Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cooking With Betty Anonymous

I just got back from running errands and found this lovely email in my inbox:
Dear Betty Debbie,

When we did Victory for Victoria I found a recipe for Chicken Savoyarde that looked simple and tasty to me. I sent an e-mail to UKTV to find out if it was ok for me 'to copy and "print" it as a post' for our blog. This is their reply:

Thank you for your email.

Please accept our apologies for the delay in getting back to you - we had to check this with our web team.

We think you will be pleased to know that they said it was fine for you to link to the recipe, as long as you credit and place a link back to the recipe on the words 'chicken recipe', for example, "This 'chicken recipe' came from'

Kind regards

The UKTV Team

Needless to say I was extremely pleased. So, could you please post the recipe for me? Pretty please?
Thank you.

Betty Anonymous

Victory for Victoria
They had leisurely drinks in the bar of the peaceful old pub and dined off Chicken Savoyarde, followed by chocolate roulade washed down with white burgundy ...

Chicken Savoyarde

This 'chicken savoyarde recipe' came from

By: Tamasin Day-Lewis From: Tamasin Day Lewis

Prep time:      50 min
Cook time:     1 hr 40 min
Serves:                       6
From Tamasin Day-Lewis, a comforting dish of chicken in a mustard and tarragon sauce, topped with breadcrumbs and Parmesan


For the sauce:
  • 60 g butter
  • 50 g plain flour
  • 400 ml chicken, hot stock from the poached
  • 300 ml dry white wine
  • 225 ml double cream
  • 100 g gruyère cheese, grated
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 50 g tarragon, chopped
  • butter, for greasing
  • black pepper
To serve:
  • buttered new potatoes
  • green salad


1. Put the chicken in a stockpot or large saucepan and cover with water. Stud one of the onions with the cloves and add to the pot along with the remaining vegetables, the herbs and salt to taste.

2. Bring slowly to the boil, skimming off any scum that comes to the surface. Reduce the heat to the merest simmer and poach very gently for about 1 1/2 hours. Once cooked, lift out the bird and allow to cool.

3. Strain the stock through a muslin-lined fine sieve and discard all solids. Leave to settle, then blot off any surface fat using several sheets of paper towel.

4. Strip the meat from the chicken carcass, discarding the skin and removing all sinews from the drumsticks.

5. Cut the meat into large bite-sized pieces.

6. To make the sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes without browning.

7. Gradually stir in the hot chicken stock, the white wine and cream. Keep stirring until thickened.

8. Stir in the cheese, mustard, tarragon. Check the seasoning then simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes until smooth and thickened.

9. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 230°C/gas 8. Butter a gratin dish.

10. Put the chicken pieces in the gratin dish and pour over the sauce. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and bubbling around the edges.

11. Serve with buttered new potatoes and a crisp green salad.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Britannia All at Sea - Reprise

Let's all get in Betty Debbie's time machine and travel back 32+ years to when she was a starving college student at BYU!  This was before the inter-web-nets were instead of stalking boys we liked on Facebook, we stalked them in real life (sort of).  And by stalked...I don't mean it in the creepy way it's used now.  I'm using it in the sense that we would look up a boys class schedule (yes, we could do that back then - even without the inter-web-nets - not only was it allowed, my school actually provided the means to do so) and hang out, perhaps in the hall outside said class, and allow ourselves to be seen - thus providing opportunity for the boy to: a) notice us. b) talk to us. c) ask us for directions. d) ask us out. Was it a coincidence that after I found out that Dr. van der Stevejinck had a class in the same building as me - just one door down and one hour earlier, that I was never tardy? I always 'happened' to be waiting to go to my class when he was exiting his. "Fancy meeting you here..."
Whenever I read Britannia All at Sea, I get a little of that nervous butterfly-y feeling in my stomach when Britannia goes to Holland and 'runs into' Jake.  Yes, there is a little element of cringe involved, but I get it. 
This one's for all the girls who had to give fate a bit of a helping hand. Enjoy.
Betty Debbie

Britannia All At Sea did not have a good name with The Founding Bettys. Betty Debbie called to divvy up a month's worth of reviews a few weeks ago. One by one the books were taken until...oh, did you hear something? What was that?...just the sound of Betty Keira falling on her sword. Brittania All At Sea. That one where the girl practically has to arm herself with snares and an elephant tranquilizer gun to land our hero, right? Um, not exactly. This is yet another book that upended my derision and scorn to become very well liked indeed. Does Betty Neels rock or what?
P.S. The cover art. Bikes? Okay. Interesting heroine? I grant you. Hero? While not ugly, per se, he has too much hair for a self-respecting RDD.

Britannia Smith, 24 (but carries herself like a confident 35), is a splendidly built Staff Nurse at St. Jude's. She's engaged in a spot of multi-tasking in the sluice room--comforting a shattered student nurse and directing traffic. She doesn't know who that vast giant of a man is who wants to get on the ward but he'd better come up the other stairs like all the regular riff-raff and look smart about it.
Professor Jake Luitingh van Thien is ultimately worth all the trouble it will take to write that name out on checks for decades to come. He describes himself to Brittania less than an hour into their acquaintance as 'getting on for forty, unmarried, rich and something of a hermit; I need please no one.' Well. Hello, Mr. Fussy-britches. I'm imagining Kurt from The Sound of Music stepping out from the line and saying, "I'm Kurt and I'm incorrigible." and daring Sister Maria to do her worst.
They fall promptly in love with each other and it's not just about looks either. Haven't they just colluded to save that poor student nurse from false specimen-dropping charges (Wait. Is that poo? Does she mean poo?) wherein traits like loyalty, discretion, generosity and self-disinterest were on full display? Being in love is not going to make our Brit nurse tongue-tied and giddy though. If Jake has bad manners, well then, Britannia is going to educate him in the Miss Smith School of Manners and Butt-Kickery. Britannia manages to thread the needle--neither needlessly catty nor boringly meek. As evidenced by the time she wrinkes her nose at him in church and makes a face, she's practically a master's thesis in cheeky.
Jake, not letting the grass grow, invites her to a swanky meal at the end of her very long day. Bacon sandwiches at Ned's--greasy spoons and plastic tables evidently epitomizing London romance in the same way aggressive panhandlers and street mimes spell it in Paris? Jake gives her the third-degree concerning her marital prospects and dating status then asks if she's in love. "Yes," she said briefly, and wondered just what he would say if she told him it was himself. ...He observed in a nasty smooth voice, "I suppose I am expected to say what a lucky man he is." She puts him in a half-Nelson and makes an exit. (Okay, sure she didn't but you can't get the image out of your head now.)
Shoot. Now they'll never meet again and she's wasted her chances. But Fate is in an interesting mood and she gets an opportunity to accompany a friend to Holland on her two week vacation. She asks her parents if she should go and we are treated the the most delightful three-way dialogue about the Professor's 'suitability'. It puts me forcibly in mind of the famous "Who's on First" skit.
Editor's Note: I remember thinking that this was way way more stalker-ish the first time I read it but upon...ahem...mature reflection I rather admire Britannia for it. She has met the man she wants to marry. That man is in Holland. She must go to Holland. Betty Debbie likened it to lurking around the classroom doors of the fella you wanted to have ask you to the Homecoming Dance on the principle that proximity leads to opportunity. Britannia isn't going to chase Jake...she's just going to make chasing her a little less difficult for him.
In Holland, they meet under less than ideal circumstances. She's always on a bike. The weather is always crummy. Jake is always jumping into his Rolls (after shouting at her) and tearing down the Dutch equivalent of the inter-state leaving her to pedal on without him.
"You're not fit to be out on your own."
"...You can come with me if you like...nothing like fresh air to blow away bad temper...oh well, perhaps you can't cycle anymore."
Just when it seems like they will never make headway and that he's doomed to only see her in dumpy anoraks and sweaters for the rest of eternity, he shows up with his bike. Ah-ha! The cheekiness paid dividends. Or maybe it was calling his manhood into question...
Before you know it she's meeting his mother and Madeleine, a trendily dressed beanpole with a personality to match. And then on page 84--84, mark you! No good can come of mutual declarations of love on page 84!--he tells her that he'll never marry the beanpole because it's Britannia who makes the sun rise in the east, makes unicorns spring from baby tears and lollipops rain from the sky. Seriously though, he's quite eloquent but, though she says she returns his love, she's having none of it.
Editorial Note:
This was the other thing that nearly drove me to drink when reading this book. She spends all this time creating opportunities for him to fall in love with her and then when he tells her he has fallen 'more than a little in love with her' (a phrase which ought to be banned from proposals of marriage hereafter) she, to use a Betty-ism, funks. But upon re-reading I think Britannia had a point which, if you will grab your chair and inflatable pillow and hunker down for a spell, I will be happy to explain.
He is much, much richer than she had any reason to assume when she decided to do a spot of man-chasing. Britannia is the 'jug-of-wine-loaf-of-
bread-and-thou' type and has to adjust herself to the inadequacy of her upbringing in preparing her for a life like his (which she only finds out about 30 minutes before his proposal). She has a good point.
Having decided so firmly that she loved him and wanted to marry him, it looks as though her chasing (mild though it was) is paying off. Eek, she must be thinking to herself, I shot him with my tranquilizer gun and now it doesn't look like a fair fight. What if she is merely a passing fancy for him? What if she 'caught' him? Also, good points.

And so we move on to the second portion of the book which I refuse to waste a ton of time on as it in no way lives up to the truly wonderful first act. It slows waaaaaay down and gets a little dreary.
Jake continues to try to persuade Britannia to marry him and she continues to refuse. We do get some lovely spots of snogging to relieve the tedium of her monotonous refusals and a very frustrated doctor.
On the very last day of her holiday she takes a bike ride to take one last look at his castle. Cast aside the dubious sense it makes to be bike riding in Holland in December...No, don't cast it aside. It's the whole point of the next episode which leaves her with a badly sprained ankle, nausea, a concussion, facial bruising and two (not one but two!) fainting spells. Happily, Jake knew just where to look for the future Mevrouw Professor Jake Luitingh van Thien.
Faster than you can say 'convenient plot device', it is decided that she has to stay in Holland--at Jake's. Like a sherpa on his way to the summit, he carries her around an awful lot. But he is a little aloof--she did, after all, plan to abandon him entirely and he's understandably miffed (if still determined to make her his wife).
On St. Nikolaas she is allowed to come downstairs to the family festivities--dressed like an invalid. The only beanpole in the ointment is that Madeleine is there. Britannia is offered no better explanation than, "She always comes." Like hayfever and the seasonal flu, she always comes. (Sounds like it's time to take some Benadryl...)
After dinner, Jake proposes again (in a really lovely way) and this time Britannia is persuaded to accept. "That's better." He kissed the top of her head. "Now let us be sensible and assess the situation." He paused: "Well, let us be sensible presently." But it's still only page 154 and I worry about those two crazy kids...
The engagement is not to be made official for a week or so but things seem to settle down. Britannia is still worried about entertaining on a massive scale and caring for the Weesp china but as long as she has Jake's absolute and unconditional love...
Suddenly, that is cast into doubt. Madeleine hasn't wasted the best years of her life to come in second to some anorak-sporting, tea-swilling, British bumpkin. She makes one last throw of the dice by showing up at the castle with tears and evidence. No, let's go back and capitalize that: EVIDENCE!
The letter begins, 'Mijn lieveling...' and ends, 'all my love, Jake.' Madeleine is happy to translate. I know what you're thinking but while it is easy enough in retrospect to suggest that Britannia demand the letter (not just peeks at the intro) and trot over to the Dutch to English Dictionary for hours of painstaking translation, at the time she was upset.
Jake returns to find Britannia nothing more than miserable and confused (not accusing or Weesp china-throwing or anything) and he flips his lid. (And I don't blame him too much either--he was simple-minded about Madeleine's ability and desire to muddy his waters and spent a lot of time press-ganging Britannia to accept him and his millions.)
He practically drags Britannia back to England by her hair (30 minutes to pack her things!) no matter how she tries and tries to talk things out. She is dumped at her fuddled parents' house and he wipes his hands of her.
Less than a fortnight later she is thinner and pluckily working out her notice on the Geriatric ward. Up walks Jake (with an appropriate number of pages left in the book to make it stick this time) to engage the old lady Britannia is putting to bed in a spot of conversation. "I hope that when Britannia here is your age, my dear, she will be as charming as you, and yes, I have come to fetch her; she's my girl, you see..."
Gulp. They retrench to Ned's (bacon sandwiches) and he makes her agree to marry him tomorrow.
The End

Rating: This was so much better than I remembered. I began it in such a grumpy mood ("Oh, it's the one where she has to chase him down.") and wasn't twenty pages in before it had me laughing out loud. The first 85 pages feel like something out of a Fred and Ginger musical--the kind where if they're not singing and dancing they're slanging like fishwives. The remaining 130 pages were not as good but I don't quibble with the writing or the plot (though I don't love, love it). Rather it's a pacing problem. The Mighty Neels peaked 60 pages too early. First half: Acerbic and effervescent courtship. Second half: Doubt and Anxiety and Bodily Injury. Final pages: Cute as a bug's ear. Britannia will have a interesting personality to manage in her husband but she is more than up to the task. I give this one a boeuf en croute.

Food: Speculaas , roast leg of lamb with spiced peaches, bacon sandwiches at the beginning and end of the book, cheese on toast, disguised eel (it would have to be), lemon sorbet and a pipkin (I want a pipkin!) of soup.

Fashion: Hospital nurse's cape, autumn colored tweed suit, short dark green dress, long pink dress (her go-to in Holland), a vast and elderly blue guernsey sweater that he makes her meet his mother in (Un. For. Give. Able.), a Gucci scarf and countless anoraks. Madeleine wears a red fox fur jacket and suede skirt.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Small Slice of Summer: Reprise

Remember when  we wrote posts that were followed up with discussion threads?  Yeah, I hardly remember those days either.  Here's a bit of mine, when Betty Debbie reviewed what has come to be known as 'Tishy and the Bull':
Tishy usually tries to keep her food budget around 40 pence a day, she tells the doctor while dining with him at Le Gaulois in Chancery Lane. Not to harp on my desperate college days, but if I recall correctly, my monthly food budget was around $50. Lots of rice and potatoes and eggs and barbecue sauce and ramen noodles. I don't think a RDD would be on a speaking acquaintance with ramen noodles.
Jason buys her a painting of a gypsy caravan which she nails to her wall with the heel of her winter boot. I wonder if nailing things to the wall was strictly allowed in the nurse's home. To me it sounds like a cross between a nunnery and a dorm room--places where the integrity of the walls are guarded like a Romulan warship. Stands to reason that she couldn't get a hold of a simple hammer.
Love and lardy cakes,
Betty Keira


I'm giving warning upfront that my gut reaction to A Small Slice of Summer is "Gah" (pronounced with a glottal stop and a slight gagging sound). A Small Slice of Summer is a real Curate's Egg.

Letitia Marsden (almost exclusively referred to as "Tishy", yuk.) is a recovery room nurse. Perhaps the only recovery room nurse in Neeldom. She has had "an unfortunate experience" with a Medical Registrar. Which sounds waaaay worse than it was. He invited her to go to Brighton for a weekend and she turned him down. He got back at her by shocking her with the news that she is "old-fashioned" and not even very pretty. Ouch. Yeah, that's pretty much the whole "unfortunate experience". Because of this, Tishy doesn't trust any man under the age of 50 years of age. That's quite the sweeping indictment of an entire sex, based on one weasel. Right off the bat I don't have much sympathy for her.
As a recently certified nurse, Tishy is not exactly rolling in the dough. She spends a fair amount of time calculating how much money she can spend in the cafeteria. All the girls are "protective" of poor little Tishy. Maybe if they weren't she could grow a spine. As it is, she is an invertebrate jellyfish. Squishy, yet occasionally poison. Deadly poison. Her version of poison is to scowl at men who have the temerity to smile at her. Which is precisely what happens when Doctor Jason Mourik van Nie smiles at our gal. Dr. Jason is good friends with cross-over character Julius van den Berg Effert (from the much more delightful Damsel in Green). Jason knows all about "the unfortunate incident"...seems like everyone knows about it. Move along, people, move along.
Evil Medical Registrar stops by the recovery room for a spot of dumping on our gal...and who should walk in, it's Doctor Jason! Who is Tishy riled up at? Doctor Jason. Why? Exactly.
Time to head off to Aunt Maud's to cool off. Disregard Aunt Maud, she never makes an appearance. On the way to said mythical aunt, Tishy falls off a curb, into the path of a grey Jensen Interceptor. The car belongs to Jason, and never fear, he manages to brake nearly in time to avoid hitting her. Nearly. Her ankle is sprained due to her lame-o attempt to fall in a way that won't hurt her new outfit. Her tights are ruined...when Jason cuts them off of her, neatly, just above the ankle. Instead of taking her to Aunt Maud's, he kidnaps her...and takes her to Dalmer's Place. Yes, THAT Dalmer's Place...the part-time home of Julius and Georgie van den Berg Effert. It's okay, she's been there a couple of times before...her older sister Margo is a great friend of Georgie. Georgie immediately puts her matchmaking cap on and sees hearts and flowers where there are none. Yet.
Jason has a few things to tell Tishy:
1. Not all men are villains.
2. Tishy is almost pretty when she smiles.
3. Tishy is a very touchy girl.
Jason drives Tishy home - it's sort of on his way to Plymouth. Thus begins the Typhoid Infected Gypsy Interlude. Tishy and Jason bond over feeding the scruffy dog, boiling water, and burning their clothes. After wasting some perfectly good Rich Tea Biscuits on the hungry dog, Tishy gets her knickers in a twist because...well, really for no good reason. Tishy does not take well to some implied criticism of her old clothes...and the implied hint that they should have been burnt months ago...and this leads naturally to the realization that she is in love with Jason. Right. In typical Neels style, Tishy will now have to hide her love away. She knows it's a bad idea...she's more sensible than that. "Common sense at times could be a dead bore."
Jason and Reverend Marsden bond over a mutual love of porcelain figurines, such as Shepherd Boy with Dog. Men and their hobbies...
Back at the hospital Tishy pines a bit. She is looking plainer than usual. Her modest looks are suffering. Margo (remember the older sister?) shares a birthday party invitation to Georgie's birthday. Which is all well and good until she hears, I mean overhears Julius and Jason talking about her...and Jason damns her with faint praise. She's not that plain and she's a nice girl. She's mad...and she's not going to take it. Take what? Exactly.
House party at Dalmer's Place...Tishy saves the Day! There is an episode involving a bull in a field...she not only saves Georgie and her daughter Polly, she also distracts the bull so that she can save Jason too. During the house party, Tishy spends a fair amount of time with Cousin Karel...who is pretty close to her in age. They laugh and joke and have fun...almost like he's a brother. Let's keep that term "brother" in mind.
I could go through the play by play, but let's not. Suffice it to say, Tishy is in love, and spends a lot of time being snippy, cold, sour, uneasy...all traits that seem to endear her to Jason. Yes, Jason is in love (why, oh why?) but thinks that Tishy might really like the younger man, Karel. Jason finally proposes, but neglects to say the three magic words - I love you - so Tishy declines. Jason discovers that Karel really loves Mary, Tishy is rude and icy to him - which must be quite the attraction, because he tracks her down at work where Tishy shows her true colors, again, and is shrill, cross and furious. I predict a ton of make-up implied conjugal relations in their future.
Verdict: Gah. A Small Slice of Summer is the pathetic Side B. A few good moments, but overall, not so much. Tishy is even more unpleasant than the less than enchanting, Samantha. Jason is not unpleasant, but he just doesn't really register that much. There seems to be no good reason for him to fall for Tishy...maybe it's a gratitude thing for saving him from a charging bull? Kidding. The Great Betty was not on the top of her game with this one. The quote I used (from Pirates of Penzance) for yesterday's trifle would work just as well for this book, so here it is again."Individually, I love you all with affection unspeakable; but, collectively, I look upon you with a disgust that amounts to absolute detestation." I'm going to be super generous and give this a beans on toast.
Food: A slab of treacle tart because starch was filling. cold roast beef, rhubarb pie with clotted cream, bread and butter, scones, Rich Tea Biscuits mixed with canned corned beef (for the gypsy dog).

Fashion: Tan jersey cardigan with a shell pink blouse that she had bought instead of eating properly, old slacks and a cotton shirt that have to be burned, last year's blue and white striped dress, green voile.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Results and the Long-Anticipated Day of Justice

Final results for Round Two:
Confession: The more sloppy, hung-over and old he looks, the better I like him.

Saturday's Child bludgeoned Marrying Mary (unloved Mary...)
Only By Chance beat Uncertain Summer
Cassandra By Chance beat The Vicar's Daughter
The Mistletoe Kiss beat Stars Through the Mist
The Fortunes of Francesca beat Enchanting Samantha
Remember when GQ had men on their cover?  You know, real ones...

And all of that is very interesting indeed.  But I know what you've really been waiting for.
The Wildcard Round

I think the best way to do it is to list the ones you'd like to see back on the table in your posted comments.  Each Betty should submit their own complete list and, depending on how many are in contention, I'll decide to skim the ones with the most votes off the top.
This Wildcard is for Betty Debbie

So, for instance, if you're the only one who really, truly wants, say, Winter of Change in the mix, you should make your case so that other Bettys include it in their list as well.  
This Wildcard is for me.

I think I'm mentally aiming for 6 or so Wildcard entries so sharpen your claws and battle!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Uncertain Summer - Reprise

I do enjoy Uncertain a certain extent. Right up until that ghastly realization that by marrying the lovely Gijs, Serena is also marrying into his extended family (I sincerely hope they avoid family reunions with Laurens the Fink and his icicle mother). Serena is one of the more confused/flawed characters in the canon - but - whether you love her or hate her, you probably know/knew someone just like her.  I think that's what make this one readable (if cringe-worthy in places) for me.  I just place (fill in the blank) in Serena's role and read about a HEA that probably won't happen for (fill in the blank) because she doesn't have a Gijs or the good sense to recognize a Gijs if he came along.

Betty Debbie

Uncertain Summer, to be understood fully, should be cross-referenced with The Hasty Marriage. I know that many of you are not big fans of the later book (Betty JoDee, I'm looking at you). One protagonist falls in love with the wrong person right out of the gate, is casual to the point of rudeness to the person who loves him, is jilted, contracts a MOC, and learns to love again. The Hasty Marriage, told from the perspective of Laura (the innocent party trying to make her husband fall in love with her), it is a difficult read (I still love it, Betty JoDee. ;P). Uncertain Summer is the exact same plot but told from the perspective of the jilted fiancee (this time a female). She must make do with her MOC and The Great Betty treats everyone so gently that Serena (blind for an awfully long time) isn't someone you want to hit in the head with a brick too much (as some wish to do with Reilof throughout THM--he's nasty where she is thoughtless).
Also, can I get a shout-out for the cover art?

Serena Potts, a 24-year-old Casualty and Accident nurse, has just been hit on. She must get that a lot. She's a petite, dark-haired dish.
Hey, baby, am I having a heart attack or did I just fall in love?
Sweetheart, am I dyin
g? Because you sure look like an angel. Etc., etc.
The man with the smashed up leg and smashed up E-Type Jag looks up from his delirium and says, "What a beautiful little gypsy girl." Of course, he had the good taste to say it in Dutch first, establishing his Hot Foreign Guy bona fides. (An accent instantly making a man gain one full grade level above similar domestic brands.) His name is Laurens van Amstel and he is a doctor from Zierikzee, Holland.
Could this be our hero lying romantically prone on the Cas room gurney? Alas, no. Driving the wrong way down a one way street and wrecking an auto that, along with Shakespeare and the Magna Carta, ranks as a cultural endowment of the Sovereign Nation of Great Britain to the Peoples of the World does not a hero make.
So if he's not the hero he must be The Fink.
In a manner not calculated to make me think well of my sex, Serena promptly loses her head and her heart.
Crossing the hospital lobby at the end of her shift she spots a beat-up Mini. Ah. There's our hero unfolding himself from its Lilliputian cavity. It's Laurens' cousin. Gijs van Amstel. And if Laurens is The Destroyer then Gijs is The Builder.
Before we know it, Laurens is rushing Nurse Potts off her sensible feet. Oblique references to True Love (in caps with hearts and arrows drawn metaphorically around it) and his hope (demand) that she drop everything and spend eternity in his embrace does not make her gag. Maybe an unusually heavy breakfast is keeping all that bile down...Everybody has their own way of expressing misgivings of the glib-tongued charmer but my favorite is Staff Nurse Joan. "But ducky, be your age..."
In the mean time, Gijs-what's-his-name (for that is how she thinks of him and (mortifyingly) treats him) travels to and from Holland and allows Laurens to use him as a remote Taxi service. He takes Serena to her home (no small distance) and fetches her back again and all she can do is moon over Laurens and be as casually dismissive to Gijs as possible. Happily, as far as rudeness goes, this is Serena's high water mark.
Editorial Note:
I grant you that Reilof's intentional awfulness in The Hasty Marriage was way worse than Serena's amateurish efforts but both protagonists are coming from the same place emotionally.
Laurens asks Serena to come to Holland and quit her job. Is he proposing? It sounds awfully like it but, like some elusive wad of Flubber, he is difficult to pin down. For his part, Gijs is furious at his cousin for snaring Serena. He knows it won't work out and Laurens is playing ducks and drakes with with everybody's happiness.
I have to skip a ton but while in England, Gijs is very kind to Serena and lets Laurens take the credit for his thoughtfulness. He charms her family, most particularly Mrs. Potts. Also, for the first time you see Serena as a worthwhile person when she wishes she could strangle the life out of a baby beater. Gijs sees it too and I'm happy he finally has a rational reason to love her.
But the days until she travels to Holland are counting down. While shopping for her trip she gets involved in an accident on The Underground (Can I call it The Tube? Am I allowed?). Gijs is there to patch her up (a lovely symbol of his role in the tale) with 8 tiny stitches by her eyebrow.
When Laurens (on his leg again and driving the inevitable (and possibly doomed) E-Type Jag) shows up to collect her, the best he can muster is "Hey babe, the disfiguring scar had better fade."
Against Gijs' advice (who I imagine was sick with worry to think of placing Serena in Laurens' careless care), he drives her home to Zierikzee. Serena gets a chilly welcome from the darkened house and an even chillier one the next morning from his dipped-in-formaldehyde mother.
Serena: Why does you mother think this is going to be a short visit? We're getting married, right?
Laurens: Did that disfiguring scar affect your brain? Cool it babe. Even though I implied enough devotion for you to quit your job and traverse a major body of water doesn't mean I'm ready to power down my Acme Wild-Oat Sower.
Serena is confused by his distant manner and when an elegant blonde shows up at a party she is convinced that Laurens is playing the field.
Serena: Who is she? only child--poor girl. I'm sorry for only children, aren't you?
S: Yes I think I am.
G: Ah, at last I have found something about myself in which you can show some interest--I am an only child.
She said woodenly, not caring in the least: I'm sorry. Did you find it very lonely?
It helps, if you don't want to rattle the teeth right out of her, to remember her real and spontaneous care over the battered baby. She's got feelings but isn't' capable of civility today.
When Serena happens upon Laurens and Adriana (trust me, she's not worth our time) in a public clinch, it is Gijs who rushes in with an implausible explanation. What's that cousin of mine doing, kissing my girl?
But Serena is so relieved that she fails to see the cracks in his Piecrust of Falsehood.
Such a shame that so delicate a pastry is doomed to shatter. When Serena discovers an irrefutable piece of evidence that Laurens is The Fink King (snogging in the garden with what's-her-name) she turns on her heel and runs up the driveway. If only Gijs would be there!
Wasn't Adriana his girl? Didn't he tell her there was nothing going on? To which he replies with the best line ever. "Lies, wicked lies." Betty Kylene made a sampler for me (see left) sharing just that homily. (Above and beyond the call of Betty.) If I were a neglected wife of Neelsdom, I would do more samplers in this vein while sitting in the soft glow of a pink lampshade...
Gijs becomes her bulwark against further humiliations (as though he knew Laurens would not turn out well), collects her things, proposes to her and takes her to his parents' house--which is, in contrast to Laurens' Fudgesicle mother's house, a haven of welcome and kindness.
Editor's Note:
The Great Betty doesn't just whip through this episode. Mother van Amstel is especially darling. Betty takes time with everything and, thus, makes the happy ending happier. With in-laws like these...
But I digress...He proposes to her!? Standard pre-nup pep talk:
I don't like you like that. I'm not batting for the other team. (Yes, allusions to his 'normal man'-ness.) We'll be great friends. (Yada, yada, yada--I love you forever.)
She thinks it over which is when you know that she never really loved The Fink King in the first place. How could she contemplate moving to the same town and marrying his cousin/partner if she had a speck of real feeling for him? How could this girl, who surely doodled Mrs. Serena van Amstel, marry someone with the exact same name? Sure, Gijs is her safe harbor but if that's all it was, wild horses couldn't send her back to Zierikzee.
They travel back to England and stay at the home of Hugo and Sarah van Elvens (Fate is Remarkable--Meet the twins!). Upon reaching her home, she agrees to marry him only when he gets in his car to go. Gijs, you can't go! (Which ought to have told her something.)
At The Big Fat British Wedding (Gijs insists!) Laurens rates an invitation (so imagining Camilla Parker Bowles glowering at Princess Di in her heirloom lace) which would be reason to lace up the trainers and run, run, run from the van Amstel family. But when all is said and done, Gijs screeches into a lay-by for a bit of post-matrimonial snogging. "I haven't thanked you properly for [the pearls] yet--they're fabulous." He pulled into the side of the road and stopped the car. "Do thank me properly," he begged, and turned to her, a wicked gleam in his eyes. Hmmm. That affable union is not without compensations.
They settle down so well. He may have a hidden passion for her but he's not moody or aloof. He gives her a Basset hound named Gus, he lets her come on his rounds, they share a life. But always in the background is the lurking psychopath in the woods--Laurens. He finally comes back to work in the practice and, while Serena is happily substituting for a missing receptionist, he tears a strip off her. "I don't really think you mean to speak to my wife in that fashion, do you?" (President Andrew Jackson fought a duel on less provocation.) Laurens proves himself more boring to Serena than yesterday's leftovers. When did that happen?
Soon after, Gijs has a home delivery to attend that goes on until dawn. We are given what is one of the sweetest dawning realizations in all of Neelsdom--doubly treasured as Serena was so unworthy of his regard in the early stages. When Serena fetches Gijs tea, she sees the harsh early morning sun show up lines and furrows on his face and she suddenly knows that Laurens is hardly a flicker of a glimmer of a shadow of a speck. She loves her husband. Now what to do?
Gijs begins avoiding her--almost the first time he has been anything less than natural and candid. It is my contention that he senses some change in her and does not trust his self-control. Remember, he is a 'normal man'.
Here's the rest of the book in bullet points:
  • Little Timmy is trapped in a Rather, a couple of children (why is it always children, Betty? Why?!) get trapped in the famously rotted sub-floors of Holland. Serena to the rescue!
  • Gijs gets a few calls from Adriana--Who? Oh, yes, the blonde plot device.
  • Tante Emilie (Laurens' embalmed mother), drawing her snobbery around her like a too small shawl on a too cold day, queers Serena's pitch by implying that Adriana (who really cares about Adriana?) loves Gijs...if only he were free.
  • Oh, and Betty thumbed through her Atlas and found Laurens' a 'very good post in Pittsburgh'. ( I am not here to say anything bad about Pittsburgh but do you really think that a Fink King like Laurens' would seek a job in the Rust Belt? Methinks Betty closed her eyes and spun the globe on this one.)
  • Serena, her addition faulty (2+2=5), convinces herself that Gijs needs to be free.
So, she ups and offs to England only to find Gijs in Hugo and Sarah's parlor. Explanations follow. Adriana needed Gijs to give her some vaccinations for her move to Pittsburgh. (Get your own husband, toots!) Also, he tells her that he fell in love with her at first sight in the hospital lobby and determined to marry her on the way to Laurens' room. How adorable is that?
Kisses and a planned week at Hugo's Scotland cottage. (Which has seen a lot of implied conjugal relations.)
The End

Rating: Lashings of whipped cream.
And thank heavens for it. Betty Debbie and I made most of our July posts have something to do with Summer and most of the books were very ho-hum. How bleak was my Neels in July. How joyful I was then to dive into this one. Serena isn't an idiot. She's human and a little slow. The whole first half is her constructing her own gallows. The second act is her marching up them. Gijs is perfect from beginning to end. We get a lot of his point of view. He's waiting for Serena but rarely retreats into that aloof shell that most RDDs adopt. He grins. He kisses. I. Love. Him.
Laurens is also a credible villain. A Daisy Buchanan type--reckless and feckless, he adores being adored. I didn't buy Tante Emilie's sudden machinations at the end but I shan't quibble.
I skipped so many fun details that it kills me.

Food: Corn flakes, creme brulee, ham off the bone, new potatoes, apple pie and cream, a Charlotte Russe that falls apart on the night of their first dinner party, Gorkas Norge (Cucumber and anchovies and cream cheese and sour cream and caviar. I triple-dog-dare Betty Debbie to make this.), Pott's Point Fish Pot (which I cannot take seriously), Bavarian Cream, and rookworst.

Fashion: Clotted cream pleated skirt, corn-colored dress, Laurens' over-fussy dress shirt, her dream wedding dress (organza and a little net veil), her actual wedding dress (cream silk with tight sleeves and a high round neck and her mother's veil), a peach pink chiffon, cream gauze dress over silk with a pink velvet sash, and a little pink suit (with straw hat) to simultaneously lift her spirits and run away from her husband in.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Round Two: The Best Man

Our results from the Latin Gigolos Face-Off  was a little surprising:
Val "I'll be your wingman, anytime" Kilmer would make a great Best Man at a loveless wedding and muddy the waters considerably when Sarah Araminta Daisy Darling Comely is found weeping on his jacket...

Nanny By Chance beat The Fateful Bargain
Discovering Daisy beat The Chain of Destiny
A Good Wife beat The Convenient Wife (as it would, I suppose)
Roses Have Thorns carried off the title in the three-way grudge match between that and Making Sure of Sarah (which I love!  Didn't get one vote.  (sniff)) and The Final Touch

All but Roses Have Thorns came later in the canon than the one's they beat out.  I shall start calling that era 'When Betty Got Her Grove Back'...
Kevin has a large Dutch castle, rather too much mahogany furniture, a sad romantic past and a heart full of love...

Now on to voting between the last sections of Round Two.  (Next time I'll be asking for Wildcard nominations!) These are drawn from sections 2 and 12:

Saturday's Child vs. Marrying Mary
Uncertain Summer vs. Only By Chance
Cassandra By Chance vs. The Vicar's Daughter
Stars Through the Mist vs. The Mistletoe Kiss
Enchanting Samantha vs. The Fortunes of Francesca

Can't wait to seen how this shakes out!  After the Wildcard Picks are agreed upon, I'll spend a week in seclusion, hammering out a bracket and cursing under my breath--in a lady-like manner, Bettys, I assure you!

Kunal is happily married to Rose Francesca Tait fford and offers nothing but platonic advice.  But you'll take it.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Betty JoDee and the Queen

Hi Founding Bettys!
Should we get organized for the Queen's Jubilee? By using the Royal We ("How appropriate, Betty JoDee." "Thank you; I try.") I mean, of course, you and your graphics.
Tot ziens, Betty JoDee
What better graphic than Betty JoDee modeling an uncrushable grey dress, black court shoes, plus hat and gloves?

How about Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, in her coronation robes?
File:Royal Family Coronation 1952.jpg
Who is the strange woman in the second row wearing the matching cape and scarf? All the other women (members of the royal family watching the coronation) got to wear their whacking great crowns and tiaras.
 Dear Betty JoDee,

Queen's Jubilee! Callou Callay!  I have to admit that I had to google the dates...June 2-5(link here). I'm thinking this might be just the occasion we've been looking for to hand out some prizes ( pieces from The Betty Neels Collection are looking for new homes).

Some of our dear readers might have missed The Great Bettysday Celebration of 2010 - wherein Bettys around the world well, at least in Philadelphia and Maryland celebrated the birthday of the Great Betty herself.  Court shoes were worn, custom t-shirts printed and gallons of tea imbibed (pinky fingers extended).  Prizes were awarded in several categories. You yourself won the coveted Tulips for Augusta Award!

In order to enter for the chance to win one of our fabulous prizes, worth dollars, pictures and an explanation of your activity/craft/whatever will be required (sent via email).

Thanks so much for your timely reminder,

Love and lashings of whipped cream,
Betty Debbie

If only Betty JoDee had had the foresight to have planted a tree in honor of the occasion...she would be a shoe-in for the grand prize.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, May14th.
Uncertain Summer
Dastardly cousin, "Lies, wicked lies", cross-over with Hugo and Sarah van Elven (Fate is Remarkable).

Monday, May 7, 2012

Cruise to a Wedding--Reprise

"Gosh, I wish I liked this book better..."  That's what Betty Debbie says I am sadly in hearty agreement.  The cruise is full of possibilities but it is marred (heavily) by the tit for tat behavior of the heroine in using her social capital  to maneuver her friend into a stupid marriage instead of out, out, out.  Silly.  I also take issue with Rimada's name--one letter short of a mid-scale hotel catering to families of an indiscreet number traveling to Disneyland...  Alright, have I unloaded all my bombs?  
Love and lardy cakes,
Betty Keira

Gosh, I wish I liked this book better. I sort of got an Enchanting Samantha vibe (which was not as enchanting as it sounds...) I did like it a bit better than that book, but not much.

Loveday Pearce, charming face, dark brown hair, tall girl....rising 28 (as her mother says). She is Theatre Sister and friend to the combustible Dutch girl, Rimada (which name so reminds me of a hotel chain...Ramada Inn). The beginning is all about she falls in and out of love with monotonous frequency...and currently is imagining herself in love with houseman Terry. Whatever Rimada wants, Rimada gets - if her guardian doesn't stop her first. Right now she wants to marry Terry. Loveday is pretty sure he's not right for Rimada - besides being a head shorter than Rimada, he is suspected of being a fortune hunter. Rimada would like to get around her autocratic, dictatorial, high and mighty guardian, Cousin Adam. Loveday lets her in on an English idiom "it wouldn't be cricket". At this point Loveday is against the marriage. Let's keep that in mind. She is AGAINST it.
While in the operating theatre, Mr. Gore-Symes, local surgeon, introduces Loveday to "Professor de mumble van mumble from mumble" (thank you Betty!). Huh?Who? Lucky for her he stops by her office and clearly tells her that he is Rimada's terrifying guardian, Adam De Wolff van Ozinga. They have words...which end with him kissing her! What? Our girl gets so incensed, that despite her original plan to put the kibosh on the Terry/Rimada romance, she now decides to help it along. It's sort of a vengeance thing - since Adam called her a meddling busy-body, she's darn well going to prove him right. I find her willingness to make other people miserable because she's miffed at a good looking guy mystifying...a mysterious mystery of epic proportions. Evidently Loveday is the brains behind the Loveday/Rimada friendship, so it's up to her to be Machiavellian and come up with a plan. A plan to unite Rimmy (argh! Now I'm channeling that rat from Ratatouille - Remy) and the vertically challenged, fortune hunting rat, Terry, or as I shall now refer to him, Darth Frodo.Her evil plan? Go on a cruise and jump ship at Madeira for a wedding (thus the title). They will be daaaays away from England...however will Guardian Guy find them in time to stop the wedding?
Before going on a cruise, Rimmy needs to go to Holland and see her mum - and to buy a boatload of new clothes. Rimmy's mother welcomes them both - and thanks Loveday for being kind to her daughter while she is in exile. Exile? Rimmy is not the only drama queen in the family. Rimmy and her mum are definitely from the monied class...who else would bother with gold-plated taps in the loo? Much shopping and socializing ensue. Loveday finds Rimada's rich friends boring...and her mother is superficial. Lucky for her The Guardian shows up. And now we get his FULL name. Professor Baron Adam De Wolff van Ozinga...glad we've gotten that out of the way...Adam invites Loveday to come and look at his etchings...I mean...his home. His home a mere 120 miles away...
Loveday is given a home tour along with a bonus side dish of third degree. She finally tells Adam to get on with it, so she can enjoy looking at his Hepplewhite shield-back chairs without the Perry Mason bit. Daggers are drawn, a bit of verbal sparring, a swift kiss, expertly given, avoidance of innuendo about the canopied bed...he kissed her in a bedroom???...deep breath...deep breath...okay, I'm back. The kissing doesn't mean the swords are laid down...oh my word, no...much more crossing of swords to come.
En garde.
Thrust: old are you, Loveday? Older than Rimmy, I'm sure. Won't tell? It's a well-known fact that women over thirty like to keep their age a secret. Ouch. First blood to Adam.
Rimmy discloses a bit more info on her relationship with Darth Frodo...she's already given him money three or four times and now she's planning on footing the bill for their cruise to a wedding. Loveday is shocked and very tempted to tell Adam what's going on...but barring that she settles for getting Rimmy to promise to tell her mother just before embarking on their cruise, as a salve to her conscious.
Back in London and back to work. There's still some time before the cruise - Rimmy and Darth Frodo are out on a date when Adam shows up and asks Loveday where she is. Loveday is a lousy liar and is busy making such a hash of her tangled webs, that she's downright grateful to accept a dinner invite from Adam - thinking this would be a great distraction. It might have been had they not ended up at the same restaurant as Rimmy - so Loveday is forced be wily.
Parry: "She talked through the starters, got her second wind with the smoked duck and was well into her stride with the dessert...she allowed her glass to be filled and the time they had reached the coffee she was feeling happy and slightly pot-valiant."
Riposte: Just when she's thinking that they've gotten away with it, Adam tells her that he knew all along that Rimmy was in the restaurant with Darth Frodo. All that work, just for a hangover. Fast forward one week, and it's time to Shove Off! Loveday, Rimmy and Darth Frodo walk the take the Cruise to a Wedding! Cue the Love Boat Theme. Darth Frodo is given the job of visiting the Purser's office and securing them a table. Which he does. Unfortunately for them the only table to be had was for six persons...and guess who joins them?? Adam, that's who. Like an uninvited bad fairy he descends on the party. And proceeds to sow doubt and discord, in a very genial sort of way.
Feint: Sorry Rimmy, but you're broke - all your investments failed. Darth Frodo will have to support you on his limited income. I still have enough to give you whatever kind of wedding you'd like, within reason. Hey, Loveday... what kind of wedding would you want?
Land Ho! Medeira Interlude.
Turns out the cruise is not so much to a wedding as it is to an old flame of Rimmy's. Adam has arranged for Guake ten Kate (I just can't make that first name sound good in my head) to join the party in Funchal. Everyone is rented, scenic drive is taken, flora admired...and Loveday wonders about indoor plumbing for the locals. Adam stops at a scenic viewpoint two thousand feet up, and we find that Loveday is acrophobic. Oops. Not such a treat for her. But it does give Loveday and Adam a chance to take a walk...and for Loveday to find out that Adam is a Manipulator, Grand Class. He admits to lying about Rimmy losing her money and telling Darth Frodo that Loveday is an heiress. Loveday is less than amused at that, because she's had to fend off advances from him. She does see the humour...but is not amused at being made use of. Adam sees Darth Frodo off...after telling him that Loveday is to be married soon. Of all the nerve! Yes, but surgeons need nerves...
If talk of marriage is being bandied about, can a Dawning Realization be far behind? I think not. In fact, that very night while idling round the dance floor Loveday is gobsmacked to find that she is in love. Adam invites her out on the balcony to look at the moon - but she's in shock and gives a catty remark, to which Adam replies, "Do you dislike me very much?" And there's a facer, she thought desperately...Adam babbles on a bit, while Loveday is lost in thought. "Are you plotting against me again?" It's just the moon making me feel not quite as ancient as you think I you want to snog?
Thrust: Fierce mockery in his kiss and voice. Ouch. That one might need stitches.
Parry: Loveday gives a come-hitherish look at a stranger who comes to ask her to dance. The girl's got wiles, and she knows how to use them.
Feint: The next night Loveday pulls a mythical headache...she can't bear to spend the evening with him. Never fear, she orders a tasty meal from room service and grabs her one and only book.
Counter-Thrust: Adam visits the 'sickroom' with Rimmy, cancels her meal and takes away her book. A plain meal of bouillon, steamed fish and a miniature jelly is what Adam orders up for her. How could Loveday be head over heels with someone who could be so utterly beastly as to starve her - and take away the only book she had? Despite the angstiness, Loveday is happy to be sitting next to Adam on the plane (remember: afraid of heights). He holds her hand for the entire 560 mile flight to Lisbon. A day spent sightseeing in Lisbon, then a flight to Holland. No hand holding this time, but Adam is handy with a flask of brandy to ward off the air sickness.
Back at Rimmy's mum's house, Loveday is not feeling the love...and to cap it off, Adam is trying to corner her for a 'talk'.
Feint: Time to fake another sick headache. That gets her out of a talk that evening, but Adam is persistent and he'll be back in the morning - after breakfast. Loveday sets her alarm for 4am and sneaks out. She is so determined to avoid Adam that she walks two miles, in a drizzle, to the bus station.
Time for some bullet points:
*Back at work, it's business as usual...the surgeons lists were like trying to fit a quart into a pint pot. Mr. Gore-Symes asks her to tart up the place a bit for a posse of surgical talent he's expecting. The surgical talent turns out to be Professor Baron Adam De Wolff van Ozinga.
*Loveday drops her forceps in shock.
*swooping kiss.
*trip home to visit the family.
*Adam finally runs Loveday to ground...follows her into the Nurses Home! Proposes in front of a gaggle of goggling nurses. Kissing. Touché.
Rating: I found the story uneven and I really disliked the part where she connives to help Rimmy elope with loser boy...but aside from those glaring problems, there was some fun to be had. Sure, Loveday was fairly abrasive, but I found the give and take pretty equal - most of the pitched battles were well deserved. Awesome makes up for a lot - I give it a madeira cake.
Food: smoked duck, trifle, Italics Food! gazpacho, lulas guizadaz, arroz doce, flan, apple tart
Fashion: tweed suit, amber silk jersey with ruffled collar, pink sheath, long dress of cream and pink chiffon, coral pink silk voile, cotton jersey in a pleasing shade of mushroom, jersey trouser suit!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Round Two: Vertically Challenged

Results from the last round:

Esmeralda beat A Little Moonlight
Gem of a Girl beat Romantic Encounter
I was the tie-breaking vote in favor of Pineapple Girl over The Quiet Professor (though I don't really like either of them terribly much)
An Old-Fashioned Girl beat The Little Dragon (tears!)
Never While the Grass Grows beat A Valentine for Daisy
5' 7"  I don't care how nutty you are, if you're a successful actor at 5'7", they should give you a special Oscar every year.

As you can see, the late canon is falling pretty consistently to the earlier stuff.  An Old-Fashioned Girl was the only survivor from that section...
5'7"  James McAvoy handed out a six inch handicap to Hollywood and they still can't manage to out-smoulder.

Plans are in the works for a bracket system (not to be implemented until after Round Two has cleared my decks) so that I don't mess up the highly-precise and clean-lined perfection of the current system.

So now on to the next sections (6 vs. 14) which I will mix up a bit as one section has more than the other:

Not Once But Twice vs. Matilda's Wedding
An Apple From Eve vs. Dearest Eulalia
A Girl to Love vs. An Ordinary Girl
A Dream Came True vs. Midsummer Star (which come from the same section and were published consecutively) 

5'5"  Are we allowed to ogle Harry Potter?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Return of the Blondies

The Uniformed Blonde

I have the vague suspicion that the last section votes occasioned note-taking and revenge-swearing.  Here's how it shook out:

The Magic of Living beat A Girl Named Rose (Soundly.  I was bummed...deeply, mellow-harshingly bummed about this one.)
The End of the Rainbow knocked out The Secret Pool
Henrietta's Own Castle took down Off With the Old Love
A Moon for Lavinia beat A Gentle Awakening (Bummed about this one too...)
Roses for Christmas crushed When Two Paths Meet.

The Dimpled Blonde
So, once again, the stuff from the earlier canon beat all the contestants in the later canon.

Now we have Section Four going up against Section Ten:

The Vintage Blonde
Esmeralda vs. A Little Moonlight
A Gem of a Girl vs. Romantic Encounter
Pineapple Girl vs. The Quiet Professor
The Little Dragon vs. An Old-Fashioned Girl
Never While the Grass Grows vs. A Valentine for Daisy

The Gratuitous Blonde