Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wholesome Recreational Activities

Lance the American, in his attempt to steal a bony-chested blonde from a Dutch doctor, had suggested a weekend of backpacking.  And he didn't know if the sinking pit in his stomach was the granola or a gnawing certainty that THIS WOULDN'T END WELL.
I am preparing for a journey into the bowels of the netherworld  a 50 mile backpacking trip next week with my 73-year-old father and 11-year-old son.  (Betty Kylene and her 11-year-old will also be death-marching hiking with us!)  Mijnheer van Voorhees (and most able-bodied men of our acquaintance), however, will be enjoying a life of luxury, air conditioning and indoor plumbing back at the little Casa and it all got me thinking.  (Why must I think of Henry V:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.)

What would Betty consider a wholesome family activity?

We know she would walk for miles (sometimes into the teeth of a gale) around the assorted beauty spots of the Dutch, British and Portuguese countrysides.  She would have picnic lunches with fresh made lemonade.  She'd teach her little nippers to swim in the North Sea and they would probably fish, swim and sail with equal aplomb--but backpacking?  I just don't see it.

Still, I think she would have made a great backpacking traveling companion.  First, you can't go wrong with a trained medical professional along.  Second, she had a great fondness for endowing her heroines with pocket scissors and pocket knives for all kinds of emergencies.  Third, I cannot help but think fondly of her biographical description of her own mother bursting into tears at the sight of La Neels' post-war Dutch cottage (which, if memory serves, had been reclaimed from sunken lands!).  So, she knew how to rough it.

So, I'll have her along with me in spirit (and maybe a copy of The Promise of Happiness) even if she maybe didn't do this sort of thing...

*Of course I had to link to this.  Duh!  And another for the lame-o-s who weren't in German class...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, August 1st. The Hasty Marriage.
Wedding turban!
Reilof falls for younger sister Joyce first...who then dumps him for Larry the American!

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Valentine for Daisy - Reprise

Sorry to be posting so late today!  In my defense, it is still morning here on the west coast - and I've been working like a Trojan on cleaning and organizing my house, AND spending time with my daughter and grandchildren who are visiting here from the east coast...anywho, things just got away from me this morning.

One of my favorite bits in A Valentine for Daisy is the part where she gets a new skirt fashioned from an old INHERITED curtain.  I have two thoughts about this.  First of all: Betty Keira was wondering about curtains being left to them by a dead relative. I have a bag of zippers that were given to me by my grandmother - nearly 30 years ago (grandma has been gone over 20 years now).  Just last month I pulled out 2 zippers and used them for a project I was working on.  I'm pretty sure the bag is bottomless - which is pretty impressive considering that it is smaller than a plastic grocery bag. Second thought: Upcycling is all the rage now.
- Betty Debbie

A passing glance at the title of this book might lead you to believe that the Venerable Neels was making a pun on the name Valentine and Valentine's Day. You would be dead wrong. They are related insofar as a Valentine is another word for sweetheart but, as the timeline is mid-Summer-ish into Fall, it skips the February commemoration entirely.

Ah Young Love:

Daisy Pelham--yes, Daisy, there is no getting around it with a charming abbreviation--the name that only conjures feckless hippies and that spineless twit from The Great Gatsby. In the world of feminine flower names there are two sorts: offensive and other. For me, Daisy falls in with Hyacinth and Amaryllis as offensive. Lily or Rose do not make the bile rise, as it were. Such is the unfairness of life.

Daisy is 22, plain and plump with a pert nose--an Araminta down to her toes. Her sister Pamela (15) occasionally acts as the Deus ex machina in moving romantic disclosures along and helps Daisy chose semi-unflattering outfits from time to time but is otherwise happily unprecocious. Their mother is the sort of Neels woman so often littering up the landscape--widowed, cosseted,lazy and ineffectual. She is not cruel but is clearly a financial burden, slowly crushing our plucky heroine under her gauzy sleeve, spouting lines like, "We're having lamb chops for supper but I forgot to buy them."

Valentine Seymour is a paediatrician with dark hair and dark eyes which La Neels never fully gets behind but which gives me an excellent excuse to think of Clive Owen..........................Okay. We're back. No one ever makes fun of the name Valentine as he lives in a protective bubble wherein the name Valentine is entirely normal and certainly no excuse for levity. He owns a dark grey Rolls-Royce and homes in Salisbury (in the close) and London.

Act I:
Daisy peddles her bike and sees a stranger in a gorgeous car. She thinks to herself that this must be important. Replace the bike with a laundry cart and the Rolls-Royce with an industrial washer and instead of seeing his "thin-lipped smile" you saw...well, something else altogether, then you've pretty much got my meeting with Minjeer Nathan van der Voorhees down pat.
Daisy works in a Victorian nursery school which, being Victorian, already foreshadows disaster. If a lame fiance's mother owns heavy Victorian furniture, or an elderly convalescent home is in the Victorian style or a house has Victorian architecture then you can bet dollars to donuts that a fire or an earthquake or an awkward schism will ensue. Beware Victoriana! There be danger.
A case of food poisoning (possibly engineered by the ghosts of dead Victorians?) sends the whole nursery school to the hospital. Demon twins, Katie and Josh, find their uncle and Daisy impresses him by catching throw-up in a plastic pinny (British word alert!).
Of course she is fired by the manager--a horrible woman named Mrs. Gower-Jones (who reads the Tatler!--clearly an indictment on her character). Daisy is told that Mrs. G-J will post her check. The "seldom roused" Daisy responds, "I'll wait while you write it."
"Seldom roused", huh? She rouses herself no less than seven times in 93 pages after which I stopped keeping track of how many times this "mild by nature" girl lit into somebody.
Briefly considering a job as a "pigperson" (true story), Daisy is tracked down by Lady Thorley (mother of the perishing terrors) and asked if she wouldn't mind being a temporary governess. Choices, choices...I myself would have gone with the pigs but there is no accounting for taste.
Daisy dreams of buying her mother new shoes and her sister "one of those baggy sweaters" she is mad about. Of course it was Valentine who recommended her for the job. At one point Valentine visits the nursery. Her neck is rubbed by his thumb. This is the apex of Betty Neels' carnal heat.

Act II:
Lady Thorley's husband (who as far as I can tell has never spoken two words to his children in their lives) has to travel to The Hague (or den Haag as they refer to it ever after). Would Daisy mind terribly...? Of course she goes and to round out her wardrobe dips into the stash of raspberry red brocade curtains (left to them by a dead relative--Is this normal?) to fashion herself a long skirt. I approve.
In Den Haag she meets cheerful Philip Keynes. If this were a Star Trek episode Philip Keynes would be wearing a red shirt. He would be shot by Romulans in an ambush and credited as "guy". But if Daisy's looks are redeemed by long-lashed grey eyes then Philip Keynes is redeemed by his unfailingly friendly manner and freaking awesome surname.
Enter the good doctor who is none too thrilled about Daisy's new friend--made worse because he's a perfectly amiable fellow. (He wants to hate him but he can't!) Philip serves as a nice contrast to Valentine and while Daisy is not yet in love she thinks to herself that Keynes would make a great brother and that Valentine would be "romantic in a coal hole."
Meanwhile, Lady Thorley makes unreasonable requests on Daisy's time ("Hey, would you mind taking the twins off to the beach in the rain? I'm super tired!") and seems incapable of watching her own children for hours at a time, Valentine figures out the dress/curtain (though keeps mum) and Daisy is personally insulted by a Dutch tartlet.

Back in England, Daisy is once again jobless and worried enough to consider working in a shop ("But how would one help customers?!") or cleaning offices (horrors not bearing contemplation!). Happily she is saved by the suggestion (tangentially from Val) that she apply for a position as a hospital orderly which is described as "not a domestic", a domestic and ancillary staff. Either way it's rough going. Also, her co-worker is Maisie. Yes. Rhyming. Daisy and Maisie.
From time to time, just for kicks, Lady Thorley monopolizes her free time and pushes the kids at her. "Yipee! Run off my feet all week and a Saturday filled with tantrums and snot!" Can you tell I don't much care for Lady Thorley? Neels is clearly trying to communicate that she is a likable little feather-brain but I just can't work up any emotion more gentle than hostility. "Sorry to ruin your free time from your physically grueling job but these children are murder! Take them!"
Philip Keynes (yes, now I'm just doing it for fun) comes back into town and takes her out--rousing the jealousy of our good doctor. "Well, if that's what she wants..." he muttered so savagely...' But then Philip Red Shirt falls in love with a pretty Sister named Beryl (which name is so awful that it reconciled me at last to Daisy).
Maisie gets sick.
"Kids on the rampage", "hooligans", and "louts" swarm the hospital chipping at long-dead consultant's busts (!) and then the founder's bust(Double !). Daisy makes a heroic stand, is saved by Valentine and bursts into tears at home.
It's okay though. He proposes the next time he sees her in the ward sister's office.

Queen of puddings! Daisy has just enough pertness without becoming a doormat or veering into waspish Enchanting Samantha territory. She is mostly irritated with him because she doesn't recognize Valentine's flirting for what it is. He is vexing but gently so and usually not without provocation. Her mother the widow never gets disposed of. Neels allowed annoying parents to die (if they were considerate), remarry or be taken care of by old nannies. Mrs. Pelham does none of these and presents a problem.
"not in a tin" vichyssoise soup, chestnut souffle, castle puddings with custard, cold lettuce soup with cream (ew.), game chips (?), beef sandwiches and "wholesome stew and ice cream" that causes the kids to vomit
Him--dark grey superfine wool waistcoat and an Italian striped tie (the proposal), and evening clothes (she admires "the inspired cut of his coat")
Her-terrible plastic mac, navy blue jersey dress, curtain/dress, good suit

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Betty in the Wild

I've been gone for the entire week - being the camp cook for 125 teenage girls and 20 adults.  Lucky for me everything tastes better outdoors.  It was exhausting, but Betty Tia came along with me for the fun of it (and by fun, I mean cooking over a propane stove, sleeping in a tent and an inordinate amount of heavy lifting...). I like Betty Mary's idea of a few days away from home a whole lot better.
-Betty Debbie

via email from Betty Mary:

Two Days in Paradise

Professor Vue der Plane and I just spent 4 days on an anniversary road trip. We had a marvelous time, two days and one night of which was like living a dream. I found an internet deal that gave us a night in a lodge at a resort on Lake Champlain. It included a full breakfast served by gloved waitstaff, a 6 course dinner on the pier overlooking the water, a boat tour of the lake, and a bottle of wine, all for one extremely reasonable price. We kicked ourselves for not getting two nights, because just the cost of one night additional would have been twice what we paid for all the above.

I took along 'Paradise for Two', and released it for bookcrossing outside our lovely room. The other days were very enjoyable too. We started y driving through Canada and stayed the first night on the Niagara River. After the resort we stayed in 'regular' lodging near Lake George and I enjoyed a morning hiking from beach to beach. That night we stopped by Betty Ariel's in laws in Western N. Y. and had wonderful dinner on top of a mountain in a place that reminded me of a resort for backwoods people! Our last night was with brother-in-law near Cleveland, Ohio. We had a good visit with this charming but a bit lonely older guy, making me wish I had someone to introduce him too. He's been a widow 9 years and I think he needs a nice friend. All in all a wonderful experience. I can't wait for Anniversary 33! This vacation gets Lashed with whipped cream. Oooo I should have thought of that while in the room!
Collage note: Of course, I took my own UJD, and like a true Betty, scaled treacherous paths, note the orange cones that I ignored. I didn't bother waiting to be rescued! The Professor was not amused!  Note the boat was named the Escape! And for those non-Bettys who wonder why I'd include the dinner pic, well they may never understand!

Wedding photo note: Yes, he and my brother wore baby blue. It wasn't just that it was 1979. He wanted to honor the Virgin Mary, since she got us together. Blue is her color.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, July 25th. A Valentine for Daisy.

Up-cycled red brocade curtains, up-chucking nursery school, career options that include 'pigperson'.

Monday, July 18, 2011

An Unlikely Romance--Reprise

I've always been bemused by the hero in this one.  Not only is he terribly fashion-forward (See strangely cut leather jacket, white slacks and tangerine scarf on cover...) but his name, Krijn, reminds me, for whatever reason, of the Balrog in The Lord of the Rings.  Not that he himself would be a demonic creature inhabiting the bowels of the earth...just that he might be near enough neighbors to borrow cups of sugar...
Love and lardy cakes, Betty Keira

I remember exactly when and where I bought An Unlikely Romance...I usually don't. My family was on our way to Yellowstone National Park, and we wandered into a Deseret Industries thrift store in Rexburg, Idaho. When I read the hero's name on the back cover I knew that this was a book I didn't already own. Krijn van der Brink-Schaaksa. Yeah, that's a name I'll remember...even if I can't pronounce it.

Beatrice Doveton is 23, small, nicely plump (the Araminta). An orphan who lives with her fraternal uncle, his wife and their daughter Margaret...who is slightly older and much prettier. Beatrice is unfortunately called "Trixie" by them...and everyone else. Beatrice (I refuse to use the name Trixie again - the Professor also refuses to call her Trixie) is a second year nursing student at Timothy's. She is described as having the kindest of hearts, a romantic nature and a good deal of common sense. She is also a bit of a klutz. When Professor Krijn van der Brink-Schaaksma (!!?!) comes onto the ward for rounds, she falls for him...or rather, she falls near him. He picks her up and dusts her off without apparently noticing her. Beatrice likes Professor van der Brink-Schaaksma (let's just call him Krijn) - she thinks he is "the nicest man she'd ever met". Beatrice sees him at her cousin's birthday party - where Beatrice is wearing a despised brown dress...while her cousin was "a sight to gladden the eyes in her golden sequined jacket and layered silk skirt." Wow. Golden sequined jacket, where oh where can I pick one up? That brown velvet is starting to sound pretty fetching to me.

Krijn proposes a marriage of convenience on page 23 - which might possibly be a record...he wants a "buffer" so he can write his learned medical tome in peace. "I'll guard you like a dragon," she says, and then realizes that she loves him on the next page. Krijn is fairly obsessed with endocrinology (his speciality). He tells Beatrice that he has friends in England and Holland.

"The medical profession?"
"Yes, very largely."
Trixie thought privately that she would need to buy the best medical dictionary there was - his friends would doubtless find long discussions about the human frame and its ailments a pleasant way of spending an evening. If she hadn't loved him so much she would have backed out while there was still time.

I'm willing to bet that Betty Neels had access to a medical dictionary - she uses a plethora of medical terms in her works, especially in An Unlikely Romance. Hyperthyroidism, exophthalmos, corneal ulceration and phaeochromocytoma all make an appearance. I wanted to insert a picture of the endocrine system here, but who knew the endocrine system went that low? In order to stay "G-rated", I opted instead to illustrate my favorite quote from the book..."she was sorry for him, going around with his head in endocrinal clouds..." That is the money line.

Krijn tells Beatrice to pack light, she can buy new things in Holland after the she ruthlessly goes through her wardrobe..."the pile of discarded clothes got larger and larger until there was barely enough to cover her decently." After a lovely weekend in Portland, I too have a large pile of discarded clothes, I mean, laundry.

After getting married (sans Aunt, Uncle and Margaret - let's not upset cousin Margaret!), the couple set off for Holland. But first, Krijn stops by the hospital to see a patient...leaving Beatrice in the car for more than an hour with nothing but a map to read. Oh, really? (Being a "buffer" may be all well and good, but at least give me a book to read!)

After reaching his home, Krijn says "You must be tired?"
If that wasn't a broad hint to take herself off to bed, she was a Dutchman - no, a Dutchwoman now that she was married..."

Krijn takes Beatrice off to the Hague to do a little shopping - because she's gonna need some nice clothes...

" you will have to dress the part, I'm afraid. I shall enjoy feeling proud of you."
"Don't butter me up," she muttered crossly and glared up at him.

Beatrice puts on one of her new dresses and some high heels and heads downstairs with anticipation of Krijn's approval....needless to say he fails to notice. ...she might just as well have cut a hole in a bath towel and stuck her head through it.

They head up to Friesland to see his parents and 4 younger sisters. And brothers-in-law. This is where they encounter Andre ter Vange, Krijn's cousin - quite the snake in the grass. He sows doubt and discord, albeit, on a small scale. Krijn and Beatrice should really buy him a thank you gift, because without Andre's bouquets of flowers and flowery note, Krijn might just have gone on being oblivious and absent-minded. As it is, Krijn mistakenly thinks that Beatrice might be in love with Andre. Which is quite preposterous...Andre is an architect for Pete's sake...not only that, but he has worked in England and AMERICA. Heavens, simply sailing past America in a Neels is tantamount to becoming infected with typhoid, smallpox, bubonic plague AND Ebola...all at once. Krijn acknowledges to himself that he's fallen for Beatrice. Or maybe he just loves the silver pocket knife she gave him for Christmas...the kind with all the gadgets.

Near the end, Beatrice goes for a walk (so what if it's January in Holland...that's what you do) so as to avoid Andre. In rolls a thick fog and she's lost. Krijn finds her, I love you, no, I love YOU. "Considerably hampered by the grey fog..." he kisses Beatrice. Kisses hampered by fog? Discuss.

Reason to read: An Unlikely Romance is rife with awesome one-liners. These are very often on the snarky side (at least they are the way that I read them). When Krijn says " tends to channel ones interest..." Beatrice reflects sourly "you can say that again." I do love a little snarkiness.

Food: treacle tart, boiled cod, parsnips, lobster mousse, noisette of lamb, profiteroles, crumpets swimming in butter, crab bisque (not out of a tin), pavlova with pineapples and whipped cream, fairy cakes, Victoria sponge.
Fashion: nutmeg brown jersey dress, wedding outfit of sapphire blue velvet (suit) with a hat...which will go well with the sapphire and diamond engagement ring.

Cars: Jaguar, Bentley, Mini

Rating: An orphan, a MOC (marriage of convenience), lots of food, medical terms and an absent minded professor...I give this one a boeuf en croute, with a tiny helping of queen of puddings for the snarkiness.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Another Welcome!

Oops, I forgot to post this. My apologies to Betty Caroline. We had international emails two days in a row!

Dear Betty's,

I have just recently come across you web site after I googled one of my all time fav reads - Caroline's Waterloo (slacking off in work no less eck!).

I have to say I completely love it! Who knew there would be a web site dedicated to Betty Neels!

I started reading Betty Neels when I was about 18 - resulting in a bit of a Dutch Doctor infatuation if I am honest! and now at 31 it is all coming back!

I kept a few odd favourites scattered around, but after reading your book reviews I sent my partner up the loft to bring down my boxed up entire Neels collection. And I am loving re-reading them all.

Thanks very much for rekindling my love for the Betty!

Caroline McC*****
(from Scotland)

p.s. The only Betty Neels I can't read is A Match for Sister Maggy as Betty Neels take on Scottish slang slightly cringes me out!

Dear Betty Caroline,

First of all, I don't blame you a bit for loving Caroline's Waterloo - not only is it my favorite Neels - you also share a name (which makes me wish I liked Waiting for Deborah just as well, it's a fine offering by La Neels, but it's no Caroline's Waterloo)...
Second of all, Scotland!?! I don't blame you a bit for not being able to enjoy mangled Scottish slang (Can you read Tangled Autumn without cringing?). 

Welcome to the party.

Love and lardy cakes,
Betty Debbie

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Crazy Dayz of Summer

My grandson suggested a picture of me in a hammock, relaxing.  Since I don't happen to own a hammock, I'm substituting this picture...and wishing I was there.

During the school year I'm always looking forward to summer vacation.  Too bad I have my 10 year-old self's rosy glasses on when I do.  When I was 10, summer vacation was practically endless - and while my family was no slouch when it came to keeping busy, it just seemed like I had plenty of time for goofing off.  I love the theory of having 'nothing' to do...but in reality I always have something (or many things) to do. This summer seems particularly busy.

Next week is Girls Camp for our church group.  For some inexplicable reason, someone thought I would be great to have as the camp cook.  More likely, they just knew that I'm a gal who can't say 'no'.  Seriously, it's like I have a disease or something. So, here I am, smack dab in the middle of my summer vacation, when the toughest question I should have to deal with is how much ice to put in my lemonade and instead I'm shopping and prepping food for 150 teenage girls (let's not even get into the question of food allergies I have to work around). I think I need to start my summer vacation plans in September so that I have a ready answer besides 'sure, I'll be your unpaid minion'.

Anywho, I thought that I would share the joy/burden of writing posts with you. Yes, you.  We have so many talented, interesting, well written, well-traveled Bettys out there, and we'd love to give you a chance to participate/contribute here on The Uncrushable Jersey Dress (I promise it's not just a ruse to get out of least, not much of one).'s the deal: will you be our unpaid minion valued contributor?

Here's how:

Put together an email with a short (or long) post (include pictures if you so desire) of anything Betty related-ish, for instance:

Betty in the Wild (click on the 'Betty in the Wild' label on the sidebar for past examples)
Life After Betty (Betty appropriate authors...again, click on 'life after Betty' label for examples)
Words or Phrases that have crept into my vocabulary due to reading Betty
Profile of yourself as a reader of Betty - please include a profile picture (we won't mind a bit if they are obviously doctored/fake - 'cause that's how we roll).
Holes in our Betty coverage (for instance, have you ever asked yourself,  'Why haven't The Founding Bettys ever talked about 'x'?)

We promise to preserve confidentiality - last names will be blotted out (unless you use a fictitious Dutchified version).  Depending on volume, we'll space them out a bit.

If someone wants to open a short and painful question such as 'should an older bride be saddled with wearing a turban' (see the controversial The Hasty Marriage....) feel free...

..and now I'm off to the store to buy MORE food for girl's camp...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, July 18th.
An Unlikely Romance.

Endocrinology, an absent minded professor, a marriage of convenience, and Cousin Andre the Architect.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Roses and Champagne--Reprise

 Dearest Bettys, I'm with Betty Debbie on this one.  I find it charming in parts but problematical.  I don't really buy all those years that our hero wastes not making time with our heroine.  But on the other hand she's an illustrator which is way, way off the reservation.  But on the other hand he uses her job to beat her over the head with.  But on the other hand, Greece.  This novel is firmly occupying my 'But on the other hand' shelf and I'll pick it up when I need something a little different. Love and lardy cakes, Betty Keira

There is nary a whiff of medical fiction in this book. No doctors, Dutch or otherwise, no nurses, plain or pretty. There is a mention of the heroine skinny dipping with the hero and near the end they sleep together. WHAT??? Nakedness and sleeping together? This is Betty Neels, is it not? Don't fret, Gentle Reader, all will be explained.
Katrina, 27, is the plainer older sister here (the Araminta). She goes about her "household duties" for an hour....what household duties??. When her parents died (in a car accident, natch) they had left her, along with the Regency house and splendid gardens and paddocks, also Mrs. Beecham (cook/housekeeper), Lovelace (chauffeur, houseman and part-time gardener), two girls from the village who came each day to help in the house, and Old John...who despite being a little light in the head worked magic in the garden. She dresses in well-cut, expensive clothes...that are dull. I think this is the only time I've read a Betty Neels wherein the heroine has poor taste in clothes. Usually their taste is just fine, they just don't have the money to indulge it. She does have expensive taste in shoes - favoring high heeled models by Rayne and Gucci. She is a first-class driver, unusual in a Neels heroine, but not unheard of. Katrina drives her own Triumph Sports...quite elderly now but still going well. She does have a one of a Neels kind of career. She illustrates childrens books. Katrina paints hobgoblins and flower fairies. You heard me, hobgoblins and flower fairies. For some time, since their parents died (no idea of how long ago...but not recently), Katrina and younger sister Virginia (age 20) have been having to make do with their monied existence. Not to say they are rich...just well to do. By the way, Virginia is just about as vile a piece of Neels younger sisterhood as you'll find. She tells Katrina at one point "I know you've no looks to speak of, but you've got a good figure - why don't you tart yourself up a bit?" That's it, I need to tart myself up a bit. Katrina is very typically blind to her sisters faults.

Lucius Massey. 34ish. Has know Katrina since her pram days. Lives in the larger mansion on the adjacent estate. "Well, surely we've known each other long enough for me to make a few brotherly remarks without you coming over all modest?"..."Why, I remember - let me see, I must have been about twelve and you five - we went swimming in the river, and you without a stitch on." I'm a little appalled that a twelve year old boy would be taking a five year old girl swimming...but I do like that he "had a painful interview with Father in the study." He has always been there for a rather brotherly fashion. He has been taking Virginia out for the past year - as a favor to Katrina. By the way, he's a chartered accountant. Besides his Jaguar, he also drives a Bently Turbo.
Story: Virginia is storming about the place alternately weeping and plotting vengeance. Supposedly Lucius has thrown her over...but since she never loved him, and he never loved her, this is clearly bunkem. She's just throwing a tantrum of epic proportions. And to add insult to injury she lies about what happened and tells all and sundry that Lucius left her for Katrina. "...she has explained at some length to everyone who would listen, she had no chance against your brains, elegance and-er-knowledge of the world - oh, and I almost forgot, your maturity." Virginia immediately goes off and gets engaged to a fairly wealthy young dolt that she can wrap around her finger. Lucius takes this golden opportunity to bulldoze Katrina into courtship and an as not to make a liar out of Virginia. He obviously has more than that on his mind. His plotting is fairly involves coercing Katrina into spending a bundle on a new wardrobe - full of more colorful clothes that "do something for her". At one point he asks Katrina "Do you have any indigent aunts or cousins?" He tells her they will come in handy in keeping her house in the family so that perhaps their second son can inherit. She definitely didn't see that one coming. This is a faux engagement, right? They spend a lot of time riding together in the morning, driving up to London to go shopping, taking care of Upper Tew(the village), hosting parties, going to parties, etc...leading fairly posh lifestyles. On Christmas Day Katrina has a dawning realization that she love with Lucius. She Can't Let That Get in The Way of Their Friendship.

They swan about - going to and fro from their nice houses - eating dinners that their devoted cooks make for them, being locked up after by their devoted housemen. There is a lot of driving up to London to turn in illustrations and shop for expensive clothes in boutiques (not Harrods - because that's where she gets her dull clothes). And possibly to do some chartered accountancy.
Just after New Years they go on vacation together to Greece. He's been to Greece four or five times before, and of course he speaks the language. They run into an elderly pair of sisters who are also on vacation. Addy and Dora. We first meet them at Heathrow, before they get on the plane. Addy is timid and nice. Dora is cross and judgemental. She snorts at Katrina as she walks past her on the plane. Not to worry. Katrina and Lucius's vacation in Greece will be comme il faut ("Being in accord with conventions or accepted standards; proper.")...up until the earthquake. Yup, just as they are about to sort out their love, the earth moves. In my experience, that usually happens AFTER the declaration of undying love. Evidently Lucius needed to get Katrina really alone so that she would listen to him. Their car is destroyed, so they have to walk six or seven miles back to a village. Thankfully Katrina is wearing sensible shoes. They help out at the village for a couple of days sleeping together on the ground, outside(they are chaperoned by the entire rest of the village).

The couple return to England, without any declarations of love, snotty little sister Virginia shows up like an antibiotic resistant infection and manages to make Katrina think that Lucius is seeing another woman...Katrina gets jealous - then finds out Lucius was just helping his pretty cousin find a flat. Cousin Mary is not only already married, but she's preggo to boot. Katrina storms the castle, er, Lucius's study, tells him she loves him...he says he's loved her forever, and by the way, he has a special licence burning a hole in his pocket. They kiss, the end.

Fun things about this book:
  • you could probably plan a vacation to Greece using Betty's itinerary.
  • I also love that Lucius recommends to Katrina that she buy a book at the airport so that she will have something to read. I never undertake air travel without at least 2 books in my carry on - not counting what I might or might not have in my suitcase.
Food: Betty Neels must have been on a diet when she wrote this...and worked all of her food cravings into the story. Ploughman's Lunch, cheese souffle, boeuf Stroganoff, ruche glacee, wild duck, globe artichokes, lemon sorbet, mushroom soup, vol-au-vents, eclairs (twice!), cocktail sausages, chicken and mushroom bouchee, cheese tartlets, scones, sausage rolls, eggs en cocette a la creme, trifle, moussaka, pilaf, chocolate sponge.
Fashion: low necked peacock blue ball gown, brown velvet suit, outfit of old rose silk, something called "Italian knitted" and a chinchilla coat.

Fun Quote: "You beat all the Greek goddesses into cocked hats."
Rating: This is a tough one to rate...some of it I liked quite a bit but overall I found it uneven. Virginia was deliciously outrageous at times, but often just annoying. Katrina may have been a talented artist - but that is given short shrift. Lucius is a chartered accountant, for goodness sake. I think what bugs me most about this book is the fact that Katrina has to do all the hard relationship work...come on Lucius, help a sister out! In fairly typical Neels fashion, the hero doesn't admit to love until the heroine does, in this case less than half a page before the end. Half a page to wrap it up. I'll give it a Treacle Tart.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


I opened up my email this afternoon and found this delightful message (upon reading it, I immediately called up Betty Keira and read it again - to her):

Hi Betty???

I found your web site quite by accident while googling Betty Neels (as you do) and started to read your reviews on each of her books. Very tongue in cheek, I was cracking up just reading your comments.

I live in One Tree Hill in South Australia (there is such a place, just like the television show) but we have more than one tree in our little town of 300 or so. I have all of Betty's books as I've been collecting them for some years. I came across the first book of hers I ever read called "Stars through the Mist" while working at my local hospital (where I still work after 46 years) although I did stop twice when I had my children. That was my introduction to the RDD or dutch doctors. Having been born in Holland myself and migrated out when I was 8 I immediately fell in love with the book and couldn't wait to read more. So whenever I travelled interstate or found a little bookshop somewhere I managed to add to my collection slowly over many years (although some book shops never had any of them because they were so damn popular).

I think I finished by buying the last few on ebay. I have noticed that the copies in your blog are a little different to ours but the stories are the same.

Unfortunately I don't come from anywhere near Friesland, where most of the stories are set, but I have been to Amsterdam twice since coming downunder. I actually come from Limburg which is the southern most province in the Netherlands, where Andre Rieu is from, if you like him of course. We are by far the most musical province unlike our northern neighbours who frown upon us limburgers.

Anyway, would like to join your forum but wasn't quite sure how to go about it. I laugh when I read your descriptions of the sayings in some of her books, obviously they are english but we use a lot of them in Australia as our heritage is mostly British. The food is similar as well, but I definitely like my dutch food as well and make oliebollen on New Years Eve and have tried bitterballen and other dutch delicacies at our local Dutch Community Group.

Even though I don't agree with your comments on the books I guess we all have our favourites. I have been in the process of reading the whole collection since March this year when I was on vacation for a month looking after a dutch relative visiting with us. I have my favourites too, I also like Caroline's Waterloo and The Silver Thaw which you weren't that keen on, but generally I prefer the books with dutch doctors being a little prejudiced as I am.

I have about 40 books to go, I'm up to 1988 editions right now, but re reading them I found that some of the stories were like brand new books, I hadn't remembered the contents themselves, so it was very refreshing and romantic. I think its even upped my love life, who could tell, but being a Pisces I am naturally a romantic at heart.

So, thank you for your blog, so glad you started it, for there are literally thousands of Betty fans everywhere. Keep up the good work, and I have added it to my Favourites List on my explorer.

If ever you need any info about anything let me know, but you guys have probably googled everything anyway and so would know more than I do anyway.

PS Don't be too offended by Betty knocking the yanks, she was just a little old lady when she started writing and I'm sure she didn't mean to offend anyone.

Cheers, and regards to all the Betty's who help out with the blog.

Carla *****

Dear Betty Carla,
Gosh, Betty Keira and I were practically squealing with excitement!  How fun to have a Betty from Australia AND Holland!

I just went in and changed the settings to allow anyone to comment (I also took off the 'word verification' thingy that helps keep out spam - I'll see how it goes - if we end up getting too many unwanted spams, I'll add that back).  Hopefully you'll be able to comment now.  Let us know if it doesn't work...if it does, we'll be looking forward to seeing your comments (whether we agree with you or not - that's all part of the fun!).

Love and lardy cakes,
Betty Debbie

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Life Imitates Art

Betty Keira wasn't expecting THAT plot twist!
I have stepped into the Twilight Zone...and sadly it's all but un-blog-able.  I mean, there can be no 'To protect the innocent the names were changed'-ness, no concrete blog dump or anything.  It's very frustrating.  (Which is totally why this much is making my Betty-blog--hardly anyone I know follows me here.)

The upshot is that I found myself in nearly the exact same situation as the heroine of the Essie Summers book I've been reading this week. (Not By Appointment is the only clue I will offer.)  And let me tell you, I had been feeling the plot construct to have been a little far-fetched.  The bummer is that now I don't think I'll be able to pick this novel again without remembering some extremely uncomfortable feelings.

So I was wondering if this has ever happened to you--the reading along of a favorite book, arriving at the meet-cute or the unlikely plot device, the sudden prick of awareness that you've been there before... The Twilight Zone.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, July 11th. Roses and Champagne.

An un-chaperoned trip for two to Greece, Katrina paints hobgoblins and fairies for a living, Lucius reminds Katrina that she went skinny-dipping with him.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Making Sure of Sarah - Reprise

Sometimes I just need a short read - not War and PeaceMaking Sure of Sarah (a novelette, not a full lengther) fills the bill nicely.  I adore the fact that La Neels has the hero falling in love fast and hard - and we get to be fully privy to it. Not only that, but Sarah gets a real wedding to boot.  Sweet. - Betty Debbie

Forgive the tarted up cover. Grab a book cover. And sit yourself down for one of Betty Neels' most delightful little novelettes.

Sarah Beckwith, 23, is one of the luckiest heroines you're ever likely to meet, blessed as she is with plain looks (the Araminta), a swearing stepfather, a vague and smothering mother, and a life of servile drudgery. Lucky, you say? Yes. Because our hero meets her as she's asleep on a chair in Casualty, drenched in canal water (which Betty Neels was never romantic about) and smelling vile.

Mr. Litrik ter Breukel, 35, is a consultant orthopaedic surgeon for St. Bravo's in Arnhem, Holland whose main occupation, you might be forgiven for thinking, is to wait around until the girl of his dreams drops pungently into his lap.

He's immediately in love (I mean before she's even opened her eyes) and while this has happened with great regularity in the world of La Neels it is usually disclosed on page 218 in an offhand manner ("I loved you the first time I saw you darling but don't lets mind about that now when we only have two more paragraphs to conclude the formalities..."). In this one though, Neels sticks with him like a limpet and Gentle Readers are treated to a Litrik who is perpetually delighted, gobsmacked and transported by the fact that Sarah is in the vicinity. --Which leads to wonderful lines like:

He had no intention of letting her go, and for once a kindly Fate lent a helping hand; Sarah gave a small choking gasp. 'I'm going to be sick...'
...they made polite conversation...Mr. ter Breukel listened to her voice entranced; as far as he was concerned she could recite the multiplication tables and he would find it exciting..."

He also spends a good deal of time struggling to rearrange his features into less lover-like expressions and plotting his future with ruthlessness and zero discretion. Everyone--his sister Suzanne, his great-Aunt, her middle-aged companion, her family doctor and another English specialist--will all figure out easily that Litrik is planning to carry Sarah off at her earliest convenience. As you can see, Litrik is not our average stoic hero with unreadable expressions.

He engineers a job for her after her parents are laid up at a hospital in Holland and then keeps an eye on her when she removes the grouchy invalids back to their house in Clapham Common. Sarah is portrayed as much put-upon but the house has a housekeeper, a woman to come in and do the rough and (while the step-father is laid-up) a male nurse to come in for several hours a day. Still, she has to help with the cooking and ironing and fetching and carrying so I suppose she doesn't have much time to herself even if it doesn't sound like there's much to do.

She meets a young doctor named Robert Swift who serves to muddy the water (but not for long).

Instead of marrying her out of hand, Litrik decides that young and cooped-up as she is she would do well to have a job and meet some people her own age. To that end he compromises the medical ethics of himself and at least one other doctor by arranging for the parents to go to Bournemouth for several months and for the hospital (where he is a consultant) to give her a job in the canteen. Why the canteen? He's got his reasons:

The kitchens wouldn't do at all, and nor would the house doctors' quarters; he wasn't so old that he couldn't remember that young housemen tended to relax like small boys when they had the chance...

Which is all very tricksy if you think about it. Let her have a taste of life but make it working slavishly in a hospital canteen nowhere near high-spirited young lads who might take it in their mind to ask her out on a date. I think that's what's called 'priming the pump'. And of course she must be rescued before developing varicose veins. After an altercation with 'youths' in a 'demonstration' (a great evil to be avoided)he proposes a sensible arrangement whereby he marries her.

Of course she can't! Because by now she loves him too and marrying someone whom you love who doesn't love you back...unthinkable! Which is a puzzler for me where Betty Neels is concerned as this rule is by no means philosophically consistent throughout her body of work.

She works out the refusal thus: She must think up some really good reason--a career in something or other--computers.
I do love it when La Neels wanders cryptically onto the computers reservation.

She leaves the hospital when her parents make their vacation a permanent arrangement (Yay!) and finds work re-shelving cans in a grocery store. Well, we all know how re-shelving jobs go. He, like all Neels heroes and in rather a paternalist move, resigns her position with the manager, whisks her back home and does a serious proposal this time. Eureka! She accepts. Her engagement ring is a sapphire and diamond affair.
The End

Rating: Queen of Puddings. This novel, sprinkled about with Litrik's delighted plotting, is as cute as a button. It's only around a hundred pages, so moves along at a pretty nice clip. Though at the end she tends to throw everything and the kitchen sink in, red-herring housemen, dead end jobs, imminent homelessness...

Food: koffietafel, sole with champagne sauce, pancakes stuffed with goat cheese, chocolate and almond pudding, apple turnovers and steak and kidney pie

Fashion: trousers(!) and a pink sweater, brackish canal-water soaked dress, an unflattering all-purpose jersey dress--dare I think uncrushable?

Authors mentioned: Ruth Rendell, Jack Higgins, P.D. James, Evelyn Anthony, Freeling