Monday, July 9, 2012

A Secret Infatuation - Reprise

Dear Harlequin,

Once upon a time your company used to change the titles of Betty Neels books willy nilly.  I would like to submit a request that future printings of A Secret Infatuation be printed with an alternate title. Here are a few suggestions for your consideration: Lost in a Fog of Love (references RDD lost in the fog), Love is a Battlefield (references the Bosnian interlude), Swing Doors of Destiny (okay, pretty oblique, but still better than the original) or Torquay is for Lovers (granted, more than a bit bumper stickerish). Any one of these titles would give the reader more of a fighting chance of remembering what an awesome book is inside the covers.

Thank you,
Betty Debbie

Okay, just a word about that cover art. Is that heroine wearing tassels and appliques on her beige (!) windcheater? And a bow in her hair? He looks like James Bond (naturally the smoking hot blonde one) and even if he is wearing a pink shirt (no way in RDD h-e-double-hockey-sticks) it's all working for him. She looks like a foundling dressed up in cast-offs. Babes like Eugenie do not wear appliques. Still, as I shall assert presently, there is no gainsaying the awesomeness of A Secret Infatuation.

Eugenie Spencer (tall, dark-haired, gorgeous and 25) is a very competent theatre staff nurse not busily handing eminent surgeons their sharps or tamping down the rising bile brought on by seeing blood and guts arrayed before her.
Instead, she is home in Dartmoor with her father (who is recovering from a heart attack), her mother (who will never recover from being adorable every chance she gets) and the Reverend Mr. Joshua Watts (her father's locum living nearby and suffering from the flu and a belief that Eugenie is not way, way out of his league).
On her way home from a mission of mercy in the thick moor fog, Eugenie stumbles across a great, socking Bentley sitting idle in the road. Within is Professor Aserik Rijnma ter Salis but all Eugenie really hears is, "Blah Blah ter Blah...Dutch." He's charmingly helpless and admits it so she scoots across his lap and dumps herself in the passenger seat to navigate him through the fog.
He is invited to spend the evening at the Rectory and as he leaves the next morning, Eugenie waves him off, returns indoors and tells her mother, "I should like to marry him. Don't laugh."
But she doesn't see him for weeks. Father continues to recover, she fields proposals from Joshua Watts without laughing outright, and soon enough returns to work out her notice in the London hospital from whence she came.
As she waltzes through the swing doors of the operating theatre (Or should I say the Swing Doors of Destiny?), he (Blah Blah ter Blah) is the first man she sees. His reaction, she could swear, was initially pleasure but drifts into coolness. Oh well. At least now she knows his last name and what he does for a living and that he'll be there...manipulating the innards of unconscious cardiac patients...right in front of her! Sigh.
He drives her home on her days off. Not because he's in love with her or anything...(De-nial.)
She does not waste her time being missish.
Her: Are you married?
Him: No.
Her: But a hot RDD like you must be...(gulp) engaged.
Him: Yes.
Her: #$%$#
She is devastated. She isn't about to steal him from the gal that got him first--she's much too nice for that. But she can forget him (It doesn't work very well.)
Mother, wife of a rector though she is, has fewer scruples. As Eugenie leaves again for London, Mom helpfully shouts, "Shall I give Joshua your love?"
Eugenie is much too honest to capitalize on all that helpfulness, so when Blah Rijnma ter Salis probes about the reverend (he can't help being interested) he is told in no uncertain terms that Joshua is less than nothing to her. But like a drooling baby with a cellphone, Blah can't let Joshua go and speaks unwisely. "That is his loss. You are just right for a parson's wife, bossy and outspoken and managing and capable." Eugenie, showing the Christian charity which ought to be the most important feature of a clergyman's bride, lets the insult to herself and, tangentially, to her charming mother, slide off her back. "Let's talk about the weather." Eugenie: 1 Blah: 0
Despite their verbal sparring (No. Really because of their verbal sparring....) Blah invites Eugenie to be his temporary theatre nurse in Groningen. A quick consultation with her parents and another proposal from Mr. Watts (Mother: "Why is it that the wrong people like you?") makes up her mind. She'll go to Holland, spend some lovely weeks working with the love of her life, remain professional and helpful and return a broken-hearted shell of her former self. That's the plan.
The first person she sees in Holland is Blah. The second person is Saphira...his fiancee'--Her English was almost perfect. It would be. As rotten as it is to meet the woman, at least now she knows that Blah's Christian name is Aderik. Finally!
When Eugenie does see Aderik (I miss typing Blah.) again socially, it is because Saphira told him to ask her to tea. Ugh. Condescension. He is not so dispassionate the next time, however, when he unfairly upbraids her for picking up strange men. Saphira was quite right when she suggested that I should warn you... But Eugenie isn't going to take that lying down. ...She is, I imagine, a good deal older than I am and probably knows more about being picked up than I do... Eugenie: 2 Aderik: 0 (You mess with a bull, you get the horns...)
But the apologies on both sides are as delightful as possible.
Professionally, some VIP is charming enough to get heart complications in Madeira. Eugenie isn't about to mope and be depressed just because Aderik is lost to her. He wants to go to Madeira with little notice? Score. She'd always fancied a visit to Madeira.
Lots of nursing. She is chatted up by a driver, a doctor and the patient and enjoys herself. She and Aderik have one day together doing tourist stuff and being together at the end of which he kisses her unhurriedly. I mean really kisses her. Mr. Rijnma ter Salis had made sure that she wasn't going to forget his.
Back in Holland, things settle down (unhappily she's not being backed into linen closets for a spot of snogging) until they day she tries to catch a bus in a thunderstorm. He pulls up in his Bentley and...oh dear. Am I the only one with the lyrics of Don't Stand So Close to Me running in her head? ("Wet bus stop. She's waiting. The car is warm and dry...") Is it hot in here?
But that interlude is interrupted by an irate Saphira--happily shouting in Dutch to save Eugenie's blushes. When Aderik meets Eugenie at the bus depot again at the end of the day, surely it's coincidence. (Yeah, I don't buy it either. How much do you think he paid his butler to run over and collect a current bus schedule? How many times did he practice saying nonchalantly, 'I was out walking...' in his bathroom mirror? How many times did he casually walk his dog past that spot until he hit pay-dirt?)
They are called away to Bosnia. (In fact, that's how I think of this book. 'Oh, the Bosnia one.'--because the title gives away nothing.)
Flying into a war zone with camouflage uniforms, a blue helmet and a loosely enforced cease fire doesn't terrify her as long as Aderik is right there. And when the surgeries are over, they meet for an enchanted moment in the rubble of the hospital garden. Thank you, love.
Certainly a comment like that should have been followed up with, "Love like, "I love this pudding"? Or love like, "Saphira, what Saphira?" But she is shy.
Back in Holland once more, Saphira is whiny and demanding. She just needs the slightest push and an American millionaire on the horizon and all will be well. Aderik, meanwhile, has abandoned any pretense to himself that he is doing anything other than chasing after Eugenie. He runs her to ground at a museum on her day off, whisks her off to the country for the day and then hectors her into coming in for tea.
Her: This is a silly conversation to have in the middle of the pavement.
Him: Indeed, yes. Let us go indoors before I do something even sillier...
But Saphira is inside his house (does his manservant not have a peephole and a dead bolt?) so we never get to see him get sillier (Drat!) and she's so awful that she deserves to have her hand painfully gripped by Eugenie when they bid each other good day.
Saphira pays her back by setting the date with least, that's what tells our strapping heroine. Oh, and that day out was only to make me jealous, the little cat simpers.
Eugenie leaves Holland and Aderik with a Don't you 'Eugenie' me. Tear it up, girlfriend.
What? How did we end up in Torquay? Upon her return to England a friend of a friend offers her a job as his nurse. Pretend that Aderik is Kevin Bacon... (see right). Yes, he knew the friend of the friend and maneuvered her into a job (without her knowledge) just so that he could keep an eye on her!
She doesn't love her job and when Aderik comes to see her she is starchy--more so after he tells her that he got her the job. But he has to tell her the truth. No hidden agendas here. When she's still prickly (but delightfully so) he responds cheekily, Enjoy your sausages!...and while you eat them reflect upon the fact that I am not the reverend Mr. Watts, to be rolled up and dismissed with ladylike venom.
Home for the weekend she gets yet another proposal from the persistent Mr. Watts.
And back to Torquay again.
And then Aderik drives her home again. Hey, Saphira is no more...The next morning she finds him waiting for her on an upturned bucket at 6am which is as nice a place for proposals as I can think of.
The End

Rating: Oh my heck, this is great. I stayed up until almost 1am to finish this book--partly to get it out of the way and partly because I kept laughing out loud. The verbal sparring was just so fantastic and sharp that I can't believe The Great Betty was 84 when she published this. Eugenie is darling and alarmingly frank, Aderik is in a coil but not for long, her mother practically steals the show every time she makes a peep. I could have lived without the detour through Torquay (though the sparring there is awesome too) because, plot-wise it seems like a stretch. And I don't like how Eugenia says 'your Saphira' all the time (though I get the point of that--she underlining the fact that as the women aren't friends she can't say just plain 'Saphira' and she is Aderik's responsibility after all). But otherwise I have so little to complain about that it seems picky. Queen of Blinking Puddings!

Food: Croquettes and salad, uitsmijters, tomato and onion soup, filete de espada, maracuja, bolos de mel. She drinks her first beer and he drinks lemon squash with a pained expression. We also get a revolting dinner of sausages, spinach, potatoes with prune and custard. Ick.

Fashion: Wellies and tweeds belong to Dartmoor. Holland gets a jersey dress, a chocolate chiffon pleated skirt, hyacinth blue swimsuit and wispy undies. Madeira has cotton dresses, a chambray dress in nutmeg brown and a straw hat. Bosnia is camouflage and a blue helmet.


  1. I want to go to Madeira! And eat cake!

    Good couple, but again the common complaints: a) why did a warm, smart man get engaged to a cold snob? and b) once engaged, why is he kissing someone else?

  2. Another upturned-bucket-proposal! There is one in one of my favourite stories. Closer to lunch time.

    Gijs was round the corner, outside the old wing. He was sitting on an upturned bucket, in his shirtsleeves, sucking at a pipe. When he saw her, he said: 'Hullo, I rather expected you,' and then spoke to Jaap in Dutch, pulled out another bucket from the wall and added: 'Sit down, make yourself comfortable.' She sat obediently and he followed suit, and so they remained for several minutes, with Serena fighting tears and Gijs apparently content to ponder about nothing at all with closed eyes.
    Uncertain Summer

  3. Betty Barbara here--
    Betty van den Betsy, at least in this book we get the answer to question 'a' straight from the RDD's lips. He tells Eugenie all about it (because she asks him the very same question!). Short version of the answer--well, he thought he was in love. Alas, he gives no answer for question 'b'.
    I quite enjoyed re-reading this, though I did have to make an effort to block the cover illustration--it's so wrong in so many ways!

    1. Yes, on the cover she's not doing a very good job of the "secret" part, is she?

    2. She looks like a chicken with wryneck.

      B von S

    3. Goofy look on her face. My cover is quite ugly because the picture is framed by a yucky greenish colour.
      Re.: Is that heroine wearing tassels and appliques on her beige (!) windcheater?
      No, no tassels. She is wearing a scarf under/around the collar of her "short showerproof jacket".

      And she is Beatrice on the cover of Hilltop Tryst.

  4. Newish lurker posting because if we're voting for replacement titles, "Swing Doors of Destiny" gets mine.

    Excellent review and because I re-read this last month ('destiny' apparently), I have to admit that I must have totally read "Bosnia" and then skipped pages until we got back to Holland. I have no recollection of Bosnia at all.

    Thanks to all you Bettys for giving this lurker more enjoyment than even re-reading my Betty books do.

    1. It is so exciting to hear from you, Miglet! Write more - tell all...

  5. Scooting between his lap and the steering wheel seems a rather bold move (passenger door broken?). I do love how she oh so subtly, well, okay, blatantly calls his girlfriend a tramp. No mealy- mouthed "well she almost killed the babies with drugs but all is forgiven garbage", a rare and delicious cheap shot. Yes, I know I am an awful person. One hundred and thirty four books of frigid fiance-floozy fiance-wanton wife plot devices have made me that way.

    B von S

    1. Betty Barbara here--
      with the common sense version of Eugenie getting into the car--he steps out, she "slides across", he gets back in. However, picturing her climb over him with the steering wheel in the way, is certainly more exciting.

      Welcome Betty Miglet!

    2. The fog on the moor of my imagination is much to thick for him to safely get out of the car (and not get instantly lost). She scoots over him in my Neels and he is thrust in a pother of confusion trying to avoid all her curves!

      Welcome Betty Miglet! May you cast your lurking days away!

    3. She wriggled her splendid person past the driver's seat without more ado. Only when she was settled did she say, 'Is it a Rolls or a Bentley?' 'A Bentley.' He had got in beside her and she turned to look at him under the car's light.
      Betty van den clearing the shocking fog of somebetty's imagination Anonymous

    4. Well that's not as much fun. ;0)

    5. Should have known it was too good to be true.

      B von S

    6. Yeah, would have been way better than leaning into the car and dumping the steak and sausages into the Veronica's lap.

  6. Food:
    Two or three of the sisters had asked her to go with them to an evening concert and she had accepted gladly. The concert was in one of the churches, and when it was over they went on to a restaurant on the Sluiskade and had supper: smoked eel on buttered toast and then pannenkoeken — pancakes thick with crisp bacon and served with syrup, washed down with several cups of coffee.

  7. This Bosnia veteran MUST acquire and read this one right away! Can't wait to see how The Great Betty describes Bosnia. Also wondering how a civilian doctor and nurse ended up with uniforms and blue helmets and the requisite country clearance to enter Bosnia under UN auspices -- oh, wait, I forgot the axiom of RDDs: Rules are for Other People. I salute Betty Debbie -- yes, a blue helmet DOES scream "aim here", which is why Americans don't wear them!

    1. Army Betty asks how our UK/euro civilian medics got to go to Bosnia? National Health Service doctors and nurses get to fly med evac services to Afghan'n (according to a BBC documentary I saw) so perhaps they were doign that back in the Bosnian war too. With national health, all your best surgeons and nurses are government employees (so that they can work in the big teaching/research hospitals) and it is easy to "lend" them to the army for short stints. But you'd think they'd be reservists (Territorial Army in UK jargon).

    2. Of course -- I'd forgotten all about the NHS! Thanks!

      On a waiting list to get this one from the Arlington library.....suspect there are other "lurkers" in my part of the world, the Review of the Week book is almost always checked out by the time I get there. With any luck, my British Army neighbors (exchange officer at the Pentagon) will have returned from home leave by the time I've got it, very much look forward to their take on the story (wife is a Betty fan, too).

  8. Got this one read. Hmmm, liked it in parts but the ending just took sooooo long. If you think proposing on a bucket is a nice place to propose, you'd of love the Rest-Stop in the car on the Ohio Turnpike that said "Ask her here!" to Prof VdeP.

    Too many temp jobs and almost suiters to keep track of. I did not enjoy having to look back for the names of the two stealth suiters 1. Dr. who? Isn't he married? Why did HE take her out? No good reason given...) 2. Young boring Dr. doing the duty museum duty. Did Betty throw them in to confuse us. It worked on me.

    And although I have no problem with the title per se, it seemed like an ironic choice. I'm thinking Secret, Secret, who's got the Secret? She knows, Mom knows, He knows, Dad figures it out before the end which is astounding for a Betty father. Just about everyone knows that she's got it bad for Adaturk, Asterick, let me look it up, oh, Aderick. And how are we saying that. A derrick (oil pumper) Add a rick (shaw). A dirk (little dagger).
    So maybe that's the secret.
    Help Request: The Betty Anonymous with the dutch videos, can we get some Aderick sound bites?

    1. AH-duh-rick
      uh as the a in "get a brick"

    2. Hands up who's with me in wanting more on the Ohio-Turnpike Rest Stop of Love?

    3. Dear Betty Mary, Secret, Secret, who's Secret?
      Eugenie knew instantaneously that she wanted to marry Mr Rijnma ter Salis = instant Infatuation.
      She asks / he tells - he is engaged to be married = off limits. So she wants to keep her feelings a Secret from him.

  9. Bare feet? – Poor Eugenie!
    'Your feet are wet,' observed Mr Rijnma ter Salis. 'Take off your sandals. Mientje will dry them.' She did as she was told and put a hand to her hair. 'Never mind that, come and have some coffee.' He turned as he spoke, and a tall, ...
    (page 112 in my copy)
    Poor Eugenie had to meet "the enemy" in her bare (or stockinged) feet. And then she left the RDD’s house without ever putting her sandals back on! And took the bus to Heiligerlee. 'They make bells there, did you know? Send them all over the world.'
    (These days a bellfounding museum:

  10. In defence of sausages, spinach and potatoes and prunes and custard... Great Betty knew her comfort food. The potatoes would be mashed (with butter/cream and pepper). The spinach may or may not contain lardons of bacon. The sausages are not to be confused with hotdog-style sausages from continental Europe. Great Betty is thinking of English sausages with flavourings herb such as Lincolnshire or Cumberland sausages. Or pork and apple. Or lamb and mint. Or beef/horseradish. She forgot to mention the gravy and condiments. The prunes and custard are dessert but Great Betty would want it to be home-made vanilla cream custard. The plums-turned-prunes can be home-made and feature plum brandy or calvados. This type of retro-food is back in fashion in London. Not ick. Often no longer cheap, either.

    1. I'm afraid that for Betty's hospital-encaged heroines, the comfort menu is neither gastro-pub nor retro-chic, but mass-produced hospital-institutional cafeteria cheap 'n' filling food. So the potatoes are boiled, with a side of margarine, the spinach is from a tin, the sausages are best not inquired into too closely, and the pudding is watery, reconstituted prunes and custard made by mixing skim milk with an egg-free powder, a la Bird's infamous custard.

      It is only at home, or occasionally at a swank restaurant or homey village pub, that we get marvelous menus featuring cream and fresh veg, hand-whipped potatoes with lumps of country butter, plump joints and nothing from a tin.

    2. In defence of Anonymous (Which Anonymous are you? A new one or an old one who forgot to sign her name?), I have to say that the infamous sausage/spinach dinner was not a meal at the hospital canteen but home cooked by Eugenie's landlady. However, in defense of Betty van den Betsy, I have to say Mrs Brewer seems to have been an uninspired cook. Now, if it had been creamed spinach and tiny new potatoes... We all know how fond the Great Betty was of tiny new potatoes.
      Prunes and custard don't ever get praised in the Neels canon, they are consumed quite often though. Unless they just get pushed round the plate. They can be quite tasty if the prunes are really good. Even if made with Bird's custard. There is nothing wrong with Bird's custard, by the way, made with whole milk, of course. But if you stir the prunes round and round in the custard it is bound to look a an unappetising mess. Especially, if you are not fond of stewed prunes in the first place.

  11. This one's a enjoyable read for me. It's not a top 20, but I always enjoy it. I call it the Bosnia bucket book. I finished it up earlier this week, and now I'm reading Midnight Sun's Magic! Both of these (along with Ring in a Teacup)were totally random Kindle purchases. I bought them not knowing the reviews were upcoming.

    But... here's my reason for posting this. The Kindle. I also bought (weeks ago) The Mistletoe Kiss and Only by Chance. Both of these are *riddled* with incorrect words. Only by Chance is the worst. For example, on the last page of Only by Chance, Adam tells Henrietta "we may have met only by chance, but it is clearly meant that we should meet and love and marry." But in the Kindle book is says "meet and love and many." I also noticed there were a few formatting errors. I remember in The Mistletoe Kiss, they were playing "tig" instead of tag. I also saw errors in another book, but I can't remember which one is for sure. I think it was The Right Kind of Girl, but I'm not positive. Three for sure. Is this Amazon's fault? Harlequin's? I was going to buy Dearest Mary Jane, but on the Amazon description it says it is not available because the item is under review because customers said there is a problem. Should I contact Amazon about these books? Has anyone ever seen this in other Betty books? Other authors? I've purchased 17 Kindle Betty books. I'm new to this Kindle biz so I'm just wondering if I should contact Amazon or Harlequin or what.

    Sorry for the long post. Please forgive any typing errors in it! ha Pot kettle. The portly one is in my lap and is helping me. Actually, she's trying to pull off the buttons on my nightshirt. Perhaps Amazon has chubby cats who help also.

    Betty AnoninTX

  12. Mr Rijnma ter Salis – heart surgeon in Groningen. – Why?
    Mr Rijnma ter Salis came back four days later, performed a complicated open heart operation which took hours, thanked her briefly and disappeared again.

    There were, of necessity, a number of people there; the heart-lung machine needed skilled handling but Eugenie, concentrating on her instrument trolley, remained unfussed.

    The Great Betty knew her facts. At the Academisch Ziekenhuis Groningen (since 2005 UMCG Universitair Medisch Centrum Groningen) Jan Homan van der Heide built a heart-lung machine. With this machine the first open heart surgery in the Netherlands was performed on 8 May, 1957.

  13. I have A Secret Infatuation on my screen, look at the "globe thingy" aka Conquering the World widget and see somebody from Sarajevo, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Cool.