Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, December 5th.
Two Weeks to Remember
Skiing in Norway, sightseeing in Norway - 
and other memorable stuff.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Kiss for Julie - Reprise

I have a fondness for irrepressible younger siblings - just look at Betty Keira!  If she hadn't been barely out of diapers when I married Dr. van der Stevejinck, I'm sure she would have divulged all sorts of hoary family secrets to him.  I think that's why I find Esme loads of fun - and she proudly joins the ranks of other irrepressible younger siblings in Neeldom (for example: Polly in  Marrying Mary and Pamela in A Valentine for Daisy).
I love, love, love the bits about "The Coat".  Betty Marcy and I had a shared wardrobe in our teen years and a lot of horse trading went on relating to whose turn it was to wear things.
Betty Debbie

I don't have just any copy of A Kiss For Julie. I have the great, socking Bentley equivalent in book form. Large print. The gold standard for all the semi-presbyopic Bettys. So why was it just ho-hum? Let's find out, shall we?

Julie Beckworth (26, bronze hair, splendidly built) works in an old Victorian hospital in London for a lovely old professor. Victorian hospital? Expect a fire. Old professor? Expect him to be felled by an unspecified illness moving at a glacial, but inexorable, pace. Retirement imminent.
Enter his replacement, Professor Simon van der Driesma, a tall drink of water and 'any girl's dream', wedded to his work and able to wring generous snack trays from the taciturn ladies of the hospital canteen who 'hand out ill nature with meat and two veg'. Right out of the gate he is annoyed by and annoying Julie. He takes exception to her sterling qualities. She is prickly because he calls her 'Miss Beckworth' and looks at her as though she is 'about to explode'.
They circle warily for a few weeks until he asks her to accompany him to Holland for some lectures. Then comes the part that I didn't care for:
She spends much of this part of the book acting like one of my least favorite kinds of women--the kind that will wait in the car until her date figures out that he should open her door for her. Though I approve of door opening and teaching the men young all about it, I think pointing out a man's carelessness in so pointed a way is rude.
Julie gets huffy when her boss (who pays her to do a job, last I checked) asks her to do hard things with little warning or doesn't give her a 24-hour run-down of scheduled activities. I know The Great Neels was looking to create conflict and also to remind our hero that he's become high-handed and selfish but Julie is still his employee and I wish she'd just have braved it silently (thus earning our and our hero's admiration) or been more direct with job-related complaints ("Sir, if you might give me a rough outline of how little tea I will get today..."). Instead, she comes off as martyred. And that's not our splendid Julie at all.
Thus ends the part I didn't like. The rest is charming.
While in Holland Julie uses a 'portable computer'. I have no doubt that by this time The Venerable Neels was using a computer to run up her manuscripts but even though mentions of computers are interlarded throughout the book it is difficult from her descriptions to imagine them as anything other than rather large unwieldy paperweights that Julie thumps on and hauls about. Now if Julie had ever been chatted up by Nathan the Network Admin. whilst having her C Drive worked on then I'd have bought it...
Simon spends some time in Holland with crossover characters Gijs and Beatrice van der Eckerk (who have a daughter named Alicia (Wedding Bells for Beatrice) and asks his dog (if I had a dog I'd talk to it too) if they'll ever find a Beatrice for themselves.
And then Julie, coming out of a hospital lobby, catches the good doctor snogging a blonde harlot with a scarlet (rhymes with harlot) Mini right in front of everybody! Er, girlfriend, point of order. The defense concedes that the Scarlet Harlot was indeed a blonde. And that his look to her was loving. And we freely admit to an embrace. But on such thin gruel, Julie builds a whole banquet of conjecture.
Parted lovers, his future wife, a given heart...It's all the same to her.
Back in England, Simon is disturbed by Julie. He's annoyed by her calm air and her diligence--and her splendid figure probably doesn't help either. If Simon were a young infantryman then Julie is Marie the Flame of Florida.
And then he asks her to go to Brighton.
And her mother and sister come to Brighton too.
Let me set your fevered mind at rest, gentle reader. Here, Brighton is merely a lovely day-trip, complete with fruit machines and tea shoppes instead of a sortie into the Hinterlands of Debauchery.
Little sister Esme and mother get along swimmingly with the vast, blonde giant and you can see Esme's inability to read social cues being an asset from a mile away. For her part, Julie finds herself feeling like poor Charlie Bucket--every other poppet in the village is getting candy from the Candyman and she's got her nose pressed to the glass. Why does Simon smile so nicely at Esme and speak so kindly with Mother? Where's her golden ticket?
Luscombe, the trusty family retainer who dishes up British proverbs and melted cheese dishes with the same paternal manner, conferences with Mrs. Beckworth about Julie's love life. 'Is nibs would do very well for their girl...
Which leads to a digression:
Mrs. Beckworth and Luscombe have an obvious passion for one another that, as yet unrequited, will carry them aloft into a tempestuous sea towards matrimonial blisss. He's a man. He is housekeeping for a woman...who doesn't pay much. His regard for her children is evident. Enquiring minds want to know, Who's the Boss?
Simon goes off for more lectures and Julie, alone in the office, is startled by Slim Sid--a flim-flam man. No, but seriously, The Neels names him Slim Sid. (I can't stop for everything so lets move along.) He roughs up Julie and knocks over some priceless mid-90s office furniture.
In retaliation the Amazon hefts an ugly Victorian inkstand and chucks it in Sid's general direction...narrowly missing the happily intact cranium of our rich, Dutch doctor.
It was nearly bashing in his head that causes Julie to realize that, despite Scarlet Harlot (whose picture and frame Slim Sid had tried to nick), she loves him herself. Drat.
She has a date soon after with Red Herring (no, of course it's not but it amounts to the same thing). He is a nice fellow who is......zzzzzzzzzzz...... The point is that the doctor sees her from 30 yards away (30 feet maybe, Betty) at the Cafe' Royal cozying up to a man other than himself.
He doesn't like the idea of Red Herring taking her off to New Zealand as his wife and it is only one teeny tiny step further to his own dawning realization and an even tiny-er hop to intending to marry her. (What purpose! What decisiveness! As Paula Cole would say, "Where have all the cowboys gone?")
Next comes my most favorite part. In a bid to win her notice and liking he assumes such an air of bon homie that Julie is puzzled. I can hear her ticking over his behavior in her brain:
He smiled at me several times today.
He said a cheerful 'Good morning' each time he came and went from his office.
He's forewarned me of an upcoming trip to Holland
At this point Julie doesn't start looking for tin foil, homing devices and signs of an alien abduction. Instead, her mind leaps to Scarlet Harlot. He's had good news of course, he's going to see her, they'll be married!
In Holland (without Julie), Simon informs his family of his desire to marry Julie and sends a postcard to Esme.
When he returns she is so happy that she must retreat to cold indifference to keep herself from flinging her person into his arms: "...when she asked him in a quelling voice if he would like to come in, her stony face daring him to do so, he remarked that he would be delighted." And then he asks the whole family to La Boheme.
Y-eeeeeee--ssssss. Okay. The women are looking ill at ease. There is a question of clothes. On the big night, Esme is begging to be a font of information on the family finances, a shared cashmere coat called "The Coat" that they all share around (because even though it gets used year after year no one can cavil at cashmere, can they?), and their jury-rigged and cobbled together wardrobes. "I like the blue thing you are wearing." "You'll never guess--" began Esme.
Then comes the inevitable Victorian hospital fire. The most noteworthy thing about Julie's entrapment and subsequent rescue from the records room is that, in the midst of all that upset, she still manages to retrieve the patient notes that she went looking for in the first place. You can't pay for that kind of dedication anymore.
The hospital dance occurs just a week later and affords an excuse to wear another hastily salvaged outfit with too-tight sandals and 'The Coat'. He looked down at her and wondered with a flash of tenderness from where she had unearthed her dress...Whatever it was, she looked beautiful in it, but then she would make a potato sack look elegant.
Shortly thereafter he offers her a ride home and she refuses. "Hey, look,' she says. "You've got a girl in Holland that I'm sure I haven't imagined out of whole cloth because that would be irresponsible and whatnot, soooooo..."
He seizes his opportunity and kisses her into next week and..... BLEEP. Argh. British bleeps! (That's beepers to you, Americanos.)
The kiss is shelved and they agree to ignore it. Oh and, by the way, could she come to Holland again for a few days? I love when he tells her, "You had better borrow the coat, it may be cold!"
By this time he has told his mother, all his siblings, Mrs. Beckworth (and by extension her forbidden lover, Luscombe) and his own man-servant Blossom that he's going to marry Julie. Oh, and the Scarlet Harlot was just a little sister.
He finally asks her the first morning after they come to Holland.
The End.

Rating: Hmmm. The first half was just so-so--maybe Madeira cake. It's episodic and travelogue-y and all we know is that he and she have taken an instant and inexplicable dislike for one another. It coasts that way for quite a while. The second bit (after some dawning realizations) is much more to my taste--a boeuf en croute. He spends a lot of time plotting and planning which is cuter than a bug's ear. And all their havering over wardrobe deficiencies was so much fun. Splitting the difference makes for a respectable treacle tart.

Fashion: Mom recommends she wear severe suits with padded shoulders (like on TV!), a promising sounding smoky blue dress, The Coat--brown cashmere, little sister's made-over pinafore dress, mother's lace jabot, and some tight high-heeled sandals.

Food: Macaroni and cheese, like, four times!! Luscombe might be a treasure but he's limited to cutting sandwiches and pumping out that mac and cheese (or Kraft dinner as Canadian Bare Naked Ladies might say). uitsmijter, currant bread, boterkoek, toffee pudding, pancakes filled with crisp bacon (mmmmmm...bacon), tomato and orange soup (hmm), duck with game chips (jerkey?), toasted cheese, echte soup and balls of forcemeat (hotdogs?).

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Very, Merry, Ill-Bred American Holiday

Happy Thanksgiving, to all our Bettys!  I (Betty Keira) traveled to Betty Debbie's, northbound on the I-5, in a great, socking minivan that ate up the miles with charming haste. (Except the getting out of Portland part.  That part took two hours and I would have been thankful for a rectory and an offer of a cup of tea (if I so imbibed) instead of sitting in traffic with four pledges of my affection asking with tedious predictability, 'Are we there yet?')

We're enjoying a properly brined turkey, sweet potato casserole ("An excuse to get pie on the table at the same time as the main course..."), mashed red potatoes, sparlking cider (Our handsome Dutch Professor would open it while hiding a smile and think to himself, as he unscrewed the lid with the price sticker affixed, that we had probably chosen it because it was a pretty color.), green beans and scissor rolls.

Our post-prandial activities will probably include watching some Bollywood. Vivah!

...because it has Indians in it.  Duh.
Happy Thanksgiving, to everyone!  I hope this holiday finds you and yours happy and secure.
Love and lardy cakes,
Betty Keira

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, November 28th.
A Kiss for Julie
A trip to Brighton, Victorian hospital fire
 and "The Coat".

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Moon for Lavinia--Reprise

I really enjoy this one (maybe it'll make the reading list I carry with me on my Totally Epic Thanksgiving Journey to the Greater Seattle Area and Betty Debbie's House (!!!squee!!!).  I trolled through the discussion thread that I put out at the same time and came across something that is quite unique about this one:
Lavinia, though a mere wife of convenience, is better at owning her space than just about every other Neels heroine. Sure, there are others who buy a home with the professor (mews cottages or small-ish houses in the country) and get to choose the fittings but other than small paintings (that are still fairly cheap and won't be hard to tuck away) I don't see much augmenting of their swanky surroundings. Lavinia takes over the conservatory and buys a hammock that the girls love and new lounge chairs and plants a vine. So if she ever ran away or he drove her away, there'd be this mute testament to her awesomeness growing away in the conservatory that he'd have to uproot (and a confused teen-aged sister-in-law hanging out with Sibby). [Betty Debbie] I see her vine as a symbolic metaphor of her marriage...she carefully tends her "vine". [Betty Keira] I love the idea that if she ever left he'll either have to let it keep growing (ever reminding him of her) or have to admit to his feelings on some level and rip it out. Note to self: If involved in a one-sided love, plant something conspicuous and run. 
Love, happy Thanksginving tidings, and lardy cake,
Betty Keira

Yes, this is the cover we recently featured on our Cover Art Contest. I don't mind that it's a bit weird - it makes the book easier to remember (although I don't recall any instances of Lavinia wandering around with a framed photo in her hands).

Lavinia Hawkins is 26. Small, neat, a little plump, and plain, except when she smiled. She and her teenage sister Peta are orphans. Lavinia lives at the hospital in London and goes down to visit Peta on her days off. Peta is stuck living withTerrible Horrible Aunt Gwyneth until she gets her OWLS, I mean, O Levels. Baby Sister is getting more and more fed up with Aunt G. and Lavinia is getting more and more worried that Baby Sis might do something rash like run away. While hanging out with her nursing buddies, Lavinia spies an ad in the Nursing Mirror. "Registered nurses wanted...with theatre experience and at a salary which was quite fabulous." The only problem is that the job is in Amsterdam. Lavinia whips out a pen and starts doing sums on the underside of her uniform skirt. She decides that the money would be enough to enable her to live out and share a place with Peta. Peta is thrilled with the idea, enough so that she can bear putting up with Terrible Horrible Auntie G. for a bit longer. Of course Lavinia gets the job (La Neels needed to get her over to Holland so that she could meet a RDD). There is a going away party at the hospital, where she is advised to marry someone rich and good looking, with a large house. Check. Check. Check. I'll hurry off and do just that....Editor's Note: Betty always makes a point of having her nurses work in Holland even though they don't speak a lick of Dutch. As a patient, I find that I have much more confidence in a nurse/doctor who speaks my language fluently. Am I the only one? Also, even if everyone in the Operating Theatre speaks English, I'm pretty sure that would not be a good place to find out the the word for, say, "Retractor" and "Ultrasonic Tissue Disruptor" sound very similar...but aren't. We finally get around to meeting Professor Radmer ter Bavinck on page 30 of my edition. Lavinia has been asked to take some unspeakable specimen up to the Path Lab...and there he is. She is a little tart with him, he smiles..."Ah, the English nurse - Miss Hawkins, is it not? In fact I am sure...no nurse in the hospital would speak to me like that."
Lavinia gets to thinking about him...he might - given the right circumstances - be rather super. Well of course he's super! He's the RDD your friends told you to find! He is a little older than the average hero..but not by much. He's pushing 41...but he wasn't completely idle in his younger years. He comes complete with a teenage daughter (Sibendina aka Sibby). I'm not sure but what this may be the only teenage half-orphan daughter of a hero in Neeldom. She's 14 years old - which can be a bit of a tricky age. Which is why, after a couple of chance meetings and one date, he announces his intention of asking Lavinia to marry him - in front of his daughter. Lavinia is rightfully gobsmacked. "Don't look like that...I shan't do anything earth-shattering like dropping on one knee and begging for your hand; just let the idea filter through, and we'll bring the matter up again in a few days..." When he does bring it up again, a few days later, Dear Radmer proceeds to outline A Marriage of Convenience. "There is no question of falling in love, my dear. I think I may never do that again - once bitten, twice shy...ours would be a marriage of friends..." No question of love? We've heard THAT one before. "...I promise you that I will take care of you and Peta, just as I shall take care of Sibby." Lavinia would like a little explanation...."Why me?" Here's the money quote...the one he will spend the rest of his life making amends for, "You're sensible, your feet are firmly planted on the ground....you will never be tempted to reach for the moon, my dear." Wait, did he just call himself "the moon"??? Don't be silly. She asks for a little time to think it over - she really would have liked to fall in love and then get married, but that's okay - when she sees him in the hospital the next day she becomes aware of a peculiar sensation, rather as though she had been filled with bubbles and wasn't on firm ground anymore (which bring to mind the scene in Willy Wonka with the fizzy lifting drink). She walks right up to Radmer in the hall and tells him there, in front of witnesses that she'll marry him. You go girl! Radmer makes the wedding arrangements...no white satin, no orange blossom, no bridesmaids (all of which Lavinia would secretly like, but is not going to get). Sibby is thrilled to be having Lavinia and Peta join the family...now she will have someone to talk girl-talk with. And hatch schemes, no wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. It's now Time To Meet The Parents. They are dears (natch - Neels never met a in-law, on the groom's side, she didn't like). Radmer's mum asks Lavinia a question. "Do you love Radmer?" Lavinia does not proceed to snort tea out of her nose...nope. She answers back quite truthfully "With all my heart." I admire the way Lavinia just puts it out there. Mum asks her if she knows anything about Helga, Radmer's first wife. No, and she's not about to ask. Which is why this marriage will be Haunted by the Ghost of Helga. Radmer gives her the family jewels (no, not THOSE), it's a ring with an old-fashioned setting that Haunting Helga refused to wear. A quick jaunt over to Horrible Aunt Gwyneth's, without so much as a "hey there, do mind if we stop by?" Peta is rescued from Aunt G's clutches - by the very smooth Radmer, and Lavinia rounds on her aunt (I just love how feisty that sounds!) when she tells Lavinia that she is a fool to marry a foreigner..."don't dare speak of Radmer in that fashion! He's a good, kind man and we shall be very happy!" They drive back through London - we are treated to a brief, but productive shopping excursion at Harrod's (for both Lavinia and Peta) and then a musical (I'm imagining them seeing Phantom of the Opera - which came out in 1976). We skip right over the wedding (we only get glimpses of it as Lavinia is musing about it, after the fact). Since this is a MOC, there is no honeymoon involved, however, the girls go away for a few days to Radmer's parents. This is a pleasant little interlude that includes some wining and dining in the evenings. Also a pearl necklace. "I feel like the Queen!" Radmer suggests that Lavinia go and buy a couple of pretty dresses - for said wining and dining. Lavinia splashes out on a pink and a peach dress - because Radmer says, "I like you in pink." When he comes home and sees her dressed in her new pink dress, it earns her a fierce, hard kiss. Wow. Pink dresses are very appealing to RDD. Who knew? Lavinia is looking better and better. "Lavinia, sitting in the soft glow of the pink-shaded table lamp, her ordinary face brought to life by excitement and the wine, became positively pretty." That's it. I'm buying a pink lampshade. After work the next day Radmer comes home to find Lavinia sitting on the floor working on her Dutch homework. Her teacher "...told me that it was even more necessary that I should master Dutch quickly...I have to read the papers each day...so that I can discuss politics with you." Radmer shouts with laughter "I never talk politics...I'd rather come home to a wife in a pink dress who listens sympathetically to my grumbles about work and makes sensible comments afterwards." Again with the pink dress. Lavinia should take the hint and fill her closet with pink. With a few peach dresses for good measure. When Radmer sees her in the peach chiffon he tells her "this one is charming"... He studied her carefully, then said "Remind me to buy you a fur wrap". Lavinia knows better than to do that. "Wives don't remind their husbands to buy them things like furs." Out comes his handkechief and he ties a knot in it to remind himself...A.D.O.R.A.B.L.E. They go out for dinner and dancing - they are both splendid dancers, natch. Lavinia was surprised to find that Radmer was just as good at the modern dances as he was at doing the waltz and foxtrot. "At the end of one particularly energetic session he said almost apologetically: 'Sibby taught me; I find them rather peculiar, but they're fun sometimes...'" (I was Peta's age when this book came out - and my dad ocassionally chaperoned dances that I went to. He has the "energetic" part down pat - but his style is all his own. Dad's fast dancing is a bit like bouncy jogging in place, interspersed with random clapping and a fair amount of arm action. I love how enthusiastically he dances - and I think I inherited all of my graceful dancing style from him.) It was a a lovely evening, says Lavinia, splendid says Radmer...let's take the long way home. On the way home Lavinia spots a farm on fire - so the happy couple stop to do what they can. Radmer instructs Lavinia to stay put, but she's braver than that. Lavinia goes into the barn and gets all of the animals out safely, then she goes to the house to help Radmer - she brings out a toddler and then a newborn baby. Radmer just brings out mum (dad is passed out on the front porch). Then he asks her to try and revive the farmer while he goes to get the animals out of the barn. "I already used my awesome superpowers to do that, Radmer". Now she gets to use those superpowers to do something even more amazing. More death defying, more....no, wait, Radmer is just asking her to drive the Bentley with mum and the babies to someplace with a phone and by the way, call the police or an ambulance or something. All's well that ends well, except for the peach dress. But who cares about that when we readers are treated to Radmer starting to realize that he loves Lavinia...loves her. Not that he says that. (Besides we still have Haunting Helga to deal with). The next day Sibby and Peta come home, and "the honeymoon's over" so to speak. Lavinia has no idea what has happened to upset the casual friendliness (LOVE, that's what happened, silly)...so she takes a second glass of sherry, "Dutchman's courage, Lavinia?" Radmer thinks she's nervous about the girls coming home...but that's not it (it's LOVE, Radmer, LOVE!). The girls are pretty quick to notice that there's not a lot of snogging going on - so Radmer takes them up on their suggestion to kiss Lavinia in private. Kiss him back, girlfriend, kiss him back! Oh well, maybe later. It's now time to take a brief family vacation in Friesland, complete with an outing on the Mimi. Yes, the boat is named after Betty Magdalen's dog. Lavinia tries to have a talk with Radmer but muddles it...she tells Radmer that she doesn't want to come between him and the memory of Haunting Helga and please, can we still be friends? His response is less than informative. "You could never come between me and Helga." What's a girl to think? Back home in Amsterdam Lavinia's mother-in-law stops by and spills the beans about Haunting Helga. Who was not fit to be any man's wife (make of that what you will). Radmer stays out until 3am that night...and when he finally comes in, Lavinia yells at him like a fishwife. Even the densest of teenagers would have sensed that there was something "off" between Lavinia and Radmer - Sibby and Peta are not that dense. Impetuous, yes. They hatch a plan to run away to Rotterdam. "...we thought that if we did something really drastic, like almost drowning or being knocked down by a car or running away, you would both have to help each other and it would make you fond of each other...[you would] understand each other and share the same feelings....we decided we'd run away...because we both swim too well to drown easily, [if we walked in front of a car] we might have been killed instead of a little wounded...so we ran away, and if you had not come after us we would have known that you did no love each other." Their evil little plan worked - there are declarations of love (Radmer, not Lavinia), public snogging and a very pretty little speech by Radmer: "I once said that you were a girl who would never reach for the moon, dearest Lavinia, but you will have no need to do that, for I intend to give it to you - I'll throw in the sun and the stars for good measure." The end.

Rating: It's nice to have a book that's easy to rate. I'm giving this one a Queen of Puddings. I can't give it a Lashings of Whipped Cream because there's really not quite enough to the story to warrant that rating. There is no evil villain. No villainess (you can't count Haunting Helga, she's dead!). Aunt Gwyneth is pretty horrible, but she's not a major player. Even the teenagers get along and are good (they ran away for a good cause...). It's just a gentle story of two people falling in love. Cinderella and her RDD. Lavinia is a little on the quiet side, but I get the feeling that spending a year or two with two teenage girls will help pull her out of her shell.

Food: Baked beans on toast, smoked eel, chocolate mousse, hors d'oeurves, Poulet Poule mon Coeur, syllabub, anchovy toast, kipper pate, crepes souffles aux peches, steak.
Fashion: he wears a dogtooth check suit with a silk shirt and a tie of somber magnificence, she wears a green silk jersey dress, cream crepe wedding dress, blue and white coat dress with blue sandals, pale blue denim slacks with matching Indian cotton shirt (which is described as "sexy" by Sibby).

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Craven Appeal To Your Better Natures

Hey Bettys!
The Founding Bettys have been enjoying your writing exercises immensely--stray animals, Bosnian orphan babies with green ooze, supercilious eyebrows...the lot.  And it got me to thinking...

I've been sucked into the vortex of Pintrest (What?  You haven't heard of it?  Run, Bettys, run!) and have noticed that the Harry Potterheads have serious support for their fanfiction.  Obsessive, Bettys.  They're obsessive.  So, if anyone wants to...you know...write a feature-length novel channel their Betty muse in long form, we'd be thrilled to publish it on TUJD.  (In installments, if necessary.)  Seriously, if anyone wants an outlet, we're here for you.  Broad parody, homage, 'in the style of'...what else?  If there are characters you love that didn't have the story you wanted them to...For instance, I'm dying for the opportunity of having the daughter of the non-repulsive American Aurthur C. Boekerchek move to Britain, take up nursing and find love. Obviously, it has to hold to the spirit of The Venerable Neels.  We're not the kind of site to veer wildly into Potterotica (What?! Ew.) land.

In other news, Betty Tia, The Baby Sister of the Founding Bettys is self-publishing her YA novel I Wish... tomorrow on Kindle.  And as I've watched her moiling away in the salt mines of authorship, I have been gobsmacked.  Such a massive undertaking! (To Betty Magdalen, and all our TUJD Authoresses, my hat's off to you!) Anyway, below is her book trailer.

We throw coins in a fountain, we blow out candles, we close our eyes against a falling star... all for the chance at a single wish. But what would happen if a wish was forced on you?

Kira is one of the newest batch of Jinn sent to mend the paths of those humans who have lost their destinies. She has been assigned to discover Jack Morgan's one true wish by whatever means are necessary, with only three stipulations: 1) no one is to discover she is a Jinni, 2) she is never to lose control of her powers, and 3) she is never, ever to grow attached to her human.

The stubborn Wall of Jack, as Kira thinks of him, has worked hard to create a life that is normal in a home that was anything but. He wants nothing more than to follow his meticulously laid out plan for his future. So, when Kira arrives in his English class with a rush of wind and spark of energy that knocks him off balance, he never would have guessed that she was a Jinni sent for him.

Kira and Jack battle wills, battle their own failings, and battle the impossible feelings that are growing between them; until a battle of another kind pulls them eternally together.

Even with mystery, magic and a timeless romance, nothing could prepare the reader for the consequences of two little words... I wish.

What can we say?
Yay Betty Tia! we're so proud of her.
I Wish by Tia Harrington, available November 19, 2011 (download from Amazon Kindle store).

We here at The Uncrushable Jersey Dress hope that if there are any other would-be authoresses lurking in our comment box, they'd let us know.  We'd be delighted to spread the word!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

BettyWriMo Prompt...

My hat, if I wore a hat, would be off to all of our clever Bettys.
I had no idea we have so many talented Bettys.

Today's writing prompt (which was prompted by gazing out the window at the rainy-blustery-cold November day I'm enjoying here):

Lucy Clarissa Arabella Hawkins eyes wandered to the net curtains that partially obscured the view from her semi-basement bedsitter...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, November 21st.
The Moon for Lavinia

A Marriage of Convenience,
Teen half-orphan AND Teen orphan.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Promise of Happiness - Reprise

I adore The Promise of Happiness.  It's the kind of book I like to curl up with on a rainy day (plenty of those to be had around here lately)...well wrapped up in a fuzzy blanket.  It might have something to do with the opening ambiance...
There's something about the name Becky.  The Founding Bettys have two sisters (yes, two - we've talked about it before) named Becky, I have a sister-in-law called Becci and a daughter-in-law Rebekah.
Baroness Becky shows up again in Caroline's Waterloo...(one of my top one or two...maybe three... Neels).  It's fitting that we get to see that Becky's promise (of happiness) was fulfilled.  The circle is complete.  
- Betty Debbie

"Oh, I'll do The Promise of Happiness," I said to Betty Debbie, my head cocked to the right, holding the phone between my ear and my shoulder. My brow puckered. The Promise of Happiness...which one was that? The fabulous one, that's what.

Becky (only-my-evil-relations-call-me-Rebecca) Saunders is nothing less than the bravest woman in Neelsdom. The. Bravest. At first glance she's nothing much to look at. Her elderly raincoat and scarf are sopping wet, she's carrying a mangy looking cat in a plastic sack (recycling!), Bertie the dog is trotting alongside with a lead. She's been walking briskly along this desolate stretch of road for miles in the dim light of a summer morning and she's thin--almost emaciated, really. She's got no home, no family, two pets, just the clothes she's standing up in, a comb and 30 Pounds and sixty pence, scrimped into a tiny nest egg for two years. Due to her lack of food, I loathe saying this, has probably got salt-cellars for bosoms.
But she's out there in a horrible rainstorm because it's the right thing to do. In short, she's Amelia, freaking, Earhart.
Up whispers a silver-grey Rolls Royce Corniche. The very handsome man who climbs out of the car says good morning and proceeds to introduce himself, "My name's Raukema van den Eck--Tiele Raukema van den Eck." (Are you sure it's not Bond, James Bond?) It's Baron Tiele Raukema van den Eck, in point of fact.
I've seen this one before. Honey, when Richard Gere slows down to offer roadside lifts, don't demur about ruining his seats with your pets. Just hop in and you'll be at the Beverly Wiltshire in no time. But, whatever you do, don't kiss him. Kissing just anybody makes you trampy.
Tiele takes her into Newcastle where he offers her breakfast. She's explained by this time that she's a nurse but that she's been forced to keep house for her step-brother Basil (no relation to the herb), and her step-mother.
Editorial Comment: My own step-mother is much beloved which is why I know she has a given name. Becky evidently didn't get to the exchanging-of-Christian-names part of their relationship which is why she is only ever referred to as step-mother.
Basil was going to kill the pets the next day (because his sociopathic rage is more of a low-simmer variety) so Becky, who'd been stuck there for years, ups and offs--in the rain, with the pets, with 30 Pounds and sixty pence.
Tiele feels a bit of a heel letting her go out in the rain again but she is free and over 21...
Out in the lobby Becky comes to the aid of an old woman in a wheel chair. Her quick thinking and kindness are appreciated and after she leaves the hotel is chased down by Tiele once more.
Hey, that was my mother you helped...She just fired her nurse...How would you treat ulcerative protocolitis?...No she doesn't have it...I'm quizzing you...Oh, yes, I am a doctor--Why else would I be so hot?...Why don't you give up this dream of homelessness and penury and further starvation to go on a fabulous cruise?!...Your pets can come to Holland with me.
And that's that. She's hired, is given an hour and a stipend to buy some plain uniforms and undies (!--Will someone explain The Great Neels' fascination with knickers?), and finds herself in fabulous luxury with a congenial patient, lovingly folding her silk undies (!).
I am mildly surprised that the Baron would hand over his frail invalid mother to someone who may or may not smother her in her sleep. Becky could be a congenital liar with handy props for all he knows. Happily she is not.
The Baroness has a fractured tib and fib that has taken some time to knit. Betty Debbie is practically an expert on wheel chairs and cruise ships and bones that take a long time to knit so I expect a robust discussion thread on these topics.
The cruise. We get to hear about Becky making "a sincere effort not to be thin anymore" (oh I just love her), extravagant shore trips, and, best of all, occasional calls from the Baron--whose rapport with Becky is mildly condescending but she gives as good as she gets. The Baroness is happy to feign sleep just to listen in on the conversations. She will be a delightful mother-in-law and probably volunteer to take their children for afternoons and send them back sugared-up just because she can.
Trondheim, Norway. The Baron shows up unexpectedly one morning with a pretty blonde named Tialda. Oh it's just his sister. Whew. Keeping with Raukema van den Eck family tradition, she makes personal remarks, "You said she was plain...a half-starved mouse." Maybe Tialda had also been told that Becky was a deaf-mute as well.
Becky flashes back after enduring the burning light of the Baron's microscope for some uncomfortable moments, "If you have finished discussing me, I'll tell the Baroness that you're here. Such manners!"
It is then that Tialda has her Dawning Realization. Here is the girl who will lay her brother low at last. A fat lot of good a sister's recognition of budding true love is...
Unfortunately, Trondheim also contains an episode wherein our hero (whom I promise we will learn to love as Becky does) tells his mother (Becky overhears!) that thin mice are not his cup of tea. I was so mad I almost didn't forgive him when he says he wants to see more of The Obvious Brunette who replaces Becky for her short holiday in Molde.
In Molde, the Baron is surprised to learn that Becky swims really well (yay! Take that you supercilious tea drinker!) and she is sad to think that all he sees is "a dowdy girl who wore cheap clothes and didn't know how to make the best of herself--and she wasn't really like that...it was difficult to splash out...and he was so secure himself that he would never have known the insecurity that not having money brought with it." Which puts me in mind of those stories you hear about people who lived through the Great Depression--hoarding every sliver of soap and burying money in Mason jars in the backyard.
Tialda comments to her brother that Becky will make someone a splendid wife and the Baron frowns. The thin end of the wedge...
Back in Holland, the Baron walks his mother, sister and Nurse Becky into his house to find a stunning blonde with an fashionably untidy mop of hair. All is forgotten (mother, Becky, dinner, Bertie and Pooch) while Nina van Doorn is entertained. The Baron will live to regret his thoughtlessness for decades to come, I am sure.
He finds Becky a job and a tiny attic flat. Forgive me for skipping great swaths of fabulousness but there's too much of it. All you need to know is that he begins to see that the Insidious van Doorn takes a lotta maintenance to stay fashionably untidy and that Little Becky is holding her own in their undeclared battle of wills.
He asks her to call him Doctor (because she's been 'Baron'-ing him all over the place) and she answers, "Just as you wish, Doctor." "I sometimes suspect that you are laughing at me," he observed blandly.
See what I mean? She's knocked him off his Rich Dutch Doctor pedestal and he's attempting to clutch his dignity to himself like a maiden aunt wearing her best hat in a windstorm.
At the hospital she continues her Reign of Awesomeness (picturing a galloping Mongol horde in my head) and keeps impinging on his consciousness enough so that he asks her out. I don't know what his reasoning was--maybe a mixture of pity and curiosity or perhaps he's trying to pin down why the thought of her making some houseman a splendid wife makes him frown--but by the end of the picnic he's found that he enjoyed every second with her, appreciates that she is one of the happiest people he knows (to contrast with a certain sulky and whiny character---rhymes with thorn, born, shorn, forlorn (as Shakespeare might say, "an unhappy rhyme")) and realizes...something. He's not sure what yet. But it's enough to swoop in and kiss her.
Her Dawning Realization follows and I can't really blame her. It was a shattering kiss. Her bones have turned to jelly but she's in her right mind enough to know that retreat is impossible. Quarantine fees, you know. She'll have to apply herself to those Dutch verbs and hope to find another hospital in six months or so. But I'm sure that first night of study was no good:

  • Nina van Doorn is een bedorven rotkind. (NvD is a spoiled brat.)
  • Mijn liefde voor de Baron is hopeloos. (My love for the Baron is hopeless.)
  • Bertie en Hond zullen de dood van mij zijn. (Bertie and Pooch will be the death of me.---FYI, even the online translator read 'Pooch' as Hond--dog--even though she's the cat.)
Bertie will really be the death of her. That dumb dog (don't blame him, he has a cat name) escapes in a thunder storm, half drowns himself in a canal and requires Becky and the Baron (sounds like a Nancy Drew mystery) to shuck their Burberrys and swim in.
Muzzy on 'peculiar' tasting Napoleon brandy in the aftermath, Becky indiscreetly tells him that Nina is no good for him and that he should marry someone kind and good for him. This is one of those oopsie-daisy cross-cultural courtship mishaps that crop up from time to time in every relationship. When Brit girl says, "You should think about marrying someone who is not a merciless block of statuary," the Dutch-boy translation is "I've just keyed your Rolls Royce Corniche because I could and killed a man just to watch him die." Oopsie.
Tiele, making one last bid to recapture his spot on the Rich Dutch Doctor pedestal, lashes out, "...should she be a skinny creature with no conversation--such as yourself, Rececca?" Did you notice how he calls her Rebecca? That should put her firmly in her place.
It does. She spends the next few days in a fever of dread that she will have to see him and making PSA announcements about the dangers of drinking and talking. How he spends the next few days isn't explicitly spelled out in the book but I argue that this is when he has his own, final Dawning Realization. He runs out of Becky's flat without shutting the door and positively gallops down the stairs. What's he running from? Himself, that's what. A skinny, plain little creature--who does she think she is? It must have been a horribly uncomfortable thing to abandon the pedestal once and for all and to admit that a girl he had no intention of loving, not to mention noticing, is the sun the moon and the whole enchilada. I think of him sleeping very poorly once he realizes he just called his future wife a skinny creature with no conversation...to her face.
So, after plucking up his courage and girding up his loins, he corners her in a nurses' corridor and asks her to come to lunch with his mother and sister. That's right. He's reduced to conducting his courtship behind his womenfolk's skirts. Oh how the mighty have fallen.
Naturally he shows up at the end to give her a lift back--with Garden Statuary Nina (she keeps inviting herself to things).
"You'll be late on duty,"
"I prefer to be that than--than...I suppose you think it's funny to watch her snubbing me."
Becky may be thin and small but when she fell in love she didn't lose her backbone. (Team Becky!)
But then one day the doctor goes completely off the rails. Becky accepted a date with a houseman-- Wim the Worthy--because his girlfriend was busy. The doctor's prescription for the predicament is to drag Nina (who keeps inserting herself into his life anyway) off to a te-de-ious chamber music concert where he plants himself in an expensive seat and stares, with a scowl on his face, at the back of Becky's head. The. Entire. Night.
He manages to rid himself of Nina and cut Wim out of the picture and then tells Becky that he only went to the concert "because you did"!
He didn't just walk away from his aloof Rich Dutch Doctor pedestal. He's chopped it down, dragged it to a clearing and built a bon fire.
One more location to go! Becky helps nurse the Baroness as she goes to England. Lots of darling things happen, Basil the Bad makes one last ditch effort to turn Becky into Rebecca and our hero carries her off to an Olde Worlde Tea Shoppe where, on the strength of his feelings, makes her eat with one hand. (He won't let go of the other one!!!) Kisses!

Rating: I loved this--just loved it--from the first vision of her whistling her way down a wet English road to the very last second outside the Tea Shoppe. Becky was brave and plucky and honest. Tiele was so mixed-up and turned around and then really, really let himself go when he'd finally diagnosed the problem. I bestow the most joyful queen of puddings. The only thing that makes it anything less than a lashings of whipped cream (which I'm already regretting not giving it) is that when I picked it up I could hardly remember which one it was. I think that has something to do with the title. The Promise of Happiness just didn't leap...zzzzzzzzzzzzz. They need to rename this Becky and the Baron (the hot, hot Baron).
Food: Iced celery soup (Why on earth?), cold chicken-tangerine-apple salad, peach royale, chilled strawberry soup (I want some!), blueberry pie and (for The Picnic of Dawning Realization) chicken legs wrapped in foil, tiny pork pies, minute sausages, crisp rolls filled with ham and dishes of salad and ice cream in a container as well as coffee in a thermos jug and Moselle (which she likes and he tolerates for her sake).
Fashion: An old-fashioned rain coat and sopping scarf to start, later a worthy-looking dark blue nurse's uniforms and cardigan, and then (in one shopping trip when she gets to splash a bit--see left) 2 cotton dresses and cardigan, blue slacks, cotton tops, flat sandals, sensible slippers, a flowered cotton skirt with a lace-trimmed blouse. The Baroness pronounces everything to be in the best of taste. After that a knit set in old rose (Betty did like her old rose, didn't she?) and in anticipation of going on a date with him a pretty flowered cotton voile and a grey skirt (with pink roses) with a pale pink crepe blouse for the theatre.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Betty NaNoWriMo Writing Prompt of the Week (Oh yes, It's come to that.)

Caroline Anne Araminta Darling looked with dismay at the once-high polish of the Professor's shoes...

I can't wait to see what you come up with!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Real World Betty

via email:

I can't resist sharing this article with you in honour of all the Aramintas and Cressidas and Philomena's that know how to apply a tourniquet in an emergency.....usually expensive stockings or uncrushable shirtwaisters....but still.....

Off-duty nurse saves crash victim's life... using a bra as a tourniquet


Thank you to the alert reader (Betty Adele?) who sent us the email with this link! It sort of begs the question: What would you use for  an emergency tourniquet?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, November 14th.
The Promise of Happiness

The Promise of Happiness is just too generic as a title.

Cruise to Norway with a baroness, evil step relations,
Becky is a whistler.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fate is Remarkable - Reprise

Betty Magdalen has the distinction of being the only guest reviewer (of a book from the canon) on TUJD. Not that we turn down other full length reviews (hint hint cough cough) She did an incredible job - quite Betty worthy, and Betty Keira and I are not about to slap one together of an inferior quality.  We are not going to bow down to the pressures  give in to unreasonable completely reasonable requests of our dear readers. 
This is Betty Magdalen's favorite Neels...not mine or Betty Keira's (the heart wants what the heart wants), and we are everlastingly grateful that she took on the job. 

I'm guest reviewing Fate is Remarkable for Betty Debbie and Betty Keira, who are off enjoying some well-earned "off-duty." And, as I know in advance I cannot replicate their delicious concoctions of amusement, affection, and appreciation (topped with lashing of whipped cream!), I thought I'd present this review in a slightly different way.

We don't get much of the hero's point of view in the standard Betty Neels romance, and we get even less in Fate is Remarkable because Hugo van Elven (great name, yes?) is keeping secrets. And yet, I would argue that we can deduce what Hugo's feeling -- and it's very familiar to us all. Here, then, is Fate is Remarkable (Hugo's Story):
Hugo van Elven was 35 when he finally fell in love. To be sure, he'd had a youthful romance with a fellow doctor, Janet, but after two years she'd emigrated to the US. Hugo had mourned the loss of a presumed future more than Janet herself, but he was a private man and allowed his family to assume his heart had been well and truly broken. They were wrong. His heart was whole, but that organ now belonged entirely to Sarah Dunn, whom he'd met when she was a staff nurse on Men's Medical. A pretty girl at 23, she would be a beautiful woman. It wasn't her serene good looks that he loved, it was her gentle manner and loving spirit. But she was so young and seemingly focused on her career. In time, he thought, she would want a different life, one with children and a husband.
So Hugo arranged to have Sarah promoted to sister of the Outpatient Department, where he was a consultant. He'd had a vague notion that he would let her get settled in her new job for a while before he asked her out, but before he could act on that plan, he learned she was dating Steven, the surgical registrar. Steven was a good enough surgeon, Hugo supposed: young, ambitious, and good looking. But he wasn't good enough for Sarah. Sure enough, eventually the hospital grapevine disclosed that Steven was also dating Binns's daughter; as the daughter of the surgical consultant at St. Edwin's, she would be a handy steppingstone to further young Steven's career. Hugo was concerned for Sarah's heart; if she loved Steven, this could hurt her badly.
He knew about the Binns engagement before she did; she probably thought the important thing Steven needed to tell her was a proposal of marriage. It was painful to see her happiness as she worked with Mrs. Brown, their patient who was slowly dying of respiratory problems and congestive heart failure. The Binns announcement would be in the paper soon; Steven was going to have to tell Sarah that night. Hugo resolved to keep an eye out for her. Thankfully, when he could tell from Sarah's pinched face that Steven had thrown her over (the fool!), Mrs. Brown provided him with an opportunity: She needed someone to care for Timmy, her cat, while she was in hospital; Hugo volunteered.
Hugo could well imagine Mrs. Brown's living arrangements: a dreary room in a rather noisome lodging house. It seemed wrong to send her back there to die, but there was no reason why he shouldn't help to make them more attractive. Sarah seemed genuinely concerned for Mrs. Brown. so he didn't hesitate to ask her to meet him at the old woman's room and "help" him collect Timmy. This necessitated a trip for all of them, Sarah, Mrs. Brown, and Timmy, to his house in Richmond, on the Thames. Hugo was aware he had engineered this chance for Sarah to see how he lived, but he was past caring. She looked miserable, when she wasn't furious at Steven, and Hugo's heart ached to see her so sad. He was able to say truthfully, "It gets easier as the days go by--especially if there's plenty of work to do." A lesson he'd learned all too well over the last five years.
His plans for Mrs. Brown's room were quite successful. After Sarah picked a garish cabbage rose wallpaper (because Mrs. Brown liked pink), he got her to call him Hugo. She was clearly startled by the informality, which to him felt significant after years of "Sister" and "Doctor." Hugo insisted on driving her back to the Nurses' Home; as he'd suspected, they passed Steven, clearly waiting to talk to Sarah and, presumably, upset her again. Hugo was proud of the way he didn't knock the younger man down. His forbearance was rewarded a few days later when he saw Sarah slap Steven.
Next, they needed to buy furniture for Mrs. Brown's room; another opportunity for him to take Sarah out in his Iso. She wasn't the sort of woman to be impressed by houses or cars, he knew, but she needed to know something of how he lived if she -- but he was getting ahead of himself. He took her to the Grill Room; not a place Steven had taken her, he felt sure. She had this endearing way of wrinkling her nose when she smiled... He hadn't thought it was possible to love her more, but he'd been wrong. It was a wrench to take her back to the hospital when his every instinct was to take her away from all of that.
The following weekend, when Mrs. Brown was to go home to her redecorated room, Hugo invited Sarah to accompany them. She seemed better, he thought, as he watched her taking in the changes in the room and Mrs. Brown's pleasure in it. He'd made up his mind, but he mustn't rush his fences. He couldn't do this over dinner or in Richmond. It had to be at St. Edwin's, where she would feel most comfortable. So after Monday's clinic, as Sarah was gathering up the notes from that afternoon's patients, he assumed what he thought of as his "consultant's demeanor," and asked her to marry him.
He'd thought a lot about how to explain this. For his plan to work, it was critical that she not know he loved her. He knew instinctively she'd refuse him and never reconsider; she would be that certain that it would be unfair to marry him when she thought she still loved Steven. "Why are you so surprised?" he challenged her. "We're well suited. You have lost your heart to Steven, and I -- I lost mine many years ago." Ah, yes, that was artfully done, he congratulated himself. She must have heard the rumors that he'd been unlucky in love; she would assume he meant Janet. He explained about mutual respect and liking, and how he expected nothing more from her. All true and yet he was leaving out everything that his heart longed to tell her.
Her response neared destroyed him. "You don't want my love? Even if I didn't love someone else?" It was all he could do not to ask for that love on the spot. But she did think she loved Steven; it was no use pretending otherwise.
He should get an acting award, he thought savagely as he composed a bland response. "I want your friendship. I enjoy your company; you're restful and beautiful to look at and intelligent." He could see her frown when he mentioned that she was 28, but he was oddly pleased at her annoyance. She wasn't indifferent to him, he even fancied she liked him tolerably well. It wasn't what he wanted, but it would do as a start.
He knew not to pressure her, and so had resolved not to ask her out that evening. But when she stood up, all the notes in her lap had slid to the floor in a slither. He had to laugh. "My God! It looks like we're going to spend this evening together anyway," he said as he crouched down to sort everything out, grateful just for another hour with the woman he loved.
Hugo had timed his proposal for the day before his holiday. Sarah needed time to think, but it was difficult to be away from her for so long. When she asked him how his holiday had been upon his return, he realized it had been better for even the hope she might accept him. He wanted to ask what her decision was immediately, but no matter her answer he'd be distracted for the rest of the clinic. When they were done, he simply asked her out, and when she accepted it was a relief. "Shall we be celebrating, Sarah?" he said. It was torture watching her turn out lights and act as though he'd said nothing, but then she smiled that gorgeous smile and told him yes, they would be celebrating.
Being engaged, Hugo quickly discovered, meant a new series of challenges. He liked Sarah's parents immediately, but it was bittersweet to be in Sarah's world still guarding his feelings, watching what he said and how looked. Similarly, it hurt to show Sarah the rest of his house in Richmond; the two bedrooms when he wished it was only one. When they came to the door that lead to the nursery, he couldn't bring himself to show her the rooms he so wanted their children to enjoy. He sensed her disappointment, but when he imagined little girls with Sarah's dimples and grey eyes, he just couldn't bear to think they would live as friends for months, or even years, before her heart was whole again. He enjoyed taking her to the theatre and restaurants; at times it even felt they were a normal engaged couple. But just before he was to take her away from the hospital for the last time, Steven upset her again. Hugo comforted her as she cried angry tears, even as his own hopes withered. "I'm sure we'll be a comfort to each other," she said. Poor consolation, he thought, but it will have to do.
They married in Sarah's West Country village with both sets of parents present. Hugo thought he had never realized how beautiful she was, in her elegant, simple white dress. He had been thrilled when Sarah asked shyly if he might want a wedding ring; he kept glancing at it on his left hand, a symbol of his commitment to her, he thought, and the first that he could show the world. He felt as though he'd loved her forever. They left shortly after the wedding breakfast, using the drive to Scotland as their excuse. Hugo was pleased and nervous to take Sarah to his cottage at Wester Ross. He'd imagined her there so many times, but there was always the risk she wouldn't like it.
It was a long drive, but never had it seemed to go by so quickly for Hugo. They spoke about his home in Holland; she seemed to understand how he came to be living in Richmond for now but would move to the family house eventually. She asked about the cottage, which he'd bought right around the time he'd fallen in love with her. He'd needed a place away from his parents and sisters, a place he could be himself and not perpetuate the farce that he was mooning after Janet after more than a decade.
Sarah seemed surprised at the length of the journey, a trip he made so frequently it seemed normal if not routine. He didn't think of Sarah as a woman beset by nerves, but the distance seemed truly to rattle her and she was certain only a desperate situation would cause her to attempt the trip on her own. Her vehemence made him wonder if the cottage was going to seem too remote for her, but when he arrived, he could tell immediately she loved it as he did.
He'd never been so happy in Scotland. Even fishing was more delightful with Sarah knitting off to one side. He hoped their happiness -- for she was happy, he could tell -- would remain and even flourish when they got back to Richmond, but the realities of the situation were waiting for them in the form of an invitation to Anne Binns's engagement party. It was a long-familiar sensation, masking his disappointment as Sarah looked so beautiful and still so unattainable. He tried to remember all the reasons why he'd been right to pressure her into marriage, but sometimes he was less confident that she'd realize she no longer loved Steven.
There were other realities to marriage he hadn't anticipated. He volunteered at John Bright's clinic in Wandsworth (the dodgy end) on Tuesday and Friday evenings. Hugo was reluctant to tell Sarah; it would sound pompous and even possibly boastful. But she seemed so annoyed when he didn't explain where he was going and why; he was in a quandary how to handle the situation. He realized he was going to have to show her, so on a stormy afternoon when he knew she would be visiting Mrs. Brown (who didn't have many days left, he feared), he collected Sarah from there and took her to Rose Road. He could tell she was curious, but she was a smart woman and would see for herself. He should have foreseen that she would immediately start to help, and work straight through the surgery hours. She seemed immediately indispensable; he wondered how they'd managed without her. And he should have foreseen she'd want to come again, a development he had to admit annoyed him. If he couldn't declare his love for her, the least he could do was to care for her and make her feel safe and protected. Rose Road was hard work under unpleasant circumstances. Again, he'd misjudged her; she was thrilled to help. And when he was alone, he had to admit he was thrilled to have more time working with her. He'd missed working with her at St. Edwin's O.P.D.
Mrs. Brown died a few days later. He'd gotten to her room just in time to find Sarah look at him with naked relief; Mrs. Brown was still alive, but he could tell it wouldn't be long. She hadn't lost any of her wits, he thought, when the old woman told Sarah that her first name was Rosemary, "a nice name for a little girl." Sarah's response, that when they had a daughter she would be named Rosemary, took him by surprise. Did she mean that, or was she just telling Mrs. Brown a soothing lie?
With each day, the questions piled up to which he had no answers. Was Sarah still in love with Steven? At their first dinner party he'd been certain she was not; she was a poised and happy hostess. But when someone mentioned the date for the Binns wedding, he saw her look stunned at the news, and then smile happily at him. Was this finally when she would tell him how she felt about Steven? Hugo was never entirely sure what was the right thing to say; it was unthinkable that he should demand answers of a woman he had married under the guise of friendship.
Hugo was still questioning the decision to let Sarah work at Rose Road. He'd come out of the examining room one evening to find her dealing with three youths bristling with bravado. One had grabbed Sarah's wrist; she didn't seem panicked, but Hugo could barely restrain the urge to hit the lad. They backed down, as bullies often do, in the face of a larger enemy. He could tell, though, that Sarah pitied them more than was frightened, and for that reason he offered them jobs at the surgery. He still had an arm around Sarah's shoulders; he didn't want to let her go, ever. But when he asked if they'd scared her, she seemed annoyed with him. Perhaps he should have refused to let her work at Rose Road. The thought festered so much that when he was next alone with her, his control slipped and he kissed her, hard. It was a mistake, a taste of something he wasn't allowed, and it must never happen again, he thought savagely. He had no idea he'd said it aloud.
That taste, that glimmer of everything he wanted, stayed vivid in his mind. When he came home late the evening of their next dinner party, he found her wearing a dress he particularly liked. It was reassuring somehow; Hugo rather feared she'd bought the dress for a date with Steven and resented wearing it for him. When he'd changed and come back downstairs, he nearly asked her what his heart kept demanding: was she still in love with Steven, or was her heart finally healed. Before he could ask, the first guests arrived and the moment was lost. Hugo couldn't tell if she was relieved or disappointed. For that matter, he wasn't certain of his own feelings. If she was heart-whole, they perhaps could fall in love properly, openly. But if he declared himself too soon...
It was a shock, then, to discover that Sarah was still convinced he was in love with Janet. What was worse, she seemed to have it in her mind that he kept parts of himself locked off, like the nursery rooms. He didn't know what to make of this muddle. It was a relief, in a way, that their trip to Holland was upon them. He had the odd sensation that he only knew what he was doing when he was in a medical office or traveling. And the trip did seem successful. They relaxed with each other, happy again to be in each other's company. He felt on surer footing: in just a little while -- perhaps after Sarah saw young Steven safely married to Anne Binns -- they would be able to get on with the rest of their marriage. That day couldn't arrive soon enough for Hugo, who was still struggling with how to give Sarah gifts while he waited to give her his love. He worried she would think he was trying to buy something with them. What did it matter that he could afford an antique bowl or a fur coat? Why, then, did she insist on thanking him all the time as if they barely knew each other? Would she never think of herself as his wife?
He had a trip to the States planned for a while; he'd assumed Sarah would accompany him. But at the last minute he changed all the reservations to just one traveler and announced the trip as coolly as he dared. Sarah was shocked, he could tell, but he felt he was running out of time. One of these days he was going to blurt out his feelings for her like a schoolboy. Perhaps three weeks' away would help her to miss him.
It only took a day for Hugo to realize he'd miscalculated badly. Traveling alone reminded him too acutely of all those years when he knew she had a date with Steven from the special smile she had in the O.P.D.; being alone might not be bothering her at all, but it made him miserable. He was desperate to ring her every day regardless of how it must seem to her. She missed him at first, but after a few days, she sounded fine. He had to admit to her that he was lonely as well. After that, she was more comfortable chatting with him in the pre-dawn hours before he started his day. He wandered around strange cities in his free time, thinking about her. He even bought her a ring that said how he felt, and wrote on the hotel stationery what he couldn't bring himself to say in person. He cut short dinner meetings simply because the sooner he went to bed the sooner he would hear her voice again. Lovesick, indeed.
At last he was free to fly back to her, he thought, as the cab took him to the airport. He was in the lounge, lighting his pipe, when he heard his name. To his amazement, it was Janet, looking lovely but unhappy. They fell into the sort of catching up conversation of old friends. He told her about Sarah, speaking with such evident pride and happiness that Janet had to confess her own marital woes. She'd married an American engineer she'd met in London and moved with him to Boston; that much Hugo had known already. But their inability to have children had strained their marriage, and Janet had rashly accepted a six-month position as Medical Registrar at St. Kit's in the hopes it would either solve something or end all the uncertainty. Hugo certainly understood that instinct.
Hugo never knew precisely what prompted him to suggest they share a taxi cab from the airport, or that Janet should come in for a drink and meet Sarah. It was reckless, he knew that, but something about Janet's story egged him on. Surely Sarah, his smart fearless Sarah, would see immediately that he didn't love Janet, that he'd not loved her for years. But the Sarah who greeted them in the hallway was a stranger to him, a polite stranger more welcoming to Janet than to himself. It was infuriating, he thought as he endured an endless evening, conscious of the ring box in his jacket pocket. At least they'd liked each other before he went away. Now she was treating him like a dinner guest in his own home. Janet's troubles turned out to be more complicated than Hugo had realized; there was a chance her inability to have children was treatable, but she didn't want to hear it, didn't want to hope. He couldn't discuss any of this with Sarah, who barely seemed to care what he did or whom he saw. They got through the stupid Binns wedding, but nothing improved. Sarah continued to throw Janet in his face, arranging for yet another dinner with her. His patience at an end, Hugo finally asked her point blank, "Do you still love Steven, Sarah?" Clearly he spoke too soon, or was too late, for she didn't answer his question.
At least one thing was getting resolved, Hugo thought tiredly. Janet's treatment was showing progress in her hormone levels and she'd agreed to ask her husband to join her in London. Hugo met Janet at Fortnum's at the appointed time, but her American husband was late. It was a relief finally to meet him and hand Janet over to him. This had cut into Hugo's schedule badly; as a consequence the rest of his day was squeezed and he was late getting home. He had to talk to Sarah, no matter what. He'd been stupid in so many ways, and seeing the joy on Janet's face only served to remind Hugo that there was no excuse for withholding the truth from your spouse.
He knew immediately when he got home that something bad had happened. Sarah wasn't there, and Alice confirmed that she'd left hours earlier. He found the note she'd left for him; she was leaving him so that he could marry Janet. She'd been at Fortnum's and seen them -- how could he have missed her, he thought distractedly -- and arrived at the same realization he'd had. She just had the wrong idea of who belonged with whom.
The first thing to do was find her, of course, but that proved harder than he imagined. He rang everyone he could think of, her parents, Kate, even old Mr. Ives. He went to work, came home, pretended to sleep, and not once did he stop worrying. She could be anywhere, with anyone. Finally, on the weekend, he decided he had to drive to Scotland, if only to prove to himself she hadn't gone there. He'd gotten no answer on the cottage telephone, but there'd been snow recently and he knew how unreliable the telephone service was in the winter. It was a nightmarish drive; the Iso was a lovely car but being Italian it was not well suited for a Scottish winter. He left it at Glenmoriston and prevailed upon the snow-plough to get him as close to the cottage as possible. He walked the rest of the way, every step taking him farther from Sarah, he knew, but he had to verify for himself that she wasn't there.
When at last he could see the cottage, a snug roof above a sea of white, he wasn't sure if he was imagining the smoke rising from the chimney. He feared he was so tired and exhausted, he was only seeing what he wished to see. But another hundred yards and he could see her, leaning on the spade gazing down the hillside toward the loch, the picture of satisfaction at the work she'd done shoveling. She didn't even hear him.
Finally she turned and saw him. He took off his dark glasses to see her face better, but it was impossible. She was so beautiful and he loved her so much, he simply couldn't tell if she was glad to see him. All he knew was that he hadn't been whole before this moment. She bustled around, in precisely the way she had at St. Edwin's and did at the Rose Road surgery, making him a huge breakfast. She was talking a great deal of nonsense about divorce and papers. He wanted to stop her, kiss her, but he knew he would make a hash of it if he didn't eat first. When she asked why he'd come, he merely told her the truth. He had to see her. He had to talk to her. But it was clear she wasn't ready, and he was simply too exhausted to fight her when she insisted he go to bed.
It was dark when he woke, and she'd made a stew; he could smell it even in the bedroom. He wasn't worried anymore. He was here and he'd found her. He shaved and went downstairs refreshed and strangely calm. He watched her bustle some more, both amused and charmed by her insistence on being a good hostess. Finally, she picked up her needlework and he knew it was time.
He explained about looking for her, and how the cottage was the last place he thought of because she'd said once that only if she was desperate would she make the drive herself. She muttered some nonsense about assuming he hadn't wanted to know where she was, and he was suddenly very mad at her.
"I've been half out my mind," he told her, in a weak effort to describe his fears. But that wasn't the point; this was: "I love you. I fell in love with you years ago . . . you were staffing on Men's Medical. It wasn't too difficult persuading Matron that you were just the type I wanted in O.P.D." At her look of shock, he nodded ferociously. "Oh, yes," he said, pleased to have surprised her. "Only to discover that you and young Steven . . . I waited three years. And then I married you, knowing that I would still have to wait while you recovered from Steven; knowing that you weren't ready for my love. That's why I allowed you to go on believing in that hoary legend about Janet and me."
"But you loved her," she said, as if it was an article of faith.
"Perhaps, for a year -- two years," and at that she nodded. He could see she understood how one can think one is in love, only with time to learn it was never very real at all.
He rescued the canvas from her blind efforts to stitch, and pulled her to her feet. He could tell it would be all right, she'd not reject him. His heart sang as she told him that she loved him, and had done so long before she knew about it. He kissed her as he had longed to kiss her, slowly and with all his love.
Oh, there were more explanations, but Hugo had all that he needed: Sarah, his Sarah.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Only 3 days into NaNoWriMo and Jane could feel the muscles in her writing
hand starting to seize up.  Time to switch hands.
In the spirit of helping our fellow Bettys who might be suffering from writers block, we here at TUJD offer a few prompts to kick start their imaginations: 
  • Never had the duty rota looked so impossible...
  • Lucilla Hawkins gazed into her future with something akin to horror... 
  • For a moment the room swayed dizzyingly around her...'Great,' she thought. 'Love at first sight.   I might have known I'd fall for an impossibly handsome, fabulously wealthy foreigner.'
  • With the rain sheeting down, Eugenia continued walking along, blithely ignorant of the havoc it was wreaking on her mousy locks...
  • Amabella dug frantically in her purse, but there was no denying it.  Every cent that she had painstakingly scraped together was now gone...
  • Even the shapeless theatre gowns managed to look good on him...
  • Rats.  Of course there were rats...
  • Samantha looked at her dinner plate with absolute loathing...
Your turn!  Write a prompt or finish a prompt.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Betty WriMos

It's only 1667 words a day...

Cor van der Borsel dropped his pies with a clatter, raised his fist in fury and shouted, 'NaNoWriMo!'  The villagers nodded understandingly.  It was November again and he needed to make his word count.
I hope all our Betty WriMos are feverishly pounding out word after word after word.  The Great Betty can be our source of inspiration when things are getting you down.  If she were a WriMo, perhaps she might have penned this little gem:
“He sighed deeply: to fall in love at first sight with this malodorous sleeping girl, with, as far as he could see, no pretensions to beauty or even good looks, was something he had not expected. But falling in love, he had always understood, was unpredictable, and, as far as he was concerned, irrevocable That they hadn't exchanged a word, nor spoken, made no difference. He, heart whole until that minute, and with no intention of marrying until it suited him, had lost that same heart.”
Betty Neels