Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Emma's Wedding - 2001

Emma's wedding was one of the last books penned by La Neels. It's got a little bit of everything, but it's also clear that The Great Betty was not quite at the top of her game. Even so, it's still a good read - if slightly forgettable.
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.
A new day dawns and it's time to get a job. Mum's small widow's pension won't cover all their needs, so Emma gets not one, but two, part-time jobs. Two nights a week she is to work in the local library (yay!) and two days a week she cleans vacation cottages. It's enough money to keep them going, but not so much time away from home, where our girl has to also do all the work (mum's got 'nerves'). One evening right at closing time, Mr. Stranger comes to the library to grab a copy of Rupert Bear for a insomniac toddler next door. Mr. Stranger hasn't brought his library card, but the librarian knows him...it's Dr. van Dyke. He says "Well, well" in quite a satisfied tone upon seeing Emma again.
Derek comes to town to propose to Emma again. He's willing to graciously overlook the family's near brush with bankruptcy and join in happy matrimony...yadda, yadda. And here we get the greatest comeback for an unwanted proposal - "Get stuffed". Yup, that's what she said. Let's say it again. "Get stuffed!" Yea, that's never getting old. She is furious at Derek, so out she goes muttering about what a rat and a worm he is. Repeatedly. She bumps right into Dr. van Dyke, who offers his hanky and a quiet sit-down in his car. Dr. van Dyke remarks that her 'rat' is a snappy dresser. Hee hee.
Dr. van Dyke's sister comes to Salcombe for a holiday with her kiddies. They stay in one of the vacation cottages that Emma cleans. Emma takes the family swimming at the beach where the good doctor shows up and gets a treat. Emma in a flattering swimsuit. Woot! Emma invites Wibeke over to her cottage for tea. Tea with mummy. Afterwards she informs her brother, Dr. van Dyke, what a horror Emma's mum is. She's a ball and chain around Emma's neck. Yup. That describes her perfectly. She's almost enough to drive Emma to drink.
Emma runs into Dr. van Dyke buying pasties again...and he offers her a temporary job at the medical centre...which is nice since mum is going off for an extended visit with friends and taking her pension with her. The job is great while it lasts, but Dr. van Dyke seems to be keeping his distance. Jobs are now dropping like flies. She gets her notice at the medical centre, then she gets her notice from the library and finds a stray dog. What? She looses her jobs and adopts a dog? Taking on added responsibility at a time like that? That's our girl. Unfortunately she names it Percy. Percy. Dang. What a lame name for a dog. To cap off her run of bad luck, Mummy Dearest writes her a letter to let her know that she's bringing an old school chum back to live in the cottage with her and will Emma get lost? Thanks a lot, Mum. Dr. van Dyke stops by and offers his hanky again for another howlfest. Dr. van Dyke does a bit of fancy plotting footwork, and comes up with a job for her, back in Holland - working with his receptionist. Sure, she can bring the dog. Emma agrees, saying that if it doesn't work out she can come back. Dr. van Dyke has no intention of anything dire happening to his "darling Emma."
Emma settles into her new job just fine. Her new job doesn't entail anything of a technical nature - it's all menial work. Dr. van Dyke comes by on Saturday and takes Emma out for a very workmanlike tour of Amsterdam. He practically walks her off her feet, which is usually a job for 'worthy' housemen. He is tempted to give her a kiss, but the legendary iron control of RDD's stands him in good stead and he possesses his soul in patience.
Emma gets an official looking letter at work one day - "Hey Emma, please don't have your mail sent here." Yeah, about that. It's from the family solicitor (the one who read daddy's will) - Mrs. Dawson was killed in an auto-accident with her school chum. Who says there's no poetic justice for evil in Neeldom? Prime example here. Awesome prime example. Awesomely awesome.
Dr. van Dyke takes her back to England. He drops her at the solicitor's house and then returns for the funeral. Dr. van Dyke drives Emma down to Salcombe after the funeral where they proceed to co-habit the cottage, without benefit of chaperonage. Dr. van Dyke takes Emma out for a spot of dinner and proposing. Call me Roele (about time!). You've reached The Age of Reason...shall we enter into a marriage of convenience? Emma agrees...and Roele is secretly delighted - his Emma was going to marry him! This calls for a kiss.
And now for a wedding that is as completely unlike the false advertising on the cover as possible. Emma wears last year's suit and the only hat she can find in the village - the weather consists of a tearing wind and persistent rain. Not so much like the sunny weather and bride in white depicted on the cover, is it? The Harwick ferry is cancelled due to bad weather, so they take the Dover ferry, whereupon Emma gets sick and Roele takes good care of her. Emma does have a worry though...she's worried about what his parents will think of her. What if they think I'm an adventuress? The parents like her a lot, she impresses them with her knowledge of Latin names of plants in the garden, and the way she doesn't boast about it.
Roele gets a call for a house call...in Rome. Rome, Italy. Emma's imagination starts working overtime - she imagines Roele taking care of a glamorous film star in a see-through nightie...which is fairly far-ish from the truth. And hey, isn't Rome where they used to have orgies? Back in ancient days, maybe - but orgies, nonetheless. Not that Emma is quite sure what goes on in an orgy, but she's pretty sure it involves beautiful women at some point. When Roele gets home Emma forgets to be cool and gives him a warm welcome...which soon leads to the gifting of some family jewels, in the form of a sapphire engagement ring. Yeah, sure, they're already married, but Roele is awooing Emma. Things have been going fairly swimmingly when a shadowy character is brought up to muddy the waters. A spiteful old biddy brings up an old flame of Roele's - Veronique...with a name like that you'd think she was the Evil Other Woman. Nope. Just a little muddy water. She's never really an issue, but hey, it gives Emma an excuse to run back to Salcombe...which gives Roele an excuse to meet her there for declarations of love and pasties. The end.
Rating: There's some fun to be had - in moderation. Emma was an appealing character for the most part. Mum was an evil stock character, but I did love her poetic ending. That alone makes this book just about worth it. Roele had some good moments of tousled hair and bristly chins, pasties and plotting. Overall I think I'll give it a boeuf en croute.
Fashion: Jersey dress, in pleasing shade of blue, straw hat and swimsuit, tweed jacket and skirt, cashmere twin set, sapphire blue dress, homemade rhubarb wine, last years suit and the only
Food: Sunday chicken, pasties (3 times!!!), crab sandwiches, peach melba, zuurkool, smoked eel, Welsh rarebit, a mountain of chips, apple pie and cream, tea and crumpets, bread and butter pudding, fruit tarts, slippery bits and pieces.


  1. I so dearly love your illustration of Roele in the morning

  2. I, too, was a bit shocked at the lack of chaperoning one night; however, since he never (never? no never--channeling Betty Keira here) kissed her on the lips till the end I think all was okay, but as my dear ol' not whiny Mum would say, "Appearances matter." A younger Neels would have never countenanced it.

    I think my heart stopped on the "Get stuffed"--I think think it is safe to say that this was a ghost writer contribution.

    Nonetheless, Emma is a classic Neels gal and her Dawning Realization is AGES after his.

    I fell in love with the phrase "possessed his soul in patience"--if you didn't love him before....

  3. I agree with Betty JoDee...usually La Neels can be relied on to let her heroine emit the very shocking "pooh"...when she's really riled -- so, getting stuffed might be a late edition, like substituting the CD player for the phonograph, etc.

  4. Please, people: assume not that The Great Betty wasn't checking in with -- a grandchild, say -- to find out what "the young people" are saying on the street. "Get stuffed," while not precisely the King's Speech, is hardly "Fo'shizzle" or something equally bizarre. It's not Ali G, for example.

    And the same thing with the two of them in a tiny cottage in Salcombe: She would never have had that in a 20th century romance, but millenia change...

    Did anyone else notice that Anneke changed her name (or was replaced, but that's so not the way the RDDs roll) to Bridgette? If this book was ghost-written, you would think they could have done a better job catching stuff like that!

    I actually really like this book. I like that she writes "I love you" on the blotting paper. I like that he can tell when she's in love before she knows.

    And I like that the Veronica was finally named Veronique (Dutch for Veronica)!

  5. There've been a few of our RDDs who've possessed their souls in patience - and I like the phrase very much. I find myself using it IRL, and no one catches the reference of course, but I enjoy it. ;-) Cheap date, that's me!

    I love "Get stuffed!" and agree with Betty Magdalen. Writers are always jotting down amusing or apt phrases as they hear them.

    I too was shocked at the unchaperoned sojourn in Salcombe - that happens in another book, too, in a cottage. Can't recall which, though. Those cottages! Nearly Brighton. ;-)


  6. Oh - and the cover - what is UP??

    Dumb title, too, when you think of it. Emma's wedding is what - ten minutes out of the book? The Courtship of Emma, perhaps, but wedding? We're not talking Kate & William.


  7. This is one of my all time favorites. It might even be the first BN I ever read. I love the fact that she is not above cleaning cottages, and I love the pasties and just how sweet is Roele? Sigh.
    And now I've done it. I've caught up to you and read all the reviews. What now? Wait for Thursday with the rest of the Betties. Sigh. I feel like I just had a huge meal and have to go on a diet (two... sniff... only two reviews a week..) and April looms. Well, thanks for a terrific week of doing little else but reading reviews. At first I said I'd only read the reviews for the books I had already read. HA! That didn't last.
    My favorite visual? The dead crusader guy with the eyebrows. I made my chartered accountant read that one.
    Thanks again, great high pooh bah arbiters of everything for going to all this trouble.

  8. A very likeable swansong. I always love the Bettys with moaning mothers. There really are such people, unfortunately, maybe not so much nowadays, but definitely about when I was a good bit younger.