Warning: One image in this review is NSFW.
So we left off last chapter with Grace basically telling us the premise of the whole book. One man did her wrong, so all guys suck.
But even more surprising than her words was the amount of bitterness he heard in Grace’s voice. She must have been badly used in the past. No wonder she was skittish of him.
Badly used? She lost her virginity to a douche. And she’s been so gun-shy about it ever since that she’s never given a man a fair chance. Spoiler alert, we learn in an upcoming chapter that Paul preyed upon Grace’s grief shortly after her parents death in order to get into her pants. It’s a scuzzy, low-down, rotten thing to do, and I’m not excusing it in the least. Paul can rot in hell for it. But here’s the thing. This happened in Grace’s college years, she was twenty-four when she lost her virginity to Paul and discovered his subsequent betrayal. So she’s had five years to process this. And she’s still so hung up on it that she refuses to date or even get turned on?
Maybe it’s my naivete showing, but I think that five years is enough to put some distance between herself and a trauma. I’ve never had something truly horrible happen to me, like assault or domestic violence. I know those things are traumatic. I know that some scars go so deep they don’t ever completely go away. But Grace wasn’t raped. She was taken advantage of, certainly, but not coerced or taken against her will. Not the way that Julian has been for the last two millennium. She had one bad experience, and now refuses all men on the basis that one man did her wrong.
You know it reminds me of two different things, ironically both vampire series. One good and one bad. Let’s start with the good first.
That douche up there? That’s Parker Abrams from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He caught Buffy on the rebound and pretended to be sweet, kind, and sensitive, just to get into Buffy’s pants. When he did, he left. He moved on to new girls, and this betrayal does affect Buffy. But it doesn’t destroy her. It is the starting point for new characterization. Buffy learns and grows from the experience. In the same season, she falls for the good, albeit bland, soldier-boy Riley Finn.
Buffy doesn’t stay there. You could argue that after having to send her first boyfriend to hell, it wasn’t as big a deal to Buffy, but we see otherwise in the show. It is heartbreaking to watch Buffy struggle through her feelings for Parker and what little they had. And it is satisfying to watch him get punched in the face when the time comes. But Buffy doesn’t even wait a year before moving on to something bigger and better. In my opinion, Grace should have been able to do the same.
Alright, on to the bad example.
Anita Blake from her eponymous series. In this example here? Anita is the douche I’m talking about. Anita acts as the emotional support system for the majority of the characters in the books she’s apart of. Why, I have no idea, because she has the emotional maturity of a teaspoon. But even if I assume she’s the wise-beyond-her-years, hardened cop that she’s supposed to be (instead of the raging megalomaniac and psychotic bitch that she is) she is completely and utterly selfish when it comes to her love life. She uses people at every turn, insisting on monogamy for the majority of the books while keeping her harem abstinent unless they are sleeping with her.
But the kicker? The thing I think that applies here? Every single one of the men/women in her life has a worse backstory than she does. Every. Damn. One. And yet? Anita plays it off like the worst thing she’s ever gone through–the death of her mother when she was eight–is the be-all-end-all of tragedy. Which I would get if her mother had been killed right in front of her, a la Supernatural, or raped and murdered right in front of her a la Hellsing. But no! Her mother had an accidental death, by car crash. And yet Anita insists that her pain is worse than ANYBODY else’s! A death is horrible, yes, but Anita has had fucking years to get over it and make peace with the fact her father remarried. But she never, ever does it!
Grace is supposed to remind me of Buffy. I think that all the heroines in the Dark Hunters series are supposed to be tough, smart girls who get the job done and save the man with the magical therapy vagina. But they’re not. A lot of them turn out like Anita. Their petty problems end up being the focus of the novel, and the man has to overcome them despite having massively worse emotional baggage himself. The only book I’ve read by Kenyon so far where this does not apply is, ironically Styxx. The love interest in that book is whole and is able to support him through the horrible shit he’s gone through. As she should.
Sorry to go off on a tangent at the very beginning of the chapter but good lord, I’m tired of the woman having to work through a relatively minor problem and that’s the focus of the book. Instead of the massive emotional hangups that the man has, that need serious therapy.
ILL LOGIC: 2
Closing his eyes, he forced those thoughts away. That was literally ancient history and this was the present. Grace was the present.
And he was here for her.
Now, he understood what Selena had meant when she’d spoken to him about Grace. That was why he was here. He was to show Grace that sex was enjoyable.
Never before had he encountered anything like this.
As he looked at Grace, a slow smile curved his lips. This would be the first time in his life he’d ever had to pursue a woman for his lover. No woman had ever turned his body down.
What with her wit and stubbornness he knew getting Grace into bed would prove to be every bit as challenging as outwitting the Roman army.
QUESTIONABLE CONSENT: 10
DID NOT DO THE RESEARCH: 14
The consent thing should be pretty obvious. Grace has said no, but he’s going to pursue anyway. Even though it is the case of the lady protesting too much, which also makes me distinctly uncomfortable as a trope, going off of what she’s said, she’s turned him down. End of story. Period. Take no for an answer asshole.
The did not do the research point has to do with what I’ve said in previous posts. Rome pretty much crushed Greece in the Punic Wars. Greece was not a united front, and routinely the city-states would stab each other in the back and fight with the enemies of one city-state to destroy another. It’s painted in this book that the loss of Julian and Kyrian of Thrace is the only reason that Greece lost the war. Not, you know, the fact that Rome was a united front and Greece was not, among other reasons. The only reason that we have so much of an idea about Ancient Greece is that Rome pretty much subsumed their beliefs and a lot of their culture. Romans were huge grecophiles.
But I know what it really is. The hyperbole is supposed to allude to how headstrong Grace is. But she really isn’t. She’s not resisting so strongly because she’s concerned about the moral quandary this situation presents. She doesn’t resist because of the issue of consent, or to keep him from suffering more trauma. Her reasons for abstaining are about seventy percent selfish. So it gets one of these.
DON’T MAKE ME SUE: 15
So after she’s fed him, she intends to go to bed. He tells her that he doesn’t want to go to sleep. He doesn’t want to be still and in darkness again. Understandable, I suppose. But he also doesn’t want to be alone, and it’s a contrived excuse to get them together in one bed. So she takes him upstairs and tells him he can watch the TV in her room.
While she goes to get him clothing, he muses about how much the world has changed since he was last summoned. Here’s another thing I don’t get. I understand that he’s learned English through listening to people outside the book, but how the hell does he know what certain things are? I know context clues can help somewhat, but without visual aids or any concept of what a new technology is, it would be impossible for him to know them off the bat.
ILL LOGIC: 3
His next concern is fairly reasonable. The shop keeper who kept his book comments that one day e-books will probably overtake regular books. And in a sense, it’s correct. Amazon and other companies offer e-books at reduced prices, making them cheaper to purchase than regular print books. Print books are harder to make, and take time. That’s why the indie book market is booming right now. It’s easier to consume and to produce. But I don’t share the view that print books will ever completely go away.
You have purists, like my husband and my mother who will always prefer to have a print copy in their hands when they can. And for some, it’s just easier. Devices wear out, break, or get expensive to replace, so having a print copy you can get from a library or at a book store might be preferable.
Julian is afraid he’ll never be summoned again, and will therefore never escape his prison. So, I’ll admit that’s reasonable.
He finds Grace in the other room crying over a pair of her father’s pajama pants. Yes. Yes it is awful she lost her parents. She deserves a cry. But it’s Julian’s reaction that annoys me.
Before he could reconsider his actions, he stepped into the room and drew her into a hug. Her arms encircled his waist and she held on to him like a lifeline as she buried her face into his bare chest and wept. Her entire body shook against his.
Something strange inside him unfurled. A deep longing for something he couldn’t name.
Never in his life had he comforted a weeping woman. He’d had sex more times than he could count, but never once had he just held a woman like this. Not even after sex. Once he wore out his partner, he would get up and clean himself off, then go find something to occupy himself with until he was called again.
Even before the curse, he’d never shown anyone tenderness. Not even his wife.
Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit! I refuse to believe this is the first time that Julian has displayed any platonic affection toward any woman. He had a wife. He had children. What? Did he tell her to lay back and think of Thebes while they consummated their marriage? Clearly there was love (at least on his side of things, because as we later learn, it’s more complicated than this.) I don’t know if this is also supposed to be going along with the “Spartan warrior thing” that Kenyon was trying to set up. But guess what? That doesn’t work either!
See this? See where Macedonia is? Way up top. Whereas Sparta…
IS AT THE BOTTOM!
Julian of Macedon the “spartan” warrior is just ludicrous. What the hell? Did he get sent on an exchange program or something? The only way to make this distinctly plausible is if you say he was cast down from Olympus after his birth to Aphrodite and landed in Sparta and was raised there, but later rejoined his countrymen. But if you have to stretch that far, it’s not a good explanation. Also, if I may just nitpick, his name also doesn’t fit.
Julian, from the Roman name Iulianus, which was derived from Julius. So if we’re to follow what Kenyon’s laying down, Julian is a Spartan warrior from Macedonia, who has a Roman name. Gah.
DID NOT DO THE RESEARCH: 18
Four points. One for the complete misunderstanding of Greek attitudes towards sex and affection. Three more for the incongruity of his backstory.
As a soldier, he’d been trained from his first memory to be fierce, cold. Harsh.
“Return with your shield, or upon it.” That was what his stepmother had told him as she grabbed him by his hair and slung him out of her home to begin training for war at the tender age of seven.
His father had been even worse. A legendary Spartan commander, his father had tolerated no weakness. No emotion. The man had doled out Julian’s childhood at the end of a braided leather whip, teaching him to hide his pain. To let no one see him suffer.
To this day Julian could feel the bite of the whip against his bare back, hear the sound it made as it cut through the air toward his skin. See the mocking sneer of contempt on his father’s face.
So his father isn’t even Macedonian. It makes even less sense. Also, what the hell is it with people mistreating demi-gods in this series? You don’t want their mommy or daddy to smite you, so you should probably be nice to them! In the myths where they’re put out or treated badly by mortals it never ends well.
ILL LOGIC: 5
One for the mistreatment of Julian at the hands of his step-parents, and two for making his parents Spartan in the first place. I think it was chosen because it was one of the more iconic Greek cultures besides Athens. But really, it would have made more sense for him to have remained Macedonian. This was after Alexander the Great, so Macedon wouldn’t have been considered the boonies anymore.
DID NOT DO THE RESEARCH: 19
So nothing more of note happens in that section except that Julian puts the moves on Grace, and she turns him down. She falls asleep and Julian just stares at her face. He was creeping on ladies before Edward Cullen made it cool.
He could tell when she finally fell asleep by the evenness of her breathing. It was only then that he finally dared to touch her. Dared to trace the gentle outline of her soft cheek with the pad of his forefinger.
His body reacted with such violence that he bit his lip to keep from cursing. Fire streamed through his blood.
He’d known stabbing desires all his life-first a hunger in his belly for food, then a burning thirst for love and respect, and finally the demanding one in his loins for the wet sleekness of a woman’s body. But never, never, had he experienced anything like this.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. If something is burning, go get that checked out Julian.
And all he could think of was spreading her creamy, silken thighs and planting himself deep inside her. Of sliding in and out of her body over and over until they both screamed out their release in unison.
Only that would never happen.
Julian moved farther away from her. To a safe distance in the bed where he could no longer smell her sweet feminine scent, feel the heat of her body beneath the covers.
He could give her pleasure for days on end without stopping, but for him there would never be peace.
Days? Oh no, honey. There’s such a thing as sleep deprivation, refractory period, chafing, and other fun sexual woes. The record for longest sexual intercourse is currently 15 hours and change. That’s not a day. I would think that anything over an hour would chafe. Owwww.
DID NOT DO THE RESEARCH: 20
And is it just me, or is that sentiment just a little rapey considering he’s staring at her unconscious form and hasn’t backed off?
QUESTIONABLE CONSENT: 11
“Damn you, Priapus,” he snarled, speaking the name of the god who had cursed him to this fate. “I hope Hades is giving you your full due.”
Ah, so we finally get to Priapus! Fun, fun. At first I thought he was a made up god, the same way that the Atlantean Pantheon are in later books. But no, Priapus is an actual Greek deity. But that seems to be where the research ends.
As you can see from the picture, he was well known for his enormous schlong. He was a minor rustic fertility god, protector of livestock, fruit plants, gardens, and male genitalia. The condition priapism, where the penis remains erect without stimulation or long after intercourse is over, is named after him. Priapus had a permanently erect penis, except when it actually came time to perform. He was cursed with ugliness and thrown from Olympus by the other gods.
He was also very rapey. He tried to rape the goddess Hestia while she slept, and was only stopped from doing so because of the braying of a donkey. Myths vary on who is parents are, but a popular idea is that he is the son of Dionysus and Aphrodite. So this book gets that right at least.
What it doesn’t get right is the fact that he was a minor, minor deity that would certainly not have had a major shrine in a big city, and probably would have been worshiped by farmers in rural areas, not priestesses. And certainly not virgin priestesses. A god whose main defining attribute is commonly described as “column”, “twelve-inch pole”, “cypress”, “spear” and “pyramid”, is not going to be demanding chastity. In later years, his worship was little more than pornography! After failing to rape a nymph (or Hestia depending on the myth) he beats the donkey to death with his giant penis! No joke!
His cult would probably have consisted of sexual acts as worship, not abstinence. And since the Greeks were fairly comfortable with sex, it isn’t as big a deal as it would be in modern society.
So I don’t think that Priapus should have had the power, sophistication, or means by which to curse Julian. So, counts.
DID NOT DO THE RESEARCH: 23
So when Grace wakes up, Julian is already getting handsy.
QUESTIONABLE CONSENT: 12
So they make out for awhile and Grace is just passively wishing for something to interrupt him, so she doesn’t have to push him away. What about saying no and meaning it?
QUESTIONABLE CONSENT: 13
He encircled the tender, throbbing flesh with one finger, making her burn from the inside out before he finally plunged two fingers deep inside her.
What is it with burning in this series? If it’s burning down there, it’s not good! I’m gonna kick off another of my counts because I’m getting the feeling this is a stock phrase.
AUTHOR’S PET PHRASE: 4
For this time and the other times I’ve mentioned it in chapter reviews.
Thankfully, Selena calls just in time and Grace squirms out from beneath Julian. She tells Selena to come over and help her out. Then she gives herself a literal cold shower while she waits and talks to herself.
“Remember what happened after Paul? Remember what it felt like to wander around the dorm, sick to your stomach because you let someone use you? Remember how humiliating it was?”
Worse, she could still hear Paul’s mocking laughter as he bragged to his friends and collected his bet. How she wished she’d been a man long enough to kick open the door to his apartment, and beat him to smithereens.
No, she wouldn’t let herself be used.
It had taken her years to get over Paul and his cruelty, and she wasn’t about to undo all that on a whim. Not even a gorgeous whim!
Nope, nope, nope. The next time she gave herself to a man it would be to someone who was committed to her. Someone who cared for her.
Someone who wouldn’t disregard her pain and continue to use her body for his pleasure as if she didn’t matter, she thought, her repressed memories resurfacing with a vengeance. Paul had acted as if she weren’t even there. As if she were nothing more than an emotionless doll designed only to serve his pleasure.
I’m sorry, I’m still finding this hard to believe. I know we’re supposed to take this all at face value, but what sort of guy just shoves it in, deflowers her, doesn’t try to get her involved, and then leaves? I mean sex is better when both parties participate, and in all honesty, it can be hard to do the first time. If he didn’t spend any time on foreplay or whatnot, she’s going to be dry as the Sahara down there which is comfortable for no one. Also, as a virgin she’s going to be pretty tight down there, so there’s the question if he can even get in without serious effort on his and her part with no prep, no lube, no nothing.
ILL LOGIC: 6
Julian goes downstairs, drinks from the tap, and eats half of a melon before reflecting on his past, in which he was used at best, or raped at worst. And we’re supposed to think that Grace’s situation is worse. So Selena shows up with clothing and just stares at Julian for a bit, unable to be articulate.
“Holy green guacamole!” Selena gasped.
Grace folded her arms over her chest, her eyes twinkling in a cross between anger and amusement. “Julian, meet Selena.”
“Holy green guacamole!” her friend repeated.
“Selena?” Grace waved her hand in front of Selena’s face. Still Selena didn’t blink.
“Would you stop?” Grace chided.
IT IS TO LAUGH: 6
Because this is clearly supposed to be humorous. Only, it’s not.
So she asks Selena to babysit him while she’s at work and we end the chapter on this particularly rapey note.
Well, sooner or later she’d be back.
Then she would be his.
And once she surrendered to him, he was going to show her just what kind of stamina and passion a Spartan-trained Macedonian soldier was capable of.
QUESTIONABLE CONSENT: 14
DID NOT DO THE RESEARCH: 24
Ugh that last line makes me shudder. I think he’s supposed to be written as an aggressive alpha male type that’s common in romance. He’s supposed to be appealing because he’s dominant in the bedroom and he knows how to make a woman feel good. Only he doesn’t seem to care about what Grace says about it, so it’s just rapey, in my book.
Alright, we’ll be back next chapter with more of this, and we get to learn more about their backstories. Fun.