Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Redemption, Chapter 17 (NSFW)

Another day, another sex scene, so fair warning.

Gillian is being massaged by a”strikingly handsome, naked man” after fencing practice.

Wait…fencing practice? And which man?

It’s Perrin, apparently, and four paragraphs later, we find out that “several weeks”  have passed. What an awkward time transition. We’re given a review of Perrin’s background in the story as if we’ve been asleep for the past several chapters, which…is plausible. Perrin is confident with sex now and everyone loves him. There’s some summary of the bullshit that’s happened off-camera that doesn’t really matter.

Perrin is worried about what his life will be like after his therapy ends because he won’t be able to have any contact with Gillian for at least a year, though he could always bend the very flexible narrative spacetime and make it three or four pages instead. Even if I hate these two assholes, it would be refreshing to see an actual polyamorous relationship at the end of this.

So we slide into a sex scene when Perrin “[teases] her coral nipple.”

pink coral
This is coral.
nipples
These are not.

Protip: when you use an adjective that doubles as a noun that references a plant or animal, use it carefully.

Let’s see how many clinical terms we can find, shall we?

semierect flesh, “battle bridge” (Gillian’s brilliant name for Perrin’s dick), penis enhanced by equidistant ridges, female superior (sex position?), canal, exploding, cervix (ouch)

Ooohhhh dear. He wants to “mate” without a condom. She agrees because narrative tells us she can’t get pregnant because she’s on the pill.

wrong try again

Okay, I can’t believe I’m really having to say this, but yes, you can fucking get pregnant when you’re on the pill. (PS, you can also get STDs!) Did she skip high school health class? I also find it pretty damn irresponsible for an author, especially a romance novel author, to blithely portray false information like this. I mean, no, authors aren’t responsible for readers’ decisions for good or for ill, but this is factually inaccurate and could have real-world consequences for another.

Maybe I’m overreacting, so I’ll just point out the stupidity and move on. Maybe she’ll get pregnant with his gargoyle baby and this will turn to a slightly different genre of romance book. It would be a more entertaining book than the rest of this one is sure to be.

Back to the awkward diction!

dark pink glistening folds, probing, unencumbered flesh, passage, emission of semen, cervix again (OUCH!), semen again, Human cervix (as opposed to what?), fluid

oh nononononono

“Ma passionnée, relax for me. The fluid will open your body to me. Trust me, I would never hurt you.” His voice shook, and his glamour flared, pouring into and over their bodies.

She felt him going deeper, then understood what he meant. Her cervix was softening and thinning, the result of his semen leaking into her. Her newly opening body was taking him in farther with each thrust.

badger nope

nope.gif.pagespeed.ce.otLEa0xjkx

No no cat gif

no darth vader

Incredibly at that moment, her cervix acquiesced to the insistent probing and allowed him complete entrance to her womb. The imperative need to ejaculate slammed into him like a freight train as his ridged cock slipped through the widened opening.

enough

THAT’S NOT HOW IT WORKSSSSSSSSS

YOU CANNOT DO THIS IT IS PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE

Is it possible to penetrate the cervix during sex? Go Ask Alice

That is going to be in my search history. I did this for you guys. YOU’RE WELCOME.

I’m temporarily speechless, so I offer an interpretation of the rest of the scene in gifs.

louis ck thrusting

92st7g6

They’re apparently “welded together,” which makes me think of dogs getting stuck together after mating. I think adding that to my search history is a bridge too far, so I’ll leave that to your imagination.

Perrin says,

“In a short time, you’ll be ready for me again. Your body will want more sex. A gargoyle’s semen is like an aphrodisiac. It triggers need within the female, opens her to the male and ensures pregnancy.”

warning warning danger will robinson

But, you know, she’s on the pill, so it’s all gravy. She doesn’t even acknowledge the last part.

Perrin reflects on how their arrangement is temporary. Presumably he manages to get out of her “womb” eventually, but we switch scenes before that THANK GOD.

Dear Gillian:

seek medical help

Trocar disposes of Jack’s heart by burning it. It would be nice if I knew why or understood the significance. Gillian is withdrawn, which I understand a little better; she’s been through trauma, after all. Typical of him, Aleksei gives her “a gentle but firm talking-to” rather than, you know, giving her the space to process her emotions. He couches it in terms of being concerned that she’s “shutting them all out” and wants her to share. This is the exact wrong response to someone’s trauma, and it’s abusive as fuck to demand a certain response from a traumatized person.

Working on processing those unfamiliar feelings was unintentionally shutting them out.

Uh. No. Maybe she is withdrawing, but that is completely fucking understandable. It’s not her being an asshole, it’s…you know…her working on processing her feelings. Forcing someone to open up immediately following a traumatic event doesn’t work, and as a mental health professional, Gryphon should fucking know this. I’m starting to wonder if she isn’t deliberately ignoring her knowledge of psychology in order to write this dreck.

The next few pages reestablish that Gillian is emotionally stunted and can’t accept help. After Aleksei calls her a couple more stupid Italian endearments, she opens up about her family background. She was an only child, her family was rich, her parents were preoccupied with whatever, the family dynamic meant that anyone who fucked up was ostracized so she’s determined never to fuck up. This is pretty nuanced without being melodramatic, so kudos for that, but about that fucking up thing.

I don't know how to say this, but

Now, it would be interesting if Gryphon wrote Gillian as someone who was so afraid to fuck up that she constantly fucked up, but that would be a different book.

Aleksei is outraged that anyone would treat their family like that, because apparently one still has an idealized notion of family after 400 years. Basically he’s just a hamfisted stand-in for the reader to understand how terrible Gillian’s family is, as if the reader can’t figure it out for themselves.

I can’t decide whether this is the right place to reveal this. On the one hand, it’s meant to show Gillian’s growing trust in Aleksei (though god knows why she thinks she should trust him), but on the other hand, it would have made it easier to sympathize with her for the last 2.5 books if we knew where her complete inability to interact with people in a normal way came from. I’m not saying her behavior is excusable, but it would be more understandable. I’m all for writing fucked-up characters who can’t figure out how to deal with life. I do it all the time. Sometimes, my characters are not particularly likeable, but at least my reader can understand why they’re assholes. And, you know, they grow out of that.

I’ll just pause here to give you a brief run-down of all the pet names Aleksei has called her within the last four pages. Excuse the Google translations.

  • cara mia (my darling)
  • il mio amore (my love)
  • dolcezza (sweetness)
  • piccola (small)
  • innamorata (in love)
  • angela (angel)

A couple of gems here:

They kissed and he thought. He thought about what she’d said.

see-spot-run

That is some especially awkward shit even for a book full of awkward shit.

Oh boy. Aleksei wants to help her “get over” her feelings about Jack. Apparently he is a fucking therapist now. And Gillian, like the idiot she is, agrees. End chapters.

Takeaways

This one was a doozy from beginning to end. The level of bullshit is rising by the minute. More awkward sexual description? Check. Anatomically impossible sex? Check. More emotionally abusive and inappropriate behavior from Aleksei? Check. Now we’re going to have a “protagonist gets over their trauma in five minutes” scene. Just you watch. Ugh.

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Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Redemption, Chapter 16

The “Ripper Busters” head back to the castle. Apparently it’s “dangerously close to dawn.” This would be an interesting moment of urgency if it were actually followed through. Aleksei, Perrin, Daedalus, and Helmut (remember those two?)  come out to meet them and they seem upset, though Gillian doesn’t know why. Uh, presumably because everyone is dragging up to the castle covered in blood and injured? Just a thought.

Aleksei moves “with blurring speed” to scoop Gillian up and tut over her. Thankfully we don’t get an enumeration of his chastising. We get the roll call of all the characters staying in the castle who you’ve completely forgotten, including someone named Gunnolf Crosswind. I tend to write books with big casts, but I do my best to make each character distinct and, you know, use them. I have no fucking clue who these people are other than wink-wink-nudge-nudge references to pop culture. Yet another example of one of those “wouldn’t it be cool?” thoughts you get as an author in your first draft, which you usually end up trimming in subsequent drafts. I’m absolutely certain at this point that I’m reading Draft Zero of these books; they were published exactly how they fell out of the author’s head. See previous reference to a flock of pigeons shitting at the same time.
cartoon animation of a bird pooping cartoon animation of a bird pooping cartoon animation of a bird pooping cartoon animation of a bird pooping

In a passing reference to Luis and Oscar, the narrative makes it clear they’re actually lovers. I guess a background gay couple shoehorned in makes up for the homo- and transphobic bullshit.

Aleksei and Perrin are both mad at Gillian and Tanis for not letting them know they survived the fight with Jack, presumably via the brain phone. Anger out of fear might be a reasonable enough reaction if they weren’t mad at Gillian for literally everything she does, and if their anger wasn’t ripe with paternalism. Case in point:

Seeing her alive, seeing his brother walking strongly along, holding her petite bruised and battered body, had evoked a tapestry of emotions within his very soul. Deep dark impulses roared through him. She was his. He had the right and the glorious responsibility to protect her, shield her, cherish her . . . lock her up for her own good, if necessary. Civilized urges warred with those instincts. He respected her and her abilities. He wanted her to know that. That precluded any need he had about enforcing dominance. Gillian wanted a partner, a lover, not a keeper. He was going to have to deal with it, bottom line.

I don't believe you

Even if this were a book that didn’t have Gaslighting Gremlin and Rape Culture Vulture written all over it, the first 2/3 of this paragraph negates the last couple of sentences. IMO, you can’t have a character talk about locking his lover up for her own good and then just say, “nah, better not do that.” He evinces no self-awareness about why the fuck he feels like he even has the right to lock her up. This just tells me he has the right to, but he chooses not to. Fucking gross.

This doesn’t convince me, either.

His culture demanded that he take care of her— see her as a possession. His evolving relationship skills were allowing him to see her not only as a woman but as a partner. She was proud of the old fossil. He was trying.

show don't tell

Yeah. We’ll see.

Perrin will take care of Gillian during the day. He and Aleksei have come to a mutual understanding off-camera because god forbid we actually see some real connection between two characters. There’s about a page of description of what everyone is doing that’s about as interesting as watching paint dry.

look at all the fucks i give

Daedalus and Helmut dress Gillian down for…stuff. Stupid stuff. Helmut yells about how he and the IPPa can’t afford to lose Gillian blah blah. Gillian says, “We were rescuing Jenna, Helmut. There wasn’t time for a caucus on the situation.”

Ah yes, but there was time for 13 pages of chatting about Perrin’s abilities, etc. before rescuing her.

Gillian has to apologize again for not getting into contact after the Jack situation was resolved, because it’s not enough for her to apologize once for an understandable mistake. She has to be chewed out by every dick-swinger in the castle for it. So she apologizes and tries to explain herself. For an entire page. And, as if to make up for the relative lack of heart palpitation-inducing sexist bullshit in the last chapter, here comes plenty. Strap in.

Helmut and Daedalus swing back and forth between saying what an amazeballs soldier and psychologist she is and how everyone (and by everyone I mean men) wants to protect her because she’s a “lovely looking little thing.” The women in the room (Jenna, Tuuli, and Kimber) add some snark in return and Daedalus makes another reference to spanking. Helmut says he would pay to see that.

gross clint eastwood

I can’t figure out whether spanking for punishment is Gryphon’s fetish or whether it’s like…an anti-fetish. I have to think it’s one or the other, given the frequency and of spanking references. I have no problem with writing your fetishes (I do so with regularity and they are way more out there than spanking), but if it’s a fetish, it’s written in the dumbest way. Am I supposed to find it sexy or threatening?

Perrin bear-hugs her. She tells him to let her go. Fucking goddamn fuck.

“Never,” he said softly. “Now behave yourself and let me take care of you.” Without giving her a chance to protest, he pulled her farther onto his lap, then rose with her cradled in his arms.

“Put me down, goddammit, I can walk!” Gillian fairly snarled at him, embarrassed at being carried in front of everyone but a little grateful since her back was killing her.

“Now, baby, don’t you give that young man any trouble or I’ll have to fetch a switch, ya hear?” Daed’s smoky voice called to her. He’d just made the top of her “he needs killing” list.

“She will not,” Perrin assured him, not pausing in his stride, carrying her toward the staircase. “She is overtired and needs a hot bath and sleep. I will see to it that she gets some rest.”

woman flipping the camera off enthusiastically

She is now a fucking five-year-old, I guess! They are talking about her like she’s not even there, and like she definitely doesn’t have the ability to gauge her own needs. And of course she fucking takes it and makes excuses for Perrin’s reprehensible behavior in particular, telling herself that he’s doing well in his therapy.

Jim Carey gagging

National Domestic Abuse Hotline: Excuses Victims Make

Fuck. This. Shit.

So Perrin bathes her like she’s a fucking dog at the groomer and calls her lots of French endearments, then he puts her to bed. If he starts fucking her in her sleep like Tanis did, so help me I will throw this $2000 laptop against the wall simply as an outlet to my rage.

Thank god, he doesn’t. He just quotes Alfred Lord Tennyson at her and…lmao. A single tear.

single tear from Miley Cyrus's Wrecking Ball song
This video pretty well illustrates this book.

End chapter.

Takeaways

God. I haven’t had heartburn like this in a while. Okay, the protagonist is injured and her friends are concerned about her. I get that this chapter was supposed to illustrate her friendships, but all it did was reinforce the fact that she has really awful, abusive friends. I find this personally upsetting. When I was growing up, the family method of friendly teasing was actually mercilessly making fun of each other, brushing off hurt feelings or upset with a derisive scoff. I feel for Gillian here and wonder if she’s not trapped within these abusive relationships because this is all she knows. This disturbs me almost more than anything else in this book because it’s the origin of a lot of the other abuse inflicted upon her, like other people (by that I mean men) insisting they know what’s best for her, criticizing her every move, and controlling her physically.

I’m hoping at this point that the books will end with her having a revelation that she doesn’t have to put up with all this bullshit and skipping town to do her own thing. Ugh.

Just as an FYI, I’m going back to work on the 19th after my summer break. I’m going to be working ahead before that and will schedule posts to publish every other day.

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

Woooooooooooooooo here we are again.

Jack says, “I look forward to teaching you better manners and vocabulary before you die.” In what way does that make him different from Tanis or Aleksei? Who needs enemies when you have friends like those two motherfuckers?

Gillian and Jack stand there talking like everyone goddamn else in this book, Gillian yelling for Jenna and the others and Jack being evasive about whether Jenna is still alive. Jack says, “I want you, Dr. Key” and is “sensual” about it, which creeps Gillian out. Because it’s not enough to be creeped out by the terrifying serial killer vampire; we have to add some creepy sex vibes too. They talk about whether Gillian will give herself over to Jack to save Jenna, blah blah blah. Gillian thinks,

When did he ever shut up long enough to kill anybody?

hypocrisy meter at 150

Jack is, like all vampires, drop-dead gorgeous. I like the idea of a villain who’s stunningly beautiful because it adds an extra creep factor, but I thought it was nondescript?

Gillian decides to keep talking at him and whips out her therapist hat. Sigh. When last they met, Jack seemed to be at least passingly familiar with psychology-speak, so I’m sure this will go swimmingly. She makes some half assed “I can help you get better” statements, to which he replies he has no desire to get better. I can’t tell whether she actually expects this to work or she’s just buying time. Since she pinned him as a sexual sadist, she ought to know sexual sadists don’t give a fuck about trying to get better.

Gillian all of a sudden turns from scared when we’re in her POV to cold when we abruptly switch to his in the next paragraph. Jack makes some genuinely creepy observations about her:

His eyes dilated as his gaze raked over her from head to foot, taking in the short skirt, her nipples visible under the white linen, the boots which made her legs look muscular and firm. The way she stood with her legs apart was tantalizing. He could detect her scent from where he was; smell the sex all over her.

She’d been with someone earlier when he’d come for her. He hadn’t been able to enter the castle compound, something had kept him out, but he could hear the cries. Yes, she and the dark-haired whore he held prisoner had been fucking tonight. Too bad he’d had to settle for the other one when he could finally enter the yard. Just seeing the foul-mouthed bitch standing with her legs apart, open to the night under that flimsy garment, knowing that someone had already put a cock up inside her tonight, excited him beyond what he thought possible.

Okay, you got me. Parts of this description would be kinda sexy if it were in a different context, which makes it super gross. I approve. He starts groping himself. Even more gross. He asks her if she’s really not wearing underwear, and to distract him:

“You bet, wanna peek?” Practically gagging but wanting to keep him doing anything except killing her or Jenna, she kept the gun trained on him with one hand, while she slid her hand suggestively down her breast, stomach and to the hem of the shirt, his widened eyes following her all the while he continued stimulating himself.

I’m pretty uncomfortable right now. And in a way I’m supposed to be uncomfortable. Yay!

hat-toss

He starts jerking it, and we have a truly remarkable line that completely ruins a good horror moment. When he comes, he “[empties] his seminal vesicles.”

anatomy drawing of seminal vesicles

elvis_champagne.gif

fireworks.gif

giphy

Yep. Ruined.

She makes a smart remark, which pisses him off. He pulls out his scalpel, which has Jenna’s blood on it, and she shoots at him. He’s too fast, and he smacks her so she goes tumbling ass over teakettle. Gillian is actually getting into her own fight! Hooray!

glit.gif

The fight scene that follows is clumsy, but it’s there. An actual combat scene that’s more than two paragraphs! It only took three books!

Aaaaaaand Tanis shows up to ruin my party. Fuck.

Tanis grabs Jack by the neck like a misbehaving puppy, and that fight is over. Sigh. Folks, this the climax of the book, 62% in.

Gillian and Trocar rescue Jenna, who’s mostly fine, of course. Gillian has a cut on her leg and a bruise on her face, which are the first battle wounds she’s gotten outside of being spanked by her supposed allies. …that’s good, I guess.

When they go back downstairs, Tanis has let Jack go and is fighting him (????) “The problem was, Tanis was just too honorable simply to hold Jack helpless as he ripped him into pieces and was done with it, so he let the serial killer have some kind of a chance.”

buzz lightyear: there seems to be no sign of intelligent life anywhere

Christ almighty. This guy has tried to kill basically everyone you care about, captured and tortured you, and you want to take the chance at letting him escape by brawling with him? I’m not sure how toying with him is being “honorable,” anyway.

Trocar, reasonable person that he is, wants to take care of things immediately. He hamstrings Jack and asks Gillian to return his garrote. Now, this is some good characterization of Trocar, if, as usual, clumsy execution. He’s probably the only person in these books who’s portrayed with reasonable consistency. He’s loyal, snarky, and ruthless. He’s a fantasy stereotype, but at this point I’ll take a consistent stereotype over…everyone else here. I would guess he has every intention of killing Jack in the most brutal way possible, which means we’re not going to get to see it.

Pavel the pony-sized wolf carries Jenna and Gillian back to the castle. They discuss the fact that Trocar is probably doing terrible things to Jack, but nope, we don’t get to see it.

Fin.

Takeaways

The latter half of this chapter is definitely the best part of the book and maybe even the series in terms of description and action, even with the appearance of seminal vesicles. That doesn’t make it great, but comparatively, it’s a big improvement. But of course, of course Tanis shows up to end that action prematurely. Another pulled punch, and this one is pretty egregious.

I’m honestly just glad there’s not enough blatantly sexist bullshit to give me heart palpitations. There’s definitely some–Tanis coming to save the day–but at least he didn’t tell her she deserved getting beaten up because of what she was wearing or what the fuck ever, which is what I expected.

The biggest sin here is that it’s so early in the book yet, and what little tension was there is now gone. I now have over a hundred pages of god knows what to slog through. YOU’RE WELCOME.

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

At the beginning of this chapter, we have some explanation for the inappropriate flirting between Gillian and Aleksei:

She was grateful for Aleksei’s little bit of loving levity back there. It had helped get her head in order, calmed her anger, and made her realize how thankful she was that Aleksei was really, really trying to understand her and her many-faceted life.

He wasn’t happy with her at the moment, but he was letting it go until a more convenient time. That was growth for a chauvinistic, old-school Vampire. She was inexplicably proud of him. How proud, she’d think about later.

Oh, yes. Growth. Is that what that is? He’s only threatening to spank her rather than actually spanking her. Progress!

This is personal preference, but I dislike the use of the word “chauvinist” in these books rather than “sexist.” I don’t have any political reason for this; I just think “chauvinist” is a semantic sigh and eyeroll rather than a pointed accusation of someone’s dickish, oppressive, abusive behavior. I’d be interested to hear someone else’s opinion on this.

Here comes Kimber to call Gillian “Kemo Sabe” again because we haven’t had any racist shit in a while. In light of the current situation with the Standing Rock Water Protectors, I have to say this particularly burns.

Gillian remarks that they ought to quit smoking because they’re both huffing and puffing. The only time I can remember Gillian smoking was in the first couple of chapters of the first book, which enraged Tanis so much he spanked her. I’m honestly surprised (and ever so slightly impressed) the author even remembered this. Gillian is worn out by the “marathon orgy,” which is at least a little bit of realism.

Gillian turns on her inner Serial Killer Encyclopedia to explain that normally Jack is an opportunistic killer, but he went after Jenna to get at Gillian because she mouthed off to him blah blah. Tanis, quite rightly, wonders why Jack didn’t just swoop in while they were all fucking, and the author Gillian just goes,

rdj shrug

don't make sense make dollars

Oh, I guess she has an idea but needs to talk to Tanis, Perrin, and Finian first to make sure. Kimber asks her to explain her theory and it’s something about Perrin’s music creating a magical field of some sort, so Jack couldn’t get past it. That’s…kind of clever? I guess? It’s jammed in like a folded-up piece of paper you’d use to prop up a wobbly table leg, but I guess it works for the moment. Trocar translate for an elf named Aisling. I don’t have a clue where this elf came from.

Gillian asks the elves to put up a nullifying field blah blah HEY GUYS JENNA IS STILL WITH JACK AND MIGHT DIE AT ANY SECOND

Gillian’s plan to deal with Jack is to “walk [her] happy ass straight down his throat.”

that's what he said

Blah blah, self-sacrificing hero blah. Aisling asks them to describe Jack, and we’re reminded that no one can remember what he looks like because he’s aggressively nondescript. This is one of the cleverer ideas in these books, so a couple kudos here.

When Trocar finds out Gillian antagonized Jack the first time they met, he goes off on her. When Trocar serves as the incredulous reader’s mouthpiece, I have a deep appreciation for him. Gillian says,

“For crissakes, Trocar, you don’t really think that I would deliberately provoke a nut like that while I’m lying there trussed up like a chicken and stoned on Pixie venom, do you? I didn’t know who the hell he was until it was too late!”

what, what?

….but that’s exactly what everyone is saying she did…like two paragraphs ago…I…what.

Upon further reflection, I think I get what she means; if she’d known he was Jack the Ripper, she wouldn’t have done it. Except antagonizing a maniac with a scalpel who has you tied up is still a stupid fucking thing to do. Like, where is the line her peabrain draws between “totally okay to act like an idiot” and “oh, better not risk it?”

Gillian shuffles the interminable conversation forward, presumably to deflect the fact that she was a fucking idiot to Jack. Trocar is still “supremely vexed” by this whole idea, which I absolutely cannot blame him for. At this point, he ought to relieve her of duty, to be honest. I mean, she ought to have been relieved of duty waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay before this, but now would be another excellent opportunity.

Gillian says, “Kimmy, you’re going to have to lose the flamethrower and crossbow. We need weapons that aren’t readily visible. He’s not stupid— he knows we’ll be armed— but there’s no sense in advertising it.” Yeah, I’ll just point to this chapter where Gillian and “Kimmy” have eight weapons plus grenades with them while going to rescue Tanis like it’s NBD. Aisling decides to go along, presumably to be cannon fodder. She has a knife “secreted” in her boot. It took me a minute to realize the base word is “secret” rather than “secrete.” There have been more than enough secretions lately, thank you.

word choice: use of precise and specific words

Trocar gives Gillian a garrote and explains how to use it, like a Marine Special Forces officer wouldn’t know how to use a fucking garrote. Trocar is “deadlier than the Ripper’s wildest imaginings” and can make himself invisible, which of course makes me wonder why he isn’t going along with Gillian. The problem with making peripheral characters total badasses is that when you don’t appropriately incapacitate them to force the protagonist to handle shit, not using them comes off as a cheap pulled punch. And these books are just a long, long series of pulled punches already.

We have an honest moment from Gillian:

Gillian actually prayed that Trocar or Tanis would find Jack first. She was no coward but she remembered distinctly how badly the sadistic Vampire had unnerved her. There was also no way in hell she could take him or any other Vampire in a hand-to-hand fight if it came to that. They were just too damn strong and fast for a Human to prevail in that situation.

 

I appreciate that the protagonist is having a fearful (and realistic) moment like this, and I also appreciate the statement that the mostly-normal protagonist would face serious challenges facing an OP villain. It’s one of those rare genuine moments in these books.

Kimber walks off singing Meredith Brooks’ “Bitch,” because why not. Aisling (still wondering who the hell she is) also wanders off singing something in Elvish, and Gillian starts yelling for Jack. She spends literally pages trying to taunt him. I was skimming, and then.

AND THEN.

Why not double-down and be homo- and transphobic AT THE SAME TIME?

“Well, fuck you! Oh wait, you can’t! That’s it, isn’t it? That’s why you killed all those women in Whitechapel and those transvestite hookers in Soho!

“You couldn’t deliver to a woman, so you killed them. Then, when you finally understood that you’re a raving homosexual, you tried the boys but you couldn’t get it up for them either, could you, Jacky? They had to die so they wouldn’t spread it around that Jack the Ripper, Master Vampire, legendary serial killer, has got a broken dick!”

 

rage flame

Jesus Christ, why is this villain the repository for homo- and transphobic shit? I actually wish I was angrier about this, but I am actually just sad and resigned because I fucking expected it would come up eventually.

So Jack shows up, and the chapter ends with a weird misplaced sentence:

“Jack, how good it is to see you again,” she said in her sultriest voice. “Now get the fuck down from there, you sick son of a bitch.” Into the night itself she yelled for Tanis and Trocar.

Is she calling Tanis and Trocar a sick son of a bitch, or what did she yell at them? Who knows.

Takeaways

Blah blah racism serial killer encyclopedia some decent ideas Gillian is an idiot bad word choice everyone is talking and nobody is saving Jenna blah.

Raging homosexual. I’ll show you some fucking homosexual rage.

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

Are we finally going to get some action and real conflict? Are we really?? Brings a tear to my eye, it does.

Gillian tells everyone there’s another body nearby. What? How the fuck does she know this? I flipped back several pages to try to figure it out, but I can’t. Is this a publishing error or has Gillian randomly developed prescient powers?

James Franco shrugging

Gillian asks Aleksei to summon someone who can track “blood spoor,” by which I assume she means just…the smell of blood? Aleksei says he’ll do it and they argue pointlessly because she wants him to look after Perrin and presumably keep him away from, you know, the dead body. Aleksei ignores her and he and Perrin show up. Aleksei is worried because she’s clearly freaked out. He doesn’t know why, and she won’t tell him.

She won’t fucking tell him. She sidesteps the question. Are you serious?

Remember when she was a liar liar pants on fire for no goddamned reason? Well, no, let’s be fair. She often lied because she was afraid of the reaction of the abusive motherfuckers that surrounded her. Other times she lied just because she fucking wanted to, like when she lied in the first book about…I don’t even remember what it was at this point, but it was a lot of shit. I do remember that when she lied about it, she put people in danger. She’s doing the exact fucking thing now.

In the midst of people randomly moving around, arriving and leaving, it occurs to Gillian to wonder where Jenna is. Tanis goes, “Dio caro!” because he can’t even exclaim in Romanian. He “mist[s] out, streaking back toward the castle.” Uh…does anyone remember whether any of the vampires have turned into mist before? I don’t, but then…

i don't give a shit

Ivan, who’s apparently a coroner or crime scene tech or something, shows up, and there’s some crime scene chatter that belongs in a much better book. Gillian asks if this woman’s uterus has been removed. I guess this is a Jack the Ripper thing. Ivan trundles over, lifts the cloth she’s under, and says yes immediately. Okay…admittedly I’m not a doctor and I don’t play one on TV, but can you tell if a uterus has been removed just by looking at a body? Even if it was torn open, you’d think…

Oh, god, whatever. I know, I’m asking way too much.

lower your expectations

Gillian quizzes Ivan on the series of bodies that have been found recently. Why doesn’t Aleksei know about this already? He’s the worst majordomo ever. Also, we still don’t know how the fuck Gillian knows there’s going to be another body or what the fuck this has to do with Jenna being missing.

She takes off, Aleksei tells her to stop, she doesn’t, and Perrin fucking grabs her. Because OF COURSE HE DOES. She considers breaking away from him but doesn’t want to hurt him because “he’d been abused enough” oh god here comes the heartburn.

here we go again

“He’s physically restraining me, but I COULDN’T POSSIBLY tell him to stop because he’s been ABUSED and I don’t want to hurt him!”

Perrin even orders her to tell her what they know–orders her–“in a voice that said he expected compliance.

COMPLIANCE.

Fuck.

I am no longer surprised, but still horrified, at the continuous abuse she receives from every fucking cock-wielding motherfucker in these books. It is seriously like these books were written just to abuse her. I sincerely wish I could believe these books were written as a satirical commentary on systematic, institutional sexism, but it’s more like the Simarillion poster child of said same.

Anyway, Gillian complies (ugh) and tells them she thinks it’s Jack the Ripper. Aleksei and Perrin have no clue who she’s talking about. I can’t decide whether this is plausible given reality or worldbuilding, since yes, Jack the Ripper was an English serial murderer, but it’s been, you know, a few minutes since then, and the name has made its way into the wider Western culture. I could buy that Perrin would be ignorant, but presumably Aleksei could be aware of a) a serial murderer and b) a fucking dangerous vampire.

Wait, though. Jack was in the same house as Tanis. Presumably he tortured Tanis. Why doesn’t Aleksei know about him???

i want clarity specificity and consistency and i want it now

At least Tanis recognizes the name. That’s…something.

Gillian gives a little treatise about Jack the Ripper’s kills, which she studied in college. Okay, I’ll bite, given that I have a partner who studied serial murder as part of a degree in psychology. I guess we’re meant to figure out that Jack is re-enacting his original kills for Gillian.

mildly interesting

She tells them this is the Catherine Eddowes kill and that she’s worried Jenna is going to become the Elizabeth Stride kill, which was done on the same night. This is some advanced Mentalist logical leap shit, but okay. I’m just going to be a smug asshole here and note that Stride was found before Eddowes, so if Jenna was Stride, she’s already dead. Just saying.

She immediately comes to the conclusion that she needs to “[use] herself as bait and [take] a major potshot at his ego.” This is bog standard “hero offers themselves as sacrifice” plot and I have no problem with it, but I don’t get the potshot at his ego thing. Is she just going to annoy him to death? She’d be good at that.

Tanis is freaking out that they won’t have time to save her and sweats blood (gross). There’s some argument about who’s going to go with Gillian because what you do when you’re worried you won’t have time to save your friend is dicker over who’s going to go save her. Send ALL THE PEOPLE, for fuck’s sake, if he’s so dangerous.

Perrin also freaks out, and there’s a genuine moment where he grasps the reality of what’s actually a sincerely awful situation. If this were consistent with what I knew about the character, who is by turns shy and sheltered and abused and streetwise, I’d appreciate it more.

bored, gesturing blah blah blah

Gillian says, “Jenna is going to be dead soon, hell, she may already be dead while we’re standing around discussing.” Comma splice aside, YOU ARE INDEED CORRECT STOP FUCKING TALKING OKAY

I’m skimming at this point because they are still fucking talking. Is this finally over?

Perrin: “What I ought to do is spank you until you promise that you will not do this insane thing, but I will pray for your safety and support you instead.”

What a guy. Isn’t he the greatest guy? So great. Terrific. Believe me.

But oh, Aleksei means it; he’s going to spank her as a “disciplinary measure, not foreplay.” I ask again, what is with the spanking?

During her goodbye to Aleksei, it should be noted that they get handsy and flirty with each other, then she “flipped her hair, then sashayed away for his viewing pleasure, waving backward as if she hadn’t a care in the world.” Have I mentioned her best friend is presumably in danger?

hsk

As the chapter shambles to a close, we find out Perrin doesn’t know Aleksei is a vampire. Whut?

Takeaways

Like…there are a few moments of potential in this chapter, as if the author’s interest in the plot was rekindled for about 30 seconds before the flock of thought pigeons started shitting again. But it feels like I’ve seen the rest of it before, many times: lying for no reason other than to create more conflict, casual physical manipulation by men, casual references to physical abuse that she blows past without seeing a problem, everyone dragging their feet instead of actually doing things, inappropriate moments of humor in what is actually a dire situation. This chapter is really just a microcosm for this entire series.

56% of the way through the book. Fuck, really?

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

I don’t know how we’re going to follow the circus that was the previous chapter. I really don’t. Let’s find out!

Gillian’s clothes are shredded, so Aleksei gives her his shirt, which is long enough to be a dress. They discover Tuuli has returned to her fey form but apparently doesn’t mind being called “Moose” because objectification is fine and dandy. Tuuli’s curse was broken because she’s “loved by one lesser than herself,” whatever the fuck that means. Dalton is allegedly a fey prince, so I’m not sure how that counts as lesser than a creature who has been described as ugly, tragic, hideous, disfigured, etc. Since they fucked once, they’re totes in love and going to get married.

whatever

They’ve apparently been fucking for four or five hours? While the three mysterious beings have been chilling nearby, I guess? And Oscar is still in the house, presumably. REMEMBER HIM?

The resolution of that situation is predictably anticlimactic. Oscar is trying to “distance himself from Dracula,” and after Aleksei extracts a blood oath from him, everything is fine and dandy. Why should we have any tension whatsoever in this damn book when we can have a series of increasingly absurd sex scenes?

What is the plot trying to do again? I have honestly 100% forgotten. Dracula something vampires something something, wasn’t there Jack the Ripper?

La la la, everything’s fine with Gillian and Aleksei now, and Gillian finally remembers she was going to check out the disturbance on the ground. Mysterious creatures? Hello? They’re right there? HELLO?

hello yes this is dog

They run into Trocar, who “was in a tangled mass of tentacles, attached to . . . Dear Zeus, she couldn’t even look at it. Sluagh. It had to be. Nothing else could possibly be that repulsive. In the faint light from the parking lot, it was part fuchsia colored, part pond scum green and in between— yuck! She couldn’t even tell its gender when it drew back from their approach in a rolling movement that nearly turned her stomach.”

So, just to be clear, Trocar is getting blown by a sluagh. Apparently the three creatures Gillian summoned with her sex vibes were sluagh, so again, nothing to be worried about. Trocar and Gillian smart off at each other and everyone is giggling despite none of this being particularly amusing and definitely not witty enough to match the glory of provocative honking. Aleksei is trying to hold her gun arm down so she doesn’t shoot anyone. This is so fucking surreal.

is this real life

Welp, here comes Perrin, plus the requisite description of what he’s wearing. She’s used the word “yummy” at least twice in the same scene to describe both Aleksei and Perrin, like this is a supernatural version of one of those god-awful sex tips articles from Cosmo. Sigh.

Now the “oppressive air” is back. Where the fuck was this coming from, then? I assumed it was from the mystery figures, which were apparently (?) sluagh, but now it’s something else? The frequency of question marks in this post cannot properly express my confusion.

Gillian tells Aleksei to protect Perrin and recruits Trocar to help. Trocar pulls out a stiletto, and while I know this is a knife, it’s much more entertaining (and also sexier) to picture this:

a man wearing stiletto pumps
If men in this world dressed like this, I would be totally on board.

Anyway, Trocar calls her “Kynzare” again, which apparently means “soul healer.”

eye roll belle

Trocar senses something and breaks off from Gillian; Perrin has a hissy fit that Gillian is alone; Aleksei assures her she’ll be fine. I assume this is shoehorned in here because Aleksei has to be portrayed as the more reasonable point on this love triangle. Perrin continues pitching his hissy because every goddamn man in these books has to question her competency under the guise of being overprotective, despite the fact that Perrin claimed he was perfectly confident in her competency earlier. It doesn’t even matter that they’re all right to question her because she’s a fucking idiot; the fact that everyone does it because she’s a teeny womanz is fucking annoying.

Let me also point out that there are three POVs within one page: Trocar’s, Gillian’s, then Aleksei’s. Unlike most contemporary readers, maybe, I don’t really have a problem with omniscient POV, but this isn’t even that. There’s no rhyme or reason to the POV switches; they don’t add anything, and it would honestly be a thousand percent easier to write if there was only one. …or maybe I’m just wishing for a POV character I didn’t absolutely despise. You know. Whatever.

Perrin tells Aleksei to keep her safe, and Aleksei says she doesn’t need him to stay safe. This is a genuine moment of revelation for him, but predictably, he turns it into a moment of whinging self-pity:

She didn’t need him. She was perfectly capable and had other perfectly capable friends. What else could he offer her other than his protection, all that he owned and his love? Was it enough for her? Did she really want it? Any of it?

yoda: a good question this is

I mean, the reader is meant to believe that yes, she wants it, because Gaslighting Gremlin says so. The reality is that she’s had almost no choice in staying here. She’s been held hostage by plot situations. This honestly a complex question and one I wish more fictional romances would address: when two people are pushed together by circumstance and develop feelings for each other, how do they then navigate what comes after, when the crisis is gone? What the fuck do they even have in common aside from a desire to hump each other? I can’t answer this question because we really know fuck all about Aleksei other than he’s a giant cock, literally and figuratively. I’ve wished since like the second chapter of Key to Conflict that Gillian would GTFO, but I’ve resigned myself to the fact that she won’t by now.

Aleksei realizes Perrin is in love with Gillian, blah blah blah, and he also realizes Perrin is an “elegant, lonely, tormented soul” who desperately needs Gillian’s help, blah blah blah, so he shouldn’t come between them. At this point, I’m fairly convinced the author is tired of writing about Aleksei, because she has a pretty obvious author hard-on (down to her knees, perhaps?) for Perrin. I mean, speaking as an author, we all have those characters we fall in love with, but when writing a love triangle in a cis-het traditional romance, the convention is that the female character is supposed to stay with her initial love interest despite the temptation of the second dude. Gryphon is not giving me an excellent case for that here. Could she be doing something new and different?

winnie the pooh: this seems highly unlikely

By the way, Gillian and Trocar are still off investigating the mysterious bad out there. I’m picturing all action stopping Matrix-style so these two douchebags can stare at each other and think about “a certain little blonde.”

Tanis joins Gillian, swooping in like the Rape Culture Vulture he is, to chastise her for putting off sex vibes. He tells her to “not let it happen again.”

DON’T LET ME ALMOST RAPE YOU AGAIN

Thankfully that conversation is interrupted by a twig snap and…giggling? Jesus Christ, is this yet another aborted attempt at tension that will turn out to be something really stupid? Is this number three or number four?

Oh, fuck me. (Consensually.) It sure is.

Samuel, aka Frankenstein’s monster, shows up with “an attractive older Human woman.” Instead of hideous and deformed–you know, two of the most important characteristics of Frankenstein’s monster–he looks “like a great, hulking, plain Romanian farmer. But he wasn’t ugly.”

what the fuck am I reading?

The woman is apparently Samuel’s girlfriend, he says, “I think I am in loooove!” I feel the need to point out that I am quoting here. I did not add the extra O’s. That sentence made it into a published book. A book published by a well-known press. That you can buy in a book store. When anybody complains about how indie/self publishing is dragging down the quality of literature, you can point them directly to this shit.

Well, it seems the Bad Shit wasn’t Samuel and his girlfriend either. Gillian, Trocar, and Tanis move on. Finian and the other fey are gathered around a dead body. Everyone (everyone) asks Gillian whether she really wants to see it, like she’s a wilting flower who’s never seen a dead body before and might get the vapors.

The description of the body is decent; you get the sense of the grotesque nature of death. It’s the best couple of paragraphs I’ve read from these books in a long time. Somehow she knows enough about crime scenes to put together that the girl was killed by….dun dun DUN

jack in the boxjack card

jack sparrow jack-nightmare-before-christmas-29453651-960-639

Takeaways

You know, sometimes when I don’t know what to write, I just start typing the random ideas that fall out of my brain like a flock of pigeons all shitting at once. I figure, at least I’m writing, and I can probably salvage something from it later. I think that’s what I’m reading right now, except nobody ever bothered to power-wash the pigeon shit away.

That’s all I have to say about that.

P.S., there is a real life person named Gillian Key. I am so sorry for her.

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Redemption, Chapter 11 (NSFW)

Lestat laughing

[Image heavy post and very NSFW]

Y’all, this is a must read.

Walking back toward the house, Gillian reflects on the dimensions and texture of Perrin’s wang when she realizes she has other patients waiting. Remember her other patients? Me either.

Then “her empathy registered a weirdly hollow shift in the rightness of the world.” I can’t decide whether I like this phrase kind of maybe a little bit. If not for the word “weirdly,” it might be okay. She takes the time to reflect on the conflict between her roles in life, “Psychologist, soldier, or dumbass.” Not much of a conflict, really; the third one is clearly the dominant role.

She debates what to do. She decides against waiting in the car and honking the horn until someone from the castle came out because “Perrin might decide he was brave all of a sudden and come out to look,” and she doesn’t want to scream because “Gillian just wasn’t a screamer . . . well, except in bed. Damn! Blushed again.” I’m puzzled here. She has a gun, and moreover she has a history of charging off into the dark under way stupider circumstances, so I’m not sure why she’s freezing and scared now except that she’s about to actually have to defend herself in a dangerous situation without some swinging dick to do it for her.

Nope. Never mind.

kid sighing

It’s just Bullwinkle, who I could swear has been officially named, but Gillian is just calling her Moose. Since Gillian is going to continue to mockingly objectify this character, I’m going to keep calling her Bullwinkle until someone reminds me of her name.

Despite the fact that it’s now established that Bullwinkle is a fey who’s under a curse, Gillian keeps thinking of her as a hideous, tragic creature (her words, not mine) and, about half the time, “it” rather than “her.” This is so fucking gross.

Oh, apparently Gillian knows her name (Tuuli) but uses it selectively. As a trans person, this has a depressingly familiar undertone of people calling me whatever pronouns they feel like at the time or conveniently “forgetting” to call me by my chosen name.

After some awkward pantomime to figure out what Tuuli wants (because remember, she can’t talk), Gillian…GASP…calls Aleksei on the brain phone for backup. Wait, why the fuck didn’t she do that before? Who knows. Anyway, it sounds like Aleksei et. al are still dealing with Oscar, whatever that means.

Tanis shows up to call her “piccola sorera,” which I assume means “little sister,” and ruffles her hair. It’s fine if you want to portray them as having more of a brother-sister relationship now that they’re not fucking, but of course Tanis is still the creepy patronizing dickbag he always has been, pointing out that she smells like sex. Wait, oh…you have to see this.

Ebony eyebrows rose. She didn’t just smell like sex; she was emanating sex like a beacon and it was permeating the area. And where was that music coming from? It was remarkable. Probably her patient, the one Aleksei was so angry about. But the music was indescribable. It sang to every cell in his body. Tanis felt himself unwillingly reacting to whatever she was putting out.

Almost immediately he was full and needy, his ardor nearly tenting the tight blue jeans he wore. His focus on Gillian instantly became more intense. “Gillian, stop it! You need to stop it!” He grabbed her shoulder and gestured toward his groin.

animated erection

Gillian’s eyes widened at his tone and at what he was indicating. “How the hell did that happen?”

“You are giving off an erotic flare like I have never encountered, and you need to turn it off!” Frowning, he looked around as he picked up on the oppressiveness she was feeling. His face darkened even more as he closed his eyes, concentrating, scanning the area and trying not to think about fucking Gillian’s brains out in the gravel parking lot.

flare

phallic solar flare

nuclear explosion

disbelieving laugh

Lestat laughing

What even is going on here? I’m having flashbacks to Han and Chewie working on the Falcon in Empire and Han yelling at Chewie to turn off an exploding electronic part. I think this is honestly the funniest scene I’ve read yet in these books. Tanis is shaking her and yelling at her to turn off her sex vibes, whatever the fuck that means, and she has no idea what he’s talking about.

Tanis tells her to go back to the house with Tuuli because “I do not know if you are in more immediate danger from what is coming toward us or from me.”

Um. Gross?

I’ll get into the sexual politics of this later on; right now I’m just giggling at the sheer melodrama of this. Gillian figures out that the “erotic flare” is Perrin’s glamour, which somehow transferred to her, I guess? As they’re talking, the other menacing threat is building, and Gillian dithers long enough that she doesn’t have time to get back to the castle. Three figures appear, and Tanis stands in front of them fastening and unfastening his belt like your friendly neighborhood flasher at the bus stop (what, you don’t have one of those?). Gillian points her gun at them…

…and then Tanis says, “You are like a sex goddess signaling to her devotees, Gillian. You are attracting them; however, it is not blood they want.”

gkzo7ro

disbelieving laughter

Oh my god you guys. Is Gillian a sex goddess now? Holy shit.

Jenna turns up, and Tanis starts fucking her on the car hood regardless of the fact that there are three mysterious beings nearby that they were all afraid of until now. Dalton the fey turns up and IT JUST GETS BETTER oh my god I can’t breathe

“There was no mistaking the gold, orange, blue and violet hair of the Prince of the Light Court. The three things were still coming but moving very slowly, almost as if they were in a trance. Dalton began singing in a remarkable voice, blending seamlessly with the music that was pouring from the piano in the guesthouse, staring at her. No, he was staring at Moose. Uh-oh. The prince had an unfocused look in his wonderful lavender eyes and a hard-on down to his knees from what Gillian could tell at that distance. Worse, Moose was staring at him with undisguised adoration and honking provocatively.”

Hard-on down to his knees.

HONKING. PROVOCATIVELY.

Kimber and Pavel are also nearby, “engaged in what could only be described as puppy . . . love.” Wait, is he in wolf form? The narrative doesn’t say, but I’M SO CURIOUS. If she’s going there, I have to admit, that’s bold.

Every single moment I’ve spent reading these books has been worth it for these couple of pages.

Gillian is looking around her like

a guy gesturing around him as if to ask, what the hell?

Of course Aleksei turns up, and they immediately start boning. Apparently everyone has forgotten that there are STILL THREE MYSTERIOUS BEINGS lurking around, presumably just chilling as they watch Unexpected Orgy.

Oh! Apparently we are going the bestial route, because Dalton is being ridden by Bullwinkle, who I guess is starting to turn back into a fey? I have to clap for a minute at Gryphon’s boldness for going this route. I’ve never read shapeshifter porn that involved either partner in animal form unless it was fanfiction (like, ALL the fanfiction).

So, presumably everybody gets off, and Perrin’s music stops. End chapter.

WHERE THE FUCK ARE THE MYSTERIOUS CREATURES

Takeaways

Jesus. Christ. I have never laughed so hard at the unintentional hilarity in a book. It was fucking amazing. And yet, there are sins. Oh, yes, there are sins. Time for a buzzkill.

So Tanis walks up, the music starts, he gets a Magical Boner. He tells Gillian repeatedly to stop putting off sex vibes. He screams at her. There are many exclamation marks. He says, “I do not want to take you by force, Gillian. I cannot control this feeling. Please. Leave.”

a mustard container looks like it's vomiting

 

a bear holding its paws up and text saying "how about no"

“I can’t control myself. You need to stop tempting me before I rape you.”

dont rape.jpg

Presumably if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’re feminist enough to know what rape culture is, but if not, here are two good explanations. tl;dr the idea that it would be Gillian’s fault if Tanis raped her because she’s putting off sex vibes and he can’t control himself because of them is so. fucking. not. okay. It’s hideously sexist and dangerous to women and insulting to men to even imply this, much less build it into your fucking world. Presumably, Gillian was only saved from being raped by the sudden appearance of Jenna, who threw herself on Tanis’s dick before he could throw it into Gillian.

The fact that the book is trying to portray him as valiant for resisting raping her is fucking disgusting, too, like he earns good guy points by not inflicting sexual violence (again–let’s not forget the time he started fucking her in her sleep). You don’t get cookies for acting like a good fucking person.

In sum, I’m conflicted about this chapter. The obvious rape culture bullshit is utterly disgusting and rage-inducing, but jesus, the absurdity is hysterical.