Content notes for mentions of sexual coercion (sort of) and domestic violence.
When we last left Rafael, Anita and co had emptied out the communal showers in the Circus – Jean Claude’s underground lair and the least hidden daytime resting place for a vampire in the history of the genre. For this block of chapters? We’re still at the damn showers.
We’re introduced to Pierette, one of the shifters who is apparently part of the Anita-oriented polycule, and who still drops down to her knees to bow when she sees Rafael and Anita. (And can Anita isn’t into this so I have no idea why she actually still does it despite Anita apparently constantly telling her to chill.)
Anyway, at the genuflecting we also get this block of description that ends in a sentence that makes me itch:
She raised her face up to look at me then, and without any makeup at all she was still pretty. Her eyes dominated her face even without eye makeup, but without eyeliner or shadow the brown of them seemed paler, lighter than mine or Rafael’s. Her face was a delicate triangle with her lips pale but still kissable without the red lipstick that she usually wore to match mine, but then I wasn’t wearing any right now either. I thought about leaning over and giving her a kiss, but I wanted to know why she was kneeling before I did anything. She was my lover and I liked having her in our poly group, but sometimes she puzzled me.
I kind of cackled at the last sentence because always, for me, the most puzzling person in a relationship in the Anitaverse is… Anita.
Anyway, this is all a huge pretense for Pierette to be like “I would like to sleep with Rafael and I know that requires your permission Anita”.
Which then sets off Anita revisiting the conversation she and Claudia had in the first chapter about why Rafael wasn’t dating women and bringing up wanting Rafael to expand his dating interests to others in the polycule and beyond it.
Like what stands out to me is that no one communicates in this series. There’s no moment where Anita preemptively heads off a conflict by communicating first. It’s always that someone else (in this case, the too-cute Pierette) spills the beans before Anita can and so she then gets to pretend that she was gonna communicate in the first place.
“No, no, that’s not what I meant. Fine, I talked to my poly group about the fact that you were only having sex with me and I couldn’t give you more time because I’m already sort of overcommitted relationship-wise, so I asked the group if they’d be okay with you maybe sleeping with any women in our group that were interested in you that way.”
He looked even more puzzled. “Have I done or said anything to make you think that I need more sex from you?”
“No, but . . . I would need more sex. I would want more, so I was going to talk to you about it, but I wanted to make sure that some of the women in the poly group were okay with it first.”
Pierette dropped back to her knees. “My queen, I am so sorry, you have not spoken with him yet.”
“Nope,” I said.
And then –
[Rafael] frowned, I think at the title, but he didn’t correct her, or maybe he, like me, wasn’t sure if it needed correcting, or if it was accurate. “Anita, are you saying that if I said yes, this would be happening now?”
“You mean the three of us sharing the shower and maybe more?” I asked.
“Yes, that is what I mean.”
I sort of shrugged. “Like I said, I was going to talk to you about it.”
“So that’s a yes,” he said.
I nodded. “Yes, I hadn’t planned on it happening this soon, but yes.”
But communication is not Anita’s strong suit and beyond that, this just gets to that weird point where even though the Anitaverse is a queer(ish) woman writing a queer(ish) female character’s POV, it’s all really full of male gazey moments.
Like in Jason, the first on-screen, full contact sex scene involving queer women is entirely written for the male gaze and with a mindset that rejects queer women being sexy for themselves. (Jade is literally uncomfortable and upset the entire orgy – in part because there were two men there that she wasn’t comfortable with and Anita ignored her feelings at every point.)
So Anita is like “yeah if only I’d communicated, we’d be hip deep in a male/female/female threesome right now” to Rafael who is then like “nah bruh, this is a trap” and proceeds to talk about how every single time he’s had a m/f/f threesome, it’s ended in some kind of harm or just the end of a relationship.
At one point, his girlfriend is like “hey, let’s have a threesome” and then accuses him of being willing to cheat when he shows interest, or the morning after it’s his fault for pulling two women at once, or he broke up two bisexual women’s relationship once – something that ended up with him being stabbed with a steak knife by one of the women who apparently still thinks she loves him.
Which gets us an almost self-aware moment in the series with Anita acknowledging that domestic violence doesn’t always happen to women:
“Abusers are always sorry afterward, but it’s still not love,” I said.
He studied my face. “You consider what she did the same as a man hitting a woman?”
“If you stab someone because you’re jealous of them, that’s crazy and abusive no matter what sex you are—it’s not okay for a man to do it, or a woman to do it, or anyone to do that to another human being because they’re jealous of them.”
“Very practical,” he said.
So it’s nice to see Anita not take the worst route in this conversation even though… she’s terrible.
Rafael then compliments her like “you do sex like you’re the crazy girlfriend, but you do relationships as logically and as pragmatically as any woman I’ve ever met.”
Which isn’t true but also, again, when a man writes off all of his exes as “crazy” the first thing on your mind should be “what did you do to that poor woman” because there is always something.
Hamilton, in writing Rafael being like “yeah I only fuck crazy women actually” and framing the Stabbed By A Steak Knife Post-Threesome story the way he did, is only providing one side of the story. We know Rafael isn’t going to tell Anita how/if he actually fucked up – though nothing short of violence should be met with violence in turn so the stabbing is uncalled for – but to have Anita not push at all is just… a bit much.
The whole scenario is incredibly obnoxious.
Chapter four ends with the lead-in to the sex so like… I was excited to deal with them finally getting into the damn shower, but then Anita’s poor timing shows up and then they don’t… have the sex in the shower?
In chapter five they just have a sad ass conversation about how Rafael is preparing for death and how upsetting that is for Anita – who by the way then threatens him like “Don’t make me force you to let me go” instead of “I believe in you and will help you cheat in the fight, Rafael”.
The only truly interesting thing about chapter five for me is that we learn a smidge more about the upstart Hector. Rafael is all like “come to the fight, watch Hector. If I lose, you’re going to have to seduce him”. BUT THEN he’s like “also Hector is homophobic and that homophobia [a literal fear of sleeping with Master of Saint Louis Jean-Claude] is part of why this is happening”.
And remember the “we’re not human, nudity doesn’t affect us the same way” bit from chapter three with Claudia?
If that were true, then homophobia shouldn’t be a thing they did either. Because animals aren’t homophobic.
So if shapeshifters in the Anitaverse are so animalistic that nudity does nothing to them and they don’t/shouldn’t see naked people as a buffet being offered up to them, then they also shouldn’t give a shit about queerness beyond “oh sounds like fun, have a good time”.
One of the things across urban fantasy series like the Anitaverse is that authors clearly choose what societal conventions to adhere to and what bigotries to reinforce. This is true of any author, mind you, but with urban fantasy and contemporary paranormal romance, there’s this explicit choice by authors to codify bigotries and systems of oppression in beings who should not have time for that shit. Beyond the “fantasy racism” element, rat shifters and their ilk shouldn’t have time to be homophobes. They shouldn’t be racist to humans of color – there have been racist shifters in the Anitaverse before.
Why is Hector a homophobe?
Why is sleeping with Jean-Claude a must for his animal to call?
Anyway, the chapter ends on a sad but hornt note as Rafael and Anita get out of the shower sans-sex and prepare for one last fuck before the fighting, with Anita noting that:
Honestly with the memory of him tortured dancing in my head, sex was the furthest thing from my mind. If he’d been an ordinary lover, I’d have just said, Let’s skip it today, but he was going to be fighting for his life later tonight. If I’d been in love with him, I’d have wanted sex just in case it was the last time, but that wasn’t what made me suggest the bedroom. If it was the last time I could feed on him, the last time I could share the energy of a country’s worth of wererats with Jean-Claude and all our people, then I needed to take it, but that wasn’t the only reason. If Rafael died tonight, I’d regret saying no. We’d been friends years longer than we’d been friends with benefits, but friendship is a type of love and I would miss him.
She’s got two reasons for fucking Rafael (hopefully) in the next chapter. First, she wants to feed from him and harvest as much as she can from his people before that access to power is potentially cut off from him (with his impending death at Hector’s hands). Second, she is like “ah yes, friendship is a form of love and I’ll miss him”.
And I mean –
Her priorities are very bad and it remains disturbing how Anita talks/thinks about Rafael.
Next time… maybe a sex scene? This book is so bad that I’m here hoping for one to break up the monotony of long-winded conversations about preternatural politics and shit. Wow. I didn’t expect that. You know… because Hamilton writes atrocious sex scenes.