Tensions are high at the University: the Governors are on the verge of changing the rules and both Rafe and Micah are convinced their Doctors have their facts wrong. Diane could tell them that public confrontation is no way to endear yourself to influential men who control your future, but with Rafe eyeing up her husband, she won’t be doing anything of the sort…
If last week was politics and scene-setting for conflict, this week is all sexual tension and double entendres:
…Rafe, fortified by sausages, found himself more than equal to it
I might have been able to take this line at face value if the preceding scene hadn’t introduced Rafe hung-over as hell and indignant that his friend Joshua should expect him to know the name of the man he’d picked up at the docks last night. It seems that Rafe – in addition to being short-tempered and having an exceedingly high opinion of himself – is a rake to put any previous gentlemen of the City we’ve met to shame (yes, even Alec). No man gets to enjoy his favours twice, and he doesn’t do charity work – he’s the discerning type (at least for the physical specimen; he certainly doesn’t seem to have much respect for the minds of some of his former lovers).
It’s an absolute given that he’s going to end up bedding Tremontaine after last week, and the bold statements with which this week opens make it pretty damn clear that the Duke will drive Rafe to breaking all his vow of promiscuity.
I have a little sympathy for Joshua here. At the very least, Rafe is his friend and he cares about him on that level; but Joshua’s endearments suggest that he may care a good deal more about him than that. So here he stands, trying (and failing) to stop Rafe from ruining his academic prospects; dragging him out of bed to ensure he doesn’t lose his place at the University; and listening to him recount his conquests. This devoted friend knows Rafe a little too well:
You tend to ruin things for yourself
Except one thing: his friendship with Micah. I was surprised and touched this week that Rafe recognised in advance that what he was about to do would upset his young friend, and moderated his behaviour until she was safely away. Later, when Micah challenges Doctor Volney, Rafe instantly intervenes in the best possible way to help her manage her anxiety and get her back to a place where she can argue about the maths rather than rock back and forth. I mostly read Rafe with a sort of distant indulgence, but these two incidents made me rather better disposed towards him. He may not be the best human being, but he’s a good friend. I hope he doesn’t ruin this before the end of the series.
In the meantime, Rafe does appear to have ruined his academic hopes. He has led the student protests and (repeatedly) publicly mocked the only Doctor who still tolerates him. So it’s a bit of a problem that the Governors have quietly met – and passed – the articles removing students’ right to select their own examiner. Rafe’s dream of founding his own school is in tatters.
So this is definitely the right time to go home with William of Tremontaine for some steamy angry sex, yes? YES.
The Duke had spent the better part of two decades not noticing things about his Duchess after all, and, unbeknownst to him, it had served him well
However, from the fabulous scene at the Balam compound, we know Diane is far more observant than her husband, so I don’t think there’s any chance of her not noticing his infidelity. But will she care?
…and if she does, what will she do about it? I got some quality time with my favourite Duchess this week, between her negotiations of ‘friendship’ with Chuleb and her instant – and drastic – response to Ben’s attempt at blackmail. Don’t cross Diane.
This raises some interesting (and worrying) questions about the last of our little circle, Kaab. She has a healthy appreciation for Diane’s beauty and intellect. But she also has a big soft spot for Tess the Hand, which could lead to conflict with Diane if Tess sets her on a path of avenging poor Ben… While the details of Kaab’s disgrace remain indistinct, there’s a suggestion emerging that a pretty face was involved. She has some self-control – Cassie the barmaid got no joy of her flirting (sadly) – but this exercise in restraint appears to be the exception to the rule so far.
The web can only get more tangled. And I still don’t know what’s in the locket. I NEED TO KNOW ALL THE THINGS.