Monday, October 17, 2011

Discovering Daisy--Reprise

Dear Sister Bettys,
I love this one.  I remember pouncing on it when I spotted it in the bins at the Scary Goodwill.  Betty Neels! Large print!  What was with the cover?  Yes. It was my very first one with the newer covers.  Though this is one of The Venerable Neels' later efforts, I quite find it darling. It has the best of all those memes we have come to love: Canal dunkings, auto excursions, poisonous fiancees, unsuitable clothes, grocery store wrap-ups.  I have a dentist appointment today.  Guess what novel I'll be shoving into the bottom of my copious mom-purse?
Love and lardy cakes,
Betty Keira


Conspiracy theorists may doubt that The Venerable Neels wrote Discovering Daisy. She was, after all, nearly 90 years old when Discovering Daisy was published (Dr. van der Stevejinck's grandmother lived to be 93 and up until the last year or two was mentally quite alert). Whether it was Betty or an Oxford don writing under a nom de plume, I don't care. I love this book.

Daisy Gillard. 24, ordinary - middle height, charmingly and unfashionably plump, unassuming features redeemed from plainness by a pair of large hazel eyes, thickly fringed. In other words, an "Araminta". I love Daisy. Once she sheds her illusions about the rat Desmond, she is completely natural. She says what she means. She may be unassuming, but she's not particularly shy. We first meet her while she is in the throws of "love" with a Slimy Toad named Desmond. He is just using her as filler...until the right girl for him comes along (prettier and richer). We readers know that he is a shady character - he is of shortish stature and longish hair. He squires her around her seaside tourist town - taking her out to dinner and tea, and finally to A Dance. Slimy Toad tells her to buy herself a new frock...a red one. Of course she is out of place with Desmond and his friends - after one obligatory dance she is left to fend for herself. Which is actually a good thing. This is when she first meets Dr. Jules der Huizma. His eye is first attracted by the inappropriate red dress - then by the fact that the girl in the dress doesn't go with the dress. He chats her up just a little. Too bad for Daisy that she overhears him talking to his friend (about her) in the coat room. "I found someone...a plain little creature in a regrettable red dress. A fish out of water" . When Slimy Toad drops her off at the family antique shop, she immediately parcels up the regrettable red dress to send to charity - more hurt over the stranger's remarks than over being unceremoniously dumped by the Slimy Toad. A few weeks pass...Daisy is getting thin and wan...so her parents urge her to take afternoon walks (on the beach in November). Into the teeth of wind and rain Daisy obediently trots day after day. Her doggedness is rewarded one day when Jules is also walking in the wind and rain. "How delightful to meet someone who likes walking in the rain and the wind." He smiled at her as he spoke, and she forgave him then for calling her a fish out of water - a plain fish too. After all, in all fairness she had been both. Indeed, when it came to being plain she would always be that. That's part of what I love about Daisy - even when she's feeling down she's sensible. Jules (she doesn't know he's a doctor) stops by the antique store a couple more times before Christmas...first to buy a charm bracelet for a god-daughter, then to pick up a doll house for a five year old girl named Mies. Possibly a niece...but we are never destined to know.

Mr. Gillard buys a Dutch painted and gilt screen which Daisy carefully restores. A couple of elderly Dutch men come in the shop and are thrilled...the upshot is, they buy it and need Daisy to escort it to Holland. Dad says, great! Now you can stop at Heer Friske's shop and pick up The Georgian Wine Cooler of Destiny. Hey Dad! Do you mind if I spend a day sightseeing? Sure, why not? What could happen? Umm. Yeah. About that. Daisy does spend a day sightseeing and then caps the evening off with a quick dip in a rat infested canal. Lucky for her (or is it Fate?) that Jules is on hand to fish her out. After she is "thankfully sick", he trots her across the bridge to the hospital where they clean her up, give her a jab (the rats, you know) then send her off with Dr. der Huizma...who drops her off at her hotel. The next morning she takes a taxi back to the hospital and exchanges the hospital robe and slippers for her disinfected clothing. It's time to get The Georgian Wine Cooler of Doom and toddle back to Merry Olde England. And she would, she really would...if only she didn't get mugged on the way to Heer Friske's shop. Dr. Jules hears that she's back in the hospital when he goes to work in the morning. He pays her a courtesy visit - he is nice, but in a purely professional way. "Probably he considered her a nuisance and would be glad to see the last of her. Her spirits, already at their lowest, sank without a trace..."

villainess will now be played by Helene van Tromp. As in, "I will van Tromp all over little English girls". It is at this point that Jules begins to wonder why he wanted to marry Helene. "It was a sobering thought to take to his bed...strangely enough it was Daisy's face which imposed itself upon his last waking moments."

Daisy checks herself out of the hospital in order to finally take The Georgian Wine Cooler of Destiny home. Jules decides otherwise...he shows up at Heer Friske's just in time to stow the antique and Daisy's bag in the boot (British word alert!). She is taken to Jules home wherein the butler, housekeeper and dog all immediately fall in love with her. Natch. Helene stops by and sums her up as No Competition. At this point neither of our protagonists are admitting to love (but if a man drops everything to haul you and your antique Georgian Wine Cooler of Destiny across the channel in his lovely Rolls...there is a chance that those feelings might just be about to change). Helene may have been quick to dismiss Daisy as dull and badly dressed...but Jules finds himself looking at Daisy more and more. There is just something about her. "He was beginning to find her too interesting..." Interesting enough to invent excuses to stop by the antique store...to look at a diamond brooch that you just know he's never going to give to Helene I Will van Tromp All Over You.

"Busy already Daisy? Do you not take a holiday from time to time?" "Well, going to Holland was like a holiday..." (if by holiday you mean two trips to the emergency room, swallowing rat water and getting mugged, then yes, it was a fabulous holiday!). This is actually quite a sweet scene because for once in Neels, both protagonists realize they have feelings for the other at nearly the same time. We are only on page 77. There are more than 100 pages to go before a final declaration of love! Wow. What could happen in 100 pages? Jules now realizes what marriage to Helene will be like. "He saw nothing but unhappiness for himself and Helene if they were to marry." Now there's some depression just waiting to happen. Jules now starts to get a little devious. He goes to visit Heer Friske (antique dealer of The Georgian Wine Cooler of Destiny). He very slyly puts an idea in Heer Friske's head that Daisy should come over and intern with him so that she can learn more about antiques. Heer Friske rises to the bait. Daisy is sent a letter inviting her to come to Holland and work for him for a little while. Mr. Gillard says "...I would say that it is a good idea." (Evidently he has conveniently forgotten the two trips to the emergency room from her first foray into Holland). This set-up is nicely timed so that Jules can drive over and pick up both Daisy and the diamond brooch. Daisy is installed at Casa de Friske...there to learn of and sell antiques, pick up a little of the Dutch language and eat thick pea soup.
Oh, and go on long drives through the Dutch countryside with Jules (but not with Helene who has gone to California - what? She'll be back). Helene returns from van Tromping America and Jules decides it would be a good time to go to Africa. I'll bet you didn't see that coming. Africa makes it's one and only appearance in Neeldom. We can now add it to the map. Yea! He has been asked to go to the famine areas and advise on the feeding of the starving babies and children, and now that Helene is back, it's a good time to go. Helene is less than pleased. "But it will be ghastly, you'll pick up one of those horrible diseases..." Daisy is much more understanding when he comes to say farewell to her. Jules sweeps Daisy into his arms and kisses her. "It was a kiss not to be easily forgotten. Indeed Daisy hadn't known kisses like that existed outside of romantic novels." "I have to have something', said Mr. der Huizma in a goaded voice, and released her so violently that she nearly fell over." Then off he goes. To Africa.
Mevrouw der Huizma (mother to Jules) invites Daisy over on her day off. They have a great time until who should drop by? Yup. Miss Helene I Will van Tromp All Over Daisy. Helene now begins to feel a little uneasy about Daisy, so she starts her campaign to eliminate the competition. First, she writes a long letter to Jules about how she ran into Daisy, who is so nice, and by the way, did you know she's going to be married? Then she works on Daisy...in a sugar coated arsenic pill sort of way. Very sweet on the outside, pure poison inside. The day comes for Daisy to go home - she runs into Jules who is just returning from Africa (my, fate IS remarkable), he again sweeps her up and kisses her. Helene is still around though...and spreading more lies about Daisy's love-life. Helene has got a little extra love-life of her own going on. Mr. Hank Cutler, An American from California, is in Holland on business...and part of that business is Helene. Jules just can't seem to stay away from Daisy - he goes over to visit her and see what's up with the boyfriend. The non-existent boyfriend. He asks Daisy how things are going - then comes a Big Misunderstanding. Daisy thinks he talking about a potential job opportunity that has come up in the antique world for her...he thinks she's talking about the non-existent boyfriend. Jules admits his love for her(there are still 23 pages to go!!!) and then finds out that she doesn't have a boyfriend/fiancee. That's right, she's free...but you're not, Jules! Back in Holland Jules stops by to see if he can talk Helene into releasing him. She's not home, so he sits down to wait. In walks Helene with Hank the American, who is quite willing to marry her and take her back to his nice place in California (did I mention he's rich). Meanwhile, Daisy is roped into nursing her cousin Janet and children. Janet has the flu and the kiddies are recuperating from chicken pox. After a few days of working herself to the bone, here comes Jules. He pitches in with the kids (he is a paediatrician, so he knows kids), does the shopping and eats scrambled eggs. He takes her back home and drops her off at her parents??? What's the hold-up? Daisy cries herself to sleep, then goes grocery shopping in the morning at Mr. Pati's store. As she reaches for the Assam tea, Jules lifts it down for her...then proceeds to put random things in her trolley (British word!) such as cat food (Daisy is one of a select few Neels heroines that doesn't have a pet). "We haven't got a cat," said Daisy. "Then we will take it back with us; Jette has a cat and kittens." At the end of the aisle Jules proposes. While the kissing is going on, Mr. Pati "watching from a discreet distance, crept a bit closer and stealthily wheeled the trolley back to the check-out desk. He was a romantic man at heart, and he liked Daisy, but business was business, so he began to tot up the goods in the trolley. A most satisfactory start to the day." The end.

Food: thick pea soup, pancakes with bacon bits, melon balls, jellied lobster (I just had to look that one up...), lamb cutlets, pork cutlets, pork chops, braised chicory (sounds weird), red cabbage, boiled potatoes, spinach tarts.

Fashion: Most notably "clothes off the peg", the infamous red dress, plain brown jersey dress that doesn't crease when packed, sober grey "'I'm selling antiques" dress, 3 piece dark green jersey.

Rating: Queen of Puddings! I should have been bothered by Jules pursuing Daisy while he was engaged to the odious Helene...but I wasn't. Jules kissing Daisy...again, it didn't bother me. There was quite a bit of delightful hero Point Of View going on - he kept trying to do the honorable thing by the heartless Helene - but Daisy was simply irresistible (And now I'm imagining Jules looking like Robert Palmer...). It was lovely to see the hero having to deal with his tortured love life. Jules was also quite nice to Daisy...no hooded eyes, sarcastic comments or mocking smiles. There were only two parts of the book that I didn't love. The first was Slimy Toad Desmond (aren't you glad I didn't go for an acronym there) and the incident of the red dress . I may not have loved that part, but I did get it. The other part was almost at the end...I have no idea why Betty made Daisy spend days taking care of the sick...unless she needed to eke out a few more pages. The episode with cousin Janet really does nothing to further the plot.

12 comments:

  1. Betty Barbara here--
    This is one of my favorites, red dress, canal dunking and all. And it is all the better for getting some of the RDD's POV.

    But on a serious note--Jules got himself into the mess with Helene by breaking one of the few rules of successful marriages. He proposed to her believing that he could convince her to naturally change her lifestyle and gladly embrace his. Sorry Jules, that just doesn't work! And why did you ever think it would?
    However, it was clever of him to use the fact that HE wasn't going to change his ways to try and convince her to call it off.

    Question for my fellow Bettys--can y'all remember any book where the RDD (or his Brit equivalent)actually dumped the vile Veronica? (with no rich American, weedy poet, etc lurking in the wings?) My memory is foggy and my spread-sheet useless on this subject.

    ReplyDelete
  2. There was one blond older Dutch girl? A friend of the family or something. Right? But the evil Veronica still told our heroine that she was engaged to RDD and that he returned that love--lots of lies.
    1Francesca

    ReplyDelete
  3. Good memory, Betty Francesca. That would be Britannia All at Sea, which I just finished re-reading and is one of my favs.

    Can't think of an example, Betty Barbara, without someone lurking in the wings. Now, I consider myself an old-fashioned person, but this self-sacrificing practice of not releasing yourself from an engagement where there is no longer love is...dishonest. I'm reminded of a scene from the Sound of Music....

    ReplyDelete
  4. A gentleman never disengages...it's unwritten code from way back. The clever ones, like most of our RDDs, create situations that would allow the girl realize that they don't suit and dump him. It's pretty clever and the vernerable Betty does some pretty cool stuff with it many times.

    I love it. It's respectful without bashing the person.

    There are many examples, but isn't there one where he takes her into the country in bad weather and makes her tramp all over the country side in her gorgeous high heeled boots? or something like that? And she complains left and right about everything. LOL Don't remember now.

    1Francesca

    ReplyDelete
  5. My worst ever Veronica was the pretty blond evil sister who was a model in London. After Araminta married and moved to Holland, Model Veronica came to visit for one week and tried to steal him away from her sister. geesh!

    Anyway, I had real fear because of her. She deliberately changed her appearance and her manner to make herself attractive to RDD and I believe she would have totally succeeded IF he wasn't already in love with our heroine. whew! That I hate. What chances would our Araminta have had if he didn't already love her!!??!! And poor Araminta, did not know yet if he did! That was the worst! Poor dear. What a test!!!!

    What Misery!

    1Francesca

    ReplyDelete
  6. It's not entirely on point, but at the end of Damsel in Green, Julius tells Madame Veronica to take a hike. Now, they were dating or anything, so she's not a proper Veronica, and she *did* try to kill George, but he reacts with a nice turn of savagery. I find that so much more rational than the "I can't rid of her/break this engagement until I've off-loaded her onto someone else" approach.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Betty Barbara here--
    Betty Francesca, in answer to you question about the hero taking the vile Veronica for a hike while she is wearing heels and couture clothes--
    It's Gentle Awakening. he's an English doctor, our heroine is his cook Florina. The vile Veronica is named Wanda.
    The Founding Bettys did the reprise of this one in September. See Here

    ReplyDelete
  8. :) Thank you Betty Barbara! You guys are great!

    ReplyDelete
  9. From my iPhone, so between autocheck and a tiny screen I lost my comment. It was about Betty books and the idea of 'change' in regard to culture and class. Anyway the hero can sometimes come across as emotionally manipulative as the Veronika. This is problematic in some of the weaker books.
    But not in Daisy, I remember this book as Antiques Roadshow Romance. There was almost too much going on, but do I love the part where daisy is sent to deliver jewelry and the doctor realizes what the carrier is the priceless item,so he must escort her too. Sweetness.
    There are a couple of books where the hero breaks an engagement himself, usually when she is caught mid embrace with a RAM (rich American man). Never quite sure how they want to be notable by saving the reputation of the other women while torturing some poor Olivmintie with dashed hopes.
    Betty AnHK

    ReplyDelete
  10. And did anyone else think it strange when one of the heroines defended the spoiled ward/daughter from getting her into trouble? ???

    I don't understand the "I will defend the brat against the RDD hubby". It ain't right.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Yes, Betty AnHK,that was exactly the type of sibling loyalty (getting taken advantaged of) that I was talking about in another post, that I couldn't abide.

    ReplyDelete
  12. re.:Anonymous: "I will defend the brat against the RDD hubby"

    All of our Neels heroines seem to have this thing about not telling tales or, even more Neelsish, carrying tales. Which is recommendable, of course, but sometimes they overdo it with their code of honour,sometimes when it's not telling tales but putting the blame where it squarely lies or even "reporting a crime" as in the Damsel in Green telling-George-and-the-kids-it's-safe-to-go-skating incident which Magdalen mentioned above.

    Guess where I discovered my Daisy, quite by chance? At one of the bookstores at
    AMSTERDAM CENTRAAL Station! What a find!A lovely pale yellow Mills&Boon Enchanted edition, 1999, the hero and heroine on the cover standing happily in front of one of the rat-infested grachten! I left the price sticker on the book, of course: VAN DITMAR Adviesprijs fl. 14.95.(The original price £ 2.40, for any of you who would like to do some rather inaccurate sums an the back of an envelope.)

    I have always loved Discovering Daisy. It's such a sweet story (OK, not the canal dunking and the mugging part) and we learn a lot more about the hero's feelings than in other Neels stories.
    And the babysitting/nursing-the-sick-kids-and-cousin stint towards the end where the hero shows up to prove he's quite helpful in a domestic crisis ( even if he just spoons food into one of the kids and does some grocery shopping) is a recurring feature in Neeldom.
    Betty Anonymous from Germany

    ReplyDelete