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)

[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.

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Redemption, Chapter 10, part 2 (NSFW)

Fair warning, image heavy post.

Well, here we go with the “who’s supposed to protect who” argument. Gillian notes they’re outside the compound (idiot), and Perrin is alarmed that she might be in danger.

Cillian Murphy sighing and taking off his glasses

There is nothing I can say about this that I haven’t already said. Repeatedly. So let’s please, please get to the lame sex.

Nope, we get to see him push her around first. Awesome!

They go back to the guesthouse, where Gillian is agitated about not protecting him from the whole lot of nothing that just happened to them. He requests, nay, orders her to sit down, then this happens:

“Sit down, Gillian. I will get you some tea, then we will talk.”

“Perrin, I’m fine.” More pacing.

“The doctor cannot admit that she is in no shape to handle her patient at this moment?” His left eyebrow rose and, with it, the temper he hadn’t known he possessed. A stern edge had crept into his voice.

Okay, well, he’s not wrong. But the fact that he’s admonishing her for it and overstepping his role as a patient in the process actually helps clarify my thoughts about the fucked up power dynamics I talked about in the last post. While her role as clinician should put her in a position of authority and agency, his role as a dick-wielding twatwaffle trumps that authority, and he feels quite free to assert his genital authority over her when it suits him.

She admits he’s right (he is) and says she’ll just come back. And then he fucking grabs her and tells her to sit down so they can talk.

This is the point where the patient-clinician relationship needs to end, but we know it’s not fucking going to. I just feel the need to remind you that Gryphon is allegedly a mental health professional.

For a second, I thought Perrin had taken over the “dickhead who’s kind of right” role from early Tanis, but he says, “My doctor is a competent, brave woman, not a temperamental child.”

opposite day text

What is this…positive gaslighting? Is that even a thing? Apparently it is now. I should be happy Perrin is calling her out on her bullshit, but it’s an amusingly backward way of doing it.

Gillian self-flagellates a bit more before telling him not to confuse their roles. This time, she’s right, but as usual it’s in the dumbest way possible. She wants to GTFO because she recognizes that when she, an empath, is already emotional and then her client gets emotional, it can mess her up. You’d think she’d be trained in how to deal with that, being a “natural empath” and all, but I’ll cling vainly to this moment of reasonable self-insight, knowing without even needing to look that it’s going to last approximately .00004 seconds longer.

Sigh.

SIGH.

Remember when Tanis and Aleksei liked to grab her and force her to stay when she was upset? Yep.

one trick pony club

I’ll just…show you this exchange. I don’t think many words are necessary at this point.

Silence reigned, then she felt him at her back. Quiet bastard too. Two strong arms wrapped around her from behind and pulled her against his chest, his glamour shifting to feelings of loneliness and longing. “You need looking after, Dr. Key.”

a woman looking unimpressed and rolling her eyes

“Stop using your glamour on me, dammit! And stop being so autocratic!” Pulling away was pointless. She could have broken his hold on her easily, but he was stronger than she was and she would have had to hurt him to do it. Besides, she wasn’t afraid of him. She was afraid for him.

the lady doth protest too much

Letting her anger with herself overwhelm her wasn’t like her. It had to do with his specific magic and she needed to get a handle on it. She should not have come to him tonight.

anderson cooper trying not to laugh

marty mcfly from back to the future confused

“I am a vocal music teacher. I am supposed to be strict and authoritarian.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson in a whatever shrug

Right, so, I guess Perrin’s personality is about to complete its 180 degree turn from shy and retiring to smooth and clever. I guess that’s what’s going to happen.

She says she has to go. He says, “No. You do not.” I know this is supposed to be sexy or something but who, who doesn’t find this in any way coercive or threatening? If this were the first time this has happened, I might just roll my eyes and call it standard bodice-ripper fare, but this reeks of every other sexual encounter she’s had in these books. As a matter of fact, it reeks of every other discussion she’s had with love interests in these books. Go back and read this post. Go on, I’ll wait. Seem familiar to you? ME TOO.

He gets handsy while making out with her passive body (SHUDDER) and she starts wondering why he’s suddenly getting aggressive and dominant. Hello, Editor, my friend! It’s too bad you couldn’t do anything about the shit show that follows.

As a side note, I truly wish I could say that anything in these books is done on purpose as some sort of overarching character progression or organic product of the narrative or whatever. Every single chapter I wish that. Alas, even if that is the case sometimes, I have literally no reason to believe that given the random bullshit I’m encountering. It’s like playing Ski Free. I’m speeding down a hill trying to avoid obstacles, but eventually I know I’m going to get caught by the Abominable Bullshit Snowman so what’s the fucking point?

yeti from Ski Free

Remember this motherfucker?

Apparently Gillian is fine with this sudden surge of dominance “as long as it didn’t go too far.” It seems that, inspired by Perrin’s 180, Gillian’s personality has taken a turn as well. Gillian, willing to give up control even a little bit? Well, I never!

There’s talk of engorged organs. Now, I went to bat for you guys by searching the wilds of the interwebs using the term “engorged.” You should thank me. In the middle of all the anatomy textbook pictures, breastfeeding forums, and pictures of ticks, I found exactly what you, and indeed, the universe needed.

Chuck-E-Bloom-Engorged-Decoration-8x6-2014

You’re welcome.

Oh, here’s another favorite sexytimes word: “distended.”

croaking frog's throat

Y’all, I know it’s hard to find good words to use in sex scenes, but as I’ve said before, if it’s a term you would normally only find in an anatomy textbook, maybe think twice about using it if sexy is what you’re going for.

She starts undressing and he’s seeing spots because he’s so hard. Now, I Googled whether this would actually happen, because who hasn’t wondered? According to this article, in order for a dick to be big enough to make someone pass out when aroused, it would have to be 101cm (just under 40 inches) long. I know men in these books have monster wangs, but I would hope none of them are long enough to touch the bottom of the shallow end of the pool when he’s sitting on the side.

They undress each other, they’re about to bang, blah blah. She freaks out trying to remember where the condoms are, and then…

Oh.

Ew.

Remember when she demonstrated how to use one and then put it back in its wrapper? I told you she’d reuse it. TOLD YOU. Gross. There’s some description of her putting the condom on that is a thousand percent not necessary. You know, she hasn’t worried about condoms at all until now. Is this going to come up again in a really stupid way? I betcha it is.

I’ll sum up the scene as follows: penis, bands, canal, womb, overburdened sexual sensory panel, hot torrent.

willy wonka jizz

He squeezes her too hard, she tells him she can’t breathe, he lets her go, they try it again.

He was still giddy with the tingling feelings of release and the monumental hope that crashed down over him. Perhaps there was a chance after all. He might live a normal life, like a normal man. She had given him that. Given him the manhood he thought he would never achieve.

Gill saw and felt that a maudlin episode was welling up. Oh hell no, not now. Now was for healing, not crying.

What the fuck. He’s thinking hopeful thoughts and ostensibly having an emotional breakthrough, but she just basically wants him to stop crying and give her more dick. The use of the word “maudlin episode” is especially irritating, like he’s some sloppy drunk in a bar somewhere crying over how his girlfriend left him and his dog ran away five years ago, and she has to deal with him yet again. It’s your fucking job to deal with his emotions, you asshole.

Sigh. Still going, and the narrative is insisting that she’s being oh so patient and tender and shit. Womb, thrusts, stroke, turgid, canal rhythmically clasping, swelling and flaring, oh noooo you need to see this.

All instinct diverted to his groin as the need to mate with her took him into a new realm of stimulation, swelling him to incredible proportions and flaring out evenly spaced circular ridges of flesh around the circumference and down the length of his engorged penis.

It heightened his sensitivity and hers because she responded with a fresh flood of liquid heat over him, drenching him in her scent. To his aroused senses, her aroma called to him to mate with her. Hard. Fast. Now.

yikes

from amused to horrified

Right, so. Apparently there are ridges on his cock now (she used the word cock, hooray!). The rest of the scene is decent, meaning the description is more acceptable than horrifying. Of course it’s followed up with some awkwardness: she instructs him in proper disposal of a condom, as if the readers are in a sex ed class and really need to know. Like, I’m kind of glad a sex scene in a romance novel references the use of a condom, but I definitely don’t think the description of its application and disposal needs to be drawn out.

He’s like “omg this is amazing!” and thanks her repeatedly, but she’s very bland and clinical at him. It’s actually kind of appropriate given that (and I know this is easy to forget) she’s supposed to be his therapist and not his girlfriend. There’s a paragraph summarizing her discovery of scars on his back that he doesn’t want to talk about, which might have been a more interesting conversation than how to get rid of a condom, but whatever.

She leaves, and he skips off to “write his first inspiring music in over a century.

Dr Franknfurter is not impressed

Takeaways

We’ve seen 95% of this before, almost by rote. Now I know most romance novel sex scenes come in maybe 3-4 varieties, but Gryphon has her own special outline

  1. Sex behemoth forces Gillian to stay when she’d rather go
  2. Gillian gives in
  3. Sex behemoth gives her the D
  4. Clinical awkwardness

Don’t 1-3 sound an awful lot like coercive sexual assault? DON’T THEY THOUGH? Toward the end of every sex scene, Gillian becomes a vessel for a hot load of alpha male sexism in addition to supernatural jizz. We cease to get any sense of her emotional reaction, just her physical response to his manipulation, and after that she’s just closed-down and bland. That’s the creepiest part.

 

 

 

 

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Redemption, Chapter 10, part 1

There’s a sex scene coming, but it’s in the next part. Hang with me through some cultural analysis, if you will.

Perrin has been researching “S and M” on the internet. I can only imagine he came up with shit like this because he didn’t turn off Safe Search:

picture of an anthropomorphic Skittle and M&M with the caption "S&M candies"

But the sexism in this chapter is off to a rollicking start:

Even though his Victorian sensibilities and inherent cultural characteristics of a Gargoyle were telling him that Gillian required a little strong-handed guidance, he was worried that she might think the light spank of the previous night was anything but a gentle, playful reprimand.

Because Perrin is clearly in a position to give Gillian any guidance, because he’s a man and, like every other goddamn dude in this book, he has every right to give her a reprimand. What is it with the spanking in these books? Is it a particular fetish of the author’s, or just the opposite? Clearly it’s the author’s vision of punishment and control of Gillian, but I can’t decide whether that control is meant to be titillating. I know, I know, I’m probably reading too much into what is obviously some poorly thought out word vomit, but I paid $80,000 for a degree in Cultural Studies, so let me have my analysis.

Perrin has been creeping on Gillian’s conversation with Team Shit for Brains, and he’s trying to decide whether she’s banging Trocar or Aleksei. He claims she’s “the kindest person he'[s] ever known.”

nicolas cage laughing

This is simultaneously hilarious and so, so sad. If I didn’t know this was yet another lame insistence that Gillian is a Good Person, I’d say this is a reflection of the life of abuse and isolation Perrin has faced. Another one of those moments where the book could display some maturity if…it were actually mature at all.

Here’s this head-scratching paragraph:

Perrin didn’t realize what a dangerous game he was playing with himself. They had not yet completed his therapy and yet he was still holding on to his old truths— truths that spoke of a magical, altruistic, esoteric love between fully dressed and proper people, rather than two naked bodies intertwined, sweating and straining toward the culmination of raw desire. He wanted her to care. She did. But not in the way he hoped.

I can only assume this is an awkward intrusion of authorial voice here. What exactly am I meant to understand from this? I think it’s that Perrin is confusing Gillian’s role as a sex therapist, with whom he’s going to sweat and strain, with his desire for “proper” esoteric love. But what I actually read (see: $80,000 degree) is that, through Perrin, we’re apparently only meant to see two kinds of “truths.”

I can’t help but read this in the context of Gillian’s relationship with Aleksei and her statement in a previous chapter about jumping into an “intense” (read: sexual) relationship and her desire to step back and have “space.” I also can’t help but think of her sexual relationship with Tanis and her lack of desire to keep it, not because he’s an abusive twatwaffle but because she found something better (read: not yet sexual) with Aleksei. So we have sex with Tanis –> non-sexual “romance” with Aleksei –> sex with Aleksei –> backing off from Aleksei in tandem with (what is ostensibly meant to be read as) her romance with Perrin. She steps away from her carnal relationship with Tanis to form a relationship with Aleksei, then steps away from Aleksei in order to form a relationship with “pure” Perrin. If you think about it, it’s pretty gross on a couple of levels.

First, we can’t forget that Aleksei and Perrin are/were her patients, a relationship that comes along with a particular power dynamic. It’s weird and conflicts with the sexual politics of the book, which I’ll explore at the end of this post. Second, the narrative is clearly privileging relationships between “fully dressed and proper people” by giving them more screen time but also having Gillian skip from one to the other. Nowhere is she allowed to exercise her sexual agency or do whatever the fuck she wants with whoever she wants without being shuffled off to something “better” and ostensibly more appropriate. You could argue that she does what she wants with Tanis, but she runs away from that in part because of her fear of commitment. We’re meant to believe that sex will/is meant to eventually lead to commitment. No casual relationships are allowed to continue here.

In other words, Perrin has become a repository of typical romance novel sensibilities, which obviously attract Gillian on a personal and not just a professional level. This love triangle thing, while eye-rollingly cliche, might actually be interesting from a cultural analysis standpoint.

Moving back to the snark…

There’s some half-decent characterization/reflection for a couple of paragraphs, then we’re back to Gillian approaching Perrin. More awkward prose:

No teasing in her tone, he noted. She was at her most pleasant tonight. Anyone who knew Gillian knew that if she was being overtly pleasant, it was time to take cover. Perrin was her patient; there was no way she was going to blow a gasket and scare him to death. But she was trying to tread lightly. If he opened up to her too fast tonight with her own emotions on edge, she would have to leave and see him later. Angry meltdowns were an inappropriate therapeutic tool for an oversensitive genius recluse to be subjected to.

1396

Okay…what? She’s being overly pleasant but overly pleasant is bad, but she’s being pleasant because she doesn’t want him to freak out, but she’d have to step out if he “opened up to her too fast” (isn’t that what you do in therapy??) and who the fuck is expressing what in this paragraph?

Perrin summons a glamour. Why, I don’t know. What is a glamour, even? Yet another thing squeezed in as it became expedient without any background or explanation whatsoever.

context motherfucker, do you have it?

Gillian notices he seems confident for once, because by god she can’t bone a man who’s anything less than confident. They decide to go for a walk. Predictably, Perrin has been shopping at the Vintage Romance Hero’s Emporium and managed to score a ruffled shirt before Jean-Claude and the other vampires ran off with them all. She shows him how to hold hands using the “current methods” because he’ll be dating in the future and all. Sigh. In response, he says, “So you have hope for me to overcome my ineptitude in these matters?” to which she responds, “Perrin, you are a lot of things but inept isn’t one of them.”

Yeah, see, that’s a problem. Someone who grew up with a minimum of social contact is going to be inept, especially when it comes to intimate interactions. I hate the way he magically gets to be smooth about this, thereby eliminating any sincerity in this situation. Like, what if he’s just awkward about this whole thing and has to fumble through it to eventually be comfortable? I know most people don’t want to read awkward in a romance novel, but it doesn’t have to be cringey. It can be endearing and humanizing. But what am I kidding, that’s ten steps above the level of these books.

lower your expectations

This is by far the most commonly used gif in these reviews for a reason.

Eventually they wander out in the middle of nowhere, and Gillian senses something Bad out in the darkness. Once again, she doesn’t have the sense God gave little chickens, much less the sense of a Marine who would know a stroll through the castle grounds in the middle of a war when you have a bad guy in the goddamn house is a bad idea. She tries to herd him back to the house, but he says,

“Gillian, I may be a social phobic, but I assure you I am quite strong and am capable of defending you. I am part Gargoyle, you remember.”

oh boy

Another opportunity for a creature with a dick to protect her defenselessness! YAY. Jesus Christ.

Ah, but no, it’s Finian (one of the elves) hunting the “deep dwellers,” whatever that means. He calls her “Kynzare,” which he doesn’t explain and I bet never comes up again. Gillian gets Perrin back to the house and can we please just get to the lame sex already??

that's what she said

Since I’ve rambled a lot in this post, I’ll split it in two.

Takeaways

The power dynamics are weird and complicated in this book, and I don’t think that’s on purpose. I think it’s a consequence of Gaslighting Gremlin, the narrative presenting one thing but constantly insisting it’s the exact opposite.

On the one hand, Gillian’s position as clinician puts her in a position of authority over Aleksei and Perrin. The halfhearted gestures toward propriety–in Aleksei’s case, waiting until they no longer have a therapeutic relationship and in Perrin’s, making it a sexually therapeutic relationship–are really halfhearted and really stupid for reasons I could go on and on about. I’m trying to let this go, because these are romance novels and basing romance on a premise that would be hideously inappropriate in real life is romance’s stock in trade, but it’s still especially troubling in Perrin’s case. The narrative frames Perrin as an “innocent,” which automatically makes their sexual interactions unequal.

And yet.

The sexual politics in this book have, as you and I have observed, consistently set men as the authority figures. Every single fucking man, Perrin included, has asserted his authority over Gillian with physical or emotional control or both. The narrative itself, by diminutizing Gillian constantly, makes this normal. So the question becomes, is Gillian ever really an authority figure here? I don’t think this is an answerable question thanks to Gaslighting Gremlin.

Then there’s the constant “I’m supposed to protect you, no, I’m supposed to protect you!” bullshit, which Gillian and Perrin are just about to indulge in. Male vampires are supposed to be “genetically” overprotective, and all the men in this book are behemoths, yet tiny Gillian keeps insisting that she’s supposed to protect them. This is extra gross because when she’s given the opportunity to prove she can, which is exceedingly rare, she makes an idiot of herself and it turns out she didn’t really need to. These goddamn books are all about putting her in situations where she makes an idiot of herself. Gaslighting Gremlin has its fingers in this, too. She’s a Marine and she’s a badass! but everyone else needs to protect her while she bumps around about as effective as a newborn naked mole rat.

Fuck you, Gaslighting Gremlin.

gremlin