Monday, January 14, 2013

The Fateful Bargain--Reprise

Morning Bettys!
I read through the old comments section of the original The Fateful Bargain post as well as the Discussion Thread.  Much hay is made over smoking in the hospital (options now include being prescribed nicotine patches, hauling yourself to a designated smoking area (suitably in the nether reaches of the empire, I suppose) or sneaking a smoke in the bathroom).
Much is also made of the fact that the hero's little sister has a touch of polio (in the developed world in 1989, which I didn't even know was a thing).  The eradication (well, pretty much) of polio does not mean the eradication of maternal anxiety attending childhood illness. The Four Little Pledges of  Huis Van Voorhees have all been to preschool (Mama Voorhees loves her some preschool.) and that's when the worry seems to crest.  Chicken pox, Fifth's Disease, the nasty flu, molluscum, norovirus...Each is duly noted and posted (and Googled).  It's the price one pays for sending children off to school when they are still prone to put everything in their mouth.
Of course, polio is a fish of a different stripe altogether.
God bless Jonas Salk.
Love and Lardy cakes!
Betty Keira
I thought I had a bigger problem with the questionable medical ethics involved in The Fateful Bargain, but frankly it didn't bother me. If I was in Emily's shoes I would have jumped at the chance for my dad to get off the National Health Carousel of Depression and Pain even if it did mean a couple of months babysitting a sulky teenager. Cheap at the price.
Emily Grenfell, age 23, is a second year nursing student. She runs full tilt into a handsome stranger on her way home from working the night shift. She confides in the stranger that she's afraid to meet the visiting honorary, a Dutch surgeon, because a French honorary yelled at her and she's a bit gun shy of foreign doctors. The very next day Mr. van Tecqx (I do apologize...that's his name - Emily does not call him anything different until The.Very.Last.Page.) takes a detour in the hospital just so as to get a glimpse at Emily. Sweet, right?
Emily sees Mr. van Tecqx on the Orthopaedic Ward - as he's doing rounds. He later tells her that it's difficult to pretend he doesn't see her. Mr. van Tecqx asks Emily out - so that they can exchange life histories. She's not quite sure what to make of that, so she has a go at sneaking out the side door - only to find him waiting. "I am much encouraged to find that we think alike - you, that you would escape by this door, and I quite certain of it."
He also does a bit of sleuthing and discovers the sad truth about Mr. Grenfell. The fact that he is crippled with arthritis and in great need of hip replacement surgery, but nowhere near the top of the waiting list. In fact, it's going to take Emily at least another year to save up enough to get him admitted to a private hospital. "This is National Health?" says Mr. van a rather minimalist scathing indictment.
The stage is now set for....The Fateful Bargain. Orthopaedic surgeon Mr. van Tecqx will replace both of daddy's hips in return for Emily traveling to Holland to babysit/nurse Mr. van Tecqx's nineteen year old sister - who is recovering from a mild case of POLIO (in 1989!!????). The bargain should take a few months to accomplish - hips are to be replaced one at a time and little sister Lucilla needs to start walking. It will only take Dr. van Tecqx a few hours for the hip surgeries...but it will take Emily many grindingly long weeks of physio and cajoling to get the sulky Lucilla up and about.
Delft turns out to be Mr. van Tecqx's home town, but Emily doesn't get a lot of opportunity to go sightseeing - at least not at first. Mr. van Tecqx has thrown her in at the deep end and neglected to any arranged time off. That's par for the Neels course...Lucilla is spoiled and inclined to be lazy, sulky and tantrum throwing. Lovely personality. Lovely person to work with. I have to give credit Lucilla some credit - she may be a pill, but she's never deliberately mean (which is an encouraging sign in a potential future in-law).
As soon as Emily gets Lucilla tucked into bed, Mr. van Tecqx hauls her to HIS MOTHER'S HOUSE! It's late, Emily's tired, and as plain as plain can be...but what's a girl to do? Mama van Tecqx may be dressed elegantly, but she's just as plain as Emily...Editor's Note: And now I can't get these lyrics out of my head:
I want a girl
Just like the girl who married dear old Dad.
She was a pearl
And the only girl that Daddy ever had;
A real old fashioned girl with heart so true,
One who loves nobody else but you,
Oh I want a girl
Just like the girl that married dear old Dad.

Not a lot happens in Delft. Emily spends her days, her looong days, working with Lucilla. Showering her, dressing her, reading to her, exercising her, suffering through her tantrums. Mr. van Tecqx comes back from where ever it was he had gone - just in time for Sint Nicolaas! The entire van Tecqx clan comes to celebrate - and enjoys watching Sebastian (Mr. van Tecqx) watch Emily. Yes, his family sees which way the wind is blowing, but they're pretty good at keeping their own counsel. Mr. van Tecqx takes Emily for a walk in the evening - in the cold - her first glimpse of the city. This is the first of many lecture tours of the city...all sorts of interesting nuggets of historical significance are bandied about...but hardly romantic. Nevertheless, Mr. van Tecqx plants a kiss on Emily, much to her consternation.
Emily helps Lucilla scoot down the stairs on her bum. Editor: Which brings to mind a Hanna Betty brother who is crippled with cerebral palsy - his method on the stairs is to go down on his stomach, head first at a rather good clip.
Mr. van Tecqx brings his houseman home to flirt with Lucilla. The houseman is just what the doctor ordered - he gives Lucilla a reason to work on getting better. And a reason to discuss the 'L' word with Emily. Love. Lucilla has fallen in love at first sight. Do you believe in love at first sight, Emily? Sure. Have you ever been in love? Dawning Realization! Dawning Realization! She can't admit it to Lucilla, but by golly, she's in love with Mr. van Tecqx (no, she doesn't call him Sebastian - even in her thoughts).
To Catch a Thief!
Emily sees a suspicious stranger casing the house one night. Instead of calling the local gendarmes, she goes outside and taps the thug on the shoulder - which earns her a black eye, but not before she bites him and kicks him in the shins. Heavens, if she'd kicked a little higher she might not have gotten the black eye. Mr. van Tecqx hears her scream and shows up in time to wallop the miscreant.
Mama van Tecqx stops by to visit - to check up on Emily and her shiner. I forgive her for being secretly smug. It's adorable.
The holidays are coming up fast...Mr. van Tecqx gives Emily a fur scarf for Christmas...much better than the impersonal leather photo frame she gives him.
Back to England - it's time for Dad's second surgery. Emily cries herself to sleep on the ferry. Mr. van Tecqx conceals a grin? Emily has fulfilled her part of The Bargain, now Mr. van Tecqx will finish up his part.
Story of 1st wife. Oh, did I forget to mention he's a widower? Yes, ten years previously (when Mr. van Tecqx was a lad of 24), he married a flibbertigibbet who left him for a rich American with poor driving skills. By the way Emily, I would like to talk to you after the operation.

Now that Mr. van Tecqx is done with his portion of The Bargain, he can finally declare his Love. He's really pretty adorable -
Him: I fell in love when I first met you.
Her: You could have said!
Him: I've had a hard time keeping my hands off you (thank you, Betty!).
Old Man (walking by): Give 'er a kiss, guv.
Him: Marry me? Say yes, darling.
Her: Yes, darling.
The End.
Rating: In the words of the late Douglas Adams, 'Mostly Harmless'. The Fateful Bargain is generally non-offensive. It would have been much improved with a bit more give and take between the protagonists...and a little less Lucilla. A dive into a canal to rescue a puppy with Emily being sick on Sebastian's shoes might have just done the trick. Mr. van Tecqx is occasionally adorable, but prone to lack of communication - I will give him a pass on that, seeing as how he was in a quasi business arrangement with Emily. Emily is sensible and reasonable, she does give way to bouts of tears, but only when it's reasonable to do so. Baby sister Lucilla is a pill - inclined to be difficult and sulky (although not downright mean). Mama van Tecqx is cute as a button - but we don't see quite enough of her. The 'other woman' is pretty much a non-starter...she is only around a couple of times to dispense rudeness. That sort of sums up the book for me - lots of potential that isn't quite developed enough. I still liked the book for an occasional re-read. Average. That's the word I'm looking for. Average. I'm giving it a treacle tart on the strength of the ending, but I totally get it if you think it's worth more...or less.
Fashion: Besides some depressing overalls, girlfriend has a sum total of two (2!!!) dresses. A navy needlecord and a grey wool jersey, both from C & A's last sale. She manages to tart up the grey one for Christmas by purchasing a rose coloured scarf and matching imitation leather belt and grey velvet slippers.
Food: Salmon mousse in a bed of lettuce, breast of chicken in aspic glaze, nougat glacé with strawberries and topped with cream, a can of beans, scrambled eggs on toast, speculaas, chicken soup with hot rolls, grilled trout with pepper sauce and light as air castle puddings.


  1. Were there 2 BN with a burglar, in Holland, who gets whopped by one of our heroines???

    Or is this the only one?

    If it is the only one, then I remember this one was at a town house in Holland--a very beautiful, big lovely, elegant townhouse owned by the hero.

    And she was in her robe, right?

    Betty Francesca

  2. In Hilltop Tryst, Beatrice chases a burglar down the street.

    Betty AnoninTX

  3. Today, I had just turned on my computer and the Conquering the World/globe widget fairly exploded with flags and placenames from Germany (26) and Austria (5). Had I missed something on tv about the Channel Islands? No. I googled Jersey /tv program. And the only hit was: two episodes of Jersey Shore will be on MTV later tonight, right after an episode of Geordie Shore (a "show" based in Newcastle upon Tyne - where Tiele gave Becky breakfast after she had run away from home). Geordie Shore - f you ever want to hear really bad language in a heavy Northern accent...

    1. There must have been previews on for the show - the poor girls - or even worse boys - who ended up on our page. That must have been quite a culture shock! Ha ha.

  4. Tonight, I was leafing through a new catalogue while watching tv, when I reached a page with Barbour jackets and seeing one of the models said to my mom, "He looks like the new (German) Bachelor." I googled pictures of him – and found out I was right. No wonder the "bachelor" (who has two children, by the way) looked familiar. (No, we don't watch the show. Too stupid for words.)
    And now for the real news I meant to impart, seen on another page in the catalogue:
    Afternoon tea, Prêt-à-Portea at The Berkeley in London. Squeeee!

  5. Have you, like me, always read Lucilla instead of Lucillia? I quite enjoyed re-reading the Bargain but it will never be a favourite of mine.
    The RDD must be paying Emily a royal salary, if an "agreed sum" deducted from it will pay for a live-in nurse cum cook.
    'Yes, but who's going to look after him? I won't be at home, will I? He can't stay in the hospital for months!' 'I know just the person to look after him. If you will agree, she can move in and look after your father. A retired nurse, middle-aged and a very good cook.' 'But it will all cost so much—I mean, even without your fees.'
    'Ah, you forget, I shall deduct an agreed sum from your salary while you are looking after my sister.' He smiled suddenly. 'Trust me, Emily, I'm not offering you charity! You will pay for it—probably more than you bargain for— ...

  6. Time for another Speak-Along

    Thursday night, I had just returned home from my parents, and instead of getting supper ready , something on a tray, or doing something else useful, I picked up my copy of The Fateful Bargain and opened it at a random page and there was Constantia talking to "Jereon", Betty A. automatically reading Jeroen stumbled a little over the name. Her eyes moved back. Jereon? Hoping it was a one-time typo, she turned the pages back and forth and saw it was always Jereon. There was nothing for it, she had to find her copy of The Little Dragon, and yes, of course, it’s Jeroen in The Little Dragon. The funny part – as I said, I had just come from my parents – my mom had been watching a documentary about Curaçao (iguana stew anyone? slimy cactus soup, really slimy, or it won’t go down well?) and there was this blond good-looking Dutch-speaking surfer Jeroen Eikelenboom who wanted to open a surf club which among other things required carting sand from a neighbouring bay onto his formerly sandless beach... (The La Ola Surfclub is on facebook, I am not.) La Ola Surf Club:! (take a look at Jeroen, his wife & the little pledge – Nestor???, nap/relaxation instructor?)

    The name Jeroen (Wikipedia)
    audio (YouTube): Hear Dutch actor Jeroen Krabbé pronounce his name, "Hello, my name is Jeroen Krabbé ... " (from the audio tour at the Rijksmuseum)
    yuh-ROON uh = as the a in a coon

  7. I love, love, love, your blog!! I have been an avid Betty fan since I was 13, and now 23 years later am still reading them. I have just been rediscovering them over the Christmas holidays and took to the internet to find out if there was anything about the cross-over characters to enable me to read the books with follow on characters - and found your AMAZING blog!!! (And INCREDIBLE cross-over chart - thank you!)

    I have spent the last week using any spare time to explore your website. The Betty's on here have such a lovely turn of phrase and have made me laugh out loud so many times. Better still, you make me think of the books in a new light - it has added to my enjoyment of reading Betty Neels - something I didn't think was possible - and also made me want to know even more about some of the small details I really hadn't considered before.

    For example, your comment about Polio in 1989 seemed very strange and incredulous to me as well, so I decided to do some research and I found out that:

    1. Polio cases have decreased by over 99% since 1988, from an estimated 350 000 cases in more than 125 endemic countries then, to 650 reported cases in 2011.
    2. Why 1988? Because that was the year that the 41st World Health Assembly adopted a resolution for the worldwide eradication of polio. It marked the launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), spearheaded by national governments, WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF, and supported by key partners including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
    3. In 1994, the WHO Region of the Americas was certified polio-free, followed by the WHO Western Pacific Region in 2000 and the WHO European Region in June 2002.
    4. More than 10 million people are today walking, who would otherwise have been paralysed. An estimated more than 1.5 million childhood deaths have been prevented, through the systematic administration of Vitamin A during polio immunization activities.
    (The above 4 points are directly from the WHO website)

    Maybe the Great Betty Neels was not as strange as we might think when choosing to write about Polio in this novel as she would have been writing the book at the time WHO was launching this initiative (1988). Somehow this made me think she was even more contemporary in her approach to her novels, instead of out of date, which is how I first considered it. Maybe she was even doing her bit of activism/ awareness raising?

    And I think it is really impressive that so many agencies were working together and could eradicate Polio in all but 4 countries in less than 25 years - to the extent that is seems shocking to us that someone could get Polio in 1989.

    I hope I haven't come over like a little-Neels-know-it all on my first posting - if so please excuse me - I just found this tidbit so interesting I wanted to share.

    Betty Ann (is it too much to call myself Betty on a first posting?)

    1. 1. Welcome, welcome, Betty Ann!! We love hearing from anyone - new and/or old!

      2. It's absolutely appropriate to call yourself Betty Ann.

      3. There's no such thing as too much sharing (about anything Neels related, that is).

    2. And in fact this is quite fascinating, even without the Neels tie-in. So welcome and thank you!

      Damsel in Green and The Fifth Day of Christmas also have characters afflicted with polio, but those are from 1970 and 1971. Aunt Whosit in DiG had it leftover from pre-vaccine days, but ghastly Marcia from TFDoC shouldn't have contracted it in 1971.

      My mother once reminisced to me that in the late 1950s, she was terrified of her then-very-young children contracting polio (not me - I wasn't born yet). She wouldn't let them play in the Frog Pond on Boston Common, a beloved local tradition, because of the dangers of the disease communicating through water (swimming pools were believed especially dangerous, because the virus had to get in through the nose or mouth).

      Of course, by the time I was born, the intro of the Salk vaccine in 1955 had pretty much eradicated polio in the US. Per Wikipedia, by 1962 there were only 910 cases -- presumably in the US, since polio was still a problem in the developing world then. However, a wealthy teenager in a medical family in the Netherlands in 1989 was extremely, extremely unlikely to contract polio. I like Betty Ann's hypothesis that The Great Betty was doing some kind of public-service announcement in light of the newly re-energized push to prevent polio in the developing world. It's a lot better than my guess that she couldn't remember how to spell pneumonia.

      And Betty Ann, if you hadn't called yourself Betty Ann, we all would have done so for you. Welcome!

  8. Welcome, Betty Ann! I did some research on the topic of polio in the Netherlands last year when I had read the review of The Fateful Bargain.

    Read why contracting polio in the Netherlands was still possible, why 1971 was actually a good year for contracting polio in the Netherlands, and why in 1989 the Great Betty could not only be called "contemporary in her approach to her novels" but could almost be called prescient...

    Excerpt (in my old comment)

    from the article:

    Immunity to Poliomyelitis in the Netherlands, American Journal of Epidemiology

    1. "Despite a vaccination coverage rate of 97%, several poliomyelitis outbreaks occurred in the Netherlands during the last three decades, all among sociogeographically clustered, unvaccinated persons."

      I'm pretty sure that a) the Van Tecqx family would go in for vaccines as a general rule, and b) wealthy, well-educated, cosmopolitan economic elites were not one of the 'sociogeographic clusters' identified by the Journal of Epidemiology.

    2. Interesting comment from my British Army neighbor on this subject (more to follow once I digest it all; she was suffering from Inauguration Hangover and in exchange for a translation of the Strange American Behavior on display over the weekend, answered many of my questions about the Brits, the Dutch, and even the Belgians -- from which I collected two pages of hasty notes which I will decipher and forward you).

      "Recall that your Betty had a character refer to indigestion as 'vulgar, something for the lower classes'? Some nobility, both British and Continental, once saw vaccines as somewhat vulgar, required only by the lower classes, for no such infected persons would dare bring the diseases of overcrowding and poverty to the nobility. Polio from pools? As if the nobility would use a public pool! Such attitudes were fading by the late 80s, but it sounds like this character should have been vaccinated in the 70s if she was 19 in 1989."

      I suppose with that mindset, a Van Tecqx matriarch without a medical background might see a vaccine as unnecessary?

      And now to order TFB, haven't read this one either......83 to go.

      And nice to meet you, Betty Ann!

    3. Except that RDD family matriarchs from adel, are down to earth, far from snobbish women, to whom being from adel is not important. And since RDD fathers are usually medical men Mama van Tecqx will have been married to a doctor...

  9. When I was little I had a little friend who was not vaccinated for medical reasons. But that is all I know.

  10. Sometimes the Great Mind of Betty is quite impenetrable!

  11. I don't as a rule note what year Betty wrote her novels. They are for me fantasy genre like books about vampires crushing on teenage girls instead we have tall, vast, blond but greying wealthy Dutch doctors stalking the halls of rundown hospitals in search of British nurses, the plainer and poorer the better. The unsuspecting nurse is whisked off to Holland, by whatever pretext available, forced into a wealthy lifestyle until she too becomes wealthy and Dutch. RDD=Vampire.

    Betty's novels take place in a different space time continuum that constitute fantasy, after all I too am plain and plump therefore I should have met an RDD before I turned 30 except I don't like pets so maybe not. Hmm that would actually make a well dressed villain destined to marry a rich American.

    I love love Betty Neels. The predictability is a comfort and a wonderful way to unwind from this modern world.

    Betty Delia

  12. Excellent points re. Betty and vaccinations - but if we're going to talk about strangenesses of Betty settings, we could also discuss why heroines born in the seventies (assuming that her later books are set about when she was writing them, in the late nineties, which I think we can given the number of mobile and car phones we come across) always wear their hair long and up and don't wear trousers except to do gardening? Or always wear hats to church? I'm not trying to be a pain here, but there are so many problems with Betty regarding contemporary social conventions that the polio episode of 1989 can really just join the queue... (I was born in the late eighties, but my mother is a daughter of the sixties and has bobbed hair and almost never wears skirts).

    Like Betty Delia says, Betty's novels just take place outside normal time and space. I suppose it explains why they've all been sent off to boarding school and why any landladies/taxi drivers/faithful family retainers originating from London all sound like Dickensian street folk rather than normal human beings.

    Betty Rhiannon

    1. Very definitely outside normal time and space. It's funny the different things that stick out for different readers: "Okay, I can suspend disbelief about the four A-levels but can't work a cash register, but she doesn't own a pair of jeans!?" I wore my hair long and frequently up from birth through today, with only brief forays into less-than-shoulder-length, and I'm more your mother's age. So all those buns and string-tied ponytails don't set off my radar at all.

      A couple acquaintances of mine, both college educated, bright and personable, have for various reasons never had reliable employment, and provide for themselves as part-time manicurists, supermarket demonstrators and through other casual jobs like that. I try to think of them when I come across heroines who wash bottles and babysit horrors for a living.

      And, when that heroine reveals an entire ignorance of what we Americans call 'second base,' I reflect not on my dubiously-self-supporting-but-romantically-adventurous acquaintance, but on the country-bred nurses I knew in Ireland in the 1990s, who steered well clear of Brighton until the heirloom sapphire, and all that goes with it, was fixed in place. And nowadays, of course, on some of the Old-Fashioned Girls (and boys) I've met through TUJD.

      I confess I don't personally know anyone who eschews trousers...

  13. It's funny, but even the "regular" Harlequins make me go "huh?" sometimes. I've lost count of the number of times the plot device of "hero thinks heroine is vulgar tramp but takes her to Brighton to find out she'd not ever been there before ..." has been used. These women are all in their late 20s (usually, anyway) and I wonder if there's a stock of British, Australian and American innocents someone's breeding somewhere, especially when you consider that all the data indicates that teens, um, find their way to Brighton much younger and on a regular basis these days.

    Anyway, with La Neels' books, they feel as though they're trapped somewhere between 1920 and 1950 and that's fine with me. I don't mind faithful old retainers who behave like Bunter from Lord Peter Wimsey... :)

    As far as "eschewing trousers" (love it!), I'm afraid that I own 2 dresses which I rarely wear. I can't remember the last time I even saw anyone I worked with dressed in anything but business-casual clothing.