It just occurred to me that the title of this book actually makes sense, given Perrin’s redemption and all. Too bad the book itself is utterly beyond redemption.
Gillian, Daedalus, and Trocar go to the village inn to meet
Dracula the client, and we’re treated to a paragraph of POV from Sexual Harassment Panda Daedalus telling us Aleksei should be “on her ass” about smoking. Nah, that was Tanis’s job back in the first book.
Daedalus tells her to be careful because “the Prince is not the forgiving type,” by which I assume he means Dracula. Gillian has this head-scratcher of a line: “That individual has probably forgotten all about me by now.” Even for Gillian, this is amazingly stupid, not to mention contradictory to all of the caution they’ve been exercising.
An open letter to everyone working with Gillian:
Daedalus has this genuinely brilliant line in response:
“Darlin’, you are the boob that fell out of Janet Jackson’s top, the bullet that shot J. R. Ewing and the pretzel that choked a president. You are not forgettable.”
I actually LOL’ed. Well done, Gryphon. Well done.
Gillian and Daedalus have some back and forth, by which I mean Daedalus is Sexual Harassment Panda some more and Gillian laughs it off. Ugh.
Finally the client makes his appearance. He’s described in the same purple prose as every other goddamn dick-swinger in the books, and apparently he is The Most Beautiful Vampire Evar. He gives his name as Csangal, which I assume is Romanian for “I’m a hot predatory sexist dick-swinger.” He gives off lots of sex vibes, so I guess he’s like an evil Perrin. Daedalus is affected by the sex vibes but HE’S NOT GAY Y’ALL NOT GAY NOT GAY NOT GAY. He “wasn’t homophobic, but, being heterosexual, anything besides a female was a nonoptional choice.”
Okay…let’s take a look at that last phrase again, shall we? “Anything besides a female was a nonoptional choice.” So basically he’s saying females are an optional choice, but anything besides that is compulsory. Yes, clearly that is the definition of heterosexuality.
Dracula Csangal Drangal tries to convince Gillian she doesn’t need to shield with him, and thankfully she’s not as big an idiot as her earlier comment to Daedalus would imply. His smile “literally [lights] up the booth they[‘re] in.”
He’s gorgeous, you guys. SO UNBEARABLY GORGEOUS. She’s distracted by it, which actually makes it a pretty effective power. Where Jack was aggressively nondescript (at least at first), Drangal is blow-your-mind beautiful. Interesting contrast. I don’t get why everyone in the bar isn’t trampling and tearing each other apart like rival tribes of chimpanzees to blow him all at once, though.
They have some pseudo-philosophical conversation about whether paranormal beings are people, and Gillian is nervous because of how distracting he is, inexplicably using the word “crikey” like she’s an extra in Crocodile Dundee.
At this point, any sane woman would be doing this:
But not our Gillian. Oh, no. Despite all evidence that this motherfucker is way too dangerous to deal with, she has to put up some “I can’t do that I have to be his therapist” bullshit. I’ve mentioned this in other chapters, but I’ll say it again: a therapist is under no obligation–legal, ethical, or otherwise–to take a client that is so clearly a threat to them. I want her to run screaming from this so badly and for Dracula to become a threat in a different way.
There’s about a page of boring, standard “why are you seeking therapy” intake bullshit, then this description of his issues:
He was paranoid in the extreme, believing he was being targeted for murder by stalker or stalkers unknown. Another reason for his request for total secrecy. He had anger issues, some body dysmorphic problems, which she had found hard to believe at first, but he did— he was convinced there was something seriously wrong with his height. His sense of self, paradoxically, was fine, if you called bordering on megalomania “fine.”
He’s paranoid about being targeted for murder, but he wants to keep meeting at the inn. Oookay. Megalomania, fine. Sounds like a certain US presidential candidate. Body dysmorphia? Where the fuck does that come in? This is, as my two-degrees-in-forensic-psychology partner points out, a diagnosis salad. The dysmorphia thing comes off as a “hurr durr wouldn’t it be funny if Dracula thought he was too short?”
He had amassed a lot of money over the years in various enterprises and traveled a great deal, leading the quiet life of the fabulously wealthy immortal. He didn’t like attracting attention to himself, the exception being with prey; kept little to no company with anyone; and generally spent his time researching ancient religious art and artifacts.
A megalomaniac who doesn’t like attracting attention. He’s also sad because he has no friends.
Guys. Gryphon. Is. A. Licensed. Counselor. HOW IS THIS EVEN HAPPENING RIGHT NOW.
At this point you might be saying, “Jesus, Avery, we get it. What’s the BFD? It’s just a stupid novel. A really stupid novel.” Yes, it is. But here’s why this upsets me:
- The lack of professional pride displayed in the careless depiction of one’s profession is troubling. If I, a layperson, can break down this pile of bullshit, you’re doing it all wrong.
- If it’s not laziness, it’s incompetence, and that is fucking terrifying.
- Like it or not, people learn from what they read, including stupid novels. Factual inaccuracies or misrepresentations to this level are not acceptable. It’s the same reason why Fifty Shades of Grey makes me foam at the mouth.
- Misrepresenting things that are already stigmatized, like mental illness and (in the case of Fifty Shades, BDSM) is offensive to the real-world people who are affected by them. Representation, accurate and equitable representation, matters.
Drangal makes dumb jokes about how if he were less attractive he might have more friends, and Gillian reflects on what an egotistical bastard he is, but she puts up with it without challenging him. And she doesn’t feel any duplicity from him. If you think about it, a villain who can make people think he’s guileless is a terrifying one.
Drangal leaves, and Trocar shows up to get all handsy with Gillian. He says,
“We must leave, Gillyflower. The Vampire’s visage and touch have left you quite ripe for the picking. I caught your scent as I came into the bar, and I believe the various other night walkers are making the same observation. You are advertising your need for sex with your scent, blush and body, Captain. I am staking my claim so the others will not bother you as we leave.”
God, not this again. “You’re too hot, let’s leave before these dick-swingers can’t resist you and have to rape you!”
Csangal had some powerful sex foo going on there, and despite how much she’d blocked, some of it had leaked through. Speaking of leaking . . .
If you’re going to use “leaking” in a sexual context, use it very carefully. VERY carefully.
Trocar gets Gillian back to the car (she says he can’t drive despite noting him driving earlier) and tells her to “take care of [her] need” immediately. So basically he’s demanding that she get off in the back seat.
God, why. WHY does this need to happen? Is this supposed to be titillating? Awkward?
Gillian calls Aleksei on the brain phone and wants to bone, but he says he can’t help her and wants her to go to Perrin. Failing in that, he wants her to fuck Trocar. Okay, fine. I’ve read criticisms of this book that are mostly concerned with her promiscuity, but I don’t have a problem with the protagonist banging a bunch of people. Let her bang everyone she comes across. Don’t care. But she tries to draw the line at banging Trocar because he’s her friend.
And he KEEPS TRYING TO GET HER TO DO IT ANYWAY. This motherfucker.
After a mere two refusals, he offers to get her off using the brain phone to “take the edge off” so she can shield. Why he didn’t fucking offer that in the first place, I don’t know. Trocar leaves, Aleksei gets her off telepathically, and she goes back to the castle.
As a side note, in case it becomes relevant later (50/50 chance), Aleksei tells her she’s having trouble shielding because she was around Perrin for so long, and this must be a super old, super powerful vampire. Again, this doesn’t seem to set off any alarm bells.
Gillian goes back to the castle and finds Team Shit for Brains lounging around like nothing is the matter despite the vampire attacks Aleksei is dealing with. She goes to the computer to chat with her mentor from the “Miller-Jackson Center for Intimacy” (the sex therapist organization), Cassiopeia, about struggling to maintain her shields. Cassiopeia has annoying speech affectations like calling Gillian “Ducks” and saying “yester eve” rather than “yesterday night.” This is going to get old in a hurry.
After some useless info-dump about Cassiopeia’s characteristics and some self-talk, the chapter ends.
Ah, Sexual Harassment Panda and Rape Culture Vulture have joined forces. AWESOME.
I get that sex and sexuality is the theme in this book. And it could work pretty well if it was an honest exploration of sexuality, sex positivity, and consent. It ain’t that.
I like that Dracula uses sexuality as a weapon. That’s interesting, and it has the potential to be deeply disturbing in an effective way rather than just by accident. Jacqueline Carey’s Phèdre trilogy is an excellent example of how sex and love can be used both as weapons and as healing. Phèdre consents to a lot of sexual activity the average person wouldn’t, but there are also a number of rape scenes that are handled in a fascinatingly nuanced way. She finds pleasure in pain and humiliation, so when she’s assaulted, she finds pleasure in it. This causes deep emotional scars.
I bring this up because the Phèdre books are examples of forced sexuality or sexual pleasure done well. If Gillian were helplessly aroused around Dracula but was deeply disturbed by it because she doesn’t want to feel that way and doesn’t want to have to bang the first person she stumbles across to blow off some steam, that would be one thing. I want to be as genuinely creeped out as I was when Jack was masturbating in front of her. Instead, I’m just pissed. Forced masturbation (because it is forced even if no one is physically making her do it) is treated as a throwaway scene with zero emotional consequences.
When you fuck with someone’s sexuality, you are going to fuck them up. This is clearly a message we’re supposed to understand when Gillian is dealing with Perrin. Once he’s able to have sex, he’s able to be emotionally intimate outside of sex. But apparently the reverse isn’t true in these books. People are forced over and over again to have sex because of magic, but everybody is fine with it. This is so disturbing! I know it’s an LKH ass-lick emulation of the ardeur and whatnot, but let me tell you, that is not something that needs to be emulated the way it’s written. It’s basically a rape machine built into the plot, and that’s what this “sex aura” thing is turning into in Gillian Key’s world.