Stitch Reads Rafael (Anita Blake #28)- Chapters 6 & 7

Anita Blake needs a relationship therapist.

She also needs a real therapist.

I mean this in the nicest way possible (which is still a bit mean, I know), but Anita really does need to do some heavy work to unpack her issues without unloading them onto other people. Across the series, Anita has increasingly used the language of therapy to get around certain issues with their relationships. There are all of these moments where the different characters make a point of going “we’re in therapy now” or “so and so is trying to work out their issues in therapy”.

But then it’s like… never effective?

Asher has been in therapy for half of his appearances and yet, he’s still really not able to handle the fact that he’s not Jean Claude and Anita’s main man or that Micah isn’t interested in him or that he still has extensive scarring from being tortured like 300 years ago.

Anita is in therapy for every single thing under the sun and yet chapter six still opens with her anxieties over relationships and stress over her not having the love she thought she’d have… all over holding Rafael’s hand and walking with him in-step.

Again, I found it jarring that I could be this physically comfortable with a lover and not be in love with them. It hurt that tiny wistful part of me that had believed most sincerely in that white-dress, one-great-love-of-your-life ideal. I’d accepted that I had more than one love of my life, but apparently part of me was still holding on to the thought that some things only came when you were in all-caps LOVE. Another illusion shattered.

We’re almost thirty years into the Anita Blake series. In-series, about 6-8 years have passed, I think. I’m not sure and I know that Laurell K Hamilton isn’t that sure either – and she wrote the dang series.

That being said, by now, with about a dozen close lovers and dozens of orbiting adoring lovers across the series, you’d think Anita would internalize that she is polyamorous and she’d start to be proud of it. You know, beyond how she uses her polyamorous relationships to be like “I am more progressive than YOU” to everyone she comes across.

Chapter six introduces Micah and Nathaniel, my least favorite of Anita’s sweeties.

In the beginning, I loved Nathaniel. I was a weeb and Hamilton… also a weeb (obvious if you’ve read how she describes characters like Nicky and his neon yellow Sephiroth sweep of hair) wrote Nathaniel as a tortured bishonen that Anita had to save from himself and from bigger predators.

He was catnip to me.

Unfortunately, there came a point where his characterization started to suffer and he became the kind of monster that Anita would’ve had to try and save him from just 15 years ago. He makes me incredibly uncomfortable to engage with now because he is actually a bad person who harms and abuses others in his pursuit of adoration.

Also, I need to bring up that Micah is very short. He’s 5 foot 3 inches tall. I love a short kang but Micah is teeny tiny and often described while half-naked where Anita makes a point of reminding us how gigantic his junk is. (Homeboy is a whole ass human tripod according to Anita at one point and that is just as concerning as whatever is going on with Anita being that short and having the stacked and muscular figure she supposedly has!)

Anyway, Anita is immediately like “oh no is ogling my main sweeties a polyamory faux pas” because she goes fully “head empty, loins quivering” when she sees them because she’s that in love and they’re that hot to her and Rafael is like “no it’s fine, I don’t get it but go for it”.

Rafael squeezed my hand, which made me look at him. I had a second of wondering if I’d dropped a polyamorous ball by ogling my men this way, but he smiled. “Go to them. It does my heart good to see all of you so happy together, gives me hope that I’ll find my own crazy happy someday.”

Again, this is not how Rafael talked before like… five or ten books ago. So… that’s weird.

Hamilton proceeds to basically waste a couple hundred words on describing Nathaniel and Micah’s too-beautiful faces including one bit about his eyes changing that does not make sense:

From a distance Nathaniel’s eyes looked deep violet blue, but up close you realized they were just violet. He had to put blue on his driver’s license because purple wasn’t a choice. His normal color was a paler lavender; the eye color alone let me know his mood was up.

Is that… how eyes work?

(No seriously, I do not know.)

Also can we talk about this:

I loved being in the middle of the two of them for sex, but as their own wedding approached, our mostly heterosexual Micah was trying to work on issues he was having with two men and no girl in sight.

I have nothing wrong with applying the split model of attraction to Micah.

If he was biromantic and heterosexual, that’d be fine. He could get married to Nathaniel with no worries because the love would definitely be there. Hamilton’s need for Nathaniel and Anita to have their cake and fuck it too, pisses me off because while I don’t even like Micah either, he deserves better than basically being coerced to changing his sexuality for Nathaniel.

Nathaniel had taken the new power level between the three of us in stride a lot more than I had, or even Damian had.


Chapter seven, as a whole is very boring. Aside from the obligatory rehashing of supernatural connections and a dig at Richard – who Hamilton refuses to rewrite in the way she’s rewritten everyone else to bend to Anita’s will – nothing much happens, I feel.

“I won’t peek on purpose, but to say anything else is too close to a lie. The truth is, I’m not sure. What’s happening between Nathaniel and Damian and me is different than how it feels to be with Jean-Claude and Richard, so I just don’t know.”

“Richard hates being a werewolf too much to be a full third in your triumvirate,” Nathaniel said.

No one argued, and Rafael had been Richard’s friend and ally before he was mine.

Rafael asked, “So you think that your comfort level with being a wereleopard is what makes the difference between the three of you?”

“Yeah, I know now that Richard’s conflicts cripple the power that Jean-Claude could have from their triumvirate, well, that and . . .” Nathaniel stopped in midsentence.

Oh wait we also almost got some self awareness on Nathaniel’s end!

Surprisingly, it was Claudia who answered, “Nathaniel’s not conflicted about what he is and what he wants.”

We all looked at her. “I didn’t know you were paying that much attention to what I wanted,” Nathaniel said.

She looked uncomfortable, but said, “You almost picked a fight with Bobby Lee when you came into the power of your triumvirate. He told the other bodyguards so we wouldn’t underestimate you.”

Nathaniel looked embarrassed, which you didn’t see often. “I didn’t understand that power could be like drugs. It was like being high and I’m not good when I’m high, which is one of the reasons I got clean and stayed clean.”

“The powerless are sometimes only good because they are not strong enough to be evil,” Rafael said.

Nathaniel gave him startled eyes and then looked away and nodded. “The temptation was there, but Damian and Anita deserved better than me acting like an asshole.”

But of course, we couldn’t have real self awareness because then no one will even want to thirst after Nathaniel internally because he is awful. If you suffered through the start of Crimson Death, you’ll know that actually Nathaniel is an asshole who doesn’t respect people’s boundaries or traumas… even when he loves them.

Then there’s another Richard dig:

“Richard has thrown away more power than most of us in the supernatural community are ever offered,” Rafael said.

Richard has pretty solid morals. I think we’re supposed to hate him for that? But he doesn’t want to kill willy nilly, he doesn’t want to have sex with people he’s not actually attracted to for power, and he is not actually polyamorous and trying to make him be such is why his relationships keep failing.

Holy Homophobia, Batman!

“Nestor is arrogant and truly homophobic. He hates and fears Jean-Claude just from seeing him in interviews and pictures online,” Micah said.

“Sounds like a case of the lady protesting too much,” I said.

“What do you mean?” Benito asked.

“That maybe he hates Jean-Claude, because he’s attracted to him.”

“Oh Jesus, do not say that where Nestor can hear you,” Benito said, and he actually went a little pale.

Claudia was grinning. “I think Anita’s right.”

Benito turned to her. “Nestor can’t fight Anita, but you, he could challenge you for his honor. Por favor, Claudia, do not tempt fate; the only thing Nestor hates more than pretty gay men is any woman who can fight.”

“Oh, definitely closet gay,” I said.

“Maybe even from himself,” Nathaniel said. I looked at him, expecting to see him teasing with the rest of us, but his face was all serious. I might have asked why, but Rafael spoke up.

Like this is clearly homophobic (“this homophobe must be secretly gay and in love with Jean Claude”) like it pings the points I pointed out about the Joker in canon where he’s self-loathing but also super misogynistic? But then it’s also written poorly like…

“Oh, definitely closet gay,” I said.

“Maybe even from himself,” Nathaniel said. I looked at him, expecting to see him teasing with the rest of us, but his face was all serious. I might have asked why, but Rafael spoke up.

That’s not well written. Like if Nathaniel is trying to say that Nestor might be dealing with internalized homophobia to the point where he doesn’t even realize he’s into men… there are far better ways to say it. I know I scrapped the piece on how homophobic this series is, but I’m honestly considering cracking open some wine and working through it. Because this is bad. Your 2021 book shouldn’t have the same homophobic “tee hee, this homophobe is actually secretly into dudes” as your 2000 book (Obsidian Butterfly, with Olaf).

Oh there is a twist at the end of the chapter, I forgot about it because you know… reading this book is hell and I am suffering, BUT at the end of the chapter we find out that Hector (the other challenger) might be Rafael’s son because Hector’s mom was one of Rafael’s “crazy exes”.

You know, because that’s not too convenient or anything…

When we return, I hope that someone asks the hard hitting questions of: “why is no one using birth control” and “how is it that Hector was carried to term since pregnant shifters must shift on the full moon andhuman birth parents will likely have babies with the oft-fatal Mowgli Syndrome”!


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