Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Doctor's Girl - 2001

I think this cover is just as cute as can be.
The Doctor's Girl was one of the very last Betty Neels stories to be published.  The Venerable Neels was in her 90's at the time! As far as I could tell, there were absolutely no references to Holland, no Dutch doctors, the heroine was not a nurse...what kind of Neels is that?  A sweet little gem, that's what kind. I wouldn't recommend it as an introduction to the works of Betty Neels - but as a little postscript, it's just fine.

Miss Mimi is peeved to learn that, no, Dr. Fforde will not
 write her out a prescription for three gin and tonics.
 Loveday West (24) has a soul sucking job. There's just no way to sugar coat the pill that is Miss Mimi Cattell.  Rich, spoiled and nasty would easily make it into a list of top ten descriptors of that she-devil. Shrewish also. Upon waking up with a stuffy nose, the wealthy harpy demands that her doctor make a house call.  Her regular doctor must be used to such antics, but since he's off playing golf for the week, she'll have to make do with his partner.  Dr. Andrew Fforde is a tall drink of medicinal water...but he's not her cup of tea. He doesn't coddle her. Not even the teeniest bit.  Loveday considers him 'a man after my own heart'.
After a day  spent lounging in bed swilling gin and tonics, Mimi disregards Dr. Fforde's advice and goes out on the town with her friends. Her drunken homecoming in the wee small hours is typical - Loveday is required to haul Mimi's inebriated person up the stairs and into bed. A few days later Loveday breaks a vase and Mimi wallops her a good one - giving her:
  1. A doozy of a shiner.
  2. Her marching orders.
  3. No references.
  4. All of the above.
The black eye proved to be a
hindrance to finding gainful
employment.
Loveday is not only out of work, she's also homeless. Thank goodness for Mrs. Branch (the cook?) who happens to have a sister with rooms to let, and abandoned cats ready to be adopted. Jobs are not forthcoming for a girl with few skills who looks like she's been knocked around. Loveday finally goes to the hospital to have her eye checked. Dr. Fforde happens to catch a glimpse of her - and dismissing patient confidentiality as a thing of nought, finds out Loveday's address and work status .
When Miss Priss (Dr. Fforde's secretary) has a family emergency, Dr. Fforde has to resort to a temp agency's offering, which in this case is a giggler with no common sense.  We can't have that! Dr. Fforde now has a perfect excuse to visit Loveday.  He can not only offer her a job, but also a tiny flat. Loveday is refreshingly un-uppity about him showing up and gladly accepts the job and the new home.

Loveday daydreams about the man of her dreams. Interestingly enough he bears a striking resemblance to Dr. Fforde.

Meeting new people! The lovely (and nice) Mrs. Seward drops by the office to see Andrew (Dr. Fforde) 'Margaret - this is delightful,' says he, and with that, Loveday imagines a romance between the two.

Brighton! Where engaged men can date other women
without that pesky danger of being found out!
Romance of another kind finds Loveday.  Dr. Fforde's younger cousin Charles stops by the office.  He's quick to chat up the mousy little receptionist.  A couple of dates later (at places that Charles is sure not to see any of his crowd - including a trip to Brighton!) and Loveday starts glowing with happiness. Dr. Fforde observes this happiness with a niggling sense of unease.  Why is she happy?  Long story short? His caddish cousin Charles is engaged to be married in a couple of weeks time, he's is having one last fling.

Loveday is somewhat crushed when she hears about the upcoming nuptials - but she wouldn't be if only she knew that Dr. Fforde is head over heels in love with her - but he can't see what she would see in him.  He honestly believes he's too old for her, she believes he's at least dating Mrs. Seward...

Now that the make-believe romance with Charles has ended, Andrew starts to make some tentative moves of his own.
  • Invitation to his place. Meet Mrs. Duckett the housekeeper and a little lame dog which they name Bob.
  • Another invite to his place...this time Andrew pumps Loveday for information about her family. It is discovered that she has a long lost great-aunt living in Buckland-in-the-Moor whom she doesn't remember ever meeting.
To sweep or not to sweep?
The information about the long lost aunt is soon very helpful. Miss Priss (the long lost receptionist) is coming back to work and needs the little flat.  As soon as is humanly possible, Andrew drives down to Buckland-in...etc. and meets the aunt.  He explains everything - including the fact that he loves Loveday and would like to sweep her off her feet - should she be so inclined to be swept. Great-Aunt tells him that she was under the impression that Loveday was a modern career girl and since she's not, Loveday is welcome to stay.

Andrew gives Loveday a week's notice at work and suggests that she go and stay with her aunt. That's all well and good...but then the thought of not seeing him shakes her down to her toenails. Yup, she's in love.

Andrew insists on driving her down to Great-Aunt Letitia's - and spending the night in the village so as to be able to have more time with Loveday. He's not sure why Loveday has been stiff with him - then he mentions his family - including his sister Margaret. So, that was why she'd pokered up. Two obstacles out of the way...first Charles and now Margaret - the only obstacle left is that pesky age difference.
Call me Andrew.
I've always called you Andrew inside my head. 

A week alone with Great-Aunt (and her cats) and then a lovely ending.
She ran to the door and flung it wide as he reached it and went into his arms...
All that's left is some kissing and a promise to marry him just as soon as he wants - 'today if we could.'
Aunt Leticia...reflected that she would give them the silver pot which had belonged to her great-great-grandmother for a wedding present.
The end.

Is it me, or does the cover
art for An Ordinary Girl
look suspiciously similar?
Rating: Perhaps there should be a different rating system for novellas.  The same plot devices that drag on and on in longer books are given a much shorter shrift (is that a word?) - which can be quite a good thing. The Doctor's Girl isn't a perfect book by any means, but it has a fun hero and I adore the very end  - abrupt though it may be. For me it earned a Queen of Puddings (but that is partly due to the relief I felt at being able to read the entire book in the car between running errands all morning). I'm not saying that it's fabulous (for instance why did Loveday let the horrible Mimi get away with assault?), but it's a nice little slice of Neels - the perfect length for reading during Saturday morning errands.
Food: She eggs a lot of eggs and egg based dishes (such as omelettes), rice pudding, milk pudding, beans, Charles takes her out and plies her with cream cakes. 'Mrs. Duckett's teas were like no other: there were muffins in a silver dish, tiny sandwiches, fairy cakes, and a cake thick with fruit and nuts.'
Fashion: We have pretty thin pickings here. A middle-age appropriate navy blue wool crepe, and 'a plain sheath of a dress, and well cut, although the material from which it was made was cheap - but the colour was right: a pale bronze which gave her hair colour and flattered her eyes'.

2 comments:

  1. Betty Webster: "shrift"--what little Bettys keep getting caught out in with their hair hanging down the back--nope, that's "shift"

    "shrift"--nursing hours generally through midnight that little Bettys work while floozy younger sisters dope twin toddlers--nope, that's "shift" again

    "shrift"--what burglars brandish at little Bettys who are house-sitting to try to sell dilapidated family home--nope, that's "shiv"

    wait, wait, I got it--"shrift"--archaic expression meaning an act of confession, usually short, as in after 185 pages of lost dogs, falls in canals, cranky great-aunts, and delicious food, we get a short "shrift" of a three--quarter-page when the RDD declares his feelings

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  2. Finally read it -- I got caught up in a very long, very leisurely Western and couldn't get free for days! Thank goodness this was a quick read.

    And charming. Yes, The Great Betty was not at the top of her game, but all is forgiven with more of the hero's POV. Oh, and the animals get their moment too. Sam (the cat) was developing quite his own storyline.

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