Book cover: Between Two ThornsIt’s our penultimate week in the Split Worlds. Sam is lured to meet the Sorcerer; Cathy must outwit Lord Poppy; and Will flits between competing impulses. As it becomes ever clearer how many secrets Aquae Sulis is keeping (what is going on with Lady Iris?), it’s safe to conclude one thing at least: never trust a Rosa.

1. Sam is our fish out of water – any sympathy for his predicament?

Oh dear. I normally love a fish out of water, but Sam sets my teeth on edge. I spent most of his scenes reflecting how very, very lucky I am in my relationship.

Yes, Leanne appears to be hard to live with, but I have very thin skin for any narrative that invites me to judge a woman for wanting a career, and for going the extra mile to secure it (no, I don’t think she’s sleeping with her boss). To be fair, I think Emma Newman gives her a chance to put her point across – but because we get Sam’s outraged perspective, it’s easy to miss that Sam is the douchebag here. It’s always about her letting him down, even when he forgets to bring a bottle of wine home for their special night (but she’s doing all the cooking, you notice). And being furious that she’s not home because he’s been worrying about her worrying about him (all that wasted effort when she isn’t actually mad at him because she doesn’t know)? I can’t even.

Sam’s only redeeming feature is that he wants to help Cathy (although: asking her out for a drink whilst in Exilium?).

All that said, I felt a bit sorry for him when he met Lord Poppy.

“Only one [memory],” Poppy confirmed. “Of my choice. He won’t miss it, I’m certain.”

…well no, of course he won’t. He won’t remember it. I may enjoy Lord Poppy too much.

 

2. Horatio Gallica-Rosa is claiming property to try to weasel his way into Aquae Sulis; and Alba-Rosas are trying to weasel their way into Will’s good graces to stop him. Given what we know about Lady Rose, do we believe in the inter-Rosa feud, or is this all part of a plan? (if so, what do you think it is?)

I may be getting lost in my own conspiracy theories, but I’m not convinced the Rosas are feuding at all. If I even half-squint, it looks like Horatio and Amelia are using different methods towards a similar end: disrupting Will’s engagement. Horatio goes for Cathy’s reputation; Amelia turns up the seduction – is she trying to sway Will to the Alba-Rosa’s side to disadvantage Horatio, or is this all about the Iris-Papaver alliance? We know it’s been mandated from the highest levels and is terribly important, but nobody has ever told us why.

Suddenly the rest looks like window dressing (I imagine inter-Rosa point scoring is all within the rules of engagement as long as they get the job done).

…I have no idea how this links to the murder of the Arbiters though. Or what Lady Rose actually wants. Was the Master of Ceremonies abducted / killed purely to get access to his property portfolio? Or is this part of the deeper plot? And what’s the deal with Uncle Vincent?

 

3. We get to see a lot more of Will this week. What do you make of him now we’ve got to know him better? Do you think Cathy should give him a chance?

I had to take myself in hand this week. I found myself sympathising with Will and judging Cathy for being such hard work. Yes, it’s a terrible situation, but there’s clearly no way out, so she might as well try and make the best of it. Will doesn’t seem so bad.

NO.

Yes, arranged marriages can work. Yes, they require work from both sides (so do unarranged marriages). But FORCED marriages are BAD and WRONG. RAGE, Cathy. FIGHT to the end.

That said, know your enemy. It’s not Will: he’s in the same boat. So don’t alienate him in the meantime; it’s possible to resist without punishing him for your situation. Sadly, Cathy isn’t an actress.

…as for Will himself, I remain on the fence. I’ve got my feet dangling down into camp of liking him more than I’m judging him, but he still makes me consider throwing buckets of water at him. Surreptitiously testing Cathy’s virtue. His reflection her lack of engagement in social circles (‘When they married – if they married – that would have to change’ – and just HOW do you plan to achieve that, Mr Iris?). Flirting with Amelia Alba-Rosa (never trust a Rosa).

On the other hand, he didn’t hesitate to leap to Cathy’s defence when he discovered what her father had done – regardless of future social and personal consequences – and he does appear to have more empathy than most (‘She was trying to keep him away with words’ – well spotted, Will). So, more potential than not, I think.

 

4. No sooner has Cathy survived Society – after a fashion – than she’s back in deep water with the Sorcerer and sent to Exilium. How well do you think she handled Lord Poppy?

I thought Cathy did as well as could be expected with Lord Poppy, although I did have a moment of wondering quite what Lord Poppy was going to do to Sam – and whether Cathy would intervene. Her sense of self-preservation is pretty high at this point, so poor old Sam was largely left to Lord Poppy’s licking (*shudder*) but he seems to have survived largely unscathed (although I suspect his marriage won’t).

I also thought Lord Poppy let her off lightly with his demand for compensation. However, I’ve read enough Fae stories that I expect the best painting of her generation to have some additional significance that makes it awkward for her to hand it over to him…

 

I, err, might have to zoom on and finish it now so I can KNOW ALL THE THINGS.

As an aside, I liked Cathy’s refusal to win support by ‘playing the victim card’. It shouldn’t be necessary. On the other hand, win allies by whatever means necessary when you need all the help you can get? The Sorcerer is pretty anti-Fae-bound – he’s not offering many options!

 

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