Monday, May 2, 2011

Year's Happy Ending--Reprise

The thing that I remember the most about this book is that Peggy, in the fine tradition of RDD/RBD sisters, has no problem loading Deborah up with a teething baby and haring off for a day of entertainment.  It speaks ill of her future SIL helpfulness...Enjoy!--Betty Keira

In honor of the season, Betty Keira suggested that we start off our Betty Neels book reviews with "Year's Happy Ending". It's a bold choice. "Year's Happy Ending" is not your typical Neels. There are no Dutch doctors, no English nurses. And is pure Neels.

First of all, 1984 represents La Neels smack dab in the middle of her writing career. She had been churning out about 4 novels a year for 15 years - so presumably she could do it in her sleep by now.

Here are some of the vital statistics for Year's Happy Ending:

•Heroine - Deborah Farley, 23 years old. She is a certified nanny (possibly the only "certified nanny" in Neeldom). Small in stature, but with a "pretty figure"...this will come in handy later on in the story...sandy hair, a plain face, beautiful green eyes with sandy lashes. Sandy lashes? At one point she wonders if her eyelashes would look funny if she dyed them. I'm wondering if Betty Neels ever dabbled in makeup? Hello...try some mascara! Her temperament is pretty much calm and pragmatic - except around Gideon...who flusters her.
•Hero - Professor Gideon Beaufort, 35 years old. he fits the Neels model, in that he is tall and large...but he's not Dutch - or a doctor. He is described as having iron grey hair and bright blue eyes. Iron grey hair at 35??? I guess it could happen. It sounds like he's some kind of professor of one point he tells Deborah that he studies "the production and distribution of money and goods". That phrase sure sounds like something out of a textbook. La Neels pretty much slides past any details of his job (in sharp contrast to the specific operations that her Dutch doctors perform). He's a widower with a 10 year old daughter. He again fits the Neels model, in that his first marriage did not go well - and the unloving wife is gracious enough to die - after running away with someone else.

The story begins with Deborah going to act as emergency nanny to the Burns family (Mrs. Burn's mother is taken suddenly ill). Deborah is currently between nanny jobs, so she accepts. Mrs. Peggy Burns is Gideon's sister. The Burns family consists of 4 year old twins, Simon and Suzanne, and an impossibly well behaved baby, Deidre. This baby is placid to the point of being catatonic. Except for one day when she's teething.

As part of Mrs. Beaufort's (Gideon and Peggy's mother) recovery, the whole family flies down to Portugal. On a private plane. Of course. They meet Gideon and Eleanor (Gideon's daughter) there. When Gideon first sees Deborah in a bikini he says "Don't expect me to ever call you Nanny again."

Gideon begins his courtship of Deborah. He takes her to town and they listen to fado music and eat grilled sea bream washed down with Vinho Verde. He asks her to marry her - so that Eleanor will be happy and have a mother...yes, a marriage of convenience, and yes, he's using a child as emotional blackmail. Deborah turns him down flat. " ...I'd like to have a husband who loved me and whom I loved, otherwise I'd just as soon stay as I am." (page 88).

Back in England, Gideon invites Deborah over to his house. "...[Eleanor] misses you - she'd rather set her heart on having you for a mother you know." More emotional blackmail. It's really rather sweet, mostly because he is quite open about it. She gets the grand tour, and then Gideon proposes...again. She turns him down. Again. He tells her that if she ever changes her mind, the offer still stands, "And I promise you that I won't ask your reasons.." (page 101).

Deborah realizes that she's fallen in love with him, so she drives over to his house and tells him she'll marry him. Two weeks later they are married - she wears a simply cut dress in fine wool, the color of clotted cream, with a heavier topcoat of tweed - since they will be traveling right after the wedding. Where? Holland, of course. By Hovercraft. With Eleanor. Gideon had some sort of conference in den Haag, so while he was in meetings, Deborah and Eleanor went out shopping and exploring. Evidently the place to shop in den Haag is "La Bonnetiere" (this particular store is mentioned time and time again in Neels novels). Gideon buys her a cashmere top coat...Neels men are always buying the heroines cashmere top coats - I wish my husband would buy me a cashmere top coat...

Back in England again, Gideon slowly starts noticing Deborah. He plans a weekend house party and tells Deborah that he'll take her up to London so that she can shop for some new clothes. Enter "the Other Woman"- Lady Barbara Inge. She's really not "the Other Woman" - but she'd like to be. Of course she's beautiful, glamorous, well dressed and witty - and divorced.

After spending the day shopping (at Harrods) Deborah returns home and models her clothes for Eleanor and Miss Timmis (Eleanor's elderly governess). Miss Timmis tells her that her evening dress is ravishing, even if rather revealing "Although as you are a married lady, an exposed bosom is quite allowable" (really? and if so, why? Discuss.).

Deborah takes the dogs for a walk one evening. The Jack Russell falls into a pond, she rescues it (ruining a new suit...which begs the questions: why walk the dogs in winter in a new suit????)...then she gets lost in the dark. Gideon comes home, rescues her and then puts her to bed, after she falls asleep in front of the fire, snoring in a faint, ladylike manner (tired out from near hypothermia and medicinal doses of brandy).

Things come to a head - she admits that she loves him, he admits he loves her, they kiss, the end.

I really enjoy this story - possibly because the heroine is quite capable, calm and pragmatic. I give this book a rating of 8.5. That's a strong helping of boeuf en croute with a spoonful of queen of pudding for afters.


  1. Betty Barbara here--
    Well, I figured I'd better comment, since I seconded Betty Magdalen's request for reruns...
    Of course I have to resent that the Veronica's name is Barbara(but I can admire her wardrobe!). And I never bought into the incredibly placid baby.
    I notice that Gideon bought Deborah what should be the cashmere coat of true love--alas, it looks like he's merely being generous.
    We know when Deborah has her Dawning Revelation but when, exactly, was Gideon's? I haven't read the book in a while, so I've lost track. The bikini scene??
    I have remembered that his family are all saying how 'suitable' Deborah is for Gideon while she is doing the nanny bit for Peggy.

  2. I want to know why the Jack Russell can't swim.

  3. Betty Barbara -- Nope, Gideon's not in love until WELL after they're married. In fact, it rather sneaks up on him and us quite late in the book.

    I love that Deborah gets more and more glamorous (well, you know what I mean) as the book goes along. Finally she's in a dress that is designer, fits perfectly and is a shade of green that makes her "sandy" hair look like pale auburn. I &heart; The Great Betty.

    I'm guessing that the role of Dee (the baby) was played by The Great Betty's grandson. It seems reasonable that the Meijers, their daughter & her family, might all have spent a holiday in the Algarve just so that The Great Betty had a plot to write about.

    Thesis: No matter what your profession, at some point you will need to travel for business to Den Haag.

    Betty Miranda -- It's iced over, so the Jack Russell can swim, he just can't climb onto the ice to save himself.

  4. That should read "I ♥ The Great Betty."

  5. Betty Barbara here--
    Thanks Betty Magdalen for refreshing my memory.
    Yes, Deborah is like a number of Betty's heroines--once they get some good clothes that fit and are in colors that flatter them--Wowza!
    (Well, that's true for almost all women--clothes DO matter in how you look!!)

  6. Oh, thank you for clearing that up, Betty Magdalen. I tweeted last night about my genuine encounter with an RDD. Actually I'm not sure about the R part because it's rude to ask for specifics of a man's income when you just met him. (At least I think so. Call me old-fashioned.)

    Anyway, this man commutes between doctorish activities in Amsterdam and our local medical school - very Neels except for the America part. But he also did some training in London and spent a few years in the UK. A bit old, even for a Neels hero, but with fair hair that I could describe as lint-colored if I squinted.

    He taught us all to sing a Dutch song, the equivalent of Happy Birthday, but I can not longer remember a word of it.

  7. I haven't commented on this one because I still don't have a copy to read. I wasn't smart enough to figure out that the redux would be in order so I didn't procure a copy in time. I'm smarter now (and They said it couldn't be done...) and am all set up for the next ones.

    About clothes making the girl, I once had a date with a staring quarterback in the NFL--if you knew me better you would really wonder about that, but long story....Anyway, I observed to my older grad officemate, an ranch girl from rural West Texas, that I simply didn't look like all those wives/girlfriends. She informed me, with the wisdom of the ages, "Honey, that's money. You buy that look." However, she followed it up with, "But money doesn't buy charm." I have realized through the years how exactly right she was.

  8. heehee--oops, that would be "starting quarterback"

  9. Plus, I want to talk about the "exposed bosom" on ladies, married or otherwise, comment in the review. When is the line crossed from alluring to pathetic?

  10. Dear Betty JoDee,
    As a woman who has been...ahem...generously endowed by nature in the bosom department, I can tell you that the farther down the alphabet you go (in cup sizes), the higher your neckline will have to be so as not to have too much exposed bosom. The higher up in the alphabet, the converse is somewhat true.
    Case in point: Keira Knightly can wear a dress cut down to her waist without exposing any bosom (you can't expose what you do not have).
    Betty Debbie

  11. Betty Debbie,

    You are precisely right about bra sizes and necklines - if only bathing suit designers would Get It. I want a crew necked bathing suit! Seriously - no one needs to see as much cleavage as is exposed by a woman my size wearing the average "fat lady" bathing suit.

    End of THAT rant. ;-)


  12. Betty Ross and I went to a wedding this past weekend. Weird affair: invitation said the wedding was at 4 p.m. with "dinner and dancing to follow." No mention of what attire would be appropriate. (It turned out to be a good bit more casual than I had been expecting...)

    Anyway, I wore my all-singing, all-dancing party frock (clerical grey satin). It's not low cut, precisely, but I'm up there in the alphabet so to speak, so I was a little concerned about the amount of skin I was showing.

    Betty Ross and I had taken our seats at the back (we're tall) and were waiting for everyone else to get settled. I looked down at my bodice. "It's not too much boobage, is it?" I murmured to him.
    He gave me a very REW-esque sideways look and said, "Not for me!"

    I felt instantly better.

  13. My biggest frustration, decolletage wise, is when I try on an item of clothing in the store and IT IS FINE, but then when I actually wear it in public I find that unless I stand still, with my shoulders firmly back, I'm likely to flash someone too much 'boobage' (thank you Betty Magdalen). Argh. That happened to me at my son's wedding - I found out too late that the neckline on my dress was entirely too low. Thankfully I was able to borrow a scarf from Betty Keira (that I had just given her as a birthday/Christmas present) and artfully drape it where it was most needed.

  14. I learned the hard way at a history conference, from my major professor, during a press cocktail party, that one should sit down in a dress in the fitting room to understand just how short it becomes seated. Prof. Dr. B__r laughingly to another male colleague in front of me: "Now is that a dress that a good little Baptist girl should be wearing?"