Thursday, February 9, 2012

Betty by the Numbers: Emergency!

I once Heimlich-ed the Jonkheer, and he once swatted my goddaughter in the head when her hair caught fire as she blew out her birthday candles.  I have hauled a blind, elderly spaniel out of an artificial pond, and I’ve chased two large purse-snatchers and the young, medium-sized stranger whose purse they were trying to snatch down an alley.  (She hung on, shouting, “That’s all the money I have;” the snatcher gave a vicious jerk, the strap broke, the woman fell to the pavement, clutching her purse.  I jogged after her assailants for a moment, then wondered what I’d do if I caught up to them, and turned round.  I gave her a hand up and a wad of mostly-unused tissues, and opened my arms slightly in a ‘hug-if-you-want-one’ gesture.  She stared at me for a few seconds, gulped, sobbed, grabbed the tissues and then launched herself onto me.  “You were great,” I repeated, over and over, patting her back.  She was fine, the corn chips in my groceries, which had been banging against my knees as we ran, were fine (this is important as they were, at the time, hard to find and expensive in Dublin), and so we strolled south slowly as she recovered, and she told me all about Cowes Week, which isn’t as much fun as my initial hypothesis of Cows Week would be.)

My two earthquakes have been uneventful, and I don’t recall any gas mains or bombs exploding while I’ve been nearby.  I tend to stay clear of political and protest rallies, though did once get an amazingly charismatic grin and a wave from Bill Clinton – one of the perks or hazards of living near Washington, DC, I suppose (shoals! shoals! paddle faster!!).  By great good fortune burning houses haven’t come my way much, nor floods.  Growing up outside Boston in the 70s, blizzards and snowstorms were cause for celebration – no school!  popcorn over the fire!  Pretend to be Laura Ingalls!  I also lived on a steep bend as a child, and would of course offer tea to anyone smashing a car into the rock that helped mark it, but that didn’t happen too often.  The closest I’ve come to amputating a leg was sitting with a stranger who’d broken hers just by stepping off the curb at a bad angle until the ambulance came.  “It’s broken,” the paramedic said; “It can’t be,” the woman replied, and who wouldn’t?  If you ever need a tracheotomy performed with a ball point pen, do not come to me, even though I did once walk a new neighbor up the street to the emergency room after she sliced a chunk out of her finger.  When I sliced a chunk out of my own finger, everyone in Paris generously pitched in to help get it stitched, for free and absolutely beautifully, according to my doctor back home.

If you must experience an earthquake, try to make it the kind that hit the east coast of the US in August 2011, causing minimal injuries, zero deaths, and some cracks in the Washington Monument that a crew of lucky daredevil masons got to repair live on internet TV.


I would not have thought, incidentally, that I could fill two paragraphs with tales of my adventures in courage and kindness to strangers.  Please take a moment to think over your own experiences; I bet you’re more deserving of a Scout badge than you realize.

Thank you.  How many did you get?  I’m not surprised (I hope), but I shall be deeply distressed on your behalf if you’ve ever had as much excitement in any three- or four-month period as poor Julia Pennyfeather, who begins the winter of 1971 with a blizzard at her Scottish patient’s home, where she’s forced to forage for diabetes-friendly provisions and chivvy the sole household attendant into keeping the fires going for several chilly and gastronomically-repetitive days, then heads down the M1 and encounters a multi-car pile-up replete with corpses, then, after making it to the Netherlands without incident, gets lost in a cold, rainy woods and falls asleep on the ground risking exposure, and then gears up for overtime as a polio epidemic sweeps the village.  By The Fifth Day of Christmas, she was past due for some tender words and jewelry.

Or how about the unlucky (in some things) Daisy Gillard, whose RDD keeps Discovering Daisy (1999) covered in water-weeds, scum, dirt, blood and sand as she, again in the course of a very few months, falls into a canal, gets knocked out by muggers, rushes to the aid of an elderly woman hit by a car, and gets caught in a violent windstorm on the beach.  For her, I should think just remaining upright and dry would constitute an HEA.

 

Daisy and Julius's third son, Devon, carrying on a family tradition



In case you haven’t guessed, 79 Nurses: A Neels Database-to-Be includes a column for emergencies.  Here come the caveats:  first, it’s subjective.  One person’s emergency is another person’s heavy cold.  Second, sometimes an emergency takes place deep into the book, when I am comfortably disposed on the couch without a Post-it® note or pen and paper handy, and I’m in no mood to leap up and grab computer, and then I doze off a bit and forget all about it, so maybe an emergency or two never makes it into the spreadsheet.  Finally, maybe on a grey Sunday, Aunt Snooty-Nose’s vicious lies to our hero about his beloved’s abrupt departure from the family home feels like an emergency, while on a sunny Saturday of a long weekend, beanpole-ish stalker Helena von Youwishsister’s vicious lies to our heroine about how soon she’ll be Mrs. Dr. Helena just feel like a minor snooze.  So.  Nothing’s set in stone, gentle readers.

With that understanding-of-sorts, I count a total of 211 emergencies over 135 books, or 1.6 per book – per heroine, really, because bar Gijs van der Eekerk’s succor of some offstage drunks with severed arteries, which Beatrice sadly misinterprets as a night out with an imaginary strumpet (Wedding Bells for Beatrice, 1994), our heroine gets involved every time.  Unless, that is, she’s one of the lucky seven who experience no catastrophes on the road to true love.  Betty ran out of natural disasters, muggers and car crashes intermittently in the 1980s, with one heroine getting off scot-free in each year from 1980 to 1983, and then in 1987 Rachel Downing makes it through a novel unscathed – unless you want to count as an emergency having one’s presumed boyfriend show up in a hotel lobby with a floozy, take one look at one’s thunderstruck face and declaim a blithe, “Oh, well – Off with the Old Love.”  Then, in her last five books, all copyright 2001, Betty imagined just three emergencies, with Emma’s Wedding and The Doctor’s Girl relatively unscathed.

Of those who are subject to adrenaline rushes, four of our heroines, or 3%, including the Misses Pennyfeather and Gillard above, suffer four calls to battle stations; 13, or 10%, engage in three pulse-pounding adventures; 45, or 33%, get through two sticky situations; and 66, or 49%, are distressed by a single disaster.  But what disasters they are!  Car crashes, bus crashes, bicycle crashes, plane crashes, whatever the boating equivalent of a crash is, measles, whooping cough, flu, stroke, coronary, diabetic coma, runaways, fire, flood, war...  Jiminy!  There’s not a single famine, actually, except maybe way offstage when Julius mistakenly decides Daisy can stay out of trouble for a few weeks and hies himself off to Africa to set up a feeding station (Discovering Daisy).  And, of course, lots of grimacing into the increasingly-empty larder whenever we get stranded in the snow.

The most common emergency is what I’ve called an “endangered individual.”  They’re not necessarily sick or injured, but they’re at risk in some way.  Of our 211 stat situations, 23%, or 49, involve abandoned or neglected babies; runaway brides, wards and sisters; evil kidnapping step-relatives; people trapped in toy stores or creaky cottages; lost grannies, kiddies or heroine-ies and their ilk.  Next most common is illness and injury, at 20%, or 41, of our incidents, although only one of laburnum-seed eating.  Then come vehicle crashes of one sort and another, at 17%, or 36 pile-ups.  Criminal assault accounts for 11%, or 23, of misfortunes.

 
‘Nuff said, people


I was taken aback by that number, actually.  In her first 21 books, Betty had only one assault, perpetrated by a patient overdosed on cannabis trying to choke Staff Nurse Parsons.  Chalk up a Victory for Victoria (1972), however, as Alexander van Schuylen arrives to save the day.  In the next 35 books, I count six assaults, but three are against animals and one is by an animal, so they’re not quite the same as when Sister Loveday Pearce gets threatened by three youngsters – three easily-quelled youngsters, it transpires – on the street, or Louisa Seymour overdoses her infant niece and nephew (Cruise to a Wedding in 1974 and Winter Wedding in 1979).  In the last 79 books, from All Else Confusion in 1982, when tinkers kidnap little sister, through Daisy’s mugging, we have 16 assaults, which accounts for 20% of the books and 15% of the incidents in that period.  Phoebe, Charity, Emily, Beatrice, both Sarahs, both Daisys, Mary Jane, Julie, Henrietta, Bertha, Ermentrude and Claudia are all involved somehow or other in muggings, or injured whilst thwarting burglaries.

“Medical events” differ from illnesses and injuries in that they’re wider-spread or more chronic.  Hence, I get a category with 9%, or 18, of the emergencies, including ’flu, polio, whooping cough and measles epidemics, as well as angina attacks, stroke, heart conditions, a diabetic coma and a bizarrely threatening Belgian woman with a filthy home.  I did not count every patient in extremis as an emergency, since they’re mostly just part of Mary Jane Julie’s professional responsibilities.  Nor did I count as separate incidents each of the many, many ailments from which Valentijn van Bertes’s nephew and godson suffers, as they are nearly innumerable.  Thank goodness Hannah (1980) is unrelenting in her care and optimism, or the poor little plot device would not have made it out of NICU.
 
Quick!  Line up the kiddies and the white coats; there's polio in the village!




Ready, Betty Keira?  There are 12 incidents (just 6% of all emergencies, and only 9% of the books, dear) of people or animals being thrust somehow into canals, ponds, one loch and one gully.  They make for exciting scenes, though, beginning with poor George Rodman and the littlest van den Berg Eyffert falling into the deadly-cold water whilst skating on unsafe ice due to the criminal scheming of beanpole-thin yet big, fat liar Therese LeFabre.  That’s in Damsel in Green (1970).  In Tangled Autumn (1971), we get our first animal thrown overboard:  Sappha finds a puppy tied up in a brick-bound sack and thrown into a canal to drown.  She falls in effecting rescue, and is in turn rescued by Rolf.  After that, there are only another three critters sacrificed to the exigencies of dawning love – plus a few kids, a Norwegian or four, and an overweight Londoner.

Eleven storms, ten fires, seven blizzard/snowstorms, six bombs and six births (five humans, one horse), three demonstrations turned rowdy, and two each of floods, wild winds, non-bomb explosions and earthquakes.  One roof caves in, and one armed conflict breaks out in Bosnia, requiring surgical aid.  Add them all up, and you get quite enough excitement for any literary career.

And who suffers from all these catastrophes?  He does – just three ruddy times, for heaven’s sake.  Gerard gets lost in a Scottish mist, and meets up with Deborah and a clutch of schoolgirls in Stars Through the Mist (1973).  Deborah’s one of the four-emergency ladies; she also gets a tractor rollover, a retainer cutting her hand, and a Fiat-crunching auto accident.)  Jake breaks a leg rescuing a fjord-faller in Midnight Sun’s Magic (1979), and Lauris and Julia are both caught up in a brief but violent passing demonstration in At the End of the Day (1985).  He doesn’t count as a victim, incidentally, if he only strode through the rubble to pluck her out, or launched himself into the icy pond to retrieve her and the neighbor child.

And he need do so quite frightfully often, as our heroine is the victim in 52, or 25%, of emergencies.  Mostly just once in the course of a book, but five of the ladies suffer two horrific fates, and that poor, dear Daisy Gillard counts as victim in the canal-fall, the mugging, and the windstorm.  (Incidentally, Julius saves her from none of these!)



I’m sending Daisy one of these shirts, and expect Dr. de Huizma to write the appropriate prescriptions.




Betty also has it in for kids, who are the victims of some 17%, 35, of her imagined horror shows.  His family members are put at risk 19 times (9%), and hers 16 times (8%), with considerable overlap with the children category.  Animals are made to suffer in 14 incidents, including an especially tricky spate during the Carter administration – in 15 books from 1977’s The Hasty Marriage to 1980’s Caroline’s Waterloo, we have six incidents of animal abuse, including a dog hit by a car, a cat tortured by youths, a kitten stuck in a tree, a dog lost in a storm and found in a canal, a rabbit caught in a snare, and a pregnant donkey abused by tinkers.

By contrast, the elderly are roughed up only 11 times (5%), and faithful retainers only five (2%).  This says something about career choice, I believe.  Or lifestyle choice.  Or something.

The big wrap-up:  I count 119 emergencies where dramatic rescue by hero or heroine is warranted.  This does not include little brothers with rheumatic fever – they need patient nursing and holidays abroad, not drama – or fires in Northern estates in which the firefighters are on their own to haul those needlewomen out of the attic, and Gerard only arrives in time to take Julia south in his Rolls.  However, in those cases where she, he or they must effect a rescue:  she starts 49 of the rescues, for 45% of the time.  He joins in on 40 of them, since she’s gotten wrapped up in weeds, or her arms aren’t powerful enough to lift the old lady from the well, or her fear of heights overcomes her, etc.  He gets full credit for the rescue in 39% of cases, or 43 incidents, since she’s the victim, for silly’s sake.  They work together, more or less equally, over 27 situations – that’s 25%, and really the best way to show high likelihood of their H actually being EA.  Think of George and Phoebe laboring together over those laburnum-seed afflicted youngsters, or Tishy and Jason making sure the bull doesn’t get to Georgina and the baby.  Teamwork!  The essence of marriage!

 

Beautiful but deadly: a laburnum tree in flower















Looking at the full list, I'm inclined to shake my head a bit at Betty's penchant for shoving young women, nephews, stepdaughters, grannies and absent-minded dads into the path of onrushing disasters.  One must admit that it works, though.  Love is, after all, a matter of hormones, and nothing gets the hormones flowing like a farmhouse on fire.




PS:  I am sure we all have some truly dreadful stories we could tell of crashes, medical disasters and the like.  I don't mean to downplay the horror of of those in any way.  My lighthearted tone is not intended to offend, and if the subject or style of this essay causes you any distress, I do most sincerely apologize.

29 comments:

  1. Brilliant, as usual, Betty van den Betsy!

    I won't bore you with any stories of mine, but I will say that my nickname (well-deserved) in my late teens was "Crash Hanna".

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  2. Wow, what a great blog. I've been reading and collecting Betty Neels books for decades. I even mentioned her on my blog today, which led to my searching around and finding this one.

    I, too, would like an uncrushable jersey dress.

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    1. Welcome, Betty Beverly, and nice blog!

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    2. Betty Lulu, how did you find Betty Beverly's blog?

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    3. What a great bunch you are. I'm laughing at all the details in your posts and it's making me want to pull out my favorites. At one time I went through my Betty Neels books and graded them -- A+ down to B- so I wouldn't reread the ones that are a little sillier. But I find that even my less favorite Betty Neels books are better than just about anyone else's for pure escapist enjoyment. Another Harlequin author that I reread a lot is Leigh Michaels. And I guess I should label myself "Betty Beverly" now.

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    4. Betty van den Betsy,
      re.: how did Betty Lulu find Betty Beverly's blog
      If you click on a non-anonymous Betty's turquoise name you may/or may not find something out about her (or him, if you click on Betty Ross's picture in the Member's block on the right, you'll see what I mean).
      Betty Anonymous

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    5. That's exactly what I did, Betty Anon.

      Betty Beverly, what were your A pluses? I don't remember exactly, but I thought I saw some ladies here post their top five. Here are my top five at the moment: Caroline's Waterloo, Wish With the Candles, Hilltop Tryst, Girl in a Million, and Tulips for Augusta.

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  3. ...whilst skating on unsafe ice due to the criminal scheming of beanpole-thin yet big, fat liar Therese LeFabre...snort! I love that.

    Once again, I am amazed at the comprehensive nature of that spreadsheet. About the dearth of hero emergencies...I think that when The Great Betty broke Jake's (Midnight Sun's Magic) leg she realized how hard courtship was going to be if he had to hobble in to our heroine's room in the middle of the night to watch her sleep. (Thump! Thump! Thump!)

    And welcome Betty Beverly! Swim around and shove your oar in anywhere you like!

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    1. Lovely image - I'm still laughing - thump! shh! thump! shh! "No need to tell her I was here, Nanny..."

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    2. Not to begrudge Betty van den Betsy any laughs or anything, but "thump, thump, thump" is one of the funniest things I've seen today. Of course, it's to be admitted that I spent over 6 hours in a theater snoozing to a Wagner opera--he wrote some sublime music but the man was not a laugh riot--so the competition is maybe a bit sparse, but still. Thump. Thump. Thump. See? Still funny.

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  4. Which book has a crashed bus (school bus?) where the heroine stays with a child? I believe her "knickers" are showing thanks to a ripped dress. I'm staring at my shelves of Betty books, but I can't think of which one it is. BettyAnoninTX

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  5. The Magic of Living is the one with the bus crash...(no knickers).

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    1. I mean...no knickers showing.

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    2. Sister Peters also deals with a crashed-bus worth of children, and lodges herself in a difficult and potentially dangerous position to help one of them. Coenraad pulls them both out. Lots of dirt, scrapes and scratches, and her hair gets very untidy indeed, but I believe no knickers on view.

      I think it's Roly Brown who tears her trousers helping a boy in a quarry. That'd be Tulips for Augusta, and Sister P. is Sister Peters in Amsterdam.

      Charity Graham also has bus problems, when hers is hijacked by two youths in Two Weeks to Remember. Of course, any heroine would prefer lounging in comfort in a great-socking-Bentley than pressed up against a fat lady with a dashing hat and a bag of shopping on the bus.

      And welcome, Betty AnoninTX! What's your back-story?

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  6. Betty van den Betsy, that was a delightful whirlwind tour of the world of Betty Neels. Except for the ones I haven't yet read, I recognized most of the dire situations you mentioned.

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  7. Thank you, Debbie! I've been staring and staring at my books. Now why did I think her knickers were showing? I'm sure I've combined two stories. I'm very good at that. :) BettyAnoninTX

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    1. I believe Florence in Romantic Encounter accidentally flashed her knickers while helping to amputate a lorry driver's leg.

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  8. I absolutely adore the "stranded in a snowstorm with increasingly empty larder" emergencies. I have such a soft spot for them and they are by far my favorite of all disasters to befall heroines. (I theorize it's from a combination of loving Laura Ingalls Wilder's The Long Winter far too much, and from growing up in always-sunny San Diego where snow was unheard of!)

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    1. Yes! The "empty larder emergency" is a great part of Betty books. Though I really do enjoy anything dangerous that makes the embattled couple work together, what is fun about the trapped-in-a-snowstorm section is the length of time like days which they have to spend together to test out each others character.
      Re:'The Long Winter' Terrific book, somehow quite dark. Was so young when I read that series and it was such good mixture of pioneering stoicism and childhood joy.
      Betty AnHK

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  9. I've been going through my books, and I'm combining the bus wreck in Sister Peters in Amsterdam with the knickers in Romantic Encounter! ha Isn't it funny how certain details stick in our minds. I promise you that I do not sit around thinking about knickers! I also set aside The Magic of Living to read. Thanks for your help!

    I am just a big Betty fan and come to this site *all* the time. I love the reprises with the accompanying photos! I happily read and reread her books (along with Jane Donnelly's). I have always loved Christmas stories, and I picked up Mistletoe Magic at a store to have something to read in the waiting room when my hubs had outpatient surgery. I read A Christmas Romance and loved it so much that I read it again when we went home. I have managed to buy very nice copies of all 135 Betty stories. I will have to replace my copy of Mistletoe Magic soon because my cat Lucy chewed on the corner last week when I was rereading it yet again. I retired at the end of the last school year after 30 years. I tell people that the nicest thing about being retired is that I can read until 4 in the morning, sleep late, then finish my book as I'm drinking my coffee. (and it is usually a Betty book)

    BettyAnoninTX

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  10. Betty van den Betsy, once again I am amazed. I have read and re-read the Venerable Betty’s books since 1997 (not counting Magic in Vienna which I picked up at a bookstore when it first came out in Canada back in 1986). I have come across all of the emergencies mentioned above, of course, some of them many times over. But seeing them all classified, weighed, measured and counted makes such a difference. I’ve never realized that there were so many of them. Or how many there were of a certain type. Once again you’ve put things into perspective.
    Your spreadsheet – it boggles the mind. Reading the comments I have a feeling there is even a field headed "Buses" on it. Yes, I can see it in my mind, complete with a reference to a list of all the fellow passengers, shopping bags and all. Sticky post-it notes, still to be incorporated in the œuvre, here, there and everywhere.
    I loved the intro with your personal experiences. Fun to read though not fun to live through, I suppose. My dad once got mugged, after leaving the bank with a lot of money on him. Suddenly a man grabbed his "purse", meaning the little bag he was carrying, and took off. (The fool. My dad carried the money on his person, of course.) Two Italians on the scene, one of them planned to open a restaurant in the area, came to the rescue. They called the police and one of them ran after the thief and caught him. (Now, in case you’re all envisioning a young strapping Italian charging after the culprit... The thief-catcher was younger than my dad, but over 60 years of age!) – The restaurant, which opened several months later and has moved to a larger, better location in the meantime, has become our favourite Italian, of course.
    Besides Gijs van de Eekerk, didn’t Reilof van Meerum (The Hasty Marriage) single-handedly handle an emergency? ( Betty AnoninTX getting out her red pen to mark my "handedly handle" remembers just in time that the ink won’t come off her screen). If I remember correctly Reilof was in the car behind Joyce’s husband’s when he (Larry?) suffered a heart attack?
    Great work, Betty van den Betsy. And I hope there is still more to come.
    Betty Anonymous

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  11. All kinds of awesome. That can't be just a spreadsheet, it must be some kind of Betty Bible, a Koran of Neelishness, the Tripitaka of RDD's, a Canonical Text of plucky Brit gals and quiet Professors, The Treaty of Dutch/English + English relations, the Encyclopedia Britannica of statistical Bettyisms.
    Super work, keep up with the counting!

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  12. I've only just stumbled onto this site, so this is a bit late in coming. I wondered if you're actually making a list (or if you've done it and I just can't find it), like you alluded to above, of all of the emergencies in Betty's books. For whatever reason, those are some of my favorite parts, and what I remember most. But can I remember what book there was a bomb and the nurse was specialling a patient and tried to take them through the tunnels while still pumping the oxygen and the ex-boyfriend abandoned her? Of course not. So, a database/list of crises would be awesome.

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    1. Ooo, Betty Caroline, (the name in one of my favorite books!) that is a new challenge! Don't know if it exists yet, but that would be fun to read.

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    2. Welcome, Betty Caroline,
      Our Betty van den Betsy has a spreadsheet
      https://spreadsheets.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AtSP8nEMky0XdFdFekNTanpPanRETi01WW4yZXJGWEE&hl=en_US
      that also lists emergencies.

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    3. Thank you! I found a few emergencies I was looking for. Now, next question: Do you have a post or Q&A where we can give details we remember and you or other readers can give a stab at what book it is? I simply can't keep them all straight. :)

      Happy to be a Betty,
      Betty Caroline

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    4. I use the "search this blog" function quite a bit. I try different words I associate with the book, and many times I can figure it out. I lurked around, just doing that, before I ever posted.

      Betty AnoninTX

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    5. Plus, you can always formulate your question and publish it (the most recent post will have the most readers!) and usually somebetty will know or try and help you find the title.

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