Hello, again! I am back -- not as soon as I hoped to be, but back.
Poor Helena! The nightmare of picking out a wedding dress seems to be an experience that's universal: muggle or magical, present-day or distant past. I loved your description of the visions that haunt her: With each blink, her dress became too small, then too big, then a horrid green shade. I also loved the way that she wants to make her mother happy, but not too happy. She acts like such a teenager at times.
I have to say, this was a bold and kind of impressive move on Venn's part. He seems so shy at times, but when you least expect it he steps up and seizes the initiative in some very non-traditional ways. And he even had the sensitivity to send flowers! What a guy!
Awww... the poor guy is just a bundle of nerves. It's like the First Date Experience, 1200's version. And she doesn't do much to make him more comfortable at first, does she? One of the things I love most about Helena is the minimal respect she has for avoiding social taboos. Keeping his visit a secret from her parents and more or less hijacking the lead on selecting a place for their ride are so unladylike by the standards of the time. Venn can hardly decide what to do with himself. It's hilarious.
In the end, though, things seem to work out really well for the two of them. Venn could not conceal his smile. This strange woman had an effect on him. Good on him! Between throwing off his uncle's influence and embracing some of Helena's quirks, I'm actually starting to root for the guy. And they both want to talk about anything but the wedding. That was a great touch, I thought. Planning a wedding is a pain. If you have parents and elves who are willing to do all the work for you, why wouldn't you take them up on it?
The awkwardness between the two of them while they ate and tried to talk was... unfortunate. I think it portends difficulties in their future. At some level, the two of them have a real problem connecting. She's looking for him to say something different, and the feeling seems to be mutual. It almost seems like she's giving him a complex, which is a little funny in addition to being sad.
And then he kisses her! Wow, I did not see that coming. Venn is one smooth devil, you know, in a stunted, awkward sort of way. Wow, that made no sense. Anyhow, I loved her reaction to it. Part of her wants to tell him to stop, part of her is too overwhelmed and mostly she just loves the way that it shocks her mother speechless. More than anything, it's that last part that really makes me question her motivations. It's that unruly teenager coming out again.
My dear, you are doing a fantastic job of laying the groundwork for the tragic events that I know must come. You've done such a terrific job of setting these two characters up in such a way that Helena's flight and Venn's pursuit will, I think, seem perfectly in character when the sad chapter is written. Until then, I will continue to enjoy this little dance they do. No typos or constructive criticism for this chapter, it was just lovely!
Author's Response: Hi Dan, nice to see you again :)
Helena is a lot like an unruly teenager, as you pointed out several times in this review. I suspect that you can see how that might contribute to her eventual downfall, without saying too much too early. Venn, meanwhile, does definitely have a sense of boldness within him, despite his shyness in many social situations. Again, could be a good or bad thing.
Awkward date is awkward! I'm trying to let Helena be a bit of a rebel without making her perfectly anachronistic, so do keep an eye on that for me, won't you? While Venn is at times enchanted by this, as you pointed out, it does make it difficult for the two of them to relate in expected ways. Neither seems willing to just slip into conversations familiar to nobility, like the weather or the misbehavior of elves.
Lord knows I am trying to make poor Venn charming. With his back story, I feel like I have my work cut out for me, but I want Helena to fall for him, because he's been vulnerable enough to start falling for her. I want what comes eventually to be appropriately heart-rending, not just for the characters but also for the reader, because so much will have been emotionally invested.
There's that impulsivity again. I felt like Venn and Helena needed a chance to do something crazy, to let themselves get caught up in the passion of their seemingly unlikely romance. As you pointed out, the consequences of the pacing and all these strong feelings could be dire.
Your reviews are always such a treat. Thank you so much, and hope to see you again soon!