I am with Betty Debbie on this one. This book isn't really in my Greatest Hits collection, possibly because there's so much tentative courtship (which in real life mirrors actual courtship but in the world of Betty Neels appears perilously close to dithering). But I love the end. It's as close as any Neels hero comes to being in a huff. And while huffs aren't attractive to me, the storming of an unshakable citadel is cause for popcorn and a front row seat.
Love and lardy cakes,Betty Keira
Victoria Parsons, 23, copper hair, tawny eyes, is about to remove her drenched top in a disused powder magazine located in a cliff on the island of Guernsey. Oops. There happens to be a strange man in this not so abandoned shelter. Whatever shall she do? Great shades of Gilbert and Sullivan!
Victory for Victoria has a fun beginning, and an awesome ending, too bad the creamy center is only so-so. I'm not going to go through the whole book, play by play...so here's the Cliff Notes:
Strange man turns out to be Dr. Alexander van Schuylen. He stalks/tracks her back to St. Judd's - where she works as a Staff Nurse. He just so happens to be a visiting consultant there too...so he takes advantage of that to ask her out on a date. Yes, a date. After making darn sure that Alexander is not married, this turns into the datingest book in Neeldom...a virtual date-o-rama, date-a-palooza. The dates are many and varied. Picnic tea, dinner at the Ritz, weekend with the folks, etc...and with every date comes kissage....Love is busting out all over.
Not everything is all sunshine, rainbows and puppy dogs. There is a sinister character who goes by the name of Dr. Jeremy Blake, but we'll just call him Evil Plot Device #1. He tries a spot of sexual harassment in the hospital corridors and is roundly kicked in the shins by Victoria and then clocked by Alexander. Best. Scene. Ever. He continues to be a re-occurring thorn...but mostly in a small way.
More dates, more kissing, quit your job, let's talk about weddings (without being actually quite engaged)...His parents love her, she loves them, Holland is awesome...UNTIL....Evil Plot Device #2 - Nina de Ruiter. Nina pretends to be Alexander's old flame and spreads lies and deceit - like peanut butter on whole wheat, the little vixen. She drives a wedge and Victoria does a bolt back to London...
While working at St. Judds, Evil Plot Device #2 (Nina) drops by on her way to Brighton (yes, Brighton!). #2 then uncharacteristically admits her part in breaking up the happy couple- and gives Vicky some advice on how to get her man back. Editor's note: I have a big problemo with Nina - I get the mischief, I can't make myself believe that she would go out of her way to help Victoria and Alexander make up.
Victoria writes an impassioned letter to Alexander and then proceeds to give it to Evil Plot Device #1 to drop in the mailbox. Umm. Does anyone else see a problem here? Handing a letter that is vital to her future happiness to Evil Incarnate? #1 burns the letter (this would be a Federal Offense in the USA - not sure what the Brit equivalent is...Crimes Against the Crown???), steals letters from Alexander from the cubbyholes and burns them also (more crime)...burns another letter from Victoria (yet more...). Things seem hopeless for our couple until Victoria gathers up the shreds of her dignity and chucks it in the waste bin. Off to Holland to confront Alexander! Cue a British marching song. She goes to his office and camps out in his waiting room. Victoria spends an entire day waiting for him so that she can have a chat - but he won't see her. He bundles her off to a hotel that she can't afford (she finds cheaper accommodations)...but Victoria will not be put off. She heads back to his office to wait him out. Alexander seems to finally realize she's not leaving, so he agrees to talk...which turns into true confessions, which turns into kissing and making up. The end.
Rating: This truly was only so-so. There was more dating, more kissing and more applying of perfume than any three Neels books put together, but that wasn't enough to pull it out of the hum-drums. Evil Plot Device #1 is okay, he makes evil sense, but Evil Plot Device #2 is less than believable - there's no reason for her to go out of her way to fess up...I loved the ending - after the impetuous bolting. Victoria's siege on Fort Alexander is epic. Enough to bring the rating up to a treacle tart.
Fashion: Pink silk jersey with coffee coloured sandals, peacock blue silk with leg o' mutton sleeves, lime green organza with gold slippers (for the ball), cinnamon-coloured wool with matching coat and brown patent shoes.
Food: Crab patties, cheese board, ice pudding, cream puffs, Chicken Savoyarde, chocolate roulade, Pesche Ripiene, steak and kidney pie AND steak and kidney pudding (what's the difference?), grilled lobster tails, spring chicken.