Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Reader Query

I thought I would throw this out to Bettys new and's a bit of a head scratcher, but I'm sure someone will be able to help out Betty Kat (the red bits are my musings):
Hello. I love your TUJD. i found it and have been reading it when i should be working.  i've been looking for a BN book that i read and then put in the 'to be donated' box. and i've had to live with that stupid, careless action for 2 years now. and all because i wanted to clear away clutter. ugh.  And i've been looking on TUJD but i get so caught up reading i forget that i should be looking for my book. Would be help me? I can not remember the title but have some of the details.... that i remember and in no particular order:

1. chubby girl (lots of those)
2. wicked, evil stepmother (if there is a stepmother, she's usually wicked and evil)
3. sweet old house maid (narrows the field slightly)
4. a shabby upstairs apartment that had an outside staircase (hmm...are you sure it's a staircase and not a balcony?)
5. tea with an old woman in a bright, sunny field, the heroine with a full belly, happy until he shows up... with her (this should help, but I'm drawing a blank)
6. an 'engaged' hero (narrows...slightly)
7. feeding a tiny kitten milk, him bringing her the kitten just after she moves into the apartment (slight...narrowing)
8. hero gets heroine a job (lots of these)
9. Heroine insisting until the very last page that he should marry the other girl (hmm...)
10. creepy beau that's a 'good friend' of the hero's fiance(er...)
11. the hero and heroine walking to church (um...)

i know it's not a lot to go on, but if you have any ideas I'd really appreciate it. 

sincerely and very hopeful:

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, November 5th.
Tangled Autumn
Eyebrows, Scotland, Caesarian on an island.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Magic in Vienna - Reprise

We hope all of our Bettys over on the East Coast/New England area are all safely buttoned up, battened down and tucked in - and that Hurricane Sandy does not do any serious damage to them or their well-tended garden plots. Please keep in touch when and if you can!

Magic in Vienna was one of the first Neels that I read - which is part of the reason that I have a fondness for it.  No, it's not perfect, but the sheer Cinderella-ish-ness still appeals to me.  Also the desserts. I'm pretty sure The Great Betty must have written this after a holiday in Vienna (which would also make a good book title!).  While I enjoy the bits of vicarious sightseeing, I really like the beginning and ending bits even more.  I love Cordelia for leaving the horrible steps...and she doesn't even wait for someone to die! Near the end when Cordelia discovers the theft of nearly all her money, I really feel the devastation that she must have felt.  Well played, Betty. Well played.
This is my second Charles in two weeks and I wasn't predisposed to like the first. I am happy report that this Charles is a fish of a different flavor.

Cordelia Gibson, 26, might be thinking to herself that reforming the savages in her charge is beyond her abilities. Her 15-year-old step-sister is a lost cause, as well as her 12-year-old step-brother. The 6-year-old twins, however, she has had the unpaid privilege of upbringing since their birth so her influence ought to have wrought some changes. Sadly, she's had a front row seat as she's watched Nature take Nurture out to the woodpile and kick its can.
It is time to leave.
She gets a job as a temporary governess to Eileen, a girl described as 'spoilt', while Eileen's grandmother takes a break. She's had the spoilt darling while her parents were (get this) in South America for two years. (Don't they know that South America means death and gigolos?) Two years. These people left their daughter with grandma for two years and took off. Cordelia is to travel with her to Vienna where Uncle Charles (a middle-aged bachelor) will take over for the remaining 6 weeks of Mum and Dad's South American vacation........two years.
Uncle Charles has the good taste to be nothing like Cordelia's expectations. She notices that he's neither presbyopic nor balding nor rumpled. He's an anesthetist and in the land of Neels that probably means that he's loaded and gorgeous and developed really, really hot hand-eye coordination while fiddling with all those valves.
Dr. Charles Trescombe does not return the favor by noticing her Ninja-like stealth, her disarming smile or the way she handles Eileen like a pair of smooth oak nun chucks. 'By all means let her stay,' he sounded bored, '...I can't say I have felt much interest--a rather dull girl, I should have thought, with no looks to speak of.' That's going to leave a mark. Cordelia, walking toward the room with Eileen, overhears all and probably wishes she hadn't packed her bow staff so deeply in her luggage. Charles would do well with a sharp thump on the head.
In one word the Great Neels gives us the whole picture of the painful episode. '...her gentle mouth was half open.'
But if Cordelia's hurt she is also philosophical. Uncle Charles doesn't like her very well but she doesn't much like him either. He is at least better than her step-mother. Over the next few weeks she sees him as a crusty, taciturn hermit, wedded to his work and '"...such a waste, if you see what I mean." And Eileen, a precocious child, saw.'
Editorial note: Though this part of the book isn't filled with much action (aside from copious trips to points of Viennese historical import) it is littered generously with clever and delightful lines like, 'Heaven is a cucumber sandwich.', 'He was as dull as his books and there was absolutely no need for it.', and 'He's got a girlfriend,' hissed Eileen, 'I thought he only read books.'
Someone once said, '...the gate of history turns on small hinges, and so do people's lives.' Eileen's rupturing appendix is a small hinge indeed.
Cordelia rushes her to the hospital and is told to wait. She does what she's told (so refreshing in the world of the romance novel when young ladies eschew sensible advice to their mortal peril with monotonous regularity.) and is forgotten for her pains. The following day, when Charles gives her a small commendation for being 'sensible' in her treatment of Eileen she finally blows her top and gives him the sharp edge of her tongue.
'Well, well, not dull at all and quite an eyeful when she's in a temper. I am surprised, Cordelia.' 'Let go of me, you--bookworm...'
Well of course he's got to kiss her for that.
This is the moment of his own dawning realization. She's been an undemanding and uncomplaining occupant of his household for weeks and now he's got to wage a land war against her unwilling heart.
Only it's not unwilling. Her own dawning realization sneaked up and tapped her on the shoulder while she wasn't looking.
Clear sailing, right? Wrong. The little black raincloud on the horizon is a matchmaking Eileen (who really is a dear) and the oily Dr. Julius...Salfinger. (But pretty please call him Dr. Julius as there is so much more fun there.)
Eileen (still in hospital) notices that her beloved Cordelia has nobody to talk to and no one to take her out. She arranges a meeting and Dr. J takes it from there.
Upon her return from a lunch date she didn't want in the first place, Charles is stung (by a big fat bumblebee of jealousy) into warning her away from him. 'You're not at all his cup of tea.'
Dear me. I need to flip through my Tormented Doctor/Penniless Governess Dictionary:
He meant: You're my cup of tea. Mine, mine, mine!
She heard: I hope when you are a very old woman you will unfold the memory of this one shining day when you got to lunch with a real live doctor as this singular event will never occur again in your lifetime.
When she rebukes him for rudeness I picture him in a pair of 70s era NBA shorts (the creepily short ones) holding out his hands, waiting for a ball as the play continues around him. Courtship is going to be more difficult than he supposed.
He does make up some ground by inviting her to a fun fair (yes, an actual fun fair!) but offers the charming caveat, 'Somehow I don't think it's quite your taste, Cordelia. A visit to look round, perhaps--you should have a country garden for a background...Liberty prints and your hair hanging down your back.' (Don't stare at the unresolved sexual tension. It's rude.)
That doesn't prevent him from winning her a stuffed toy and making what amounts to a move in a too-crowded bumper car.
But his is a Sisyphean task--inching ever closer to the summit and losing ground abruptly. Eileen returns home from the hospital and crossover characters Eugenia and Gerard (from Heidelberg Wedding) visit from England. Eugenia and Eileen go shopping with a cost-conscious Cordelia in pursuit of a dress--neither of whom 'considered privately that there was [any]thing they would wish to be seen dead in for that amount'. But they secure a new dress in shrimp pink which I'm going to call fine.
Charles is quick to pick up any opportunity that comes his way and asks her to dinner. She has a gorgeous time but won't call him Charles. 'It wouldn't do at all.' He sighed. 'Life is never going to be the same again,' he observed...and kissed her swiftly.
Uncle Charles is not letting the grass grow but the plot is wrinkling like a linen suit on a Summer day. His sister Sal (Yes, you heard right. Sal.) is returning from South America (where she has been living it up for two years while other people spoil/raise her child). It is Cordelia's unhappy luck that Charles, driving through the city on the way from the airport with his sister, sees what he thinks is an assignation between Cordelia and Doctor Julius. It is nothing of the sort. It is what the odious doctor describes later as her delivering 'the snub of his young life'.
There isn't enough time to clear matters up and too many people around to do it properly anyway. At the end of two days she is walking through the gates at the airport accompanying Eileen and her family on her way to England.
Sal (I readily admit that she would be a delightful dinner companion but makes a horrible relative and a worse employer.) has failed to mention to Cordelia that her job is coming to a rapid end. (I'm so glad you're going back to the bosom of your happy home so I don't have to feel icky about not giving you notice. Disappointed people always make me feel icky.) And so, within hours of coming to London, she finds herself like some unnoticed parcel left behind on a train platform alone to fend for herself.
Squashed up against a stout matron and a 'weedy young man' on a bus, Cordelia contemplates her future and becomes a statistic in the local crime rate. (I am betting it was the matron.) She is not exactly penniless but close to it and manages to make her way into a seedy part of town where the rent on a dreary bedsitter will make catastrophic inroads on her savings. Getting her name on the books of Mrs. Sharp's employment agency will further deplete her pounds and pence.
Charles, meanwhile, is combing the city for her.
He only made it one day without her before informing his servants (Thompson and Mrs. Thompson) that they have to get back to London sooner. In the course of his superlative search for her (seriously awesome) he tells Thompson, Mrs. Thompson, his mother, Cordelia's old Cook, and Mrs. Sharp about his marital plans.
When he finally tracks her to that drab bedsit (enjoying the lies he has to tell Mrs. Sharp to get Cordelia's address enormously) they have a reunion to cap all reunions and she becomes satisfyingly proprietorial: 'I love you more than I can say.' She put her arms around his neck and kissed him gently. 'Later on you shall tell me how you found me--'
The End

Rating: I remember loving this one and that's always a difficult hurdle to clear but this one did it. It started great (What's better than an evil step-mother? Soulless twins, that's what.) and then there's a lot of travelogue (which is more interesting than a lot of them but still, we're inspecting a lot of imperial silver, if you know what I mean.). Vienna comes in two parts (The avoid-Charles-at-all-costs part wherein the principles meet at breakfast--and the battle of the dueling dawning realizations part) and I like the second way better.
Eileen is such a fun part of the book--she's precocious, that one.
And the finish is a magnificent tour de force for Betty who sometimes gave us only a page and a half of wrap-up. Charles gets to fret about losing Cordelia, lose sleep, find out more about her past (and thus about her)...they spend a lot of time talking and not talking. Great, great end.
Boeuf en Croute but a really, really well made one.

Food: Cordelia enjoys sandwiches in a lay-by, lobster soup, filleted trout, boeuf en croute, Gentleman's Relish, buttered toast, ham sandwiches, madiera cake, the kind of picnic food found in glossy magazines (where immaculate children are frolicking happily around the assorted picnickers, no doubt), cold watercress soup, chicken vol-au-vents (I owe my knowledge of this word entirely to Betty.), smoked duck stuffed with cherries, lobster patties, aubergines in butter, sorbet, ices, fairy cakes, roast duck with black cherries (wait. Didn't I just say that?), and smoked salmon.

Fashion: Cordelia wore knitted sweaters, 'wearing clothes [the cook] wouldn't give to the jumble', a silk jersey dress 'for social occasions', a 'finely pleated crepe skirt in a pleasing' shade of plum (Is there a pleasing shade of plum?), and a shrimp pink crepe number. Eileen gets to not wear a rainbow hued cat suit and does get to wear denim trousers and a cotton top.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Betty in the National Parks II: Part Seven

Betty AnoninTX...more of her epic trip:

We drove through another park:  Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.  We used it as a scenic drive on the way to another stop.  I wish we would have had time to stay a day or two so that we could have done some hiking.  The rolling Blue Ridge Mountains are beautiful.
We drove what is called the Skyline Drive.  We entered the Front Royal (north) entrance and exited through the Rockfish Gap (south) entrance.  That is 105 miles, driving 35 mph.  We stopped at the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center near the north entrance and the Byrd Visitor Center at Big Meadows to look at exhibits.  We pulled off at overlooks and enjoyed the scenery.
Fate, alas, was NOT remarkable here.  BettyMary, I had hoped to find Betty Ariel to take a “Surprise!” photo with her to include in this part.  I asked the ranger at the desk at Dickey Ridge if she might know a ranger named Ariel.  She asked what she did, and I explained to the best of my ability.  She nicely pointed out that it was a large park and that there were many rangers in the park.  She suggested I ask at Big Meadows.  I asked the ranger on duty there, and she said basically the same thing.  I even stared at every name tag on every ranger, just in case.  No luck.  I had hoped I would be lucky and spot her somewhere.

More to come….

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Betty by the Numbers: Servants’ Names

You’re guessing it’s Jolly, aren’t you?  Sorry – “Jolly” is not the #1 most-common name in the serving class of Neelsland.  But before we get into that, a quick refresher:  in the Novels Neels, 100% of heroes have friends doing the housework, and 42% of heroines (or their families) do.  Total headcount is 82 for the ladies, and 439 (!!) for the gents, for averages of six-tenths of one ‘treasure’ per heroine and three-and-a-quarter ‘gems’ per hero.  If you’re interested in details, you will find my full-ish report on servants or ‘friends’ here.
Mrs. Pike, or perhaps Miss Trot, obliging.

But what do we call all these competent, helpful, wonderful people?  Well, if we are female, we often call them “Mrs.” something.  Over one-third – 29, or 35% – of the heroines’ helps warrant that honorific, from the Brown family’s daily treasure Mrs. Crisp (Tulips for Augusta, 1971) to Mrs. Dash, who obliges the Selby family twice a week (An Ordinary Girl, 2001).  The gentler sex uses the title “Mr.” only with consulting surgeons, vicars, lawyers and such, never with butlers, batmen or garden boys.  Three gardener-types do get the questionable respect offered by the title “Old,” as in Old John, Old Robert and Old Stokes.  There are also three Misses, and two Nannys, one with a surname (Toms) and one with just her title, and all the affection and respect it connotes.  One would think.

Do you leave the garden one day to a cheery, “Good night, Stokes,” and come back the next day to hear, “Good morning, Old Stokes”?  And if so, is that a happy day?

The Great Betty did a marvelous job of imagining names for her treasured friends.  There is actually very little repetition, especially given the vast array of servants with whom she populated her work.  For heroines, only five names repeat:  there are two Mrs. Pikes and two Winnies, and there are unrelated Lovelaces (Mrs. Lovelace in the Lock household of Never While the Grass Grows, 1978, and Katrina’s stalwart butler, Lovelace, in Roses and Champagne, 1983), a Trott and a Miss Trott (called Trottie), and two people named Cook.  That’s “Cook” with a capital C, but whether it’s really the individual’s name or simply a description isn’t clear.  We also have a Miss Mogford and a Mrs. Mogg, both called Moggy, and not to be a confused with a few cats with similar names.  There are also two anonymous gardeners.  That means 88%, or 72, of heroines’ servants have unique names.
Over on the heroes’ side, we have a whole lot more treasure (heh heh) and hence a bit more repetition.  The Dutch seem more inclined to call housekeepers by their first names, and since two-thirds of our future husbands are Dutch, we get a lower percentage of staff with honorifics.  (They also seem to call butler-types by their first name, vs. the English convention of surname without honorific.)  Only 67 of his 439 servants are “Mrs.” someone, or 15%, while nine are Mevrouw.  Seven Juffrouws and five Misses round out the housekeeper/daily woman/cook side of the household, for a total of 87, or 20%, of female servants addressed with titles.  We’ve also got four Misters and two Olds.
Our two most common names behind the barons’ baize doors are Wim and Nel, with seven appearances each – but that’s barely 2% of the men’s servants.  They are never coupled, though there is a married pair named Wim and Elly.  And while the heroines don’t host help with either of those names, Sister Peters’s family treasure is Nellie (Sister Peters in Amsterdam, 1969), giving the Nels a special place in the canon.
Hans Jan Wim, doing what he was born to do.
There are six each (1%) of Hans and Jan, plus six Nannys, only one of whom, Nanny Glover at Ivo’s pied-a-terre in London (A Good Wife, 1999), owns a surname.  We have five each of Anneke, Bep and Jaap, plus five Boots – one Mrs., two Mevrouws, a Juffrouw and also Juffrouw Klara Boot, the burned catalyst of romance for Giles and the Enchanting Samantha (1973).  There are also five unnamed maids of different types.
There are four instances of “Cobb,” with a Cobb, two Mrs. Cobbs, and a Cobb and Mrs. Cobb (married couples count as a single use of a specific surname).  Also amongst the four-peats:  Annie, Rosie and Mrs. Turner, as well as anonymous gardeners and anonymous boys (who usually help in the garden).
There are three roles that turn up three times each:  gardeners (plural, plus the four singular uses of gardener; seriously, if you employ multiple gardeners, what do they do all winter?  Even in summer – are they using scythes to cut the grass?), “others” (so many servants we can’t figure out what all of them do), and dailies – two daily women and a daily help.  Turning to the proper names (much more fun):  nine names occur three times each, including the given names Cor, Domus, Lien, Mies, and Tyske.  On the surname side, there are two Dobbs and Mrs. Dobbses, plus one of those Dobbses has a brother – in An Old-Fashioned Girl (1992) – for a total of three Dobbses (add them to the Cobbs if you like); there’s a Potts and Mrs. Potts, a solo Mrs. Potts, and a Miss Rebecca Potts, former nanny to Haso van der Eisler (A Christmas Wish, 1994); then a bad Miss Murch, a good Miss Murch and a Mrs. Murch; and finally, yes, two matched sets of Jolly and Mrs. Jolly, plus a solo Jolly.

Mrs. Alice Cook, awaiting Old Tom’s arrival with the watercress.
Only 30 names show up twice in the heroes’ attics and basements, from Alice to Willem, which means some 7% of his paid friends share a name with one other hero’s paid friend.  That leaves 218 unique-use names, first and last, amongst his (and eventually her) domestics, which is 50% of his total.  Those include Al, the Butters, Gladys, Mrs. Inch, Hanneke and Janeke, Marta and Martha, Ork, Ortje and Oske, Bantje and Betje and Letje, and Stookje and Tookje and Wolke.
Names occurring in both hero and heroines’ households include Alice, Bessy, Bollinger (but it’s attached to the same man, so doesn’t really count – you’ll recall Dominic gives Abigail’s Bolly a home, albeit in Holland, in Saturday’s Child), Crisp, Dobbs, Dodge, Dora, Emma, Jane, Jenny/Jennie, Mrs. MacFee, Meg,  Pratt, Rosie, Trott, Mrs. Trugg and Twigg.
Of course, some of the best names are Mrs. Broom, Mrs. Buckett and the butler Crook (all single-use).  And I eagerly await the day the characters cross-over, in some future fan-fic, to give all those Jollys a chance to meet Grimshaw, Grimstone and his sister, Miss Rosie Grimstone.
Overall, Mrs. Neels offered us something like 410 different names for her vast collection of treasures.  A lesser writer would have just called them all Alfred, Alice, Eykholt, Godfrey, Griet, Piet and Mrs. White, over and over and over again.  Or at least, that’s what I would do.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Betty in the National Parks II: Part 6

via email from Betty AnoninTX...the (awesome) saga continues:

On our way to and from Maine and Canada, we made a few side trips that we enjoyed very much.

In Pennsylvania, we spent several hours at the Flight 93 memorial near Shanksville.  We were there on September 10.  All I can say is that it was very moving and overwhelming.

After spending the night in Binghamton, New York, we made our way through beautiful Vermont and New Hampshire.  I found a neat place while looking at hotel reviews on TripAdvisor, and I just had to see it!  It’s called the Flume Gorge, which is located in Franconia Notch State Park.  We barely made it to the Flume in time to rush through the door to pay the admission before it was closed for the day.  I forgot to grab a Betty book!  Rats.  The Flume is an 800 foot long natural gorge.  A boardwalk runs up the gorge, and it is a beautiful walk.  At the top, we turned around and came back down the boardwalk instead of walking the trail back.  We spent the night in Twin Mountain.

The next morning we rode the cog train to the top of Mt. Washington.  It was fun.  The PRT has a fascination with the crazy weather and the weather observatory on Mt. Washington.  It’s the highest peak in the NE US.  In 1934, there was a wind gust of 231 mph there.  It was a bit hazy that morning, so we could not see all the way to the Atlantic.  Betty posed for a shot looking out at the beautiful view.  I didn’t think to pose Betty with the train.

On the way back, we made a stop for something that was really exciting for me.  We went to West Point Military Academy! In another post I mentioned being very interested in the Battle of Little Bighorn.  General Custer is buried at West Point, and I paid my respects at his grave.  Then we visited the West Point Museum, and I was able to see a tiny scrap of paper.  Wow!  It is Custer’s last written order, written out by Adjutant Lieutenant W.W. Cooke, and carried by Giovanni Martini to Captain Benteen.  Benteen saved it and gave it to a friend later.  Eventually it was sold in an auction, and the buyer donated it to the museum.  There were other Bighorn items there, too.  We didn’t have the time to explore the whole museum, but I am so glad I was able to see the order.

I did manage to have a cup of tea on Delayed Bettysday!  This is at a rather rundown hotel in Wells, Maine.  After the beautiful Bayview and both wonderful B&Bs, this one was a bit of a shock to my system.  The PRT left me to drink a cup of tea and read a chapter of Roses Have Thorns so that I could adjust.  He, bless his heart, went to the guest laundry to wash a load of my knickers and socks.  The PRT knows what it takes to soothe me.

More to come….

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Betty in the National Parks II: Part Five

 Another great post by Betty AnoninTX!  (I would like to volunteer to be a passenger on their next National Park Tour):
 After leaving Acadia, we headed into Canada!  We went to Hopewell Cape, New Brunswick, Canada.  Once we decided we were going to Maine, I told the PRT to add a few days to the trip.  There was no way I was going to be that close to the famous Hopewell Rocks and not see them.  He obliged.  Darling Sarah and Hugo (Fate Is Remarkable) made the journey with us.

The drive to Hopewell Cape was really pretty.  We drove through Fundy National Park but didn’t stop anywhere there.  We pulled off at a spot near Alma to pose Sarah and Hugo with the Bay of Fundy.  We stayed two nights at a wonderful B&B, the Innisfree, which is very near to the Rocks.
The next morning after breakfast, we headed to the Rocks, also known as the Flowerpot Rocks.  The Bay of Fundy has extreme tidal ranges, up to 52 feet.  At low tide people walk on the ocean floor.  We walked up and down the floor, looking at the rocks and the cliffs.  We walked out quite a ways, which was an odd feeling when I knew in a few hours 40-50 feet of water would be there.  After we had looked our fill, we went back up the stairs, washed off our mudball feet and changed shoes, then walked to all the lookouts.  We stayed on the main lookout platform for several hours, just to see the tide come back in.  It really is something to see!
We left before the tide was completely in because we wanted to drive to Cape Enrage to see the lighthouse there.  Then we drove to an old shipyard to look around, and we went to the Crooked Creek lookout (on Hopewell Hill, I believe).  The clouds were hanging low, and we felt like we were alone in the world.  We were a couple of weeks too early to see the fall colors.
It was a lightning quick visit!  I wish we could have stayed in the area several more days.  I would have loved to go into Nova Scotia and PEI.  We headed back into the States the next day.

More to come…

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, October 29th.
Magic in Vienna
Ruptured appendix, Vienna, shrimp pink dress.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Judith - Reprise

I have to say, I'm not a huge fan of Judith.  Judith as in the book.  I do like bits and pieces (riding in the butcher's van come to mind), but overall I just don't quite buy into Charles and Judith as a fun couple. They have their moments, but overall I just don't see them as a delightful couple down the road a bit.
In the movie The Muppets Take Manhatten, Rizzo (the rat), has a line with Brooke Shields.  Let's substitute Judith for Brooke and Charles for Rizzo, 
 Charles: Do you believe in interspecies dating?
Judith: Well, I've dated some rats before if that's what you mean. 
That sort of sums up this book for me...Judith and Charles are so dissimilar as to have come from different branches on the phylogenetic tree. Charles isn't a rat - he's more of a crustacean. The kind you have to use pliers on and wear a bib if you want to get to the good stuff.

I don't have anything against historians and romance, but if we look at La Neels take on historians, we could deduce that they generally make poor parents. Celtic burial mounds would be a higher priority than, say, baby's first birthday, baby's second birthday, baby's piano recital, baby's high school graduation...

Do you see something in their future that I don't? Do tell.

Cover art--let's do this thing. Three widely-spaced buttons are hanging nonchalantly undone (don't you just hate how silk does that?!) and still no hint of cleavage. Nicely played, Harlequin, nicely played...

I'm of a mind to do this review a little differently, so let's to it:

Judith Golightly is in a rut as the senior night sister in charge of the Surgical Wing (which I think is the highest position of any Neels heroine). She is as stacked as the Roman Coliseum and is constantly being pestered by Nigel (who acts like his name sounds) to marry him. But she hasn't made it to the ripe age of 27 without learning to spot a poor marriage risk from twenty paces. If only something (measles, private patients and a hot, hot historian, perhaps?) would happen to push her onto new byways...Judith is resourceful and honest with herself ('She made no bones about being in love with Charles; she was, and that was an end to it.') and, as far as Charles is concerned, I won't pretend I'm not pleased that she's the medical expert in the room.

Charles Cresswell, eminent historian of 12th-century England, is one of the most unusual heroes in Neels-dom. He is absent-minded and, if given the chance, will forget birthdays and anniversaries and the name of their first-born with regularity. He's a bit of an engineer, personality-wise (no harm meant to engineers!)--he loves to be pedantic and technical and is missing that crucial social awareness gene that tells him he's being horribly rude. It isn't this that creates the tension, however, it is more that he's become a hermit due to a Youthful Disappointment (which must be written in caps and kept bright in the pages of his memory along with sachets of pressed violets and a lock of hair). Judith bowls him over with her brick house and, though she terrifies him and he's unwilling to like her, he's always been a keen student of architecture...

Uncle Tom lives near Charles in Cumbria and asks Judith to come housekeep for him since all she's doing on her month-long vacation is recover from the measles, conjunctivitis and broncho-pneumonia anyway. (Koplick's spots gone? Tote that barge! Lift that bale!) He's a bit of a matchmaker and becomes certain that Judith is the right girl for Charles when he notices that Charles, not acting in his usual manner with women (offhand, circumspect, polite and uninterested), is rubbing Judith up the wrong way every time they meet!

Eileen Hunt is on the make for the historian. Her phone call (late in the book) makes Judith cancel her engagement to Charles but Judith ought to have known better. What sort of trouble could a woman be who signed her picture (luridly gracing Charles' desk) 'Always Yours'--showing a staggeringly massive lack of imagination? She probably dots her 'I's with little hearts. Eileen can be flicked away like the dust mote she is.

Lady Cresswell is dying--slowly but surely. Her leukemia diagnosis at the mid-point of the book gives Judith the little nudge she needs to leave her prestigious hospital job (and Nigel) to nurse the old woman exclusively. They spend some lovely time in Cumbria at Charles' house (where he does her best to avoid her) and then hie to the Algarve for some retail therapy. Seriously, Lady Cresswell's final years (she does have a few left) will be spent playing backgammon, carefully applying makeup, shopping for nonsense and praying that someone (Judith) will yank her son out of the 12th century and give her grandbabies!

Nigel Bloom is horrible. Shall I quote the skunk? 'If you married me, of course, you could work a day shift or even do part-time. [Housewife?] That would be silly. You're a good nurse and as strong as a horse, and the extra money would be useful. Once I could get a consultant's post you'd have to stop, of course, it would never do to have you working.' He sort of even had me until the bit about being a consultant's wife. Sure, Charles will forget Judith exists from time to time but when he remembers...boy howdy. Nigel wouldn't even give her that.

Rating: I liked it better than I remembered--the principles had a little Beatrice/Benedick thing going on. My only issue is that there was not quite enough delightful sparkle in their verbal sparring to make it entirely in good fun nor did it have quite the poignancy of, say, The Hasty Marriage or The Secret Pool necessary to explain all that antipathy.
Still, Charles does make a fun fortress to lay siege to and Judith is an engaging crusader. All the supporting cast are adorable and unabashedly matchmaking. Lady Cresswell will need some careful nursing (not in their home but near it) and I actually like that Judith will have something to do after she's married and Charles goes back to shushing her.
The last few pages are magnificent.
I'll give this a Treacle Tart that leans towards Mince Pies.

Food: Judith makes a good beef sandwich. She has coffee and a squashy cream cake to spite Charles. She travels in a butcher's van with Cumberland sausage and pig trotters. Also, we find salmon, Saddle of Lamb, trifle, iced melon, grilled sole, scrambled eggs, thin toast, creamed potato, tomato salad, caramel custard, swordfish, almond and honey tart, and Mountain Rose pudding.

Fashion: Denim skirt and blouse, blue silk shirtwaister, Laura Ashley blouse, thick silk skirt, wispy sandals, a denim slacks and T-shirt (that does not dim her beauty but this is 1982 and those are Mom-jeans, dollars to donuts), cotton knitted dress, low-heeled worthy walking shoes, a brilliant blue bikini (that he takes no notice of), and a handkerchief lawn dress in blue. Charles wears a dressing gown of 'subdued magnificence'.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Betty in the National Parks II: Part Four

The continuing adventures of Betty AnoninTX:

 After leaving Mammoth Cave National Park, we drove for several days to reach our main Maine destination:  Acadia National Park!  Taking the trip with us were Venetia and Duert (The Convenient Wife).  Since they enjoy climbing on rocks by the edge of the sea, I felt sure they would enjoy Acadia. 
We stayed in Bar Harbor at the Bayview.  Oh my stars, what a wonderful place.  I gained at least ten pounds eating the wonderful breakfasts.  Blueberry pancakes… mmmm.  Bar Harbor is on Mount Desert (pronounced dessert) Island.  The park is very different from any we have visited.  The area is a mixture of park land and private land, with the park being primarily on Mount Desert, Isle au Haut, Schoodic Peninsula, and other smaller islands.  Acadia is a mixture of forest and sea, and that is what makes it so wonderful.  We stayed six days.   We did hiking and touring, but my favorite activity was sitting on the rocks, watching and listening to the waves, and taking great sniffs of clean sea air.
We took a two hour bus tour the first day to help us get the lay of the land and to hear some Acadia history, then we drove ourselves back over the park loop on Mount Desert.  The view from Cadillac Mountain is gorgeous.  Thunder Hole is a favorite spot.  It’s a granite crevasse where the waves boom and thunder.  Sand Beach is really pretty.  People mostly climbed on the rocks and watched the water, but a few brave people swam.  My favorite hike was from Sand Beach to Thunder Hole to Otter Cliffs, about 4 miles round trip.  I took these photos of Venetia and Duert as we were hiking.  Schoodic Point on Schoodic Peninsula is my favorite spot.  It’s a bit of a drive to get there so it’s not nearly as crowded.  Granite rocks.  Crashing waves. Hardly any people.  Heaven.

We took two boat tours. My favorite was the Baker Island cruise with a park ranger.  It’s uninhabited.  It has a lighthouse and several other buildings, an old one room school, a small cemetery, and flat rocks where teenagers used to have dances.  They would sail over and have parties at night.  We took another ranger led tour, the Islesford Historical cruise.  It goes to Little Cranberry Island then it goes up the fjord of Somes Sound for some wildlife and bird watching.  We saw more lighthouses and seals.

Jordan Pond House is a restaurant and tea house.  I was able to celebrate Bettysday on the 15th here!  We had tea on the lawn, which is a big tradition here.  There are small tables and bench-style seats on the lawn facing the pond.  They serve tea and warm popovers with strawberry jam and butter.  I drank the pot dry.  The walk around the pond is really pretty too.
After leaving Acadia, we headed up the coast to Lubec.  We stayed two nights at a wonderful B&B, the Peacock House.  Blueberry French toast with cream cheese and blueberries.  Mmm.  We drove over to Campobello Island and toured the summer cottage of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.   Again, we saw beautiful lighthouses in the area, but I still forgot to take a photo.  We really enjoyed watching seals.

More to come…

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Betty in the National Parks II: Part Three

the further adventures of Betty AnoninTX:

After we left Mammoth Cave NP, we had a really interesting day!  I am a history buff and geek to the max.  My minor in college was American history, and I am particularly interested in the Battle of Little Bighorn, westward expansion, and one room schools.  I also enjoy reading about the Hatfield & McCoy feud and loved the miniseries.  So we toured many of the feud sites!!  We saw the graves of Randall, Sally, and Roseanna McCoy, and we toured the feud sites around Pikeville.  While we were at their cabin site, National Geographic was excavating where the cabin stood and filming a special.  The well Randall dug is still there.  The special will be on tv in late January or February.  We crossed into West Virginia and went to Sarah Ann.  Devil Anse Hatfield and most of his family are buried in a cemetery up on a hillside.  After we tromped around there, we went to find Cap Hatfield’s grave.  An incredible man at the McCoy cabin site told us how to find Cap’s homesite and his grave.  For some family reason (an argument with a brother, I believe), Cap did not want to be buried with Devil Anse and the rest of his relatives.  We had to cross a bridge then park at the end of a trailer park.  A teenager told us where the path to the very small cemetery was.  We tromped up the hillside and through the woods.  There was Cap’s headstone, surrounded by trees and all kinds of plants, apparently including POISON IVY!  I bet you were wondering why I included this in my national park report.  This is where I managed to walk through poison ivy while wearing capris.  After we left there, we headed to Morgantown, WV.  As we drove through the dark night, I noticed my legs itched just a bit.  We stopped to get gas somewhere, and I looked at them in the light.  I had all these whitish circles with red dots in them, and I figured I had some minor allergic reaction to grass or a plant.  We stopped at a Kmart to get the first of many tubes of cortisone cream.  Within several days, I had lovely legs covered with the rash, along with mosquito bites.  But it was worth it!

More tomorrow…

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Betty in the National Parks II: Part Two

More (via email) from Betty AnoninTX!!:

Our first major stop, three days, was Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.  I had wanted to go there for years.  Tagging along were Beth and Alexander (A Star Looks Down).  They had already been to Cheddar Gorge to see the caves, of course, but I thought they would enjoy Mammoth Cave also.  It is the world’s longest cave system.  More than 390 miles have been explored at this time.  I had hoped to take a photo or two with Beth and Alexander inside the cave, but rules state that no purses, backpacks, etc. can be carried in.  The rangers are understandably strict because of white-nose bat syndrome.
We did three cave tours.  The first was the Frozen Niagara tour.  After a short bus ride, we entered through a manmade entrance.  The tour goes through a decorative section of the cave.  The second tour we took was the historic tour.  This tour goes through the natural entrance to the cave.  I really enjoyed this one.  We saw the old mining operations, old signatures, and landmarks.  I managed to squeeze my splendid self through Fat Man’s Misery without any problems, and I also was able to walk doubled over with no problems through Tall Man’s Misery.  The PRT, however, was not so lucky.  He didn’t pay enough attention in Tall Man’s Misery and straightened up too far.  He whacked his poor bald head on a rock and bled for a bit.  He had a lovely scab for a week or so.  The third tour we took was definitely my favorite:  the Great Onyx Lantern Tour.  It’s offered only in the fall.  This cave is stunning.  It’s what I call a “wet” cave with glistening stalagmites and stalactites.  The soda straws were so pretty. The tour group is kept small (38 limit), and we had three rangers with us.  Part of the tour group carries lanterns (no lights in the cave), and it had a totally different vibe to it.  I thankfully did not step on a salamander, nor did a cave cricket fall on me.  This tour is a must if anyone is ever at Mammoth in the fall.
We did a lot “on top” too.  I especially wanted to see Sand Cave, which was the scene of a tragic caving accident in January/February 1925.  Cave explorer Floyd Collins was trapped in a very small passageway by a rock that pinned his ankle down.  Even though rescue efforts were attempted, no one could reach him.  I won’t go into his whole story, but it is a very interesting one to google and read.  The cave is closed to the public, but a short path leads to an overlook at the entrance.  We drove to the three old churches in the park and walked through their cemeteries (plus several more).  There are over 90 cemeteries in the park.  Floyd is buried in the Mammoth Cave Baptist Church one.  We did quite a bit of hiking.  I enjoyed watching the deer and wild turkeys.

More tomorrow…

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Betty by the Numbers: Names Redux

We've had enough new folks start chiming in on our discussions that I decided to pull out a couple of the original Betty by the Numbers pieces in the hope they may be useful.  This was my first effort, in response to regular commentary, including a full post, about Betty's use and re-use of certain names.  Next week:  servants' names.

From the beginning, when she created the eventual Baroness Adelaide Blankenaar van Essen, to the Aramintas and Olivias and their various Gijses and Jameses, we have loved Betty for her names.  No Dracon Leloupblancs in Neels-land!  Perhaps you have your own favorites – maybe Britannia and her Jake, or the Ms. Makepeace who finds happiness with Mr. ter Brons Huizinga, or the near-ridiculousness of Lucy Lockitt or Eustacia Crump (or Krijn van der Brink-Schaaksma, come to that).

For those who may find a superficial study of interest, I’ve run a few numbers:


Eleven first names get used three times each.  These popular young women are:  Araminta, Beatrice, Charity, Deborah, Emma (there are also two named ‘Emily’, making Emma/Emily the #1 Neels name), Francesca, Julia (plus one Julie, so Julia/Julie becomes runner-up), Katrina, Louisa, Matilda and Serena.  There are also two Mary Janes and one Mary, but I don’t count that as three ‘Mary’ variants – would you?

This seems like a high proportion of names ending in ‘a’.

Harriet Tubman, 1820-1913, born Araminta Harriet Ross according to Wikipedia.  For non-US readers, Araminta Harriet was born into slavery, escaped to a free state and then returned to work the so-called Underground Railroad, guiding over 70 slaves to freedom.  She subsequently worked for the Union army as a spy, and packed heat as an Army scout.  She had mystical visions she believed were messages from God, but they might just have been hallucinations resulting from a serious head wound she suffered when beaten by a ‘master’ in her childhood.  Would history be different if she’d stuck with the ‘Araminta’?

Fifteen first names show up in two books (including Loveday, Philomena and Eulalia), which leaves 72 unique-use first names.  There’s no Charlotte, which some sources report as Betty Neels’s daughter’s name, and no Jessie, Evelyn or Betty, which are the various names credited to the author.  (I haven’t tracked secondary characters’ names, but there’s at least one Great-Aunt Jessica.)

All told, Betty used just 98 first names across 135 stories.  But she managed to come up with 112 last names for the ladies!

For heroines, last names run more toward the usual than we see in the first names, though feet show up more than they might in your own daily life, with two Proudfoots and two Lightfoots.  Since there are two Creswells (single ‘s’) and two Cresswells (double ‘s’), I’m crowning that the queen of surnames.  Five show up three times each:  Brown, Crosbie/Crosby, Parsons, Smith and Trent.  Besides the feet, eleven other last names repeat, but there’s only one each of Pennyfeather, ffinch and Darling.  And how is it I never really noticed before that Judith, of Judith, carries the last name Golightly?


Hannah Lightfoot (1730 - ??), a Quaker from London who married outside her faith, ran away from her husband, disappeared and was presumed dead before she was 30 .  Some unkind scalawag started an entirely untrue rumor that the very shy, 15-year old future George III had stolen her from her husband and married her, which rumor apparently persists still, which is enough to land her in Wikipedia.


Okay, first of all, 91 of the heroes are Dutch, so 44 are English, a two-thirds/one-third split.  Of the Dutch, 13 are Jonkheers or Barons, while the English muster six knights (“Sir William,” “Sir Paul”).  That’s 14% titled heroes, which is certainly higher than what I can boast amongst my family, friends and acquaintance (currently 0%, though I did once chat with an earl in his gorgeous garden in the County Offaly), but seems fairly moderate compared to the number of billionaires, sheiks and princelings who populate current genre romance.

Birr Castle in County Offaly has one of the absolutely most bee-yoo-tee-ful gardens I have ever visited.  I was wandering the grounds one morning, waiting for an Irish nurse’s wedding to start (not a lot else to do in Birr village), when a courtly older gentleman asked my opinion on lilacs.  In the course of our conversation (thank you, Arnold Arboretum) he made clear that he owned the castle, which would make him the Earl of Rosse.  Lovely man.  You can have lunch with him (or his son; my chat was 20 years ago) and the countess for 115 euros per person if you get 29 others to kick in with you.

Since the masculine equivalent of “Eulalia” (whatever that is – Ethelred?) would probably get an author laughed out of the publishing house (although, given “Dracon,” perhaps not), Betty narrowed her scope considerably with men’s names, using just 86 across the 135 books – though the Brits repeat far more often than the Netherlanders do.  James shows up six times; Jake and Oliver five each; Alexander and Thomas four times apiece.  Gijs and Julius are among the seven names that make three appearances each; the others are all English.  Yes, Julius wouldn’t be an unusual name for an Englishman, but in Neelsland he’s Dutch each time.

There are two heroes named Haso, Renier, and, of all things, Benedict.  Both Benedicts are Dutch.  (In the US, “Benedict” used to connote one man to many people; “Benedict Arnold” is a vernacular synonym for traitor, since the historical figure was infamous for plotting to turn the West Point Fort over to the British during the Revolutionary War.  However, Joseph Ratzinger has done a lot to change that.)

Saint Benedict of Nursia – he is a monk, Charity Dawson!

Hissing and byword Benedict Arnold, pre-defection.

There are a total of 15 names that show up twice, and 16 if you count the English Valentine Seymour (called “Val” by his sister) and the Dutch Valentijn van Bertes as a repeat.  Then we get 57 that don’t repeat at all, including Fenno, Raf and Sam.

A Valentijn (Overeem, Dutch mixed-martial arts fighter)
for Daisy (Buchanan, as played by Mia Farrow in The Great Gatsby, though she may prefer to stick with Robert Redford).  In real Betty-life, Daisy got
  a Valentine – perhaps Val Kilmer would do, if rumors as to his full name are correct.

But it is with last names for men that Betty truly spread herself, coming up with a total of 131 distinct last names.  The only repeaters, with two each, are Fforde, Latimer, Seymour and van Diederijk (Tane from An Apple for Eve and Sarre from Sun and Candlelight).  Sixty-five men’s names start with “van” and seven with “ter.”  Curiously, on the other side of the channel, there’s both a Tait-Bouverie and a Tait-Bullen.  Perhaps they’re related.  Eight English and one Dutch surname are hyphenated, which in England is often seen as a sign of upper-class-ish-ness.

The UK poet laureate from 1968-1972, C. Day Lewis, deliberately changed his name from Day-Lewis to Day Lewis, reflecting what he called ‘inverted snobbery,’ “and thereby threw librarians into a confusion from which they have not recovered,” according to Norton’s.  Reason enough, surely for a photo of his son, Daniel. I’m afraid his hair may be a bit long for Betty, but I could stand a lot of Chinese food if I were sitting across from that...

Two surnames occur in both heroes and heroines:  the aforementioned Creswell/Creswell for four heroines and a single hero, and two Seymours of each sex.  Wikipedia lists three English villages called Cresswell, and 15 people, including Sir Cresswell Cresswell PC KC (1794-1863), who “set divorce on a secular footing, removed from the traditional domain of canon law.”  Somehow I doubt that’s the one Betty was honoring.  There are five places called Creswell in Wikipedia, two in the UK and three in the USA, plus a Navy base in Australia.  The five human Creswells include K.A.C. Creswell, the English architectural historian – sounds good so far, doesn’t it? – specializing in Egyptian Islamic architecture – yea, maybe not so much.


The generic Betty Neels couple is Emily (called Emma) Creswell and James van Diederijk.  Neither combo actually shows up in the canon.