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Jealous Haters Book Club: Crave chapter ten, “Turns Out the Devil Wears Gucci”

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Due to lowered brain power, I posted this before I finished writing/posting chapter nine. Hang in there. I’ll do chapter nine next and we can all forget this ever happened.

We did it. We made it through nine whole chapters before we hit the one where my pink-ish flags turned bright, bright red. And then turned into klaxons. And a Dr Pepper commercial.

We’re still at the party with Grace and she’s just felt someone put their hands on her shoulders. She really doesn’t want it to be sleazy James.

Do I really need some jerk trying to make me his afternoon snack as well?

If she doesn’t find out she’s at Monster High real, real soon, I’m going to get super tired of these “hints.” At least when this happened on Hannibal, the audience was already in on the gag.

But the guy who put his hands on her is Flint and he asks if she wants a piggyback ride because that’s their inside joke. He also asks if she’s having a good time.

“Absolutely.” I hold up my Dr Pepper. “Doesn’t it look like I’m having a good time?”

I mean… it’s starting to look like you’re in a commercial. I noticed that in the previous chapter, Dr Pepper was mentioned four times. That might not seem like much, but brand names stick out. I’m fine with brand names, but then I read this chapter and it happened again. Dr Pepper is name-dropped eight times total in this book, but all of them are in those same short chapters. Was there some kind of promotional consideration involved in the production of this book? It just sticks out way too much.

Flint tells Grace that he noticed James couldn’t take a hint and his instincts were correct because as soon as Grace and Flint are acting friendly toward each other, James leaves.

So does Grace’s characterization.

And that’s when I realize that half the room is still staring at me—while the other half is very deliberately not staring at me. Their disregard would be a relief if I didn’t know they were doing it to make sure I understand how insignificant I really am to them.

Grace’s attitude up until now has been that all she wants is to be left alone and not noticed. Now that people aren’t noticing her or at least pretending not to notice her, the very things she’s been desperate for, she’s sullen. Poor me, nobody thinks I’m important or special. It absolutely reeks of Feyre’s characterization in A Court of Thorns and Roses, which we’re recapping on the $5 tier over on Patreon.

Please, O Lord, hear my prayers: I cannot take a concurrent Feyre.

Flint asks if she wants something to eat.

Before I can answer, both of the room’s heavy wooden doors fly open. They slam against the wall with a bang that makes everyone in the room jump. And then turn to look.

On the plus side, that means no one is paying attention to me anymore. Because they’re all looking at him. At Jaxon. And really, who could blame them when he walks in like he owns the place—and everybody in it.

Less than a hundred words ago she was complaining that people felt she was insignificant and now she’s like, thank god they’re not looking at me, the insignificant…center…of…attention.

Now, come on. Come the fuck on. Grace, this contradictory nonsense is not you. But for some reason, cheesy, cringe-worthy grand entrances are Jaxon’s thing. So is dressing all in black. Sorry, “Gucci black,” as Grace notes:

Dressed all in Gucci black—[…]

This is one of those little details that really dings characterization. So far, we’ve heard that Grace isn’t super fashion-forward. She had to borrow this dress for the party because dressing up isn’t her thing. Clothing and makeup don’t seem to be a huge interest for her.

So, how can she recognize that he’s wearing Gucci? Unless you’re buying one of their pieces that’s designed to show off the logo, the logo is fairly inconspicuous. It’s not like Versace, where everything about every piece is super branded. And Grace describes him as wearing all black, with the exception of his pinstripe pants which, again, wouldn’t necessarily be instantly recognizable as Gucci unless someone is familiar with their particular patterns.

What I’m pretty sure happened here was that this author has written enough billionaire romance that “Gucci” crept in as a shorthand for expensive and elegant, which works fine in contemporary romance but doesn’t make sense when you’re talking about a girl who has professed disinterest in fashion previously. But let me tell you, I understand this struggle. Oh, do I bone-deep understand it.

It’s little stuff like this that makes the book feel so damn uneven and bolsters my suspicion that this was a group effort between the writer and an editor who, frankly, isn’t super concerned with any details that aren’t about “how will this sell?” and “how will this look when I finally get my dream and see one of our books become a movie?”

Grace notes that Jaxon’s gaze is “as cold as the snow-covered ground outside,” and that as a result, he shouldn’t be sexy, but she can’t help but find him so. Even when, you know:

On the negative side, all that coldness—all that darkness—is focused directly on me. And Flint, whose arm has somehow found its way around my shoulders.

I hate the way this is phrased. It sounds like Flint has done something sneaky by throwing his arm around her shoulders. Before the brooding hot white boy walked in, Flint was able to touch her and it seemed chivalrous to her; now, he’s “somehow” putting his arm around her.

This, of course, gives Jaxon a reason to be even more brooding because obviously he’s gonna be jealous and overprotective. Despite all the things I like about this book, the relationship dynamic just keeps feeling more and more 2008 young adult paranormal romance. Which is…not at all good.

There’s a moment of sustained eye contact between Jaxon and Grace and she thinks about how “captivating” and “mesmerizing” he is, something that, I’m sorry, I’m just not seeing in the text. He glowers and glooms and slams doors and backs girls over tables and walks into people like he doesn’t even see them. He’s a spoiled brat. And then:

And that’s before he starts to move, all languid grace, all rolling shoulders and leading hips and legs that go on for freaking ever.

Is this…I’m sorry, are legs for days a thing straight women are into on a dude? I don’t think about a dude’s legs at all.

Next to me, Flint chuckles a little, and I want to ask him what’s so funny when I notice Jaxon heading straight toward us, with an icy blankness in his eyes that makes a shiver run straight through me.

See what I mean about circa-2010 YA bullshit? Why is the love interest suddenly being described like he’s Dexter or something? And in a romance, it’s not hot to be afraid. It’s hot to be intimidated when you know there’s no real danger. It’s not sexy to see someone who looks cruel and detached and who makes you afraid, not if they’re a love interest in a paranormal romance novel. Erotica, have at it. Horror/Thriller/Suspense? That’s your business. Romance? It’s gross. And this YA paranormal romance. This is a fantasy being sold to an age group already vulnerable to abuse and coercive control.

Grace can’t calm herself down.

Not when all I can see is how he looked last night, sucking my blood off his thumb.

Not when all I can hear is his voice–low, wicked, wild–warning me to lock my door.

Not when all I can think about is kissing that mouth, running my tongue along the perfect bow of his upper lip, dragging his lower lip between my teeth and biting down just a little bit.

Again, a little bit uncomfortable with the whole “it was so horny when he threatened me” but the blood I’ll let slide because blood-as-sex is a convention of the vampire mythos that goes back a long, long way.

Anyway, Grace is super horny and thinking all kinds of sex thoughts about Jaxon that make her blush, and Jaxon is watching her and she’s like, oh no, it’s like he’s reading my thoughts. And then we go to commercial.

But the idea terrifies me enough that I jerk my gaze from his and lift my Dr Pepper to my mouth, trying hard to look unconcerned.

All of which leads to the carbonated drink going straight down the wrong pipe.

She’s choking and Flint tries to help by smacking her on the back, and she’s like, you know, I’d rather just slink off and die of embarrassment somewhere else.

I start to move–I think I saw a bathroom marked in the hallway a couple of doors down–but I’ve taken only a few steps when Jaxon’s suddenly right next to me. He doesn’t acknowledge me, doesn’t even look at me as he passes, but just like at the top of the stairs yesterday, our shoulders brush as he walks by.

Is it a dick move to shoulder a choking person out of your way? Sure. Except…

My choking fit disappears as quickly as it started. Fresh air floods my lungs.

This is so clever. Think back to the last time Jaxon shouldered her out of the way. It was when she was suffering from altitude sickness and Flint had to basically drag her up the stairs. Jaxon’s shoulder touches hers and suddenly, she was able to have a whole conversation and everything with Macy. She wasn’t as run-down as she had been trying to go up the stairs. This is so clever. Jaxon is healing her without her even knowing it and it was set up way, way back at the beginning of the story.

I should not be this impressed, I should not be marveling at an author being able to weave things through a story in a clever way but, again, we’re reading A Court of Thorns and Roses over on Patreon. That is a book where clever foreshadowing never happens.

Grace actually does think, weird, it’s like him bumping into me stopped me from choking, but then she’s like, nah.

Know that doesn’t keep me from turning around watching him walk away, even though it’s the worst thing I can do–for my sanity and my reputation–if the snark and giggles behind me are any indication.

He doesn’t look back.

Ah, the undeniable sexiness of a dude who publicly humiliates you. And in front of your new school, even.

The cringe that follows is…inexcusable. Like, the cringe of it all.

Jaxon goes to the food table and picks up a strawberry.

I expect him to pop it in his mouth then and there, but he doesn’t. Instead, he walks to the center of the room—and the huge red velvet wingback chair positioned under the chandelier like a throne, with several other chairs in a half circle in front of it. Once there, he slouches down into the chair, legs spread out in front of him as he says something to the five guys—all dark, all gorgeous, all stunning—sitting in the other chairs. It’s the first time I realize there’s anyone in those chairs. By now, nearly everyone in the room is watching Jaxon, trying to catch his eye. But he ignores them all, deliberately studying the strawberry he is pinching between his thumb and index finger.

What in the True Blood… Like, there’s a whole red velvet throne deal going on, arranged specifically for Jaxon so that he can be in the center of the whole room?

Eventually he lifts his gaze and looks straight at me. Then he raises the strawberry to his lips—and bites it clean in half. It’s a warning if I’ve ever seen one—and a violent one at that—as a drop of red juice hangs for a second on his bottom lip.

Really sit down and imagine this. Like, see the scene in your mind, like a movie. Imagine what it would look like if someone did this right in front of you. Just walked into a room like they were hot shit, picked up a strawberry, then dramatically sat down in a red velvet throne and dramatically bit the strawberry while making sustained eye contact. You would lose it. Totally lose it. Just hysterical, what-the-fuck-is-happening laughter. And the fact that this school function was specifically arranged so Jaxon is right in the center of the room, like this was a planned entrance and every day is Jaxon’s MTV’s My Super Sweet Sixteen episode…

But let’s talk about the VIOLENT WARNING Grace has interpreted. VIOLENT was the word chosen. For the sexy male lead. VIOLENT.

I’m out of red flags, I’m going to have to start using biohazard bags like airport runway windsocks.

Grace is mortified by the whole thing–though not for the same reasons I was as a reader–and leaves the party altogether.

Yeah, that’ll get the focus off you.

Because one thing is certain–that little show was meant to underscore just how insignificant I really am to every single person in that room. I just wish I knew why…

Me, too. But nobody bothered to interrogate why Grace feels insignificant in a room full of people who are totally focused on her.

Look, this chapter was a dud. A total fucking dud. But I haven’t lost hope entirely.

And if my hope is soon to be shattered, please, I ask only this: don’t tell me yet.

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9 Comments

  1. gumbiecat
    gumbiecat

    “And that’s when I realize that half the room is still staring at me—while the other half is very deliberately not staring at me. Their disregard would be a relief if I didn’t know they were doing it to make sure I understand how insignificant I really am to them.”

    I actually read this a bit differently. It doesn’t seem to me like Grace *wants* them to pay attention to her—it’s that she knows everyone is paying attention to her, or at least is aware of her presence, whether or not they’re looking at her and she wants them to stop.

    January 18, 2022
    |Reply
    • Jules
      Jules

      I saw it same as you. Even when they aren’t looking at her, Grace still feels like they are, like, they might not be looking in her direction, but they are super aware she is there and probably talking about her behind her back. Those who are actively not looking at her are still paying attention to her in order to actively not look at her.

      I also think that, so far, the Jaxon is soooo hot/sexy thing is mostly playing into the vampiric mesmeric mythology. Since every single person seems to be drawn to him, and Grace herself is so conflicted about it, I would be over the moon if it does turn out that she has no say over being drawn to him because he’s using (maybe he can’t not use it, which would be why he’s tried to keep her away from him) his magic vampire charm. I’d also LOVE it if, in the end, she builds an immunity to that charm and doesn’t end up with him but I’m just kidding myself there.

      January 19, 2022
      |Reply
  2. Clara
    Clara

    My boyfriend was kind enough to demonstrate ‘rolling shoulders’ and ‘leading hips’ on his way back from the kitchen, and phew, it’s a powerful walk.

    I suppose I have this book to thank for that two minutes of laughter though.

    January 22, 2022
    |Reply
  3. Siona Larsen
    Siona Larsen

    I am not a straight woman, I am a bi ace woman-adjacent person so not sure if this answers your question: but yes, I’m into legs. Guys, gals, all sexy pals. Long legs especially. The problem is that most masculine clothing doesn’t typically accentuate this trait until you start getting into more expensive, tailored clothing – especially slacks. And even if masc people do get trousers that work the long leg look, pairing it with the wrong jacket can absolutely ruin it. Though this can also happen with femme clothing: the wrong fit jacket can throw off the look.

    Anyways, that’s my weird two cents

    January 26, 2022
    |Reply
  4. ‘Now that people aren’t noticing her or at least pretending not to notice her, the very things she’s been desperate for, she’s sullen.’

    OK, going to defend Grace on this point. There is a difference between ‘they’re ignoring me unthinkingly because they haven’t noticed I exist/don’t care’, and ‘they are *very pointedly* ignoring me to make it clear how far beneath their contempt I am’. I read this as Grace hoping for the former but hating the latter. I don’t think there’s any contraindication there.

    January 30, 2022
    |Reply
    • Al
      Al

      Yup, agreed!

      March 6, 2022
      |Reply
  5. Jane Doe
    Jane Doe

    So I just had a thought. Vampires are, usually, by nature, supposed to elicit these almost incontrollable feelings of lust from people (females) that encounter them. That is how they get their meals/potential love interests. But how would a story go that has a vampire where the vampire “pheromones” won’t work on the female because she is asexual or simply not interested? I’m a big vampire fan, but honestly hate the hypersexual trope. I would actually want to read a story where the vampire has to work to woo the girl because she’s not falling for the supernatural bs. Of course, the vampire has to also not be a total charmless sob, though.
    It feels like Grace could have been that character, until she became another run of the mill vampire story heroine :/

    February 3, 2022
    |Reply
    • Jules
      Jules

      It would have been cool to see Grace be immune to his natural vampiric charms. And it would lead to a great reason for him to be intrigued by her. And then for him to have to figure out how to romance a woman without his pheromonal powers of seduction.

      I would also settle for Grace eventually realizing that his vampire pheromones are the reason she finds him so irresistible and so she (either she ends up being a witch herself or goes to a witch friend) tries to find some way to break the hold he has over her because she doesn’t actually want to date a blood sucking monster who keeps pulling all his creepy stalker shit on her and would like a nice, normal dependable guy who doesn’t act like he knows what is best for her because she’s just a wee little lass who needs a man to make her choices for her.

      February 7, 2022
      |Reply
  6. Ilex
    Ilex

    I’m a straight woman and I notice men’s legs — mostly out of an appreciation for strong, shapely legs that are the result of a lot of weightlifting or other. The length isn’t something I really care about.

    The things I was wondering about in this chapter (before Jenny cracked me up by pointing out how ridiculous the whole red chair scene was), was, how could Grace see a single drop of strawberry juice on Jaxon’s lip? How far away is that chair? Why do people in books always seem to have telephoto lens eyeballs so they can see tiny details I’m sure I couldn’t?

    February 13, 2022
    |Reply

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