I’m just emerging from a bout of flu and in my disturbed sleep patterns have been trying to catch up with the Game of Kings discussion group on their Lymond re-read. One thing came up in the discussions that gave me pause for thought. Someone suggested that the reason that Margaret Lennox was so determined to wreak revenge on Lymond was that she had fallen in love with him during the period when she had seduced him as a teenager a few years prior to the point we come into the action. That she hadn’t been able to accept that he had held something back and hadn’t fallen for her undoubted charms.
It’s not unusual for Dunnett readers to interpret things completely differently, and this is the exact opposite of what I’d always assumed.
I’d always felt that his journey through life and love was in many ways a coming to terms with love. That he can’t learn to love completely until he’s sorted out his feelings on something that has scarred his emotional psyche. If we look at his relationships through the series there is always something in the way.
Did he love Christian Stewart? I think perhaps as much as he was able at the time. He was as careful as he could be for her safety – it was she who wanted to take risks on his behalf. Her tragic death wasn’t his fault but weighed heavily on him. He cared greatly – we tend to forget that his suicide attempt at the dell comes not just after his shooting but also after Christian’s death, and I suspect that it was partly as a result of it. But not love; he wasn’t really capable of love at that time.
Oonagh is a challenge as part of the plot against the young Queen, and becomes essentially a political conquest. He feels responsible for her and for her child and would have done everything he could to save her had not Jerott’s rock and Gabriel’s treachery prevented him. Her death causes an agonised reaction which demonstrates his anguish and suggests emotional involvement but again there is something lacking.
Guzel provides a political partnership and a cultured companion but when they eventually share a bed there is emotional detachment on both sides.
So what was the reason for all this inability to love? I always felt that it was what Margaret did to him when he was at his most vulnerable – both physically as a prisoner of war, and emotionally as a teenager with a wonderful brain but perhaps an immature and perfectionist outlook.
Margaret was highly attractive, highly articulate, highly cultured, highly placed…. and highly sexed! What would any teenager have done when faced with a woman of this kind seducing him? He’d have fallen in love.
And of course having used him for personal and political ends she then betrayed him and threw him to the galleys. He’d have been emotionally devastated as well as being in peril of his life. And with Lymond’s introspective character (and two years in the galleys to mull it over) it would eat away at his ability to trust anyone else enough to give himself to them. Look at his approach to sex through the series – he never sleeps in the bed or the company of anyone he’s had sex with. Maybe because inwardly he fears betrayal as he sleeps. Only with Philippa at the end can he sleep in security and trust.
And the reason for Margaret’s bitter wrath. Simple. Like any controlling egotist she can’t accept that he is now immune to her seducements. (Of course maybe she found his lovemaking pretty good too and would like to be able to experience it again!) It’s like a blow direct to her self esteem. That is why the small triumph that the ill and assaulted Lymond is able to inflict on her at the end of Checkmate – showing her as no longer beautiful and powerful – is so telling.