Tremontaine: The Duchess Gambit

Tremontaine Season Two

Trick question: the correct answer is almost certainly to ask what Diane would do. But neither Kaab nor Rafe are thinking clearly this week.

Oh dear. The world came crashing down about Kaab’s ears last week, and we find her in her cups in a tavern, waxing lyrical – well trying to – about the beauty of every passing barmaid, and trying to tell Vincent how good a friend he is. Well, it’s one way of dealing with things. 

Kaab is lucky to have friends like Vincent and Rafe – not that either of them do the sensible thing and stop her drinking. Men, eh? Of course, Rafe has been struggling with his own problems recently, so he’s pretty eager to get stuck in himself. There’s a certain innocent joy in leaving them to get absolutely hammered in a tavern, even if I know it can’t end anywhere but in pain.

My reading notes said: 

Oh Kaab, getting drunk won’t solve your problems.

Oh Rafe, getting drunk won’t solve your problems.

But this is Tremontaine, where there’s a surprise around every corner.

I thought last week had torn Kaab down to her foundations – Joel Derfner cheerfully returns to sift through the rubble and chuck it in the river. Drunk Kaab is not discreet. Drunk Rafe has had more practice, and is surprisingly good at latching onto crucial details. It turns out getting drunk with Kaab will solve his problems – or at least give him the clue he’s been seeking. 

There’s nothing like accidentally telling your best friend you know his boyfriend’s been poisoned to sober you up fast. 

Or maybe it’s losing your best friend that sobers you up. While Kaab can easily handle the physical onslaught of an enraged academic, she’s can do nothing to assuage his moral assaults. She has, after all, stood by and permitted the poisoning – and it’s been going on for months. She sticks to her self-righteous guns – she really does believe she was doing the right thing by her people; the good of the many over the good of one Xanamwiinik Duke given to making poor decisions – but she will never be able to convince Rafe of this. 

Intriguingly, she refuses to confirm that Diane is behind it; Rafe’s immediate (and of course accurate) assumption. Half-sober, Kaab is back to trying to protect her family. But it’s too late. The secrets she told Tess are nothing next to what she’s just accidentally told Rafe. He’s not feeling forgiving. If he gets his way, he will free his Will, get him healthy, and have him lobby to cancel the Kinwiinik trading concessions.

She can help him and try to soften him up, or she can strike against him to stop him freeing his lover. But short of killing him, I’m not sure she can manage the damage on this one. Rafe has nothing to lose; arguably, right now, neither does Kaab – but I’m don’t think she’s accepted that yet. 

In the meantime, it’s Arthur who finally tells Rafe where William is. Poor Arthur. He’s betrayed Diane and put Rafe beyond his reach in a single move – and he doesn’t even know it.

It’s a bad week for the Kinwiinik.

But is it a bad week for Diane? I’m so entirely unsurprised that she enjoys a game of shesh (but of course she does) – and I was amused to see her take a less than direct route to get what she wanted for once. Blackmailing a woman who has made herself hostage to her own pride is no more than Melinda deserves, although still all a little too easy in the end. Which is why I was dancing around the room with delight when Gregory Davenant turned the tables on her. Finally, an opponent who isn’t a push over! 

I don’t particularly like the Dragon Chancellor and Diane has certainly gone right off him, but I’m all Team Gregory now, just because – sorry, Duchess my Duchess – I would love to see someone take the fight to her. I adore Diane, but it’s not good for her to get all her own way all the time. Although I do wonder whether the Dragon Chancellor would be wise to stop drinking chocolate.

But let’s finish with Vincent. What the hell, Vincent? Seriously. WHAT HAPPENED IN CHARTIL?

We’ve never seen Vincent lose control before, and now it’s happened it’s not pretty (although I can’t say I feel sorry for the despicable Filisand). It’s hardly surprising that it’s all Reza’s fault, but it leaves me wondering: is it? Vincent’s behaviour suggests something terribly dramatic happened in Chartil and Reza broke his heart – but Reza doesn’t behave like he thinks he did anything wrong. So is he another self absorbed noble lover who is indifferent to the hurts he dishes out… or was – whatever it was – not really his fault? 

I find myself wondering for the first time whether it was Vincent who made a mistake – and whether his pique is a case of pride and hurt feelings because Reza argued with him, or refused to defend him and he had to flee the country?

Yes, we’ve got to that stage of a mystery where I can’t help but start sketching in possibilities to amuse myself. Put me out of my misery, TremonTEAM!

Tremontaine is available from Serial Box Publishing in ebook and audio format each week.