Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Letter from a New Friend!

via email:

Dear Keira and Debbie,

What an entertaining blog TUJD is! I discovered it quite by chance, during one of my regular trawls through the internet in search of ‘news and views’ on Betty Neels, and I’ve enjoyed reading the blog immensely, particularly the reviews. Although I have not read all of them – I skip to the ratings of books I’ve bought (and haven’t read), and read the entire reviews of those I’ve already read! – I’m very appreciative of the work that’s gone into compiling all the information you have on her books.

I’ve been reading Betty Neels’ books since I was thirteen and have loved them, despite many discouraging comments from my ‘M&B’-reading friends that her plots are repetitive, all her heroes are RDDs, her endings are voyeuristic – with the butlers always looking on as the hero and heroine kissed – and so on. I find their pace soothing, and you only have to pay attention to the narrative and a charming or amusing (or both) bit of detail will present itself, taking you quite by surprise. One such comes to mind: in her 100th book, At Odds with Love, which is one of my favourites, and one I’ve read many times, there’s a passage describing Nik and Jane’s expedition to shop for Jane’s second Prussian blue dress. Describing the purchase, Betty Neels refers to the professor, “...sitting on an elegant chair which creaked ominously under his weight...” I remember I laughed out loud when I first read it, and it brings a smile to my face every time I read it. Charming, gentle humour, and completely unexpected.

I’m in the process of collecting all Betty Neels’ books – first or second hand, so long as the book isn’t falling apart, I’ll buy it! – but am discovering what a hard task that is since Amazon charges a packet to deliver to India. Lamentably, many later editions that are available firsthand on my trusty online bookstore are out of stock. So I’m forced to find books the old-fashioned way, periodically visit every second hand store in my neighbourhood (which includes those within a radius of ten kilometres of my house!) and browse through row upon precariously piled row of dusty ‘M&Bs’ (as romance novels are called here – short for Mills & Boons), until that “Aha” moment when I finally find a Betty Neels. Indeed I am so taken with this exercise, and so methodical at it – not even grudging the hours it consumes, that the shopkeepers supply me with a stool for my comfort (useful to stand on too when I’m perusing the taller shelves), knowing I’m there for a while, and serve me small cups tea / coffee. I have now a ‘regular beat’ of three stores, and so far, I’ve not come away from my exercise with anything less than one Betty Neels – oh, that moment of joyful relief is hard to describe, but one you understand no doubt! I’ve gotten just over half-way: I’ve 68 of her books, and can’t wait to get my hands on the rest.

Before I end, I must tell you about one second hand store whose owner hides Betty Neels’ books in a special shelf under his till! The first time I went to his shop, I was disappointed to find none, and was walking away, reporting it out loud to my friend. He heard that, and asked me, “Is that what you want, madam? You should have told me when you first walked in. I’ll give you Betty Neels [sic]. Here they are.” And proceeded to produce more than a dozen out of that hidden shelf! While I pounced on them gleefully, he explained that there were so many requests for Betty Neels’ books that he couldn’t let them be taken away casually (presumably by someone who read any old M&B) and so reserved them for buyers who requested them specially. As I paid for the books I’d chosen, he warned me with a knowing look, “Most people don’t come back to sell Betty Neels’, madam.” I sure don’t!

I promised to end with the last paragraph, didn’t I?! However, I do have a question: do you know if Betty Neels corresponded with her readers? I’d love to know what sort of questions she was asked and what she answered, or even if she encouraged any contact with her readers at all. I’d have loved to write to her, and now that I’ve the wherewithal to do it, she’s not around – sigh.
With best regards, and thanks for the wonderfully entertaining reviews,
SHV


Welcome Betty SHV! I know there are many of us who can relate to your ongoing search - and the thrill of the hunt.  I combed thrift stores and used book stores for much of my collection, only resorting to Amazon when I absolutely had to.  Good luck with your search!
Love and lardy cakes,
Betty Debbie

15 comments:

  1. "...oh, that moment of joyful relief is hard to describe, but one you understand no doubt!"

    Oh, dear Betty SHV. Is it too forward to suggest that we become best friends? What a lovely and delightful little peek into the world of an international reader of The Great Betty.

    I am wondering if it is too soon to ask you important questions like, "Why do the used book stores around me not carry acres and acres of M&Bs? Do they cart them off to India?" or "Is it too late to begin referring to all of these books as 'M&Bs'?" (It could be like a gang handshake.) or "Does my adoration of Shah Rukh Kahn mark me as a feather-wit or a lady of great good taste?"(Don't tell me!)

    Thanks so much for the email. Drop us a line anytime!

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  2. Betty van den BetsyFebruary 2, 2012 at 10:18 PM

    All the joyous relief in my collection was my completist brother-in-law's experience, since he did the finding for me. I believe he got the entire works on e-Bay, in lots of two or three to 60-some (the first delivery, Christmas 2003 or 2004 -- I could not begin to guess what was in the big box. For each subsequent holiday for about 18 months (Groundhog Day, etc.), I knew exactly what was in the box.)

    Does my adoration of mutter paneer make me a gourmet or a gourmand? I suppose it depends on how daintily I gobble it. Dang. Now I'm hungry.

    How lovely to meet you, Betty SHV!

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  3. Welcome Betty SHV. Years ago when I was collecting my Neels books,in Australia, I found the same thing with booksellers keeping her novels under the counter, so unless you asked about them they weren't very often on display. I have collected all of them now but have a few doubles of the later books and I still find them around the traps. If you are interested in any particular titles let me know or email me at carla_poole@hotmail and maybe I can post some out to you.

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  4. No, not forward at all, Keira! That'd make us sort of 'pen pals', wouldn't it? I never had one growing up, so this is brilliant. :) You may be right about M&Bs being carted off to India: in one store I asked where he gets the books from (so I could go right to the source of course!) and was told, somewhat cryptically, 'From foreign, madam.' When I dug deeper (literally - into the carton!), I found many of them were from the UK - Oxfam, public libraries, etc.! And Keira, if you're a big fan of Shahrukh Khan, I implore you, don't look up the latest news about him - it'll upset you - I don't dare say more. :)

    It's lovely to meet you too Betsy!

    Carla, you're so kind to offer to post the duplicates to me! May I send you the list of books I do have and we can compare notes? Thanks very much!

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    1. Please do I'll see what I can find for you, as I said I have a few doubles already. Always happy to help out another Betty Neels fan.

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  5. Betty SHV -- I've not heard of The Great Betty corresponding with her readers, although I gather she did make friends with another writer. I don't know her name, or if I did, I've forgotten. No one I'd heard of, certainly.

    It was from that correspondence with a colleague that fans learned that The Great Betty had one grandchild, a boy (now presumably about 30) who went to Oxford. Assuming his mother, The Great Betty's daughter, is deceased (and she might not be), he'd be The Great Betty's estate. I like to think he lurks here at TUJD...

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    1. My copy of A Winter Love Story is the Mills & Boon "Enchanted" edition as published in Great Britain in 1998. The author bio on page ii contains the usual info on Devonshire childhood, nursing career, Dutch husband, woman in library bemoaning lack of romance novels, and then, in italics, says: "Mrs. Neels is always delighted to receive fan letters. You can write to her at Harlequin Mills & Boon Limited, 18-24 Paradise Road, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 1SR." It doesn't actually say she won't answer, but the tone isn't very encouraging...

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    2. I always read that same line in many of the books I own, I was always tempted to write and ask her questions about her RDD's but left it too late. I wish I had now I'm sure she would have replied, she sounds too nice not to have.

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    3. Thank you Magdalen, Betsy and Carla. I wish one or more of BN's editors would lurk at TUJD, so many things to ask them!

      Magdalen, that's another thing I was wondering: if BN had any other 'M&B' authors as friends. I read a blog recently which featured a photo of Charlotte Lamb with Sally Wentworth, and that's what got me wondering.

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  6. When I was collecting my Betty's I also became a tad, oh, completely obsessed with collecting EVERY title. I didn't stroke them and croon "precious, precious" over them - but almost. One bookseller told me she had "a few Neels" and then sent me 38 of the ones on my wish list. When my neighbor saw the big box of books I was carrying into the house she shook her head sadly and said "I'm not going to see you around for a while, am I?" She was right, too. I finally came up for air/nourishment a week later.

    Totally off the subject - I was looking for tearooms online (just to drool over the menus) and came across thelondontearoom.com in St.Louis, Missouri. I laughed myself sillier. Who knew a menu could be funny? I immediately said - the ladies on TUJD would love this. Fair warning - it will make you hungry.

    Betty von Susie

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    1. Betty von Susie, I went to that website -- I get to St. Louis occasionally, and will make a point of visiting. The menu is very droll; after much thought I chose this as my favorite line: "(Fun fact: raspberries have 100 drupelets. How many drupelets do you think you have? The answer is zero. You have zero drupelets. So there.)"

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    2. Betty von Susie, thank you for thelondontearoom.com. Read the menu (and more). Soooo funny.
      Dear Betty AnHK, I am sure you will love this line: "2-3 varieties available daily, wholly dependent upon the ever-changing taste bud zeitgeist of the collective unconscious." (To be found under: Quiche
      "You don’t spell it, son. You eat it.")
      Betty Anonymous

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  7. I like "consult our pastry case for daily specials-and by consult, we mean buy something and eat it". Oh those wacky british. Rule Britannia.

    Betty von Susie

    p.s. I have age related drupelets.

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  8. Welcome, Betty SHV! Enjoyed reading about the store owner with the Bettys under the till. I haven't completed my Betty library either. Good luck on your search, and happy reading!

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  9. Many thanks Lulu! Wish you luck too.

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