Thursday, February 24, 2011

Not Once But Twice - 1981

My apologies to all those who love this book. I knew going in that it wasn't one of my favorites, so I tried to keep an open mind.  Didn't help. 

He said:
I could have been a great...I could have had it all. It was all within my reach, but I foolishly let it slip away. Now I'm just a lonely old man, with nothing but my money to keep me warm. My name is Adam. Adam ter Brandt (24-ish). This is my story.

It all started with George Henry Forbes. We first met at a seminar in Brussels. If I hadn't run into him again in London, none of this would have happened. We were sitting in his study talking shop (he's a doctor...I'm a doctor) when She walked in. George Henry's sister, Christina Forbes. She was oozing with sensibility and sereness...and the most gorgeous eyes...other than that, she was a plain looking little thing who was getting long in the tooth.  A plain little thing that looked like she'd never been chatted up in all her twenty-seven years. Not my usual type at all, but she had something. I wasn't sure what that something was, but she had it and I was going to find out what it was. 
My time in London was limited, so I came up with a great plan - have her apply for a job at the hospital in Holland where I studied.  I knew she'd get the job, after all, my older brother Duert(37) is the director. She jumped at the chance rather pathetically - like she was jumping at straws. I found out a little later that she was anxious to find a place away from London - George Henry was engaged to be married shortly to a woman who didn't care for Christina.

Duert came running (as I knew he would) when he heard that I wanted to send a little English nurse over to his precious hospital.  He is rather a stickler for things like 'proper medical care' and all that rubbish. For some reason, he didn't object to little Chrissy.  Granted, she's a good nurse - evidently a better diagnostician than many of the junior doctors at St. Athud's, but besides that and being able to speak 3 languages, she's not all that.

When I got back from England, Chrissy was already in Holland.  We went out a few times, had a few laughs, everything was going great...and then Duert started horning in on my territory. He succeeded in turning her affections to himself, then exiled me to...America. Thus I have been reduced to the status of an ex-pat...I run a private clinic in LA. Cosmetic surgery has been good to me - liposuction, face lifts and silicone.  That's what my life has boiled down to. Money galore, but no sweet Chrissy.

She said:
What a load of hogwash. Sure, I fell for him. I fell like a ton of bricks.  With a face that's as plain as a pikestaff added to my increasing age - I was ripe to fall for anyone who gave me the time of day.  Even though I fell for Adam, I still retained a tiny little kernel of common sense. I knew that not all was as it should be. He was fun to be with...most of the time. But he was also rude and manipulative: 'Chrissy, get your hair done!' 'Chrissy, you need new clothes!' 'Chrissy, try some make-up!' 'Chrissy, you look a fright!' Yes, deep down I knew these were not the words of true love.

Duert was always there for me...he had the patience of a saint - waiting for me to shake myself out of the stupor that was Adam, offering his shoulder to cry on, taking me out for meals after the inadequate (and foreign!!) food that was all Adam saw fit to give me. He once held me in his arms for an hour while I slept! Duert grew on me slowly - Adam was frequently distracting me, and Duert seemed to be encouraging my relationship with Adam at every turn. That's not to say all was smooth between Duert and I. Once he told me, "Adam favours pretty girls, and you aren't pretty.' Duert's still paying for that one.

Adam wouldn't have been so bad if he had limited himself to flirting with me. He also lied continually about having to go to work or lectures, when he was really out with other girls. Why did he feel he had to lie? It wouldn't have come as a shock to me to hear (from him) that he was dating other girls too.  It should be no surprise that he also lied about and belittled his older brother.

What really got me was how close he came to ruining my life. Adam and I had already broken up and I was seeing more of Duert...I'd even been given the House Tour O'Love. Adam found me standing outside of Duert's house a day or two later and proceeded to be absolutely Vile and Malicious. He insinuated that I was after the richer brother, then went on to say that Duert would marry me because he felt sorry for me and that neither one of us would ever be sure of the other person's motives. Of course I didn't take him at face value, but he had sown a seed of doubt.

Duert saw the two of us together and assumed the worst. His attitude towards me changed and I felt wretched, just wretched. I was sure he despised me, so I gave notice. I couldn't leave without a parting shot - I as good as told Duert that I loved him and that the only reason I was outside his house that day was that I wanted to see his home again and remember it...then I bolted.

He said:
Hey, Duert here. In my defense, I was in quite a pickle. On the one hand, Adam is my brother. I've been privy to more of his skirt-chasing than any brother should have to be.  Christina seemed to be in love with him, so what else could I do but help her along?  That's not to say I let Adam have it all his own way.  I knew that sooner or later he would dump Christina and if I played my cards right, I would be right there ready to step into the breach.

It did take Christina a little while to make the switch...and then that no-good-dirty-rotten-scoundrel brother of mine deliberately went out of his way to to be vile. He broke the code of RDD siblings. The code clearly states that RDD siblings have the right to be:
  • selfish.
  • self-centered.
  • navel-gazing.
  • inadvertently cruel.
No where does it say that siblings have the right to be intentionally malicious. I found him guilty and sentenced him to no family holidays or family reunions for 5 to 10 years, sentence to be served in the USA.

After Christina stopped by my office on her way and of town and dropped that bombshell, I was gobsmacked. I wanted to run after her and sweep her into my arms, but I got roped into some hospital matters for the next half hour or so. I made arrangements to be gone for a few days - calculating it might take me that long to track Christina down - but I figured without my loyal household help. They were able to put me on her track much closer to home. I found my Christina walking on the beach in the teeth of a gale. We quickly sorted out our misunderstandings and I proposed. The end.

Rating: Not one of my favorites. Not even close. I didn't mind Christina...except that she spent way too much time being fooled by Adam.  Way. Too. Much. Time. And way too little noticing how much cooler and classier Duert was. I did like her inner thoughts...she knew she was being foolish. She didn't chase Adam - she just passively let him walk all over her.  I didn't mind Duert...except he spent way too little time with Christina.  I also had a tough time buying his 'love at first sight'. I do object to Adam - in a big way. I object to the thought that he is genetically related to Duert. I object to the thought that Christina will be related by marriage to the little toe rag.  Beans on Toast.  For a better treatment of this type of storyline see: Uncertain Summer (at least the heel is only a cousin...)
Fashion: Christina spends every waking hour (when not on duty at the hospital) wearing grey. A grey flannel suit, a grey jersey two piece, a grey chiffon ball gown. For some reason she's decided that grey is her colour - no wonder she never gets chatted up.  You can tell Adam's true caddish-ness by the outfit he wears to go clubbing with Christina. A blue velvet suit with an (I kid you not) open necked ruffled shirt. Duert looks pretty splendid in white tie and tails...I assume.  Christina doesn't really notice him.
Food: Adam takes her out to cheap little Bohemian little places - including Greek food twice, first kebabs, second time - fish salad.  Duert takes her out to fancy places - The Ritz for tea - thin cucumber sandwiches, little iced cakes and tiny meringues, The Claridge for lunch - avocado, salmon (because she wasn't sure what you did with lobster) and profiteroles. In Holland Adam takes her out for nasi goreng (an Indonesian fried rice dish) then Duert takes her to Le Bistroquet for avocado vinaigrette, sole Veronique and a hot souffle.


  1. I agree with it all -- except I like the ending. Not the nastiness at Duert's house (at least with a Veronica playing the viper you don't get any physical contact) but the business on the beach. I like the business on the beach.

    And I love the notion that Adam ends up in LA doing botox injections. Perfect!

  2. I have to say, Adam's food sounds really interesting. I want to try that Indonesian thing. I'll go for the bad boy on culinary grounds.

  3. The last page was just fine - some excellent kissing...

    I think my favorite bit was when she fell asleep in the car (emotionally and physically exhausted from discovering The Truth About Adam)...Duert pulls the car over and holds her in his arms for over an hour while she sleeps. I just feel for Duert right then. He's got the woman he loves in his arms - but she still doesn't really see him as a man yet. I found that scene quite poignant.

  4. Betty Kiera - I agree (great job on the dialogue - I love dialog!) But Humphrey as Duert? Even the cover people were wrong. Really Max Von Sydow and Sopia Loren? Those faces didn't fit at all. He's supposed to be hotly handsome and she's plain as the shaft of a pipe, right?

    Betty Magdalen - spot on with the beach scene! All that kissing kept it from swimming in tinned soup.

    Betty M.N. - totally! I'd much rather have the bad boy food! And what's with all the avocado eating. Does Duert have stock in CA Farms. Is that why Adam end up in LA?

    Betty Debbie - Exactly - Wonderfully put. That scene stuck with me too!

    And for me the book was frustrating because all those dates with Adam were a waste to read. They didn't make me laugh or cry. Mostly they made me want to turn the book into a missle. I wanted to see her interacting more with Duert.

    However, it can be done well - the spending time with other than the not hero thing. Right after I read N.O.B.T, I read a new to me Marian Devon(regency writer - definitely a life after Betty Candidate.)
    Frances(Frankie) Armstead thinks she's in love with her best guy friend's older brother, but she hasn't yet gotten to know her pretend fiancé. Yeah, this one is super! And I didn't even mind that some of the best scenes were with her guy buddy and not the hero.

  5. Oooops! Apologies Betty Debbie. I assumed that since you commented it was Betty Keira that did the review. I shoulda checked. So Sorry!

  6. Betty Suzanne II here...I agree with your review...however, once I read "A Girl Named Rose" I saw that there was a for real HEA. Duert is of course madly in love with Chrissy and she is over the moon for him...and they have such a cute little family. Too bad their book couldn't have spent a little more time on them rather than toerag Adam.

  7. Betty Barbara here--
    Oh thank you, Betty Debbie. I thought it was just me! Chrissy and Duert show up so many times as cross-over characters and we get to watch them grow older and they are soooo much in love in those scenes; I just knew that their story just had to be super. And it really, really wasn't.
    I have been in Chrissie's shoes (so infatuated with someone who was not treating me the best that I totally missed someone else) but I was 7 years younger and didn't put up with it as long as she did! I would have kicked Adam to the curb(or kerb)after the second snide remark about my looks/clothes (Alas, I probably would have forgiven him the first go-round).
    But the book had some really lovely scenes, as all of y'all have mentioned, and the ending is just super.
    I'd give it a Cheese Board, but that maybe because of the glimpses we get in other books of how right they are for each other.
    Yes, Uncertain Summerdid the same basic plot--except that Serena is younger and prettier and had less common sense. She still spent too much time on Laurens and was blind to Gijs for entirely too long. I was not as enamoured of it as Betty Keira (who gave it Lashings of Whipped Cream).

  8. You know, I read A Girl Named Rose first, and it is so one of my favorite books, that I was predisposed to love the characters here. Yes, not the best story BN ever wrote, but I didn't find it so offensive as you all seem to have. Duert is so patient and kind for so long, and I'm so glad he gets his reward in the end. :-) Plus I love the line toward the end, after she marches into his office and does the tell all thing and marches out, when you hear him thinking, "How like her to change a man's life and then run away..." or something like that. So cute, because you get to see that his dawning realization was like that... the first day he met her. Giggle.... and yes, they are so very in love and such a good example to Sybren and Rose in the other book, that I fell in love with them before I ever read their story.

  9. Christina and Duert are lovely cross-over characters - Betty used them not only in A Girl Named Rose(1986), but also in Dearest Eulalia(2000) AND A Good Wife(1999(to be reviewed next month)).

    I'm with Betty Barbara here - I like them better as cross-over characters. It's lovely to see that they have had a good strong marriage (I especially like the fact that we actually get to see them as a couple with more than the obligatory newborn heir - their kids are practically college age by Dearest Eulalia).

  10. I have a different take than everyone on this one. I make it a practice to never read the back or the inside blurb before I read the books. So in the beginning chapter I’m thinking—“ooh, I’m not so sure I will like this guy.” Big sigh of relief when big brother shows up—recognized him, of course, immediately.

    However, I think that this book is justification by The Venerable Neels for all those books (Tulips for Augusta anyone?) that SOME Bettys gripe that how could the heroine not recognize that she is being wooed? The RDD could just be playing with her a la Icky Adam, that’s how. So he says insensitive things (um, dare I mention Nasty Reilof?). Even Duert points out that she is not pretty (you and the horse you rode in on, buddy). In his defense, he was trying to point out to her how shallow and callow his brother was.

    Having said all of this, I never missed the Duerts for the Adams, but then I was born old.

  11. Betty Debbie, i have been meaning to tell you I love the approach you took with this review.

  12. One of my best-loved books! I cannot understand why you don't feel the same way about it, but, as they say, de gustibus non est disputandum. Just to be spiteful, though, let me point out that our dear Aramintas are only very seldom ungrammatical in their speech. Therefore,

    "That's not to say all was smooth between Duert and I."

    would have been and should have been,

    "That's not to say all was smooth between Duert and me."

    After all, you would never say "between I and Duert", or would you. Please correct me if I am wrong. As well, please feel free to correct any mistakes I may have made (typos, grammar, punctuation, whatever). Thank you.
    Betty Anonymous

  13. Your grammar is correct, Betty Anonymous. I wasn't an English major, but that particular lesson (object of a preposition) was taught in the 8th Grade, at the earliest, and is my biggest grammar pet peeve. Many people erroneously think "I" should always be preferred. I've even heard someone say, "At John and I's wedding...." Blech!

  14. Betty Lulu,
    Thanks for the quick response. No offence. I just thought I'd mention it. There are a few best-selling or at least well-selling authors whose grammar is quite atrocious. And you ask yourself how could anybody overlook these mistakes. And who made the mistakes in the first place: the author, the typist ( do they still have them?) or the proofreader?
    Betty Anonymous

  15. "We're going back home," he said softly, 'our home now. We'll be married just as soon as the law allows and I shall buy you a new hat, because I can't like this one."

    I heart Duert. And I heart Betty. Best. Line. Ever.

  16. Betty Janet AOhMay 1, 2013 at 7:08 PM

    The blurb I read was completely misleading -- it made it sound as though Adam and Chrissy were in love and Duart was playing the heavy. And I don't think she was as stuck on Adam for as long as it might seem like; I got the feeling she was browning off on him a lot sooner, even if she didn't recognize Duart's sterling qualities right away. I'm sorry -- guess I'm in the minority, too, but I liked this book quite a bit.

    I'm not sure why some of you all were making such a big deal about avocadoes and Duart -- if you go back and look, avocadoes (or in their British avatar, avocado pears) seem to be served at every meal -- if anyone had stock, it was La Neels! :) (In fact, in a side note, certain dishes show up quite often: noisettes of lamb, as I recall, seem to be a favored entree...)

    1. One of my favourite stories! I think you are right. Christina became disenchanted with Adam – but, alas, kept making excuses for him. Duert is sooo cool. le sigh

    2. I looked up the menu of Le Bistroquet in Den Haag, and what do you know, the first two items on it...


      Raw, avocado, soy, cucumber, wild rice, shrimps
      € 19,50

      Gently cooked, lobster, quinoa, avocado, romanesco
      € 19,50

  17. I wish I had a dollar for every avocado (or avocado pear -- same thing; are "alligator pears the same too?) that got served in a Neels novel. I'd have a little trouble -- can't stand 'em. :)

  18. I agree that Uncertain Summer and Not Once But Twice are basically the same book, but I rate them just the opposite. I always felt TGB wasn't quite satisfied with her first effort and rewrote it much more successfully. My complaint with US is Serena - she's beautiful, has lots of dates and therefore, much more experience with men than shy, plain Chrissy. Serena has no excuse for not seeing through Laurens, whereas I give Chrissy a pass on Adam. Serena continues to make excuses for Laurens and refuses to believe the evidence of her own eyes (admittedly abetted by Gijs). On the other hand, Chrissy knows what Adam is but wants romance so much that she hopes for the best. I like Gijs, but I think TGB fleshed Duert out a little better. NOBT gets lashings of whipped cream from me.

  19. Oh, and I LOVE avocados. Sliced with lemon juice and salt, in guacamole, mashed with lemon juice, salt and sriracha on toast topped with a soft fried egg, on a sandwich- to me they are like potatoes; hundreds of ways to enjoy them and all of them good. And while they are rather high calorie, they are a "good fat."