Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sun and Candlelight -1979 Discussion Thread

Although there is a lot of fun to be had in Sun and Candlelight (not least of which is the hero on the cover of my edition) I do have a couple of problems with it. A few leaps that I'm not willing to take. The biggie, the Evel Knievel jumping the Snake River Canyon leap has to do with "Nanny". Nanny should be sent away at the very least, possibly to a mental home. Maybe a State Run Correctional Institution. She should have a restraining order slapped on her faster than you can say "Dundee Cakes". Instead Alethea says "we trust you" !!?? Really???? [Betty Keira] Yes, I agree. The thing is that she doesn't even seem like a beloved family retainer of long-standing. She's just criminally insane and I wouldn't volunteer my children for the outreach program. My other leap from a tall building is finding those kids lovable or charming. But you have to admit that they are rather fabulous after the alien abduction...Those little thugs can be pardoned a few hi-jinks though....considering they have been lied to their entire lives. Their dearly departed mummy is not dead (as they have been told) but is instead living it up in South America ("...[she] lives in Brazil - or is it Peru?). They will be told about this "when they're older". Not really the kind of trauma you want to spring on a teenager as it will only encourage further thuggish behaviour. I notice your British-correct spelling of the word behaviour and doff my hat to you, madam.

Neels on Mind Reading. Pretty much every Neels hero can read minds. One glance at a girl, and he knows what she had for breakfast, the state of her shaky finances, how often she is thinking of ex-boyfriends, and whether she knows that she is in love with him yet. This is obviously a fictional device, because in real life, men are much more often clueless. For example, Dr. van der Stevejinck would rather that I tell him what's what, than have to hazard a guess. Plus, this gives me a reason to post yet another picture of a turban. You're setting a whole new bar on awesomeness here. Also, I love that Sarre can see all that yet fail to notice that the kids are evil geniuses and that Alethea is in love with him.

And now for some fun stuff:

Sun and Candlelight starts right off, in the very first sentence with a good ol' Neels staple. The pink lampshade. This particular one is at a restaurant. Which begs the question...how many restaurants have pink lampshades on the table? I need a Food Lovers Guide to London complete with a section on pink lampshades. This may require a personal visit...

"Don't go to Brighton!" My new favorite euphemism. It reminds me of something our dad used to say when boys came to pick up my younger sisters for a date...knowing him, he hollered it as they were heading for the door. "Have a good time, don't BE a good time!" He was still hollering that when I was dating. Remind me to tell you about the talk we had about the birds and bees sometime. Hi-larious. I admit to saying these very words to my kids as they go out on dates. At first they were a little mortified, but really, it's best to be clear about things like that right from the get go. It's especially fun to say it in front of their date. Yes, I am my father.

Jaguars. What can I say? They have a super-cool hood ornament. They are also as heavy as sin. I don't mean that in a good way. I drove Betty Marcy's aging Jaguar to Jackson Hole, Wyoming about 10 years ago. First and last time. As I was driving down the steep, winding two lane road, I came up behind a pick-up truck that was loaded down with a vast amount of chopped firewood. The driver of the truck was, understandably, creeping down the mountain. I stepped on the brakes. Ummm....I STOOD on the brakes....the Jaguar barely slowed. We were in the outside lane, with a sheer precipice next to us and oncoming traffic on the other side. I don't remember how we survived, I've totally repressed that memory, but I did have a few choice words with Betty Marcy about vehicle maintenance. Betty Tia was in the back seat with her first (and nearly last) born son. Maybe she remembers. ANYWAY, I guess Jags would be fine in England and Holland...which are not known for their steep mountains, but I don't have a hankering for one.

Hairdryers. This might possibly be the only Betty Neels book to have an actual hairdryer. Mind you, it's not used to dry hair, it's used to dry a lavender (or is it lilac?) silk dress. The poor heroines in Neeldom are usually to be found sitting by their electric fire, filling it with 50p coins, drying their hair with a towel. Dr. van der Stevejinck and I had a circa 1979 blow dryer...and it just died last year. Thirty years of drying hair. They don't make them like that anymore.

Hamburg. I have eaten a hamburger in Hamburg. Because I could. Sarre and Alethea did not.

  • She learns to drive from the village blacksmith. "For all your horse-shoeing and ambulatory needs"
  • Her granny is entirely unfazed with Alethea's consideration of a marriage of convenience. I think she was a bit of a mind-reader herself.
  • The Children of the Corn have a dog named "Rough". Curses! If only I had a dog!
  • Alethea offers to take the kids to a "Disneytime movie". In 1979, this might easily have been The Black Hole which leads me to ponder the endless layers of Neels.


  1. I remember the pork-chop with lavendar that was painfully expensive. The car ride... I will confess that I have repressed most of except for the feeling of almost wanting to lose the expensive pork from my belly. I don't think that there will ever be a reason good enough to draw me back through the windy rodes to Jackson Hole. Afterall we didn't even see Harrison Ford.

  2. Great Betty Tia. Now I'm thinking of it as Pork Chop Hill.

  3. Rats! I posted my discussion comments on the other thread.

    But in defense of Nanny (and lord knows she needs one):

    1. Neither the Cockney Al nor the Scottish Mrs. McCrea speak Dutch, so Nanny's really only got the kids to talk to. That's pretty isolating. (We also can infer that Nanny's got no immediate family, no friends, no life outside the nursery.) So, with no resources at all, I think she could be forgiven some passive-aggressive failure to reprimand the kidlets. Especially as she's convinced that a new wife means out with the old nanny. (Not unreasonable analysis, given that the Evil Veronica behind Door #1 would always get rid of all existing staff/pets/fitted carpets...)
    2. It's not her job to raise those kids. Care for them, yes, but it's Sarre's job to teach them right from wrong. I really think he should have sat down with the kids & with Nanny to explain about Alethea.
    3. Does Alethea not have some responsibility here? She buys into the Great British Conspiracy To Never Snitch, but a quiet word to Sarre that perhaps the children might be uh, discomfited by their marriage? Need some special alone time with their father, etc., etc.? C'mon, guys, she had a few more options that To Snitch or Not To Snitch.

  4. Tomorrow we will have a post discussing Betty Style Parenting! I promise!

    I agree that Alethea has some responsibility here - sure, she may not have known early on about the kidlets, but Sarre does bring her to Holland for a pre-marriage preview of life in Sarre-land. When the children look at her with hate in their eyes, that might have been a clue that not everything was going to be sunshine and happiness. If Alethea had loved Sarre at this point, I can see her still being willing to marry him...but since this wasn't a "marriage of love" this would have been a good opportuntity to have a family meeting.

    Sarre, Sarre, Sarre. As a single father he really should be more involved in his kids upbringing - instead of abrogating his responsiblities to the household help. I don't personally buy into his child-rearing philosophy,it's very distant and hands off. Of course the kids are going to misbehave when confronted with a step-mother...I'm just surprised Sarre didn't marry Alethea first and then spring her on the kidlets.

  5. There is a fine-looking dark-haired hero (Raf) on the cover of my 1980 edition of Last April Fair, re-read last night.

  6. "PS Have a good time, don't be a good time!"

    "Don't worry, he wasn't."

  7. ALHC - I don't have that one.
    Rebekah - Happy to know that I raised him right!

  8. My copy of Last April Fair is the Mills & Boon original, purchased because I happened to be in the UK that year. Ugliest cover ever. When we get to that one, I'll send you a picture of it. (Modern art it ain't, but it ain't representational of any human I can think of.)

  9. I swear I have it Maybe in an omnibus though.

  10. Doh! Sorry, not Last April Fair - I meant When May Follows! MY LAF has two blonds on it. WMF has two brunettes on it! Trouble keeping my Bettys straight.....