Watch out, mean girls – Raeliana McMillan is not taking any of your nonsense. Although it’s not entirely the point of these two episodes, Raeliana taking down Vivian Shamal and her cronies is a major highlight, especially because they’ve worked so hard to put her in a position of weakness. Freese may have gotten Raeliana admitted to their exclusive club, but the implication is that it wasn’t without concessions on her part; the excuse that she “isn’t feeling well” rings false when you consider that everyone else at the tea party is a close associate of Vivian‘s. Raeliana is more than up to putting them in their places, though. While my favorite moment is when she cuttingly remarks that the mistake was hers for assuming the other ladies were more mature than they’re acting, every interaction with them is a win for our heroine. Raeliana McMillan didn’t survive multiple assassination attempts to be taken down by some overgrown middle school girls.
The danger, though, isn’t in their threats to her social life. The action may primarily focus on Raeliana and Noah, but overlooking Vivian would be a mistake because she has much more going on than cutting words and spilled beverages. Vivian feels displaced by Raeliana, who has stymied her pursuit of the one man she truly wants, and the fact that she may only want him because she can’t have him doesn’t make her any less dangerous. Noah is unwittingly exacerbating the situation as he falls harder and harder for his fake fiancée. He has little idea what damage he’s doing on the Vivian front. He may be an astute politician, but he’s also a bit of a selfish person who does what he wants in his personal life. He wants to tease Raeliana right now, even if he’s fighting against understanding why, a battle he’s beginning to lose. But he doesn’t seem entirely aware of what his attention is doing behind the scenes. I don’t doubt that Keith is interested in courting Raeliana should she and Noah not go through with their betrothal, but he also may have been trying to show Noah that his attentions are not going unnoticed by the rest of the noble world.
The most interesting implication is that Beatrice is somehow involved in whatever Vivian is up to. Beatrice’s absence in the story has been a sticking point for Raeliana, and now that’s beginning to look very deliberate on the supposed heroine’s part. It’s not difficult to imagine that Beatrice is the one who gave Vivian the jewel she planted on Raeliana, but the more important question is why she’s done so. We know what Vivian‘s angle is: she’s jealous and angry that Raeliana seems to be taking her place, a place that she may have exploited to do some scandalous things. (How do men know what her legs look like? It’s evident that Victorian standards of dress apply to the story’s world; look at the hemline difference between going out and staying in gowns.) But Beatrice’s motivation is more nebulous if it is, in fact, her. Does she know that Raeliana took her place at Noah’s side? Or was the novel never anything more than a convenient fiction, written by Beatrice herself to imply that she was someone false? That Raeliana can’t find a trace of her where she’s supposed to be, and supposed to have been when Raeliana first entered the world, is worth paying attention to.
Meanwhile, Adam’s misinterpretation of the handkerchief Raeliana gives him – and Noah’s gleeful playing along with his idea – makes for a fun distraction, especially since it allows us to see that Noah’s teasing is probably masking some more profound emotions. His enjoyment of keeping Raeliana off balance is more than made up for by the fact that she’s now able to do the same to him without even trying to, and these two episodes do a lot for the romantic subplot as Noah gets worse at dealing with the emotions she’s raising in him. If Beatrice does come back thinking she’ll get the hero, she will have a nasty shock – assuming, of course, that the terrible surprise isn’t Beatrice herself.