Thursday, February 9, 2012

Life After Betty

via email from Betty Barbara:

Nurse Nolan
by Susan Barrie copyright 1956 (original title: Dear Tiberius)
Last November, when the Founding Bettys did their contest for the jigsaw puzzle, one of the books in question was Nurse Nolan.  The contest was to write a bit of a Betty book, using the title/premise of one of several books.

however--Nurse Nolan was already a Betty book in the making!
Look here:
Young, pretty English nurse(our Lucy) on private duty to look after the mother-less, wheel-chair bound daughter(Miranda) of cold, sarcastic English shipping magnate (Sir John Ash), who, in turn, is very interested in ballet star(Lynette Harling).  Enter the handsome, personable, eminent Austrian surgeon (Rupprecht Wern) who shall try to get young Miranda on her feet again.

So, we have our Lucy--torn between two men--what’s not to like?
Well, fellow Bettys--
This may sound like a possible Betty book--but it is not. Sigh.
I found it almost unreadable; all due to the author’s convoluted prose.  Why use 3 words when 13 will get the job done? But somewhere, in the midst of all that verbiage is a good story.  Let’s dig and see what we can find:
Sir John Ash, cold, sneers a lot.  Not too tall, slender (!!),dark haired workaholic. Condescends to come from London once a month to visit Miranda and verbally fence with Nurse Nolan.  He is currently escorting Miss Lynette Harling.  It is rumored that he is thinking of marrying her.
 Ah, Lynette Harling, a great Veronica.  Oooo, so hate-able.  She’s a ballet star, currently ‘resting’ due to a sprained ankle.  She has her desperate talons in Sir James.  Desperate, you say?  We learn (through a very rare Veronica POV ) that she really, really needs to marry for money (and soon). She doesn’t really love him (of course); she loves only her art!  And she certainly would be a bad step-mama for Miranda.  Telling point--the staff call her ‘that woman’ behind her back.  Yep, no one likes her except Sir John.

Very hard to do this when you have a sprained ankle.

Miranda, supposedly 12 but really acts and sounds no older than 8, was injured several months earlier in an accident while on a school trip.  She is slowly wasting away in her wheelchair.  But wait!  All is not hopeless.  Eminent Austrian surgeon Ruppercht Wern believes he can operate and have her on her feet again. That is, if the operation doesn’t kill her!

And our heroine, Lucy Nolan.  Young, slender, pretty (with long, dark curling lashes) is fiercely protective of Miranda.  She starts off hating Sir John, but gradually comes to understand him and falls in love with him.  This love enables her to withstand the charms of Dr Wern (who is a Much Nicer Person that Sir John).

{Any Betty who honestly thinks that Lucy will end up with the doctor needs to report to the office for a refresher course in Harlequin Romance}.
 We have several entertaining vignettes:

Lucy and her sister see Sir John and Lynette at the theatre.  This is Lucy’s first sighting of Miss Harling and the sister’s first look at Sir John.  Watch Sir John react to seeing Lucy out of uniform.

Just a little something in blue that Lucy borrowed from her sister

Watch Lucy refrain (heroically)  from stabbing her sister for engineering an encounter.
Ah, the requisite week long house party.  Sir John invites Lynette, her faithful male friend(!) and her mother for a nice, relaxing time at Ketterings, Sir John’s non-ancestral home :

Just a modest little place in the country.
(Yes, my Bettys, he bought it lock, stock and faithful retainers).  Everyone lounges about chicly clad.  Well, actually Lynette’s mum is a very nice Cockney lady who spends most of her time knitting very ugly sweaters and Francis Burke (the male friend) mopes around watching Lynette with puppy-dog eyes, but still…you get the idea.
Lynette arrives for a week in the country:

This is not a good week for Lucy.  Sir John puts her at Lynette’s beck and call. Watch Lucy seethe while giving Lynette a massage.  Watch Lucy seethe even more when Lynette(clad in a nightgown and dressing gown to die for) flaunts a great honking diamond ring and insinuates that it is an engagement ring.  

Enter Dr Rupprecht Wern.  He has come to Ketterings to examine Miranda, to see if he can do anything for her.  He believes he can.  Miranda is very excited.  She sees it as a simple three step program;  fly to Vienna, have surgery, walk again.  However, Sir John gets the unvarnished version, which he shares with Lucy.  But he decides to okay the operation.

 So it is off to Vienna for Miranda and Lucy,  where Miranda will be treated at the famous Wern Clinic on the outskirts of Vienna.

a well known clinic in Austria

Where’s Sir John? Back in London--’call me if you need me’, he says.  Sheesh!  But he does show up right before the operation, stays long enough to find out it’s a success and then goes away again.

 Now we get the delightful vacation in the... 
 ...modest lodge run by Dr Wern’s mother and sisters...
as Miranda recuperates and does her physical therapy.  Dr Wern teaches Lucy to ski! Fun is had by all. It is obvious that good ole’ Rupprecht has fallen for our Lucy.  Sir John reappears and poor Lucy is an emotional basket case.  Watch Sir John become very jealous!  However, not to worry,  we are soon treated to Sir John denying he is engaged, Lucy falling over in surprise (they are on the ski slope) and twisting her ankle and ta-dah! Sir John proposing to Lucy. 

Yay!!! Everyone is happy, except Rupprecht, of course. But don’t worry about Rupprecht.  Miranda has decided she will marry him when she gets old enough.


I rate it a Treacle Tart with some vanilla ice cream on the top.  That’s for the story.  The actually writing style of the author is down around Beans on Toast.

A couple of notes of interest for my fellow Bettys.

There are no food descriptions--none!  Susan Barrie was not a foodie like the Great Betty.  Lots of spiffy clothes, including a red dress for Lucy, but no food.

We never learn where Sir John lives in London.  Never.  So there are no Dobbs and Mrs Dobbs or the like.  When Lucy and Miranda come to London before flying to Vienna they stay with Lucy’s sister! Sir John doesn’t even put them up at Claridge’s!

 Sir John is relatively new money.  His father was granted/awarded(right word?) a Baronetcy for service to crown and country.  But he was a self-made man who had pulled himself up by his bootstraps, etc, etc, etc.

Sir John has a socking great Bentley, but it is usually driven by the chauffeur. There is only one scene where Sir John actually drives the Bentley himself.

But he does drive very well.

And the ring that Lynette flashed around the last time we saw her?  Well, yes, Sir John gave it to her, but never as an engagement ring. 

(The ring was one of his mother’s--Lynette saw it, liked it, he gave it to her. Which brings up the question of why he was showing her his mother’s jewel chest in the first place…..)


  1. Wow Betty Barbara what a great review! I loved all the spiffy vintage Vogue models. Unfortunately, I think I'd agree with you that this is the sort of Harlequin that would turn me off. Cold, bad-parenting, loaded hero? Ugh. I know, I know...but when Betty does it, I like them...usually. (not Jake Royle. Never Jake Royle.)

    1. Betty Barbara here--
      Betty Keira, you are right. We are given a few tender scenes of Sir John looking in on Miranda while she sleeps and we get a nice rationalization speech near the end--but really--it will take Miranda a good long while to trust in her father's affection.
      At least we are spared the evil/slutty dead wife scenario. Miranda's mom died early on--Sir John didn't love her passionately, but he was very fond of her.
      But, still, I never warmed to him. Dr Wern was a much better man.

  2. Betty Barbara here--
    With a bit of info for my fellow Bettys:
    Susan Barrie was one of many pen-names used by Ida Pollock. She sure did have an interesting life. See here and here . I assume she is still alive, at the fine age of 103.

    1. Life stories like these make me wonder why people bother writing fiction. Thank you for sharing Ida's back-story, Betty Barbara.

  3. Oh no, Sir John, a not so tall, slender, workaholic, not usually a description of classic HeroMemo. Thanks for the the review, love a desperate hobbled ballerina vixen. Ballet folk are great for packing a lot of alcohol, cigarette smoking and other substances into their taunt hard bodies so that seems like an appropriately calculating foil to Lucy. But its worrying when the other man looks better than the main attraction/love interest. That is not only ill-judged writing but perhaps some sloppy editing too?
    Betty AnHK

    1. Betty Barbara here--
      Betty AnHK, you are right about how unbalanced the book was re: the two men. I knew, from the way the story was set up, that Lucy would end up with Sir John--but the author never convinced me that his 'still waters, running deep' was a better choice than the good doctor.
      And when you don't really buy the romance, well then the book is a failure (from your point of view, anyway.)

  4. I have just read your review, Betty Barbara. Brilliant! I may ask my sister to buy a copy for me.
    Link to the cover
    Betty Anonymous