Monday, June 3, 2013

At Odds With Love--Reprise

I'm typing this one handed while I nurse.  You're lucky to get even this! ;)
Love and lardy cakes,
Betty Keira

It seems like every book we've reviewed lately has had excruciatingly forgettable titles.  At Odds with Love falls smack dab in that category.  What does it even mean?  Often there will at least be an obscure reference to the title somewhere in the pages...but either this one didn't, or I dozed off during that paragraph.A title like Jane Gets Her Man...or Jane, the Hot, Hot Baroness would help me remember which book this was.

Jane may be a 'plain' name, but really it's her last name that says it all. Fox.  Jane Fox is a H.O.T. twenty-seven year old nurse with russet hair, built like a brick house.  She's taken leave from professional nursing to nurse her dying granny.  Gran wishes that Jane would find a nice doctor and settle down, but Dr. Willoughby is already spoken for. Speaking of Dr. Willoughby, he's called in a specialist, one Professor van der Vollenhove who is no slouch in the good looks department.  Despite the ministrations of the good doctors, granny dies.  She's lived a long and prosperous life, so don't grieve too deeply. 

For some reason, granny has left the house and bulk of her estate to cousin Basil. Anyone familiar with Neeldom will instantly recognize his type...evil, thy name is Basil. Basil swings by with his fiance√©, Myra. Evil Basil and Myra will be moving in before the decorators even finish tossing the rubbishy antiques on the bonfire.  Jane is not welcome - even though granny stipulated in her will that Basil should help her out - give her a home.  Not. Happening. Evil Basil helps her out, alright.  He provides the impetuous for Jane and faithful family retainer, Bessy, to flee the coop.  Bessy has a sister in London that will take her in, but Jane has a problem.  Or rather, Jane has three problems.  Bruno, Simpkins and Percy. Bruno the dog, Percy and Simpkins the cats. Yes, she is that Neels heroine who chooses to go through life with three animals and no home.  Two words, sweetie...Pet. Adoption.
Professor van der Vollenhove to the rescue.  He knows a friend of his mother's who is in need of a temporary companion (her regular companion is in dire need of a holiday). He's careful not to paint a rosy picture of the job, but he's pretty sure the pets will be allowed.
Lady Grimstone is indeed grim to work for. Not only is she selfish and paternalistic, but worse yet, she is a fad dieter.  We shall draw a veil over the deprivations of Jane...suffice to say she has to stock up on tins of biscuits and Bovril just to stave off starvation.  After a couple of weeks of this, the professor stops by.  He stays for lunch - or rather, what passes for lunch, then takes Jane out for some real sustenance.  Girlfriend takes advantage of actual food and dines heartily.  It's a lovely 1/2 day off, but Jane realizes she is starting to like the professor and that Just Won't Do. He offers to give her a lift to wherever she's going when the job is over, but Jane manages to give him the slip.  She finds a nursing job clear at the other end of the country, in Carlisle.  The pay isn't great, but she can bring her herd of animals, so off she goes on what has to be a grueling train trip.
The Hospital of Horrors!
The job at the private hospital in Carlisle is not quite as advertised.  Short rations (again!), long hours, no days off and completely inadequate staff.  Not only that, but Jane gets in trouble for calling the on-call doctor to treat a man with peritonitis and someone else with something else. The geriatric ladies have been sorely neglected - no one has been changing their sheets at night.  She's near her breaking point when The Professor drops by.  He's had a bit of a hard time finding her - he finally tracked down Bessy in London (who had been sworn to secrecy!) and got her to divulge the whereabouts.   Editor's Note: According to Google Maps, it's a little over 5 hours from London to Carlisle...just thought you might want to know.  After a quick kiss, he beards the Matron in her office, then the professor bundles Jane into his great socking Bentley and they head back to London. With the herd.
The professor drops Jane off at his friends Julie and Rex's home - they are more than happy to take her in.  Her and her herd. It isn't long before talk of a Marriage of Convenience is bandied about...which is really what the dear girl needs if she's going to be hauling around three animals and one faithful family retainer.  You thought Bessy was happy with her sister?  Not so much. 
On paper the MOC looks sound:
  • They both like each other.
  • They are both medical professionals.
  • He needs someone to entertain his friends and fend off too much social life.
  • She's a good listener.
  • The herd will have a home.
  • Ditto Bessy.
  • They can spend the next two weeks getting to know each!
It sounds sensible and tempting...and on the strength of that, Jane buys a new dress!  The Prussian Blue Silk Dress, Part I.  Since they are practically engaged, the professor trots out his first name.  It's Nikolaas,"Isn't it time you called me Nik?" (Nik? The name is fraternal twin to 'Nick'...who is nearly always the bad guy in Neeldom).  The date hardly even gets started before BAM! An auto accident right in front of them.  Being medical professionals, they help out.  Never mind causalities, The Prussian Blue Silk is ruined by Jane kneeling in blood, and the date is pretty much over.
The next morning Juliette Jane sees Nik from her balcony.
Her: You'll catch cold down there!
Him: (with a wicked grin) Is that an invitation to come up? (I♥Betty)
Of course it's only a matter minutes later, sometime between bites of toast and marmalade that she realizes she's In Love. That makes the idea of marriage all that much more appealing.
Nik takes Jane shopping - so that he can purchase The Prussian Blue Silk Dress, Part II.
The wedding goes off without a hitch, and as soon as the 'I dos' are said, Nik loads up the Bentley with Jane, Bessy, Bruno, Percy and Simpkins and they're off to Holland! Wagons Ho!
Jane sets her mind towards winning the heart of her husband. It's a three part plan.
Part 1. Make sure she's always looking hotter than usual. Adjust lighting accordingly. 
Part 2. Try and make Nik jealous...without any actual flirting...just looking hot. Add a little devastating use of eyelash sweeping.
Part 3. Drastic measures. Swipe the Bristol and drive to Amsterdam, expressly against doctor's wishes. Take advantage of an earthquake, then confess all to husband.
Jane's three step program works like a charm. Kisses in the hospital courtyard and semi-explicit references to implied conjugal relations.The end.

Rating: This was a lovely, gentle story.  Seldom do we get to witness both sides falling in love so naturally. At first Nik is very slightly inclined to mocking looks and cool indifference...but behind that facade he's unfailingly kind, so I'll give him a pass. Jane recognizes that she's in love well before Nik and actually Takes Steps. When Nik does realize he's fallen in love with his wife, he goes for a drive and a long walk in the country trying to figure out what he should do.  He's completely clueless that Jane loves him, and quite unsure of what to do about it.  Lucky for him that Jane is working hard enough for the both of them.  Also lucky for both of them that Amsterdam experiences an earthquake at precisely the right moment for greatest efficacy.  I'd love to give this a high rating, but frankly, nothing really happens. All of Jane's trials eventually work out just fine. Even without the earthquake, Jane would have gotten her man sooner or later.  I think I'll go with a serving of boeuf en croute (8).
Fashion: Jane is wearing a blue cotton sweater with a darker denim skirt when they meet, silvery grey jersey dress, Prussian blue silk dresses x2, Jane wears his dressing gown and car coat.  Wedding outfit is a dove-grey wool suit with a light lavender blouse. Connubial Shopping Trip wherein she acquires a cream taffeta ballgown, three short party dresses, several fine wool sweaters and all the undies  she liked at Maison de Bonneterie.
Food: Homemade shortbread, chicken ragout in England, chicken ragout in Holland, short rations at Lady Grimstone's - special cereal like shredded cardboard, dry toast spread with vegetable extract, soup so thin it was probably an Oxo cube dissolved in water, bread and butter so thin she could see through it, very small lamb chops, Blancmange for pudding, tin of digestive biscuits to fight off hunger, semolina shape(??). At the Hospital of Horrors she had fish paste sandwiches, cheese sandwiches, casserole of beef, milk pudding for afters.