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,

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