Monday, February 11, 2013

A Winter Love Story--Reprise

Good Morning dear Bettys!
I hope that our Northeastern Bettys are weathering the Snowpocalypse with tins of mushrooms, the odd frozen chicken, a not-too-irascible relic of decaying nobility and a hunky RDD on his way with a rescue helicopter and snow shovel.  
I was scanning the comments section of our original 'A Winter Love Story' post and can't get better than our indefatigable Betty Magdalen's remarks:

 Could we spare a word or three for the fact that Betty was 90 when she wrote this? In fact, the most poignant bit is where she, uh, sorry -- where Claudia describes the geriatric hospital as a place where the patients just have no one to care for them at home.

I really choked up there (no lie) because it had a ring of truth -- and more specifically a truth that Betty herself may have endured. Because while we'd love to think she was completely hale and hearty up to the point she "assumed room temperature," I'm pretty sure that some of those books where the English nurse is caring for an older woman in a wheelchair had a bit of roman a clef about them.

Let us never forget just how awesome The Great Betty was...90!  The mind boggles.
Love and lardy cakes!
Betty Keira

It's never a good sign when even after reading a book several times (including THIS WEEK), you have to refer to your notes for the title. A Winter Love Story is not the most memorable book written by Betty Neels...but is it because of a lackluster title? Let's find out:

Claudia Ramsey (age 27) is a stunner. Her copper-haired beauty shines through a succession of deplorable outfits that feature such fashion statements as oversized pinnys and dirty sacks tied around the mid-section. As the story opens, she is to be found dusting Uncle Colonel William Ramsey's library. Or is the Colonel Uncle? At any rate, The Colonel is getting ready to bite the big one, but before he does, Dr. Willis has called in a specialist. Mr. Tait-Bullen (hereafter to be referred to as Mr. T-B(age 39)) is an eminent cardiologist - he recommends a triple by-pass, but The Colonel doesn't hold with such nonsense. He'd rather shuffle off this mortal coil than go under the knife. So he does. But not before Claudia has had a couple of opportunities to meet Mr. T-B. It's fortunate for Claudia that she has plenty of natural beauty - Mr. T-B only gets to see her in her eccentric work clothes, and he still can see her gorgeousness - even when she's filthy with dust or grimy with dirt from the greenhouse.
The Colonel announces to Claudia and her mum that he will be dying in a day or two, and would they please call Mr. T-B, he'd like to see him one more time. Mr. T-B drives down from London and chats with The Colonel about...lilies. The Colonel was spot on in his self-diagnosis - he assumes room temperature that very evening.
zzzz...oh yeah, A Winter Love Story. Right. Okay. Umm. The Colonel has left generous bequests to the family retainers. Claudia and her mum get 'shares' - which turn out to be worthless. The house is entailed to a distant relative. The Heir, Mr. Ramsey, is obnoxious (you were expecting different?)...he is not willing to share any of his inheritance with Claudia and Mrs. Ramsey - although he does give them orders: Fire the old Butler! Air the beds! Don't steal the silver! Claudia and the gang wisely ignore him...all the staff find new jobs, Mrs. Ramsey gets engaged to Dr. Willis and Claudia goes off to her fabulous new job in Southampton!

The Job at Ye Olde Geriatric Hospital is not exactly cushy. "It's not the cool hand on the brow kind of work - more like a charwoman - plastic pinnys and mops and buckets." Claudia, being Claudia, puts a brave face on it and cheerfully gets on with it. She does have a day off after a week which happily coincides with her mother's wedding. Mr. T-B has cadged an invite to the wedding...he'd like to see what's up with the beautiful Claudia. He neatly arranges to drive Claudia back to Southampton and sets up a date for her next afternoon off.
The date is pretty successful...Claudia eats with an appetite sharpened by the rather stodgy hospital food she's been stuck with. The after dinner conversation is a little one sided - Claudia wonders if she's boring Mr. T-B. 'I don't think that you will ever bore me...would you like to go out again?'
A few days later, Mr. T-B drops by Ye Olde Geriatric Hospital unannounced and asks our girl if she's happy where she's at. Claudia answers him honestly that working at geriatric hospital is absolutely grim. Mr. T-B offers an alternative. 'Will you marry me? I need a wife and you would have freedom, we laugh at the same jokes.' 'Gosh, that sounds so sensible. Just one thing...I don't know your name...'
Thomas(yes Mr. T-B shall now be called Thomas) tells Claudia that they can get married by special license just as soon as she works through her one week notice.
After the wedding Thomas takes Claudia to his home in London. It's beautiful, natch, but he really only has an aging Tony Danza, er...Cork, to cook and clean - with a little help from Mrs. Rumbold, the daily. Cork may be happy for his boss, but that doesn't mean he's ripe for the picking. Claudia recognizes his type and begins her campaign to win him over. She's quite practiced in the art of getting aging butler types to eat out of her hands.
Married life agrees with Claudia and Thomas. They get along just fine - he even goes along on the Deluxe Connubial Shopping Extravaganza and agrees to adopt a stray puppy that Claudia has rescued from the park.
With things going so well, what should happen next but a visit from The Woman Scorned. Honor Thompson envies Claudia and goes out of her way to be nasty. For any other new bride except Claudia this would be either a wake-up call or tear-inducing. Not Claudia...she takes all the drama out of Honor's snide comments and she's quite cheerful when Honor leaves. This gives us the best bit of the book: 'I hope you're grateful that I married you. She would have eaten you alive in a couple of years.'
Thomas is suitably taken aback at the lack of reproachful comment, coolness or sulkiness. He's married to a treasure. Even Cork is starting to appreciate her.
The hospital Christmas ball is a fine opportunity to re-gift Grandmother's pearls. Claudia is a bit disappointed that Thomas isn't giving her something he picked out, but her disappointment is short-lived. She's also a teeny tiny bit jealous of all the pretty nurses that Thomas dances with at the ball. She is mollified to learn that they are courtesy dances and that it's a tradition - not his idea. Claudia is beginning to be a little unsettled. Just a little. It's starting to seem like Thomas doesn't really need her companionship - he's spending more and more time either at work or in his study. He does take time off for a day trip with Claudia wherein they stop in a village and do a spot of house hunting, and by spot I do mean spot. They look at one cottage, Thomas realizes he's in love(with Claudia, and presumably the house) and makes an offer on it. No inspections for leaky drains or insects, nope, they look at ONE house and they're done. That's fiction for you. The real icing on the cake is when Claudia throws herself at Thomas and gives him a great big thank-you kiss. The End. I wish. Darn those page counts. It's only page 124 - there are SIXTY more pages to go, in which Not. Much. Happens.

Let's sum up:
  • Christmas at the in-laws. It's lovely. A pretty snazzy kiss wherein Thomas nearly loses his control and Claudia enjoys it. It's page 142. That would have been a nice place to end.
  • Contretemps in Hyde Park...while walking Harvey the Ugly Puppy, Claudia is threatened by rowdy youths. Thomas is Harsh, but then apologizes and tell her that he was angry because he was scared for her.
  • Thomas gives Claudia a New Years Kiss. It stirs something in Claudia...His Sleeping Beauty was beginning to wake up. Frankly, another kiss or two and he could have sealed the deal. On page 159.
  • It's time for a little muddle. Thomas is being a bit distant. If Claudia had read her Betty Neels, she would know that this IS A SIGN THAT HE'S IN LOVE. Alas, she hasn't.
  • Thomas has to go on a trip to Leeds. When dropping off Claudia at her mum's, he JERKS BACK from her. Tears are fought off. Muddle, muddle, muddle.
  • The Woman Scorned, Take Two. Honor implies that Thomas takes his sexy secretary on trips with him...and not just to take notes, if you get what I mean wink wink.
  • Claudia calls his office and finds out that the secretary is indeed out of town. Which leads her to say "I hate him!", which leads to her realizing that she doesn't hate him at all, she loves him. Dang. There goes their open and honest communication. Because she'll have to hide her love away.
  • Thomas returns early from his trip because he could tell from her telephone voice that something is wrong. Claudia makes a hash of explaining...Thomas might as well be Dutch - with all the icy anger in his eyes. He throws down a gauntlet...Claudia had better decide if she trusts him and if she is unhappy in their marriage. (Worst part of the book for me!)
  • Claudia is horribly unhappy - and instead of having Thomas there to talk to about it, he's hiding out at work. She has Cork bring the Mini around and she drives through London traffic...and down to the cottage in Child Okeford.
  • Thomas calls home, Cork is worried about the missus. Thomas races to Child Okeford to find her asleep on a kitchen chair.
  • Muddles are cleared up, snogging engaged in. The end. For real this time.
Rating: Beautiful Woman Marries Rich Doctor!! News at Eleven!! Hmm...for the most part I found this book charming, but unfortunately it's rather forgettable, and really, that title doesn't help it a bit. It would have best been served by a handy application of a spanner - to tighten up the sagging prose - and then a hacksaw taken to the last 40 or 50 pages (or 60) . The thing I like best is how open and honest AND friendly the two protagonists are to each other - before they fall in love. Claudia is charmingly matter-of-fact and forthright - she readily apologizes when she makes a gaffe. When life throws her lemons, she makes lemonade. Thomas is friendly and kind and pleased with himself for marrying such a beautiful woman who is perfectly suited to his life. It takes AGES for the two of them to realize they are in love - (him on page 122, her on page 171) and they have a tough time making the transition from open and honest 'just friends'...which is really too bad - all it would have taken is a couple of satisfying snogs to break the ice (let that be a lesson to you...)...even after 30 years of marriage, I find a few satisfying snogs can clear the air better than an hour of discussion. TMI? After much deliberation I'm going to give this a boeuf en, wait...treacle pies? Let's leave it at that, mince pies. It's not that it's a bad book, it's just that La Neels has done the same story many times and done it better. I do have this book review to thank for my now clean house...I spent lots of time avoiding writing (because I wasn't inspired at all) and doing other productive things like moving furniture and doing laundry.
Food: crab ravioli with ginger, breast of duck potato straws(twice), Brussel sprouts (at least twice), pear tatin with cinnamon ice cream, individual cheese soufflés, salmon en croûte, watercress salad, iced fruit cake with silver leaves, game soup, roast pheasant, chocolate pudding, turkey, braised celery (I just cannot make that sound good in my head), cranberry sauce, flaming Christmas pudding (forget it, I'm NOT making it!), smoked salmon, ham on the bone, stuffed eggs (are these the same as devilled eggs?), chicken pie, lamb chops, apple pie.
Fashion: She doesn't get to wear anything nice until her mother's wedding...before that she is usually to be found in working covered by a duster secured by a piece of string, a large print pinny several sizes too large, an old sack wrapped around her and topped with a jacket that is colourless with age, at the geriatric hospital she wears mud-brown dresses with a plastic pinny. At mum's wedding she wears a grey suit that's out of date with a grey beret. Her wedding outfit is a plainly cut dress and jacket of misty blue wool with grey velvet collar and cuffs. She is treated to the Deluxe Connubial Shopping Extravaganza at Harrod's and Harvey Nichols.


  1. Not memorable, no, but very, very comfy. Minimal angst, plenty of material comforts. A good one for low-brain-activity days.

    Betty Debbie, are Mormons allowed to make flaming Christmas puds? 1) they require brandy, or some alcohol, to flame, but 2) the alcohol content is all (or almost all) burned up in the flaming process.

    The last time I made cherries jubilee, they refused to flame until I'd poured on about a cup of kirsch -- and then the fire continued for about 20 minutes, when we smothered the dessert. Eating it made clear that there was still a high booze content remaining...

    1. Christmas Pudding – isn't there usually booze "in the mix"? Although I suppose you could scratch it from your list of ingredients.

  2. I love low-angst books where the RDD (or in this case, the RED/RBD) isn't snarky and the heroine isn't always thinking "I really don't like him -- or do I?" and behaving snippily. So I enjoyed this the way I might enjoy a "snack meal" in place of four courses at the Savoy. Or something like that.

    Oh, BTW - sorry for being a bit of a pedant about this, but the doc is an "eminent" cardiologist, not an "imminent" one. Sounds like he's fully qualified and all that -- not just about to be. :) (I write and do proofing/QA in RL and I can't help it. It's in my blood...)

    1. If I ever required the services of an eminent cardiologist I'd hope he'd be imminent :))

    2. ROFL! Quite so.

  3. I've recently rediscovered Betty Neels books (along with your laugh out loud blog/book reviews)
    Have 117 books on Kindle so far (14 in wish list) 4 books unavailable in Kindle!
    That makes 135, I need to read through the book review archive and see if I can find the missing 3.
    btw been reading Betty (Neels) for 35 years (though not continuously and interspersed with chick lit and murder mysteries)

    1. Welcome, Betty Jenny! By my count, and the Founding Bettys's, there are only 135 Novels Neels. Please do let us know, though, if you discover more...

    2. Definitely 135.

    3. Yes 135! I was mislead by the comment in the Canon stating that 138 titles had been found!

  4. I give a Treacle Tart rating, Too much sets my teeth on edge but I enjoy a slice from time to time!!

  5. Welcome, Betty Jenny! Care to share your recipe for treacle tart with us?

    1. Thank you! Here is a lovely recipe from England ...

    2. Thanks for the recipe, copied it right away.

  6. Hello ladies,
    Just happened to be re-reading this one as I'm congested and needed my comfort read. I had wondered what game soup is and have to say, it sounds a little barbaric. Stock containing grouse and pheasant, and made of grouse, rabbit and venison bones... sorry... guess my carnivorous instincts are very weak. If anyone is interested here's the recipe.

  7. Hi, Betty Ilana, I once had game soup, twice actually. It came out of a tin, ha ha, and I had bought two tins of it, Baxters Royal Game Soup. I had to add quite a lot of salt, and a bit of pepper, and then it tasted fine. I am very much afraid that most, if not all chefs use bones and carcasses for making their own stock (unless it’s vegetable stock). Find it a little off-putting myself...
    What you need is chicken soup – anti-inflammatory decongestant, zink, iron, vitamines, great remedy – even "out of a tin"! (I had occasion to google the efficacy of chicken soup as a cold remedy a few weeks ago.)

    (By the way, did we ever get to see the pics from your trip to Holland in June last year?)

    Get well soon!

    1. Oh dear... I did forget!!!!!! Thanks for the chick soup suggestion. Yes, I guess I didn't find chicken bone stock quite as barbaric as game stock!! Completely arbitrary, I realize.

      I will see if I have any of those photos on my computer... thanks for the reminder, Betty Anon... XO

  8. I enjoyed this one. But it was interesting to find out Betty was in her 90's when she wrote it. Now the fact that she wrote a blander version makes sense. And that she totally did a set up early in the book for one of her usual tropes and then nada. It's where awful cousin decides to sell all the great stuff. Claudia (this name gives me the willies)notes that he's undervaluing things and thinks she might try to buy some of the sentimental items. I was expecting Mr. T.B. to have bought the whole lot and presented it to her on the non-honeymoon. No such thing happened. But since I imagined it, maybe it did!

  9. Good morning, Betty AnoninTX, I thought you had gone back to bed. You're up early, the sun won't be up for another couple of hours.

    1. Dang insomnia! It's really had a grip on me lately! Must buy Horlick's...

      Betty AnoninTX aka SleeplessinTX

  10. Welcome, Betty Daphne! This is so exciting. A Betty from Toronto - happy memories, indeed. Anyway, I just read your profile and I think all the other Bettys should read it, too. I've highlighted the highlight, haha. (Betty Daphne is our latest member, # 98, without a picture).

    Greetings from Toronto, Bettys! Just had to say, I looooove your site and have been following it with great enthusiasm. I did a count of my Betty collection and came up with an astounding total of...41! Fun fact - I work in a hospital where there are a few Dutch doctors, however none of them hold a candle to the RDD's that Betty has immortalized - no Bentleys, great, socking or otherwise - one of them actually takes the subway. More later Betty Daphne

    1. Thank you Betty Anonymous!