Good morining, Bettys! What lively discussions we're having around here of late. (I refuse to use more than one exclamation point in a paragraph so just read that with wide-eyed wonder ala: 'Grandma, my, what big teeth you have.')
Betty Debbie and I need someone to open our minds to the wonders to be found in The Gemel Ring because this Beauty Queen is destined to go crown-less in our respective stuccoed and lavishly-maintained villas.I dug into my discussion thread of the same and I remembered that at least (very small beer) Everard had good taste in retirement homes:
Charity carries an old man into the secret home for the elderly. I live near a massive retirement home. We call it The Death Star. ("Death isn't funny, Betty Keira," says my conscience. "I know," I reply, mumbling under my breath about what a spoil-sport my conscience is.) It is a great big monolith of a building. I would much prefer it if Shady Oak-y Glen-ish Retirement Land would adopt the Everard van Tijlen approach to nursing homes--low-key and looking nothing like a Death Star, I'm sure.
Happy Reprising!Betty Keira
Charity Dawson. Nurse - Sister on Men's Medical. An "Olivia" (tall, well-built, red brown hair, green eyes). She drives her own car - an MG Midget which was a gift from her godmother. Not only does she drive, but she also carries an Advanced Drivers Certificate. Besides English, she speaks French and "passable German" (depending on who's asking), she is described as "brainy", she swims like a fish and is also a first class tennis player. You'd think a girl like that wouldn't have any self-esteem issues. You'd think. We first meet her on a driving holiday with sister Lucy and her parents, Lieutenant-Colonel Dawson and wife. They are passing through Holland after touring around Germany.
Enter Mr. Arthur C. Boekerchek. No, of course he's not the hero - but our main characters meet over his unconscious body. Mr. Boekerchek is an American from Pennsylvania...he's quite a friendly guy when he's not passed out. We'll catch up with him later.
Our real hero is Professor Everard van Tijlen, almost 41. Yup, he's as old a Neels guy as we're going to find. As Charity is assessing Mr. Boekerchek's condition, up saunters The Professor. The first words out of his mouth are insulting to Charity. She has been doing her best to communicate with the local policeman - who doesn't speak English or French - but does understand her German. Everard: "It will be better if we speak English...You have a very marked English accent, you know." ?? Why be rude about it?
Mr. Boekerchek wakes up and thanks them, then gets their names and the hospital where Charity works. He's going to need this info later. Charity notices the doctor passing them as they get off the ferry. He's driving a white Lamborghini Espada. Fast. Charity's father comments on the price of such a car and guesses that it is driven by some "pop singer". After a brief visit to the family home in Budleigh Salterton, Charity heads back to St. Simon's Hospital and Surgical Registrar Clive Barton. He may be a pleasant man, but his hair is receding a little. This does not bode well. He takes Charity out to dinner where she refuses a marriage proposal but that's okay. On the way out of the restaurant he meets a small delicate blonde, "a wisp of a thing", who literally falls at his feet. The Clives of this world were born to marry wispy little blondes...so let it be written, so let it be done. We're done with Clive.
Two weeks go by and then Charity is called into the Hospital Matron's office and is bidden to go to Holland and nurse Mr. Arthur C. Boekerchek, who it turns out is really quite ill. He has a rare condition - and guess who's the leading authority? Naturally it's Prof. van Tijlen. Mr. Boekerchek needs an operation - so Mr. B. requests Charity come and nurse him through it. After some hesitation she goes (after a little genial strong-arming by the American Ambassador - or someone). She is quite surprised to see Prof. van Tijlen...and to find out that he is the doctor (or should I say surgeon?). His next words are just about as rude as the first words he spoke, "Ah, the English Miss Dawson, come to stay with us for a little while. An opportunity for you to demonstrate your talent for languages; you should acquire a smattering of Dutch during that period." Umm...why antagonize the nurse? Could it be that he's attracted? She wants to shout something rude at him, but manages to say, in a cool voice, "I think there will be no need of that, Professor, for my Dutch would probably turn out to be as bad as your manners." Yea!!! She shoots. She scores....but then she gets all gushy and girly and wished to see more of him. Why? Could it be that she is so superficial and shallow as to be attracted to him purely based on looks?? (not that I blame her too much - see book cover. He. Is. Some. Kind. Of. Wonderful.) Aargh. Come on girl...show some backbone. Mr. B. lets slip how much the doctor's bill for his surgery was, Charity is shocked and appalled and lets Prof. van Tijlen know it. He allows her to think the worst of him (that he spends his money on fancy cars and pretty girls). Before leaving to go back home, the Boekerchek's invite Charity to a party at the Embassy - giving her a chance to go buy a long white dress. Not a wedding dress - you can tell, because it has an aquamarine sash. Of course the Professor is there. Of course he insults her. Again. "Don't let me interrupt you in your exercise of the German tongue, Miss Dawson. I can't say that you have made much progress, but enthusiasm is the great thing, is it not?" At this point I could enthusiastically punch Professor van T. She just about bursts into tears...so he says, "You look as though you're going to cry". I feel Charity is fully justified in replying, "I hope you will believe me when I say that I dislike you more than anyone else I know." Too bad she doesn't mean it.
Back at St. Simon's she finds that Clive has gotten engaged to Little Miss Wispy Blonde. That's okay - Charity didn't love him. She realizes she's really in love with Professor van Tijlen. Again, why???? No sooner does she have her dawning realization than she hands in her resignation. Charity heads home to Budleigh Salterton to convalesce. Convalesce?? Yes, she needs to mend her broken heart. Sniff. Her recovery plan includes tramping for miles with the dogs, gardening with her peppery father and driving her mother to town to shop and visit her friends. Instead of blooming in the air and sun, she becomes thinner and paler. Sounds like the heart condition is getting to her. I love that her dad tries to help...he gives her a glass of his best port each morning (it's medicinal, right?). Her dad comes down with "a touch of lumbago" (I believe Dr. van der Stevejinck was suffering from a touch of lumbago last week - I'm now going to use the term "lumbago" whenever he has a sore back...because I can). Lt. Colonel Dawson and the rest of Charity's family will now exit, stage right. Except for a paragraph or two near the end of the book, they are now relegated to shadow status. Which is really unfortunate - because a peppery Lt. Col. who plies his daughter with his best port could have so much scope. Ah, well. Enter the Rude Professor again. What? At her house? Yes. It seems that Mr. Arthur C. Boekerchek has had a relapse and wants Charity to special him. Everard has driven over from Holland, with a stop at St. Simon's first to arm-wrestle Charity's address from the "hatchet-faced virago" who wasn't inclined to give out personal information. Up until this point I had little liking for Everard...but then he gives us a teeny tiny, itsy bitsy little glimpse into what might possibly be a soul...and not a deep-freeze. What does he do? He allows Charity to drive his Lamborghini Espada for a couple of hours. After a brief nap, he is back at her again..."I've yet to meet a pretty girl who didn't expect a large slice of attention from her men companions - and turned sour when she didn't get it." Charity comes back with, "You are a very rude man, the rudest I have ever had the misfortune to know..." All it takes is a tiny little compliment in the next paragraph..."I'll give you full marks for being such a good driver..." and she gets all gushy/girly, "Oh, do you really mean that?" He smacks her down again..."If only your accent were as faultless as your driving." Really? Really?
After four days of intensively nursing Mr. B., Charity goes for a walk. As she stands admiring some old houses by the canal who should drive up? Yup. The Professor (in a Daimler Sovereign this time). He all but accuses Charity of stalking him - and while she stands there gobsmacked, mouth open, he takes the opportunity to insult her again. "Close your mouth, my good girl, you appear half-witted." He grabs her arm and hauls her inside - where she gets to meet his Grandmother. The grandmother takes a shine to Charity - and invites her to look around the place. I cringe at the next part, I really do. Charity is standing in the home of the man she loves, and asks him about a ring she sees in a little red box. A ring? Hint, hint. Everard doesn't tell her anything. Why? Because he is The Lord of the Gemel Ring. She then (cringe, cringe) spouts off some love poetry: "but I return a ring of Jimmals to imply thy love had one knot, mine a triple tye." (cringe x 3).
Back on nursing duty Mr. B. surprises everyone by having a coronary...which is but: A Prelude to a Hospital Fire. Charity does not desert her post, though all around her flee...Everard finds her by Mr. B. and tells her it's time to go. She suggests the further lifts. They hear a noise as of rushing wind and Everard says irritably to Charity (as though it were all her fault): "There's your precious lift...going up like a torch". Evidently the coronary and the hospital fire don't have any detrimental effects on Mr. Boekercheck. He is released from hospital a week later and Charity goes with Mr. and Mrs. Boekercheck to a cottage in the country to recuperate.
This is but a brief respite. Just before heading back to den Haag (and from there, home), Charity spends a day off exploring Utrecht...the Professor's home town (this is faintly stalkerish of her). She doesn't go near his house this time, but while walking around she sees a little old man fall down in the street. She picks him up (wow!) and carries him into the dreary building across the street, where, much to her surprise (and his), she runs into The Rude Professor. Turns out, Mr. Cranky Pants is a Secret Benefactor to the elderly. It is his rest home. He spends much time and money (thus the steep fees he charges for taking care of rich Americans - Charity feels a bit of a chump about that now) taking care of the old folks. Juffrouw Corrie Blom is the woman who oversees the home for him. She is a large woman with a massive bosom, who dresses in dark grey. Charity worms information out of Juffrouw Blom, and then feels guilty about it and goes to the Cranky Professor to apologize. He hauls her off to Tea with Granny again. After tea, Granny cryptically remarks, "...you would have done very well..." Everard then gives her a speech...which is a little awesome and more than a bit mortifying at the same time. He admits to being attracted to her - she is pretty but also disturbing. He says that he does not intend to become "disturbed", so he shall forget her and marry someone who will not take his mind off of his work (sounds like he's in the market for an Araminta). Ouch. All very high-minded. Or do I mean high-handed? To round it all off, after Charity manages to say goodbye, he grabs her and kisses her hard. She then gives her best lines in the book, "I hope you will find some girl to be your doormat..someone who can't say boo to a goose and who will always agree with you...and have dozens of simply horrid little doormats who have to wear glasses and won't know how to be naughty...Goodbye!" It is now time for Charity to ride off into the sunset of Budleigh Salterton...or is it?
She gets a phone call from Everard asking her not to leave until he can see her. Charity's fancy begins to take flight, only to be shot down by Everard when he asks her to step into Juffrouw Blom's capacious clogs. Corrie Blom has sprained her ankle and Everard wants to use Charity to fill in. She rather reluctantly agrees, and as she is walking past him to go pack, he catches her and kisses her with, and I quote, "a kind of controlled savagery." We can now add "savage" to the list of Neels Kisses. This is definitely an outlier - I'm not sure it ever appears in the canon again. His next step is to go on a date with the doormat.
Charity has no problem taking over for Corrie. She even convinces Corrie to let her get her a pretty nightie (instead of the voluminous tent she wears). Charity finishes the rest home job and then goes home because the Gemel Ring is not in the display case anymore! Everard MUST have given it to the doormat.
Granny shows herself to be quite the con artist...she gets Charity to come back to nurse her (Granny is in no need of nursing). She sends Charity down to Everard's office to get her reading glasses out of his desk...and instead of reading glasses she finds.......THE GEMEL RING! It hadn't been given to the doormat after all. In walks Everard: Kiss kiss, you were snooping in my desk, no I wasn't, kiss kiss, the end. Finally - and pretty darn abruptly.
Food: Sandwiches, scrambled eggs, tiny iced cakes, Kaas broodje (there was a serious lack of food in this book!)
Fashion: Lime green wild silk dress and matching jacket, neat cream shirtwaister, long white-not a wedding dress-with aquamarine sash, green and blue organza, green jersey, blue nightie (Corrie)
Rating: I honestly don't know what rating to give this book. I could never work up any liking or sympathy for Everard. He was rude, insulting, hyper-critical, irritable and cranky...when he wasn't being mocking and supercilious. The best things about him are things (cars, Gemel Rings, good looks)...but none of those really add up to any kind of real reason to fall in love with him. His one redeeming feature is that he operates a rest home (which is all well and good, but Charity didn't know that when she fell in love) The character of Charity was lovely - as long as we ignore the 600 pound gorilla in the room. Why would a smart, talented, good looking Olivia fall for such a putz? There was no saucy flippancy to her remarks...she comes off sounding a wee bit desperate. I did love Mr. and Mrs. Boekercheck (very awesome) and Corrie Blom was a brief, but fun, interlude. Granny was also fun, she's got one of the best lines in Neeldom (speaking of a girl that Everard had dated)..."she's only half alive and the live half isn't at all to my liking."
I think I will have to resort to doing maths again. Mr. and Mrs. Boekerchek get a queen of puddings, Corrie - boeuf en croute, Granny - lashings of whipped cream, Charity - treacle tart (I would have rated her higher if I thought she would be happy with Everard) and Everard - a great big "tinned soup". Overall it lands somewhere between digestive biscuits and beans on toast (for me...).
If you really do want to read this book try whistling the Colonel Bogey March while you read. It seemed to cheer up the ill-fated prisoners in The Bridge On the River Kwai.
Cross Over Characters: Dominic and Abigail from Saturday's Child (which I like a lot better!) and Max and Sophy from Surgeon from Holland.