Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Question of the Week

In When May Follows, Katrina, in a delightfully spontaneous moment of healthy youthful spirits, flings her arms about Raf's neck and 'seals the deal' on their engagement. When he pulls away after a friendly, quick kiss she is chagrined and excuses her exuberance on the grounds that she " carried away--it must be the effect of having sapphires offered to one before lunch."
Okay, fine, well and good. But then Raf continues to be slightly off-putting to Kate from there on out, into their honeymoon and beyond.
I get that he's got a two-fold plan:
  1. Pique her interest. He's gambling that his disinterest will annoy her and make her want to capture his attention.
  2. It's all or nothing for him. Either he kisses her not at all or kisses her good and plenty. He's a bit of a garden spigot that way. On or off.
And he certainly isn't the first Rich Dutch Doctor to take that tack. Poor British Nurses have to fall in love without any help at all most of the time and sometimes The Venerable Betty explicitly has the heroes thinking, "I could make her fall in love with me...but I won't."

Which got me thinking of Charlotte Lucas of Pride and Prejudice. She and Elizabeth are discussing Jane. Charlotte says something to the effect that Jane should show more affection than she feels...because few of us have the courage to be really in love without proper encouragement.

So, that's my question. Is it more than likely that all this cold-shouldering would spur a woman to win a man or dissuade her from even trying?


  1. Unless she is a stalker, I think cold-shouldering is more than a little off-putting.

  2. In real life? It should put off any self-respecting woman. Because either the guy is gaming her (not a good thing) or he's trying politely to give her the message "he's just not that into" her.

    But in Neels' world, the premise is very different. In Neels-land, they already love each other. What's at issue is when they both know it. "I could make her love me" is code for "I could make her realize her feelings can only be love but I'd rather she have the Dawning Realization Moment all on her own."

    My mother once told me, "if it's magic for one of you it's probably magic for the other." Neels-land heroes (and sometimes it's the heroines who know first) know they couldn't be madly in love with someone who doesn't have the capacity to be in love with him back. So they wait, and try hard to keep from causing the effect they want to see happen naturally.

  3. I'm going to refer to the Mighty Darcy on this one. When Elizabeth asks why he was so silent, he tells her that if he had felt less, he might have said more. Our RDDs are of that variety, I think.

  4. I'm with Betty Magdalen - I would want to box some of Neel's heroes' ears for their arrogant assumption that months of his apalling treatment of me can be excused with one word of love! There would be several more pages at the end of the book where he is made to grovel and be in doubt of my returning his love. Not all the heroes sit back and wait patiently for the Dawning Realization Moment to happen naturally. Often they take a very active and sometimes almost cruel part in bringing it about.

    It's amazes me the amount of snubs and humiliations the heroines suffer at the hands of the heroes and all in the pursuit of his master plan to bring her to heel and all with that secret smile and gleam in his eye. The lovely but selfish fiance or girfriend are trotted out and dangled before the heroine and she is usually insulted and disparaged by these "ladies" - often in the presence of the heroe and sometimes to his apparent amusement.

    Heroes have gone so far as to sack the poor lovesick girl and wish her well on her new venture and remind her to send a postcard when she's settled in her new life! She's not to know that he's already packed up her dreary bed-sitter - furry friend and all- has the marriage license to hand and negotiated her release from her contract with the Board of Governors (of which he is one) and finally arranging the wedding with her parents and the vicar of her village church...

    Neels-land heroes often have their work cut out for them while bringing her round as in A Little Moonlight (pg 197) the heroe, Dr. Marc ter Feulen refers to the heroine as "a hard nut to crack" Her Aunt Edith chuckles "But you'll crack it?" "Certainly" he says. They then smile at each other in perfect understanding. He must be cruel in order to be kind. We are always treated to glimpses of his kinder nature, however-lovely teas and meals, rescuing people and animals, finding jobs and digs for the heroine as well as her family (when she's not an orphan), so we know that he is a man of many parts.

    The poor things are often made to endure all of love's heartaches and few of its joys until the last two pages when the grand plan is revealed and he declares his love. Neels makes sure that she will be duly rewarded for her suffering - the heroe, the lovely houses and servants, the Rolls and a clutch of children and pets to cuddle and love! Surely these are compensation enough for the ill-treatment she endures through their "courtship"?

    In the real world, no, most self-respecting women would throw in the towel in the face of such treatment, but Neels is writing in a different time where women bowed to their menfolks greater understanding and "experience" of life and love in particular. They will show spirit and pluck and will refuse to be "doormats", but in the end they will come round to his way of thinking and all will be explained and forgiven in an instant.

    So, while this might not quite do for me or other modern women, it is perfectly acceptable and what we expect from our Neels-land heroines. I picked up my first Neels book in the summer of 1976 when I was 15 and I wouldn't have them end any other way. Betty Suzanne-Victoria BC

  5. Hey, Betty Suzanne: Did you read my "rewrite" of Fate is Remarkable where I retold the story from Hugo's point of view? It's here (link for easy access)

    That's the best defense I can come up with for this "I didn't dare tell you" behavior.

  6. Ah, yes Betty Magdalen I did read it and absolutley adored it! I knew I would though, as I was googling Betty one day and came across a review you did on Betty that was so insightful and so totally in keeping with how I thought Betty saw herself, the world and her place in it, that I nearly choked up - no kidding - I always suspected that there was a little bit of Betty in her heroines. Especially the small, plain, hardworking nurses.(I,too have seen her photo.) That by the way, is how I found the Uncrushable site. That review was really quite brilliant.

    I grew up with Betty Neels and believe me she has seen me through some unpleasant times in 34 years. I thought of her as an old and dear friend and truly mourned her passing.

    To keep on subject, however, your review of Fate is Remarkable, gave dimension to a heroe rarely provided by Neels herself. Seldom have I rooted for or been in such sympathy with a heroe as I experienced in your treatment of Hugo in his frustrated love.

    Neels writes from the perspective of the heroine with only rare glimpses into the heart of the heroe. We are at all time in sympathy with the heroine even when we want to give her a good shake! I've been moved to tears over the plights of the heroines many times. It is impossible for me to read the scence in Only By Chance where the heroine is forced to serve the heroe and his haughty girlfriend at a party waring Oxfam (charity) clothes and shoes without tearing up. Betty doesn't spare Henrietta or her readers in that scene!

    I hope to see another of your reviews of Betty's work in the future and I am grateful for your insight. This, my friend, is one of the ways we cope with life after Betty. Betty Suzanne, Victoria BC

  7. I am now, ahem, older than Neels heroes (how did that happen?!?). I see them differently than I did in my teens and early adulthood (okay, prior to marriage to Professor van der Hertenzoon). I realize now that mostly men are idiots--not that we don't love them. They just don't get women, but the good ones learn to cope. I used to comment to my older, more experienced grad school friend that all the good ones were "taken," i.e. married. She finally replied, "You don't think they come that way, do you? That's the result of alot of hard work on the part of some wife."

    Now I'm the one doing all that hard work *laugh.

    Plus all the heroes are ultimately gentlemen. Once they start the serious courtship they have to be sure of her and that she is ready to marry fairly quickly because they know that she does not visit Brighton until the ring and the vows. As one hero put it (can't remember which one ), "My self control is pretty good, but not that good."

  8. "My self-control is pretty good, but not that good." *snort*(orange juice spurting from nostrils). Yes, that's probably the main reason that 'non-Brighton before wedding vows' people have short engagements.

  9. Haha...I almost had coffee spurting from my nostrils. Is the quote from "An Old-fashioned Girl"?
    I totally agree with Suzanne on how women of today would react to Neelsdom treatment in the hands of men who, with a few charming words and heart melting smiles, manage to keep the kind hearted gals guessing and pining!
    But I think it also depends on the girl. There is a bit of psychology involved there. I think Betty hints at that too in her novels with the "apple falling into his hand" analogy. So, there are some books where the RDD's seemingly irritating behaviour ends up showing the "girl of his dreams" that he is different from the rest of her boring suitors, while in other books, the herione just decides to get on with her life/ to turn the tables on him to shock him into realizing how much he cares for her (plug for Caroline's Waterloo, that book employs above mentioned psychology in both cases). He/ she searches high and low and finallly finds him/ her to apologize and leave sniffling (in the girl's case as she is planning to go back to a bleak and dreary life without him) or to declare his love and sweep her off her feet to the mansion/ castle/ amazingly huge house(in the RDD's case).