I'm going to sneak in a reminder to go vote on our Best of Betty Final Voting Post. Even if you've never voted before, it's not too late to start now. I think I'll close up the voting on Wednesday or so (depending on whether I am nauseous lots or nauseous a little) and I want to see some determined partisanship on the part of Cassandra By Chance or Fate is Remarkable. As for A Little Moonlight, I wonder what it says about my character than even though I was blessed with a fun and un-martyred mother and self-sufficient and darling sisters, that I love reading about the opposite.
Love and lardy cakes,
If you like stories that feature selfish-to-the-bone widows and enabling daughters, A Little Moonlight is just the ticket. It's just not my ticket. I do like the cover art, in spite of the fact that the doctor looks like he must be at least 45 years old...and yet he's described as being 35ish in the story.
The first few pages are delightful. Serena Proudfoot is a 25 year old steno/typist. She's just been assigned to work for Dr. ter Feulen. Serena is trying to decipher his poor penmanship coupled with medical terminology. As she talks to herself, he sneaks up behind her and asks why he hasn't seen her before, and where, oh where is Miss Payne? Serena is unruffled - Miss Payne is off sick with influenza, and perhaps a touch of overwork, if the pile of work is any indication...Introductions are bandied about...Serena has heard of Dr. ter Feulen...'you're a Dutch baron as well...'she's graciously prepared to forgive him for that. Editor's Note: This is a pretty common mind-set in Neeldom- that foreigners need to be forgiven for high birth. Unfortunately, except for a grandfather who was an earl, The Great Betty doesn't give us hereditary English royalty. All of her "sirs" seem to have been knighted for service to queen and country...but I digress....
Serena finishes up the typing and takes the offending documents down to the consultant's room... to find Dr. ter Feulen snoring without any loss of dignity. It's been a long day, and now the joys of queueing for the bus and riding home. Home to Mum the Martyr. Who is cosied up to the fire reading. Mum the Martyr reproaches Serena for getting home late, she's feeling peckish and now wants Serena to make dinner, tote that barge, lift that bale. Mum the Martyr is suffering from nerves. Of course this is all a cover for her real job as an assassin.
Mum the Martyr is ghastly. Really and truly ghastly. She has spent her life dropping anvils on Serena's hopes, dreams and self-confidence. With her tinkling laugh, her charming smiles, and her self-deprecating ways she has elegantly stabbed Serena in both kidneys and her liver. I wouldn't mind that so much, but I wish Serena had at least some sense of self-preservation. It's like she's got a sign on her back that says "Shoot Me". More on that later, but in the meantime, let's get on with the story.
Miss Payne decides to retire, Serena is offered her job on the grounds that she is the nearest thing to Miss Payne that Dr. ter Feulen has found. Great. Just what a girl wants to hear - that she is unobtrusive and non-distracting. She's willing to take the job, but then Dr. ter Hotty informs her that they will be heading off to Holland for a few weeks. Screech!! Serena is not sure she can leave her poor parent - Mum the Martyr.
Him: She is ill?
Her: No...just delicate. She suffers from nerves and finds it hard to do things.
Him: Things like housework and shopping?
He sighed gently. Selfish widows with loving daughters were still only too common...Serena deserves more in life. And so it begins. Dr. ter Hotty tells her that mummy dearest can come with.
Serena dreads telling mum, but when she gets home, it's only to find that Dr. ter Feulen has beat her to the punch and smoothed the way. Mum the Martyr is excited about the trip and already planning her new and improved wardrobe. It will be such fun. Maybe she'll meet a man (that's mum talking, not Serena). She'll also have many more opportunities for target practice on Serena.
Traveling with Mum the Martyr is trying at best...she complains the entire time while Serena does all the heavy lifting. She finally shuts up when the chauffeur driven car shows up. She doesn't have any objection to being driven around town in a Jaguar. She does object to the boarding house that Dr. ter Feulen has put them up at, but she soon changes her tune. Her new tune is Mr. Arthur Harding. Mum the Martyr now spends all her waking moments with Mr. Harding. Let's just forget about her for the time being, just like she forgets about Serena.
Dr. ter Feulen finds out about her lack of parental company for the weekend and shows up at the boarding house in tweeds. Tweeds that make him look even hotter than usual. One fine day is had by both. Dr. Sizzling ter Hotty takes her on the de rigueur canal tour, a stop at a museum to see some etchings and multiple coffee and tea breaks. Watching Serena smile, he wonders how he ever thought her a plain girl. This is promising...first he doesn't want her to be alone on Saturday, then he's finding her attractive. What next?
Church! Serena just makes it to the English church for services...and who does she see there? Yup. Dr. Hotty. He has gone there on an impulse - guessing that's where she'd be. Good guesser.
The very next day Serena and Dr. ter Feulen are off to The Hague. Mum the Martyr shoots a couple of poison darts when she finds out she's not invited. Why does Serena gets to have all the fun? Lucky for Serena Mr. Harding is plenty willing and able to take mum off their hands.
Dr. ter Feulen takes advantage of the lack of mum to take Serena out to dinner - he makes sure it's a place where she would feel comfortable in her green jersey dress. Back in Amsterdam - Mum decides to catch a ride back to England with Mr. Harding. She'll be carried in comfort from door to door - which is just how she likes it. Serena is a bit a loose ends so she dabbles in a bit of fibbing. The doctor immediately calls her on it.
Him: Don't fib to me again.
Her: I won't unless I really need to.
You can just bet this will come back to bite her.
And now on to Friesland where they speak not Dutch, but Friesian! Serena is to stay in the nurses home...Dr. ter Feulen has arranged tea for her, just another way he shows his interest in her comfort. Except when it comes to work. Then it's no holds barred. His notes look like he wrote them with his left hand and blindfolded.
Her next days off are monopolized by Dr. ter Feulen again. He's got a surprise got her...he takes her home to meet the family! All seven of his siblings, plus wives, kids and his mother! Surprise! His family is fabulous. I love them. They are AWESOME! They tease and have fun. Thus proving that big families are way funner than being the only child of a selfish widowed mother. It's her best day ever!! Too bad she and Marcus (yes, that's his name, get used to it) don't hear what his mum has to say to about them after they leave. 'They'll do."
They might do, but first, it's back to England. And a Dawning Realization...then a swoop and a kiss! Serena assumes it's a pity kiss because Marcus was dropping her off at home...a cold and empty home. Mum knew she was coming but couldn't be bothered to stay in...she's been busy getting engaged and putting the family home on the market. I don't think Serena should have been surprised about the engagement, but boy, howdy is Mum the Martyr quick to seal a deal. She promises to give Serena some of the profits to buy herself a flat, but I think we all know how that will go. She's not about to part with any money. A few swift karate kicks to the windpipe should solve that problem.
After washing her smalls, Serena goes flat hunting and finds herself a small semi-basement flatlet. Can a stray cat be far behind?
Girlfriend hides her new situation from Marcus...but he's sure there is something going on, and he's going to get to the bottom of it. What's the matter, Serena? I shall find out! Imagine his surprise when he shows up at the former Casa de Proudfoot and finds a strange family living there. He uses his status as a doctor to wheedle a forwarding address from the new owners and then tracks Serena down, invites himself in and examines all the mod cons without so much as a by-your-leave. Less than impressed with the can of beans she's planning on having for dinner, he sweeps her off to his house. Dinner is lovely, and Marcus is able to get Serena to open up about her current situation. All goes well until he asks about her plans for Christmas. She decides that she's been too honest, so she fibs and says she'll be spending it in Ludlow at Casa de Harding. How will you get there? he asks. Another fib is necessary.
Fortunately for Serena, she has an ecclesiastical Aunt Edith. Aunt Edith invites Serena to spend Christmas in Great Canning with her and the rector. Meanwhile back at the office...one of the other ladies has heard that Dr. ter Feulen is getting married. Bummer. Serena has got to wrap her head around the fact that the love of her life is getting married to someone else. It's enough to make a person jump in a canal on a snowy day. Wait a sec...that's not why she jumped in the canal. It was snowing...there were cries for help...no one else was around...Serena is a good swimmer...off comes the coat and galoshes...in goes Serena. We never learn why the other lady was taking a dip on a snowy December day, but as a plot device it works for me. I love it when Marc jumps in and boosts Serena out in an efficient and undignified way. It's off to the hospital for a wash-up and a lie down. After being sick several times...in the "better out than in" kind of way, Marc kidnaps her and takes her back to his house to finish recuperating. He'll be out of town, so the proprieties are kept. One problem. Marc is furious with her. Why for? You have been telling me a pack of lies. Ahh...he called her mum (because of the canal thing) and found out about her lies. Her wicked lies. She's not spending Christmas at Ludlow is she? Nope, she's going to spend it in Great Canning. Whew. Dodged that bullet. This is the part where Serena wishes she had just drowned and then maybe he'd be sorry. Bishop and Mrs. Bishop are lovely and take great care of her, but when she's back at work it seems like he's avoiding her. He doesn't avoid her for too long. He drives her down to Great Canning then kisses her...enthusiastically - in front of her aunt and uncle. And she enjoyed it. Him too, for that matter.
Serena unburdens herself to Aunt Edith about Marc...and dissolves into tears. Of course that's the moment Marc walks in. Aunt Edith saves the day and worms her way into my heart by inviting Marc to dinner by saying, "Cold turkey hangs heavy on one's hands after a day or so." I love that woman. And now I'm strangely in the mood for turkey.
Marc unburdens himself to Aunt Edith...Serena's a hard nut to crack, says he. Editor's Note: I say, try talking to her - that would go a long way towards cracking the nut that is Serena.Let's wrap it up:
*Everyone at the hospital knows Marc is getting married.
*Serena can't take it any more - she gives notice.
*Marc is happy to take her resignation.
*Serena is dreadfully unhappy.
*Serena is sent to the Matron's office on her last day.
Yes, that's the end.
Rating: I really really wish I liked this book better...it's just hard for me to get over Mrs. Proudfoot. Mrs. Proudfoot is a horrible widowed mother...the kind that expects her daughter to do the shopping, the cleaning, the housework, cater parties and supplement the family income so that mum can have nice clothes, go out to dinner, to the hairdresser, etc...get the picture? She's got a tinkling laugh and a poor little me persona - obviously a clever disguise for her role as an assassin. Supposedly Mum is not intentionally unkind, but I think that's a load of hooey. Mum is completely selfish and I have a hard time forgiving her. She complains about her health, but her health is just fine, it's just 'nerves'. I also don't have a lot of patience with enabling daughters. It's all well and good to love your family, but not to be a doormat, which is just what Serena is. A doormat and an enabler. Aargh. Marc is rather sweet - when he isn't avoiding Serena. He does expect Serena to be a mind reader - and as much as says that to her. The best I can give this is mince pies and that is mainly on the strength of Aunt Edith's leftover turkey and Marc's 'enthusiastic' kisses.
Food: cottage pie, meatballs, blancmange, zuurkool, tomates siusses, crème caramel, a bowl of my oh, so good soup, garlic mushrooms, erwtensoep, sole bonne femme, braised celery, Vichy water, poffertjes, beignets, dinner at the hospital canteen which consists of mince, potatoes and unspecified greens, can of beans, turkey, Gentleman's Relish, cans of cream of tomato and chicken noodle soup.
Fashion: short wool coat in a pleasing shade of aubergine and a pleated skirt in a matching check, dark green jersey dress.