Are we ready for this? That isn't a rhetorical question. I'm not at all sure I'm ready for this! Below, we have the four novels that made it (clawing through a thicket of novels) to the semi-finals, winning their own brackets.
As the young Hollywood ingenue might say, "It was an honor even to be nominated." (But she says so with her enameled teeth tightly clenched, vowing to take the crown next year (but not if it means working with that handsy art-house director.))
Below, we introduce each of the books (Thanks to the Betties who volunteered to speak on behalf of each title!) and at the end of the post, I've given the match-ups. So, just to make it clear, there will be four books in two match-ups, meaning we will have TWO books that make it into the next round. Best of luck, Bettties!
Representing The Barfing on His Brogues Bracket:
Arabella is a resourceful girl with a plunger.
Be a pity for it to whack you in the kneecaps.
Oh, Dearest Love! Betty at the height of her later years! It is the book that famously begins with a letter, and ends with a letter. And what letters! Betty gives us beautiful word portraits in these letters. First we have Arabella, writing to apply for a job. From her letter we learn that she is polite, ladylike, accomplished, and matter of fact. Then we have the letter at the end of the book. And we see the passion beneath the aloof veneer Titus has been showing us (and Arabella) throughout the book. Anybody who wonders about the warmth of the marriages of Betty's characters only has to read that letter to know Betty's men are definitely not monks! And so many quotable quotes from this book. "I can only hope that one day before it's too late you will meet a woman who will turn you sides to middle and then tramp all over you". "He's what one would call a magnificent figure of a man...and also a very rude one!" And the immortal "I should like a plunger sir." And those are just from the first few pages of this delightful book. Dearest Love is not my favorite Betty. It isn't the Betty that made me realize I'd stumbled upon a great author. But it was the first Betty I began to go to again and again when I want to spend some time with the lovely people of Betty's world.
Representing The Handful of A Levels Bracket:
A Gentle Awakening
That scene! Best scene in all of Bettydom: “Cool off, Miss Fortesque.” Florina, who hadn’t realized that she could feel so royally angry, picked up the jug of lemonade on the table by Wanda’s chair, and poured it slowly over the top of her head. Reading this book again after a long time, it came to me. Satisfying. This is classic Betty on steroids. Florina is an Araminta, plain with sandy/ginger hair, BUT she is a Cordon Bleu chef. She has no false modesty about her cooking. She is an excellent cook and knows she could get a job anywhere. She has the classic awful parent, but this is no die-away voiced mother. No, this is a verbally abusive father and Florina makes no bones about the fact that she feels a duty towards him, but does not love him. He doesn’t deserve it. Once the doctor says her father is healthy enough to do for himself, Florina is gone. Sir William Sedley is the classic Betty doctor with a daughter from his first marriage, but he is not bitter and heartbroken. His daughter is delightful and loves Florina from the beginning. This is a man and a daughter Florina can fall in love with right away, and she does. Satisfying. Of course, this is a Betty, so we need a Veronica. Miss Wanda Fortescue, Sir William’s fiancée. But this is no languid, vague Diana from Judith. No, Wanda is VICIOUS. She comes out with guns blazing from the first time she meets Florina. Does Florina back down? No way. She turns on her mixer and spatters the front of Wanda’s dress with oily salad dressing. She doesn’t just think about doing it, she does it. Satisfying. Florina is an outlier in Betty’s world. She is English, but had a Dutch mother. When Sir William takes her to Holland, it is HER family she visits. She speaks Dutch fluently. Satisfying. Felix, the equivalent of the handsy houseman in this book, is given short shrift by Florina. She doesn’t fall for his smarmy manner as so many other Aramintas do. Satisfying. Then, of course, there is THE SCENE. I had forgotten that Wanda actually slapped Florina and that was the catalyst for the infamous lemonade pour. Nanny and Jolly heard and saw everything. They have Florina’s back, but she doesn’t need their support. Sir William asks her what happened and she won’t say, but he doesn’t make her apologize as we’ve seen in other Betty novels. He knows Wanda must have had it coming and he lets it go (while his daughter howls with laughter in the next room) Satisfying. Finally, the ending. Sir William doesn’t just find a millionaire to take Wanda, he pulls a “Parent Trap” on her. “He had, for his own purposes, taken her for a walk that afternoon; a long walk along bridle paths and over fields of rough grass… climbing any number of gates. Wanda, her tights laddered, stung by nettles and unsuitably shod in high heels, almost spat at him…” So, so satisfying. Having tied up all the loose ends, he goes to get her and tells her he loves her while driving in the fast lane. Back home to beautiful Wheel House with plenty of kisses. Satisfying.
Representing The Hocked Locket Bracket:
Henrietta's Own Castle
Marnix isn't here to insult you with offers of his undying love and a garnet necklace.
Surely the garnet necklace will be enough for your vote.
It is interesting to me that I love Henrietta’s Castle so much, because in some ways it has features I hate – our heroine and her RDD spend a fair amount of time being rude to each other, the Veronica is an implausible youngster, etc, but it also has some absolutely wonderful aspects that far, far outweigh the bad ones. In chronological order, they are: - The premise. Who hasn’t ever wished some unknown relative (since we wouldn’t want our known ones to die off) would leave them a house in a foreign county, with enough money to go on for a little while? I absolutely love the descriptions of her packing up in Charlie, her decrepit Mini, and leaving everything she knows to move, and then exploring her new home. - He brings her a kitten. And she puts the kitten in her tea cosy. - While they are both snippy or rude some of the time, there are also several cozy scenes of them talking and getting to know each other pleasantly. I never quite believe the books where they fight until the absolute last page. - A sufficient amount of drama – the plane crash! And the horse giving birth in a field in the snow! - The ending where he climbs the wall of her garden “with the agility of a much younger man” because she had told him she would never open her door to him. This scene is one of my favorites in the entire cannon. - And, best of all, a satisfyingly long ending where they both explain their confusions and their love. Too many Betties get wrapped up in a single paragraph, and this one gives you all you could want.
Representing The Imperiled Poppets Bracket:
The Promise of Happiness
Bertie and Pooch aren't going to tell you how to vote, okay?
Bertie and Pooch are just going to drip all over your Bentley and
look mournful until you do what you know you should have done all along.
Why The Promise of Happiness Deserves to be Crowned “The Best Betty Book” 1. You run away at 4AM in the pouring rain with £30.06 to save your dog and cat from being put down by your step-brother. 2. You’re rescued by a handsome Baron in a Rolls. But later you hear him tell his nice sister that you aren’t his cup of tea. 3. He gives you a job, helps you find a place to live and dives into a nasty canal to free your wire-entangled dog who ran away in a storm. 4. He invites you to dinner, but you truly have nothing to wear, so he pretends that he really meant a picnic and gives his housekeeper 15 minutes to get it ready. 5. He drinks a sweet Moselle that he detests because he knows you’ll like it. 6. When you remind him of the “not my cup of tea” insult, he turns it around with “but you’re my glass of champagne.” 7. He drags Veronica to a dreary chamber music concert just to stare at the back of your head whilst you’re on a date with a houseman (not the Handsy type). 8. Then he offers you and your date a ride home with him and Veronica. He cleverly maneuvers so he ends up alone with you. Takes you to eat pancakes. Kisses you and says “goodnight, my pretty little mouse.” 9. Rescues you from Basil again, this time in London. Gives you tea, holds your hand and refuses to give it back. Says: “"I've been wanting to hold your hand for a long time, and now that I have it, I don't intend to let it go." 10. When you remind him that you have yet been asked to marry him, he says "dare to say no," and kisses you.
Now, that your mind is spinning with possibilities, here are the voting match-ups:
Dearest Love vs.
A Gentle Awakening
Henrietta's Own Castle vs.
The Promise of Happiness