Armed with his wits, his passion and a newly-procured sword, Rafe prevails on Micah to take him to Highcombe in search of Duke William. The staff at Highcombe are intensely loyal to their Duke and Duchess – but Diane’s policy of splitting tasks and knowledge between different servants to preserve her secrets has created distrust. Can Rafe take advantage of the divisions to steal his Will away?
At the risk of being booed by my fellow TremonTEAM mates, I’m afraid this week’s episode may be my least favourite to date. It shouldn’t be: it’s high on dramatic tension and derring do, as Rafe strays far outside his comfort zone in his passionate quest to save his lover. Maybe my lingering cold made me unnecessarily hard to please.
I loved the scenes where Micah took Rafe home to meet her family on the way to Highcombe and his realisation – finally! – that she’s a girl. I loved Rafe’s moment of reflection, when he recognised how little attention he pays to even those he respects the most. I hope he lives long enough to take that lesson to heart.
I will admit to gasping and giggling through Micah’s confrontation with the highwayman, frustrated to realise he’s held up a coach full of books. Rafe’s big moment – stepping forward sword in hand – was full of bravado, and I admired him for attempting to protect his friend even as I was horrified at what might come of it. Micah’s intervention was equally unexpected – of all the conflict-averse cinnamon rolls I didn’t foresee getting handily involved in a fight, who would have thought she would save the day? (well… to be fair, if I were asked whether I thought she or Rafe were more likely to do something useful, I guess I’d say Micah every time).
Switching to Highcombe, I was intrigued by the rapidly-mounting distrust between steward Wickfield and the ambitious young swordsman Norris. Unfortunately, the rest of the household felt clichéd – the cook who dallies with the coachman; the foolish groom; the flirtatious housemaid – and by the time Wickfield addressed them all to propose fabricating a conspiracy to satisfy Norris’s need to discover one, it was starting to feel like a Carry On movie. Jasper rolling Rafe into a carpet and then hustling Vera the cook out of the way for a bit of hanky panky didn’t stop the comedy montage music playing in my head.
It was at odds with the tragedy of Will’s predicament. The scenes in which he lost his ring – and in which Rafe returned it to him and proved himself faithful – were heartbreaking. I don’t like these men, but I applaud their devotion to one another (and whatever his trespasses, Will certainly doesn’t deserve what Diane has done to him). I should have similarly applauded the doomed gesture of Rafe stepping up once again to protect his Duke – complete with excellently witty repartee from Norris (‘I learnt abroad’ / ‘Probably would have done better to study a blade’) – but I was having trouble suspending my disbelief.
My problem was two-fold: firstly, I didn’t quite believe Rafe would step up like this (he knows he can’t win; he’s neither stupid nor suicidal and he doesn’t want to throw away Will’s chances – the sword is absolutely the wrong answer here, and he knows it); secondly, I didn’t believe Norris wouldn’t just run him through. Norris had been desperate to stab somebody since we first met him – confronted with a snarky young man caught in the act of trying to kidnap the Duke, he had every excuse to work out his frustrations.
His restraint is convenient for Rafe’s future, of course, and I’m glad our scholar – not to mention Micah! – have been locked away rather than cut down. But it felt too easy, like a TV show in which you never doubt that a character will survive (and triumph).
Overall, I struggled to find harmony across the different elements the story skipped between this week: intimate scenes freighted with history; snarky swashbuckling; almost farcical below-stairs shenanigans; and the otherworldly touch of the mysterious crow – a harbinger of Will’s insanity, here visible to all and sundry. While I like each of these things individually, I didn’t find they mixed together so well; and inevitably, I’m irritated to finish on a cliffhanger. But at least that means I can reread this episode before I read next week’s, and see if I was being unreasonable in my dissatisfaction first time around.
Tremontaine is available from Serial Box Publishing in ebook and audio format each week.