Hey it's Whiskey with your Holiday Review :)
I'm glad to have rediscovered this story. A while back, I had already started reading it and remeber liking it quite a bit.
One can tell you put a lot of effort into the style of the narration, which also supports the general atmosphere of elegance and comfort. The slow pace with which you tell the story, although at times a bit too slow in my opinion, nevertheless works for alering the reader to the fact that the events are happening in a different time from ours, when everything was slower and miticulously thought out.
I would like to point out here that, although the tone is consistent, it add a distance to the characters and events, thus preventing the reader from getting more involved. Maybe breaking the stream of elegance and splendor by throwing in some banal, human moments would spice up the story. For example, I liked the two house elves climbing on top of eachother! :D More such slightly absurd, not romanticized moments would add a lot in my opinion. To help you visualize what I mean, my mind's eye pictures this story through a hazy lense, the way a memory or a dream would be shown in a movie. But this is the Middle Ages, and also a very tragic love story, so a clearer, more grainy take would help make it more exciting.
I am beginning to really like Helena, although girlishness is actually something I tend to judge harshly. I suppose the fact that she is aware of her tendency to be overly sentimental and feminine redeems her and also adds depth to her character. On the other hand, I can's say anything about Venn, because I'm just so confused! He seems disillusioned in finding the perfect girl, yet he is excited about meeting Helena. He wants to dance with Helena, yet he sways from actually talking to her and being minimally polite. He seems to marvel at her beauty, but, again, appears too distracted by first the food, then the dancing to actually communicate with the girl. It is clear that Helena has fallen for him, but what is going on in Venn's head? In case you did not intend to make inconsistency one of his character traits, maybe it would be a good idea to revise some of the scenes and make his feelings clearer :)
I liked the end of the chapter.You managed to catch that feeling of things ending too soon very successfully. Although the relationship was developing slowly during Venn's visit, one could feel the anticipation and hopes of all of the characters that there should eventually be something more. This build-up contributed greatly to the shock and disappointment of the visit being over without any results, although, on paper, everything had gone well. The visit left many questions open and created more needs that it could satisfy, as is often the case in real life.
Alright, I think I covered most of it! Happy holidays :)
Author's Response: Hi, thanks for coming by! Sorry this response took a little while -- I got unexpectedly busy.
I'm glad you like the narrative style, though I'm sorry to hear that you feel it's a little too slow. I did that on purpose because in previous works I've received the critique that I speed things along too much, and I wanted to take my time in developing the characters and plot in this story. I agree that it seems suitable for the elegance of this period.
You make a good point about humanizing the characters, since their regal nature can sometimes distance them from the average reader. I think I've added a few dashes of banality in there at certain points--in particular, I think the story gets spiced up with more humor once Helga Hufflepuff makes her entrance later on. I wouldn't want to lose readers in the early stages, though, so thanks for pointing that out. I'll have to think on it.
Well, actually, inconsistency is a big part of Venn's character. It's a confusing time for him--he's still young and yet he's expected to marry and produce an heir, to take over his father's estate. However, like any normal young man, he can't help but be attracted to the beautiful woman selected by his uncle. He's torn between giving up his freedom, as he perceives it, and having her as a prize. I did take your comments to heart, and I'm going to try to get at the heart of your concern in the next chapter that I write. I'm glad you liked Helena, though, and that she wasn't too girly for you. I tried to make both of them complex and interesting.
I'm happy that you liked the ending. I definitely did try to capture that feeling of knowing what could be and worrying that it won't come true. It reminded me a little of Beauty and the Beast in that sense.
Thanks for your lovely review!