Monday, October 31, 2011

The Course of True Love--Reprise

 Though the Bettys seem split on the attractiveness of our heroine's cover outfit, no one can dispute the mesmeric tractor-beam of those pepper-pot towers.  Gorgeous.  Marc could have a humpback and squint and it wouldn't matter a bit compared to the awesomeness of having your very own castle.  Still, setting aside the vast expanses of square footage and battalions of cleaning ladies, my toddler would still manage to strew his Thomas trains from one end to the other.  So maybe it's just as well that I'm limited to the charms of suburbia.  
Love and Lardy cakes!
Betty Keira

 The Course of True Love is hard for me to rate. There is sooo much to like....and quite a bit to not like. Let's get down to it.

Claribel Brown is a physiotherapist at St. Jerome’s in London. Age: 28. Tall, Junoesque, beautiful – she is almost an “Olivia”…but she’s a blonde. BLONDE. One of a very few blonde heroines in Neeldom. (In honor of this, my illustrations will feature blondes!) As she is waiting to catch the bus home, one rainy day she is shoved into the gutter by someone in the queue. A Rolls pulls up silently and the man behind the wheel orders her to get in. She sensibly says “Thank you; I prefer to go by bus.” Handsome Stranger in Rolls; “Don’t be a fool, young woman, I have no intention of kidnapping you…” (which is probably what a kidnapper would say). He takes her home and they introduce themselves to each other. He is Dr. Marc van Borsele. She lets him into his house, whips off her tights and allows him to examine her injured foot (there's three things your mama told you never to do: take a ride from a stranger, let a stranger in your house and whip off your tights for a stranger). As he leaves he admonishes her not to open her door to or take lifts from strangers. This does not seem to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Claribel soon has an opportunity to ride in that Rolls again. She is heading to the train station to go home to Tisbury for the weekend, hauling her luggage and the TWO CATS (which I have to think is quite a handful – I’m writing this while sitting on the train – I had two small pieces of luggage and a cloth grocery bag…and that was really a bit more than I wanted to be carrying. I can’t imagine having a cat carrier with two cats too!) when Handsome (no longer a stranger) Dr. Borsele drives by and picks her up.
Marc seems to show up with almost monotonous regularity. Claribel helps out with the hospital bazaar (that was opened by minor royalty…which minor royalty, I wonder???What is considered "minor royalty"?) –Marc shows up. He takes her home and asks if she is going to invite him to tea….and so it begins. Marc is always stopping by and begging a meal from Claribel. I lost track of the number of meals/snacks she fixes for him. Marc invites Claribel out to dinner. I do love his deviousness…he looks at her with big puppy dog eyes and she caves; “…he contrived to look lonely and hungry and in need of companionship; Claribel was aware that he was doing it deliberately, but all the same it seemed heartless to refuse.” He seems very sure of himself and he is constantly asking favours of Claribel. “Claribel, will you come help me use these tickets to Phantom of the Opera?.” “Claribel, come to Richmond Park with me.” Claribel, Claribel, Claribel. You’d think she’d get the idea that he likes her…but she remains stubbornly clueless – and increasingly irritated at him. “why come to England when he has a perfectly good country of his own?” It would be easy to get irritated with him myself, but he redeems himself over and over again by all the nice things he does. He saves her train fare as he drives her to and from Tisbury, takes her out, recovers a chair for her, feeds the cats, and even washes up.
Claribel; “Domesticity has two sides to it..you have overlooked the cooking and washing up and clearing away side of it.” “No, no…there is pleasure in the sight of some little woman bending over the kitchen sink. “ Claribel said “Huh!” (as well she should. Fret not, Gentle Reader, Marc was just having her on a bit…he actually washes up and feeds the cats so that she can get ready to go out with him) by this time it’s pretty obvious to any one (anyone EXCEPT Claribel) that Marc wants to marry her…he’s just waiting for her to find out that she wants to marry him. Enter The Evil Woman Irma Cooper. On their way down to Tisbury (again) they come upon a recent accident and Marc volunteers to take a beautiful girl home. This beautiful girl has no soul. None. The driver of the car she was in was taking her to "Brighton” and got KILLED. Yes, killed. You heard me. Evil Irma doesn’t care a bit about dead boyfriend, she needs to get home so that her parents won’t find out that she was going to 'Brighton'. Claribel sees through her, but assumes that Marc doesn’t . “Men!” said Claribel with feeling. “They can be so dim.” Marc really isn’t that dim – while Claribel is busy assuming the worst of him, he’s visiting his sister who gives birth to a son over the weekend and Marc was up all night.
The Deception:
Irma the Soulless turns out to be a stalker. Really. She lays in wait for Marc everywhere….Marc asks Claribel if she will pretend to be his fiancée so as to discourage Irma the Soulless. Claribel doesn’t want to do it, but Marc manages to get her into it before she knows it. He takes her out to eat at the Savoy – and puts a diamond ring in her hand when Irma walks in. April Fool's, Irma! She slips on his great-grandmother’s ring (boy is he going to have to pay for that when they are happily married – the fact that she had to put on her own engagement ring…as a deception). Marc asks her to “flash the ring”. (April Fool's again!) Claribel turns out to be a pretty good actress…”You should call me ‘darling’ more often; it does something to my ego.” She retorts that his ego doesn’t need it. She does agree to a series of “dates” at posh places about town so that Irma will have more opportunity to see the happy couple. Dining and dancing ensue, also lying. Marc invites Claribel to go to Holland for a visit...she says, "It's impossible, I've no holiday due, and what about Enoch and Toots?" Is it simply a coincidence that a bomb goes off in the physio department a few days later? And that Marc happens to come to Claribels rescue, throwing his not inconsiderable weight on top of her and Mrs. Snow? Hmmm.... Okay, okay I don't really think Marc had anything to do with the bomb...but it is awfully convenient - because now there is no excuse for Claribel not to go to Holland. It's here that Claribel finally sees Casa van Borsele. It's a castle, size small. Complete with pepperpot tower. Oh, and it must have slipped his mind, but instead of Mr. or Dr. or even Professor...it's Baron van Borsele. With less than 20 pages to go in the book Claribel finally realizes she's in love. Baron Marc watches her face carefully...He must have found his scrutiny satisfactory for he observed softly, "Well, well....shall we go?" She briefly toys with finding an antipodean job (New Zealand)...but when she gets stuck at the top of the Oldehove tower Marc comes to her rescue as she recites Tennyson. I love you, no, I love YOU, Kiss kiss. The end.

Food: Dutch apple tart with lashings of whipped cream, gingerbread, lemon tart, potato soup, shepherd’s pie, pineapple upside-down pudding, steak and kidney pie, Lobster Thermidor, chandfroid of raspberries, chicken in a cream sauce, an omelette filled with strawberries with warm wine sauce and cream, Victoria sponge, chicken a la king,
Fashion: a plastic pinny that says “Work Hard”, needlecord skirt and knitted jumper, quilted jacket, cotton jersey ensemble in pale toffee, pearly grey crepe de Chine with pale pink flowers, dark blue crepe de Chine.
Rating: Why isn't "Steamed Pudding With Raisins" a rating? Because that's what this seems like it is. Betty has some wonderful prose and I loved much of this book. Loved it. Unfortunately Claribel is just a little too blonde for me (thus the hated raisins). She is much too resistant to Marc - with no good reason. He's a little abrupt and arrogant, and yes, he invites himself in to meals quite often, but ladies, he scrambles eggs, washes dishes, recovers a chair and takes her out on the town...And then there is a bona fide stalker - Irma the Soulless. Love her, or rather Hate her. In lieu of "steamed pudding" I think I'll give this "mince pies".

12 comments:

  1. Betty van den BetsyOctober 31, 2011 at 11:33 AM

    For women whose primary goal in young adulthood is to get proposed to and marry, all of La Neels's heroines are amazingly obtuse about when they're being courted.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Maybe because the guy doing the courting graduated from the congressional school of how not to get things across clearly. Instead he plays 'Let's pretend we're engaged and then I'll disappear for a few days until my stalker returns'. Doesn't he fall in love with her at first site or something. Would you treat someone you love like this?
    He could have sped the whole thing up amazingly by courting her for real and letting Irma figure out that she's got no chance on her own.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I don't think I've read this one yet, but now I'm imagining a novel where the rich Dutch doctor does, in fact, set a bomb to send the plucky young British nurse into his arms for a rescue scene.

    I'd still totally going read the book, mind you, and probably enjoy every minute of it, the idea just makes me laugh...

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have a real problem with this book, but only because I once (once & only once) found a Betty Neels on tape and it was this one. The voice that the lady reading it put on for Claribel was...well, gushing sweetness seems the best way to describe it! Ugh! Cannot read this without hearing that voice.
    Which is a pity because prior to that I quite liked it!

    Caroline

    ReplyDelete
  5. Minor Royalty would probably be actually non-royal Dukes or Duchesses... That's my guess anyway...

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great comments, I too think the heroines are rather obtuse on the wooing and also regarding their charms/attractiveness to the point where the final happy ending sometimes seems more charitable than ecstatic.
    Golly, I can't wait to read a book where the RDD has been to a congressional school of Clear Intentions and is also the secret plot laying bomb rescue and construction service. That's NeelsPlus.
    What I am a but curious about is the young stalker female character. Betty has a very dark view on feminine behavior, I believe these books are fables and can be seen in the context of soap opera and romantic Dickens (please forgive me, English lit professor) but the psychopathic almost teenage other
    woman does get a bit weird on the scale of things.
    Minor royalty is great, most German high society pretends they have a connectio just read Bunte mag. In Betty context I imagine it's the spawn or familial/marriage related people of more important royal status. Even as 'low' as hat we would call peerage.
    Betty AnHK

    ReplyDelete
  7. Betty van den BetsyNovember 2, 2011 at 7:59 AM

    If they’re non-royal, could they count as “minor royalty”? There doesn’t seem to be any technical definition of minor vs. major royalty, so I’ve decided it was Princess Michael of Kent who opened the bazaar. My criterion is that anyone not a parent, sibling, consort or offspring (or offspring’s consort) to the reigning monarch is ‘minor.’ Hence, everyone below The Princess Royal on The Official Website of the British Monarchy counts as minor.

    I do think it’s interesting that the Venerable Betty, while English to the marrow and seemingly enamored of Dutch barons, can be so thoroughly dismissive of British royals.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I think the closest the Great Betty ever gets to English royalty is in the book (can't remember which one...and Betty Marcy has most of my BN books)where the heroine is the granddaughter of an earl - but she doesn't trade on it at all. Other than that we get a smattering of 'sirs'...knighted for some unmentioned deed/service to the crown.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Royalty = direct descendants of a monarch. So, yes, Princesses Eugenie & Beatrice are "royals." (Degree of "minor-ness" left to your imagination.)

    Aristocracy = people with an inheritable title. Dukes can be both royalty and aristocratic, as the royal dukedoms are inheritable. But the royalty trumps the aristocracy, so it's "Prince William, Duke of Cambridge." Order of importance: dukes, marquises (or marquesses), earls, viscounts, barons, baronets, knights (or they're senior to baronets - I forget). (Betty Ross's aunt married a baronet, but they had three daughters so the title died with him.)

    Peers = adds life peerages to the inheritable titles, so Margaret, Baroness Thatcher is a peer, but her son won't become a baron when she dies. Most peers are

    Gentry = usually landowners, therefore important without necessarily being titled. Mr. Darcy would be gentry.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I think someone else wrote this. It hasn't the tru tone, voice, sentence structure . . . just impossible dialogue, repetitious calling in unannounced by hero and then a couple of dramatic events which DO sound like BN . . .

    Earlier the non-behaviour of the police following the traffic accident which results in a DEATH is preposterous.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw, now I have to get the book off the shelf and read it again just to see if you are right, if the book "sounds off key". It hasn't the tru tone, voice, sentence structure . . . I am intrigued...
      Mind you, I cannot believe the book was written by someone else (or should that be anyone else?). The Course of True Love was published as "early" as 1988, after all. In those years, Betty pounded out three or four novels every year. Great stories. But, as I said, I am intrigued.
      Regarding the "non-behaviour" of the police - this would not be the only traffic accident in the Canon where I raise my eyebrows and wonder what the police are about. Now if the Great Betty had been a policewoman...

      Delete
  11. The Course of True Love, 1988
    I was wondering where the Great Betty got the idea for a female stalker. Found it. I think.
    The film Fatal Attraction debuted in the summer of 1987.

    ReplyDelete