Monday, June 4, 2012

The Chain of Destiny--Reprise

I love the name Susannah Lightfoot but I'm less in love with this book in totality.  I never really feel like the hero and heroine get on the same page and all the rescuing feels unexciting rather then providing dramatic peaks.  So, I'm with Betty Debbie on this one.  It's just okay.  It won't be making it into my luggage for the Epic Van Voorhees Mountain States Road Trip.
Love and lardy cakes!
Betty Keira

It's a lot easier to write a review for a book that you loathe, than it is to write about one that is just "okay". So...apologies ahead of time. I find The Chain of Destiny to be inoffensive...Suzannah can pretty much give as good as she gets (which I like)...but she really doesn't get enough material to work with.

Suzannah Lightfoot, 22 year old redhead, has a part-time job as a house guide. She shepherds tour groups around Sir William's stately home as a way of staying close to her aunt and helping the household budget (after losing both parents in a motoring accident she has been living with the aunt). Don't get too attached to the aunt - she kicks the bucket fairly early on in the story. Suzannah meets our hero while house guiding...she thinks the large stranger is lost from a tour group and thus shoos him away from the private part of the house.

Auntie is not feeling quite the thing...which worries Suzannah. The pesky inoperable brain tumor that Auntie doesn't know she has, is finally taking it's toll. Gosh, where's a brain surgeon when you need one? Staying with the local doctor, that's where. Professor Guy Bowers-Bentinck turns out to be the handsome straggling stranger from the house tour...but even his awesome brain surgeon skills are to no avail when it comes to saving Auntie. Enter Phoebe. Niece to Sir William (he of the stately home). Besides having a go for the Professor, she also takes it upon herself to evict Suzannah and give her notice as to her job. That would make Suzannah a)homeless b) jobless c) alone in the world. Yep, Phoebe's a peach. Suzannah walks out of her interview with a face like skimmed milk. The Professor sees her and That Face starts popping up in his thoughts - with increasing regularity. For some reason, he feels compelled to help her.

And thus begins Professor Bowers-Bentinck's career as a one man temp agency. A temp agency devoted to finding gainful employment for Suzannah.

Job 1: Archiver
Sorting trunks of family papers for two old ladies...zzzzz...huh? The job is ideal for her, as it comes complete with pet-friendly flatlet. Did I mention she has a cat named Horace? Yes, Suzannah is one of "those" people. A pet person. The Prof. stops by occasionally to swap compliments with Suzannah.
Him: Well, well, this is a pleasant surprise.
Her: A surprise...I don't know about it being pleasant.
Him: How outspoken of you...I should be flattered you remember me.
Her: I'd be silly if I didn't - you're vast, you must know you're good-looking; and you're here to see your aunt.
Him: Such an abundance of compliments.
Her: They're not meant to be, just facts.
Of course, this job is just soon as the trunks are sorted and cataloged, it's time for the Prof. to find another job for her. The next one is in...wait for it...Holland!

Job 2: Keeper
Julie van Dijl is a post-surgical patient of the Professor's. After having a spot of brain surgery she doesn't need a nurse, just a keeper. Prof. B-hyphenated-B sweetens the pot by inferring that Suzannah is reliable, dependable and "what is that other virtue? - sensible?"
Him: Sorry, I put that badly...I intended nothing personal.
Her(kindly): I don't expect you did, but you should be more careful when you are talking to girls like me.
Him: Huh??
Her: I'm no beauty, I've no money, no job and the future's a bit vague; I don't want to be reminded of any of those things...It was nice of you to offer me a job, but I can't take it.
Yeah, she turns him down. There's no way she can take a job in Holland! What would become of Horace the Cat? Prof. B-B will cat-sit, that's what. The job is just about what she expects - Julie is a spoiled rich girl who expects the world to fall at her feet. Julie is not deliberately mean to Suzannah or deliberately nice. All in all, it's a job. She does have one nice day. The professor takes Suzannah on the Tour de Holland. In his great socking Bentley. He tries to get Suzannah to tell him what her future plans are...SCREECH! That's the sound of Suzannah putting on the brakes. She's just fine, thank you. She has no need of the Professor Bowers-Bentinck Employment Agency! Guy (That's what I'm going to call him, deal), drives Sue (That's what I'm going to call her. Deal again) back to England, puts her up at his house and kisses her. Huh?? Time to disappear. Editors Note: Betty Keira would like to make much more of this particular "flight". She'd like to think that Suzannah was in love at this point, which was why she couldn't accept help from Guy. I'm not sold on that theory. Suzannah doesn't show any symptoms of love...yet. We could spend hours analyzing her motives...but let's not.

Job 3: Daycare Worker
Sue finds a subsistence wage job working at a day-care center. The job comes with a basement flatlet, so Horace can come with. Meanwhile Guy is annoyed at not knowing her whereabouts. And annoyed with himself for spending too much time thinking about her. The job is hard work - especially the post-holiday days wherein she spends a good deal of the day cleaning up puke. Nice. Guy spots our girl while she's out with the tykes...he tracks her down to the daycare so as to check up on her. I'm fine, just fine. No, I'm not lonely...I have Horace to keep me company. So Guy leaves and Sue decides that she kind of likes him - he's not all bad. Time for a little drama. The daycare catches fire and girlfriend is a bona fide heroine...rescuing a toddler and his teddy bear from fiery death. And Horace. Unfortunately she is injured in the process - her hand is burned. So are all her belongings...except Horace. Guy sees her in the hospital, swears quietly, uses his brain surgeon skills to bandage her hand and takes her back to his house. Don't worry, Cobb and Mrs. Cobb are there. Mrs. Cobb helps her bathe and tucks her up for the night. Guy drugs her 1am she can sleep again. Mrs. Cobb is pretty sure that the Professor is sweet on Suzannah, and Mrs. Cobb likes her. Which is a good thing, since Mrs. Cobb is the person who gets to buy Sue a new wardrobe (with instructions from the professor not to buy anything brown or grey). Sue is not happy to take the clothes - but Mrs. Cobb reminds her that she owns nothing. NOTHING. Not a stitch of her clothing made it through the fire, and she certainly can't leave "mother-naked" (thank you Betty). Guy sends Sue off to his aunts while she recuperates. They're happy to have her and she's happy enough to stay for a very short while...but Sue has a problem. She'd like to be able to get a job, but she doesn't have a two penny pieces to rub together - she can't afford to ride a bus, make a phone call, buy stamps, etc....Guy stops by and the first words out of her mouth are "Would you lend me a pound?"
I'd like a round of Dawning Realizations...
Guy invites Sue to visit his ancestral birthplace with him, she doesn't care what it's like, it could be a "two-up and two-down with no mod. cons." and she'd like it if he was there. Of course it's much fancier than that - it comes complete with wood carving over the fireplace and two old donkeys in the paddock. It's too bad Sue doesn't realize that an invite like this is tantamount to a public declaration of love in Neeldom. If she'd known that, she might not have allowed herself to be taken in by the lies, wicked lies, told by Phoebe, the big Phat Liar. Even though Phoebe hasn't made much of an appearance lately, she stops by and lies like a rug. According to her, she and Guy will be getting married soon, and they'd be happy to give Sue a job working for them in some menial capacity. Which leads to (after Horace ripping Phoebe's tights):

Job 4: Nanny
Sue just has to leave...and get far, far away. Her "flight" instinct is way stronger than "fight". She jumps temp. agencies and finds a job on the community message board. Horace is parked with an old friend and Sue heads off to the wilds of Yorkshire as a fill-in nanny for a family with three kids and a mother who is describes as "airy-fairy" *snort*. Guy tracks her down, and they kiss in the drizzling rain. The end.
Verdict: Suzannah is an okay heroine...sort of the archetype of the red-headed Neels orphan. In the rare scenes that she shares with Guy they have chemistry. Early on, Sue seems almost like a scientist cocking her head to the side as she observes a petri-dish...interested, but not emotionally involved. It's cute. I think the main problem is that there are far too few pages where the protagonists get to interact. Guy is an okay hero...but more than a bit two-dimensional. We do get glimpses of his growing interest...but the glimpses are just that - glimpses. I would have liked a few full on stares. I'm going to rate this somewhere between treacle tart and mince pies. On a side note, I would like to know what, if any, significance there is to the title "The Chain of Destiny". There are several other books out there with the same name and even a short story by Bram Stoker. Plus a quote by Winston Churchill...who was quite possibly quoting some other source. Help. Anyone?
Food: croissants, kas broodje, crumpets, smoked eel on toast, roast pheasant and red cabbage, paper thin pancakes with syrup, salmon in lobster sauce, caviar, cheese souffles, steak and kidney pudding, bread and butter pudding.
Fashion: fine green wool fabric for a skirt - which she HAND SEWS, very plain silk jersey dress in pewter grey, checked cotton blouse with plain dark skirt, Julie buys a gold-tissue dress with roses (can anyone picture this looking good?), blue-grey crepe with a discreet neckline, threadbare brown coat, passable gloves and handbag.


  1. How can two of our Betty Reviewers agree to be so mean about this (or any BN) story.

    The angst that poor Suzannah must be going through is enough to cause turmoil in her chest as any other plot point ever would.

    I vote that any reviewer or reader should have at least some sympathy for all BN heroines.

    By the way, not clear on the Phoebe bit. Isn't she Suzannah's cousin if Auntie died???? And why didn't Auntie provide for Suzannah???

    Betty Francesca

  2. Auntie didn't own the Ancestral Home that Susanna worked in. Phoebe was the niece of the old guy that did. Auntie was living rent free in the gate cottage (or some such structure on the estate) for being a loyal employee to the the Old Guy. Sue got booted after Auntie died. Old Guy was bed ridden. As opposed to young Guy, who was a friend of Old Guy, but not enough of one where he could keep Sue from being fired or booted evidently.

    Yet another story where the Docs hide a fatal illness from the sick person. Omissions, Wicked Omissions!

  3. Ah! I don't remember that part, thank you.

    In the "olden days" ommission was considered considerate.

    I liked how the British friend of the family that married a Dutch man in another BN wasn't told the whole truth. And she died in a wonderful way. Much more peaceful and happier. She was very much loved and well taken care of.

    There was much to be said (positive) for why they did it that way then.

    Thanks, Betty Mary

  4. Yes, I can see how you'd think that. And maybe in the very elderly it could be for the best. But my experience was from 1960, so pretty olden days actually. I went through the long explanation a few books reviews back, so I'll keep this short. I won't ever think it's right. Our family was just too harmed by doctors too weak or proud to admit to my dad after unsuccessful surgery that he was dying at age 51. And then lied to him and expected my mom to continue the lie. She did, but it ate at her for the whole seven weeks he lived. He died without being able to acknowledge it or being able to say goodbye to his ten kids.

    In one way things are better these days. My sister who died of the same thing that took dad (a cancer that grew on the lining of everything), made her own choices and had kind hospice workers and family with her.

    But happily that wasn't a big part of the book, and I enjoyed this one. I found the review entertaining too. Don't take it so hard Betty whichever Anonymous you are! The critiques are valid, even though the book was good. I often think "lighten up" or "phooey" when I read the founding Betty's rip through the story line. But just like life, there are a million stories in Bettyland. Some appeal and some are weathered but all are well written! Keep up the funny stuffs, ladies! It makes it worth stopping by.

  5. Betty Kiera,
    Thank you so much for the mini art history lesson your cute wooden angels provided. Betty knew how to pick her interesting tidbits. The artist was born and educated in Holland of English parents. So does that make him a RDC?
    Grinling Gibbons (1648-1721) sounds like he belongs in LotR. It's thought his name is a combination of two family surnames. People are still doing that today. I know a girl who's dad is Kevin and mom is Tamara. She's Kevara. No lie.

    Look, there's even a
    A Grinling Gibbons Jersey Dress! How appropro!
    This fellow must have been quite revered, they did him in stained glass looking a little like Froto. and in mosaic looking all lot like Froto.

    Here's a portrait, that could be hanging in a RDD castle of the real guy, not so cuddly. Do you think that's his real hair or one heck of toupee?

    Prof. Vue der Plane can carve. He took one class and then started making lovely and unique things. Here's a few. He got almost done with an angel wall carving and stopped. It's in the cupboard with no face, waiting. But he's too ADHD to sit still to do it now. He keeps saying when he loses his ability to get around due to diabetes he'll sit in a rocker and carve!

  6. Wonderful carvings by Prof. VdP -- so kitschy. Is that a self caricature?

    About Gibbons' hair, it may be a wig?

  7. I had not read The Chain of Destiny in quite a while. But I have read it several times. It is one of the books that I truly enjoy reading. I think it has some of the best repartee in the Neels Canon. And it is a great example for Betty van den Betsy's latest Betty by the Numbers: Touring the Netherlands. Last night, I opened the book at random. Page 124 (of 220) in my copy. Suzannah was just about to be picked up for a tour of the Netherlands.
    We shall go to Utrecht and then Appeldoorn and Zwolle, Kampen, Sneek, across the Isselmeer, then across to Bergen and down the coast to Haarlem, across to Hilversum, then the river Vecht – that’s a beauty spot – and back here.

    We are about half-way; we shall drive over on the Afsluitdijk and cross over to the coast, the country there is pretty and the road is quiet...

    In Sneek they looked at the Waterpoort.

    There is a music video on YouTube where you can see the gate. The song is embedded in the trailer for a movie it was written for, De hel van ‚63, about the Elfstedentocht (Eleven Cities Tour) of 1963 which became known as "The hell of '63" when only 69 of the 10,000 contestants were able to finish the race, due to the extremely low temperatures, -18°C, and a harsh eastern wind. Conditions were so horrendous that the 1963 winner, Reinier Paping, became a national hero, and the tour itself legendary. (from: Wikipedia)
    The song is in Fries!
    Betty Anonymous

  8. Betty Anonymous, when they said only 69 of 10,000 finished, were any of the non-finishers due to death? I watched the YouTube video and it looked very grim. I couldn't read footnotes 7 & 8 on Wikipedia because they were in Dutch.

  9. Poor Betty Anonymous is having a tough time posting her comment - I took the liberty of copying it from my email and pasting it here for her.
    -Betty Debbie

    Betty Lulu,
    This is getting ridiculous. Since Friday night I've been trying to answer your question. Again and again and again. And everytime (Google and Blogger hate me!) my comment disappears sometime after being published.

    I've read a few reports, and the answer to your question, happily, seems to be no.
    However, the first aid posts and hospitals along the route were full of injured people. A lot of skaters gave up at some point.
    Of the 9,294 skaters, who were not in the competition, 69 made it to the finish in Leeuwarden.
    Of the 568 skaters in the competition, only 58 made it to the finish.
    So of a total of 9,862 people starting, 127 finished the tour over the ice about 200 km later.

    Queen Juliana and Princess Beatrix were at the finish in Leeuwarden:

    Thanks for bringing my attention to footnote # 7 (links to several videos).
    Betty Anonymous

    1. Betty Debbie, thank you, thank you, thank you for posting my answer to Betty Lulu's question.
      Betty Anonymous

    2. Glad to help. I've had my share of problems with Blogger and the inter-web-nets too!

    3. Thank you to both of you ladies regarding "De hel van '63.". I just read your answer today while skimming through the posts backwards. Thank God every skater was alive.