Wednesday, June 30, 2010
When the darling little mob-capped leukaemia sufferer is ready to move on from Katrina's cottage in An Innocent Bride (Ug. That title--an idea I approve on principle but when you say it that way...sheesh.), Simon tells Katrina that little Tracy will "live to a reasonable age".
"A reasonable age".
Question: Given The Venerable Neels' propensity to kill off a lot of blonde 18-year-olds suffering from cancer...what do you think she considers 'a reasonable age'?
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
When the chips are down, Katrina gets a job as a day laborer...picking strawberries is one of her jobs. Growing up in the Willamette Valley in the 1970's, it was the privilege/curse of many an underfunded teenager to work the fields for a pittance. String beans were the preferred crop - it was nice and shady between the rows - and if you were slacking off, it was difficult for the boss to see you. Strawberries were horrible. Absolutely horrible. Yes, they are much tastier raw than string beans, but there was no shade and no hiding, PLUS there was all that bending over. Sunburn and backache - I only lasted one summer with the strawberries. It's certainly a good thing Katrina and Simon made a go of it, because I'm not sure how long she could have made a go of the whole day laborer thing.
In most of La Neels earlier novels her tall Junoesque heroines can eat whatever they want without gaining an ounce. Evidently science caught up with Betty. Simon invites Katrina to go for a walk - his excuse is that "we big people tend to put on weight". Huh. We short people put on weight too...I guess it's time to go for a walk.
Part of Aunt Thirza's legacy is a delightful garden. One feature is the moss roses. I'm not quite sure what moss roses are, so I went to that fount of all wisdom, Wikipedia...and I'm still not sure. Evidently there is more than one kind of moss rose.
First the title. An Innocent Bride. Ho hum. A total throw-away. Harlequin clearly didn't know what to do with Betty Neels at this point and was trying to signal readers with semaphore flags, neon signs and traffic cones that this book wouldn't have anybody mucking about in Brighton. But it makes our heroine sound a simp...which she is not. No, the book should have been titled The Moss Rose or Aunt Thirza's Legacy or Love and Leukaemia...
Katrina Gibbs, 24 with masses of dark hair, is sprawling across the country road in all her splendid glory. A motorcyclist driving on the wrong side of the road (Horrid American? But I repeat myself...) has knocked her over and smashed her bike.
Enter the great socking Bentley.
Professor Simon Glenville, 'knocking 40' (39), haematologist at St. Aldrick's and rescuer of fair, young maidens happens upon her, plucks her up and carries her back to Rose Cottage where she lives with her aunt Miss Thirza Gibbs--a retired girl's school headmistress and a woman of prickly disposition and rigid principles who never heard a 'Ms.' in her life and would have given it a frigid stare if she had.
Katrina and Simon and Aunt Thirza get off to such a rough start that it's as though they, all three of them, were hapless British bicycles and Fate an ill-mannered American motorcycle.
When Aunt Thirza (an actual Hebrew name meaning pleasantness and delight...instead of ironclad and unchangeable) is referred to a doctor is it really any surprise that her condition needs the leading haematologist in the history of the British realm?
Naturally, she is going to die. And naturally, no one tells her so. Instead of telling the grown woman that she might die of lymphatic leukaemia at any time they tell her she has Anaemia--a universal catch-all disease that will mask the symptoms of her failing health without alarming her in any way. They don't send you to medical school for years on end to tell the naked truth, evidently.
This gives Katrina and Simon an excuse to meet again and for her to weep (again--the American motorcyclist was upsetting) all over his cloth hankies (which she promises to launder and give back).
Simon brings Aunt Thirza, whom he has decided he rather likes, a moss rose for her garden that is already in bud even though it isn't the season to transplant that sort of thing. Dear me. Plants and fatal diseases. If you're thinking of O. Henry's The Last Leaf, well then, so am I. But we don't have to wait until the last blossom withers on the bush for Aunt Thirza to shuffle off her mortal coil. She passes on in idyllic tranquility, possibly thinking that those iron pills were woefully inadequate and intending to pen a stern letter of rebuke to the head of the NHS.
Simon is off on a lecture tour and Katrina finds that during the funeral hubbub she misses his presence most. A head scratcher.
When he does finally find out he hares off to Rose Cottage in time for tears and mucked up lawn hankerchiefs (with attendant and inevitable promises of laundering). He has sensibly brought a meal from (prepare yourself for the best homehelp name ever) Mrs. Peach. He is unable to pin Katrina down on her future plans and as he leaves his parthian shot is to tell her not to marry a fortune hunter.
Fortune hunter. (Snort.) That would require a fortune at the very least, no? Katrina has a few hundred pounds, Rose Cottage, the extensive kitchen garden and...and a fat lot of good it does her. Aunt Thirza, though lovely enough to provide a home for the orphaned 12-year-old (a plane crash carried off the poor parents. Possibly the plane also carried a oily South American gigolo and a run-away Dutch wife needing to be offed for a future Neels novel?), did not exactly launch her wee chick out of the nest with bankable skills.
In a sensible manner, Katrina decides to become a field laborer by day and a respectable lady of leisure by late-afternoon. Aunt Thirza, mindful of proprieties, would have approved. Simon does not.
Coming upon Katrina while dropping Maureen (oh, have I not mentioned that bit of under-rock ooze? Just wait.) at the manor, he grasps one of her work-roughened hands and presents his findings. '...working on a farm, Katrina?...Grubbing potatoes, picking peas and strawberries?' Oh for the love of...What is he, Sherlock Holmes?
And now for Maureen--bright as a penny and twice as cheap. She is a doctor on his medical team--recently joined--and has sights set on Simon. Any actual meddling she does is fairly incidental. A wee spot of water muddying is all. But, in An Innocent Bride, we are privy to the Machinations of Maureen wherein the villainess plots to annex the dear doctor with false displays of keenness, sympathy, helplessness, charity, distress, unreliable cars and an unbelievable cluelessness about the world of public transport. Neither Simon nor Katrina are ever over-vexed by them (though Katrina does think that Maureen is a front-runner for the hand of Fair Simon due to his willingness to shuttle her about) but it is very entertaining to watch her try so hard.
Maureen meets Katrina (always the correct niece of Miss Thirza) running the bottle stall at the village fete. Of course Maureen wins something. 'I always win.' Well, dust off your cosmic irony, kitten. When this hits the fan, Katrina is going to get the most delightful case of schadenfreude ever.
In the mean time, Simon cooks up a plot. He has a little patient with leukaemia (not the same kind as Aunt Thirza) who needs a rest in the country and he also has Katrina desperately in need of agricultural-grade hand cream and a good manicure. As quick as Bob's your uncle he's got little Tracy (with mother Molly) living with Katrina all financed by the lightening fast and flexible bureaucracy of the NHS!
Seriously, she swallows it. Two birds, one stone.
Tracy gives Simon just the reason he needs to keep visiting. (He's always hiding behind cancer victims to do his courting but just go with it.) He does get her alone for a date at Stourhead and a spot of canoodling but this is a rarity.
Instead, the village grapevine pairs Maureen and Simon. 'But he needs a wife like me!' thinks Katrina. Will you look at that. Imagine leaving a dawning realization lying about where just anyone can trip over it...
Little Tracy is deemed 'well enough' to move out. Katrina finds a job as a part-time librarian/seller of home-grown produce. Things settle.
And then Simon tells her that he's in love with her and...shhhhhh, baby, baby, shhhhhhhh...he'd just like to drop in now and then. Shhhhhhh. 'No, don't say anything, just bear it in mind.'
Don't mess things up by thinking she should have set him straight right then and there. There's another 30 pages to go before the contract is fulfilled.
A fire at the manor more firmly roots Katrina's awesomeness and Maureen's deviousness in our imaginations.
A storm occurs in which Katrina is the teensiest bit weenie.
Simon carries her off to his parents' house (He has parents?!) where he introduces her as their future daughter-in-law.
Proposal. (Ahem. The bit about the cart and the horse applies, methinks.)
A rather nice wedding follows wherein she carries a bouquet of moss roses (awww, Aunt Thirza) and Maureen is banished to India.
Rating: As a whole this book is just somewhere in the middle. The best bits revolved around the horrid Maureen. It's as though La Neels is finally giving us chapter and verse on How Shallow, Awful Girl Nabs Rich Kind Doctor thus filling in the back-story on almost all Engaged RDD plots. Why would a nice well-to-do doctor get himself caught by the Vapid Undead? Refer to the Maureen template and footnotes.
Aunt Thirza's death is handled beautifully. When I die, I'd like to go that way.
The theme is also a winner. Katrina, brought up rigidly by a circumspect spinster, is bound by Aunt Thirza's formality to express her love in a sort of Remains of the Day repressed smolder.
So, I give it a Treacle Tart. It's not brilliant but it does have some unique touches.
Food: eggs, potted shrimps, rack of lamb, rhubarb fool (how can you turn down a rhubarb fool?), almond buscuits, farmhouse cake, orangeade, lemonade, bacon and egg pie, cheese straws, fish cakes, smoked salmon, tiny pancakes with chopped chicken, cold meat and salad, bad sherry, good wine, cucumber and orange salad.
Fashion: Dateless beige coat, jersey dress (!), his cashmere sweater (The Great Neels fails to sell me on the idea of our heroes in sweaters), cream and amber crepe, a positively life-saving rose-patterned frock.
Monday, June 28, 2010
Thursday. July 8th. Victory for Victoria. This book would win the category of "Most Gratuitous Mentions of Name Brand Perfumes in a Betty Neels", hands down. Heroine's home town is on the island of Guernsey.
That's why you'll understand how truly sorry I am to share my Betty in the Wild. I had been feeling a tetch bit lame for bailing on Betty Debbie last week and suddenly, in the line at Space Mountain (at Disneyland), those feelings got the better of me. In a fit of remorse and guilt, I broke rules. I. Broke. Rules. (Most definitely, not a standard Betty Keira MO.) I did not secure loose items while the ride was running. And I got what must surely go down as the awesomest Betty in the Wild pic evah.
This one's for you Betty Debbie:
The Magic of Living clutched in my death grip.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Dr. van der Stevejinck is the love of my life. Really. Really, really. I keep telling myself that...especially since he just dragged me nine hundred miles to a family reunion. His family's. I love him. I love him. I love him.
And now for the nine hundred mile drive home.
Friday, June 25, 2010
Emma's Wedding starts at a bakery, and end's with the happy couple snarfing pasties together. What movie has baking and passion? Moonstruck. It also is rife with awesome quotes, including one of Betty Keira's all time favorites.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
We first meet Emma Dawson and her mother at the reading of Emma's father's will. We never find out what daddy died of, but evidently it was unexpected. He has left his dependents without two sticks to rub together. Daddy had unwisely invested the portfolio in what? Computers! Oh no! Not computers! Emma and mum are nearly, but not quite, bankrupt. In order to stave off impending bankruptcy, they are forced to sell the nice home with all the mod cons, the cars, the furniture and the family silver to stay afloat in a sea of insolvency. Mrs. Dawson is a typical Neels widow...selfish, check...whiny, check...lazy, check...same ol', same ol'. "I won't be shabby!" says Mum. Emma is left to take care of matters practical. What's practical is to move to the family vacation cottage in Salcombe. Mummy Dearest is not happy with the reduced circumstances. Oh, I almost forgot, Emma has a younger brother, James. He has a 'disappointing degree' in science and has taken a couple of years off to backpack around the world. Pay him no mind, this is the only time we'll hear about him. A few loose ends need tying up...cue the uptight boyfriend, Derek. Derek is involved in banking, and insolvency is not an attractive attribute in a potential mate. Time to dump Emma.
I do like Emma. One of the first things she does in Salcombe is to enroll in the library. You go, girlfriend. Editor: That's one of the first things I do when moving to a new town. She then goes shopping for dinner...stopping off at the patisserie where she encounters a strange man, with tousled hair and bristly chin, who stares at her, then takes a couple of pasties to go.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Saturday, June 19, 2010
I'm not going to give a review of it or rate it...plenty of professionals have done that. I am also not going to give any spoilers...except one teeny tiny one. Mrs. Potato Head is referred to as a "one-eyed Betty". Had to share. There you go.
The Founding Bettys do not get caught up much in blog monitoring. We don't often check our stats and we're not obsessive about how many hits we get in a day. But we couldn't help but notice a brain-teasing trend. Lots and lots and lots of visitors (not Bettys in the strictest sense, just passers-by) first visit through the portal of Betty Debbie's review of Year's Happy Ending.
As it was our very first review, here at The Uncrushable Jersey Dress, it clearly shows signs of age. The Founding Bettys had not hit our bloggy stride yet, and it shows. As a post it is quite short, has few pictures...The locations that hit it are seemingly random and we've combed over it looking for interesting key words...
So, why does it keep coming up in people's searches? Surely a head-scratcher for the ages.
Maybe the World Cup is the culprit.
Friday, June 18, 2010
When Hatty the Handmaiden falls in love, Eugenia thinks to herself that she feels as old as Methuselah's wife which reminds me of Porgy and Bess's It Ain't Necessarily So...
Methuselah lived nine hundred years
But who calls that livin'
When no gal will give in
To no man what's 900 years
Eugenia's father is a bit of an old dear. He is very engaged in her life but he shares a habit that most Neels father's have. He's a old book collector (which hobby, Gerard ruthlessly exploits to gain his affection). His favorite book sellers are in Charing Cross Road which, as any Harry Potter-phile will tell you, is where the Leaky Cauldron in located. Such establishments as Any Amount of Books, Blackwell's, Murder One and Silver Moon were (or still are) based there. Lovely names all. If I owned a book shop it would be called: Betty Slept Here (I spent 20 whole seconds thinking that up.) What would you call yours?
In Heidelberg we get brief mention of a street called Philosopher's Way. I was hoping that it would mean one particular philosopher (who maybe leapt to his tragic death at the top of a precipice nearby--how grisly but fascinating that would have been!) but it was named for the students at Heidelberg University when student and philosopher were interchangeable terms. Which is really not as fun as it should be. Maybe we could start an internet rumor to spice things up.
At Heidelberg castle they come across a stone arch built in one night as a birthday present from Elector Fredrich the Fifth for his wife Elizabeth Stuart. (Isn't that just like a man to leave the shopping until the last minute?) Elizabeth (see right) is an interesting character whose love affair with her husband was, to all accounts, genuine. In the wiki article the arch doesn't get mentioned, possibly to make room for all the other things Fredrich had built for her--an English wing of the palace, a menagerie, gardens, a monkey house...Why say it in flowers when architecture can be your language of love?
The Secret Pool:
We have a patient who is thought to have kala-azar, but it turns out to be malaria. There's a spot (excuse the pun) of kala-azar to the left which is transmitted by the bite of a particular sand fly. Also called, briefly and locally, Jericho Buttons (they do look like buttons) and, more generally, leishmaniasis which is the bo-ring name. Kala-azar is the Urdu or Hindi or Hindustani name for it which literally means 'black fever'. I'd much rather tell people I'd been to India and brought back kala-azar--they'd likely think it was a woodwind instument instead of a disfiguring parasite...
At St. Bavo's Cathedral in Haarlem Fran listens to the organist play Fauré. No sooner written than done. Here. It's lovely. He, himself, described his Requiem as "a lullaby of death".
Fran is no musical slouch herself and has quite a repertoire on the piano. Delius, Chopin, Debussy, Cats and Me and My Girl. She has to trot her talent out with very little warning like a dog and pony show. This is why I learned the trumpet. No one ever asks you to play the trumpet.
Am I alone in thinking that while the book devolves into a nihilistic revenge fantasy, the movie has Jim Caviezel and, more importantly, Jim Caviezel's abs? In the book, a miserable excuse for a man runs off with his Cyprian and festers in his hate--and though I loved the writing I wanted to chuck it across the room when it came to the moral of the story. The movie shows all his plotting and all his intrigue and, like Heidelberg Wedding, once he has won the girl from her laggard lover has a abrupt (very abrupt) courtship/elopement.
Thinking over the selection for The Secret Pool, I had a light bulb moment. Disabled children? Falling down stairs? Soulless and dead ex-wife tries to end a pregnancy for her own self-absorbed ends? Oh, I so have a movie that fits that bill and it's one of my faves:
Gene Tierney's delicious overbite (see above, looming over hapless prey) chews the scenery in her stint at Ellen, depraved man-eater. She captivates a man with a disabled little brother. She then offs little bro in a secret pool (because handicapped kids are icky and hard work!), becomes pregnant in a bid to keep her marriage together (but that's such a bother too!), trips down a stairs to end that and then, when husband finally wakes from his fog, frames him for her own suicide. He is free at the end to find the mousy (Jeanne Crain, mousy?!) little sis of Ellen who he always loved in the first place. This movie is so many layers of awesome that it's a wonder the celluloid didn't scorch.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
A controversial abortion law was passed in 1981 with single swing votes: 76 pro and 74 against in the Second Chamber and 38 pro and 37 against in the First Chamber. The law left abortion a crime, unless performed at a clinic or hospital that is issued an official abortion certificate by the Dutch government, and the woman who is asking for the abortion declares she considers it an emergency situation. The law came into effect on November 1, 1984..
Lisa would have been born much before this law and this would have been an illegal procedure.
Francesca Manning. Plain, lovely eyes and most importantly, mousy hair. Why is the mousy hair important? Just you wait. She's a bit of a Cinderella. After graduating from her training hospital in Bristol, she has come back to the nameless little market town to work in the Cottage Hospital and live out with her three aunts. The aunts took her in when she was orphaned at age 12 - and have raised her up with no expectation of marriage. She is to stick around and take care of them. As if that isn't enough, her worst nightmare comes to town. That would be Dr. van Rijgen. During one of his lectures she had the misfortune to fall asleep - and he? He had reduced her to a state bordering on hysteria. Yes, that's our hero. Charming. He's visiting at the Cottage Hospital because someone has some kind of infectious disease and that's his speciality. The infectious disease thing...scaring young nursing students is just a sideline.
Francesca gets an unexpected letter from her cousin Clare. Clare lives in...wait for it....wait...yup, Clare lives in Holland. Not only does she live in Holland, but she's also pregnant. The aunts can't really keep Fran chained in the basement...so they 'allow' her to go. Holland has a surprise in store for Fran...while out sightseeing one afternoon, guess who shows up at the cathedral? Dr. van Rijgen, that's who. Why? Why has he tracked down mousy little Fran? That's what Fran would like to know. "You want something, don't you?" Yes, he wants something, but he's not ready to tell her what. He does go back to Clare's flat with her and in front of Clare and her husband, invites Fran to spend the next day with him - sightseeing around Holland. That sounds fun! "Fran almost choked on the idea of having fun with Dr. van Rijgen."
Fran's Day Out. The day starts with a little melodrama. "Where are we going? Where are you taking me?" Fran is sounding like a character from a bad thriller...Dr. van Rijgen cuts to the chase. He's taking her home to meet someone special.
Fran: "Your wife."Dr. van Rijgen: "My wife is dead." Way to sugarcoat it, Doc.
**SPOILER ALERT** His wife may be dead, but he does have a daughter. Seven year-old Little Lisa only has 6 months to live. Don't expect any miracles here. She. Will. Not. Get. Well.
Fran is enchanted by Lisa - and acts totally natural with her. Another day out is scheduled...this time they go to the beach with Lisa...and enjoy walking on the beach with Lisa in her wheelchair Editor's Note: Believe me, this ONLY works because Lisa is small. Off-roading with a wheelchair is not fun with anyone who weighs more than you are personally willing to lift. Word.
Dr. van Rijgen invites Fran over for a farewell tea party...where everyone but her is exhibiting signs of suppressed excitement. And now we get the most businesslike proposition, I mean proposal ever. Litrik (we may as well call him that), would like to marry Fran so that Lisa will be happy during her final few months. A quickie annulment after the funeral, no harm, no foul. He knew she was the one to be Lisa's mama when he saw her getting her gold medal at nursing school graduation, a few months before. I guess he was blinded by her mousy locks...Fran is a dead ringer for the lead character of Lisa's favorite picture book. Mama Mouse. Gosh, I'd be delighted to marry someone who thinks I look like a mouse. And wants to ditch me in just a few months. Fran gives a startled yelp. I find that completely understandable. I'd yelp too. Litrik appeals to Fran's mother instincts or something... actually he plays the "Poor Dying Lisa" card. Effectively as it turns out. Fran agrees - in fact she practically signs a pre-nup.
Item 1. Must make Lisa Happy.