Monday, November 22, 2010

An Ordinary Girl--2001

My one Very Small Quibble about this book is that it is slapped into a two-fer called The Engagement Effect with a non-Neels author. The name has nothing to do with either story and must have been chosen strictly on alliterative merits. That's okay, though, because the hero depicted on the cover is pretty hunky in a business-casual sort of way and you stop noticing the title pretty quickly... Also, mine is in large print which I adore. Here's my review, ripped from the fevered scribblings of our over-wrought villainess:

Dear Diary,
I had a simply ghastly time at that engagement party out in the wilds over the weekend. James got lost (which is so unlike him!) and we ended up detouring through this poky little village in the back of beyond. I didn't mind being lost--personally the last engagement party I eked any amount of fun out of was our own...but then, being the center of attention is always more agreeable than being the 'So-and-so and guest' on someone's invitation list.
So there we were in the middle of nowhere when James stops and asks for directions. This perfectly wretched-looking rustic leaned into the car and dumped her shopping on my lap (Sausages!) and poked her red, chapped hands at the map and then had a moment with MY FIANCE!
Don't ask me to explain it. I don't even know if it happened but they both sort of looked up at each other and suddenly the lyrics of 'Some Enchanted Evening' are blaring through my brain and I'm imagining all his fabulous millions slipping through my fingers. And then he said, 'I shall remember' in what I privately term his Lion King tone. I don't know what to make of it.
No matter. We shan't see her again,

Dear Diary,
That horrible blight on the English countryside (Nether Waddle, Nether Ducky...Nether Ditchling!--they ought to petition the Council to get that changed) ruined another perfectly unexceptional day. I (and by I, I mean James) had to run a wedding present down to Coralie's house and it's not as though James was doing anything fun anyway--just those awful paediatric cases--common ones, too. I tell him over and over again that he should restrict himself a bit he's not ready to listen. I'm putting it on my To Be Changed list for after the wedding. What with all his home furnishings, cook and rather stodgy taste in neck ties, that list is getting long...
We got caught in the snow (It's almost April! How was I to know?) and were forced to lay up at the Vicarage--you know, one of those drafty old monstrosities built when having babies was what you did for a living. That Rustic was there--the one with the sausages. They call her Philly and she isn't even that young. She looked worse than I remembered, all swathed in snow gear--I'm sure I imagined that thing that I thought I saw...
And then they made us have porridge for breakfast. (Gah! Poor people food!) Strangely, James didn't look very happy to leave--shoveling show was probably a serious cardio workout...I wouldn't know, I didn't touch the stuff.
I think I'm going to make him sell his country cottage. That's going on the List too. And get rid of his old Nanny who caretakes it. That's going on the List too! And his icky dog...

Dear Diary,
He slowed down, I swear it.
We were driving out to Coralie's wedding and you know how James always tears up the road (in the best possible taste, of course). Well, we were coming through the village and he slowed down (well you have to a bit, naturally, but NOT THAT MUCH) and his eyes...he looked like one of those Sunday rubber-neckers! We picked up Philly (who looked plain (doesn't she always?)) who had to babysit for the family. I was so glad to be wearing a simply magnificent hat and outfit--Coralie was livid with jealousy!
We took Philly home later and the car reeked of barf and baby powder. She looked like the hired help. Of course James couldn't help but compare us...
Ah well, I can brush my hands of that problem!

Dear Diary,
What!? Are they handing our charitable scholarships now for country bumpkins to visit London?!--and not just any London, my London! Little Miss Direct and Demure was at that china exhibition I dragged James to. I was wearing one of my best suits--the slinky one with the plunging back (I can tell James loves it--he doesn't know where to look first!)--when I saw her reading the placard next to some porcelain.
Reading it!
A girlfriend told me that he offered Philly a ride after handing me some excuse about paediatric thrombo...blahblahblah...
What is going on?

Dear Diary,
There was a village fete. No, not in London! At that beastly place in the hinterlands and Coralie (who has been wanting to get back at me for outshining her at her wedding, I swear) rung me up (on the pretense of asking me the name of my milliner) and told me that her postman told her cook who then told her that James showed up to it with his Nanny and spent the whole time mooning about after Philly the Charming Provincial and her homespun attractions. He manned the bran bucket (???) and drank beer and grinned like a yokel the entire day.
I am thoroughly put out and have coerced my creepy little cousin to do a spot of 'Love's Young Dream' blighting. He is to hang around in the village and attempt to woo Philly (though who knows what will work on her bucolic sensibilities). I'll drive James by at just the right time...and bingo! I'll be Mrs. Professor James Forsyth by summer.

Dear Diary,
It didn't work.
But it's okay. I'm pretty philosophical about it now.
They got married, like, the week after I changed my Facebook status to 'single'. Whatevs. Everybody is talking about it and I just want to shout at them, 'But she couldn't carry off a flowered lime green hat, now could she?!'...I have jumped back into the dating pool and am on the verge of landing an American oil tycoon named Billy Bob William. We just have to get him past his physical and mental health screening and then we sign the pre-nup! Cross your fingers he doesn't need any defibrillation! LOL He's just the sort of man to appreciate a girl like me. His kids are kind of being pills...
I saw Philly and James driving out to the country (shudder) the other day and wanted to siphon their gas tank but they'd probably end by hopping on a bicycle built for two and peddling into the sunset. Ick.
The moral of the story is to not to let yourself be swept off your feet by blue eyes, glossy black hair, youth and original teeth.

Rating: I kept getting interrupted while reading this (mostly by a two-year-old whose body is somehow made entirely out of elbows and knees) so the short and wonderful read took longer than it should. Holy Hanna, I loved this one! For the children's village fete alone it deserves lashings of whipped cream--it's a lovely golden day. But then toss in truly hiss-worthy villains, getting our hero's perspective a ton, and the kind of I-love-you-but-can't-tell-you-so-we'll-just-devour-each-other-with-our-eyes-like-the-principles-in-a-cheap-Mexican-novella heat that is just what the doctor ordered...Fab.U.Los.
James is one of those heroes who is going to spend every day of his life getting on his knees and thanking the good Lord for getting lost in Nether Ditchling. I will whet your appetite with the moment that the bottom drops out of his life: He...watched her coming along the wide corridor to the ward. He saw her cheerful face too, damping down a strong feeling that he wanted to go and meet her and wrap his arms around her and tell her how beautiful she was.
And that's not even the best part.

Food:Braised steak casserole, sausages (that get dumped in Sybil's lap), egg custard, stewed beef and dumplings, porridge, bacon and egg pie with a thick potato crust to disguise the too few eggs for too many people, pork roast and applesauce, egg sandwiches, macaroni cheese and (on their halcyon day) cheese, pickles, rolls and beer.

Fashion: She is 'extinguished' by a long cape to keep out the snow, he wears her father's old sweater and wellies to dig a path to the chickens, he wants to scoop her up and tell her how gorgeous she is while she's wearing a too-large short jacket and last year's tweed skirt. He wears a morning coat and top hat to a wedding, Sybil wears colorfully atrocious headwear (that seems to underline all her worst qualities (vanity, selfishness, poor taste, etc...)) comprising green straw, an enormous brim and a multi-colored flowered crown, and Philly is garbed in a simply cut blue dress that gets baby barf on it. Also, Susan's parents give Philly a T-shirt emblazoned with American logos that she doesn't feel would go over well in the village (which is a shame, really, because this American would love that village to pieces).


  1. I love, love, love this one. It is my comfort read when I am looking for a little pick-me-up. The short size is just right for those moments when you don't have time to read a full book. I only wish that Betty would have extended the last "I Love You" bits just a page or two more... but alas that is Betty.

    Betty Suzanne

  2. I loved this one of Betty's, too! And something tells me that someone had a lot of fun channeling Sybil during this review! "Poor people food." LOL

  3. Wonderful review -- thanks!

    Would write more, but I'm knee deep in my NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month -- 50,000 words in 30 days) *AND* getting my already-written but needing a quadruple bypass novel ready for RWA's Golden Heart contest.

  4. 'I shall remember.' Oh, what a great line!
    Not just because it is in Betty correct English grammar, the way we were taught in the 1970s.
    So much meaning in these three small words.

  5. The Engagement Effect – "chosen strictly on alliterative merits"

    baby barf
    back of beyond
    country cottage
    coerced my creepy little cousin
    dear diary
    Little Miss Direct and Demure
    Some Enchanted Evening
    looked like the hired help.
    poor people food

  6. So much awesomeness :) Just reread this one recently. Loved it to bits. LOVE your diary by Sybil. It's rather grand.

  7. Oh, how much I would like this particular story to be transferred directly into film! Short enough for not to have had any cuts of the plot, and the snowed-in weekend at the vicarage is worth being dramatised!

    ps. Sybil's diary is really SOMETHING :-)