I can enjoy practically everything that comes along—while it’s happening. Only I have to keep on doing things, because, if I once stop, it all seems a lot of rot and I don’t care a damn if I go west tomorrow. At least, that’s what I should have said. Now—I don’t know. I’m beginning to think there may be something in it after all …
Usually I don’t like “sequel” books that are written after the main series has ended. I have to say though, this didn’t feel like an after thought! No, it continued with the story, mainly the character development of Harriet and Peter and what their relationship grows into – or at least a preview of it.
I especially loved the scene at the end where Harriet visits Peter’s ancestral home and meets the “family ghosts.” I wasn’t sure if it was indeed fantasy, a joke, or what but I was intrigued. Also, I could be wrong, but I pretty sure that was the inspiration for The Sherwood Ring, by Marie Elizabeth Pope! Also there was another scene between Harriet and Peter towards the end that was eerily similar to a scene from The Queen of Attolia.
There is always so much character development! It’s fantastic. I wasn’t expecting that from a sequel, but man once again Dorothy Sayers went above and beyond in that department. Often after the wedding everything wraps up, and the main conflict and challenge of learning how to work together has been sorted out. However this book was really interesting as you get beyond that into “okay how do we live together?” We get to see how Harriet and Peter’s very different lives start to blend together, or at least a peek of how they will do it.
I loved also that they were still having challenges with how to maintain their independence and own identity while learning how to become a team.
Another aspect that caught me by surprise (probably because I haven’t read the whole series *oops*) was the time spent at the end after the murderer was caught. There’s a whole section of the book spent following Peter’s reaction and the horrible suspense leading up to the trial. Despite loving to solve crimes and needing to poke his nose into problems, Dorothy Sayers shows that there is always a cost. The cost being the horrible guilt and feeling of responsibility and even of uncertainty that he did the right thing that Peter carries with him. In his inner struggle Harriet faces her own as she’s forced to almost watch by the sidelines, wondering if Peter will trust her to invite her to share this battle he faces. (Spoilers: he does eventually). And again she beautifully portrays what it means to love someone and be an equal partner.
Diving more into that, I love how deeply Harriet and Peter both respect one another and treat one another as equal partners. Even when though they love and want to protect one another, they love one another to respect each other’s independence and individual identity. At one point in the story Harriet is traumatized from all the murders and backflashes to her own ordeal. She hates watching Peter struggle with the after effects of correctly solving the murder – the guilt he wrestles with and sorrow. Bunter has come to terms with it, but there’s a conversation where Harriet almost asks Peter to give up his detective hobby. At the end though they both come to terms that they could never ask the other to be someone they weren’t or to give up a piece of their identity, as hard as it might be for them.
As with all of Dorothy Sayers books, my only real complaint is how deep into the details and daily minutiae she gets. She has an interesting mystery, but I always find that the actual mystery is so…realistic that it can feel a bit pointless and random in a way. A character is murdered, they discover the murderer and their motives, but Harriet and Peter are always rather detached from the murder itself. The story of the murderer and the victim’s lives don’t interweave or reflect the theme in their own lives outside of the fact that they’re involved in the investigation.
In this way the inner lives of the characters and personal struggles and character development is almost kept separate from the action in many ways. The action/detective story does instigate the personal struggles in their lives, but they don’t actually play and significant part (that I can tell) outside of being the instigator.
I love stories where EVERYTHING ties together. Versus keeping things separate, or different pieces of the story not having any significant meaning or tie in to everything else. For example the murderer maybe could have had more of a direct relation to Harriet and Peter, or maybe reflected some piece of them that they’d rather he didn’t. I don’t know something to tie it all together more though.
“For God’s sake, let’s take the word ‘possess’ and put a brick round its neck and drown it … We can’t possess one another. We can only give and hazard all we have.”
“How can I find the words? Poets have taken them all and left me with nothing to say or do”
“Except to teach me for the first time what they meant.”
“And what do all the great words come to in the end, but that? I love you- I am at rest with you- I have come home.”
This in my opinion, is romance at it’s best. Two people who like, love, respect and challenge one another to be more and do more.