Monday, July 1, 2013

Never Too Late--Reprise

Good Afternoon, Bettys,
It is with no small amount of irony that I post the reprise of 'Never Too Late' a the late side.  Since the Van Voorheeses are in the thick of a summer heatwave, it has been difficult to appropriate a computer.  Evidently there's only so much running through sprinklers that can be done in 100 degree weather before the little darlings start wilting.  Weird.
Anyway, in my original discussion thread for 'Never Too Late', I asked:

At the very same wedding, their father is performing the ceremony.  I have no experience with this one.  If you were a bride, would you rather be walked down the aisle on father's arm or wedded by him?

The Catholic Bettys said it would not generally apply for obvious reasons, Mormon weddings (the more routine ones) don't have aisles at all and the couple walk in together (though the officiator could be a father) and some of our Protestant Bettys recall their pastors doing both honors.  Do we have any other experiences?
Love and Lardy cakes,
Betty Keira

Benedict van Vinke (37, RDD) is doing a solid for his friend James.  He's standing up as best man at James wedding to Nancy Trent.  Little did he realize that Fate, in the form of a red-headed stunner, would come walking down the aisle towards himself.  Fate - or rather, Prudence Trent - doesn't really notice him at first, she's busy looking at her fiancee Tony the Architect.  Tony is a looker, but he's also a pompous windbag .  Why Prudence has stuck with him for nearly FOUR YEARS is a mystery on par with crop circles or why artificial banana flavor Laffy Taffys are the best. 
Prudence (27) has a lively sense of humor, but she's stuck herself with Tony...a man who refused to be a wedding usher because it was Beneath His Diginity. He has plans to go off to America for a few months without her.  If there was a soundtrack of their relationship, it would be playing a funeral march in honour of the doom-ed-ness of the chance of Prudence and Tony tying the knot (yes, it's another lame-o fiancee named Tony).  Of particular concern to Prudence is the fact that she doesn't seem to even like Tony any more, let alone love him. The excitement of marrying Tony had fizzled like a kettle going off the boil. Something must be done. What does she do?  Chats up the best man.  He looks like someone who might be fun to know.  This does stir the pot a bit...Tony reproves Prudence - on the grounds of 'what will other people think?'  Oh no he didn't...yes, it's not that he's jealous, it's just that Appearances Must Be Preserved.  Prudence fetches up against the interesting Dutchman again and asks him how he would treat a fiancee.  Not like Tony has, that's for darn sure.
Tony just can't seem to help himself.  He tells Prudence to Stay Away From That Man, because he doesn't like him, besides, The Man is a foreigner.  That's torn it. Prudence has had her eyes opened.  How could she have allowed herself be dictated to for nearly four years by such a toad? Prudence goes into a slow burn which bursts into flame at his careless "Tired, old girl?".  Editor's Note: While no spring chicken myself, if Dr. van der Stevejinck tried that one out on me, he'd be making up the couch for the night.  Prudence decides that she doesn't want to get married.  The long engagement to Tony has soured her on the idea. But she bides her time.  She spends every free moment brushing up on her shorthand and typing and conning the adverts in the Telegraph. Her idea is to get a job - to counter any arguments Tony might have about breaking the engagement.
James and Nancy return from their romantic Scottish Honeymoon and plan a little 'drinks party' at their London home.  Prudence is invited to spend a couple of days with the newlyweds...(Nancy gets free help in the kitchen - she knows older sister Prudence can cook). Benedict stops by the party and stays on for dinner afterwards.  In the grand tradition of Younger Sisters in Neeldom, Nancy blurts out Prudence's plans...plans to break up with Tony and get a job. Cue the phone. Tony is on his way over. James tells her she can tell Tony - but she panics a bit - she hadn't planned to say anything until she had a job.  No problem, Benedict offers her one on the spot.  Considering the fact that he's just created a job out of thin air, he does a credible job of selling it. He needs a general factotum, type-er of English correspondence, arrange-er of flowers and caretaker of his six-year old daughter Sibella. A Girl Friday or a Universal Aunt.
She doesn't quite throw her engagement ring at Tony, but she does break up with him in front of James, Nancy AND Benedict.  And then hides out in the kitchen until he's gone.
The next sixty-ish pages tell the story of Prudence, The Working Girl.  Benedict is generous with salary, but he does expect (and gets) value for money. Prudence, Benedict and Sibella all get along great - for the most part.  The occasional harsh words are quickly apologized for...Prudence is really very happy.  She even quite likes Benedict's best buddy, Everard Herrisma.  Benedict is quick to notice how well they get along, and though suffering slightly from the pangs of jealousy, encourages their friendship.  Whether it's jealousy or impatience prompting him we'll never know, but whatever the reason, Benedict proposes a Marriage of Convenience.  It's quite a casual proposal, but it does get Prudence thinking.  She's thinking she'd make a better mother for Sibella than Myra. Did I forget to mention Myra? As far as evil villianesses go, she's not all that menacing...but she serves her purpose as a plot filler. She's a tall curvy blonde who's been after Benedict since his late wife died.  Were she to become the next Mevrouw van Vinke, Sibella would be given a strict nanny and kept out of the way as much as possible. 
Benedict does get around to a more formal proposal...I am no longer young, and you're old enough to regard marriage as something more than swanning off into the sunset...he also promises that if Prudence consents to be his wife, she's the only woman he will date.  Well, golly, you can't ask for fairer than that.  She can give her answer in the morning.
Benedict is darling at breakfast - he sends Sibella upstairs to fetch something so that he can have a minute alone with a sleep deprived Prudence and get her answer ASAP. She's a little peevish about how smug he looks - but he assures her that his good nights sleep was because he didn't have to think about it - his mind was made up.  Sibella is delighted that Prudence will be her mama. Prudence is pleasantly elated about the engagement, but not quite as thrilled to be told that she now has to return home.  It was fine to live under Benedict's roof when she was an employee, but now that they're getting married it won't be appropriate.  Not to worry, it's only for a few days, after all, Prudence's father is a vicar and knows all about Special Licenses and stuff. 
After a celebratory dinner with his godmother, Benedict sends Prudence off to bed...she ran upstairs holding back disappointment.  Even friends kissed occasionally. He overtakes her on the stairs...It would be a thundering lie if I told you I was quite out of the habit of kissing girls, but I still have to get into the delightful habit of kissing you, Prudence.
Off to Little Amwell with just enough time to put together a wedding outfit. Any qualms Prudence might have felt on the morning of the wedding are kissed into next week by Benedict. A very satisfying snog followed by a sweet little wedding - which takes place in the very place they met.
Back to Appeldoorn, Prudence is upgraded to the Big Bedroom. She and Benedict get along swimmingly - both quite happy...although Prudence doesn't know yet why she's so happy and contented.  Leave that to an inconvenient visit from Myra - who stops by to offer felicitations and innuendos.  Oh! As soon as Benedict gets home she realizes that...*gasp*...she loves her husband! Now that we've got that out of the way, it's time for some angst.  Some murky waters. Some jealousy.
Benedict starts reading signs wrong.  He comes home a little early one day and finds his wife chatting away quite cheerfully with his friend Everard. Benedict is quietly angry. That doesn't stop the two of them from accepting an invite to dinner as Casa Herrisma - wherein Prudence is enlightened by Everard as to his sad history of romance.

Everard's Tale
I have only been tempted to marry twice. The first time I was quite young - just qualified and full of dreams. Joanne Winkeler had green eyes and glorious red hair...and a temper to match!  She married someone else and went abroad to live. Since Facebook hasn't been invented yet, I have no idea where she is now. The second time I was tempted to marry was when I met you, Prudence.  You remind me of Joanne - gosh, I hope that didn't come out creepy - it's meant to be a compliment. The end.
Or is it? Well, it's the end of the dinner party - Benedict has come upon the two of them chatting and decrees that it's time to go a not so very nice voice. Poor Benedict.  He's married to the woman he loves, but now he's thinking that she might fancy his friend.  Ouch.
Prudence and Sibella have a day out without Benedict - he had 'something to do'.  Whatever the something was, it must have involved Myra - because Prudence spots her husband driving Myra around.  She waits up that evening to rake him over the coals and then to cry herself to sleep. Poor Prudence.
Let's wrap stuff up.
Prudence runs into a green-eyed redhead!  It turns out to be the long-lost, now widowed, Joanne Winkeler.  Joanne still has a thing for Everard (her marriage was A Mistake), Everard still has a thing for Joanne...all they need is Prudence to bring them together.  Unfortunately when Prudence calls Everard at the hospital, Benedict overhears half of the conversation.  'Prudence, you mean that? Where are we to meet? At your house? I can hardly wait. Don't tell anyone yet.' Poor Benedict assumes the worst.
And now for...
The Party of Partial Resolution
Everard and Joanne get together, much to Benedict's relief.  Myra gatecrashes, much to Prudence's dismay - Pru assumes that Benedict must have invited her. Benedict straightens her out about that, but Prudence is pretty grumpy that he had assumed she was stepping out on him with Everard. Muddle, muddle, muddle.

Betty Debbie heartily endorses kissing in a castle

The family van Vinke head off to England.  Benedict has a lecture tour, Prudence will accompany him and Sibella will stay with Nancy and James.  The next few days are spent traveling about the country and staying with the kind of people who think nothing of newlyweds needing two bedrooms.  When the last lecture is over Benedict takes a side trip to Warwick Castle where the two of them straighten out their tangled webs and declare their love...and indulge in some not quite private snogging. The End.

Rating: One of the best first chapters in the canon.  I loved it! Prudence was adorable, Benedict was adorable, even Sibella was adorable.  I loved the little side story involving Everard and Joanne. Sister Nancy and husband James are adorable - we get to start with their wedding, the reception, honeymoon in Scotland, home in London, and end with their willingness to take Sibella for a week. Benedict is one of the best dads in Neeldom - he willingly spends time playing with his daughter and taking her places...he is suitably enthusiastic about the garish monogram pen she buys him...that's the true sign of a good dad.  He's the sort that will wear tacky Father's Day ties and proudly display children's artwork in his office. Queen of Puddings! 
Fashion: Blue maid-of-honour dress, mum wears a Mother-of-the-Bride hat, Prudence travels in her Jaeger suit, her wedding dress is a smoky grey dress with a matching quilted jacket and a little hat with ribbons hanging down the back. Benedict wears a dark grey suit with a silk shirt and Gucci tie. Prudence rips into Benedict while wearing a blue dressing gown.  For her first dinner party she wears a lilac crepe with a demure neckline and a cleverly cut skirt.  She wows the lecture circuit with a misty grey silk that is both demure and expensive.
Food: vol-au-vents, little cream cakes, sausage rolls, lobster patties twice, lobster soup, duckling in brandy sauce, Sibella likes aubergines, spiced chicken with apricots, ravioli (!) "Buttered toast!" he exclaimed. Bitter balls, celery sticks with cream cheese, tiny savory puffs, cheese straws.


  1. I just read this last month for the very first time, and I adored it. One of my new favorites!

  2. No one remembers lemon Laffy Taffy. It was the best artificially lemon flavored substance ever. I lived on lemon Laffy Taffy, beef jerky, and Mr. Pibb whenever I could get away with it back in '75. Good times.

    B von S

    1. I remember Laffy Taffy. It was even better then the very yummy artificially grape flavored substance.

      Just read this book.....have given up on always finding the hard copy and thanks to the miracle of the e-book can now read the Book of the Week in time for the review. Agree with Betty Beth and Betty Keira -- great book! If there had been a touch less unnecessary and slightly incredible muddling, this would have been worth lashings upon lashings of whipped cream.