Gillian to fly with him. Oh look, it’s time for Puff the Magic Vampire!
Sigh. I’d almost forgotten about this stupid shit.
So Gillian’s riding on his arm when they fly into the Cloud of Info Dump. We’re told all about Gillian’s career before meeting Aleksei for some goddamn reason, information I’m not going to bother sharing with you because it’s convoluted and pointless.
Scanning…scanning…I feel like a meteorologist staring at the Dopplar radar desperately hoping to see an interesting storm, but I don’t see a single cloud.
Oh boy! More sex. And pointless relationship talk. Yay. As a side note, “with blurring speed” is my least favorite of Gryphon’s favorite phrases. There’s some awkward back and forth and Aleksei claims, “We have never had a problem communicating before, Gillian.”
When haven’t they had problems communicating? Even ignoring the forced nature of their relationship, their breakup was caused by bad communication (and Aleksei being a total twatwaffle). I don’t know wtf this scene is trying to be, other than another tacked-on sex scene to drag the book out a little longer.
Allow me to animate the sex scene thusly:
So he starts to put it in her, and it hurts. He puts his fingers in her and figures out what’s wrong.
“You seem to have regained what you lost a long time ago.” Aleksei leaned over and retrieved her pants, handing them to her as he rose and lifted her from the ground.
“What the fuck are you talking about? What did I lose?”
“Your virginity, dolcezza.” The smile he gave her wasn’t mocking; it was sweet and tender.
He wasn’t making fun of her, but it took a moment for what he said to sink in. “My virgini— You mean . . . ?”
“Indeed I do. You are intact once more.”
Your hymen is not your virginity. Losing it does not make you NOT a virgin. Regaining the hymen, even though technically it’s possible (wtf?), will not re-virginize you. You cannot regain your virginity! That includes whatever fucking “spiritual virginity” bullshit religion tries to throw at you.
I cannot fathom why this appears in a book that is written by a fucking adult human being who is apparently educated. At this point, I thought I was beyond surprise at what these books could throw at me. I am not.
I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS BULLSHIT.
Let’s stop for a minute and talk about the sheer disgusting bullshit that is this whole idea, too. Gillian is supposed to be a sexually empowered woman. She has sex a lot and is supposedly allowed to choose her partners (though as we know the reality is more stupid and complicated). WHY THE FUCK do you need to re-virginize her?!
Oh, right, because she has to be pure again and shit so Aleksei can pop her cherry. Do I need to enumerate the reasons why that is unbelievably disgusting? Maybe not, BUT I WILL.
I understand the motive behind this shitty plot point all too well. It’s written this way so Gillian’s “promiscuity,” the thing everyone complains about in this book’s reviews, can come out in the wash. I can just see the thought process behind that: “She’s having sex an awful lot in this book with multiple people. Romance readers won’t want to read about a slut. Better re-virginize her so it all goes away.”
Why, you ask? Because of course a woman’s worth is determined by her purity, which is determined solely by her virginity, which is determined by her hymen, which has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with virginity, i.e. the state of not having engaged in sexual activity, i.e. THE ACTIVITY SHE HAS BEEN ENGAGING IN THROUGHOUT THIS PILE OF WORTHLESS SHIT.
Thirdly, I’d like to just mention how gross the idea of “taking” and “losing” virginity is, as if virginity, whatever the fuck that even means, is a possession that can be lost like a stray sock or taken like your wallet. It implies that, like that sock, once you lose your virginity, it’s lost to the dryer gremlins forever. Except, no, that’s not an appropriate metaphor, because unlike a sock, virginity is supposed to be a girl’s most prized possession, so losing it or having it taken is more like losing a priceless relic that can never be replaced.
Except it can regain your spiritual virginity if God says so…? Who even knows. Note to self: Googling “spiritual virginity” will not actually give you an objective description of that bullshit. So here’s this, in case you’re interested.
Oh, fuck me with a chainsaw. Aleksei now won’t fuck her outside now that she’s a virgin again, even though they were just about to fuck five minutes ago.
AAAHHH GOD I need to chew an aspirin before I go on with this shit
Aleksei says Perrin was right about her needing to be taken care of and that “you need to be straightened out on a number of things, piccola.”
“Gillian, being the first man to be with a young woman is a special thing for them both. I want to treat you as I would have treated you if I truly had been your first lover. Why is that so hard for you to understand? Will you not allow me to treat you with the respect this situation deserves? Like the woman I love?
“Must you always be the brash Marine and make light of something that could be so exceptional for us both? This is a miracle for you, cuore dolce, your own sort of rebirth. Do you want to just give it away to a Vampire you have already broken up with on a mountainside or would you like it to be a beautiful, special event?”
Answer me honestly. For whom was first-time sex a “beautiful, special event?” I won’t say mine was awful or traumatizing, but there was nothing grand or profound about it. The circumstances were actually kind of embarrassing. But what the fuck ever! Virginity wasn’t a profound thing for me anyway. Maybe it is for other people. I’m not disparaging that. But it wasn’t for Gillian either:
“My first experience was at three o’clock in the morning on a deserted construction site when I was eighteen,” she snapped, still coming to terms with where this had degenerated to. “I can’t believe you are stopping in the middle of sex because I grew back an insignificant piece of flesh thanks to Perrin and his musical mojo!”
But Aleksei is insisting that it has to be special, and it makes my fucking skin crawl to read this shit. She is trying to make choices she has every right to make, and he is trying to determine when and where it will happen. He has control over her virginity right now even though he’s aggressively gaslighting her:
I presumed too much. Of course it is your choice as to who will be the honored man, and when it will happen.” He turned away from her. “Perhaps Perrin would oblige if you are in a hurry to get on with it.”
Ouch. That hurt, but she really couldn’t blame him. “Perrin has nothing to do with this.”
“Neither do I, apparently,” he said softly, still with his back to her.
He manipulates her into agreeing to let him de-virginize her. Then there’s this bullshit:
Allowing herself a moment of honest vulnerability, she responded, “I know. I always wished that the first time could have been different. I just never admitted it to myself before.”
Smiling and stroking her hair, Aleksei whispered, almost to himself, “And we reach another milestone in the growth and development of Gillian Key.”
He tells her he loves her. End book.
I’ll leave you with one final thought before moving on to the next book: at least her cervix has ostensibly been repaired. Poor cervix.