The Job at Ye Olde Geriatric Hospital is not exactly cushy. "It's not the cool hand on the brow kind of work - more like a charwoman - plastic pinnys and mops and buckets." Claudia, being Claudia, puts a brave face on it and cheerfully gets on with it. She does have a day off after a week which happily coincides with her mother's wedding. Mr. T-B has cadged an invite to the wedding...he'd like to see what's up with the beautiful Claudia. He neatly arranges to drive Claudia back to Southampton and sets up a date for her next afternoon off.
Thomas is suitably taken aback at the lack of reproachful comment, coolness or sulkiness. He's married to a treasure. Even Cork is starting to appreciate her.
- Christmas at the in-laws. It's lovely. A pretty snazzy kiss wherein Thomas nearly loses his control and Claudia enjoys it. It's page 142. That would have been a nice place to end.
- Contretemps in Hyde Park...while walking Harvey the Ugly Puppy, Claudia is threatened by rowdy youths. Thomas is Harsh, but then apologizes and tell her that he was angry because he was scared for her.
- Thomas gives Claudia a New Years Kiss. It stirs something in Claudia...His Sleeping Beauty was beginning to wake up. Frankly, another kiss or two and he could have sealed the deal. On page 159.
- It's time for a little muddle. Thomas is being a bit distant. If Claudia had read her Betty Neels, she would know that this IS A SIGN THAT HE'S IN LOVE. Alas, she hasn't.
- Thomas has to go on a trip to Leeds. When dropping off Claudia at her mum's, he JERKS BACK from her. Tears are fought off. Muddle, muddle, muddle.
- The Woman Scorned, Take Two. Honor implies that Thomas takes his sexy secretary on trips with him...and not just to take notes, if you get what I mean wink wink.
- Claudia calls his office and finds out that the secretary is indeed out of town. Which leads her to say "I hate him!", which leads to her realizing that she doesn't hate him at all, she loves him. Dang. There goes their open and honest communication. Because she'll have to hide her love away.
- Thomas returns early from his trip because he could tell from her telephone voice that something is wrong. Claudia makes a hash of explaining...Thomas might as well be Dutch - with all the icy anger in his eyes. He throws down a gauntlet...Claudia had better decide if she trusts him and if she is unhappy in their marriage. (Worst part of the book for me!)
- Claudia is horribly unhappy - and instead of having Thomas there to talk to about it, he's hiding out at work. She has Cork bring the Mini around and she drives through London traffic...and down to the cottage in Child Okeford.
- Thomas calls home, Cork is worried about the missus. Thomas races to Child Okeford to find her asleep on a kitchen chair.
- Muddles are cleared up, snogging engaged in. The end. For real this time.
Rating: Beautiful Woman Marries Rich Doctor!! News at Eleven!! Hmm...for the most part I found this book charming, but unfortunately it's rather forgettable, and really, that title doesn't help it a bit. It would have best been served by a handy application of a spanner - to tighten up the sagging prose - and then a hacksaw taken to the last 40 or 50 pages (or 60) . The thing I like best is how open and honest AND friendly the two protagonists are to each other - before they fall in love. Claudia is charmingly matter-of-fact and forthright - she readily apologizes when she makes a gaffe. When life throws her lemons, she makes lemonade. Thomas is friendly and kind and pleased with himself for marrying such a beautiful woman who is perfectly suited to his life. It takes AGES for the two of them to realize they are in love - (him on page 122, her on page 171) and they have a tough time making the transition from open and honest 'just friends'...which is really too bad - all it would have taken is a couple of satisfying snogs to break the ice (let that be a lesson to you...)...even after 30 years of marriage, I find a few satisfying snogs can clear the air better than an hour of discussion. TMI? After much deliberation I'm going to give this a boeuf en croute...no, wait...treacle tart...um...mince pies? Let's leave it at that, mince pies. It's not that it's a bad book, it's just that La Neels has done the same story many times and done it better. I do have this book review to thank for my now clean house...I spent lots of time avoiding writing (because I wasn't inspired at all) and doing other productive things like moving furniture and doing laundry.
Food: crab ravioli with ginger, breast of duck potato straws(twice), Brussel sprouts (at least twice), pear tatin with cinnamon ice cream, individual cheese soufflés, salmon en croûte, watercress salad, iced fruit cake with silver leaves, game soup, roast pheasant, chocolate pudding, turkey, braised celery (I just cannot make that sound good in my head), cranberry sauce, flaming Christmas pudding (forget it, I'm NOT making it!), smoked salmon, ham on the bone, stuffed eggs (are these the same as devilled eggs?), chicken pie, lamb chops, apple pie.
Fashion: She doesn't get to wear anything nice until her mother's wedding...before that she is usually to be found in working clothes...hair covered by a duster secured by a piece of string, a large print pinny several sizes too large, an old sack wrapped around her and topped with a jacket that is colourless with age, at the geriatric hospital she wears mud-brown dresses with a plastic pinny. At mum's wedding she wears a grey suit that's out of date with a grey beret. Her wedding outfit is a plainly cut dress and jacket of misty blue wool with grey velvet collar and cuffs. She is treated to the Deluxe Connubial Shopping Extravaganza at Harrod's and Harvey Nichols.