Monday, October 15, 2012

Caroline's Waterloo--Reprise

Morning, Bettys!
I dipped into the discussion thread of Caroline's Waterloo for some inspiration and look what I found:

Radinck is famously emotionally stunted. He is taciturn and closed-mouthed but finally she wrings this compliment from his unwilling lips: 'your figure is not displeasing'. In the normal course of things, you couldn't possible construe this as a flattering remark but it is to The Venerable Neels' credit that the simple words from him are loaded down with meaning: His unfamiliarity with making pretty speeches, his need to do so anyway, his recognition that she needs something from him, the uncomfortable realization that he's noticing her when he didn't intend to...it's all in there.

And that's my big take-away from Caroline's Waterloo and why it manages to be such a perennial favorite of mine:  the characters are rich and complex and will have a lot to say to each other when the ice is finally broken.  
I also love it because I am a fan of the Cinderella/Araminta/little grey mouse end of The Venerable Neels' canon.  But Caroline is no passive heroine--she's a little scheming and clever and patient and willing to shape fate with her own hands, all the while being as soft and gentle as prickly Radinck is going to need--all in all, a much more complex character than Cinderella weeping on her fairy Godmother's shoulder.

Love and lardy cakes!
Betty Keira


I've been saving up for this one all year. It's no secret that I love Caroline's Waterloo. Love it. Love. It. It's like Betty Neels knew me and knew just what I'd like to read. The book starts out in October (my favorite month) and it was published the same year Dr. van der Stevejink and I exchanged vows. Which means that I got married the same year as the fictional Caroline. Let's not forget one of my favorite ABBA songs. I'll apologize right up front for the review. There's just no way I'll be able to do justice to this fabulous book.

Caroline Tripp is an orphan. She's just about the orphaniest orphan ever. She lives close to the hospital in a dreary little bedsitter with her cat, Waterloo. She's a plain little thing...but friendly. Friendly enough to make up the numbers for a group of nurses going on a camping/bicycling tour of Friesland. For some reason four is a better number than three. She's so nice that besides going along with the other nurses, she's also swotted up a few fun facts about Friesland. She's a fount of information on gross national products, agriculture and items of historical interest.
One of the other girls must have been in charge of the itinerary/route, because they're lost. Night is falling and they are in the middle of nowhere. In spite of the loneliness of the landscape, the girls manage to get in a four bike pile-up, in front of the only house in the neighborhood. Caroline comes off worst, she's got a gash in her leg and a she's hit her head on a milestone and gotten concussed. Editor's Note: Had she been wearing a bike helmet, we might not have had a story.... Her vision might be fuzzy, but one thing comes in crystal clear - a large man with a harsh voice sounds very grumpy about his home being invaded by a gaggle of girls. He orders his man Noakes to take the injured party into the surgery with a sigh...and I fall in love with Caroline when she asks for a needle and thread so that she can stitch it up herself. Stacy, Miriam and Clare soon leave the helpless victim - they're due back at hospital and Caro is left alone with Baron Professor Radinck Thoe van Erckelens (or is that Professor Baron??). Well, not quite alone. Huis Thoe is fully furnished with faithful retainers, chief amongst them, the redoubtable Noakes. Noakes is an ex-pat who is married to the cook, Marta. Juffrouw Kropp, the housekeeper, three maids, Old Jan and Young Willem, help round out the menage. Why am I listing the household help? Without them, the story would end much more quickly, and much less satisfactorily.
Like Napoleon imprisoned on the isle of Elba, Radinck has fallen into a state of weenie hermitness. Caro learns from Noakes that the Professor was married in 1966 (13 years ago) - the young baroness left him two years later - ran off with another man then they both died in a plane crash (per usual). When the Professor asks Caro if she's lonely, she can see that really, he's the truly lonely one (well, he would be, isolated on Elba...).
Radinck leaves to go on a lecture tour - he'll be gone right up to the day before Caro is supposed to be healed enough to leave. The staff at Huis Thoe go out of their way to spoil her, a girl who has never been spoiled in her life. Caro reciprocates by offering to teach them Christmas carols - in an effort to bring a little cheer to the Professor. The days pass quickly...learning Dutch words with the help of Juffrouw Kropp, taking walks with Rex, the Old English sheepdog, and playing piano in the servants quarters. Which is where the Professor catches her. 'If I had come home earlier I should have found you playing gin rummy in the cellars'. Not true, says she. We were playing canasta in the kitchen.
Back in London, Caro enters what she has, misleadingly to the Professor, called her 'flat'. There was a cruel contrast between her bedsitter and Huis Thoe. Instead of a staff of retainers anxious to please, she's just got Waterloo. When she checks in at the hospital to see her work schedule, she is informed that the Professor has written and suggested that she have a few more days off. Caro spends the time cleaning her bedsit, reading and talking to Waterloo. It's only a matter of a week or so, while frying up some sausages, that she gets to thinking about the poor, lonely Professor. It was a pity he couldn't find some beautiful girl exactly suited to him, fall in love and get married...Me! I want that girl to be Me!!! So what if she's burnt her sausages, she's in love...and that's just about the stupidest thing she's ever done. She doesn't stand a chance with him. She should have fallen in love with someone insignificant. Someone just ambitious enough to wish to buy his own semi-detached in a suburb. Hard on that thought is the thought that she's just sure that someone like that would not be a kindred spirit.
Imagine her surprise when the Professor walks into her office a couple of weeks later. 'Ha! You are surprised to see me!' It seems he's escaped from Elba and is now preparing to engage the enemy. At least, he's preparing to get engaged. With nary a preamble, Caroline is treated to a bald-faced proposal. She may as well check her pulse and her temperature - surely this is some sort of fevered dream? No, the Professor is standing there, larger than life, and he now presents his case. It's not that he loves her...on the contrary, you have no looks, no witty conversation, quite deplorable clothes, but dang it if all of his staff and even the dog and cats are moping around the house since she left. He doesn't even wish to love her, but he would like to have her around.
Her: What you want is a sheet anchor. No demands, no curiosity, just someone to talk to when you feel inclined.
Him: Yes! And above all, no romantic nonsense!
Her: I'll think about it.
Him: What is there to think about? It's not like you're going to get any better offers.
Her: I'll let you know my decision tomorrow.Of course she's going to say yes, but she's already planning a little strategy. He's obviously used to getting his own way. She's going to change him. Caroline is the Duke of Wellington, preparing to go to battle with Napoleon Radinck. The wedding takes place about a week later, and now it's back to Huis Thoe and the crowds of adoring servants and animals.
The Baroness (that would be Caroline)draws up her battle plans that first night back in Holland. First, she's going to get him to smile more. Next, as with all good cavalry units, she's going to learn how to ride a horse. She also plans to kill him with cheerfulness and an uncomplaining nature. Progress is slow at first, but she is gradually able to tick off a few modest successes.

Significant Battles:
The Battle of Tinker's Donkey. The Baroness of Wellington is rewarded with a genuine smile after rescuing a pregnant donkey from abuse.
The Equestrian Conflict. After Napoleon Radinck catches Caro having riding lessons, he gives her an invitation to go riding with him each morning.
The Massacre of Hidden Handkerchief. Queenie the Rescued Donkey foals in the wee hours of the morning...Radinck gives his jacket to Caro - who finds a woman's hanky in the pocket. Is there another woman? Will it be a complete rout? No, it's a swoop and a kiss!
The Burgermeester's Reception. Low cut gown? Check. Family jewels? Check. Dances like a dream? Check. Apparent stalemate? Check.
Of course every war includes its share of trial and hardship. This one is no different. Caroline wishes she would get the flu or something so that she wouldn't have to go to all the social engagements... Radinck tells her that she will do nothing of the sort. Ha! Even Radinck isn't strong enough to prevent viral infections. Caroline might be sick, but it's Radinck who's weakening. Weakening enough to kiss her on the cheek when he thinks she's asleep. Caroline does think it was a dream, until he kisses her on the cheek as he's leaving to go to Vienna. The wheels in her military mind start turning...there is a chink in Napoleon Radincks armour and she is going to exploit it.
Heavy Artillery. Cannons are brought out and volleys exchanged. A car crash right at their gates brings a beautiful young woman into the conflict and muddies the waters. Napoleon Radinck drives her to her home far away and implies that he stayed the night at her place. He admits to confusion of mind about Caroline. Becky Raukema van den Eck (British spy and cross-over character) is able to tell Caroline that Radinck did NOT spend the night with the beautiful young woman.
Peace Negotiations. A kiss. Flowers. A brand new piece of jewelry (not a hand-me-down heirloom) - a true lover's knot. Caroline wonders if he's being extra nice because of a guilty conscience.
Peace Negotiations break down. Napoleon Radinck has one more trick up his sleeve. He tells Caroline Wellington that he is going out of town for a day or two...
Battle of Waterloo. The conflict has gone on long enough. Caroline decides it's time to do something about it. First she sends out a recon team to assess the terrain. It seems that Radinck is not really going out of town at all - his secretary says he's all booked up. Also, in her inexperienced view, his kiss had been a very genuine one. Strategy: deception. Caroline writes a note telling Radinck that she's leaving him, and has Young Willem deliver it to him. Radinck spends the rest of the day looking for her and castigating himself. Imagine his relief and chagrin when he gets home to find her 'calmly' knitting in the sitting room. Quite enough to make Napoleon Radinck surrender. His white flag is her handkerchief that he carries around in his pocket like a lovesick puppy. A little kissing. The end.
Rating: Lashings of Whipped Cream with a cherry on top! The title is a bit misleading - but Caroline's Waterloo does sound better than Radinck's Waterloo. Caroline is awesome. She's plucky, cheerful and has an indomitable spirit. She has an incredible ability to be both a dreamer AND sensible. She's a 'see the hill, take the hill' kind of girl. I simply adore her. Radinck is pretty darn awesome in his own way. He has spent more than a decade becoming a misogynistic hermit - and is quite good at it. Right up until the moment Caroline is carried - bleeding and concussed - into his house. He fights a rearguard action - but he's defeated before he knows what's happening to him. The Great Neels does a lovely job of showing us so much of their story. There's not a lot of needless to-ing and fro-ing, the interaction between the two takes place almost exclusively in and around Huis Thoe. All of Caroline's hopes and dreams are detailed - along with her feelings. Radinck is much more of a closed book. The fact that Caroline is able to read him right from the get-go is simply wonderful. If I could only have one Betty Neels, Caroline's Waterloo is the one I'd choose.
Food:paper-thin bread and butter, scrambled eggs, cheese souffle (twice), Bavarian creme, homemade lemonade, steamed cod, butter beans, salmon mousse, tournedos, sauteed straw potatoes, braised steak, trifle, filets de sole Leonora, sorbet, millfeuille from the sweet trolley, champagne, which grew on one, iced melon, lobster thermidor, charlotte russe, petit fours with white icing and silver flowers and leaves, spinach tarts, bombe surprise.
Fashion: pre-marriage - abominable clothes. Wedding outfit - rather plain, fine wool dress in warm amber and a small velvet hat to go with it, multi-coloured tweed suit, Marks and Spencer sweater, slacks, fancy dress that is pale smokey grey chiffon over a satin lining - not a great deal of top to it, riding outfit, including jodhpurs and boots, pink quilted dressing gown.

38 comments:

  1. There's a thesis waiting to be written on the role of animals in Caroline's Waterloo. They are vital to the story in a way they aren't in any other Neels, I think.

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  2. Which is your favourite cover?
    Harlequin 2393
    Mills & Boon
    Collector’s Edition
    Mass Market Paperback
    kindle edition

    I have the Collector's Edition (M&B), lovely picture but the bridal gear is all wrong, of course. I like the Mills & Boon cover, though it seems all wrong to me, too. Looks like the cover of a thriller.

    One of my top favourites in the Canon. Love meeting Becky & Tiele again! Ever since reading the book I've wanted a pale pink quilted satin robe. Couldn't find any. Sigh.

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    1. You can look in any vintage shope online. They're everywhere.

      BF

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    2. I'm not crazy about any of those covers.

      I'll go check which one *I* have.

      BF

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    3. I have the one with the windmills. But I like the Mills & Boon, it's pretty with all that color.

      BF

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    4. I suppose the Mass Market Paperbook is the most accurate, but I like my one with the windmills. One of my favorite Bettys!

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    5. I have the Harlequin 2393, but there's something about Radinck's face I don't like. The cheekbones or something. I kind of like the Mills & Boon cover, as it goes with the story, but the grip he has on her arm makes it look like it's about 2 inches in diameter. ;)

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    6. You are right, the cheekbones are wrong. But also the nose. Is that a snub nose? And his lips? Cold sores all around? (I enlarged the image Ctrl + +, 6 times.)
      M&B: That grip on her arm had me puzzled, too.

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    7. The look on his face kind of makes him look like he's Barney Fife with a grimace, instead of a man about to kiss his true love. Ick.

      I hadn't even noticed the nose, but you're totally right. It looks like the end of it is taped up to be a pig nose or something. Poor guy!

      The M&B cover is just so off, proportion-wise. It almost looks like they just erased that part of her arm, and stuck in a closed fist. And they almost look like they're in two different pictures stuck together. And her hair! Man alive!

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    8. My copy is completely different to the ones listed above. Obviously they had different covers for downunder. I would put it on your sit but not sure how to go about it.

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    9. Sorry that should read your site!!

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    10. If you send a picture of your cover via email to the Founding Bettys I am sure Betty Debbie or Betty Keira will post it for you. (Below the RECENT COMMENTS section:)

      CONTACT US
      jerseydress@westopia.net

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  3. This book scares me.

    Hero is totally scary.

    And Caroline is soooo brave!!!! I so admire her. I've no idea how a "mousy" girl could be so brave.

    A wonderful Cinderella story.

    I love her initiative and bravery inspite of possible roarings from big tall man.

    Betty Francesca

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  4. ...but what happened to the Christmas concert with the servants? Radinck comes home early and finds them practicing...goes back to the airport to call and say he's coming home so he doesn't ruin Caro's surprise (love him here!). Then he drops a bunch of musical questions. And then nothing. Did I miss it? Did my Kindle eat a scene? What happened to Christmas? No presents, no tree, the party never took place? I thought this one had great characters but I really feel a little like someone ripped pages out of my book and I didn't get the full story!

    Betty Miller

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    1. I've always liked the idea of changing/adding to books. Lost semi-torrid, but strictly non-Brighton-ish chapters...I confess on one occasion in my callow youth, taking a light eraser to one blot in an otherwise delightful novel. Can't remember what it was now...

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    2. Oooo Good idea!

      BF

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    3. Betty Barbara here--
      Betty Miller, not to worry, your Kindle is fine. In my print edition we never do get the big Xmas concert. Call this a major fail on the editor's part (as we will never blame the Great Betty for losing track of bits of her plots!).

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    4. No major fail on anyone's part, I am happy to say. The story ended before Christmas. Last night, I re-read the story from where Caroline says to Noakes "Christmas is getting close" (somewhere around page 186 in my 224 pages copy), paying close attention to the time frame. Before that, I went over the story to see when Caroline returned to England, when the Professor came over, when exactly they got married, to see how close we were getting to Christmas. Such a lot seems to be happening between the time they get married and the end of the novel, when in "reality" it's just a matter of a few weeks.

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    5. Betty Anonymous

      You're right! I misread the bit when Caro is talking to the servants and says "The moment the Professor gets home on Christmas Eve...." I assumed that meant the moment he got home from his trip, which would be on Christmas Eve, then they would sing, etc. But now I am reading it to mean that the moment he gets home from work on Christmas Eve, which is coming soon but still a bit away.

      Even so, this was such a great bit with so much anticipation building up over the course of the story that I would have liked for BN to have taken a bit more advantage of it. But I still really love this one, even without Christmas!

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    6. Perhaps BN meant to include the concert in the story but decided against it since Radinck already knew about it.
      Or, she never meant to include it since Radinck knew about it.
      Or, BN meant to include the Christmas concert but Caroline took the matter into her own hands and brought the story to a close before they ever got to Christmas. Ha ha.

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  5. The Food Scenes:
    Marta came presently to help her into the bath, turn down the bed and fuss nicely round the room, and after her came one of the maids with her supper; soup and a cheese souffle with a salad on the side and a Bavarian creme to follow. Caroline didn't think the Professor would be eating that, nor would he be drinking the home-made lemonade she was offered. ...

    She left Sister to serve the puddings and went down to the first meal, queuing for her portion of steamed cod, mashed potato, and butter beans, and devouring it with the rest of her friends at speed so that there would be time to go over to the ...

    Savoy Grill Room
    She sipped at the sherry she had been given and studied the menu, mouthwateringly lengthy; she settled for salmon mousse, tournedos, sautéed straw potatoes and braised celery, and when it came ate it with appetite, replying politely to her companion's desultory conversation as he demolished a grilled steak. She enjoyed the Beaujolais he offered her too, but prudently refused a second glass, which was just as well, for the sherry trifle was deliciously rich. It was when the waiter had cleared the table and set coffee before them that the Professor ...

    Le Poulbot
    'I took the liberty of ordering for you since we have only a short time,' observed Radinck, 'filets de sole Leonora and a glass of white wine to go with it, and perhaps a sorbet.' She was surprised at his thoughtfulness and stammered her thanks ...

    The Connaught Hotel Restaurant
    She did full justice to the cheese soufflé—as light as air, followed by filets de sole princesse and rounded off by millefeuille from the sweet trolley, all nicely helped down by the champagne the Professor had ordered. ...

    "At the hotel in my rooms there ..." (Doesn’t say which hotel...)
    Iced melon was followed by lobster thermidor and rounded off with ices, trifle and charlotte russe. They drank champagne and over coffee the Professor observed that it hardly seemed right to have a wedding cake before the wedding, but he had done his best to substitute that with petits fours, covered in white icing and decorated with silver leaves and flowers. ...

    Marta had excelled herself with little spinach tarts, roast duckling with black cherries and a bombe surprise. Caro, desperately maintaining a conversation about nothing much, ate some of everything although she had no appetite, because Marta would be upset to see her lovely dishes returned to the kitchen half eaten, and she drank the hock ...

    Presently Juffrouw Kropp came and washed her face and hands, brushed her hair and then brought her a tray of tea — nice strong tea with a lot of milk, and paper-thin bread and butter. Caro dozed through the day. Lovingly tended by Juffrouw Kropp ...

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    1. Correction: The Professor stays at the Connaught when he is "in England for a few days", he has "a small house in Essex but it is hardly worth going there unless" he is "over for a week or more". And we never get to see it!
      Betty met de rode pen Anonymous

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  6. I was searching for a recipe for filets of sole Leonora and found a (critical?) 1984 New York Times article about restaurants in Great Britain. It mentioned four restaurants visited by our heroes and heroines in the Canon.

    http://www.nytimes.com/1984/04/01/travel/britain-s-restaurant-revolution.html?pagewanted=all
    BRITAIN'S RESTAURANT REVOLUTION
    By R.W. Apple Jr.
    Published: April 1, 1984


    ... Still others are the creations of amateurs. Paul Henderson, who runs the magnificent Gidleigh Park at Chagford in Devon (with his wife, Kay, and John Webber in the kitchen), used to be a management consultant, ...

    Gay Hussar, 2 Greek Street, London W.1.; (437-0973). Dinner for two: $50. No credit cards or foreign currency accepted. Specialties: Hot spicy clear red fish soup (szegedi); half a chicken cooked in mild paprika sauce served with noodles and cucumber salad (chicken paprikash-galuska); cheese pancakes or raspberry and chocolate torte (eszterhazy). Closed: Sunday and public holidays. Lunch 12:30 to 2:30 P.M.; dinner 5:30 to 11 P.M. ...

    Le Gavroche, 43 Upper Brook Street, London W.1.; (408-0881). Dinner for two: $125. Specialties: Mousseline de homard au Champagne; l'assiette du boucher; souffle aux framboises. Closed: Saturday, Sunday, public holidays, Dec. 23-Jan. 2. Lunch noon to 2 P.M.; dinner 7 to 11 P.M.

    Le Poulbot, 45 Cheapside, London E.C.2.; (236-4379). Meal for two: $60. Specialties: Boudin blanc sauce Perigourdine, fillets de sole Leonora, grenadines de veau Vallee d'Auge. Closed: Saturday, Sunday, public holidays and 10 days at Christmas. Lunch only, noon to 3 P.M ...

    Restaurants 2012
    Gidleigh Park, 2 Michelin stars 2012.
    Gidleigh Park in Neelsdom.
    The Gay Hussar. (Found a recent review, Posted: Jul 20 2012).
    The Gay Hussar in Neelsdom.
    Le Gavroche, 2 Michelin stars 2012.
    Le Gavroche in Neelsdom.

    Hélène Darroze at the Connaught 2 Michelin stars 2012.
    The Connaught in Neelsdom.

    Le Poulbot closed its doors in 1993. Le Poulbot in Neelsdom.

    The Savoy
    The Savoy Grill Room in Neels
    The Savoy in Neelsdom

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  7. Your reprise made me dig out my Kindled copy and I found this gem:

    She: (about a party which he doesn't want to attend) Just give me a wink and a nod when you're ready to leave...

    He: (huffily) I will do nothing of the sort! You are not a dog. (or words to that effect)

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    1. Radinck can be so funny. I love the scene where he comes to Caroline's bedsitter to take her out for dinner and then does not go to Oliver's to get the car while he is waiting for her to dress up - for fear that she might disappear! And he actually tells her!!!
      I like the buttons on the little baby outfit you made. Gorgeous pattern!

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    2. :)

      I've been meaning to ask, does anyone here read Essie Summers? She's another of my favourites.

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    3. Sorry I wrote your reply under Betty Caroline's question about a "sheet anchor" by mistake. Oops my fingers must have slipped but I hope you read my reply anyway. Cheers,

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    4. I do like Essie Summers. I think Summer in December is my favorite. But, hands down after Betty, my favorite author is Jane Donnelly. I have all 61 of her titles. The Man Outside takes my breath away. It took me forever to find the last two titles, and I cried a bit when I finished that last one. So good.

      Betty AnoninTX

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    5. Betty Keira and I both read Essie Summers...If you search this site, I think you can find three or four (or five) posts about her and her books.

      I haven't read Jane Donnelly...yet. Sounds like someone I need to look up.

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    6. I've read some Jane Donnelly, but I can't offhand remember her books or characters like I do with Summers and Neels. I'll now make it a mission to collect her novels.

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  8. Still not sure how I feel about this one. Overall I like the story flow, and it's well written with great characters. But I get so riled up at Radinck throughout the book, and I'd forgotten how cold he is until I re-read it this weekend. I definitely love the plucky Caroline, however. ;)

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  9. ... and there are always girls—pretty girls if I should wish for female company. ... And so spake the weenie hermit unto the sheet anchor.

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    1. And what on earth is a sheet anchor? I guess I could Google it, but I'd rather have one of you Neels expert ladies explain. ;)

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    2. Hi there, yes I've been reading quite a lot of Essie Summers these past few weeks for a change. I got a few from the library and the rest I'm downloading for free off the internet. I notice that a lot of her stories are the same, not as much romance as in Betty's books but they are very descriptive of the NZ countryside, but I have enjoyed them immensely.

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    3. I find it interesting that you should say Summers has less romance than Neels. I'd think the opposite, since the heroes in Neels seem to be more distant and chauvinistic *gasp* than in Summers.

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    4. Summers is one of my favorite writers. She wrote from her own experiences in NZ in the 1950s. I tried to get to lots of the places she wrote about when I was down under. Jane Donnelly, Mary Burchell (UK), and Joyce Dingwell--her books always have a loss in them (Australia). I travelled the world vicariously first with Harlequin. --Betty Marge in MN

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    5. Perhaps there is about the same amount of romance in Essie's books, but as they seem to be written in a different style to Betty's I would agree with you on the romantic content. Of course, being Dutch born I would have to be a little prejudiced towards Betty's heroes mrsfife but as I can't seem to stop reading Essie's books and downloading them as soon as I've finished the last one I guess I must be hooked. I did visit NZ in 1968, my first holiday abroad when I was 18 and I'd like to go back again to show my husband the countryside especially with the detailed descriptions I keep reading about.

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    6. A sheet anchor is a larger than usual anchor brought out in an emergency. Alternately (and non-nautically), it's a source of support in an emergency (person or otherwise).

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