Apparently Anita's house is full of people. So many people she has to park down the street from her own house-with-no-neighbors. My first reaction is to shout "WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT" and go charging in. Hers is to sit in the car and look at it.
For a vampire hunter with a kill count longer than most rap sheets, Anita sure doesn't do much.
Anita also apparently never thought of Nathanial as a person. Why is she our heroine again? And just because she isn't terrible enough, we find out she always thought of Nathanial as a poor, abused child she had to take care of. This tells me two things:
1. If Anita were a man, everybody would be screaming "chauvinist" at her. I've met men with this attitude. They turn women into something for them to rescue, admire, and care for, and in the process ignore the woman's real wishes and ambitions. When I meet men like that I usually revive my "Women in the military" arguement because it is fun watching them go up in flames. This is called objectifying. Anita has turned Nathanial into an object she has to take care of, and not a person that she has to deal with. This is not okay.
2. Anita is a patronizing, egotistical waste of skin. But we already knew that part.
I know I keep getting hung up on little stuff, but writing is all about little stuff. And these little things are hints of extremely unhealthy and abusive behavior. They are inadvertant on the author's part (I hope) but they're FREAKING THERE. And turning a person into an object of value is the first step in turning them into an object of abuse. If "my wife" or "my husband" ever equals "my dog" or "my boots" in someone's attitude, they are the LAST person who should have a significant other. And then a couple paragraphs later...
My breast was aching, faintly, from his teeth marks. We’d shared a bed so often that it felt odd when he wasn’t beside me. But I still didn’t see him as a grown-up. Sad, but true.
Nathanial explains what Anita will need to do for the ardeur. Apparently Jean Claude explained it all to him, because poor Anita is too fragile to handle information that will keep her from hurting herself or other people via sexpire powers. I'm starting to miss sparkling vampmeyers and stalkering, because compared to Jean Claude's passive-aggressive bullshit Edward Cullen was a paragon of well-adjusted masculinity.
Also, fuck you Jean Claude.
Nathanial is also worried that Anita isn't going to sleep in the Circus of the Damned. A couple days ago I responded to a comment by mentioning that Jean Claude's behavior re: Anita so far has been textbook for cult leaders trying to brainwash someone. This HAS to be unintentional because it's really subtle, but if you're looking for it it kind of jumps out in neon. Anita should have been taken home last night. She should have been given a shower, a set of comfy PJs, time to fix herself something warm and comforting to drink, and allowed to sleep in an enviroment that was not so highly sexualized it could make a dead stick stand up and salute. The human psyche is VERY vunurable to suggestion in the time after emotional trauma. Anita is isolated from everyone she trusts (She loves JC, but she's never ever ever EVER trusted him. Nathanial is not a person to her, Jason is JC's boy toy) verbally abused, and then force-fed information while she's given positive experiances, such as they are. JC is repeating over and over, you can't control yourself and you need me. And the fact that HE isn't comfortably letting Anita go home is another sign of an abusive situation.
NOTHING about this book is healthy, in other words.
After rehashing everything they talked about in the last chapter (Seriously, this book is almost as bad as City of Bones in the stand-around-and-talk-about-it department. It's not exposition IMHO if it's been mentioned NINTEEN OTHER TIMES in the previous chapter) Anita and Nathanial finally leave the car. She's met by two of the other wereleopards, a male named Zane and a girl named Cherry.
If this were any other book, I wouldn't have noticed. I do not think I can trust a female character in vampire/shapeshifter erotica who is named Cherry.
Also, apparently the way to greet your Nimir-Ra is to get on your knees and rub your face all over their hands like you're a for-real cat. This is the "Formal" greeting.
I used to do this when I pretended to be a cat...way back when I was six. These are grown-ass professionals. And they're doing it in Anita's front yard. When they're done with the hand rubbing, they then twine through Anita's legs like a hungry house cat.
These are not shape-shifted wereleopards. They look perfectly human. They're just down on all fours rubbing their whole bodies against Anita's legs.
And then we meet the pard's central trouble-maker, Elizabeth.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Laurel K. Hamilton's nuanced and sensative description of an antagonistic female:
It was Elizabeth. Her walk was always a cross between a strut and a glide, the ultimate hooker’s walk...Her hair fell in curls to her waist, a brunette so dark you would have called it black if you didn’t have my hair to compare it to. She was pretty in a pouting, lush sort of way, like some sort of tropical plant with thick, fleshy leaves and beautiful but deadly blossoms. She was wearing a skirt so short the tops of her black hose and the garters that held them up showed... The shirt was sheer enough that even by starlight you could see she wasn’t wearing a bra, and she, like me, was a woman who needed one.I seem to remember in one of these books--I think it was Kiss the Dead--that Anita showed up for an interrogation in a short-short-SHORT skirt, tiny blouse and five inch heels and said that it wasn't her fault, her live-in "stripper sweetie" (AKA Nathanial) had picked her clothes out for her. A LARGE portion of the cast in this series are sex workers. And I don't mean a realistic representation of sex workers. I mean LKH's idea of what sex workers are like. I do not remember if Elizabeth is one of them, as I suspect she's not going to be around much longer. My point? I do not think a respectful depection of a marginalized group is one of LKH's priorities.
Also...wow, Anita sure is a catty b--
Anyway, I don't think we've got Elizabeth truely established as an antagonis--
She fake-pouted at me. “Oh, did our little Nimir-Ra get her feelings hurt because I wouldn’t come and sleep naked beside her?”Yep, there we go. Dresses like an oversexed clubbing idiot, check, is promiscuious (re: sleeping with the guy escorting her) check, and is nasty to Anita. Check, check, and check.
Anita threatens to kill Lizzie here for not watching over Nathanial like she was supposed to. Personally, I'd go with a severe maiming. Lizzie says it's no fun, Nathanial has "standards now." Anita says "Which means he won't fuck with you" and Elizabeth gets pissed. And frankly, I'm seeing no difference between these two characters at all. It's like when two women show up at the party wearing the same hat, only in this case it's personalities.
Also, the word "sweetie" is starting to not look like a word anymore. I had a boyfriend who called me sweetie. It didn't last long, and after a while the pet name just kind of grated. A sweetie is a kind of candy that you blow through in two seconds. It's not somebody you feel strongly attached to.
And then we are introduced to Gina. I don't know who this girl is, but I think she's a "friendly" female.
Women in this book seem to be sorting out into two groups. "Bad" girls, who are girly, sensual, attracted to Anita's men and not fans of Anita, and "good" girls, women who show up in steriotypically "man" clothes (ie a t-shirt) who don't go for girly frills, who are not attracted to Anita's men and who are fans of Anita. By this I mean that if you are an antagonist, you're in a mini-skirt and thigh-highs, and you're single. If you're help, you're packing heat and already married. It's almost like a virgin/whore complex. Let's call it "Matron/Whore", 'cause in this book virgin is pretty much a synonym for victim.
Anyway, Gina shows up in a t-shirt, is beautiful without makeup and strikes Anita as dangerous. Either she's gonna be a "good guy" or LKH is trying to be subtle.
And then we find out that one of the Leopards, Vivian, is dating Gregory's (the wereleopard being held by the werewolves) twin brother Stephen, who is a werewolf.
Werewhatever is supposed to be rare in this universe, right? So what are the odds that identical twin brothers would be struck by two different strains of lycanthropy? Was this established in another book? Because without a DAMN good plot I think we're approaching "bolt from the blue" odds here.
And then everybody starts questioning Nathanial about who he slept with, because apparently they made a new rule without Anita's imput that Nathanial has to run his potential sex partners by the whole group first. And Anita gets nervious about it, hides the fact that she's the one who slept with Nathanial, is forced by the group to confess, and is taunted by Caleb, who turns out to be one of Micah's leopards.
Sadly, Anita doesn't just shoot the bastard.
It keeps going. Apparently Elizabeth wants a real shape-shifter as a Nimir-Ra and is trying to force Anita out. Anita isn't standing for it, and...uh...
I looked at her, and I let the darkness fill my eyes that was my own version of a beast.What the fuck does that even mean? Her eyes are her beast? What the hell?
And then Micah shows up, and the description of him is basically this:
Micah insists Anita show him the bite marks from having not-sex with Nathanial. She does. This scares the shit out of Elizabeth for some reason, and Lizzie starts repeating "You can't be Nimir-Ra for real. You can't. You can't."
And then Micah tells Anita that they are soul mates. Literally:
He held my face in his hands, making very serious eye contact. “We are a mated pair, Anita. It’s legend among the leopards that you can find your perfect mate, and from the first moment you have sex you’re bound, more than marriage, more than law. We will always crave each other. Our souls will always call to each other. Our beasts will always hunt together.”
This is still the dude that raped Anita yesterday. There are no words, boys and girls, that can ever make this okay.
Anita still has to deal with Elizabeth, though. For the record, I was kidding about maiming a a punishment. Anita, however, is not:
I shot her twice in the chest, while she was still telling me I wouldn’t shoot her. She went over backwards, spine bowing, hands scrabbling at the road, legs kicking while she tried to breathe. Everyone had cleared a big space around her. I stood over her and stared down while she tried to breathe, and her heart struggled to beat around the hole I’d put in it. “You keep saying I can’t kill you like a real Nimir-Ra by tearing your throat out, or gutting you. Maybe that’s going to change soon, but until then I can shoot you, and you’ll be just as dead.”Our heroine, ladies and gentlemen. Sorry. There is nothing bad-ass about walking up to somebody and shooting them in cold blood. Mostly because the build up before this is too long and drawn out, and too devoid of emotional energy. Also, because Elizabeth is just fucking standing there.
Oh, but Anita murdering Elizabeth is alright, because Elizabeth has an unconsious death wish and really, really wants to die. She just doesn't know it. What. The. Fucking. Hell.
The only person in the group turned off by this display of sociopathy is Caleb, the bad guy. Everybody else is pleased as punch that Anita just filled another person full of holes. Lizzie heals up while they watch.
We get the required "Anita is a badass exchange" which we don't buy any more than we did the last one, the plot is over in a corner sobbing quietly to itself, and the chapter has ended.
Next chapter: They're taking the leopards to the lupanar. Or, as my brain just put it