The title of this week’s episode serves as a warning: we’re deep into the second half of the season now, and long-simmering matters of the heart are coming to the boil. This is a week for reflection, for regret, and for recognising that while passion may not be denied, it is no sure promise of happiness (Arthur. I’m looking at you, Arthur).
Last week focused single-mindedly on Rafe’s mission to rescue his William, so this week’s episode is a ‘meanwhile, in the City…’ companion episode in more ways than one. The driving theme in both cases is love – or perhaps the limits of love – and there’s no missing that both episodes are pushing us hard to the season climax (have I mentioned how much I hate cliffhangers? It’s another cliffhanger this week).
For Rafe, love has driven him past his limits to the foolhardy extent of picking up a sword and launching a desperate rescue mission. He’s not the sort to reflect (or plan, apparently; he might as well be a character in a melodrama), and he’s left with nothing but regret for the trouble he has brought on Micah. The only glimmer of hope is that he was able to cut through William’s madness and be recognised as his one true Rafe, although their symbolic marriage makes no promises for a happy outcome. It’s not like William’s last marriage ended well, after all.
For Kaab, love of family has driven a rift between her and Tess as surely as love of Tess as driven a rift between her and her family. For Tess, that rift has given her time to reflect on what she knows and has been resisting: that the heart is a liability. Poor, dedicated Tess, who has poured so much emotional labour into this relationship. When she finally confronts Kaab with the one certain truth that crystallises just how one-sided their affair has been, it bruises the heart. It’s not (only) that Kaab has always put family first; it’s that she’s never considered how she might become family to Tess.
Pass me a hanky, will you?
At the same time, I wanted to wrap Tess up in the fiercest hug. I’m so proud of her for having the strength to see this and act on it. Kaab isn’t exactly given to reflection or insight; I’m curious to see whether she really understands how she has pushed Tess into this rejection with her careless request that Tess do something that is a betrayal of her Riverside roots.
But really, I’m here to talk about Vincent. Wondering what happened in Chartil has been driving me batty for weeks, and this week we finally get a glimpse into the past. So what happened in Chartil? HOT SEX. Okay, no surprise there. We pretty much knew that happened in Chartil (at least, I’d have been flabbergasted to find it hadn’t). So what got in the way?
Seriously, Vincent? SERIOUSLY?
I have so many feelings about this: complete head-shaking frustration to match Reza’s (oh, I have all the sympathy for the super-sexy, charming, elegant, imperial Prince); complete visceral satisfaction (for which I partly blame Richard St Vier, but I do have a kink for dedication to your true calling at the expense of all things, even while I want to shake characters who embrace it); and an almost Shakespearean sense of impending doom. Woe, if you will.
I have been hoping for a while that it will be a good long while before certain events catch up with Vincent; but Swordspoint is quite clear that they happen whilst he is still young and before he ever gains true renown. So perhaps the best I can hope for my dashing swordsman – who is already making a name for himself on the Hill, after all – is that Reza will be there to pick up the pieces. But with Richard St Vier loud in my thoughts, the symmetry isn’t lost on me; so I guess I’m also hoping Reza is a better man than Alec (which is, let’s be brutal, not that hard).
Last but not least, we have Diane. Our Duchess is yet to find an angle against Gregory Davenant, and he’s closing in for the kill. The last thing she needs is a distraction – which of course Rafe is, but not one she can ignore. She could have been a Valkyrie storming Highcombe to give the upstart young man who stole her husband his just desserts, but I loved that Tessa Gratton took us in a different direction. Yes, Diane is angry – and vengeful – and afraid of being undone – but what we see most from her this week is regret and loss.
It’s so easy to forget that she genuinely loved William for many years; she didn’t just revel in the security and wealth of her position. The moment when she stood with a hand on his door moved me; I love that Tremontaine brings such complexity and richness to its emotional tapestry.
I am assuming – hoping – trusting – that next week won’t see Diane emerge from her reverie to order her junior swordsman to cut Rafe and Micah down. While this week works hard to ensure we’re promised no happy ever afters, true love transforms. Who knows what deeper magic may yet be at work?
Tremontaine is available from Serial Box Publishing in ebook and audio format each week.