Monday, April 30, 2012

Reprise - Sister Peters in Amsterdam

Betty Keira refers to Sister Peters as 'the baby whisperer'. She and I both know a real baby whisperer.  Who? None other than my very own Dr. van der Stevejinck.  He can take a crying baby and without breaking a sweat have that baby asleep before you know it.  The younger the baby the better.  He just has that knack.  It might be a misnomer though, to call him a baby whisperer...he manages his magic without saying a word (in best RDD style).
Sister Peters in Amsterdam may not be La Neels best novel, but it will always hold a special place in my heart for being the first...the first of many lovely love stories. 
-Betty Debbie

The Great Betty Neels wasn't a spring chicken when she took up writing. I don't know if she always scribbled here and there. I don't know if she knocked out random chapters of books that never went anywhere and sat in the bottom of some drawer somewhere. (Someday we may uncover a missing manuscript for a Betty Neels space opera, I'm sure of it.) The way she tells it, she simply overheard someone telling a librarian that there weren't enough good romance novels and a switch was flipped on inside her. One day she was a nurse and another day she was a writer. If she was half as hard-working and dedicated to her nursing as she was to her books, she must have been amazing. Her first book, Sister Peters in Amsterdam begins, "It was one o'clock; the corridor leading from the main hospital to the children's unit was very quiet." The rest is history.

Adelaide Peters is the baby whisperer. She's a nice looking redhead of 25 and a capable sister in charge of Children's Emergency and Outpatients. When little darlings are recalcitrant or fussed or inconveniently damp Sister Peters dons her Lasso of Truth and her Deflecting Wristbands, hops into her Invisible Jet and rules that ward. She has a minister father, twin brothers, Matthew and Mark (love it!), for whom she sends school fees and monetary help home and a mother who live off in the country somewhere.
When Baron Professor Coenraad Blankenaar Van Essen visits her ward and tours the facilities he is secretly checking her suitability (and her statistics) for a one-year nurse exchange program. Don't start asking pesky questions like, "But, Betty Keira, wouldn't it be medically unsafe to put a woman in charge of sick children under emergency conditions when she doesn't speak a common language with them or their distraught parents?" To which I answer, 'She's the baby whisperer. Just go with it.'
And then she's off to Holland!
Adelaide has agreed to go because the professor is hot. Sure, sure, international travel, broadened horizons, foreign language mastery...that's all there too. But lest we forget: The Professor is HOT.
The structure is a little unusual in this book so I'll take this in seasons.
Arrival and re-acquaintance with hot doctor. We are introduced to the character Freule Margriet Keizer, a shadowy figure initially, who seems to see a lot of the good doctor. Addy struggles with the difficult language and muddles her verbs charmingly but proves herself as a dedicated nurse and a sensible woman.
The Great Neels uses this opportunity to chuck every Dutch tradition in the pot like a very well-bred mulligan stew. During the feast of Saint Nicolaas we meet Zwarte Piet, Nicolaas' 'black slave' (okey-doke), and Addy meets Margriet. Addy isn't in love yet so her hopes aren't precisely dashed but she does like Coenraad enough to feel sorry that he's taken. (Girlfriend, a wise woman once said, 'If you like it then you should have put a ring on it. Oh, oh, oh.')
On New Year's Eve she is invited to his aunt's house for a party--the first time he will see her out of uniform! How disappointing then to be looked at as though she were an advertisement for Lawn Aeration or Carpet Installation. She is angry with him--incensed that he is non-responsive to her considerable feminine wiles. Thus she embarks on a curious one-sided courtship. No actual attempts at wooing are made, but she assumes the right to hate him (when he brushes her off) and Margriet (when she...acts like herself) nonetheless. I am put in mind of that movie The Mouse That Roared wherein the tiny country, in a bid to recover economically when a California vineyard knocks off their only export, declares war with America only to have a difficult time being noticed at all.
Or Pepe Le Pew making violent love to a flower pot. I'm put in mind of that too...
Either way, Addy has her moment of flashing realization that night. She is in love with the Professor. (Smacks head) That's why I want to scratch Margriet's eyes out!
The Betty Neels I know and love could wrap things up within days or weeks of such an event but if I may draw your attention to the YEAR-LONG CONTRACT Addy signed...We've still got the better part of two more seasons to traverse.
Addy gets lost in a blizzard (in a city!), is rescued by you-know-who with the medical degree and smashing bedside manner, and weathers some blistering cattiness from Margriet who has attached herself to the Professor like an oxpecker on a rhino's backside (only less willing to eat ticks). Think she's going to roll over and let another symbiotic relationship develop under her nose? Nuh-uh.
Ice-skating also occurs in this Dutch winter and Coenraad engineers some quality time with his best nurse out on the ice.
She discovers, by asking her elderly Dutch teacher, the Sad Tale of the Orphan Boy or How the Professor Lost His Eyesight in One Eye. I won't ruin it but it involves Nazis, prison camp, loyal servants and the Late Unpleasantness.
The Professor takes her to tea where she discovers that he is a baron. "...don't you approve of titles?" "Well of course I do," replied Addy in just the right tone for someone hailing from a country governed by a constitutional monarchy. This American Betty might have replied to that selfsame question, "Ordinarily and theoretically, no. Romantically and interestingly, yes." Is there anything more drear and cheerless than those awful French novels wherein they call each other Citizen and Citizeness? Gag.
But this presents a problem for Addy. Bad enough that the Professor is rich. Worse that he's nobility. A country parson's daughter would have to be insane to reach that high. (Had she not heard of The King and the Beggar Maid?)
But then he kisses her thoroughly and she kisses him back.
Had she not just discovered his Adel-ness and wealth, this story might have ended there. As it is, she tells him not to say anything. So much better to be swamped by eddying waves of confusion and doubt when a conversational air blower could have mucked that gutter out in a jiff.
In the spring a young man's thoughts turn to lorries full of scrap iron, oil tankers and bus accidents. (Thank Betty for a stunning visual.) Addy makes a heroic rescue in tight quarters and Coenraad, in turn, rescues her.
Coenraad invites all the nurses out to his family compound for a picnic. The cable-knit sweaters, deck shoes, and bon fires practically drip off the page in a sort of amalgam of all the Kennedy clan's more glamorously wholesome activities. Coenraad and Addy swim out to a floating platform where he tells her about his eye and about how he's always hoping for a miracle.
"How did you find out that I knew?"
"You always stand on my good side when we're at work."

Aww. That's how you know they're meant for each other.
He invites her to travel with him to England. (Does he know she can't afford the fare?) After assuring herself that the trip won't include an overnight stop in Brighton (I heart Betty.), she agrees to come.
Not much time and energy are wasted on England. Addy makes an apple pie. Coenraad charms her parents. Father gives him some advice (we don't find out what) which Coenraad plans on taking. (A handy-dandy Fortune Cookie Generator tells us that it is, 'Your emotional nature is strong and sensitive.' Spot on. Eerie.)
On the trip back we find that her social life in Holland has been a bit dire. She had one ill-fated trip out with two rowdy doctors, one dance and mild chat-up with Brocade Waistcoat Fellow and what she thought would be a safe night out to a concert with Dr. Vos, an aged widower who will probably have his teeth punched in by Coenraad due to some lecherous advances made on the future Baroness Van Essen.
Then Addy, desperate to put some distance between herself and Coenraad, accepts a date with Brocade Waistcoat Fellow. The next day a fellow doctor, upon hearing who her date was, exclaims, 'Couldn't you do better than that?'
It's been nearly a year and between three lechers and a bad dresser she chose the lesser of evils. Better a Brocade Waistcoat than Wandering Hands, my mom always said.
But maybe the Professor agrees that Addy should have been able to do better. He asks her to the hospital ball and in a flurry of excitement she spends some carefully saved money on a dress. Her quiet elation is burst when Margriet, laying in wait like a jungle cat, pounces on her "by chance" (fat chance) outside the hospital.
Margriet: Hey, girlfriend. We should hang out more.
Addy: Why are your eyes turning red?
Margriet: I'm so glad that I twisted Coenraad's arm to ask you to the ball. You've only had that Carnival Freak Show asking you out so...
Addy: Huh. Don't mind that. It's the sound of my heart fracturing irrevocably. You were saying...?
Margriet: And I thought this totally uncharacteristic kindness on my part would be rewarded with the Heirloom Sapphire engagement ring! And it was!
Addy: Where is it?
Margriet: Jewelers. I'm having it reforged in the fires of Mount Doom into an exact copy of Sauron's ring--The Demon Lord of Mordor! Bye!
Addy must break the date now. She fakes a toothache--possibly the most unromantic of excuses (short of going nuclear. You know what I mean... Women's problems.)--and cancels. And then she decides she must go home. Even though it is a few weeks shy of her contract, she asks for permission to leave.
She gets all the way to his aunt's house (Where better to kill time while simultaneously avoiding Coenraad and waiting for the train?) when in walks Coenraad. He's furious and ready to drag her back to the hospital by her hair.
But somehow he manages to ask her to stay on until Friday (uh...okay) and has her explain what all that, "I hope you and Margriet are happy together, forever, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G" stuff was all about.
White faced and pinched, she allows him to dictate the terms of her dismissal.
On the day of her final departure, he waylays her in the hall, drags her off to somewhere private enough (a city square outside a church?) and gets his proposing over with at last. "I've been in love with you from the start!" Really!? Public snogging and firm wedding plans.
The End

Rating: Since this was her first effort some of the Neels-isms are light on the ground. The hero is wonderful (glasses and a depth perception problem!) and the heroine is (she hates this word) sensible. I like it. Still, it takes a long time getting going and the time frame (one whole year) is more reality based than novel based (there's a reason Romeo and Juliette takes less than a week from end to end). I was a little irked that it spanned that entire time and Coenraad didn't make his feelings more plain. However, the last 10 pages make it all worth it even if making her stay for three more days before she could leave was weird and unnecessary. I give it a boeuf en croute for originality and the spot of semi-blindness.

Fashion: Dainty frilled cap, velvet dress with chestnut brown hair bow, a green coat and hat that get serious mileage, a white bathing cap with a ridiculous fringe and a 'despised' black swimsuit, an unused turquoise blue raw silk ball gown. The professor proposes in a 'car coat'.

Food: Savory tidbits, hot chestnuts (I think I need to try some), potato chips, milkless tea, creamy cake, lobster patties, chicken legs, tiny pork pies, apple pie and chicken mousse (hm).

Friday, April 27, 2012

Round Two: The Gingers Strike Back

Finding attractive and famous gingers was a little difficult...

Ring in a Teacup beat A Girl in a Million
The Promise of Happiness beat Dearest Mary Jane
Winter Wedding beat A Secret Infatuation
Hannah beat Fate Takes a Hand
I have to cast the tie-breaking vote for Caroline's Waterloo over Dearest Love
Which means, if you're keeping score, that every mid-canon novel beat its late-canon counterpart. the specimens are more rare...

The voting for the next set will be between early and mid canon:

The Magic of Living vs. A Girl Named Rose
The End of the Rainbow vs. The Secret Pool
Henrietta's Own Castle vs. Off With the Old Love
The Moon for Lavinia vs. A Gentle Awakening
Roses for Christmas vs. When Two Paths Meet

...and unavoidably littered with the Carrot Tops, Ron Weasleys and Danny Bonaduce's of the polite world.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Round Two: Revenge of the Tall, DARK and Handsome

So sorry that I dropped off the edge of the ocean, Gentle Bettys.  But Round Two is alive and well and it was as dynamic a match-up (pitting vintage Bettys with her Middle (some might say Middling) years).  The Results!:
Theory: The Canon describes so many lint-fair heroes because La Neels had never seen Abhishek Bachchan in a beard...

Sister Peters in Amsterdam beat Never Say Goodbye (I'm in tears, Bettys!  Tears!)
Once For all Time beat Blow Hot/Blow Cold
Fate is Remarkable cruised to an easy win over Polly (Rota Fortunae!)
I had to cast a tie-breaker for Tulips For Augusta over At the End of the Day
Tabitha in Moonlight beat (by a pair of oil-stained shorts!) Never the Time and the Place
 ...Jeremy Northam in a cravat...

Alright, now on to Round Two, Phase Two where Section 11 (late canon) goes up against Section 5 (Mid canon)--don't think I don't notice how clunky that sentence was...:

Ring in a Teacup vs. A Girl in a Million
The Promise of Happiness vs. Dearest Mary Jane
Winter Wedding vs. A Secret Infatuation
Hannah vs. Fate Takes a Hand
Caroline's Waterloo vs. Dearest Love
...or Luke Wilson in anything.

I'll post the results sometime on Friday so vote early and vote often!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, April 30th.
Sister Peters in Amsterdam
Betty Neels first published book begins: "It was one o'clock; the corridor leading from the main hospital to the children's unit was very quiet." The rest is history.

Victory for Victoria--Reprise

I am with Betty Debbie on this one.  This book isn't really in my Greatest Hits collection, possibly because there's so much tentative courtship (which in real life mirrors actual courtship but in the world of Betty Neels appears perilously close to dithering).  But I love the end.  It's as close as any Neels hero comes to being in a huff.  And while huffs aren't attractive to me, the storming of an unshakable citadel is cause for popcorn and a front row seat.
Love and lardy cakes,
Betty Keira
Victoria Parsons, 23, copper hair, tawny eyes, is about to remove her drenched top in a disused powder magazine located in a cliff on the island of Guernsey. Oops. There happens to be a strange man in this not so abandoned shelter. Whatever shall she do? Great shades of Gilbert and Sullivan!

Victory for Victoria has a fun beginning, and an awesome ending, too bad the creamy center is only so-so. I'm not going to go through the whole book, play by here's the Cliff Notes:

Strange man turns out to be Dr. Alexander van Schuylen. He stalks/tracks her back to St. Judd's - where she works as a Staff Nurse. He just so happens to be a visiting consultant there he takes advantage of that to ask her out on a date. Yes, a date. After making darn sure that Alexander is not married, this turns into the datingest book in Neeldom...a virtual date-o-rama, date-a-palooza. The dates are many and varied. Picnic tea, dinner at the Ritz, weekend with the folks, etc...and with every date comes kissage....Love is busting out all over.

Not everything is all sunshine, rainbows and puppy dogs. There is a sinister character who goes by the name of Dr. Jeremy Blake, but we'll just call him Evil Plot Device #1. He tries a spot of sexual harassment in the hospital corridors and is roundly kicked in the shins by Victoria and then clocked by Alexander. Best. Scene. Ever. He continues to be a re-occurring thorn...but mostly in a small way.

More dates, more kissing, quit your job, let's talk about weddings (without being actually quite engaged)...His parents love her, she loves them, Holland is awesome...UNTIL....Evil Plot Device #2 - Nina de Ruiter. Nina pretends to be Alexander's old flame and spreads lies and deceit - like peanut butter on whole wheat, the little vixen. She drives a wedge and Victoria does a bolt back to London...

While working at St. Judds, Evil Plot Device #2 (Nina) drops by on her way to Brighton (yes, Brighton!). #2 then uncharacteristically admits her part in breaking up the happy couple- and gives Vicky some advice on how to get her man back. Editor's note: I have a big problemo with Nina - I get the mischief, I can't make myself believe that she would go out of her way to help Victoria and Alexander make up.

Victoria writes an impassioned letter to Alexander and then proceeds to give it to Evil Plot Device #1 to drop in the mailbox. Umm. Does anyone else see a problem here? Handing a letter that is vital to her future happiness to Evil Incarnate? #1 burns the letter (this would be a Federal Offense in the USA - not sure what the Brit equivalent is...Crimes Against the Crown???), steals letters from Alexander from the cubbyholes and burns them also (more crime)...burns another letter from Victoria (yet more...). Things seem hopeless for our couple until Victoria gathers up the shreds of her dignity and chucks it in the waste bin. Off to Holland to confront Alexander! Cue a British marching song. She goes to his office and camps out in his waiting room. Victoria spends an entire day waiting for him so that she can have a chat - but he won't see her. He bundles her off to a hotel that she can't afford (she finds cheaper accommodations)...but Victoria will not be put off. She heads back to his office to wait him out. Alexander seems to finally realize she's not leaving, so he agrees to talk...which turns into true confessions, which turns into kissing and making up. The end.

Rating: This truly was only so-so. There was more dating, more kissing and more applying of perfume than any three Neels books put together, but that wasn't enough to pull it out of the hum-drums. Evil Plot Device #1 is okay, he makes evil sense, but Evil Plot Device #2 is less than believable - there's no reason for her to go out of her way to fess up...I loved the ending - after the impetuous bolting. Victoria's siege on Fort Alexander is epic. Enough to bring the rating up to a treacle tart.
Fashion: Pink silk jersey with coffee coloured sandals, peacock blue silk with leg o' mutton sleeves, lime green organza with gold slippers (for the ball), cinnamon-coloured wool with matching coat and brown patent shoes.
Food: Crab patties, cheese board, ice pudding, cream puffs, Chicken Savoyarde, chocolate roulade, Pesche Ripiene, steak and kidney pie AND steak and kidney pudding (what's the difference?), grilled lobster tails, spring chicken.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Betty Neels Collection

I'd like to promise that Betty Keira will post the reprise today of Victory for Victoria...but I'm not prone to making rash promises.  She just got home from a weekend at my house (sans kids) and now has to pay the piper, housekeeping wise.

Betty Keira picked up our sister, Betty Suzanne, from the airport on Friday then drove up to my place - leaving her family to fend for themselves.  We had a wonderful weekend, chock full of jewelry crafting, sewing, shopping and Bollywood watching.  Not to worry, Dear Reader, we didn't forget you.

I'd like to introduce something that I call, The Betty Neels Collection.  Several one-of-a-kind necklaces that were lovingly handcrafted by the Founding Bettys for a few lucky Bettys.
Photography is obviously NOT one of Betty Debbie's talents.
The Betty Neels Collection. From L-R: Fate is Remarkable, Never Say Goodbye (aka From Poland with Love), Ring in a Teacup, The Girl with Green Eyes (aka Lucy's Locket), Henrietta's Own Castle and Caroline's Waterloo. (Not shown: A Gem of a Girl).

We are planning ahead for May - The Great Betty Talent Show! Get out your paintbrushes, your knitting needles, your embroidery floss, your rhyming dictionaries...whatever and wherever your talent lies - we'd love to have you share it! Our only rule is that you should find some way to apply it to the World of Neels.

More details (and hopefully better pictures)to follow...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Round Two!

The real weakness for Round One was that Novellas de Betty had to go head to head with those of the same era.  Probably they were written within the same year.  Thankfully, Round Two is a fish of a different flavor.  Our first match-up for Round Two comprises the early canon vs. the middle canon and I'm not going to lie, there are at least two pairings that are going to cause me emotional indigestion:
Sadie Laura Comely-ffinch considered long and hard.  He was gorgeous.  He had been the only one in Holland to ask her out.  He'd also "run out of gas" on a back road and pawed her.  She finished considering and smacked him hard.

Sister Peters in Amsterdam vs. Never Say Goodbye
Blow Hot, Blow Cold vs. Once For All Time
Fate is Remarkable vs. Polly
Tulips for Augusta vs. At the End of the Day
Tabitha in Moonlight vs. Never the Time and the Place

She wanted to run past him as he stood there jangling the change in his pocket.  But he caught her instead and proffered a large, snowy-white square of linen and let her burst into tears all over his wool superfine.

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, April 23rd.
Victory for Victoria
Sexual harassment, shin kicking, burning letters,.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Most Marvelous Summer - Reprise

Here in Washington we are used to rain.  Dripping, misty, sloppy, damp and interminable. Let's just say, if you like sunny, hot and dry, Washington is not your ideal retirement spot. I actually like rain - weeks of cloudy wet weather don't bother me a bit. Or, at least I used to think that.  Last year the rain just never seemed to let up.  It did finally ease up...but not until nearly the mid to late June-ish. It felt like we were never going to get to summer weather. The good news is that it did clear up and we had a marvelous summer. Eventually.
Fun fact: Did you know that Seattle ranks clear down at 44th among major US cities when it comes to annual rainfall? 
I enjoy The Most Marvellous Summer.  It helps that I can remember the title. It also helps that my copy has a more memorable cover than The Best of Betty Neels edition.
Betty Debbie

The Most Marvelous Summer has less than a marvelous title. Never mind that. It's a unique little gem of a story. It's maybe not the best but it takes our Standard-issue Brit Doctor character and peeks behind his magic curtain.When we meet Matilda ffinch (Yes. ffinch. Double ffs. No caps. Surely the folks at Ellis Island would not have let that stand.) she is already in love with the fellow on the other side of the church aisle. At 26, she is a gorgeous redhead with more than a few broken hearts behind her but that's never troubled her overmuch as Mr. Outstanding was not among them.
Her job is as social secretary to the local lady of the manor, Lady Fox, whose snobbery and pretension don't manage to squash Matilda's magnificence. She bustles and trots and sorts her way through her working day and wickedly reminds herself that if anyone has the right to be snobby it's a ffinch over a Fox.
Consultant Surgeon James Scott-Thurlow (Dear me. First double ffs and now a hyphen. Mathilda is about to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire. If she were a progressive lass would that make her Ms. ffinch-Scott-Thurlow?...I so digress.) sees her at the Fox manor and then again as he offers her a lift. Matilda isn't about to let the opportunity slip through her fingers. She interrogates him. He snubs her. She is crushed.
Oh. And he's engaged.
She must be wondering right about now if any of the men she declined to marry in the past might just be Mr. Fine or Mr. Passable or Mr. Adequate-Par.
When Roseanne, one of three pock-marked 'unfortunate nose'-ed daughters of the opinionated Lady Fox, has to travel up to London to find someone to marry it is Matilda who must screw her red hair into a French pleat and play chaperone. Lady Fox has some misgivings about sending a babe like Mathilda to engineer Roseanne's social success but there is simply no one else to be the price.
Happily, Roseanne is not so much of a snob and (with a careful make-up) not too pock-marked that she can't attract one passable male. She and Bernard fall in love over paintings at the National Gallery.
And it is in another gallery (Roseanne does like to dabble) that Matilda stumbles upon James. He looks up from his cardboard fiancee' and sees Matilda and is angry (at Fate) and cold.
Their next encounter seems worse. She is rescuing a dog in the gutter when she hears, 'Oh, dear, oh, dear, Miss ffinch helping lame dogs...' How dare she have the gall to be his ideal woman. He's as nasty as possible but rescues the dog with promptitude. In return he receives an 'emerald blaze of gratitude'. This is a fine way to avoid her siren song, he must be thinking. I was perfectly horrid to her!
On the strength of that blaze, he decides to go to a dinner party that he had refused to accompany Rhoda to, just on the chance that she'll be there. That's how it starts, ladies. Just one little gateway drug and soon you're spiraling into Reefer Madness.
The next time they meet I will call The Curious Case of the Severed Fingers. The cook...gah. I can't even say--I think I'm turning green. Anyway, the upshot is that James ends up catching Matilda's barf in a hospital bucket and she ends up cooking for a dinner party that he attends later in the evening. He's furious to find her cooking when she ought to be at the party.
Instead of telling you every little thing, I'm tempted to wash my hands and just say that if their meetings were a category on Jeopardy, this series of events would be an entire column titled: Things That Rhoda Can't Do. (I'll take "Products Rhoda Lacquers Her Hair With" for a thousand, Alex.)
We get such an interesting little detour on the part of The Venerable Betty at this point. She actually tells us WHY our rich doctor is engaged to marry an iceberg and also why he is so aloof and severe:
He had been an only child and had lost his parents in a plane crash when he had been a small boy. He had gone to live with his grandparents, who had loved him dearly but had not known what to say to him, so he had learned to hide his loneliness and unhappiness and had grown up into a rather quiet man who seldom allowed his feelings to show...
(Grab the tissues!) But he's let Matilda see some feelings, albeit unpleasant ones.
Back home, Mathilda decides to sack the inferior Foxes from her services. Roseanne trips down the historical staircase and fractures an arm and double fractures a leg. (Hey, we're going to need a consultant surgeon for that!) I guess the resignation will have to wait.
She nurses Roseanne for another couple of weeks and then is free...for a minute or two. James comes to her house and asks her to companion some random old man--his grandfather in fact. If James is disturbed by her presence (and he is), he's doing an awful job protecting himself.
A man of reserve, not given to impulse, he kissed the face so temptingly close...
And that's the dynamic. She doesn't make him feel very comfortable but he can't resist her either.
James avoids her, or tries to.
Matilda spends her time vacillating between wanting to give Rhoda tips on How To Make The Doctor Happy and having violent daydreams about pulling her hair out by the roots.
They have a beautiful row I won't ruin for you when he returns to his grandparent's house and finds her STILL there. (He'd most likely spent his time away lecturing himself about that kiss and the dangers of consorting with splendid redheads.)
Her next job is at a girls' boarding school...where a darling little poppet named Lucy loves her best. When James shows up at the end of term to collect Lucy is it any surprise? He's her godfather. Rhoda is with him and for the first time this proverb applies: When Greek meets Greek, then comes the tug of war.
Rhoda sees the enemy for what she is and the insults (instead of being a matter of bad manners) start flying in earnest.
By some slim chance, nobody slaps anybody's face.
Matilda is once more jobless but The Great Betty reaches into her knapsack of communicable diseases and pulls out mumps. Rotten luck, little Lucy. Your appearance and health are what Oscar winners would call 'the little people'.
James continues making regular trips to The Land of Cognitive Dissonance wherein the engineering he engages in to meet Matilda regularly is a train that runs on the same track as his denial that his efforts mean anything special.
As she nurses Lucy back to health, James discovers himself anew. He baits Matilda constantly and finds that he enjoys it enormously. How now, Lonely Boy?
When Rhoda, like some Evil Flying Monkey, swoops in to tell Matilda that James plans to send her to the country for further convalescence, she shouts, "I don't know why I put up with it." "Yes, you do, Matilda." And that's when we know that James finally knows the stakes of the game. He loves her. He knows she loves him. We posses our souls in patience.
The remainder comprises:
  • The cottage. (Wherein her daydreams are 'peopled by a horde of little Scott-Thurlows' and every time he leaves the kissing gets better!)
  • Leaving the cottage. (He wants to tell her something but she's sure he's playing fast and loose.)
  • The day she reads of his broken engagement in the newspaper. (And rushes off to see him. But wait. What's that in the rear-view mirror?)
  • Kissing!
The End

Rating: I really enjoy this one mostly because La Neels gives us a little more back-story to work with on the hero. He's got some baggage (no, not Rhoda) and even though she's just a clergyman's daughter with a spotty work history, she's clearly in a position to save her Prince Charming. That the Great Betty executes this upside down fairy tale in such a deft way (our hero is still doing the pursuing even if she is slaying his dragons) is a tribute to her skill as a writer. The beginning eddies around in a flotam-manner but the middle and end are...ahem...marvelous. It's not in the her very best work but I totally give The Most Marvelous Summer a boeuf en croute.

Food: Shepherd's pie, a bacon, egg and mushroom breakfast, lardy cake (I've had this!), warm cake (so much better than mucking it up with frosting after it's cooled), watercress soup, toad-in-the-hole, garlic mushrooms, fruit pie and clotted cream. (YUM.)

Fashion: Subdued grey crepe (to off-set the hair), flowery skirts, a rather Thornbirds-sounding white chemise dress that he ogles her in. Rhoda wears vivid scarlet, cherise (must google that color) and green satin. She also wears a scarlet suede jacket over black dress in the country! Lady Fox wears awful headgear, the zenith of which seems to be a floppy tweed hat.