Monday, February 6, 2012

Waiting for Deborah - Reprise

I adore heroines who take charge of their own destiny.  Even when they don't have a clue of how to go about it (which is pretty much the case in Neeldom...unless one happens to be a nurse). Deborah Everett wins me over with her blunt refusal to be steam-rolled by her step-siblings.  Good for her! She retains her high standing with me by getting right back on the employment horse every time it bucks her off. 
The pacing for the love story is fairly slow and steady - but somehow a little more satisfying for all of that. 
-Betty Debbie

When we meet Deborah Everett she is being kicked out of her home. Step-brother Walter's first order of business after the death of his invalid father, after rifling the old man's pockets and confiscating the check-book, is to assume his pompous head-of-the-family mantle and magnanimously offer to let Deborah care-take the house while he looks about for a buyer. That she will be homeless when it sells doesn't enter into it. He grudgingly hands her some money for food, tells her to keep careful account of it, twirls his mustache and practically disappears in a cloud of sulphuric gas.

'Stay?' Deborah thinks to herself, 'You've got to be kidding.' She metaphorically stuffs the wad of cash into her B-cup and sets about finding a job. Walter (and his sister Barbara) would be dismayed to lose their money but she hadn't gotten paid to look after their father anyway and she'd be danged if she was going to be pushed around anymore.
Deborah has carroty hair, is much too thin and has been dealt an unlucky hand in life but she's not a weakling in need of rescue. She's the driver and this is her bus.
She lands a job working as a companion/nurse to a catatonic stroke victim. That's right. Old Mrs. Vernon is flat on her back, stuffed in the back of the house where the carpet ceases to be plush (serviceable matting) and the drapes are not bright floral (useful beige). In Neels speak this means that no matter how catatonic Mrs. Vernon is or insensible of her surroundings, her niece, the Young Mrs. Vernon, is a bad person and probably exits rooms with her own flash of sulphuric gas.
Catatonic Mrs. Vernon is not as blank as YMV (Young Mrs. Vernon) would have Deborah believe. Sure, she's dead weight but within five minutes Deborah's worked out a communication method with the old woman. One wink for yes, two for no. (If only she knew Morse Code!) Deborah twigs to the situation. YMV is hoping for auntie's death, is not interested in 'recovery' and is willing to point auntie towards the light. [Don't] force aunt to take her feeds...We must allow the dear old thing to die peacefully'. Hm. Well, Deborah isn't one to take things lying down and sets about enlisting all the aid she can to make sure Old Mrs. Vernon isn't taking it lying down either.
Though YMV has the local doc completely snookered, a consultant is called in. Deborah takes one look at Sir James Marlow and thinks, in the words of Margaret Thatcher meeting Mikhail Gorbachev, "I like [him]. We can do business together." So she whisks down the road, hails his car and confides her fears.
She's got an ally. Catatonic Mrs. Vernon soon begins to mend. Her feet twitch, her muscles are massaged, she grunts and is able to write. YMV is not amused but can't do much about it. When Sir James suggests a trip to Auntie's cottage (for further recovery) she can only agree. Can you see her grinding her teeth? I can.
Sir James gives her a lift. He's not sure why but chalks it up to that worst of default emotions--pity.
He deposits her at Frog Cottage, they grab necessaries at the village shop and the clerk asks, "And your husband here?" (This being 1994, an Arsenio fist pump is not out of order...)
At Frog Cottage she continues working healing magic with the aid of Dr. Plot Device who owns a local practice and...nothing else. But he's just young enough to cause Sir James to feel a vague kind of regret when he thinks of Dr. Plot Device and her marrying. (The RBD is inventing relationships out of whole cloth on the strength of a few blushes?! That's what they call in poker 'tipping-your-hand'.) Still he tells her that she would make a good doctor's wife YOURS! I WANT TO BE YOURS!!! Wow. Those Dawning Realizations just hit you on the head, don't they.
Stroke victim, having achieved a degree of recovery unthinkable before, is fetched back by her family with the lure of a ground floor suite, a good nurse/companion and the promise that they will never, ever (What, never? No never...Well, hardly ever.) try to kill her by slowly starving her to death. In return she won't cut them out of her will. This is bound to end with a casual walk by a cliff head, a strategically placed jostle and a curious tumble to her eventual demise, I'm thinking.
Deborah is out on her ear but picks up a job at a hotel giving our hero a wonderful opportunity to look at her splendid legs while she cleans glasses by the bar. After weeks of seeing her coppery hair and blue eyes swimming before his lecture notes and dreary medical journals, he's come to the rescue--which I don't mind at all because talents like hers are utterly wasted on the public.

Lottie tells Sir James that she'll take good care of Deborah...maybe have some young men around to meet her...a lighthearted remark which made Sir James frown thoughtfully.
She and Uncle Oscar get along like a house on fire. James comes several weeks later because he's keeps thinking about how her hair took it's bright color from daffodils (yes, really!). Uncle Oscar, like all whiskered 7-year-olds, stumbles across Deborah's secret love (she would leave the thing lying about...) and, after cruelly laughing at her hopes, makes it up by helping things along in a ham-fisted manner, saying in front of James, 'No glamour but as wholesome as a loaf of get used to the hair.' Great merciful Zeus, what would he say next?
It doesn't matter what he would say because suddenly James has taken her hand in his and asked to to come to dinner with him. All sensible thought can't have left her head because she does manage to agree before he kisses her cheek as he leaves. Uncle Oscar, with uncharacteristic tact, whispers to himself when he is alone, "Well, well. That I should live to see the day..."
Dinner is lovely, he takes her for a midnight ramble in his gardens (substituting a herbaceous border for the hoary 'etchings', I imagine) and kisses her cheek at the end.
All this cheek kissing is so charming. He's making tentative advances that she couldn't possibly take exception to.
Sadly, her interlude with Uncle Oscar comes to an abrupt end. His daughter has returned and Deborah will no longer be needed. In an unnecessarily complicated tangent, step-siblings (remember them?) show up like something out of a Gothic mystery asking for Deborah. If she has no other place to go then she'll have to go with them (because she's 13, or escaped from the loony bin or...?). Enter Sir James. "She cannot come with you. She's marrying me!" (picturing Nelson Eddy in his singing Mountie costume here)--which sounds like a great set-up for intrigue and tension or a hastily performed marriage of convenience at the very least. Sadly, it only serves to thwart the still-as-yet-undefined threat of the step-sibs and gives Sir James a reason to whisk her off to live with his old nanny for a bit. Let me repeat, at no time is there a spark of emotional tension because he said this and, in my opinion, it constitutes a waste of a perfectly lovely situation. Dead End.
He tells her that 'it was the first thing to come to mind'. (Paging Dr. Freud. Dr. Freud wanted on the white courtesy phone...)
Nanny is lovely but Deborah ups and offs at the first opportunity, taking a job with a fine woman in a fine house with three fine children. But when the measles hit, the veneer of fine-ness drops faster than knickers at a nude beach. (Dear me, Betty Keira has wandered into indelicate wastelands.) Suddenly she's a drudge and then, on top of that, she comes down with a raging case of measles herself. It's as though a perfectly unexceptional house in Britain gets sucked through the time-space continuum and is back to making fire by rubbing sticks together. Pandemonium is let loose and Where in the World is Sir James Marlow?
Rescuing a VIP, that's where but don't allow the barest hint of curiosity to pass your cerebral cortex as it is destined to go unsatisfied.
He finally finds her and walks in on her 'measly person' (I ♥Betty) wearing a look of tender resignation. It sounds like the Dawning Realization saw him drop his wallet 6 blocks back and has been chasing him up 5th Avenue.
Nanny's house is just the right place for recuperation--so handy too if he wants to drive down from London in the middle of the night just to watch her sleep and silently steal away--surely one of the most romantic gestures of Neelsdom.
Soon Deborah is spry and bonny and ready to tackle her future again. So off to London she goes to acquire skills in shorthand typing--a three month course. Sir James is sick with love and worry but if proficiency in low-grade office skills is what she wants...He's going to leave her alone like 'an obstinate little boy'.
Of course it's not what she wants and she's bound to be awful at it. Deborah is not an office woman. Rather, like expanding insulation foam, she fills herself into all kinds of places--chess-playing, stroke-communicating, babysitting, irascible-Uncle-amusing places--a regular Girl Friday. But don't ask her to use 'computer' because she's a flop.
Three months later...
She fails her exams on the same day that her landlady has a stroke (what?! Another one?). At the hospital she sees Sir James who pretends not to see her, mix-ups and hurt feelings ensue only to reach a denouement of tears on his waistcoat.
Because she's homeless again he takes her to Nanny's only to return several days later.
'James. Oh, James, you've come.'
Palm-kisses and dress rehearsals for a bang-up proposal.
The End

I liked it. The peripheral characters are really fun--even if the step-siblings are two-dimensional. I have a soft spot for thin, carroty heroines without tuppence to rub together. She is knocked down several times and, while you could be forgiven for finding her pathetic, she doesn't strike me as a doormat. She isn't waiting to be rescued but neither is she particularly pugnacious. Deborah grows on one. Sir James is pretty great too. We get to see his POV quite a bit for a Neels and when he figures out that he's in love with Deborah, it comes after he's liked her for sometime. No sparks of anger and misunderstanding with these two. She is not urgently trying to hide from him (like Chain of Destiny, for instance) That's the thing about Waiting For Deborah--it's quiet, calm and deeply romantic. But nice for all that. Boeuf en croute.

Food: Downed stroke victim eats lots of water and watered-milk until Deborah varies her diet with broth, Bovril (?), weak tea, and bouillon. Chicken pie, steamed pudding and pasties. Junket (ick.), rich cream cake and toasted tea cakes. Peach melba (twice!), sole bonne femme, homemade lemonade, asparagus soup, fruit tart, and duckling in honey and orange sauce.

Fashion: Cotton dresses, denim skirt, sandals and (gasp!) high-heeled sandals, patterned voile dress in greenish blue, a dark cord skirt I want to get my hands on and a grey sober dress that will be useful for several summers.


  1. Betty Barbara here--
    Betty Debbie! Mayday! Mayday!! Your post seems to be caught in some sort of time-warp and showed up several times in a row--
    *ahem* You might want to edit out two or three of them.

    1. That was truly weird! No idea how it happened, but I think I've fixed it.

  2. The things people will do for an inheritance over there. Payback to the older generation for the horrors of boarding school?

    Off the subject-I have two great used book stores near me that have tons of Neels if anyone would like the addresses, they are in the Dallas, TX metro area. Or if you are stranded in outer Nowhere I could be persuaded to look for any needed titles.

    Betty von Susie

  3. What I liked about Deborah was/is that she chose her own path right from the beginning. She didn't wait to be kicked out. She left. Good for her. Since she was supposed to get a job she was justified in using the money she was given. She's a plucky one, our Deborah.

    And this is my favourite Mountie, singing too on this occasion.
    Betty Anonymous

  4. I liked this book but the beginning was such hard work. Those lovely Vernon's, what with their nice big house and planned matricide by starvation. What a swell party that's going to be for deal mobility challenged Mama, living out the rest of her life with a beloved homicidal daughter in law. She doesn't need a nurse but a food taster, stun gun and big Alsatian guard dog.

    That was such a dark, dark moment regarding family dynamics that poor Deborah and sir James basically have to recreate every romantic sublime moment to get the book back on a happier track.

    Loved this review, the insulating foam reference, Gorbachev quip, paging Dr Freud...comedy gold!
    Betty AnHK

  5. I like Deborah's matter-of-factness, and her willingness to get up and get going. I love that James can't stop thinking about her. However, I am always going to be deeply fed up and mystified by things like Old Mrs. Vernon going back to live -- in her own home -- with homicidal maniacs who want her dead, just because one of them is her late husband's brother's son? (Since she's his aunt, and they share a last name, that has to be it, right?) If the estate is family property, okay, let him and YMV live in it, but you stay put at the lovely cottage with the nice young woman who saved your life for, if I know my Betty, the rough equivalent of a thousand quid or so, plus three glasses of Bovril a day.

    Also, what is with Walter and Barbara? They make it very clear they dislike Deborah and never want to see her again, and then she's terrified when they show up to collect her? Why did they show up, and why is she scared they might make her go with them? I do love that it gives James the chance to prescribe several days' vacation to let her get over the fright.

    Finally, a note on plumpness. Next to Frog Cottage, there is a neighbor who is "cosily plump," which I believe does mean "a bit over the insurance-chart recommended weight", whereas when Deborah achieves a "slight plumpness" under Trotty's care, that means busty.

    Okay, not finally. I want to rant a moment about the hero's predilection for letting the heroine pine, despair, suffer all the pangs of heartbreak, and in later years half-starve so he can be sure she really loves him as he loves her. Just ask, you eejit. Honestly. Betty pulled this nonsense way too often. There's nothing wrong with filling an extra 50 pages with dinner and dancing, you know.

    Keira, a million thanks for the image of James's Dawning Realization chasing him up the avenue, hollering and waving. Brilliant!

    1. Very true, its amazing what a stay and good clean english food with the Professor's retainers can do...for a gal's bustline. Basically we should just imagine a wonder bra or boob job when it reads pleasantly plump because I can't really see how a small waisted, lovely limbed gal is not seen as the correct weight size ratio!

      Another thing I always wonder about is how much a Nightie can affect the course of a plot line. It just seems as though the trope of wearing a nightie with her hair down can somehow reveal so much of the heroines allure to the good doctor, enough even to completely change his regard. Holy moly are these Brighton nightie's?
      Hot see-through numbers with short baby doll cuts and string straps...because when I imagine British nighties they always seem so staid and un-sexy, especially cotton ones from marks and sparks!

      Also, yippee for 50 pages more dinner, dancing and slipping in surreptitious sleep-stalking too. I love a good bit of yummy romantic sturm and drang (and donner and blitzen) but Betty may overplay at times the obstinate Professor line for a few chapters too many.
      Betty AnHK

    2. Just read Waiting for Deborah from my last batch of BN. I totally agree with you, Betty v.d. Betsy, about Sir James's predilection for allowing Deborah to suffer unnecessarily, especially when he could've done something about it like marrying her after her 3rd job. (Reminds me of Saturday's Child). The girl's had four bad jobs, for goodness' sakes! At least other, more assertive heroes had invented the fake MOC. He recognized that he loved her, but he was willing to let her rub along, to go find love with another man, and to act as (unkindly) fate because he didn't want her to marry him on gratitude?! Almost everyone was pulling for him: Old Mrs. Vernon, the sister, the old uncle, the nanny, all the hero's household help. Good thing he finally got up the nerve before plucky Deborah runs somewhere where he would never find her.

  6. You want a romance novel with no sturm und drang? Perish the thought.

    Betty von Susie

  7. I worry a bit about heroes like James. How much loving perfection does he need to be around before it occurs to him that maybe he'd like to be happy?

    They make pills for that sort of depression, you know...

  8. Ladies, I worry about your obsession with bustlines.

    When a girl is skinny first
    and then puts on a little weight
    (remember, in Neelsdom the difference is usually visible after just a week or two of cosseting),
    where do you suppose the added weight goes?
    Where do you notice the difference first?

    I am truly interested in your answers.
    Betty Anonymous

    1. Betty Anonymous: To be fair to Mrs. Neels, that's the way it's always been with me, and I was originally skinny and have since filled out a bit. I gain weight and gain a cup size; I lose weight and drop back down. It's one of the first indicators I have that I'm shifting weight for good or ill - I don't know if "a week or two of cosseting" could produce such a change, but it's a fairly quick indicator of which way the scale's going to tip.

      My mother swears that as soon as I have kids, my bust will stabilize and my hips will be the new indicator, so I guess we'll wait and see!

      -Betty Beth

  9. Hello fair ladies,
    Since I can't post for some reason, I have linked here for you some pics for your latest reprise.


    Betty Francesca

    1. Betty Francesca, thank you for the pictures. They do bring back memories. I love white asparagus soup. I've had peach melba (most restaurants had it on their menu when I was a kid). And when I was younger I longed to have a sober grey dress for years. Governess's style I used to say to describe it, a long-sleeved affair with a shirt collar. But, alas, I never found one. (Or should that be luckily? I know now that gray (clerical, light, medium) is not my colour, so I guess that dress-of-my-dreams would have done nothing for me. Still...)
      Betty Anonymous

    2. Fabulous pictures and a good mix of styles. Thanks Betty F!
      Betty AnHK

  10. I haven't read this one so I'm not reading the reprise yet. But it's currently re-released by Harlequin, along with three other Neels I haven't read. Yay! By any chance is the next reprise The Final Touch?

  11. Back to Public School - Boarding School

    in a crisp British accent I switched on the telly tonight switching to pseudo Canadian and saw actor Wayne Carpendale (son of South African singer Howard Carpendale) sitting on the canapé rouge of a daily tv programme mentioning that he went to Stowe School, a public school in Britain.
    I looked it up – and fell in love!
    And did you know, the school made an appearance in the Neels canon! Euphemia Blackstock's brothers went to Stowe.

    An Apple from Eve
    'Have you told the boys?' 'I'm about to telephone them.' She glanced at her watch. 'It's almost five o'clock. If I ring Stowe now they can put them on a train as soon as possible and they could be home this evening—late this evening....

    Read about the schools philosophy in Welcome to Stowe, see and hear The Headmaster Dr. Anthony Wallersteiner welcome you to Stowe.
    Explore the gorgeous grounds.

    School Fees – 2011/2012
    Boarding: £9,655 per term
    Day: £7,005 per term
    (3 terms per year)

    The boys would be all right; their school fees would be covered by a fund their father had set up for them years ago. She herself would be able to keep herself easily enough, but Ellen was a different matter. She couldn't remain at home ...

    Betty Anonymous

    1. Get out your calculators:
      £9,655 per term
      3 terms per year
      2 boys (at least I think there were only two)

    2. Tee hee, actually HK is alot like Manhattan preschool system in terms of fee's being overpaid and nothing like reality. So these numbers are quite 'reasonable' in terms of school fee's. But I totally think all boys school may be a good idea in romantic fiction but bad in real life ~ I have three cousins who went to Eton, two ended up in Cambridge doing medical degree (hello, Betty) and the other one does non-legal drugs and is a very bad DJ.
      Betty AnHK

    3. Betty AnHK,
      Stowe is no longer an all boys' school."... girls joined the Sixth Form in 1974, meaning Stowe was one of the first former boys’ schools to do this." (Stowe)
      "In 2003 the incoming headmaster, Anthony Wallersteiner, launched full co-education, with two new girls’ houses, Queen's, opened by HM the Queen in 2007, and Stanhope, opened by Sir Nicholas Winton in 2009." (Stowe)
      "As of 2011, there are 550 boys and 220 girls. (Wikipedia)

      HK as in Hong Kong?
      Betty Anonymous

    4. Actually, sorry that sounds terribly biased against public schools. I actually would have loved to get into something like Eton and was always secretly envious of my cousins. Stowe sounds very good, in the end quality education is often where the best teachers are and there must be some phenomenal and passionate educators working there.
      And also beaky young Dutch men with big noses and, um, intellect.

      Yes, Hong Kong! Betty AnHK

    5. Now I'll feel pretty old with these references, but I just remember how much fun it was to read Enid Blyton's Malory Towers and St Clare's books which was all English girls schools, midnight feasts, jolly hockey sticks and day pupils who wanted to be boarders. Ah, the innocent Blyton world which may have lead to the far superior Neelsdom. On the other hand we also really liked Sweet Valley High in the 80's which probably lead to...Virginia Andrews?!
      Betty AnHK

    6. David Niven went to Stowe.

  12. Betty Ross (my husband, and an honorary Betty, for those who are relatively new) was sent to a public school at the age of 7. His dad was in the Royal Army, which subsidized the school fees of its officers' children. It was a horrible experience for Betty Ross, though -- 7 is just too young.

    Betty Henry (my ex-husband, and an honorary Betty too) has explained to me that they're called "public schools" in the UK because they really were the first schools that were open to the public, albeit if you could pay and were the "right sort." Today, of course, we think of them as wildly exclusive.

    1. Oh, the poor wee little lad! That is too young!
      Students (boys and girls) usually enter Stowe at age 13 or age 16.
      In An Apple from Eve Euphemia's youngest brother's age is given as twelve.
      Betty Anonymous

    2. Yes. Sorry, I should have been more precise. Betty Ross was sent to a prep school (preparatory to going to a public school) called Feltonfleet (it still exists) at age 7, then to Uppingham (the public school; it still exists) at age 12.

      Part of the time Betty Ross was at school, his father was stationed in Germany, so Betty Ross couldn't even visit his parents on exeats (weekends off, in effect). He had to go visit his Aunt Pip, aka Lady Prudence Craddock-Hartopp. (Could I make this stuff up? I don't think so.)

      Betty Henry went to a prep school but only for a year or so, and he was a day student. Then he went to Highgate (a public school), but again, because he could walk to school across Hampstead Heath (and he was & is a very fast walker), he didn't board there either. There were other reasons his childhood was sucky, but they didn't include being shipped away from his family at age 7.

    3. Great stories about their young educational history. Love to meet a Lady Prudence Craddock-Hartopp. That's like a perfect combination Betty heroine and ringingly voiced dowager. Betty AnHK

  13. Here are some pics from Waiting for Deborah on Pinterest

    Betty Francesca


    And these are just general pics of Betty Neels stuff which are added on to all the time.

    Betty Francsca

    1. Did any of our heroines go skating on the canals???
      Yes, Adelaide Peters, Sister Peters in Amsterdam. She was taught by ("wild") doctors Visser and Monck (famous I'll-plant-you-a-facer scene afterwards, Coenraad to the rescue) and Coenraad conspired with Piet and his wife Leen to take Addy skating the next day.
      And prepare yourself for this: She went again this year!
      Betty Anonymous