Monday, October 30, 2017

Chronological Discussion of Betty

We're starting something new over on the Facebook page. I'll be posting our old TUJD reviews in the order The Great Betty published them and we'll be reading along and commenting on previously dead-ish comment threads. Readers who prefer to stay on the blog have the new feature (see right) of an updated comment log. I'd prefer not to repost the reviews fresh since they are easy to get at on the "Book Reviews" tab and I've found that it can complicate our search function. But the updated comments widget means that you can follow the comments wherever they are being made on our site.
If we are very careful,
we can all have fun and no one will get hurt.

(Giphy)
Let's get going, shall we? Here are the books up for discussion this month:

October 30: Sister Peters in Amsterdam

November 5: Amazon in an Apron, A Match for Sister Maggy, Nurse in Holland

November 12Blow Hot, Blow Cold aka Surgeon from Holland/Visiting
Surgeon/Visiting Consultant

November 19: Tempestuous April, Nurse Harriet Goes to Holland

November 26: Damsel in Green

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Time and the Place (1958)

I'll tell you what. I'm getting worried about my rating system. We're on book three and I love them all and what are we going to do?!

(link)


Catherine Gordon, 23, is having the devil of a time managing her dog, Plot Contrivance. They're on a ramble way up in the hills above Christchurch and Plot Contrivance knocks Cathy backwards, down an embankment and into oncoming traffic. "Screech!" goes several tons of automotive engineering, stopping just short of turning her three dimensions into two.

The driver hustles around the hood, bawls her out and then stuffs her and Plot Contrivance (who we never see again for the whole rest of the book) into his car. Safety first. Then he drives her to a handy layby...
Not that handy
(Giphy)
...where he shows himself a dab hand at pulling slivers from knees. It's almost like it's in his line of work. They adjourn to a local eatery (as you do after a shattering near-death experience) where he makes few personal disclosures and she tells him everything. Topics include, but are not limited to:
  • Her professional anxieties. (She's the Rector's secretary at St. Enoch's--a boarding school for boys--and they're getting a new one on Monday. "It's a pity this man isn't married.")
  • That she has been the guardian of Beth, her 7 year-old niece, for four years. 
  • The dented setting on her brand new engagement ring (That's called foreshadowing, kids.)
  • Her age, which is twenty-three and super legal, despite looking, with her dark pixie hair and her petite frame, seventeen.
What they hadn't gotten around to was names which is a bit unfortunate since A) He is Hugh Alexander Murdoch (35), new Rector to St. Enoch's and B) He has fallen head over sensible Oxfords for his pert new secretary. She does not take his willingness to mine her for information about his new position well.

But maybe it won't be so bad. She generally approves his enthusiasm for St. Enoch's, her One True Love, and stoutly defends his innovations to Kenneth Batridge--fiance, geography teacher, Sports Master, and mopiest Blindside flanker who ever rucked a scrum*.

(*You don't actually ruck a scrum but I found the verb "forming" a scrum to be too civilized for what it looks like.)

Kenneth was a former All Black.
Even I, who know nothing of these things,
know what a big deal this would be to every boarder at St. Enoch's.
(Giphy)

When Hugh finds out that Kate (He calls her Kate which would be cute if I could ever manage to get Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes out of my head.) is to marry Ken, he is scornful. She had big ideas, she'd told him, and Ken Batridge, despite the thickness of his neck, is a little man.

Kate's problems with Ken extend far beyond his antagonism for the new Rector and his insistence for rugby over soccer. She also wonders if Ken doesn't want to make a home for little Beth, her actual adopted daughter(!), after the wedding. That suspicion came in the form of his mother, sneaking up like an alleyway tough and clubbing Kate over the head. It's unfair to Ken, she whinges, to begin married life so encumbered. Maybe Kate should send her daughter (!) to an orphanage. Worse, Ken admits he asked his mother to broach the subject. I guess his career blocking 250 pound rugby athletes made him fit only for hiding behind his mother's apron.

The contrast between Churlish Ken and Headmaster Hugh is brought into high contrast when Beth goes missing. Ken, probably hoping that a long fall off a tall cliff will solve the little problem of Who Will Pay for Beth's Eventual School Fees, doesn't even give his fiancee a ride home. Hottie Hugh? He rounds up the entire Sixth Form and organizes a search party without being asked. Sure, finding Beth had fallen asleep in an upstairs closet and having to call off the search is the Parenting Walk of Shame, but, at least "sir" understood.

Hugh is invited to take dinner with them and, as her boss sits comfortably by the fire he says, "Kate, I'm writing a book." (He just says it like being a first-time author is his superpower, with none of that insecurity that mere mortals have.) The name is dreadful--"Salute to Kate" (about Henry VIII's last wife, Catherine Parr)--and I can't get behind it at all. But as a gambit to spend more time, off-hours, with his secretary and speak words of Renaissance Romantical-ness, it's genius. Kate agrees to be his late-night typist (not a euphemism).

It is time now, to admit that she is in love with High-minded Hugh. He cares deeply about his charges, is kind to little girls and only canes the boys who really deserve it. (Yes. He is a mid-century boarding school headmaster. Though no one is actually caned in the book, caning is in his job description.)

The sign on the Headmaster's office door
raised everyone's spirits.

There's only one thing to be done. She dashes off a letter to Ken ("Dear Ken, When I accepted your proposal of marriage, I didn't know it meant I would be expected to drop my daughter off at the nearest fire station. The black emptiness of your soul gives me vertigo. Etc., etc. Never again yours, Cathy.") but decides to hold onto it until after she, Hugh and Ken travel, by ferry to a teaching conference in Wellington.

As she is wandering about the evening boat deck with Hugh, bravely keeping her hands to herself, there is an amorous clinch. Oh no. I see what you thought. How awkward. No. It's Ken's voice, desperate with longing, pledging eternal love to an unknown blonde and promising to break it off with Kate just as soon as he can. I'd bet that if the unknown blonde has a six or seven children, he will raise them all under the auspices of his compliant mother...that is the degree to which he has forgotten himself.

For her part, Kate is irritated and feeling enormously justified for wanting to kick him and his Conventional Diamonds (With Complimentary Dented Setting) to the curb. But Hugh is consoling and chivalrous. In the space of moments, he hatches a plot to have it look like it was Kate and himself carrying on in the moonlight. They'll meet the others and faces will be saved.

Sure, she agrees. Honestly, it's hard to think with Mr. Murdoch's arm around her shoulders. I mean, she could squeeze out a few tears for Caddish Ken if Hugh would hold her tighter...What? Oh yes. Let's go surprise the finks.

The finks aren't the only ones who get a surprise. The Unknown Blonde is none other than Della Penvyre. (That name is delicious. As delicious as the woodland creatures she sucks the blood of in the light of a full moon.) She and Hugh go back. Way back.

Ken is dropped, almost as unceremoniously as a hot potato, but Della gets no traction. Hugh is devoted to making Kate look like the object of his interest and does so for the rest of the conference. "I can't think why you should help me," she says and it is all he can do not to choke out, "I LOVE YOU. It's because I love love love you."

Kate makes a final break with Ken...

"Ken, you put the GAG in engagement."
(Giphy)
...and they all return to St. Enoch's older and wiser. Any sensible pair of would-be lovers would settle down to a little light wooing. (Just enough to be a human resources nightmare.) But Kate hears that Mr. Symonds (Della's step-father and former mentor to Hugh) will be taking a teaching position with St. Enoch's and the Widow Penvyre will be making a home with her parents.

Della wafts into the atmosphere of the boarding school like a cloud of poisonous gas. Her first order of business is to send Ken around to Kate's house to stir the cold ashes of their love. (Can't have Hugh's beguiling secretary unattached now, can we?) But when Kate tells him he's as welcome as a measles rash, he kisses her knowing full well the Rector, walking up the garden path for a typing session (not a euphemism), can see him do it. Cretinous Ken is the worst.

But what about Hugh? Is he jumping to Della's tune like a puppet on a string? Kate can't quite tell. He certainly seems courteous and indulgent with his old flame but Della (who you should imagine is going around to everyone's lawns each night and planting them with forks or salting them or TPing the trees) isn't the one he seems bent on escorting all over the place. Time and again the Rector hijacks Kate into going on dates (the sort of thing he needs a companion to attend) and behaves in a very unrectorish manner with her lips.

The Rector stops here.
(Giphy)
Della treats Kate like the hired help--always. If it's tea with the student's parents, Della is handing dirty dishes to Kate. (--Doubtless, she is schlepping her way to the servery, muttering, "I'll tell you who's a dirty dish.") If Hugh has to host friends over at the Rector's lodgings and asks Kate to make some womanly touches, Della swoops in with floral arrangements so elaborate it looks like Secretariat died.

Still, Kate has those nights with Hugh as they go over his book. The book is good (and thank heavens it is because I am not sure a romance could be properly launched with a manuscript you want to take a red pen to), revealing him to be passionate and eloquent. (I think that the BBC is going to pick it up eventually and do an entire series of the sort they did in the 70s--back when characters moved from one paneled room to the next and when staring out of a mullioned window was code for "I want to Brighton him, but I'm married to the king." The Murdochs are going to be millionaires.)
The series will be remade in 2020,
starring an improbably muscled Henry VIII who
takes his shirt off to scythe some fields. It's a metaphor!

(Giphy)
Kate, bless the sainted shade of Essie Summers, is no idiot and sees Della for what she is. At one point, Kate is invited by Mrs. Symonds to take tea and look at all of Della's scrapbooks. I imagine them FULL of toddler beauty pageant photos because they sure as heck don't have even one picture of Ian Penvyre, deceased spouse of the Widow Penvyre. All of this was a set-up though, to get Della some time with that Pesky Typist! (still not a euphemism)

Della looked chagrined. "I thought that perhaps what had triggered things off was your finding Kenneth in the saloon that night with me, when he'd said he was turning in early. And I've felt so conscience-stricken since."
"Have you?" Catherine knew that her voice was derisive. 

But, when she's alone, Kate wonders and worries.

Meanwhile, the Headmaster discovers trouble among the boys in the form of  "Lurid literature--very lurid--being circulated, and pornographic postcards. Egyptian stuff."

Editorial Note: This episode is going to be viewed differently for different readers. The reference to Egyptian stuff makes me want to know what the heck was going around in the mid 50s. (--but not enough to Google it. Heavens, no.) The world described in this book is no more, on a variety of levels (Specifically, I mean the scope, accessibility and acceptance of porn consumption.), and how you read this bit is going to depend a lot on how fine and not fine you are by these changes. 

Essie, from the mouth of Hugh Murdoch, has a wonderful speech about how he's less worried about the boys who are innocent but have been taught the facts of life along with the wonder of intimacy by loving parents, than he is about the boys who are ignorant of all of it. Yes, says Hugh, there are miles of difference between innocent and ignorant.

He's spilling all of this out to Kate as she sits by his fire. It's late and after locating the source (Seriously, it's tragic to me in 2017 with a whole Internet of Porn that Essie could write about a single source.) and blackening his daylights, he returns to his home to find Kate waiting with a hot dinner for him. A listening ear, warmed slippers, a hot meal...it's all very connubial.

He proposes.

"What an excellent Rector's wife you would make...I can't very well speak words of love to you...you know why..." Drat it. He doesn't finish that thought. What he was going to say was "...because of that Rugby Ball you had yourself engaged to." What she thought he was going to say was "...because I harbor a secret passion for He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's widow." (Poor Ian is NOT Lord Voldemort but the fellow hardly gets any ink at all.)

She accepts under the famous Mills-and-Boone Clause: If the party of the first part hungers for bread, that party is legally authorized to accept a half-loaf of the aforementioned bread from the party of the second part though said gluten-related products will not only fail to satisfy the party of the first part but, forthwith, begin to canker the soft cardiac organ of the party of the first part. The party of the second part is released from any liabilities under this clause.

Hugh lets her know, right away, what sort of marriage she is letting herself in for as they take a House Tour of Love.

Kate: "In fact, I once slept in the guest-room."
Hugh: "Well, that's a room you won't occupy again."

He also reminds her that he can start dictating the more earthy scenes in his book which should make for much nicer typing. (possibly a euphemism)
Hugh wondered if she knew what he meant.
(Giphy)
If she thought she might dip her toe into this whole Engaged For the Second Time in Six Months thing, her ideas are shattered. The next night is the night of the school musical performance and the Headmaster is invited to sing a few numbers in front of all the students, staff and parents. He drops enough hints that there is a romance going on between him and his secretary to turn every neck in the place and then lays down this joint and has everyone sing along, for good measure: A Gordon For Me

A Gordon for me, a Gordon for me, 
If ye're no a Gordon ye're no use to me. 
The Black Watch are braw, the Seaforths and a' 
But the cocky wee Gordon's the pride o' them a'.


The whole auditorium goes wild and, honestly, I was about to rise and sing by the end of it. Della's rage is so incandescent that it's a wonder everyone didn't have to don fall-out goggles.

Soon, Della tells Kate to meet her out by the track.

I have been to Middle School, you guys. No good will ever come of meeting anyone out by the track. Not ever. Never.

Sure enough, Della claims that Hugh couldn't stand the thought of living of Ian's fortune but that he will always be hers. No matter what a Brazen Little Typist has to say about it. Is Kate listening? Or is she wondering how bright a mark grandma's opal ring would leave on Della's cheek?

Kate is becoming super stressed out by bottling up all that love for man who may never even bother drinking that vintage. It all comes to a head when Hugh tries to thank Kate for all that typing (not a euphemism) with a lovely moonstone necklace. She is grumpy because she did it for love and he is grumpy because he really only got the necklace because he can't say, "I love you" out loud. Angry kissing follows which in real life I do not approve of but in my mid-century romances is like the ignition switch on a backyard grill. It's the way things get cooking!

Della comes to say that she and Hugh were L-O-V-E-R-S but Kate laughs in her face. She knows Hugh too well. And maybe it's time to really air out all the difficulties. She decides to pedal her little bike up to the Rector's house and lets herself in. That's when she sees...Hugh...looking curiously like he's about to embark on a little typing (euphemism) with Della.

"Oh Della, Della!"
(Giphy)
Kate sneaks out the back and her bike is clipped by a lorry, landing her in the hospital.

Looking up into Hugh's shattered face, all she can say is something to the effect of, "Let's end this sham. Who were we kidding?" He agrees to let her go (What option does he have?) but asks her to wait until she's out of the hospital. When she's on her feet again, he's got one last gift for her. He leads her to his living room, gives her a stinking forehead kiss and pushes her through the door. Who is waiting?

The Lily-Liveredest Blind-side Flanker in the whole country! KEN! Does Hugh think that's what she wanted? Oh [BLEEP] no. This ends here.

And it does. She tears a strip off of Ken and then she tears into the Rector's office.

I'm not going to spoil it. It's too good. But her declarations of love include the line, "But of all the things I hate you for, I hate you most for what you've done this afternoon..." The Rector is an idiot but he's not a fool. He confesses that he actually dumped a pitcher of water on a hysterical Della, that night of the accident. And he's not letting anything come between them, or their typing, again.

Rating: 8/10 Digging Out the Sheep.
I think it was Betty Amanda who suggested that the Widow Penvyre is the most evil villianess in the Summers Canon and she's certainly wonderfully awful. Della snoops and sneaks, lies outright and isn't even particularly constant (I still don't get how she knew Ken well enough to have him give up Kate within hours of their reacquaintance). If there's a theme to the last several books, however, it's that our heroine gets to dish back everything she's dished out. And boy does Kate dish. At one point she feels duty bound to marry Hugh, if only to save him from the machinations of Della.
Though this book is the first one that isn't set on a country sheep station, I was impressed by Hugh's ability to prove his manly bona fides within a school setting. It's interesting to me that Essie has him propose right in the thick of the Lurid Crisis but it's of a piece. She likes her protagonists protagging and working hard and, here, they're doing just that. Essie shows us just how fulfilling the partnership is going to be and then, with the proposal, complicates and chases that dream.
Hugh is going to get his book published but will toil away molding the lives of young men because he is awesome and Kate will be at his side--the best Rector's wife that ever was.
"There are boys up to shenanigans."
(Giphy)

The Misunderstanding: Kate thinks he is in love with his dead friend's glamorous widow. He thinks she's still in love with her imbecilic ex-fiance. They both have to hide their burning passion and pretend the marriage they are about to begin is strictly business.

Location: Around Christchurch

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Wedding Rewind

A good friend of mine is the marketing director for a wildflower seed packet company. She wanted to do some YouTube videos for increased online content and asked if Professor van Voorhees and I would be willing to be interviewed about our wedding. Remembering the Gore Vidal quote ("Never miss a chance to [go to Brighton] or appear on television."), I said "Heck yes."

Since this is a blog devoted to kissing and love and all things cozy-romance, enjoy the wedding memories of Casa van Voorhees:

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Opinions of a Novice

I lent my friend several Betty books because she hasn't the faintest clue about things like what to do in case of a bomb (Answer: Hang your purse on a handy wire sticking out of a wall and start dressing wounds.) or how hair-raising driving one's Mini all over the Dutch countryside can be. Though I gave her five, I offered her all sorts of hemming and hawing expressions of "If you hate them, don't continue to torture yourself." Well, she's raced through them all and these are her findings! I offer you our messaging. I am in blue and she is in a chic pale gray, just right for a wedding to begin an arranged marriage:

I'll ask questions and you answer at your leisure. Take all the time you want. I don't care if this takes three weeks.
Q: In order of least to best, how did you like the books? (A Kiss For Julie, The Promise of Happiness, The Little Dragon, Magic in Vienna and Discovering Daisy)
Don't elaborate at this point. I just want a list



A Kiss for Julie, discovering Daisy, The Promise of Happiness, Magic in Vienna, the Little Dragon. Although those last two could easily be switched
Keira
Q: The Little Dragon is contentious because some of the Betties don't like all the lying he does and don't like that he calls her a dragon. I come down on the 'it's a hoot' side. What did you like about it?
Hah I liked all the lying. It made for a different story line
And to me was more realistic.
If someone told me they hated rich people I may keep my mouth shut too.
And I take names like little dragon as a compliment so it doesn’t bother me.
Keira






We are as one, Paula.

Keira
Did you actively dislike any of them and why?
The first one. Characters were too shallow in development and the plot seemed weak. The plot concept I liked but it just seemed poorly executed.
If it was your book I’d tell you to go back and rewrite
Keira
Yes. That one is Late Canon and she's a lot more spotty at that end. Though everyone likes the macaroni and cheese and the too-tight shoes and poorly-made-over dresses.
Would you ever read her again?



Sure. I was actually going to ask you for a few more
I like that they are a fast read
And a little princess like
Keira



Nifty. They are a bit princess-y.
My bookshelf is at your service

Monday, October 16, 2017

Bachelors Galore--Notes

Clothes: I didn't take a copious list of the clothes in this book but I wish I had. Essie uses it to great effect. Marty allows Joy Logie to help her shop for several dances because Joy was an orphan and she wants to allow Joy to do a little vicarious shopping. This leads to one outfit that is a bit TOO sweet and young.

But she could dance in it...
(Giphy)
But Marty wears it just to be kind and is subsequently sneered at by Louise. Genius. There is meaning both coming and going. After Marty trashes a purple gown because of his unkind words, Philip pays 25 guineas he can ill-afford for a lavender dress that Joy gives to Marty as though it comes from her.

Food: (29) They enjoy a banana split and an iced drink after Philip's pilgrimage to his father's grave, (55) Joy has passion-fruit jam in the larder that Marty isn't sure what to do with at first, (63) Philip assumes that Marty is short-cutting the meals because the housekeeping is so difficult. Instead of a picnic, he finds her serving steak-and-kidney pudding, baked potatoes, cauliflower in white sauce and apple pie.
Take THAT skeptical bachelor!
(Giphy)
(70) After Marty nearly murders the cows, she serves the tired farmers (and interested vet) mutton, roasted carrots and potatoes, baked pumpkin and cream of celery soup, (134) THE Hervington-Blairs hold a dance at their station and serve breakfast at dawn. Bacon, eggs, coffee, tea, mounds of toast. (137) Joy fixes pineapple juice over iced water and ginger ale. (139) Joy and Marty cook beetroot and 18 pounds of steak to feed the shearers but thunderstorms have put them off. (142) After a day of travel, they feed the children cornflakes and make themselves a mixed grill of bacon, egg, sausage and tomato. (166) Marty makes bacon-and-egg pies to take to the crew working on the midnight harvest.

Locations: (23) Curacao is where she babysits all the ship's children on the shore and Philip tells her she sacrificed just so the parents could go on a bender, (23) The ship goes through the Panama Canal where we see "...burly, good-natured natives and United States Security Police (31) They finally see a long line of cloud on the grey horizon which signifies that they are nearly at New Zealand or Aotearoa, the-land-of-the-long-white-cloud.  (33) They make land-fall in Wellington Harbor. (122) Philip's home is near Rakaia. (141) They pass the town of Cheviot on their trip to the Logie's holiday house. "A little village with an English air." (147) Joy tells of how she ran away from Len before they were married and went to the Chatham Islands. "Very remote, primitive, though improved of late." Her prospective mother-in-law chartered a boat to get her back.

New Zealand: (39) Philip tells Marty there is not much tipping.

Your money is no good here, little English girl.
(Giphy)
(40) a Maori woman explains how Maori names are pronounced. (I suspect that she was also included here to show that New Zealand accommodations weren't racially segregated unlike some places Essie could name...*cough*.) (42) a pa is a Maori village (45) a nor-wester hits them. Moisture-laden winds that drop their moisture in the Alps and race across the plains as hot, dry winds. But they make wonderful conditions for sheep "No foot-rot. Too dry." (49) A farm hand is off doing his 3-months of military service. (51) New Zealand was fighting hydatids. They'll win when all the farmers dose their dogs regularly and stop feeding them raw offal. (59) Fields are called paddocks here. (74) Families that came over on the Charlotte Jane are to New Zealand what Mayflower families are to the U.S. (84) Marty studies the road code booklet and we get lots of tips about things like how fast one should go through townships, (140) Philip has a whare (a small cabin) near the Logie's, (151) Philip sneaks Marty away from Louise's drunk friends to see glow worms, (158) New Zealand had a Marriage Guidance Council

Vicarage Life: Essie was married to a Presbyterian minister and when she speaks about ministers and manses, I often think she was speaking about her own life. Reverend Fergus MacNeill helps the emigrating passengers. (36) He races off the ship to meet his wife, Rachel, who tells him she's been using the manse glebe to raise pigs for sale. She rakes in a tidy profit. (36) When Marty says she's Anglican, not Presbyterian, Philip says Fergus would visit her if she was a Roman Catholic or a Communist. (58) When the power goes out, Marty thinks of her father (a minister) who said that a house is never really your own until you can walk comfortably around it in the dark. (77) Fergus gets 300 pounds a year on car allowance because of the large distances traveled in his work, (113) the padre is the MC of the local dance. "There's no end to what you get dragged into." (166) Fergus is one of the men working in the dead of night to get the harvest in before the storms.

Literature: (101) Louise reminds Marty of "Tiger, tiger, burning bright, in the forest of the night...", (112) Marty quotes, "Oh it is excellent To have a giant's strength, but it is tyrannous To use it as a giant!", (115) Noel West takes her to see the play The Young Elizabeth, (117) and then whistles Greensleeves, (119) Philip takes her to see Macbeth (121) and after wards she thinks of "old, unhappy, far-off things." (123) Philip tries to comfort her with a line from the play: "Give sorrow words...the grief that does not speak, whispers the o'er fraught heart and bid it break." (134) At THE Hervington-Blair's party, they end by singing the Doxology, (147) Joy quotes: "Little Orphan Annie's come to our house to stay, To wash the cups and saucers up and brush the crumbs away, (160) Philip whistles a tune that goes 'Every little breeze seems to whisper Louise, Birds in the trees keep in singing Louise, Each little sigh tells me that I...Adore you, Louise!"

Philip, Philip, Philip...
(Giphy)
(167) During the midnight harvest, Marty hears the men singing: "This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall, Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands; This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, This England." (168) After delivering the tea to the men she quotes Shakespeare, "How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank."

Friday, October 13, 2017

Bachelors Galore Video Review


I'm still getting the hang of how to do this when I've already written an exhaustive review. I may end up only talking about one scene and then giving my rating or giving my Top Five Favorite Things about a book. At any rate, the kinks continue to be ironed out.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Bachelors Galore (1958)

Let me save you some time.
It doesn't quite live up the the name.
Nothing could ever live up to the name.

Philip Griffiths, your standard-issue tall-bronzed-Kiwi-sheep-farmer, is having a miserable day. He's 13,000 miles from home and tasked with keeping the expectations of every flibberty-gibbet London lass looking to emigrate nice and manageable. What doesn't help? Headlines like this:

BACHELORS GALORE: 
AN ASTOUNDING SURPLUS OF ELIGIBLE 
BACHELORS IN NEW ZEALAND
(Giphy)
Philip knows only too well about the hard life of a struggling sheep farmer, the expense of stocking a station and...let us all pause dramatically...The Perfidy of Women. And so, after a day of taking call after call from breathless, giggling typists, it's the absolute limit when one lands in the lobby of New Zealand House, positively gleeful over the headline.

Marty Reddington (Martha Mary) has had her emigration papers in for more than a year but has packed none of the emotional baggage that Philip is carrying around. She just popped up the Commonwealth Mile with her besties so that they could reassure themselves that they--really and truly--don't mind leaving everything near and dear to them. It's just her bad luck that Philip overhears her silly joke and unleashes his full fury, branding her a fortune hunter. Shed a tear for Marty. She is a sweet little bunny hopping across the darkened interstate highway of his heart.

Good thing that she will never see him again.

Her heart must have dropped right through her sensible deck shoes when she sees that he's actually on her departing ship. Do you know how long it takes to travel from England to New Zealand by ship? Eight weeks, y'all. Eight weeks. And Liaison Officer Grumpy-Pants is going to be there for every nautical mile.

This is the part of the review where I tell you that I suspect Bachelors Galore was commissioned by the New Zealand Chamber of Commerce (or its Kiwi equivalent). Essie Summers is OUR Liaison Officer as she feeds us little tips and tidbits about adjusting to life in NZ. What to expect shipboard? Check. Maori pronunciation guide? Check. Traffic regulations? Check. Farming habits? Check. Great swaths of this book only make sense if you realize that Essie was educating people who only had the vaguest ideas about New Zealand. I mean, The Lord of the Rings hadn't even been filmed yet.  Dark days, indeed.

Now everyone knows that the islands are ruled
by a jewelry-obsessed, all-seeing eye.
(Giphy)
Marty tries to keep out of Philip's way but the ship is only so big. As they work together, she gets to see that he is conscientious with the passengers. And he gets to see that she is unfailingly generous with her time and efforts. That doesn't stop them from taking more cheap shots at each other than a co-ed in Cabo.

At one of the social dances, she wears a lilac dress associated with a broken engagement because, when one is a London typist, one can't afford gestures like lighting semi-formal ballgowns on fire. Still, she looks beautiful and knows it and, moreover, begins to weave some dreams about a certain Liaison Officer, wishing his lips would liaison with hers, maybe. Philip is nothing if not punctilious in his duty.

No use denying that he is shaken by the kiss. She is too. And in an atmosphere like that, it might be good to drop the pretense of cynicism and do a little plain dealing of the sort even a 5th grader can manage. ("I like you. Do you like me too? Check yes or no.")

Instead, he is insulting. "You see?" he said, and his voice was harsh. "Even anyone forewarned and forearmed as I was can be bowled over by a girl in a lilac frock, under a tropical moon..." Go ahead, moron. Blame the moon and the frock and Marty's impressive powers of attraction. Tell her she should have gone on a better class of ship to catch a richer class of man...

"You, sir, are no Muir Buchanan!"
(Giphy)
Philip tries to blame everybody but himself and the impossible attraction he feels for someone he knows he shouldn't. Bless her heart though, Essie Summers doesn't give us a heroine who bursts into tears at the first sign of Manly Wrath. Marty gives back as good as she gets, puts him firmly in the wrong and wrings a strangled "I'm sorry" from him before leaving him to contemplate All the Ways He Was Raised Poorly on the boat deck.

But she's not made of iron and she finally allows herself to fall to pieces when she gets to her room. She rips the dress from her body, balls it up and flings it out of the porthole where, presumably, it will sink into the Mariana Trench of Pathos.

They might be sailing through the Caribbean but it's icebergs, right ahead. Somewhere in here she owns up to his ideas of her. If he thinks she's hunting for deep pockets, then that's what she'll admit to. In Panama, the padre asks her a favor. Will she go with Philip on a pilgrimage, of sorts? His father is buried there and...

Well, yes. You'd do that even for someone you hated and Marty doesn't hate Philip. She's not sure what she feels about him. She finds out that his mother left his father. Mommy Dearest still lives in California with her new husband, having abandoned Philip when he was 11. This is a lot to take in.

(As an Oregonian,  I was bred with an in-born hostility to all things California (always excepting my dearest husband!) so I am already super mad at his mom. Oh Philip, you poor baby!)

As they steam into Wellington Harbor, Marty receives her two-year work assignment. Finally, she can get away from the watchful eyes of Philip Griffiths. What's that you say? She's assigned to the farm NEXT DOOR? And she'll be driving down to the station with the admittedly hot raspberry seed that has been stuck in her wisdom tooth for months now?

Unfortunately, the distance between his farm and the Logie farm (her assignment) is small. Worse, Len and Joy Logie have been in a calamitous car smash. (Someday in the distant future, I imagine our literary history will be cataloged by an alien race and when they get to mid-century Mills & Boon, they'll decide to pass on conquering the peoples of Earth. They have had enough.) When Philip decides that Marty will be worse than useless taking over a remote sheep station and the care of the children of the house, she makes him drive her there anyway. This is her responsibility and, by gum, she is not going to shift it off to someone else.

For a while, everything goes perfectly. The children are nurtured, the house is cleaned, meals of great nutritional value are made and consumed. And then all hell breaks loose. Maybe I should say it's 'turned loose'. Marty, not a farm girl, lets the cows into a paddock of green clover where they eat their heads off and develop 'bloat' which is not something you can solve with a bowl of Marionberry Yoplait. (Gah.)  In the midst of this gas-tastrophe, the way-loaded and conveniently unattached vet with the amiable mother and rich family history (Morgan Hervington-Blair of THE Hervington-Blairs) comes to help and casts an eye on our distressed heroine.

If this was a Harlequin Presents book, I would be getting a little nervous.
No one is supposed to out-Alpha the Alpha who wins the hand of the fair maiden.
Marty's crappy day has not crapped its last crap, however. She let the ducklings into the pond. Yum. The eels in the pond love to snack on ducklings.

Is there anything crappier than being the potential murderess of fluffy ducklings? I'm glad you asked. Into this Domestic Crisis of Confidence comes strolling terrifyingly gorgeous ex-flame and former fiancee Louise Morgan (dun, Dun, DUH!). She flashes her massive wedding ring, eyerolls our Pitiful Dislocated British Girl and oozes sympathy all over Philip for having to put up with someone who's obviously stupid.

It is alright, however. Marty rallies her spirits, eventually welcomes Len and Joy back to their well-tended home and well-adjusted children and then begins to lay waste to the surrounding countryside, collecting the interest of every man in the district.

 All those bachelors? There are galore of them. 
(Giphy)
Philip introduces her to every one of them but at least, when he is alone at night, he will have the warm embrace of his barbs which he tosses at her feet with deadly aim. But if he were being really honest with himself, he might admit that the battle has scarred him far more than it has wounded her. "She looked up and caught a glint of amusement in his eyes, and hated him for it. 'For a minister's daughter...you hit hard...and quite often, below the belt, too.'"

That's what she hugs on those lonely nights--the knowledge that, if he has been unkind (prodding her always to deny she is on the lookout for a wealthy husband and a life of ease), she has had the perfect retort every time. The mask hasn't slipped. Her cold dignity is intact.

As Morgan Hervington-Blair of THE Hervington-Blairs gets a bit more serious, Marty is taken up by Noel West--the biggest fish circling the tank. He's got all his original hair and teeth, an insane amount of money and he's hiding a secret heart-ache. The man could use a companionable escort and she...well, she could too. Marty can't risk getting paired up with Philip (too many people are quick to throw her at his head) and doesn't want to hurt Morgan. So...Noel it is.

Noel was the Godzilla of Alphas.
Sometimes, even given the safety of Noel, Marty is thrown together with Philip anyway. It is on one such occasion, as they are driving through town, that his breaks squeal and he stops near the curb. There's a lovely lavender gown in the window and would she allow him to make a gift of it for her? (Oh Essie, you absolute genius. She's about as much as what's on the page as what's off.) We find out that Philip has been tortured since that night on the boat deck by the cruel things he said and the dress that he watched go overboard. It had been explained to him how she could not afford such a gesture and then she went and did it.

Stiffly, she declines to let him wipe his conscience clean with a bit of money but he is terribly hurt behind that Stoic Face. Marty is slipping away from him and there is nothing he can do about it...or is there? Like a timid first-time visitor to the casino dithering over the roulette table and then cautiously laying down a single chip on red, he offers her a semi-proposal and a promise of sharing a conjugal bed. Would Marty mind joining forces? They'd both be wise to each other's motives.

It's easy to take this as the insult it appears to be. But consider: Philip, the product of a failed union which dissolved in part because of money and an engagement that gave up the ghost for similar reasons, still can't resist her. He loves her too much and now he'll take her on any terms at all. As bet-hedging as it appears, he's offering to ruin himself for her.

But Marty isn't going to take anyone who isn't shoving all their chips in on 23 red like a madman. Particularly not one who isn't left as weak-kneed about the prospect of sharing the confines of a double bed as she is. She'll stick to the safe company of Noel if she can't get what she wants. As a chaser, she suggests he stop running after married women.

Finally, the Logies and Phillip all go on vacation together which makes me really concerned that all their cows will be milked properly. Marty and Philip ease into each other's company in a way that leads her to hope that maybe the icebergs are thawing as simple family picnics and grubbing around at the lakeside are activities calculated to warm even the most Grinch-i-est of hearts.

Louise and her Pack of Dissipated Drunks (as well as her amiable, balding, gazillionaire husband) shows up to rain fire and destruction all over moonlit hand-holding and whispered confessions. In an aside I just don't have time to go into, Marty acts as Tod the Troubled Tycoon's agony aunt and tells him that all Louise really needs is a firm hand and that he should stop measuring himself against Philip who has "...got everything...magnificent shoulders, a powerful jawline, attractive, clean cut features...the real picture of a bronzed colonial...the looks of a Greek god..."

After that description,
even Tod the Tubby Trillionaire was fanning himself.

(Giphy)
Philip, lurking in the dark as Tod toddles away, has heard the whole thing. They sort of have a row but I'm not sure what it could be about. That she dared comfort a Cheerless Capitalist? That she offered Tod a way to secure the affection of his wife? That she underlined over and over again that Philip's scorching hot looks aren't the thing that matters?

Back at the farm, several plots intersect and, in the interest of time I will bullet point them:

  • Noel the Brooding Billionaire reunites with his lost love (Good thing Marty turned his "Let's be Sad Together" proposal down!) and they make a date to be married.
  • Tod loses all his money. This would be calamitous but Louise, instead of crawling back to the fetid swamp that curated her winning personality, grows a spine and, as a phoenix rising from the ashes of her life, becomes a really cracking wife. Turns out she loves Tod. Financial Ruin is like a new Dior dress and she wears it wonderfully.
  • News of Noel's Nuptials leaks in the community.
  • A tractor accident at another farm sends Marty riding pell-mell across the paddocks to properly tourniquet a hemorrhage.
Philip and all the Logie's sort of assume that her sorrow over Noel has sent her riding dangerously into the mountains and when she returns, covered in blood and exhausted, everyone is thrilled she's alive but quick to assume that she was gripped by Paroxysms of Grief.  

Those were the wrong paroxysms to be worried about. Rage Paroxysms are much worse. When she gets to the bottom of Philip's worry she lays into him about how those things she said at New Zealand House were all a silly joke and that she would never marry anyone for money and that she not only knew about Noel's new wife, but acted as her bridesmaid. 

Philip is nothing if not poorly timed. As soon as he finds out she doesn't love Noel, he proposes. 

Marty shoots first.
(Giphy)
It goes poorly. He leaves and Marty and Joy have the sort of air-clearing talk everybody should have had 120 pages ago. Marty loves Philip but his money will always stand between them. "What money, girlfriend?" asks Joy. "Dude is so poor he's still living in half a house." Oh thank heavens, Marty thinks. I'll just ride breakneck over to his farm right now.


Thankfully, everyone can just stay put where they are. Philip is an eavesdropper who only ever seems to hear good of himself. He makes another proposal of marriage and, this time, she accepts.

Philip laid all his worldly goods at her feet...
several of them were slimy baby lambs.

Rating: A Flash Flood (7/10). Bachelors Galore is a solid effort that sometimes veers into Informational Pamphlet territory. I'm not going to lie, some of that information was really interesting but it tended to lay there like a cow patty--enormously useful but you'll have to step carefully around it to get where you're going. I liked Philip--he'd had a rough first impression of Marty that was perfectly calculated to jab all of his insecurities in the eye with a sharp stick--but I wished that he had been less relentlessly baiting. His only tool for getting what he wants is to throw his accusation at her head so that MAYBE she'll deny it. Of course, when he baits Marty, that makes her dig in even more firmly.

Marty is hard-working (that should have been his first clue that she was not out for money), resourceful and perfect for being a farmer's wife. About halfway through the book I kept getting annoyed for her sake. She just gave up everything she holds dear and left it 13,000 miles away you guys! (And if there's nothing she felt bad about leaving, so much the worse. That's super tragic.) If it were me, I'd need three solid months of Snuggling and Ego Massage. I assume Philip will build a room just for that sort of thing in his unfinished house.

Essie did a fantastic thing when she piled a lot of good works on top of both their characters so that I wasn't ever willing to dust my hands of them. They both pitch in to help the Logies out of the Car Smash Mess and seem in their element when they're helping out. Also, the way she goes on and on about his looks tell me that prospects for Satisfactory Conjugal Relations are good.

(Giphy)

Location: Near Rakaia on the Canterbury Plains

The Misunderstanding: He thinks she is out to snag a husband with money. She thinks he is possibly having an affair with a married woman.