I was asked about why Jade, who was discouraged from chasing Emily because she’d become a Baroness, was engaged to Alassa by the end of Love’s Labour’s Won. To understand this, you need to dig into all three characters.
Jade knows Emily personally; he doesn’t just know her through reputation. (Cat and Travis have the same reaction; the latter, in particular, mocking her to her face.) He meets her as an unsure naive newcomer in Martial Magic and realises, despite her lack of preparation for the class, that she’s actually trying. This garners her some respect. However, there’s a vulnerability about Emily that triggers his protective side. His proposal to her at the start of Lessons In Etiquette was motivated by a genuine desire to protect her rather than outright romantic interest. Emily isn’t exactly ugly, but this isn’t a healthy basis for a relationship.
Emily’s lukewarm reaction to the proposal cools Jade’s ardour; her rise in social status is one thing, but the fact she’s not particularly interested is another. On some level, Jade realises that he would be the one doing all the work in the relationship, trying to break through Emily’s defences rather than having her try to break through his and meeting him in the middle. He may also realise that Emily would be very shy about consummating the marriage and that their time as husband and wife would be unsatisfactory.
At base, Jade is a thrusting alpha male (a sheepdog, insofar as the term is valid). Emily responds, on some level, to the awareness that he would never intentionally harm her, but she’s also nervous about his sheer level of energy. Their relationship, if they’d ever formed a proper one, would have ended badly. Jade came to realise this slowly – it probably helped that Master Grey was quite happy to point out Emily’s flaws – and eventually ended the ‘relationship’ in Work Experience. They’re still friends, but nothing more.
This is a good thing. Protectiveness can easily turn to contempt.
Alassa is a different kettle of fish.
A couple of readers have noted that Alassa is actually quite calculating when it comes to marriage, both considering a number of potential suitors and later ‘stealing’ Jade from Emily, even though Jade and Emily were never really dating. (There’s also the scene where she outlines all the advantages to Emily that would come from marrying Jade.) This is a reflection of her upbringing as Crown Princess. She was raised to be aware that her marriage would be political first, not romantic; she – like plenty of queens throughout history – would be expected to turn a blind eye to her husband’s string of mistresses. Her choice of Prince Consort would be based on more than a pretty face and muscles.
Jade is a good choice for a number of reasons. He’s not a nobleman, so he won’t have a ready-made powerbase in Zangaria he can turn against her. Nor will he excite the jealously of the other nobles, who would have felt slighted if Alassa had married one of them. He’s a trained combat sorcerer who can be her court mage, her strong right arm and protector. (And he’s fresh blood for a dangerously inbred line.) The fact she actually finds him attractive is icing on the cake.
They do, in fact, have a lot in common. They’d both alpha personalities, they’re both guided more by instinct than intellect (not that either of them is actually stupid) and they both enjoy challenges. More to the point, unlike Emily, Alassa is quite willing to do whatever she has to do to form an equal partnership. She won’t treat Jade as a decorative piece of arm candy, but as a partner in her rule. Jade would not be doing all the work in this relationship.
There’s also the fact that Jade is two years older than he was in Lessons of Etiquette, a trained sorcerer (which makes him a nobleman by default) and considerably more confident than he was. Master Grey was a decent tutor – he was, when he doesn’t have a personal axe to grind -and Jade graduated early. In many ways, he’s a fitting match for Alassa.
Of course, this does lead to some awkwardness between Alassa, Jade and Emily.
If you look at the timing, they formed their relationship in Alassa’s Third Year, while Emily was at Mountaintop. (The School of Hard Knocks.) Jade was basically asked to help tutor Alassa in Defensive Magic, as she was denied the chance to take Martial Magic. Alassa (and Imaiqah) realised that this might cause some problems with Emily, even though Jade and Emily had already ended their semi-relationship.
Now, Alassa had no problem with the thought of taking Emily’s former boyfriend. She was raised in a society where people marry for alliances, not love; she knew she might wind up being married to a man who had been betrothed to someone else beforehand. (And, obviously, Jade and Emily never made love.) She was perceptive enough, however, to realise that Emily might have a problem with it, which creates headaches because Emily’s opinion (as a Baroness) couldn’t easily be dismissed. Emily might – intentionally or otherwise – end up as the focal point for opposition to the match. Alassa, being a direct person, wanted to approach Emily as soon as Emily returned from Mountaintop, but Imaiqah advised her to wait; Emily needed to study hard to catch up with the rest of her year before going into Fourth Year. She didn’t need the stress …
… Which led, of course, to the explosion in the middle of Love’s Labour’s Won.
Emily knew she didn’t want Jade, but Alassa taking him stung, just a little. The fact it had been kept from her (and she should have seen the signs) stung worse. Alassa and Emily exchanged harsh words before Imaiqah managed to pour oil on troubled waters; Emily realised she was being silly – and she was – and spoke up for the couple to Alassa’s father.
(Randor obviously knew that something was up; he was prepared to let Alassa run with it, rather than asking her directly. He figured Jade would be a good son-in-law; he just wanted to make sure that Alassa was marrying him for the right reasons, rather than mere attraction.)
Anyway, I hope that makes at least some sense <grin>.