Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Course of True Love - 1988

The Course of True Love is hard for me to rate. There is sooo much to like....and quite a bit to not like. Let's get down to it.

Claribel Brown is a physiotherapist at St. Jerome’s in London. Age: 28. Tall, Junoesque, beautiful – she is almost an “Olivia”…but she’s a blonde. BLONDE. One of a very few blonde heroines in Neeldom. (In honor of this, my illustrations will feature blondes!) As she is waiting to catch the bus home, one rainy day she is shoved into the gutter by someone in the queue. A Rolls pulls up silently and the man behind the wheel orders her to get in. She sensibly says “Thank you; I prefer to go by bus.” Handsome Stranger in Rolls; “Don’t be a fool, young woman, I have no intention of kidnapping you…” (which is probably what a kidnapper would say). He takes her home and they introduce themselves to each other. He is Dr. Marc van Borsele. She lets him into his house, whips off her tights and allows him to examine her injured foot (there's three things your mama told you never to do: take a ride from a stranger, let a stranger in your house and whip off your tights for a stranger). As he leaves he admonishes her not to open her door to or take lifts from strangers. This does not seem to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Claribel soon has an opportunity to ride in that Rolls again. She is heading to the train station to go home to Tisbury for the weekend, hauling her luggage and the TWO CATS (which I have to think is quite a handful – I’m writing this while sitting on the train – I had two small pieces of luggage and a cloth grocery bag…and that was really a bit more than I wanted to be carrying. I can’t imagine having a cat carrier with two cats too!) when Handsome (no longer a stranger) Dr. Borsele drives by and picks her up.
Marc seems to show up with almost monotonous regularity. Claribel helps out with the hospital bazaar (that was opened by minor royalty…which minor royalty, I wonder???What is considered "minor royalty"?) –Marc shows up. He takes her home and asks if she is going to invite him to tea….and so it begins. Marc is always stopping by and begging a meal from Claribel. I lost track of the number of meals/snacks she fixes for him. Marc invites Claribel out to dinner. I do love his deviousness…he looks at her with big puppy dog eyes and she caves; “…he contrived to look lonely and hungry and in need of companionship; Claribel was aware that he was doing it deliberately, but all the same it seemed heartless to refuse.” He seems very sure of himself and he is constantly asking favours of Claribel. “Claribel, will you come help me use these tickets to Phantom of the Opera?.” “Claribel, come to Richmond Park with me.” Claribel, Claribel, Claribel. You’d think she’d get the idea that he likes her…but she remains stubbornly clueless – and increasingly irritated at him. “why come to England when he has a perfectly good country of his own?” It would be easy to get irritated with him myself, but he redeems himself over and over again by all the nice things he does. He saves her train fare as he drives her to and from Tisbury, takes her out, recovers a chair for her, feeds the cats, and even washes up.
Claribel; “Domesticity has two sides to have overlooked the cooking and washing up and clearing away side of it.” “No, no…there is pleasure in the sight of some little woman bending over the kitchen sink. “ Claribel said “Huh!” (as well she should. Fret not, Gentle Reader, Marc was just having her on a bit…he actually washes up and feeds the cats so that she can get ready to go out with him) by this time it’s pretty obvious to any one (anyone EXCEPT Claribel) that Marc wants to marry her…he’s just waiting for her to find out that she wants to marry him. Enter The Evil Woman Irma Cooper. On their way down to Tisbury (again) they come upon a recent accident and Marc volunteers to take a beautiful girl home. This beautiful girl has no soul. None. The driver of the car she was in was taking her to "Brighton” and got KILLED. Yes, killed. You heard me. Evil Irma doesn’t care a bit about dead boyfriend, she needs to get home so that her parents won’t find out that she was going to 'Brighton'. Claribel sees through her, but assumes that Marc doesn’t . “Men!” said Claribel with feeling. “They can be so dim.” Marc really isn’t that dim – while Claribel is busy assuming the worst of him, he’s visiting his sister who gives birth to a son over the weekend and Marc was up all night.
The Deception:
Irma the Soulless turns out to be a stalker. Really. She lays in wait for Marc everywhere….Marc asks Claribel if she will pretend to be his fiancĂ©e so as to discourage Irma the Soulless. Claribel doesn’t want to do it, but Marc manages to get her into it before she knows it. He takes her out to eat at the Savoy – and puts a diamond ring in her hand when Irma walks in. April Fool's, Irma! She slips on his great-grandmother’s ring (boy is he going to have to pay for that when they are happily married – the fact that she had to put on her own engagement ring…as a deception). Marc asks her to “flash the ring”. (April Fool's again!) Claribel turns out to be a pretty good actress…”You should call me ‘darling’ more often; it does something to my ego.” She retorts that his ego doesn’t need it. She does agree to a series of “dates” at posh places about town so that Irma will have more opportunity to see the happy couple. Dining and dancing ensue, also lying. Marc invites Claribel to go to Holland for a visit...she says, "It's impossible, I've no holiday due, and what about Enoch and Toots?" Is it simply a coincidence that a bomb goes off in the physio department a few days later? And that Marc happens to come to Claribels rescue, throwing his not inconsiderable weight on top of her and Mrs. Snow? Hmmm.... Okay, okay I don't really think Marc had anything to do with the bomb...but it is awfully convenient - because now there is no excuse for Claribel not to go to Holland. It's here that Claribel finally sees Casa van Borsele. It's a castle, size small. Complete with pepperpot tower. Oh, and it must have slipped his mind, but instead of Mr. or Dr. or even's Baron van Borsele. With less than 20 pages to go in the book Claribel finally realizes she's in love. Baron Marc watches her face carefully...He must have found his scrutiny satisfactory for he observed softly, "Well, well....shall we go?" She briefly toys with finding an antipodean job (New Zealand)...but when she gets stuck at the top of the Oldehove tower Marc comes to her rescue as she recites Tennyson. I love you, no, I love YOU, Kiss kiss. The end.

Food: Dutch apple tart with lashings of whipped cream, gingerbread, lemon tart, potato soup, shepherd’s pie, pineapple upside-down pudding, steak and kidney pie, Lobster Thermidor, chandfroid of raspberries, chicken in a cream sauce, an omelette filled with strawberries with warm wine sauce and cream, Victoria sponge, chicken a la king,
Fashion: a plastic pinny that says “Work Hard”, needlecord skirt and knitted jumper, quilted jacket, cotton jersey ensemble in pale toffee, pearly grey crepe de Chine with pale pink flowers, dark blue crepe de Chine.
Rating: Why isn't "Steamed Pudding With Raisins" a rating? Because that's what this seems like it is. Betty has some wonderful prose and I loved much of this book. Loved it. Unfortunately Claribel is just a little too blonde for me (thus the hated raisins). She is much too resistant to Marc - with no good reason. He's a little abrupt and arrogant, and yes, he invites himself in to meals quite often, but ladies, he scrambles eggs, washes dishes, recovers a chair and takes her out on the town...And then there is a bona fide stalker - Irma the Soulless. Love her, or rather Hate her. In lieu of "steamed pudding" I think I'll give this "mince pies".


  1. I am incredibly excited about this book. Tisbury! I grew up two miles from Tisbury and my father still lives there. I know the train times from London to Tisbury. Is this one in print? I MUST have it.

  2. I think "minor royalty" must mean that massive carnage on the scale of "Henrietta's Own Castle" would have to hit Buckingham, Balmoral, Windsor, Kensington, Clarence House, and alot of polo grounds simultaneously before you had any chance of sitting on a throne.

  3. Back in the day (maybe before Charles & Diana had the princes), there was a list of people in line for the English throne. Somewhere down the list (57th or so) were two men with the surname Lascelles (pronounced to rhyme with tassles).

    So, okay, here's the funny bit. You know how no one on the list can be Catholic? Well, these particular gentlemen lived (at the time) in the US -- Arizona or New Mexico. One of them was a disc jockey (!) and an active practitioner of a local Native American religion. (I want to believe it was one that claimed taking psychotropic drugs like peyote was a "religious" ceremony and therefore legal, but I don't know that for a fact.)

    Anyway, more than 100 years ago, some cousin of mine married a Lascelles -- a direct kin to the Lascelles who married a princess royal (one of Queen Victoria's daughters, I think). Obviously, this plus $4.50 will buy me a venti something or other at Starbucks, but I think I'm entitled to say that some cousins of cousins of cousins of mine are cousins of the Queen.

    I think.

    (BTW: The only minorly royal thing I am is a PITA.)

  4. The best thing I like about this book is when Claribel kicks Marc on the ankle. I don't think any heroine of Neels has taken that kind of liberty.

  5. I loved this book, it was so Neels and not Neels if you know what I mean. The meals are there in frequency and detail, the good doctor has a household staff and more than one staffed home, but Claribel is not pathetic. She dates quite a bit and its serious and her dates don't walk all over her. The other woman is more unfeeling than most and the good doctor doesn't pretend not to see it, doesn't take Evil Irma out on dates as that most RDD avidly date evil girls. My favorite non Betty parts of this book have to be the conversations between Irma and Claribel. She actually says Marc's in the shower and she's not finished dressing, she says she would move in with Marc but its too far from the hospital.... I couldn't have been more surprised if she said they go to Brighton every weekend and sometimes mid-week. WOWzers it was funny and so naughty.

    Betty Nodelia

  6. I completely agree with Betty Nodelia. I love this book and was how naughty Claribel was. So funny, so fun. Love it.
    Betty Britt

  7. One of my favorite people on the planet is named "Marc" (last name French, not Dutch, alas ...). The Marc in this book reminds me of him a little, being clever, a little snarky and fun (or so I think). That may be why I like it so much ...

    Betty Janet A

  8. Minor royalty - members of the royal family that are not in direct line of the Queen. Cousins such as the Princes and Duke and Duchess of Kent. They attend events such as Wimbledon and have rooms in official residences, for example Kensington. They are usually seen/photographed in grand family events such as weddings, Trooping the Colour and recently the Jubilee.

  9. Betty Grace here.

    I did like this book. I think I must have read it before, long ago, but didn't remember much about it apart from the acrophobia bit at the end. I found Claribel a bit dim in the 'I wonder if he likes me' stakes, but not too annoyingly so. What struck me most - and this is after my binge-reading of quite a few of Betty's books in recent weeks - is the 'thing' Betty has for watercress soup. It crops up all over the place! Claribel's mother tells Marc that she's serving watercress soup 'of my own making' and there are RDD housekeepers making the stuff everywhere you look. I like watercress but have never made soup with it, but now I think I'll have to try it. And I hate cooking!

  10. I think this is one of the books where I have to wonder about the state of Betty's teeth. A lot of her books have a preponderance of mushy food. Has anyone else noticed this?
    Betty Jenne