Monday, June 17, 2013

A Kind of Magic--Reprise

Dear Bettys!
So sorry this post is a wee bit late.  I canna believe that I have five bairns and tis Summer! Ach! Ye ken?
Love and cock a leekie soup!
Betty Keira

The heroine is Scottish! The hero is...Scottish! Och aye, and it's away to the Highlands we go.

Rosie Macdonald, 25, lives with her parents down in the land of the Sassenachs.  They've been exiles for sixish years, while Uncle Donald Macdonald (who is really a cousin) has taken over the family homestead because dad lost some money some way and now works as an agent at a large estate in Wiltshire(Callooh! Callay! A Working Dad!) .

Grandmother, Mrs. Macdonald Senior, is a martinet.  Imperious, icy, demanding, selfish and stubborn - not your cuddly kind of granny at all. Mrs. Macdonald lives in Edinburgh with her housekeeper and downtrodden daughter, Carrie. Granny has decided to make a Royal Progress by way of a railway tour of Scotland and decreed that granddaughter Rosie will accompany her as her minion. Rosie is not all that keen to go - she knows acting as granny's companion won't be all sunshine and fluffy bunnies - but go she does.  The tour is just what she expected - full of older Americans with a smattering of Germans.
Granny, with all the good nature of a particularly vile strain of amoebic dysentery, declines to disembark the train at any of the scenic stops, and since she isn't getting off, neither is Rosie. The route passes within a few miles of ye olde family farm...which is still in the nasty hands of Cousin/Uncle Macdonald.  A word about him.  We know he is a Bad Man.  Why?  Evidently he had the bad taste to marry a...*gasp*...heiress, which rates only slightly below premeditated murder as far as crimes against humanity go.  That by itself would be bad enough, but we're also given an insight into his true nature. Rosie caught Uncle/Cousin beating his dog - way back when...and she's never forgotten it. Granny just hates him on principle (that's her default setting). 

The one and only time Granny gets off the train, she sprains her ankle. Enter Dr. Cameron. He's prompt and to the point - his patient comes first.  Rosie is peeved that he barely spares her a glance. And so it begins.  Rosie isn't sure she likes him (the apple isn't falling far from the tree - granny's not the only one who wants attention).
Rosie spends a lot of time and energy taking care of her crotchety grandmother - even to the extent of making her tea at 4am and losing out on some of her own beauty sleep.  This does not go unnoticed.  Dr. Cameron prescribes fresh air - which isn't going to help the lack of sleep, but will put some roses back in her lovely cheeks.

While taking her now daily constitutional, the gentle dew from heaven becomes more than a little torrential. Dr.Cameron, on his way to an emergency, picks up Rosie.  There's no time to drop Rosie off at the hotel. Uncle/Cousin Donald is gravely ill.  Rosie visits him in hospital, thus ensuring her family a mention in the will.
And now for a little refresher course on one of my least favorite plot devices:
Girl asks, 'Are you married?' Boy says, 'No, but I'm hoping to be in the near future.' Girl then assumes he has a girlfriend, boy assumes girl can read his mind, even though it's shielded like the starship Enterprise on a secret mission through Romulan territory.
Dr. Cameron drives Rosie and Grandmother back to Edinburgh in a dark blue Rolls Royce (which granny accepts as her just dues...and Rosie worries about the rental costs).
Aunt Carrie has a boyfriend! Despite being a dry and dusty solicitor, Mr. Brodie would like to marry her.  Granny thinks it's a load of rubbish for Carrie to run off and get married at her age...but her beau is made of stern stuff and manages to cut the ground neatly from under Mrs. Macdonald.
Dr. Cameron turns out to be Professor Sir Fergus Cameron - he works at the Royal Infirmary. Granny embarrasses Rosie clear down to the toenails with her 'you are on National Health?'
Rosie heads back to England.  But not for long.  Uncle/Cousin has the grace to pop off and before doing so, had the great good sense to change his will so as to leave the farm to Rosie's father. The family packs up and moves back to Bonny Scotland. Mum and Dad take the car and the family silver, while Rosie is relegated to taking the luggage on the train. Sir Fergus surprises her at the station in Edinburgh and drives her home.
Her: You're very far from home.
Him: Home is where the heart is.
Maybe his Scots accent was a wee bit too broad, but for whatever reason, Rosie is too thick to understand the veiled hint...then again, she thinks he's got, at the very least, a girlfriend if not an actual fiancee.

Most of the the middle of the book is taken up with much gadding about Bonny Scotland.  Walks to Rannoch Moor and drives through the countryside.  Rosie takes a couple of days to visit Edinburgh  - with a little bit of discretionary funds from dad to spend on new clothes..then hauls Granny back to Old Macdonald's farm. For some reason Rosie gets saddled with keeping granny happy.
Rosie is starting to think a little more kindly about Fergus - she likes him enough to be sad that he's going to marry soon.
While in Edinburgh, Rosie spots Fergus driving around with a beautiful woman. Oh yeah, the waters are positively murky.  Visibility is down to zero.   
There's a lovely little scene grocery shopping together in Edinburgh - tossing fairy powder and the like into a trolley, but it's quickly spoiled by the worst part of the book for me: Rosie asks Sir Fergus Point. Blank. if the woman she saw in the car with him was his fiancee. Point. Blank. Instead of doing the Extremely Simple Thing - which would have been to just tell her who it was (his married cousin), he avoids answering.  He thinks she might be...maybe...possibly dating young Dr. Douglas - and since he's being so cagey about the mystery woman, Rosie pretends she IS dating the young doc. Oh what a tangled web...

After finally realizing she's in love with Sir Silent-About-Important-Details, they spend the day together. More gadding about Bonny Scotland. Fort Williams, Lock Shiel, Glenfinnan, Lock Eilt...oh, this is a private drive - does it belong to you? Yes, and here's my mother.  

Being in love means pretending to be serious about young Douglas...but Fergus soon susses out the truth about Dr. D:  Young Dr. Douglas has no intention of marrying anytime soon, wants to marry for money, and much prefers the small and helpless type of female...which doesn't sound a bit like Big Beautiful Rosie. Next up:
  • Aunt Carrie gets married in Tron Church - Grandmother looked rather like the bad fairy bent on casting gloom over the party.
  • Fergus is again seen driving the beautiful mystery woman around.
  • Highland Ball - Rosie asks young Douglas to take her. Fergus looks smashing in his kilt.
  • When Rosie finds out that Fergus knows about her attempted deception, she's furious...
  • Fergus plans to wed Rosie...but in the meantime he's the antithesis of a woo-er. She will have to figure everything out all by herself - he is not about to pluck ripe apples from the tree. Argh.
How will The Great Betty resolve this muddled mess? In spite of darkness and rain, Rosie spies a torch (that's Britspeak for a flashlight) waving and deduces that someone is in trouble. Three hours later Fergus drives by and comes to the rescue. His words, 'My brave little love,' break the ice a wee bit. But there's still the pesky matter of his fictional fiancee.

When Fergus does finally run her to ground and kisses Rosie soundly, she protests. What about the girl????
My darling, you forgot to read my mind - that was my cousin. Haven't I been driving all over Bonny Scotland with you? Let's have a big wedding - you can have three weeks to plan, otherwise it's off to Gretna Green! More kisses and a really delightful final paragraph. The End.

Rating:  The sound you hear is me, grinding my teeth. For a romance, A Kind of Magic is a great tribute to Scotland.  The Great Betty must have gotten a sponsorship deal with the Flying Scotsman...or the Scottish Tourism Board. Either-Or. So...lovely scenery...deliciously horrible Grandmother...but only a so-so love story.  Rosie seems to be taking after her grandmother in thinking mainly of herself - the least little thing seems to set her off.  Fergus may be hot, but he takes being a strong silent type a bit far. I can't quite picture a happily ever after for these two crazy kids.  Rosie will  spend as much time as possible taking offence at things, and Fergus will only get more and more silent as he ages. There will be some great behind closed doors bits...but for day to day living...not so much. Somewhere between a treacle tart and mince pies for me.

Food: Granny has lemonade with her pills. Shortbread, beef casserole, dumplings, treacle tart. Poached salmon, mushrooms in garlic butter(I made these last week!!), cucumber salad. Picnic lunch of sandwiches - smoked salmon, cold beef, cheese and pickles between thinly cut bread, lavishly buttered. Smoked salmon, roast beef with all the trimmings, millefeuille for afters. Lunch with his mother: smoked salmon (again!), trout, strawberry tartlets. Cock a leekie soup, shoulder of lamb, a dream of a trifle.

Fashion: Cream jersey, lovat corduroy skirt and country blouse with matching gilet (which seems to be what we Americans would call a vest - or a sleeveless jacket). Mrs. Macdonald wears a black crepe number with pearls. Pale green cotton jersey, chiffon and taffeta evening dress in old rose, denim skirt (see cover art!) for walking with Fergus - he wears cavalry twill trouser and a cotton sweater over an open necked shirt. An old dress and worn-out gym shoes and extra large gloves for weeding the rose garden. Grandmother's hat (for Aunt Carrie's wedding) is a masterpiece of black straw, tulle and curled feathers. Rosie wears white chiffon with a tartan sash to the Highland Ball, Sir Fergus rocks a kilt.


  1. I always like it when they have the mother's point of view, especially the RDD's mother (which usually the mother almost always keeps to herself) -- this one has both her and his mother's points-of-view. And this is also the one where she's sopping wet after sitting in a field for hours and he takes off his sweater and puts it on her (a nice RDD touch) -- I could never remember which one that was. But I also thought it was the one where she was sitting in a field for hours, and he could tell her feelings by the expression on her face (yes, these parts are in this book) but he also tells her later that she couldn't hide her expression so he knew how she felt (this is not in this one, but I don't remember which one that one was).

    Never could figure out why her father didn't go to his sister's wedding -- the whole "too much to do" and "men don't like weddings" seemed a little odd (shouldn't he at least be walking her down the aisle?), but it seems that the actual wedding ceremony itself doesn't appear to be as important in Neelsdom as it is to families in the US. At least, that's the impression that I get from the whole canon.

    -Betty Sue

  2. Betty Barbara here--
    This is one that went into the Goodwill bag after the first re-read. Primarily because Fergus is everything that drives me absolutely batsh*t in a Neels 'hero'. I absolutely despise the whole plot trope with the hero misleading the heroine re: his marital intentions, not answering straight-forward questions and, in general, being a real prick. (Excuse my language). (*Ahem*)
    The lovely tour of Scotland does not make up for the ickiness of Fergus.

    1. While I don't agree about "the ickiness of Fergus", there was one scene where he got tremendously on my nerves. It was when they arrived at Rosie's old home when her uncle was taken ill.

      He had the doors open. 'Out you get and inside with you, and don't waste my time. You can dry off somewhere...'

      Don't waste my time? Just what exactly does he expect her to do? Ask him to help her off with her coat, fetch her a towel? This is her former home, she knows where to go and she knows it's an emergency. So why would she waste his time? - Idiot.

      All in all, upon re-reading A Kind of Magic I thought what a delightful story it was. Truly delightful. Rosie must be one of the most outspoken heroines in the Canon, if not the most outspoken (sometimes downright). The number of times she tells Sir Fergus she doesn't like him/doesn't want to see him. So funny.

      Last night, the air was rather warm and icky humid, Betty A., laden with shopping bags, came home, climbed the stairs to her 4th floor (5th floor in American) poky bedsitter under the roof... - What? Er. Excuse me? Oh, alright, yes, it is a poky flatlet. Now you've spoilt my line. Are you happy now? - put her groceries into the fridge, grabbed the garbage bags, and the "yellow bags" (containing recyclable plastic and metal), ran all the way down to the icky warm basement, through the long, long hallway, out the back door into the icky warm humid night air, up a few steps, dumped the garbage bags in the huge garbage container and placed the "yellow bags" at the curb, hurried back to the back door (down a few steps), along the long, long hallway, and then climbed back up the 5 (6 in American) flights of stairs to my poky bed- hmph flatlet. Once back inside, 28,5 °C/82,4 °F, the air feeling damper than ever, Betty A. washed her hands and saying, "Oh, for a piece of twine", started rummaging in a drawer for something to do up her frizzy-frizzier-the frizziest-completely-out-of-control hair with.

      Why am I mentioning this?

    2. sometimes downright rude

  3. CHAPTER ONE THE bright sunshine of early May, pouring through the latticed windows of the old house, shone on to the short dark curls of the girl bent over the case she was packing with a kind of controlled ferocity.

    Did you notice? Rosie has short dark curls.

    He went to Inverard and found Rosie in the rose garden, trying to bring order to the tangled bushes, and attacking the weeds choking them. She had prudently worn an old dress and worn-out gym shoes she had found in the garden shed, and a pair of gardening-gloves sizes too large. She had gathered up her hair and tied it in an untidy tangle with a piece of twine, and her face shone with her exertions. Sir Fergus, coming upon her silently, thought that she looked enchanting.

    Gathered up her hair and tied it in an untidy tangle with a piece of twine? Her short dark curls must have had a tremendous growth spurt.

    1. The last link doesn't work. I'll try again
      Her short dark curls...

    2. Betty Barbara here--
      Well---no one ever said that The Great Betty was a wizard with continuity! Her lapses are just more noticeable in some books!! Good catch!

  4. Inverlochy Castle Hotel was a grey stone pile with Ben Nevis in the background, a fitting background for the guests, the women in their white dresses and tartan, the men in dress kilts and here and there a white tie. The dancing was well under way when they arrived, and they joined in almost at once. Rosie was a good dancer, and the reels were as much to her liking as the more conventional dances. Ian was a good partner, too, and since both of them knew a number of people there they parted from time to time until they met for the supper. They shared a table with half a dozen friends, and it was as they were making their way to it that Rosie saw Sir Fergus. She went rather pale at the sight of him, magnificent in his kilt, talking to the Provost's eldest daughter—a girl Rosie had never liked, and now heartily and instantly hated.

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  6. They were approaching Bridge of Orchy; she could see the hotel, standing back from the station and the road. A cup of tea and a hot bath would be more than welcome. She gave a sigh of relief which turned to a surprised gasp as he drove down a side-road which joined the road to Oban. 'Sorry I can't stop,' said Dr Cameron in what she considered to be a heartless manner. The next minute she felt ashamed

  7. To give you an idea of the landscape:

    Walking the West Highland Way, 2003 are Piet, Tim and Jeroen. Check out the other tours /gemaakte wandelingen as well. The descriptions of this tour are in English. The South Glen Shiel Ridge 2012 tour is in Dutch but the pictures are awesome. This time it‘s Piet, Jeroen, Stefan and Tim de Boer.

    Images 6 & 7:
    Lunchpauze aan de oevers van Loch Lomond. Lunch break on the banks of Loch Lomond.
    Langs Loch Linnhe. Along Loch Linnhe.