Him: Well, she certainly won't be a distraction with those looks...
Her: I love him and I'm not intimidated by him. Yes, I'll start immediately.
Dr. Lovell (I keep thinking of Apollo 13...) lives in a pleasant old house in Much Winterlow - his family has lived in it for generations. He could have a fancy post in London, but he prefers to be a GP in the village. There is one fly in the ointment. He is engaged to a haughty piece. All's fair in love and war, thinks Matilda...
Which is pretty much the same attitude her mum has about her. At least the "all's fair" part. The family Paige has recently moved to this rural village due to dad's medical retirement- so instead of being a big fish in a small pond, Mrs. Paige is now a small fish in a smaller pond. The Reverend Mr. Paige, retired, doesn't mind the tiny house in the tiny village - after all, he has his books and a study to retreat to. It's left to Matilda to make the best of things. Her way of making the best of things, is to make friends with the villagers and apply for a job. Matilda is an unusual Neels heroine - she has some skills! Besides shorthand and typing she also knows computer and simple bookkeeping, not only that, but she also has her first aid certificate. Not too shabby - in fact, she's downright employable. With her new employment, it means that she can augment her father's tiny pension. The family can really use some money - Mrs. Paige is selfish and spoilt. And Matilda knows it. Mrs. Paige actually utters the words "poor little me"...while blackmailing Matilda out of some of her wages. PLM (poor little me) needs money for the expensive hairdresser in another town and for new clothes, perhaps the occasional social gathering....PLM is an expensive habit. PLM even offers to take all of Matilda's wages and make good use of them. Good try, mum, but Matilda is smarter than that, she tells PLM that the wages will go in father's account and she will keep some out for PLM. At which point PLM cries and accuses Matilda of selfishness. Ah, mother love.
The new job provides a welcome change for Matilda - she gets to get out of the house and meet new people. As a side benefit, she also gets glimpses of Dr. Lovell, whom she loves, loves, loves. Dr. Lovell gets glimpses of Matilda - who is not quite as much like the irreplaceable Miss Brimble as he would like. For one thing, Matilda is cheerful and chatty. Dr. Lovell is chilly and polite.
Meanwhile, back on the homefront, PLM is busy scotching any social life Matilda might possibly get by telling people that "Matilda is a homebird", "Matilda has to stay home with my husband while I go to Taunton and spend her wages on things for me", "Even though Matilda can drive we sold the car". The tyranny of Poor Little Me is one of the defining characteristics of Matilda's life. PLM is quick to tell Matilda how plain and boring she is. If there's a penny to be squeezed out of Matilda, PLM gushes with tears and accusations of being mean. The highlight of Matilda's life is the love she has for Dr. Lovell. Not that she expects anything to come of it - after all, her mother has drilled it into her head that she is plain, unattractive to men and boring, besides, Dr. Lovell is engaged. Matilda may be plain, but boring, she is not. Matilda introduces some radical changes to the doctor's office. A disused chimney pot for wet umbrellas, a plastic chamber pot for toddlers, and flowers. And a little back-chat. Just a little. A tiny spark.
Let's not forget Dr. Lovell's fianceé. Lucilla Armstrong. Yes, Lucilla. With a name like that, you just know she is cold, mercenary and has salt-cellars for bosoms. Matilda, being a girl in love, is naturally jealous and ever so slightly catty.
Matilda has to get a little sneaky in order to have any time and/or money to herself. She plans a shopping trip to Taunton - but doesn't inform the parents until just before she has to run to catch the bus.
Dad: You run along and have a nice day. Do you have enough money?
Mom: You are a thoughtless and selfish girl! Why should you go to Taunton? I am the only one in this house who deserves to have fun or to look good.
That's right, get out the virtual wire coat hangers.
Matilda manages to buy herself a new dress and a sweater...Dr. Lovell notices something is different about her, but can't put his finger on exactly what is different. Relations between the two seemed destined to remain employer/employee, that is, until.....Typhoid Traveller comes to town. A stranger who stopped by the village store and coughed all over everyone...causing a flu epidemic. Every cloud has a silver lining, and this one gives Matilda an excuse to get a "room" in the village because of the longer hours and the danger of giving the flu to her parents, but, shhh, don't tell the doctor. Mrs. Trickett obligingly rents her a room - but as her house does not sport all the mod cons, Matilda will need to go across the street and take her baths at the pub. When the doctor's housekeeper, Mrs. Inch gets the flu, Matilda quietly steps into the breach, cooking meals, letting Sam the dog out into the garden, and taking care of Mrs. Inch. When Dr. Lovell sees Matilda managing so well in the kitchen, he wonders how Lucilla would have handled the crisis...huh? what's that? A chink? Hmm. Mrs. Inch spills the beans about Matilda's sleeping and bath arrangements...which prompts Dr. Lovell to offer Matilda the use of one of his bathrooms.
Him: Why not? You can let yourself out when you're done.
There may a chink in Dr. Lovell's armour, but that doesn't stop him from forgetting that he invited Matilda to share his tea with him...
Him: I'm an idiot! I totally forgot about you.
Her: I'm the sort of person that people forget. I know that because my mother told me so.
Him: Not true! Don't hide your light under a bushel. Oh, and feel free to take a bath at my place any time.
Him: Not true! Don't hide your light under a bushel. Oh, and feel free to take a bath at my place any time.
Just when the flu epidemic is almost over, that's when Matilda starts feeling funny. Over she goes - passed out on the waiting room floor. Dr. Lovell discovers her there, uses some shocking language, scoops up Matilda and plops her in one of his guest rooms. He then turns her over and gives her a purely professional injection in her *ahem*tuckus. And some purely professional listening to her *ahem* chest, THEN he notices her delicately arched eyebrows and long curling lashes...perhaps it's time for a little chaperonage in the form of Aunt Kate? Aunt Kate questions the doctor about Matilda - why her mother (PLM) wasn't taking care of her, what's her father like, and does she have a boyfriend? A boyfriend? The thought rankled.
Since the good doctor was well aware of the fact that Matilda's mum is the 5th Horseman of the Apocalypse...(you know, Pestilence, War, Famine, Death and Toxic Mum), he sends her home with Aunt Kate for a week's convalescence/fattening up. Matilda comes back plump and rosy cheeked...when Dr. Lovell takes her home, he can really and truly see what an awful mother she has. It's just about here that he begins to feel 'vague stirrings', which he assumes to be pity, but that's just silly - Matilda doesn't need his pity and wouldn't take it if it was offered up on a silver platter. Personally, I think she could use a little pity for the way her mother treats her. While Matilda was away, PLM has run up a bill at the grocery store, neglected to pay the milkman, the butcher and the newsagent. I guess Matilda will need to use all of her pay packet to pay the family bills. Again.
Dr. Lovell asks Matilda to help out by babysitting a toddler while his father has an operation. Matilda will be alone with the tyke all day on a remote farm, with only an unknown farmhand around. The thought makes her nervous, but she doesn't show any nerves to Dr. Lovell - after all she would go through fire and ice for him - so why boggle at a bull or two. After examining her father (remember - he has a dicky heart), he warns her that while her dad is well at the moment, it wouldn't surprise him if her dad had another heart attack. And then he kissed her. What? I blinked - what'd I miss?
Matilda seems to gradually take up more and more of Dr. Lovell's thoughts - he offers to let her have some vacation time before Christmas. PLM of course takes advantage - with Matilda off work she can tend her father, clean the house, make refreshments for a small party...in other words, do all the things PLM could do, but won't. Dr. Lovell wangles an invite from Aunt Kate - so Matilda will get at least 2 days free. In the meantime there is the annual village dance, and Dr. Lovell invites Matilda to go with him. What about Lucille, you ask? She's in the south of France. Mum is not interested in the local entertainment - but she does manage a few spiteful comments about the upcoming dance. "It was hard to like her mother sometimes" thinks Matilda. When the good doctor picks up Matilda for the dance, PLM manages to cast a blight - like some kind of evil fairy. Even PLM can't completely ruin their evening. The doctor finds contentment in her arms, and discovers that Matilda isn't plain at all. At the end of Matilda's vacation, the doctor comes over to Aunt Kate's house and invites Matilda to dinner - but what about Lucille? What about Lucille. The doctor admits to himself he is in L.O.V.E. with Matilda - but doesn't think Matilda shows any signs of being in love. Oh, if only they each had best friends, like in junior high.
Him to his friend: Psst. Dude, don't tell anyone but I like, like Matilda.
His friend to her friend: Henry says he likes, likes Matilda.
Her friend to Matilda: I heard that Henry like, likes you!
Matilda to her friend: I like, like him too! But don't tell him!
Her friend to his friend: It's official - she like, likes him.
His friend to Henry: Dude, she like, likes you...you can make your moves.
Love is not as simple as that when you're a grown-up. Henry (Dr. Lovell) licks his finger and holds it up to the wind, squints at the sky and calculates the angle of the sun, stoops down and crumbles some dirt between his finger...and decides to bide his time until she falls in love with him. Too bad he's not a little better at reading signs.
The dicky heart of Mr. Paige comes into play again...Mrs. Paige aka PLM is off visiting friends, Mr. Paige has a massive coronary...Mrs. Paige stays with her friends that live closer to the hospital - leaving Matilda home alone.
Lucilla doesn't want to spend any time in the poky little village either - she issues an ultimatum, which Henry totally accepts...thus clearing the decks for Matilda. Yay! Mrs. Inch finds out that PLM is leaving Matilda alone over Christmas...Henry feels a wee bit murderous (Neels, not me!) about PLM, so off he runs to bring Matilda back to his home. He is not a callow impetuous youth to marry Matilda out of hand. Not our Henry. He soon lets her know that she's Bonny to his Clyde...Lois Lane to his Superman...Gracie to his George...Hermione to his Ron.
We are treated to the best Neels wedding ever. Banns read. Check. In-laws moved a suitable distance away(in this case, 90 miles)? Check. White wedding dress? Check. Sapphire engagement ring? Check. Bridesmaids. Check. The Voice that Breathed o'er Eden. Check. Morning suits. Check. Not one single embellishment was forgotten. Check.Rating: I loved this book. Matilda was a great heroine - nice, but with enough back-chat to be fun. Henry was awesome - he could have a second career as a wedding planner. PLM was deliciously horrible. The village characters were fun...Queen of Puddings!
Fashion: white wedding dress, navy dress with a white collar, grey jersey dress (suitably short), military cut coat, pink jersey two-piece, the doctor dons cords with a thick sweater.
Food: chocolate biscuits, "tasty cheese", dry cheese biscuits, lamb chops, chicken soup (not from a tin), ham on the bone, a casserole that just needs warming, tiny sausage rolls, hot mince pies, steak and kidney pie, trifle, French onion soup, lardy cake!