Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Hilltop Tryst--Reprise

Dear Bettys,
If I may steal from my original discussion thread:
 When Beatrice has to pack in a hurry to leave Great-Aunt Sybil's,  she throws her odds and ends into plastic bags...'A plastic bag!" exclaimed Great-Aunt Sybil. 'Must you, Beatrice? In my day, no young lady carried such a thing - why have you no luggage?'...I shall give you suitable luggage for your birthday".
I send the little pledges off to overnight with Grandma van Voorhees toting their belongings in plastic bags.  I can see that it pains her--offends her ideas of a lovely childhood memory-to-be.  But, in fairness, the 4th little pledge will probably have need of a plastic, semi-fluid-retentive bag when be totes his belongings back to Mother.  
Love and lardy cakes,
Betty Keira

I remembered really not liking Hilltop Tryst...it was among one of the last Betty Neels I read.  I couldn't remember what exactly bothered me about it, so I approached it with some trepidation last week. Thankfully, it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought.

Beatrice got to the hilltop a little too
early on Midsummer's morning.
Beatrice Browning (26 going on 27) and Oliver Latimer (35 - ish) meet on the morning of Midsummer's Day. It's love at first sight for him...like at first sight for her. She's a tall gorgeous glass of water - looking for a tiny bit of excitement...which she doesn't see in the placid Dr. Latimer.

Beatrice's life is anything but exciting. Instead of training to be a veterinarian like her father, she is his assistant. Lots of on-the-job training, but no room for advancement either. Her lack of career leaves her open and available to take on such mundane jobs such as 'Acting Companion' to Great-Aunt Sybil - who she is not fond of (the feeling is mutual). Great-Auntie should probably have been set adrift on a convenient iceberg years ago, but failing that, she spends her time bad-mouthing her family and medical professionals. After a visit to a noted cardiologist in London (that would be our boy Oliver), a suitable companion is found. Or rather, a suitable companion is sent. Oliver just so happened to know someone.

Papa Browning, the village veterinarian, has a heart attack. It's sure a handy and convenient thing that Oliver is a cardiologist. Oliver suggests to Beatrice that she hire a locum. It's really a shame that he doesn't know a handy vet who happens to be at loose ends for a few weeks, because, well, you'll see.

The agency sends a man. I suppose we must call him a man, although he is more closely related to the reptile kingdom.  Think of a snake with opposable thumbs.

Colin Wood, he of the showy yellow sports car with lots of luggage, several tennis rackets and a set of golf clubs.
Colin Wood, young and exciting. Danger, danger, danger...(I'm saying this with a fake Australian accent).
Colin Wood, sniffing around the veterinary practice account books.
Colin Wood, plotter of mercenary marriage to the unsuspecting Beatrice...until she overhears the Phone Conversation O' Doom wherein he outs his true mercenary motive for chatting up Beatrice.
Colin Wood, stalker extraordinaire.

Papa Browning takes on a new partner. NOT Colin. Colin stays on in the village - much more handy for his new hobby - stalking Beatrice.  It gets so bad that Beatrice can barely stick her nose out the door. What's a girl to do? Oliver suggests a pretend engagement! Beatrice demurs - what will his fiancee think? What fiancee, you ask? Yup, there isn't one, it's that hoary old plot device wherein the hero states he plans to marry soon...zzzz.

Colin practically attacks Beatrice in the middle of the village - Beatrice is saved by Oliver - whom she calls her 'fiancee'. Oliver assures Colin that the announcement will be in the Telegraph the very next day. Which it is.

Oliver invites Beatrice to go on a two-week lecture tour with him (and his assistant, the delightful Miss Ethel Cross).
Colin has taken to writing impassioned letters to Beatrice. Beatrice is so over him by this time - the letters don't even mean anything to her.

Lecture Tour O' Liking or Great Hotels of Europe. Two weeks at the finest hotels in Utrecht, Cologne, Copenhagen and Brussels...Just as Oliver drives away from dropping her back at her house - finally, finally! Beatrice realizes she's in love - but since she has endowed Oliver with an imaginary fiancee, there's nothing she can do about it.

Chasing burglars was just a way to let off
a little excess steam, after all, she couldn't
bring herself to chase Oliver.
Great-Aunt Sybil's suitable companion has to take a week off for a family emergency. Beatrice is press-ganged into being an acting companion again. A day or two before she's due to go home, she wakes up and finds a robber stealing the silver...Beatrice chases him down in her dressing gown - Oliver providentially drives by and knocks him down for her (I'd wager Beatrice could have done it herself, after all, she was gaining on him). Great-Aunt Sybil is deeply mortified that Beatrice stooped to running around in public in a state of 'undress'. Oliver doesn't want to hear anyone give his fake fiancee a bad time, so he hustles her back to the family home.

If she wasn't already in love, two weeks of forced Oliver Drought would have certainly make her heart grow fonder...as it is, she's in such a muddle about her feelings for him, the faux engagement, his imaginary fiancee and life in general that she scampers into hiding the next time she hears the gentle purr of his Rolls. Two can play the sneaky game...Oliver pops up unexpectedly and asks her why she hid. Em-bar-ass-ing, much?

Sorry Colin, the better man is going to win this time.
The Return of Colin. Like yesterday's split pea soup, Colin won't stop repeating. He's also stepped up the stalking to include cornering her in her own house and accusing her of having a fake engagement (true) AND being in love with Oliver (true)...and then telling her that when she marries him, he expects a partnership, a good salary AND a decent house. Oliver rides in on his white charger and routs the reptile once and for all.
Time to wrap it up:
  • Visit to Aunt Polly in Cornwall (a whole 3 pages worth).
  • Kissing on the street.
  • Takes her home...thorough kissing in front of the whole family. Muddled thoughts for Beatrice.
  • Proposal on the hilltop where they met. 'I promised myself when we met that one day I would ask you to marry me on this very spot...'
The End.

Miss Ethel always wore her little black
number when she received her employee
of the month award.
Rating:  I'm pretty sure the reason I didn't like Hilltop Tryst before had to do with how monumentally thick Beatrice seemed.  She meets a great guy, then falls for a weasel, then has to get over the weasel, THEN falls for the great guy. Ugh. On closer reading I'm willing to cut her a little bit of slack.  Yes, she's still pretty (very) thick, but she'd been fending off the feeble advances of the local doctor's son for years  - I get the impression she wants a little more zip in her love life, and her first impression of Oliver is that he's pretty un-zippy. Along comes Colin - he's a flash in the pan, but a charmer - in the smarmy, insincere kind of way.  Beatrice is side-swiped by his flattery, and nearly falls for it.  It takes her longer than I felt was strictly necessary for her to get over Colin - especially when he shows his true colours so boldly (and badly). I do love a few of the bit players - Great-Aunt Sybil is fabulously awful (but we've seen her type before), little sister Ella is fun (but we've seen...etc...). Miss Ethel Cross is one of my favorite characters, but considering her limited word count, that doesn't speak too well of the book. All things considered, I found this book both better and worse than I remembered.  Better, in that I understood Beatrice a little more, and worse, in that it takes quite a while for not much to happen. Madiera Cake for me...
Fashion: My favorite outfit, by far, is the 'little black number' worn by Ethel Cross. Beatrice wears a pale rose wild silk bridesmaid dress to her sister's wedding while Oliver is 'wearing his morning coat as if he was in the habit of doing so frequently...it was certainly not hired from Moss Bros.' Blue linen dress and little jacket, pale pink cotton dress with a demur collar, dark blue one piece swimsuit.
Food: Bacon, eggs and mushrooms for breakfast, ham on the bone and potatoes in their jackets, pork pies, duchesse potatoes, strawberry tart, lettuce soup (???), grilled sole, fresh fruit, peach tart, brioche.


  1. Hilltop Tryst — I always think (erroneously as TGB would say) this is the one where the heroine meets the hero on top of the hill on her birthday and he is sitting on her rock.
    Betty Anonymous

  2. You should be sending the children off with a shared steamer trunk. Think how charming!

    I think Beatrice isn't nearly so thick as Colin. One of The One True Betty's many completely unconvincing characters. To whom could he have been boasting on the Phone Call O' Doom? It makes no sense. Plus, he practically excoriates the charming, smart, malleable, lovely and rich-ish woman he thinks he's about to marry, when he must know he could easily have gotten stuck with a whiny, unattractive, dim, stubborn and rich-ish woman. Any normal fortune hunter would be thanking his guardian angel.

    His stalking is just hopelessly unbelievable. Stalkers exist, certainly, but they are psychotic. Colin is rational, and no one trying to marry money makes a pest of himself when the target is in a pissy mood.

    Everyone else in the book holds up far better to scrutiny, though. I, too, love Miss Ethel Cross and wish we saw more of her. Imagine her interacting with G.A. Sybil...

    Best thing about this book, though, is the review. The caption under the fairy picture caused me to guffaw in the public library. For shame!

  3. Wonderful review, as usual, although I would rank this book higher at a "boeuf en croute". I enjoyed it very much, especially the chapters that were set in England, as the hero had multiple opportunities to save the heroine from various difficult situations (Her aunt! Her father's coronary! Her smarmy suitor!). Oliver is the best of the RBDs that I've come across in the books (generally I prefer the RDDs) - he was consistently caring and nice to Beatrice, not sarcastic, rude, indifferent or unpleasant like some other Neels heroes. Even when he discovered that she had fallen for Colin, he continued to be a true friend to her. There were some refreshing twists such as the Engagement Of Convenience instead of the usual MOC plot device and instead of a Veronica character, there is Colin playing the villain role.

  4. Hilltop Tryst – the Test

    Think you know all the answers? You may yet be surprised...

    Check the box next to your answer (right mouse click, open in new tab) and see if your answer is correct.

    Great-Aunt Sybil lives in

    Great-Aunt Sybil suffers from
    a weak heart

    Which of Beatrice’s sisters is still of school age?

    One of her sisters works at a
    nursery school
    stockbroker’s office
    solicitor’s office

    Who is Beatrice’s follower?

    1. Betty Barbara here--
      Not even taking your quiz--because I would flunk--big time!

  5. Mere weeks after a life threatening coronary we see Mr Browning happily smoking a

    On Midsummer's Day, Beatrice and Oliver meet for the very first time
    at the foot of the hill
    half-way up the hill
    at the top of the hill.

  6. Is it open book? I could pass then. Been awhile since I've read this. ;)

    Betty AnoninTX

    1. Don't worry, it's not about passing, it's not about knowing, it's just about guessing. You'll see right away if your answer is correct, and if it isn't then you just try the next button = check box/tick box.

  7. Aw, come on, Betty Barbara, just for the fun of it. There is one surprise answer in there(maybe one and a half). Won't you try it please? Pretty please?

    1. Betty Barbara here--okay, okay, I'll play...

      As expected, I got only half of them right on the first guess.
      But I will admit that your little quiz was very cleverly done!

    2. Wow! I was very surprised by the surprise answer. I had thought it was an easy question until I tried it!

  8. Oh, Betty van den Betsy, are you home again? I think I see you along with Betty AnoninTX and maybe Betty Caroline (it says Austin) on the globe.

  9. Josthof

    Hotel on the heath, red brick and thatched... Betty‘s Romantik hotel in Salzhausen.

    It was raining as they left Cologne, but by the time they reached Hanover the sun was shining again and they stopped at a wayside café for coffee. They didn't linger over it, and by one o'clock they were crossing the heath to stop before the hotel. It was of red brick and thatched, and once inside they were transported into the sixteenth century. Not that it lacked a single modern luxury, skilfully tucked away behind the old and beautiful furniture and the ancient walls. Beatrice rotated [...]

    'Why is this a Romantik hotel?' she asked. 'A chain of hotels throughout Europe, all living up to a certain standard. Candles on the tables, good food, comfortable rooms and so on, so that those with romantic intentions can indulge them.' 'Oh ...

    Pictures on an old web page from when it was still a Romantik hotel.

    The hotel today: Hotel & Restaurant Josthof
    (Sorry, the page is in German. They have added a Landhaus (lit. country house) to their hotel, red tiles.)

    Pronunciation (courtesy of Betty A’s mom): YOHST-hohf

    Because, guess what. We were talking about Romantik hotels and I mentioned the one in Salzhausen – Betty A’s parents have been to the restaurant! About thirty years ago, for dinner. Unfortunately, the restaurant was crowded (brechend volllit. breaking full) and it was not gemütlich (cosy, comfortable). It’s a small world.

  10. The 71 Nyhavn Hotel in Copenhagen is no longer a member of the chain of Romantik hotels either.

    Red Pen Alert

    'Myhavn 71,' he told her, 'another Romantik hotel, and a good deal quieter than the Royal
    or the d‘ Angleterre.' It was charming none the less, and had a quiet air of luxury borne out by the rooms into which they were shown.

  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Betty Debbie, could you please remove this?
      Betty Anonymous