Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, March 4th
The Mistletoe Kiss
Telephonist,  concussion,  engaged RDD.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Fifth Day of Christmas--Reprise

Good morning, Bettys!
Or good-afternoon, depending on your time-zone...
Can you tell I am time-zone-hostile today?  Betty Debbie has abandoned the rainy Northwestern Shores for the balmy climes of Florida for the Fortnight and I am utterly desolate.  Who will talk me through my morning chores if I don't have my beloved Betty Debbie? Because my Colorado sisters (not cigarette-dangling Ward Maid Maisies by any stretch) are an hour different and it's just not cutting it.  When they are going about their errands, I'm still making breakfast.  When I'm eating lunch, they've started afternoon projects.  It gives me a sense of playing catch-up all day.
Ah, well, we have The Fifth Day of Christmas to console us and even if I don't love, love, love it, I like it quite well.
Love and lardy cakes!
Betty Keira

I had a tough time finding time to read this week - Christmas parties, dates with Dr. van der Stevejink, family movie date (Tangled), making pinecones, dentist appointments, eye doctor appointments (why, oh why, do medical appointments come in dense clusters??)...I snuck in a few pages here and a few pages there - not my favorite way to read a book. After a slow start, I was finally able to get down to business and read most of the second half in one sitting. I'm glad I did. Unfortunately for you, dear Bettys, I was interrupted nearly as much while I was writing this post...aargh.
The opening scenes are quite delightful - Miss Julia Pennyfeather (just 22) is escorting an unstablilized diabetic teen to Scotland after having quit her hospital nursing job. After this little job, she's to go to her worthy (and by worthy, she means dreary)brother's house so as to nurse her sister-in-law through some post-partum depression. Or something. It's a depressing thought - especially since her brother and SIL are determined to play matchmaker to Julia and a pompous windbag named James. Don't pay any attention to that particular plot device, because we will never meet Julia's brother and his wife or James. Ever. And now I've forgotten them.
Scotland is cold and snowy, but eventually the ambulance men, Julia and her patient get to Drumlochie House - only to find it deserted except for one ancient family retainer. The wind has taken the electricity and the phones...Julia gets everyone busy helping out, then she feeds the group before retiring to her icy bedroom.
In the wee small hours, a knock at the door! Julia puts on her dressing gown and allows entrance to the man of her dreams. Dr. Ivo van den Werff. Guess how old he is. No, I mean it, guess. HE'S TWENTY-NINE YEARS OLD!!! Yes, 29. The Great Betty doesn't actually say that, she just says that he's 'pushing 30'. Weird. We don't have to call Dr. Ivo van den Werff by his full name, things are pretty casual among the small group of snowed-in travellers. Julia spends her time taking care of the diabetic teen and cooking. Ivo organizes the ambulance men and himself to take care of the chores, and the family retainer is marginally helpful. I believe he kills a chicken.
The whole interlude in Scotland is delightful - Ivo and Julia get on like a house afire. So much so that he offers her a job back with him in Holland. Taking care of Marcia. Marcia? Who's Marcia? She's The Unresolved Issue.
Marcia has been living at Casa van den Werff for the past six months (with Ivo's dad and sister)where she has been recuperating from a slight attack of polio (yes, polio again). Marcia the Unresolved Issue needs a nurse to finish getting her back on her feet.
It's really too bad about the instant antipathy between Marcia and Julia. Julia sees Marcia as the fraud she is, and Marcia can tell. Marcia spends the entire book making rude comments about Julia's size. Marcia calls her buxom, robust, stout, plump, hearty...you get the idea. She's a real charmer. Marcia is an unusual 'other woman'. Sure, she's bony and flat chested, has pale blonde hair and colourless lashes and a thin austere beaky kind of beauty...but she's An Intellectual. Her hobbies include: reading the works of Goethe, living in luxury, reading Virgil and Homer in the original Greek, being waited on by Julia, and making out with Mijnheer August de Winter. What? Yes, she's got a lil' sumpen sumpen going on the side. She's just hanging out at Casa van den Werff until the Mijnheer comes up to scratch. Hedging her bets.
So...what's the relationship between Marcia and Ivo? Marcia simpers (gah...I just threw up in my throat a little) and acts coy while telling Julia that she and Ivo have 'an understanding'.
This is where it gets a bit dicey...after Marcia got polio, Ivo went to Edinburgh for six months. Six months with no visits back to Holland. Doesn't sound much like a man in love. Not only has he not been to visit in six months, he doesn't act like a man in love. He acts more like the captain of a sinking ship and Marcia is the broken rigging dragging it down. It's time to clear the decks.
Julia has a bit of a tough time figuring out what's going on. She isn't quite sure what Ivo and Marcia's relationship is. Are they engaged? Will they marry? Julia can see that Marcia isn't in love...and she's pretty dang sure Ivo isn't either. Let's assume he isn't since he kisses Julia at nearly every opportunity, especially after a fight or quarrel, or well, like I said, pretty much anytime.
Julia goes for a walk one afternoon - it's a balmy December day in Holland. Hah! Not. Off she goes into the bike paths and nearly certain disaster. Yes, she gets lost, freezing rain is pouring down and she falls asleep. She wakens to Ivo swearing some beastly Dutch oaths and then pouring brandy down her throat. Of course she's fine - but she does have to endure prosy speeches from Marcia about the inadvisability of impetuous women who are lacking in intellectual powers not giving due deliberation to all the aspects of taking a walk in the country during this particular time of year.
Julia continues to be confused about what the future holds...for her, for Ivo, for Marcia. It's all a muddle. The one thing she's sure about is that she loves Ivo and Marcia doesn't. Despite that, Marcia continues to make a determined effort to keep Ivo away from Julia. Which just goes to show her spiteful nature, since Ivo isn't the one she wants. She wants Mijnheer de Winter in a bad way - badly enough to invite the mijnheer to a family Christmas Eve dinner against Ivo's wishes - without telling Ivo. Julia rushes into Jorina's room (in her bathrobe, hair streaming down her back) to tell Jorina so that she can rearrange seating - Ivo is there, sitting on the bed. Ivo tells her that she'd better get dressed...'If you need any help, I'd be delighted.' *snort*. After dinner entertainment consists of dancing to the 'CD player' (yeah, right...). Marcia does a slow foxtrot around the room and then has Julia spend the rest of the evening putting her to bed. Seems like that would be the end of Christmas Eve for her. Well, it isn't. Ivo made Julia promise to come back down after The Unresolved Issue has retired. He gives Julia his Christmas present to her...a pair of gold earrings with rubies in the center. Do I sense a little forshadowing of things to come?
It's Time for a Medical Emergency.
Not only have we been treated to The Unresolved Issue with polio, it now seems there is an outbreak requiring mass inoculations! Julia is recruited to help Ivo with the hordes of children that now need to be given shots - which gets her out of the house and away from Marcia. Marcia's down with that...it gives her more opportunities to be alone with Mijnheer de Winter. Julia accidently sees them in a lip-lock. Marcia moans about how lonely and alone and forlorn and....Julia begs to differ...'that is a load of old trot!" The kid gloves come off and Julia speaks her mind. Words like 'harpy' and 'fraud' are bandied. Marcia tattles to Ivo about Julia's name-calling. Ivo confronts Julia:
Him: Um...I just had a conversation with Marcia. I think you know what it was about...
Her: So???
Him: Did you call her a fraud and a harpy?
Her: Yes.
Him: May I ask why?
Her (flippantly): No harm in asking.
Julia can more than hold her own in nearly any situation which is a good thing, because she's about to have it out one last time with Marcia. Ivo overhears...The Unresolved Issue is resolved, but while Ivo and Marcia are resolving, Julia packs up her troubles in her old kit bag and runs off to the bus stop enroute to England. It takes Ivo a little bit of time to catch up with her, because he makes a detour to pick up a few more GOLD RINGS...bringing the total to 4 - with an option on the 5th. Lovely closing scene where Ivo pleads for a quick wedding, 'please don't make me wait, Julia', some satisfying kisses. The End.
Verdict: Although a little uneven in the pacing (that could very well be due to my irratic reading (and writing) schedule this week), I really enjoyed this one. Marcia is one of my favorite villainessess - while not the most wicked, she does get quite a bit of page time. Julia, or as Ivo calls her, The Magnificant Miss Pennyfeather, is pretty delightful (even though she has way more patience with Marcia than is humanly possible). Queen of Puddings!
Fashion: Not a whole lot to work with here. Julia spends most of the book in her nurses uniform. She does have a deep rose wool dress and a brown wool dress, a Jaeger coat and skirt of pleasing turquoise and brown, a top-coat and a fur bonnet. Marcia declines to wear a jersey dress.
Food: While snowed in at Drumlochie House, Julia bakes bread, makes soup and omelettes, jacket potatoes and a baked rice pudding. Christmas Eve dinner consists of oyster soup, filet of beef Meurice, and gateau St. Honoré. Christmas dinner is roast turkey, chestnut stuffing, cranberry sauce and what Jorina describes as 'English vegetables culled from an old copy of Mrs. Beeton's cookery book.'

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, February 25th
The Fifth Day of Christmas
Twenty-nine year old RDD, snowed in, mass inoculations.  

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Edge of Winter - Reprise

I am firmly on Team Betty Keira when it comes to Tante Maybella.  I looked back at my notes for the discussion thread of The Edge of Winter, and found this bit:

I personally wouldn't last a week with the Tante Maybella. After a couple of days I would be using every excuse I could think of to get out of the house so as not to explode...or implode. I am speaking from experience. I don't have anything against older relations living with younger relations, but I can't abide high sweet voices like hers. I think Araminta has a few options available for ridding herself of this human parasite(keep in mind that I would never advocate anything illegal or harmful to another living, breathing human being...but since this is fiction, I think a little creative license might be allowed).

1. Invite Louisa from Winter Wedding to visit for a week or two and leave an unsecured bottle of Seconal laying about.
2. Rescue every filthy animal in sight and give each and every one to Tante. After two or three unhousebroken pets, she might prefer her own place. This route is pretty chancy, especially for the poor animals.
3. Take Tante on daily walks in the teeth of mighty gales (itis 'the edge of winter' after all). Perhaps a little over-exposure to some sub-zero temperatures might bring on a case of pneumonia?
4. Go Christmas shopping with Tante Dearest in Amsterdam...chose a busy street that borders a canal and...oops!
5. Invite little Paul from Three for a Wedding and give him the keys to an abandoned warehouse...
6. Go yachting with Lilith from Tabitha in Moonlight, and send Tante back for the sunglasses...
7. Foggy moors...numerous possibilities....
8. Accidentally leave her behind the Iron Curtain with an arthritic nanny.
9. Get lost in a Scottish snowstorm - see Heaven is Gentle for pointers.
10. Tunnel accident in Norway...this is a little problematical, especially since it's unlikely that Tante Maybella drives.
11. Book her on back to back world cruises, but don't tell her about it until you've got her settled in her stateroom.
12. Crispin has three other siblings...let them have their share of Tante Maybella. On the surface this looks like the best option...but you just know that at least one (or more) or the siblings won't pull their weight.

One last note.  I adore the cover on this one - alas, this is not the edition that I own.
-Betty Debbie

I was fifty pages into this book before I realized which one it was. My heart, sailing gaily along, wafted on the updrafts of delightful banter and sizzling chemistry, thudded to the pit of my stomach. Ugh. This is the one with the worst ending in Neelsdom.

Araminta Shaw, 25, is, like any good Lorelei, hailing sailors to a watery doom. Having found a lost child at the ocean's edge, she splints a broken leg, dismisses the possibility of cliff-climbing with all that dead weight on her back and looks through the darkening night for help.
Professor Crispin Van Sibbelt, nudging 40, points his little rubber dinghy inland and fetches up before her. 'You silly little fool. Don't you know those cliffs are dangerous?' 
Scathing remarks follow acid-laced observations as they maneuver the little girl aboard his yacht and our heroine (who did, after all, follow first aid protocols with ingenuity) is grinding her teeth. Araminta wonders, who put his knickers in such a bunch?
Araminta returns to her nursing job (she was on a very dreary-sounding vacation with auntie and father--the kind of death-to-a-social-life lolling at the inn vacation) and opens the door of her modest semi-basement flat to the vast and handsome yacht-owner. Having a yacht is not its own calling-card for respectability, evidently, and she only draws the chain back when she is reassured that he was sent by her auntie. 'I wanted to see you again.'
Thereafter, he pops in and out of her life, bringing delicious food, a persistent manner (a must since she constantly tells him she's not sure she likes him very much (in much the same way as a 12-year-old girl, when asked if she liked a certain classmate, would blush furiously, swear she didn't like him and wish him death for good measure)) and offers of help around the house.
This is, by far, the best part of the book with little moments that make you laugh aloud. He is sort of pursuing her and she is sort of resisting. ...she told herself that she couldn't bear him at any price--she would make that quite clear the next time they met.
Araminta is asked to nurse her Cousin Thomas' failing wife Thelma...in Holland. So, she hies off to Amsterdam and lands herself in a domestic imbroglio. Thomas is a pinchpenny who can barely rouse enough feeling for his dying wife beyond a niggling suspicion that all this is costing him money. Thelma is a dear and set to die anytime from incurable leukemia. She is relieved that Araminta is there so that she can die in peace instead of being asked about the laundry status. And if it takes crossing swords with Thomas every stinking day, Araminta is going to see that things are different for Thelma. Champangne, new dresses, enticing eats...the lot. Thomas turns puce at the expense. (Though, to be fair, he sounds like someone with a liver complaint.)
Naturally, Crispin is the specialist who sees Thelma.
Thelma dies.
Crispin, not one to waste any opportunity, whisks Araminta away from her pre-funeral housekeeping as often as possible and, at one point, brings her back to his home to spend the night.
Never fear! He has a chaperon! Tante Maybella! (Are all these exclamation points convincing you that she is a good idea? Me neither.) Ah, the good Tante. She's all my least favorite feminine affectations wadded into a cozy knit cardigan. Sweet, high-voiced, doll-like, back-biting, vicious...Crispin seems oblivious that Tante Maybella (who has TWO homes of her own that she doesn't want to live in--TWO!) is leaking toxic waste all over Araminta like a rusty 70s era industrial drum.
But, despite the prospect of infelicitous in-law relations, Araminta tosses her bonnet over the windmill for Crispin. He would probably be a difficult husband, but she saw no reason why she couldn't manage him. Oh, I quite like her.
But back to Tante Maybella. Crispin notices some chilliness but offers the pointless (if interesting) bromide: She can't help but love you in time, but she has to get used to you--the idea of you. Kiss!
Before heading back to England, Crispin makes some not-so-very-vague suggestions about a possible joint merger of their assets. 'Don't say anything. When you're back in England, whatever you feel now, you will probably forget me.'
Editorial Note: Okay, I take considerable issue with this. He does this cheesy boy band ballad thing (I'm imagining Boyz II Men: 'Baby, baby, hush now. You and me, girl, don't need to talk...') a few times and implies that she's a 'green girl'. Um, Professor, she's a babe. Moreover, she has probably been chatted up by every houseman, registrar, junior banker, bachelor clergyman and married anesthesiologist within fifty miles. If she's prepared to say that she loves you, shut-up, gracefully accept and then get down on your knees and thank the good Lord for your blessings. 
Crispin sends her roses with a message that needs the decoder ring treatment. (What does it all mean?)
She is asked to attend a friend's engagement party. While dolled up and waiting in the hospital lobby with her ride (her young male ride), Crispin stalks in. Words are flung, naked jealousy is displayed, love's young dream is crushed.
So she quits.
Oh my heck this is so satisfying. Crispin is totally in the wrong here and she's just ripped up her mortgage papers and tossed the lighted match into the dining room. And then he's back (to her father's house this time) for a full-fledged, honest to goodness grovel. (Enjoy the delicacy. La Neels is famously parsimonious with them.)
He asks her to come back to Holland to stay with him and get to know him and, '...hush, baby, I don't want to know what your feelings are...' Okay I made that last bit up...a teeny bit.
She stays with Crispin and Tante Maybella and Tante Maybella's 'naked fear' (so awkward when people don't wear a towel to the loo...). And then one day, Tante Maybella (whose very name is beginning to drive me around the bend) tells Araminta that she's so 'suitable'. Picture a five-year-old at a birthday party with a handful of balloons. Now picture someone popping them all. That's pretty much Tante Maybella. A Balloon Popper.
Not done with her evil machinations, Tante goes on to tell Araminta that she's so much more suitable than Nelissa (whose name sounds both flat-chested and made up) whom Crispin really loves and would marry but for his awkward engagement (oh, yeah, they got engaged in there) with Araminta.
Of course she bolts.
She takes barely any money, no passport and has no destination. She tries hitchhiking but is too well dressed. Crispin finds her curled up in the stairwell of a tiny roadside stone castle (Visit Amazing Europe!) and pours his anxiety/anger/confusion on her head. To which she replies with inspired aplomb:
Don't you swear your beastly Dutch oaths at me!
And there she is--from affianced wife of well-off physician to hot ghetto mess all in one easy day. He drags her home (after much 'No, baby, we'll talk after dinner/breakfast/bath/lunch'-ness) and gets Tante Maybella in the same room. And then, to steal a quote from the Iron Lady, it all goes wobbly. Here's why I hate it:
  • He never did say he loved her and should have.
  • Tante Maybella never capitulates until she gets lifelong residence under their roof (remember she has two others of her own), the satisfaction of teaching Araminta 'household management' and about all the treasures of the old house. (At this rate, Araminta will be lucky to consider herself a long-term guest in her own home.)
  • Araminta has to cast aside the venom that drove her to run away from Crispin and offer instant forgiveness and reassurance.
Anyway, by this time, I'm disgruntled and ready to bean him over the head. But he's got a special license and I guess they can go off and live happily ever after with the cankerous old woman.
The End

Rating: I really, really enjoyed this book before Araminta's dawning realization. She loathes Crispin but, as she glowers at his retreating back, she is probably checking out his bum. Their interplay is excellent and it crackles with energy (death surrounding her, notwithstanding!). And then she realizes that she loves him and a little wind is taken out of the sails (not much wind but all that 'Baby, baby, please don't say anything' stuff is a little dampening). And then there's the sticky bit at the end. Ugh. The end. It wasn't quite as uniformly bad as I remembered: The Great Betty makes running away interesting and funny and tragic all at once so I can't quibble with the writing.
But the last four pages...(shudder)...In a just world, that old lady would have been kicked out on her ear and probably incarcerated in a Home for the Criminally Insane. Seriously. Would you let that woman near your children?
So, though I hate giving mixed reviews, the beginning and middle (and most of the end) earn a boeuf en croute for me, while the last two pages are the thin gruel of tinned soup--probably that succotash tin in the back of your pantry that's been sitting there for ages. The lima beans have probably turned gray and there are little floaty bits of fat...
But if you can mentally write a satisfactory conversation that can make living with a psychopath okay ('Darling, she's got an incurable brain tumor and will be gone by morning anyway...') then this book is well worth your time.

Food: Shrimp bisque, lemon chicken, crisps, artichoke salad, kaas broodje, french onion soup, poached turbot with lobster sauce, Charlotte Russe (the sound of which makes me think of Russian ballerina tartlets for whatever reason), roast beef, baked potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and sprouts. When she runs away her best meal is chips from a paper bag and because the last of her change is bumped from her hand (into the watery deep) she is denied a roll. Brandy warms her up (a myth?) and she eats echte soup and gehakt balletjes on the way to his home again. The servants (possibly saying 'I'm sorry the old bat almost drove you to your death') make vacherin, her favorite dessert.

Fashion: Russet brown suit, Thelma buys a last dress (blue) before she pops off, Araminta buys a russet velvet pinafore dress with a chiffon blouse, a very promisinghigh-necked dark honey crepe with tiny pleats that sounds a beast to dry clean (I have four years experience working in a dry clean/laundry and know whereof I speak), a sage green silk jersey with yet another chiffon bow beneath her chin, and a blue velvet evening gown which sounds a dream to wear.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Decorating With Betty

via email:

Hi Ladies!

I'm getting my house ready to sell because we're moving from Idaho to Texas. Thought I'd show you how I'm using my Betty Neels collection to stage the shelves in my guest room.
Feel free to share. Have a great day!

Betty Caroline

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, February 18th.
The Edge of Winter
Rescue by yacht, Tante Maybella, Cousin Thomas and his terminally ill wife.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Winter Love Story--Reprise

Good Morning dear Bettys!
I hope that our Northeastern Bettys are weathering the Snowpocalypse with tins of mushrooms, the odd frozen chicken, a not-too-irascible relic of decaying nobility and a hunky RDD on his way with a rescue helicopter and snow shovel.  
I was scanning the comments section of our original 'A Winter Love Story' post and can't get better than our indefatigable Betty Magdalen's remarks:

 Could we spare a word or three for the fact that Betty was 90 when she wrote this? In fact, the most poignant bit is where she, uh, sorry -- where Claudia describes the geriatric hospital as a place where the patients just have no one to care for them at home.

I really choked up there (no lie) because it had a ring of truth -- and more specifically a truth that Betty herself may have endured. Because while we'd love to think she was completely hale and hearty up to the point she "assumed room temperature," I'm pretty sure that some of those books where the English nurse is caring for an older woman in a wheelchair had a bit of roman a clef about them.

Let us never forget just how awesome The Great Betty was...90!  The mind boggles.
Love and lardy cakes!
Betty Keira

It's never a good sign when even after reading a book several times (including THIS WEEK), you have to refer to your notes for the title. A Winter Love Story is not the most memorable book written by Betty Neels...but is it because of a lackluster title? Let's find out:

Claudia Ramsey (age 27) is a stunner. Her copper-haired beauty shines through a succession of deplorable outfits that feature such fashion statements as oversized pinnys and dirty sacks tied around the mid-section. As the story opens, she is to be found dusting Uncle Colonel William Ramsey's library. Or is the Colonel Uncle? At any rate, The Colonel is getting ready to bite the big one, but before he does, Dr. Willis has called in a specialist. Mr. Tait-Bullen (hereafter to be referred to as Mr. T-B(age 39)) is an eminent cardiologist - he recommends a triple by-pass, but The Colonel doesn't hold with such nonsense. He'd rather shuffle off this mortal coil than go under the knife. So he does. But not before Claudia has had a couple of opportunities to meet Mr. T-B. It's fortunate for Claudia that she has plenty of natural beauty - Mr. T-B only gets to see her in her eccentric work clothes, and he still can see her gorgeousness - even when she's filthy with dust or grimy with dirt from the greenhouse.
The Colonel announces to Claudia and her mum that he will be dying in a day or two, and would they please call Mr. T-B, he'd like to see him one more time. Mr. T-B drives down from London and chats with The Colonel about...lilies. The Colonel was spot on in his self-diagnosis - he assumes room temperature that very evening.
zzzz...oh yeah, A Winter Love Story. Right. Okay. Umm. The Colonel has left generous bequests to the family retainers. Claudia and her mum get 'shares' - which turn out to be worthless. The house is entailed to a distant relative. The Heir, Mr. Ramsey, is obnoxious (you were expecting different?)...he is not willing to share any of his inheritance with Claudia and Mrs. Ramsey - although he does give them orders: Fire the old Butler! Air the beds! Don't steal the silver! Claudia and the gang wisely ignore him...all the staff find new jobs, Mrs. Ramsey gets engaged to Dr. Willis and Claudia goes off to her fabulous new job in Southampton!

The Job at Ye Olde Geriatric Hospital is not exactly cushy. "It's not the cool hand on the brow kind of work - more like a charwoman - plastic pinnys and mops and buckets." Claudia, being Claudia, puts a brave face on it and cheerfully gets on with it. She does have a day off after a week which happily coincides with her mother's wedding. Mr. T-B has cadged an invite to the wedding...he'd like to see what's up with the beautiful Claudia. He neatly arranges to drive Claudia back to Southampton and sets up a date for her next afternoon off.
The date is pretty successful...Claudia eats with an appetite sharpened by the rather stodgy hospital food she's been stuck with. The after dinner conversation is a little one sided - Claudia wonders if she's boring Mr. T-B. 'I don't think that you will ever bore me...would you like to go out again?'
A few days later, Mr. T-B drops by Ye Olde Geriatric Hospital unannounced and asks our girl if she's happy where she's at. Claudia answers him honestly that working at geriatric hospital is absolutely grim. Mr. T-B offers an alternative. 'Will you marry me? I need a wife and you would have freedom, we laugh at the same jokes.' 'Gosh, that sounds so sensible. Just one thing...I don't know your name...'
Thomas(yes Mr. T-B shall now be called Thomas) tells Claudia that they can get married by special license just as soon as she works through her one week notice.
After the wedding Thomas takes Claudia to his home in London. It's beautiful, natch, but he really only has an aging Tony Danza, er...Cork, to cook and clean - with a little help from Mrs. Rumbold, the daily. Cork may be happy for his boss, but that doesn't mean he's ripe for the picking. Claudia recognizes his type and begins her campaign to win him over. She's quite practiced in the art of getting aging butler types to eat out of her hands.
Married life agrees with Claudia and Thomas. They get along just fine - he even goes along on the Deluxe Connubial Shopping Extravaganza and agrees to adopt a stray puppy that Claudia has rescued from the park.
With things going so well, what should happen next but a visit from The Woman Scorned. Honor Thompson envies Claudia and goes out of her way to be nasty. For any other new bride except Claudia this would be either a wake-up call or tear-inducing. Not Claudia...she takes all the drama out of Honor's snide comments and she's quite cheerful when Honor leaves. This gives us the best bit of the book: 'I hope you're grateful that I married you. She would have eaten you alive in a couple of years.'
Thomas is suitably taken aback at the lack of reproachful comment, coolness or sulkiness. He's married to a treasure. Even Cork is starting to appreciate her.
The hospital Christmas ball is a fine opportunity to re-gift Grandmother's pearls. Claudia is a bit disappointed that Thomas isn't giving her something he picked out, but her disappointment is short-lived. She's also a teeny tiny bit jealous of all the pretty nurses that Thomas dances with at the ball. She is mollified to learn that they are courtesy dances and that it's a tradition - not his idea. Claudia is beginning to be a little unsettled. Just a little. It's starting to seem like Thomas doesn't really need her companionship - he's spending more and more time either at work or in his study. He does take time off for a day trip with Claudia wherein they stop in a village and do a spot of house hunting, and by spot I do mean spot. They look at one cottage, Thomas realizes he's in love(with Claudia, and presumably the house) and makes an offer on it. No inspections for leaky drains or insects, nope, they look at ONE house and they're done. That's fiction for you. The real icing on the cake is when Claudia throws herself at Thomas and gives him a great big thank-you kiss. The End. I wish. Darn those page counts. It's only page 124 - there are SIXTY more pages to go, in which Not. Much. Happens.

Let's sum up:
  • Christmas at the in-laws. It's lovely. A pretty snazzy kiss wherein Thomas nearly loses his control and Claudia enjoys it. It's page 142. That would have been a nice place to end.
  • Contretemps in Hyde Park...while walking Harvey the Ugly Puppy, Claudia is threatened by rowdy youths. Thomas is Harsh, but then apologizes and tell her that he was angry because he was scared for her.
  • Thomas gives Claudia a New Years Kiss. It stirs something in Claudia...His Sleeping Beauty was beginning to wake up. Frankly, another kiss or two and he could have sealed the deal. On page 159.
  • It's time for a little muddle. Thomas is being a bit distant. If Claudia had read her Betty Neels, she would know that this IS A SIGN THAT HE'S IN LOVE. Alas, she hasn't.
  • Thomas has to go on a trip to Leeds. When dropping off Claudia at her mum's, he JERKS BACK from her. Tears are fought off. Muddle, muddle, muddle.
  • The Woman Scorned, Take Two. Honor implies that Thomas takes his sexy secretary on trips with him...and not just to take notes, if you get what I mean wink wink.
  • Claudia calls his office and finds out that the secretary is indeed out of town. Which leads her to say "I hate him!", which leads to her realizing that she doesn't hate him at all, she loves him. Dang. There goes their open and honest communication. Because she'll have to hide her love away.
  • Thomas returns early from his trip because he could tell from her telephone voice that something is wrong. Claudia makes a hash of explaining...Thomas might as well be Dutch - with all the icy anger in his eyes. He throws down a gauntlet...Claudia had better decide if she trusts him and if she is unhappy in their marriage. (Worst part of the book for me!)
  • Claudia is horribly unhappy - and instead of having Thomas there to talk to about it, he's hiding out at work. She has Cork bring the Mini around and she drives through London traffic...and down to the cottage in Child Okeford.
  • Thomas calls home, Cork is worried about the missus. Thomas races to Child Okeford to find her asleep on a kitchen chair.
  • Muddles are cleared up, snogging engaged in. The end. For real this time.
Rating: Beautiful Woman Marries Rich Doctor!! News at Eleven!! Hmm...for the most part I found this book charming, but unfortunately it's rather forgettable, and really, that title doesn't help it a bit. It would have best been served by a handy application of a spanner - to tighten up the sagging prose - and then a hacksaw taken to the last 40 or 50 pages (or 60) . The thing I like best is how open and honest AND friendly the two protagonists are to each other - before they fall in love. Claudia is charmingly matter-of-fact and forthright - she readily apologizes when she makes a gaffe. When life throws her lemons, she makes lemonade. Thomas is friendly and kind and pleased with himself for marrying such a beautiful woman who is perfectly suited to his life. It takes AGES for the two of them to realize they are in love - (him on page 122, her on page 171) and they have a tough time making the transition from open and honest 'just friends'...which is really too bad - all it would have taken is a couple of satisfying snogs to break the ice (let that be a lesson to you...)...even after 30 years of marriage, I find a few satisfying snogs can clear the air better than an hour of discussion. TMI? After much deliberation I'm going to give this a boeuf en croute...no, wait...treacle tart...um...mince pies? Let's leave it at that, mince pies. It's not that it's a bad book, it's just that La Neels has done the same story many times and done it better. I do have this book review to thank for my now clean house...I spent lots of time avoiding writing (because I wasn't inspired at all) and doing other productive things like moving furniture and doing laundry.
Food: crab ravioli with ginger, breast of duck potato straws(twice), Brussel sprouts (at least twice), pear tatin with cinnamon ice cream, individual cheese soufflés, salmon en croûte, watercress salad, iced fruit cake with silver leaves, game soup, roast pheasant, chocolate pudding, turkey, braised celery (I just cannot make that sound good in my head), cranberry sauce, flaming Christmas pudding (forget it, I'm NOT making it!), smoked salmon, ham on the bone, stuffed eggs (are these the same as devilled eggs?), chicken pie, lamb chops, apple pie.
Fashion: She doesn't get to wear anything nice until her mother's wedding...before that she is usually to be found in working clothes...hair covered by a duster secured by a piece of string, a large print pinny several sizes too large, an old sack wrapped around her and topped with a jacket that is colourless with age, at the geriatric hospital she wears mud-brown dresses with a plastic pinny. At mum's wedding she wears a grey suit that's out of date with a grey beret. Her wedding outfit is a plainly cut dress and jacket of misty blue wool with grey velvet collar and cuffs. She is treated to the Deluxe Connubial Shopping Extravaganza at Harrod's and Harvey Nichols.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Betty Mail...

This past week we've received emails from 2 different Bettys.  I'm posting both of them here - even though they don't have that much in common.  Make sure you read on down so that you get both letters! We'll start with Betty Magdalen's (which is time sensitive):

Hi, Founding Bettys. Any chance you can run the attached post & attached photo over the weekend? Voting ends on Sunday (February 10th). Thanks.
Love in Reality is up for Best Cover in the Judge a Book By Its Cover contest. Pick SINGLE TITLE -- and mine should be halfway along!
Betty Magdalen

I think the cover is adorable, as is the book.  Take a moment and vote for our first (non-family/close friend) follower!
Now read on, for some fun (and fascinating) links to articles about some vast Dutchmen!

Hello Bettys;
I love your blog and have been enjoying it so much!  Until I found your site I thought I was alone in my love of Neels' (my mom listens to my enthusiasm with amusement but isn't a romance reader) so it's wonderful to learn that I'm one of many who appreciate her special brand of genius.  Thank you for all the work and time you put into the blog!
I ran into a few articles that I thought might be more significant to you ladies than to my mom. :)
Land of the Giants: Dutch Tower over Americans [sounds familiar - I wouldn't mind having a Dutchman tower over me*lol*].
Dutch reach new heights
And here is the site for Holland's Dutch Tall People Club (it's in Dutch, of course, but I still enjoyed it).
Have you ever thought about having a Dutch Dictionary on your site?  Just basic words! ;)
Thank you-
Hopeless Romantic

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, February 11th
A Winter Love Story
Mum marries a doctor, MOC, house hunting. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Winter Wedding - Reprise

Love it or hate it, Winter Wedding is one of the most memorable books in the canon.  I really appreciate the fact that I can quote it, chapter and verse (figuratively, of course). 

I can't decide which of Emily's sisters I dislike the most.  Louisa is the obvious choice - after all, she practically kills the twins...but I'm willing to cut her a bit of slack because, although she doesn't enjoy it, she does spend a lot of time babysitting said twins. Also she's young. Mind you, only a bit of slack.
Mary, on the other hand, seems to feel no compunction about dumping twin babies on her younger sisters for Months. On. End.  I dunno...I guess, for me, Louisa wins the bad sister/aunt award (entirely on the strength of the dreaded Seconal Overdose Episode.

Which sister is your least fav?
Betty Debbie

When Betty Debbie and I divvied up our book selections we each had our favorites. Let's just say that if this were a game of dodge-ball and I were picking teams then Winter Wedding is the slim-hipped nimble kid with a wicked throwing arm. But I didn't want to review it until I had 'been to the mountain', so to speak. Well, it's been almost a year since we've started the blog. I've been to the mountain.

Emily Seymour, 23, is my favorite kind of Neels heroine. Dauntless, pleasant (but not really pretty), plump (ah, but with the right foundation garments...), and stuck in a mire not of her own making.
It's November, bitterly cold, and she's camped out in God's Little Acre--east of the rock and west of the hard place. She works the dreaded night shift, is raising her sister Mary's eight month old twins (which I hasten to mention have not been dumped in her lap because Mary is a coke head--she's in the Middle East with her husband who is languishing in prison on trumped up...oh. Yes. I suppose hashish could be considered a recreational drug. What makes you ask?), has a worse-than-useless model cum baby-minder in little sister Louisa and just overheard the most ego-murdering banter in her life. 
...Am I to be fobbed off with that prim miss? Surely there's another nurse...a small, plump creature who merges into the background from whatever angle one looks at her...The only females who grow on me are beautiful blondes who don't go beetroot red every time I look at them. 

The good news is that this dastard's opinion changes. The bad news is that that wasn't Sammy the Long-Haired-and-Handsy-Lab-Assistant. Ladies, grab your garters. That was our hero--Professor Renier Jurres-Romeijn!
What disappointingly pedestrian tastes he runs to. How delicious will be the wreckage of his Citadel of Certitude.
They save the life of Emily's former boss, Mr. Wright (wherein she displays her usual 'relaxed ease' even when things at home and abroad are grim), and Renier meets Louisa. (Falling down in front of his Jag and faking a sprained ankle? Come on, Louisa. You're an Evil Genius. I expect better.)
Renier is amused by the contrast, no doubt. Mousy and no-nonsense older sister/gorgeous and scheming little sister. I don't forgive him for giving Louisa the time of day (you don't handle vipers, Renier, you call exterminators) but hanging about the Wee Dumpy Cottage on the Scrap of Wilderness lets him see more of Emily's sterling qualities.
And then we come to the night of the hospital ball, otherwise known as, The Apocalyptic-ly Awful End Times of Emily. Let us study the signs and wonders:
  • Sammy the Long-Haired-and-Handsy-Lab-Assistant asks her out on a bet.
  • Excited to be going at all (and maybe surprising a certain Professor), Emily plans her wardrobe...only to find that the Professor has asked Louisa...oh, and she'll need all the money Miss Em has.
  • After feeling really ill-used, Emily decides to make the best of a bad job and add her grandmother's locket to camouflage her frumpy neckline. Louisa has hocked it. (That's my little Evil Genius!)
  • Sammy ditches her at the dance (even though she moves like a dream!) and hands her some punch.
  • Er...that's not punch making her cheeks a mottled red. It's three and a half glasses of fruity vodka (and some Elizabeth Arden blusher applied with a trowel).
  • And, naturally, it's the Professor who finds her (drunk and ugly and abandoned), pours coffee down her throat and gets her home. I vote she abscond with the babies to New Zealand. Who's with me?
Renier has meanwhile found out how Louisa financed her smashing glamor of the night before and is a little less amused by the unblushing blonde than he was before.
Editorial Note:
This does not stop him from letting her use him for rides and dates whenever she wishes. Renier is still a little bit dumb.
But I haven't even got to the part about the Seconal yet! Without further ado...
What do you get when you cross a petulant pre-model, a once-in-a-...er...-lifetime dress show, and a leviathan sense of entitlement?
If you said a Seconal overdose and stomach-pumping catatonic twins than you could already be a winner!
Coming upon the scene at a fortuitous/awkward moment, Renier leaps to the conclusion that Emily's been doping them and rips into her ferociously (naturally after turning little William and Claire inside out). Enter Louisa. Disclosures. Tears. Noticeable non-ripping into Louisa. And then they're sending the blonde assassin home in a cab and all is quiet in the ambulance bay.
Editorial Note: I argue that it is here that Renier has his dawning realization...or over dinner...because you know he's taking her out for treacle tart after an accusation like that. But he's still seeing Louisa so chalk that one up to the Mysteries of The Great Betty...
And then Mary and George get out of "The Middle East Prison"! (cough*rehab*cough) Emily breezes back to the hospital to resign only to be cold-cocked by a dawning realization of her own. 'It's more than that,' he said slowly. 'You look as though someone had lighted a torch inside you.
...'No,' she managed, and meant 'Yes--you.'
She's desolate because she won't be seeing him again.
But wait! (Betty reaches into her bag of tricks) There's more!
She travels to Holland to nurse Mr. Wright in Renier's home. (Suh-weeet!)
This interlude is punctuated with shopping trips (wherein a charming rose pink flyaway chiffon dress augments her basic wardrobe), dressing for dinner, hasty kisses (happily, not that hasty), salty elderly ladies who loathe silver tissue trouser suits with the heat of seven fiery winds...and blonde tartlets as far as the eye can see.
Editorial Note:
Like I said, Renier is kind of dumb (but it's so adorable at this point when he is thoroughly put out that she's not landing in his lap). What better way to catch a girl whom you have called plump and blushing (read: shy) and a nonentity than to dangle Vogue models and leggy Heleens under her nose? But I give him points for originality. Emily is eaten up with jealousy. He's just too dumb to get that this is a bad idea. No matter. He will make a splendid husband.
On Christmas day, Emily receives the gift of her once-hocked locket. Renier. (Ah! What a sweetheart. If only he'd also dropped-kicked the little tramp who sold it, too...)
In a daring, weather-related rescue Emily saves Grandma Jurres-Romeijn's life but won't, when Renier humbly (well, for him humbly), asks her to stay and nurse the old lady. She's going back to England and if anyone wants to send her down a mine shaft to nurse and rescue some Chilean miners then she's the gal.
Away to the bare London blocks to hide herself in miserable obscurity! Until one day (not too much later) he's there sitting in her only decent chair...
The End

Rating: Obviously, my love for this one knows no bounds. Mountains of Lashings of Whipped Cream--a veritable Grand Canyon of Cream. But why? To enumerate:
  • Emily has a been handed a crap sandwich, if you'll forgive the term. Twins, Louisa, vodka punch, petty larceny, frumpy clothes, the night shift, snow, a bleak flat, mishandled pharmaceuticals and accusations of criminal carelessness...and she's nigh on Unsinkable. She isn't one of those dummies who think that Louisa is just the best sister ever or that Sammy is anything other than a warm body on the dance floor but she's not going to wallow in the muck.
  • Our hero is clue.less. He's doing his poor best but he's playing catch up from the word go. He keeps trying to goad her into plucking him off the tree like a ripened mango but, in the end, he's the one who has to travel to her side of town and chance his heart. Yay, Betty! He's not one of our stoic fellows who sail placidly through life without fuss or bother. Renier will be a mite more tempestuous (having moods and so forth) and probably more fun.
  • Louisa, as bad as she is, isn't (except for the Seconal--which situation arose out of selfishness not malice) nearly the most irredeemable Neels villainess (though I looooooove hating her). I envision her meeting Renier's younger brother and getting the education of her young life. If he's willing to trouble making her into a worthwhile human being (deep-tissue psychoanalysis, one of those desert boot-camps for delinquent youths and a lobotomy) and keep the medicine cabinet firmly locked then those two crazy kids could make it!
To sum up: I love this one! Go get it.

Food: Cereal and coddled eggs (these are scrambled, yes?), the notorious vodka punch, copious amounts of strong coffee, steak and kidney pie, treacle tart, fish and chips, brown bread ice cream (must try this), rib of beef, frozen lemon cup with a lemon sorbet, avocado pears with shrimp stuffing, turtle soup (First, find a turtle...), turkey, flaming Christmas pudding (alcohol and an open flame!), and olie bollen to ring in the Dutch New Year.

Fashion: A sensible coat, rubber boots and a wooly hat, pantyhose, a flowered crepe dress, blue organza, a silver locket (that she could have taken her sister to small claims court over, I suppose), a highly objectionable pink frilled shirt, and a velvet skirt with several tops (for all those sartorially sticky moments when a nurse's salary must pass muster in a mansion). Grandma wears a grey chiffon with her diamonds while Emily enchants in a rose pink flyaway chiffon. Unacceptable tartlets don silver tissue trouser suits and whistle eligible bachelors down the wind.