The chapter opens with two of her people being driven practically catatonic on the floor, due to Valentina and Bartolome. The scary vampire children are hurting her people. And I realize that both Anita and Jean Claude are worthless characters because, above all else, they suck at being leaders.
I've been trying to figure out how to put this down into words for several hours, and I think it boils down to this: The only reason to have an uber-superpowerful character be both the Baddest Kid on the Block AND be a good guy is to enforce the consequences that promote healthy bounderies. AKA don't steal, don't lie, don't murder, don't stab people just to watch them bleed. That's why we like those characters. They make us feel safe. Not because they can protect us, though that's a part of it, but because they can make sure that we are allowed to be people.
The problem is that a boundery without consequences is just a chalk line. It only has meaning if you can add "Or else" to your "Don't cross this." It's why "don't steal" has to be followed up with "Or I'll have you arrested". Why "Don't hurt me" has "or I'll leave" attached to the end.
The appeal of big, strong male leads isn't "OH HE CAN RESCUE ME", or rather, it isn't only that the male can rescue the female. The appeal is the boundery thing. It's knowing that I do not have to be the biggest, strongest, bestest thing on the block. I can hand it off to the cops, or prince charming, or Superman, and I can relax once in a while. Whether or not this is a good thing in a story is immateral; I'm not discussing gender politics and I don't intend to. I'm talking about why the idea of being friends and/or lovers is appealing, and it is, quite simply, that the bounderies we have will be both respected and enforced by them because they love us, and that for once, we do not have to police our own borders, so to speak.
Of course, in a healthy relationship one of those bounderies would be "I police my own fucking borders, thank you very much." It's not the actual surrender that is appealing, and it sure as fuck isn't healthy to drop your bounderies at the first sight of a good set of biceps. The appeal, however, is in knowing that we could if we wanted to. People who like the big, bad strong guys like the idea that we're not just safe, we're safe with another person, and even if we fuck up and get hit on a day when we're not the strong uber-alpha wolf, that safety isn't going to go away because we have this guy in our corner.
Of course, if you don't understand this dynamic, you wind up writing Twilight.
Which brings us back to why Anita and Jean Claude are utter fucking failures as characters: They have no bounderies. At all. And they respect none. They consider someone with bounderies (IE Richard, Asher, the prude-of-the-book) to be someone beneath them, shackled to an arbitrary moral code, rather than an individual protecting their own individuality. They have no limits, and they are constantly testing other people's limits, and that is not a good thing. Superman testing your limits usually results in broken bones.
And they do not and cannot make any other person safe.
The purpose of a leader is not to sit on top of the heap and bask in adoration. The purpose of a leader is to protect and enforce the healthy physical and social bounderies of the individuals under their supervision. A leader ought to understand the job well enough to know, they damn well don't want the job. Both Anita and Jean Claude have gone for the leadership position with both hands, and are now occupying it without the first fucking clue what to do with it, and everybody else knows it.
This whole thing with Belle and Musette is a limit testing party. Who has control here? What can we get away with? Belle moved into JC's territory and made demands. She threatened his people, she's threating his girlfriend, and he's done the absolute worst thing he could possibly do: he's folded like a pack of cards. Now we're going to read about Anita smashing things to try to fix damage, 45 chapters too late to actually fix anything. The rules should have been enforced the first time Musette asked for a person to break, and were not. So now the rules effectively do not exist for her and JC's so-called "leadership" is just a thing on paper.
So Anita moves in to rescue her people from Musette, and her way is barred by a black vampire. I'm just going to leave the description here and move on:
He was also one of the few Black vampires I’d ever seen. Some people theorized that the same genetics that made many people of African descent immune to malaria also made them less likely to become vampires. He stood there looking at me, with his dark skin still somehow strangely pale, like chocolate ivory. His eyes were golden yellow, and the moment I looked into them, the words not human came to mind.Yep. Oh, but that's not the worst part. The worst part should have gotten this book published with a big, fat TRIGGER WARNING on the cover.
Anita rescues Stephen and Gregory, who are the people freaking out, by telling Valentina and Bartolome about the abuse that happened in their past. Their own dad abused them both and pimped them out. She announces this to the entire room of strange, crazy vampires. Because that's going to make a crazy-as-fuck vampire back off. Letting them know potential victims have buttons the size of Texas they can push. And it works, the child-vampires back off their victims because I don't even. I really don't. I am losing my ability to even.
And now JC grows a spine. He tells the room that he warned Musette about the abuse, and that Musette elected not to tell the child-vamps about it because she knew they wouldn't want to retraumatize the two men, and I'm wondering what on the blue bloodied earth could have made Laurel K. Hamilton think this was an okay plot event. Seriously.
So Musette declares that rats are her animal to call, and none of the were-rats can put her in house arrest. Anita orders the other shape-shifters to put her in her room, and she orders the were-rats to kill them. They don't. So Musette orders two vampires who turn out to be the servants of the MOAD to protect her, and this results in a who-is-bigger arguement.
*looks back* yes, the child-abuse subplot is still there.
Anybody who's read any of my books should know I do not object to writing about abuse. Of my primary cast I think...two people, maybe, don't have abuse or violence in their history, (Tim Anderson and Adrienne Parker, as long as you discount the whole works-triage thing) and they're not exactly destined for a happy ride. In short, I don't find a character with rape in their backstory offensive. It happens in real life. Not writing about abuse isn't going to make abuse magically disappear. Keeping fictional women from being raped isn't going to keep real women from being traumatized. BUT, and here's the thing, it only has value in the aftermath. In getting over it. In recovery. In standing up and saying "That happened, here are the scars, I still have these issues, but you're not getting anything else from me." Abuse doesn't make a character strong. Getting over abuse makes that character strong. Getting over abuse, and trauma, and difficulty, is what makes a person strong. I find abuse and violence to be hideous, awful and monsterous, but I find the growth of the human spirit after an event like that to be the most glorious thing I've ever seen. I wish we didn't live in a world where survival and recovery had to be part of our daily vocabulary, but we do. Rape and violence exist. Erasing that in fiction won't fix it; the only counter I can think of is to show the beauty that defeats it.
Or to quote a dead white man, Fairy Tales don't teach children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy Tales teach children that dragons can be killed.
Replace "Dragon" with "rape". You'll see what I mean. The status of victimhood is a transitory state, and when it's over, it's over. It does not consume you. You are allowed to get up and walk away. But sometimes hearing that isn't enough. We have to be shown. And stuff that won't penetrate in a heart-to-heart talk might maybe, please God, hopefully, get through in the theater of a story.
I know it worked for me.
This bullshit? It's rape as a plot bunny. And now that we've gotten Musette into a corner, we're forgetting about the two traumatized men and, in the process, telling abuse victims that they are and always will be victims.
So Anita shoots one of the servants of the Mother of all Darkness in the head, just to prove that she can. Because this story is all about how bad-ass Anita is, and not about actual leadership or growth or recovery or anything like that. Anita reflects on how she just complicated everything for everyone (no shit, sunshine) and Belle Morte possesses Musette because I don't even care anymore.
This chapter was horrible, awful, dreadful, disgusting, and I think when I'm done with this book I'm buying a brand new print copy and using it to decoupage a toilet.
This chapter goes on the seat.