I'm finally back to visit :)
I loved the subdued focus on family in the first part of this chapter. I'm going to assume it was intentional, because, well, it's you :D It first struck me when Helen mentioned that no one had ever made her special tea before, and I had the thought that a good mother would do something like that, but she's not terribly close to her parents. It was also sad to think of the tea's scent reminding her of the sort of warmth that dominates most people's Christmas memories, the kind she probably did not get to experience within the confines of her family. A strength of yours is subtlety, and it shines here.
Helena's characterization here is truly fascinating. I feel like I've gotten to know her very well in this chapter, perhaps because in the act of her being vulnerable for just a moment regarding Cadogan she also opened herself up more to the reader. She's so conditioned to keep a stiff upper lip and neatly pressed skirt--and moreover, seemingly afraid to risk letting that careful guard down because of the issue of stepping into unknown territory--that she can't even relax in the face of those warm, familiar stimuli I mentioned earlier. Cadogan is really a contrast to her in this chapter, then, because by comparison he seems quite free and relaxed as she attempts to woo her further. The pressure must be intense, and so I understand her desire to conceal any sign of weakness here.
Oh, and then there's the idea of both of them playing parts alongside one other, Helen portraying the careful female acquaintance in a strange land and Cadogan possibly covering up his true identity as someone sent to sabotage or bring harm to her. There are so many delightful layers in this chapter!
Anyway, the ending obviously caught my attention. I wonder where poor Helen will wake up next and to whom those chilling fingers actually belong...
See you again soon, Susan (and thank you for all of the wonderful reviews you've left lately)!
Author's Response: Yes, the first part is rather subdued - it's a strange change from Helen's usual style, but it reflects her unease in this situation. Not only does being on the water affect her, but she's almost afraid of Cadogan - at the very least she isn't sure what he wants from her. It's easier for her once the tension breaks, but at the beginning of this chapter, the tension nearly silences her. Cadogan reads this with surprising accuracy, hence the special tea.
You've also done a fantastic reading of her response to receiving the tea. She's had to do so much for herself in the last few years that she doesn't know how to react when someone offers her something - usually she brushes it off, immediately expecting that she has to do something in return. This has harmed her previous relationships with others. It doesn't help that, as you've said, her life at home wasn't pleasant - it certainly didn't provide her with much, if any, affection. Her reaction is a reminder of how little we actually know this character. One of the things I love about writing her is that she excludes more than she includes - you really have to read between the lines, as you did here, to get a better grasp of who she is. The more sarcastic, bombastic style of the other chapters is a facade she puts on to hide her vulnerability - for most of her life, that facade was the best way to protect herself.
Thank you so much for this review! It's fantastic to see the things you noticed in this chapter and that you liked these subtle aspects of both characters. It means a lot to have your feedback. ^_^