Ariana- that was amazing. I meant to review each chapter but this was so good that I had to read it all in one go and therefore you’re going to get one long review of basically every chapter (sorry).
I loved the beginning. There’s something about the first sentence that immediately conveys the tension and the secrecy of their relationship, and then the laughter and the enforced jollity of the party outside that bedroom closet. And, for something that gets written about so often, you wrote James’ jealousy incredibly well. The similes in “James imagined her hands caressing Teddy, creeping over his body like skinny spiders. He pictured her lips on Teddy’s, small and red and round like the suction cups of an octopus” were just amazing, and immediately conveyed James’ dislike not just of the fact she was Teddy’s, but that he did not like her personally. You got the impression that James was a good enough person to maybe have let Teddy go if he thought that Teddy was genuinely in love and it was that, just as much as his hatred of Christine. Your characterisation of James was really interesting throughout. In spite of the flashback, or as I read it at first, dream, his character remains fairly consistent, compared to the illusions both Teddy and Victoire have constructed. I particularly loved his honest about himself, and his automatic fall to drink, when he says “Hate was a good emotion ... True, it tasted just as sour as love could at its worst, but hate was an emotion James could let drift away with a few drinks.
Love wouldn’t leave that easily.” That phrase was profound without seeming preachy or clumsy compared to how James was feeling.
The tension between Teddy and James in all their encounters, particularly post Christine’s death, was really well done, as well as Victoire’s and James’ encounter. Particularly in that case, because of Victoire’s ignorance re-James and Teddy. Because we knew something that James knew, I think that made the reader sympathise with him more so there and therefore made the reveal at the end all the more shocking.
I also thought that, throughout, your use of profanity was very realistic and never seemed gratuitous. You gave the impression that the characters, particularly Teddy, were not usually the swearing types but the extremity of the situation and the emotions he and James were feeling made those words seem the only ones capable of conveying their emotions. One line I particularly loved was “You may have had him in life, bitch, but there’s no way you’re taking him now that you’re dead.” That was just--wow. The power a dead person can extend is shown, mostly positively I think, throughout the Harry Potter books in the way Harry gains strength from them. This shows the flip side of that. It also shows just how well you characterised Christine. It’s something I really enjoy writing and reading- how you can build up someone’s character without them actually being in the story and you did it brilliantly. I loved the contrasting views of her, from James, Teddy and Victoire and how, until the very end, we weren’t quite sure which one was accurate as each person had their motivations for believing their version of her, rather than being objective about it.
The one thing that snagged me in chapter one was that the Auror office would let Teddy investigate the case, given his personal connection but I can see how he would desperately want to be involved in finding his fianceé’s murderer, if not his love and by the end of the first chapter I’d honestly forgotten.
In chapter two I think the way you contrasted the interviews with someone who certainly was not a suspect/ who had little emotional connection to Teddy (though I loved the tiny mention of her telling the boys off for bullying him) and then compared to his interrogations of Victoire and Scorpius. Talking of which (this is a very jumpy review- sorry) I really thought your characterisation of Victoire, considering she’s not really that important in the overall plot except to serve as a red herring, was excellent. I really disliked her in the second chapter but when she appeared later, clearly upset by Christine’s death and yet with, presumably, a one-night stand in the toilet as she has to talk to Teddy about it, you really made me feel for her.
The one part of this story that did, for me anyway, drag slightly, was when Teddy visited Christine’s parents. It just seemed to drag and although I liked Alicia’s statement that she’d kill whoever it was as well as Teddy’s response, I thought the rest could have been more concise. But the twist at the end was rather brilliant. What I particularly loved was the cruelty of it being something Teddy had bought Victoire when their relationship was on better terms, but I also thought the last line, paralleling Christine/ Victoire and Teddy/ James was very clever.
So the last chapter and the reveal at the end. I thought your flashback was excellently done- they can so often seem clumsy but this fitted in seamlessly. I strongly believe that being drunk is no excuse but the way you’ve characterised James thus far, particularly his confidence in Teddy’s and his view of him that he couldn’t have done it, really made me wonder what could have happened to drive him to kill Chrisine. Within the flashback, where, for the first time we see Christine for who she genuinely was, you strongly showed James’ discomfort, because of his dislike and jealousy of her but then her proof that she was completely unworthy of someone like Teddy who does seem lovely if rather too eager to please people and not hurt others, which although I sympathise with immensely, just leads to him getting hurt. I loved the fact that, in the end James’ motives for killing her, that she was planning on killing Teddy (when Victoire kept on mentioning that Christine would not have stayed with Teddy for long I assumed divorce, not murder--but that was a very well laid point) were ones which I can, and most people including Teddy, as it does prove James’ love for him, can sympathise with. I loved the way that, at the end, all he really cared about was Teddy. He knew the guilt was coming, but he waited until Teddy fully believed him- it was Teddy’s view of him that mattered more than his own emotions. The line Waiting for Teddy’s answer was the only reason he wasn’t retching in the sink, crouched over with guilt as somehow the rest of the world continued to move on. showed this beautifully, as did “James wished it didn’t hurt so much to realise Teddy loved him.” In a way, I think that was the perfect line to end it on and the last line was, although good, slightly unnecessary, but maybe that’s just me. As a final point- I loved the way you only felt it necessary to mention the colour of Teddy’s hair and eyes at particularly important moments, rather than in every sentence as I’ve seen in some Teddy stories. It made it all the more powerful and poignant.
In addition to all that, you've kind of ticked every Next-Gen box for me in that it's Sciliy (I laughed at James' brotherly protectiveness even though it was obviously a serious chapter) and not a Teddy/ Victoire happily ever after but even if you hadn’t, I still would have enjoyed this story. For such a short story you conveyed the strength and passion of the character’s relationship and the facades (sorry, I’ve only just learned how to type accents, a cedilla is beyond me) particularly Teddy and Victoire had constructed about Christine’s personality, but also James about his own actions in Christine’s death and repressing them, were all excellently done. Congratulations on a genuinely moving, sad story (I hardly ever cry when reading/ writing and although I’d be lying to say that I did, I wouldn’t be lying to say that I was close to) and best of luck with the challenge. Alex
Author's Response: Alex, thank you so much for this absolutely gorgeous review! It definitely made me smile/squee inside :). It makes me so happy to hear that you genuinely liked the story, as I felt that when I was writing it it was more word vomit than a nicely-constructed story. I'm glad you liked James and Teddy…it was sort of a random decision I made that they should be together but I ended up loving to write them. I agree it was probably a little unrealistic for Teddy to be assigned the job with all the personal ties to the case, but I'm glad you forgot about that little detail after reading on :). And it's ironic, because the one part that dragged for me when I wrote it was the interaction with Christine's parents, but I wanted to show what would have been Teddy's role if he had married Christine, plus he needed a way to see Victoire's thong. But I'm so, so, so unbelievably happy that you liked reading it, and that you enjoyed the characterization of Christine (who was definitely hard to write) and James and Teddy. Your review made my day :) . xx ARiana