Monday, April 22, 2013

Roses Have Thorns--Reprise

Good Morning, Dear Bettys!
Circumstances require me to write this before I deliver myself of the latest van Voorhees pledge (no later than Thursday!) and I apologize for such a thin post.
I dipped into the comments section of our original post of Roses Have Thorns and found this gem from Betty Kitap: "This book has one of my favorite Betty lines: If this is your bedside behavior it's a wonder you have any patients." Such is the awesomeness of our heroine Sarah Fletcher.
Hopefully hailing you from the wonders of the post-delivery bed,
Betty Keira

Oh what fun. A spunky Araminta and a RDD who has been thrown over for a South American millionaire! Get comfy, I'm pretty sure this is going to be a long one...

Sarah Fletcher, orphan. Age 28. Clerical worker in Outpatients at St. Cyprian's. Lives in a bedsit with Charles - her cat. She has known Professor Nauta for two or three years - he has an Outpatient clinic once a week. Sarah considers him impatient and ill-tempered and figures that he never really notices her. The Professor does notice her...but not romantically. He considers her a sensible young, but not too young, woman who dresses appropriately for her job. Things might have gone on like this for years...possibly decades, if a strange woman hadn't stopped by one evening. The Prof. has asked not to be disturbed, but this woman is insistent. Sarah calls the doctor to let him know a woman is here to see him. The Professor responds with some language that is rather stronger than Sarah likes. You should watch your language...she says to him - oh dear, such strong language on her part could get her sacked. Not to worry, the insistent lady is his own mother and she has taken a liking to Sarah, which, as any Neels aficionado knows, is the Future Mother-in-Law Stamp of Approval, No Substitutions Accepted. For her part, Sarah can't imagine anyone wanting to marry the Professor. While having a fine manner with his patients, he is impatient and irritable around pretty much everyone else. Well, he would be, wouldn't he...having been thrown over for a South American millionaire, years before. That's bound to make a man irritable.

Mummy would like the Professor to arrange for Sarah to come to Holland and be a companion to the Professor's granny. Mummy's had one of her 'feelings'.
Much to Sarah's surprise, Professor Nauta (which sounds sooo close to 'naughty') invites her to lunch. After first discovering the state of Sarah's vacation time, it's time to discuss granny-care. Granny is ninety years old and extremely tetchy; she is also dying. Sarah is not about to be steamrolled...however, she might be willing to do it except for Charles. Your, er, young man? Um...that would be no. Charles is her cat. The Prof. can solve all her problems - with one caveat - Sarah is not to discuss their arrangements with anyone - hospital grapevine, don'tcha know. This Will Come Back to Haunt Him. The sound you hear is the low rumble of foreshadowing....
Sarah will be getting paid, quite handsomely...which makes her rightly suspect that granny is a handful. Tetchy grandmas are an Araminta special...Sarah has no problem holding her own with the often ill-tempered old lady. Ill-tempered? The Professor evidently came by his honestly. Sarah spends hours reading to the old lady, and when that palls, a piano is wheeled in and she plays for her. At any hour of the day or night. One night as she is thundering her way through some Brahmn's, the Professor surprises the heck out of her.
Him: What the devil do you think you're doing?
Her: Tsk, should watch your language! What are you doing here?
Him: Um. My grandmother is dying...I'm here to say goodbye.
Her: My bad.
Sarah and the Professor take turns playing piano for the dying woman at all hours, and in various states of dishabille. There's an adorable scene with Sarah playing piano in the wee sma's and having her hair plaited by the Professor.
This goes on for a couple of days - then granny goes to her final reward, and Sarah is invited to stay for the fact, the family practically insists. They're charmingly naive about the realities of life re: working class folk. Sarah agrees to stay - even though her vacation is over. She writes a letter to her boss, aptly named Miss Payne. There was no way of knowing there would be a lightning strike of postmen...which for some reason means that Her Letter Never Gets to Miss Payne. Rumble, rumble. Remember when I said that thing about something coming back to haunt the Professor? When Sarah gets back to London, Miss Payne loses little time in giving her the sack for coming back late from her holiday. Not only does she sack Sarah, but she also gives her a bad reference - says she's 'unreliable'. Where's the Professor in all this? Oh he's off lecturing on something somewhere...
No one wants to hire her for clerical work, but she finds an untapped market for domestic situations! A job as housemaid in Bedford with a cottage to share with Charles. For some people this work would be considered beneath them, but not our Sarah, or rather, Fletcher - as she is now called. Fletcher is happy to be in the country. Happy to work with nice people. Meanwhile, the Professor is unhappy. And by unhappy, I mean enraged. Little Miss Sarah followed his instructions not to blab about the Holland trip and now has lost her job. It's His Fault and He Knows It. I like to think that somewhere around here, he has a sort of dawning realization - but he doesn't recognize it for what it is. Sarah has not only lost her job, she's moved out of her horrible little bedsitter without leaving a forwarding address. He spends every spare minute obsessively searching for her - even resorting to bribing girls with bottles of sherry for information. As far as he can tell, she's dropped off the face of the planet. Wracked with torment and guilt, he's more than a little startled to walk into his godmother's house and see Sarah trotting briskly towards the dining room in her housemaid's uniform.
Him: *#&@, what the devil are you doing here?
Her: Mind your language, Professor. If you don't go away, you'll get me dismissed - and that will be twice.
She shoots, she scores! He might be relieved to find her, but he's not happy to see her working the other side of the baize door. The rest of the staff are curious about the relationship between Fletcher and Lady Wesley's godson - but she very calmly gives them a slightly edited version of the facts.
A word about the household help. I love them. They love Sarah - and don't hold it against her that she obviously isn't working in her natural sphere.
Wherein Lady Wesley spends a month in London.
The country staff get to go to the city too! The London house is harder work, mostly due to Lady Wesley's increased socializing and late hours, but there are some compensations - mostly in the form of shops and cinemas which are generally thin on the ground in the country.
The professor stops by to visit Lady W. and is treated to an 'enticing' view of Fletcher/Sarah crawling backwards down the stairs. Sarah is not nearly as pleased to see him. After turning red, she ignores him and hands Lady W. her lost ring and enquires in exactly the right tone of voice if that would be all.
Lady W: Back to work, Fletcher.
Professor: (frowns)
Lady W: (to herself: The girl has gotten under his bullet-proof skin) to him: I think I'll have Mudd train her as a lady's maid.
Professor: (grinds his teeth!!)
Lady Wesley continues to make seemingly innocent, but highly inflammatory (to the Prof.) remarks about Fletcher, while the Professor nearly gives himself a rage-induced ulcer. All Sarah needs to do is ask and he can have her reinstated at the hospital and even find her better housing. As if. By the time he gets home, he's calmed down and tells his dog that Sarah can take care of herself. Way to tempt fate, dude.
Sure enough, as he's driving down the street one Sunday morning, there's little Sarah beating off a band of ruffians who were attacking Sir William a hospital colleague of the Professor's, with her purse. She doesn't manage to escape without some collateral damage - in the form of a slight concussion. The Professor takes both Sarah and Sir William to St. Cyprians to be looked over - Sarah is worried about Charles.
'Her boyfriend,' declared Sir William, who was sentimental.
'Her cat,' said the Professor, who was not.
Thank you, Betty.
Being in London has one other advantage - plot wise. Just after buying a fetching new frock, Sarah runs smack dab into who else, but the Prof? He's no snob - not above asking a housemaid to tea at Fortum's.
Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, it's Back to the Country We Go!
The Professor toddles up to the country just as soon as Lady Wesley and her minions have gotten back. Poor Fletcher has a Dawning Realization as the Professor cuts the cheese (Brie is cheese, right?) she's serving. It hardly seems fair that he kisses her at the bottom of the stairs that evening.
Poor Professor Nauta. He is fighting a losing battle. No way does loving Sarah fit into his nice neat bachelor existence. There's only one solution! Get her out of his system by seeing as much as possible of her! He manipulates his mother into visiting England and has her request to 'borrow' Sarah from Lady Wesley for a month to be a companion. Sarah privately does a little fuming at being treated like...uh...a servant, but in the end she packs her fetching frock and follows orders. The house (the lovely house) that Mevrouw Nauta is staying at just so happens to belong to the Professor. It's too bad that Sarah and the Professor are at that awkward stage in their relationship. The stage where Sarah goes out of her way to avoid him. So much so, that she fibs about a lunch date after church and ends up taking a nap in the woods. Fortunately, her fetching frock stands out and the Professor has no problem finding her. He's pretty peeved at her...and she feels foolish. Editor's Note: This whole scene is so cringe-worthy to me. I always feel embarrassed for Sarah - not only to be caught sleeping, but also to have been caught fibbing. It's just the kind of stupid that someone in love would indulge in.
Mevrouw Nauta asks her son if there isn't more suitable work for Sarah than being a housemaid. Of course he'd love to help her out, but she would refuse help. At least he knows where she is,' the obstinate little fool' he says savagely. Poor guy - he needs to seal this deal before he has a coronary.
At the end of the month, Sarah is returned, like an overdue library book, back to Lady Wesley's.
As a reward for doing a little overtime, Sarah gets a day trip to London with Knott the chauffeur. She can't even avoid running into the Prof. in the few hours she's there. It seems he's ready to give up his battle for bachelorhood - the 'm' word is bandied about - but who's the lucky winner? Will it be Sarah or the mysterious Miss Lisse whom the Professor calls 'darling' and discusses wedding plans? Sarah does the math and comes up with Miss Lisse. Miss Mudd doesn't help matters when she passes on a bit of news she heard Lady Wesley talking about on the phone -about the Professor getting married! Lucky for Sarah the Professor brings his houseman with him on his next visit. His houseman Wilf. Wilf is just as surprised as the Professor was to find Sarah working as a housemaid. Wilf knew Sarah back in her halcyon days of affluence. When she lived in a house with her own servants. Definitely a case of hail fellow, well met! Sarah, in a bit of a desperate attempt to get the Prof. to leave her alone, pretends that she and Wilf are delighted to be reunited. Wilf further muddies the waters by talking about getting married (my, my vague mentions of marriage are sure going around). The Professor succumbs to jealousy and goes to bed not quite three sheets to the wind. Very muddy waters...of course the Professor soon finds out about Wilf's real girlfriend - Janet (I'm pretty sure that Janet is the default name for girlfriends of promising housemen).
Grand Finale!
Charles runs off in a thunderstorm. He's missing for 3 days! Sarah goes to look for him and gets trapped in a rabbit snare with him! Lady Wesley calls the Professor who races out to the country to find her. Which he does - after dark. It's too late to find their way out of the woods - so the Professor puts his arm around Sarah and holds her through the night...sounds lovely...but there's still a sticking point. Who is the mysterious Miss Lisse - she who is called darling and talks of wedding plans. No problem - it's his sister! Kissing and proposal in the driveway - in full view of the entire cadre of servants. And then a couple of encores. The End.
Rating: Queen of Puddings with Whipped Cream on top! I truly loved this book. It might even make it into my top ten. I really only have one little quibble - Lisse. After spending two or three weeks in Holland at the family home, then later spending a month with Mevrouw Nauta, surely Sarah would have seen or at least heard of the Professor's sister???? Other than that, I adored Roses Have Thorns. Sarah is a plain little thing - but she's got spunk. Radolf can't believe he's finally fallen for someone - fallen hard. He spends much of his time being annoyed or enraged by her and trying to devise ways to improve her lot - it takes him a while to catch on to the fact that he's in love. Sarah can take his irritability, she's constantly reminding him to watch his language. The fact that she cheerfully accepts a job as a housemaid and makes that work for her, just makes me like her all the more. I find her fellow servants charming...the fact that they peg her as someone who is working 'below her station', and the final scene with them all peeking out the window while Radolf obliges them by kissing Sarah again...priceless.
Food: Sausage roll, steak and kidney pie with rice pudding for afters (in the servants hall), petit pois, creamed spinach and carrot sticks, new potatoes, canapes, pasties, iced melon, jellied chicken, strawberries and fromage blanc.
Fashion: brown pleated skirt, neat little jacket and a couple of drip dry blouses. Dove grey jersey, various housemaid's uniforms including the black with white apron used for serving meals, rose patterned cotton jersey(possibly inspiration for cover art?), another girl wears an indecent red dress to the London dinner party at Lady Wesley's - Sarah could see clear down the front when she was serving.