Monday, November 15, 2010

Winter of Change--1973

Betty Barbara here--again--- Just finished a re-read of Winter of Change. Hrumph--I shall save my comments until we reach the review. I will say it is one of the few Betty books that I have hurled across the room.

This was exactly how I felt about it the first time I read it. No hard feelings, Betty. I still love you. Still, I should probably prepare you for a slightly more favorable re-read on my part. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I worked mightily to root out every kernel of charm planted therein. Let's see if that gets us anywhere...

Mary Jane Pettigrew, 22, is plain, has 'rabbity' teeth and supports herself on her own meagre earnings. She is a 'good' nurse--the kind who makes patients comfortable and pettily tyrannical Ward Sisters grind their teeth.
Upon receiving an urgent phone call, she rushes home to her grandfather--her only living relative. He's dying. It says much for the state of their relationship that she wasn't notified of his illness or his plans for her inheritance and is told summarily that she is to get a guardian (at her age!) along with the house and his fortune.
Grandfather is one of those throw-backs who scouted high and low for a near-ish male relative (his cousin or cousin's son or cousin's grandson...if they could find him anywhere) to leave the family estate to but finally settles everything on Mary Jane with the legal rider that, quote, (let's see...paragraph 3, section 7, addendum 14) 'She isn't to worry her pretty little head...' (I kid--but only a very little.)
Professor Jonkheer Fabian van der Blocq, 40 (40! Four-oh.), sweeps up to the family home. Upon his arrival he is greeted happily by Grandfather (clearly a relationship of long standing) and his presence underlines in every way that Mary Jane is not, nor has ever been, a substantive part of Grandfather's life.
Editorial Note:
It's really sad. They love each other but being around Grandfather is like warmly hugging a block of granite. Sure you can do it, but why would you want to?
Oh, and have I mentioned that everyone kindly points out at every possible moment that Mary Jane is tiresome and/or as plain as a pikestaff?
For his part, Fabian is really terrible--he's patronizing and (usually the kiss of death for a Neels character) POMPOUS and has no patience for a young girl who is losing her last relative. As for accepting the guardianship? I was only a few pages into this arrangement before I was mentally composing a 'Do-you-want-to-know-where-you-can-stick-this-inheritance?' speech. I kept hoping she would do it. (She's a State Certified Nurse! The world is her oyster!)
And then Grandfather dies. Fabian arranges the funeral and hugs Mary Jane. Wow. I am overwhelmed with his consideration and warmth.
Then, in fulfillment of the promise she made to her grandfather, she travels to Holland to nurse his old friend (Fabian's (gah, that is a flesh-crawling name) uncle). Will Uncle What'shisname survive? No, he's also destined for the boneyard and at this point I am considering questioning the wisdom of The Great Betty in making death such a central plot point. (Take a romantic cruise on the River Styx!)
Fabian pretty much drops her off with his irascible uncle and melodramatic cousin and pops in a week later (when Mary Jane has them all firmly in hand) to discover that no one is giving her time off!
Editorial Note:
(I know, there are a lot of them in this review.) This is actually an important part of the book for me. Fabian gets a lot of credit for putting himself out as her guardian but Mary Jane is doing some very skilled and long-term work for his family. This puts things on a more equitable footing --it mitigates some of the age difference and tells us why he falls for her. And fall he does...
Uncle dies.
Fabian tells us at the end that this is when he realizes he loves Mary Jane and though they haven't spent much time together in Holland he did get to see her dog and pony show of sterling qualities.
As he deposits her back in England they discuss substantively the administrative duties of guardianship:
Her: I think I shall buy a horse.
Him: Over my dead body.
With that sort of impasse (and Mary Jane still unaware that she is anything less than a festering boil on Fabian's backside) is it any wonder that when long lost Cousin Mervyn (he of the too-close eyes who might have inherited the estate if hide or hair of him had been found) arrives from Canada he finds a girl ripe for the love con?
The gentle rain of his endless compliments is balm to her wounded spirit. And soon enough she entertains thoughts of marriage and foolishly writes him a blank check (maybe to stave off monetary deflation?) so that he can purchase a murder weapon. Okay, Prince (the wild-eyed and limping horse) isn't a murder weapon yet but tally him with the Special License Mervyn has in his pocket and the insurance policy he recommends she take out and it creates a fetid stew.
Fabian arrives just in time. He essentially throws Mervyn out on his ear and breaks Mary Jane's heart like a bull in a china shop.
Editorial Note:
So if you blinked and missed his dawning realization, all this comes over very differently. There's that scene in the Olivia de Havilland movie (The Heiress) when the plain Jane is being told by her father that smoking hot Montgomery Clift was playing her for a fool and was only after her filthy lucre. Daddy isn't gently imparting the news--he's gloating. And, if you don't feel sympathetic to Fabian for having to break up the wedding of the girl he loves than it sort of comes off that way. He doesn't quite say 'What other reason, besides your fortune, would a man have for wanting you?' but she might feel it is implied. I mean, he calls her an easy mark! That's not going to translate well any way you slice it.
She yells her head off at him which he doesn't deserve as he's just been to Winnipeg and back (Winnipeg! Betty Keira expects a all from the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce in 3...2...1...) but he's the only one to vent her considerably bruised feelings on.
They part--he to Holland and she to part-time nursing back in London (which is as near to ripping up the will that she ever gets)--but he returns, asking her to nurse his cousin.
I like this interlude in Holland. She realizes that she loves him and then in a tiny little interchange we get a peek of their future life together. They're out skating on the ice and she nearly cannons into him. 'Whoops!' said Mary Jane, breathless. 'I thought I was going to knock you over--you should have moved.'
He was still holding her. 'No need. I weigh fifteen stone or thereabouts, and I doubt if you're much more than eight.' He laughed down at her. 'You show a fine turn of speed, though I don't think much of your style.'
'Oh, style--I enjoy myself.'

Won't they make a darling pair? I wish we'd seen more of that.
She goes back to England soon after and misses him terribly. When it gets too much she takes long walks and returning to the house, cold and tired, she allows herself an 'Oh, Fabian.' He answers.
The End

Rating: This one is going to take a bit more explaining than an ordinary Neels. The first half is Fabian's Nasty Sojourn and the second half is The Many Mistakes of Mary Jane. But there are parts to like in both (Mary Jane being human and diligent in part 1 and Fabian being trustworthy and yearning in part 2). So, here's my Wish List for Winter of Change:
  • I wish she'd called it Summer of Change and added more yellow bikinis. The somber and chilly mood of death and thick sweaters makes this seem extra depressing.
  • I wish that her country home had a little more life in it--local friends popping in and out for drinks, really chummy staff (Mrs. Body, though kind enough, strikes me as someone who likes her domain in the kitchens and will be happy when a man takes up the reins of management), and a pet that is not the elderly left-over animal of her dead grandfather.
  • Even though he tells her at the end the moment he fell in love with her, I wish that La Neels had made Fabian's Dawning Realization more clear in the moment it happens. I noticed it on the second read (which radically changed how I viewed the second act) and I had a lot more sympathy for him thereafter.
  • Fabian. Here are 10 streaming consciousness names that I guarantee will all be better than Fabian: Frank, Tom Mark, George, Gus, Scott, Tiberius (My daughter is watching Star Trek), Harold, Nathan, and Carl...Okay, maybe it's better than Carl.
There are enough witty observations and charming turns of phrase to make this a darling book but Fabian's gratuitously cruel and chilling remarks to Mary Jane when her grandfather is dying sour the soup--no, no, they drop radioactive isotopes into the soup. We don't have any reason to root for him for many, many long pages.
I had remembered that Mary Jane was more of a simp than she really was. Sure, she doesn't like Fabian right off but he really earns her enmity and she's a bit off balance (what with her only living relative popping off in that fashion). She is enormously helpful and sensible when she nurses Fabian's uncle and babysits his cousin. And her only mistake is following Mervyn's trail of breadcrumbs into his Enchanted Cottage of Bull Pucky. That she needs time to be rude and disillusioned (particularly as Fabian made zero attempt to break things to her gently) and to lick her wounds doesn't fuss me.
This earns a Beans on Toast because Fabian is truly awful and that's a hole that the Great Betty doesn't quite manage to dig him out of. Still, the writing is quite good and Mary Jane is a flawed but generally sensible character. But it's a sad book and that more than anything is why I don't recommend it very highly.

Food: Bacon, eggs and scones, beef, baked apples and cream (which sounds yummy but I have serious doubts). Fillet of beef in shirtsleeves, Robert's Chocolate Fancy, Kentish roast duckling, erwtensoup, quenelles of sole, salmon with asparagus tips and chocolate gateau....mmmmmm.

Fashion: Grey dress, brown tweeds, felt hat, a 'nice' evening dress of blue and green organza with a pie-frill collar. A velvet beret that he fails to notice. A dark green pinafore dress with a crepe blouse (I think I grew up after the era in which grown women could wear pinafores without looking like mutton dressed as lamb), a gorgeous sounding burgundy red coat, dress and cap that sounds like something Jackie O might have worn and (because it is the bleak, cold winter) a sheepskin jacket and knitted mitts.


  1. The Venerable Betty seemed quite off-hand in her treatment of death. Very few heroines are allowed the luxury of grieving the death of a loved one(yes, some are - for instance, Margo in The Vicar's Daughter - but then, she had a double death to deal with), usually they are expected to show a 'stiff upper lip' quite soon after the fact...but no RDD is ever quite as callous as Fabian about it.

  2. Betty Barbara here--
    As promised, a few thoughts--
    Fabian (not your 50's teenage heart throb!)is a real pill, no two ways about it, but it is sweet Mary Jane that I had most of my problems with.
    She WAS a tiresome chit--with the emotional stability of a 13 year old! The competent nurse seems to have almost no connection to the spoiled brat with all the pouting and "I hate you"s.
    It seemed like every time she and Fabian were making nice, she would say something pettish, he would clam up, she would say I Hate You, ad nauseum.
    The I shall buy a horse scene was a classic example. They had had a pleasant journey back to her home, all looks to be on the road to continued good feelings--and poof! Baldly announcing at the breakfast table is NOT the way to get it done sister.
    I also did not get the feeling that Fabian was gloating when telling her about Mervyn the Scumbag, small points to him, but his delivery lacked finesse.
    My favorite scenes were the invisible hat scenes-both when he failed to notice it, and especially the following day--"Oh you found your new hat" "It wasn't hard, it was on my head" Sincere apologies all around. And, if I remember, that bit of good feeling didn't last long either!
    Beans on toast sounds about right. Meh. I can actually say that I've read worse, though.

    1. I'm in accord with Betty Barbara. I can understand Fabian's initial behavior -- he's a busy man who had to put off a lot of work to take up a guardianship that's likely (and which did) take a lot of his time. It doesn't help that Mary Jane (my sister's name) was such a cow for a big chunk of the time, IMHO. She was consistently rude when a little quiet consideration would have worked better (and likely ended the book sooner).

      p.s. I like the name Fabian. Even though I'm not a Socialist. :)

    2. Absolutely agree with your view!

  3. I actually liked Mary Jane better than you did I think. She was a wonderful nurse to his uncle and cousin (she does way more for him than we see him do for her (right up until his trip to Winnepeg (and don't expect immediate thanks for that!))) and if she's a spitting cat it's more often that he's rubbing her up the wrong way. I agree that Fabian reforms halfway through the book but she doesn't know that he's fallen in love with her and I'd feel worse about her being relieved that he isn't staying for Christmas if he hadn't been such a beast for weeks on end.

    Though, granted, she is silly. They both are.

    And the gloating--as established, I don't think he was actually gloating but considering how vile he had been to Mary Jane and how baldly he crushes her dreams, I think it's fair to say that she might take it that way. And if 'I won't say I told you so...' doesn't verge on a gloat than I don't know what does.

    And I love the hat scene. Honestly, what made me saddest was that there was some degree of promise that was fiddled away and I would have LOVED seeing La Neels smack the 'guardian/ward' plot out of the ballpark.

  4. Betty Barbara here--
    Betty Keira, you've caught it exactly--there were enough really clever lines and scenes, that I kept hoping and hoping that it was all going to come together and be better than it turned out to be. Sigh.

  5. Fabian is quite a nice name looking at it from a continental European perspective - just thought I add this.

  6. That is a very reassuring thing to know. I live on the West Coast (US) and, if pressed to guess (oh, you're pressing me?), I'd bet the last Fabian in America (if you're traveling in my direction) must reside in an old folks home in Pennsylvania (though there might be the odd hipster transplant in S.F., sleeping days and drinking the blood of the undead, I suppose).

    The Social Security Index listed it as 288th in popularity for boys (a bit higher than I'd have guessed)last year.

    But I like that The Great Betty was flexing her muscles a bit...Can we call you Betty Birgit? ;0)

  7. Oh please, Betty Keira--
    Fabian (Forte), pop-rock star of the late 50's and early 60's was born in 1943--which makes him a year younger than my husband and no candidate for the old folks home. C'mon, you are trashing my youth here!
    As for young Fabians--there's a Fabian playing for the BAltimore Ravens right now.
    Our RDD was possibly named as a nod to the famous Swedish socialist, Fabian Mansson. Or maybe Our Betty named him as a nod to The Fabian Society. Or maybe she just liked the name! You have to admit, it is better that Ralph!
    Betty Barbara, in defense of the name Fabian

  8. Fabian: Better than Ralph or Carl

    I think we've got ourselves a slogan. ;0)

  9. I just discovered your blog! How exciting to find fellow Betty Neels fans. I've spent too much time today going through your archive and reading your reviews. *happy sigh* There were so many laugh-out-loud moments. Thank you.

    I don't have much to add to the discussion concerning Winter of Change. Death didn't seem to hold a lot of horrors for Betty - maybe she had seen enough suffering in her lifetime and saw it as a great release. Still - two deaths in one novel seemed a bit excessive.

    I didn't mind Fabian. I was more annoyed with Mary Jane for having her head turned by her fast-talking cousin. The life insurance policy should have tipped her off - hasn't she read any Agatha Christie? I felt bad for Fabian having to bring the bad news. I interpreted the "I won't say I told you so" as his willingness to just drop it and let her get on with her life with a little pride intact. He did seem much nicer after that.

  10. Yay! More Bettys! (Point of order: Ought we to call you Betty St. Margarets or other?)

    I felt like the end--when she finally gets to Holland to nurse his sister--is a really charming bit but it was so hard to overcome being weighed down by fits and sullens and icy silences...

  11. A Plea in Poetry by BettyMary

    Oh, Betty sisters, Splain this to me
    Why for Fabian, such animosity?
    The name of athlete, pope, politician,
    tango master, and explorer anartican.
    It's been hollywooded and even shakespeared
    It deserves to be respected and maybe revered
    Did you prefer Gijs, Walle, or Ivo
    Rolf, Radmer, Rafvan, Teile, or Waldo,
    Ruerd, Aderik, Haso, Fenno, or Lucius
    At least it's pronounceable, have mercy on us.
    I'm not saying the character wasn't vile
    But his name is not deserving of your bile.
    Let us a coincidence change the subject please
    It's between his name and erwtensoup of peas.
    Fabian means bean farmer, funny when you see
    Beans and Peas are members of the genus Fabaceae.

    Betty Mary bows and turns, bows and turns.....

  12. Huzzah! Huzzah! It doesn't make me like it any better but thumbs way, waaaaay up!

    You do make an interesting point though. I don't like it particularly because it is English and pronounceable and therefore I am easily able to place it in the sliding scale of name pronounce-ability. 'Teile' doesn't even come into that scale so no issue there...Discuss.

  13. Betty Barbara here--

    Brava, Betty Mary, Brava!! (FYI, that is correct--guys get "bravo"s, gals get "brava"s).
    Oh! so clever!
    You go, girl!!
    (Throwing virtual flowers now...)

  14. I get your meaning, but I don't quite agree.
    You're okay with Sarre or Rafvan, why exactly?
    The fact that they are foreign make them fine,
    But being familiar and pronounceable is out of line?
    I agree that Fabian is not a name I'd choose
    For a member of my family - the child might be abused .
    But give me a choice of Framm, Thimo, or Fulk
    And I'd take a kid named Fabian without a sulk.
    And since I mentioned old Fulk and his dear Eleanor,
    I will request a review before I get ignored.
    With the holidays here I won't continue to dis this.
    Could you do your magic with Roses for Christmas?
    Respectfully, BettyMary

  15. Thanks Bettys B and K.
    I'm collecting those flowers. With the freeze full on here they may be the only ones I see.
    But tomorrow's my birthday, so I'll hope for more. Blessings and Good Night Mrs. Neels wherever you are!

  16. What I meant was 'sliding scale of likability'--I am familiar with it so know that it's better than Carl and worse than, say, David.

    I can't place the Dutch names with any degree of familiarity so agree to just leave them be...

  17. I have conducted some more research for you dear Bettys: Fabian is a rather fashionable boy's name in German speaking countries at the moment. It was in the top ten list of baby names in Austria in 2006 (no. 7). Similar and equally popular names in Austria, Switzerland and Germany are: Florian, Julian, Sebastian, Lucas, Simon, Felix, Maximilian... not all these names sound equally attractive to an English ear, I am the first admit.

  18. Florian...I think we just topped Fabian.

    1. No, you didn't. FLOH-ree-yahn is a lot cooler than FAH-bee-yahn. 😎

  19. Dear Betty Birgit,
    Thank you for your research! I'm still not sold on Fabian as a 'hero' name. Maybe it's a West Coast thing. This comes from a Betty whose own grandfathers were named, respectively, Milburn and Wirt. There's a legacy that hasn't been passed on.

    While there are no Florians in Neeldom, all the rest of those names can be found in the canon...Julian, Sebastian, Lucas, Simon and Maximillian all make the grade as 'hero' names. Felix doesn't fare so well - the only one I can think of is the stinker from A Gentle Awakening.

  20. Fabian: Better Than Ralph or Carl -- must go on a tee shirt or tote bag. The poetry -- slamming! You must do more Betty Mary! Fabian doesn't bother me at all - I'm in the camp that doesn't bat an eye at Walle, Florian, Sarre, Fulk, so why get worked up over Fabian? BTW, my dear departed grandparents were named Homer & Maud. Don't see those much anymore! And beloved as they were, I could not bear to use their names for my children....

  21. Dutch Name Pronouncing Lesson.
    I have an e-friend who is Dutch and lives in Canada, who was kind enough to give some help on how to say the Dutch names for me and the ladies of the Neels yahoo group. It helped me to stop popping out of the books to figure out how to say the names. Here's her words below.

    ij and ei are pronounced the same like the I in pine.
    Krijn (KRINE),
    Gijs (KISE)*,
    Reilof (RILOF),
    Constantijn (CONSTANTINE),
    although the Dutch say it slightly different. But every one will know
    what you're saying.
    Fraam- (aa). The closest I can get is like the A in guitar or sticking
    out your tongue saying Ah
    Rauwerd -au is like ou in Ouch, ROU-WORD
    Thimmo is like TEAMMO
    Marnix -Mar and nix is like the baseball team.
    Mevrouw - vrouw is like Ouch again and ) is like the u in wurd of Rouwurd. say it MUVROUW

    * the G in Gijs is like gently clearing your throat.
    Tiele- Tealu
    Tialda- Tea alda
    Jikke- Yicku
    Rica- Reaca
    Where on earth does she get those names?
    Have fun.
    PS They are old fashion or regional names.

    BettyMary Here. Johanna did this a few years ago, but I'm still acquainted with her, so if you'd like her to do others, I'd be glad to ask.

  22. My great-uncle was a Fabian. I have a photo of him as a very young child (under 10, certainly) -- dead ringer for Betty Henry at the same age. (Fabian was Betty Henry's great uncle too -- his grandmother and mine were sisters, Amber & Beryl.)

    Fabian died tragically young in WWI. His mother, whom I'm named after, went a little cuckoo after that and took up with psychics and mediums, hoping to communicate with Fay. I gather it was all very hand-wringingly sad.

    Like other Bettys, I vaguely assume that a Germanic pronunciation gets it close enough, but we all know that's silly. I have learned, after all this time, to mentally say "muh-NEER" for Mijnheer.

    I want to plan an Uncrushable trip to The Netherlands. Let's get it from the horse's mouth, so to speak. Oh, and I want to see all the fabu RDD houses. She used REAL houses, you know. Yumm.

  23. Hey BettyMag.... Cool story about Uncle Fabian. All this discussion is making me like this name. LOL And the fact that they called him Fay. Crazy but I like it.
    I wish Betty had used Miles for one of her RBD names. That was my baby brother, he had a tragic life too. Not a soldier. He wanted to to be a priest, but a few tragedies in an Italian seminary caused him to leave. The rest of his life was turmoil til he fell asleep at the wheel and passed away in 1999 at age 40. My mom was of Irish descent born in England and her first crush was on a boy in Manchester named Miles Gallagher. She came to American when she was 12, but she kept that name in her heart. Miles was her 9th child. I don't think my Dad ever knew the story. All 10 of our names started with M and by the time Miles came along Dad was pretty sick. Mom had Meg a year later and Dad died six months after that of stomach cancer. He was 51 and mom was 44. If this was a romance novel, Mom would have re-met her Miles on the trip to England and Ireland that my sister Melanie paid for with her first job, and they would have lived happily ever after. But sad for us, life doesn't always work that way. Mom's still alive at 95. But she doesn't remember much. I'll have to ask her if she remembers Miles Gallagher.

    ....I hate to make you book pop, but shouldn't ij in Mijnheer make it MY NEER.

  24. Life actually worked that way for me. Betty Henry (an honorary Betty because he participated in BettysDay, the centenary of Betty Neels's birth) was my First Love and also the What If guy. (As in: What if I were to meet him again...?) Then I did meet him again, and we married -- both for the first time -- at age 42. And we ARE living happily ever after, although no longer married. Betty Henry introduced me to Betty Ross, so there was an orderly transition. :-)

    Yes, I'm sure it's MY NEER, but the accent is on the NEER, and myNEER quickly becomes muhNEER, or if this makes more sense, m'NEER. A bit like how the written word is monsieur, but what the French actually say is m'sieur.

  25. Going to Winnipeg in December (or any part of winter) for someone is an obvious a symbol of true love for anyone familiar with its climate. It's a wonderful city but can be quite miserable weather-wise at that time of year. As a Canadian, I knew it was F's Ultimate Sacrifice.

  26. During the great re-read, I just happened upon Unknown's comment about being a Canadian. My father was stationed in Canada for a while during World War 2, as he was instructing some of the Canadian Air Force in navigation. He brought back some of the most beautiful pictures of snowy places. He hated the winter, but said that the Canadians dealt well with the extreme cold. I was a toddler when he came back from the war and loved to hear about where he had been. He would never talk about fighting, just some of the places he had been.

  27. What to say about this book? On the plus side, it’s memorable. Except for the title. One paragraph in I thought, oh no, it’s THAT one. I couldn’t even think of a good alternate title. The Grumpy Guardian? Mervyn Makes His Move? Winter of Death? This may be the only Betty in which I didn’t like either main character. And wasn’t anyone else bothered that a stranger comes to town and tells the local businesses to charge everything to Mary Jane and they do it without even checking with her? Not a very good business model. Also, the Big Rescue at the end of the book. Fabian doesn’t search for Mary Jane, finally find her some distance off the trail, carry her back and get her to the hospital, Jaap does! Fabian just shows up and tells her she has a “mild concussion.” Mary Jane pretty much falls in love with every single man who pays any attention to her. Good thing she was unconscious when Jaap rescued her or she’d be marrying him!

  28. What to say about this book? On the plus side, it’s memorable. Except for the title. One paragraph in I thought, oh no, it’s THAT one. I couldn’t even think of a good alternate title. The Grumpy Guardian? Mervyn Makes His Move? Winter of Death? This may be the only Betty in which I didn’t like either main character. And wasn’t anyone else bothered that a stranger comes to town and tells the local businesses to charge everything to Mary Jane and they do it without even checking with her? Not a very good business model. Also, the Big Rescue at the end of the book. Fabian doesn’t search for Mary Jane, finally find her some distance off the trail, carry her back and get her to the hospital, Jaap does! Fabian just shows up and tells her she has a “mild concussion.” Mary Jane pretty much falls in love with every single man who pays any attention to her. Good thing she was unconscious when Jaap rescued her or she’d be marrying him!

  29. Just wanted to pop a word in about the connection between Tiberious and Star Trek. I didn't realize there were some closet Trekkies here!

    1. Betty Del? Aussie Berry? I mean, Berry? How did that happen?

  30. I decided to become Aussie Betty to leave no doubt about from whence I came. Don't you just love the From Whence I Come part?

    1. Dear Aussie Betty, you have phrased that beautifully. 🤗
      However, the question remains:
      Why does it say Berry instead of Betty?
      I doubt you were hatched in a berry 🍓 🍓 patch. 😉

      Betty Anonymous - whom Firefox and Internet Explorer hate.
      They won't let me comment while signed in, and now my comment has disappeared.
      Unless it will show up twice. You never know...

  31. Harold better than Fabian?  Maybe "Hal" is better than "Fab" (which would make it more than fabulous, which it so isn't), but really, a hero named Harold? In real life, yes; in a novel, no.
    There was a Harold in my grade in elementary school, a kind of quiet guy, who became a self-made millionaire in his thirties but never married and died in his forties. Now, lest you think recurrent elements in Betty Neels books have no basis in reality, consider this: In college, we had an Austrian-born, London-educated soccer-coach-turned-professor-of-religion named Fabian (not that we would ever address him by his first name!) who had married a woman named Charlotte (!) and had 4 children. They moved to America where Charlotte became ill and died (!) tragically young.  The professor soon remarried, a widow with 4 young children of her own (her husband, a businessman, had died in a plane crash in Texas (!)) They had two more children together and lived very happily into their 90s, the professor becoming a renowned and respected community leader, active and alert until his final days.

    B. Baersma