Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter

The Founding Bettys hope everyone had a lovely Easter!
A sunny first Easter for baby Henry.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, April 1st.
A Christmas Proposal

Bertha, acid yellow hand-me-down, shrimp pink hand-me-down,  lime green....

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Christmas Romance--Reprise

Good morning, Dear Bettys!
This particular book reminds me of two things:
1) Our heroine is called Theodosia--A name that reminds me that I have to really get on this baby girl naming thing.  The denizens of the Huis van Voorhees are stymied, lost, wandering in the weeds of female monikers.  Theodosia is old, rare and difficult.  Mijnheer van Voorhees likes names that are spellable, semi-pedestrian and classic (Audrey, Abigail, Tricia, Lucy, Ruth, etc.) I like names that are classic, spellable and semi-rare (Mae, Sadie, Miranda, Alice, etc.).  Our Venn Diagram is overlapping with names I am not LOVING.  Your suggestions (real or Betty-inspired or both) would be much appreciated. 
2) Theodosia (whose name I really do adore for the book) shops at a thrift store (Oxfam) for the grey dress she wears to the important dance.  Have I ever mentioned that Betty Debbie and Betty Keira's little sister (Bettty Tia) bought her wedding dress (for a second, low-key wedding) at a thrift shop?  Eight dollars.  It was a practically perfect dissertation on understatement and appropriateness--a lovely white, full-length cotton number with long sleeves and some bodice detail.  But not all ladies would have the chutzpah to follow that lead.
Well, I'm off to the doctor's this morning!  Hope for the best! ("My, what good effacement you have.")
Love and lardy cakes,
Betty Keira    

Dear Family and Friends,

Hugo and I have had the most wonderful year. It's nice to be able to catch up with those of you who missed the happenings of last Christmas. My goodness, we had an exciting time.

We were married just DAYS after Christmas. The special license speeded things up a ton, and a quiet church wedding was just what the doctor ordered. Hugo's sister Rosie was there, along with her husband and children, so we weren't entirely without family.

As many of you know, I don't have any family except for the Great-Aunts. Before Hugo, I was sharing an attic bedsit with Gustavus(my cat) and counting my meager blessings, when Hugo and I met at the hospital. It was sheer chance that Miss Prescott should send me down to Sister's office with some diet sheets at the same time Hugo was looking for them. It was love at first sight for him. I took a week or two longer.

Hugo was sooo adorable. He kept offering me rides in his great socking Bentley - mostly when I needed to visit the Great-Aunts. He even gave me a kiss on the cheek in front of them (he later told me that he often wanted to kiss me, but he held back because he was afraid of scaring me off!)!

The hospital ball was fabulous. I wore a grey dress that was 'new to me'...with a bit of hand-stitching and dim lighting I don't think it looked too bad. At any rate, Hugo wasn't embarrassed to dance with me - he even took me home!

We had a lovely lunch at Fortnum & Mason's. Hugo caught me as I was rushing off to do some shopping for the Great-Aunts. Instead of spending my entire lunch hour picking up all of their Christmas foodstuffs, Hugo simply handed the list to an employee and asked that the lot be ready in half an hour. Gosh, what a fun way to grocery shop! Leave the boring stuff to the experts and have a relaxing lunch. Hugo just barely restrained himself from kissing the tip of my nose when I thanked him for a lovely time.

Of course I needed to take the box of food to the Great-Aunts that weekend, and Hugo very sweetly fibbed and said it just so happened that he was going that way also. I nearly froze to death during my weekend with the aunts...they are enthusiastic environmentalists! They eat much of their food either cold or underdone, not only that, but they keep their thermostat set at a positively glacial temperature. Brrr. Hugo could see right away that I wasn't in good tick, so he very sweetly swung by his home to give me a nice hot dinner and some medication for my cold. When he dropped me off at my bedsit he kissed me. I was concerned that he might catch my cold, but he must have a iron-clad immune system. That kiss is what made me realize I was in love. TMI?

Hugo was out of town for the whole week, and I missed him terribly - I had no idea he was gone until I overheard a couple of nurses talking. He didn't get back until Sunday morning - when he nearly ran over me. That was my fault. I was trying to flag down some help for an old lady who had just been run over. He was marvelous at stopping the bleeding. I did what I could to help - mostly by discussing the elements of a Christmas dinner. I know, I know, I sound useless - but I did keep her calm until the morphine kicked in.

Hugo ran me home to change(I was covered in blood *shudder*) - then we went to his place for a proper breakfast. This was the day we got Maximilian! Hugo saw the look in my eye and that was all it took. He never can resist that look.

The following weekend, Hugo invited me to see his country cottage. It may not be big and fancy, but it is a delightful place to retreat to. Hugo gave me a big scare while we were there - he said that he planned to get married and that the girl he was going to marry approved of the cottage. How was I supposed to know he meant me? This led to a tiny misunderstanding on my part when I saw him with his arm draped across ANOTHER WOMAN(!!!) a few days later. Little did I realize that woman was my soon to be best friend and sister-in-law, Rosie.

Things came to a head for us on Christmas Eve. I was supposed to be going to stay with the aunts - but they sent me a letter that morning telling me not to come because they had given my room to some friends of theirs. Instead of spending Christmas with them, I now faced being alone with Gustavus. Hugo tracked me down, we sorted out my misunderstanding and he proposed!!We really are blissfully happy. Hugo works hard at the hospital, but spends every spare minute he can with me, Max and Gustavus. In other news, we expect a new addition(s) to our little family any day now.

Happy Christmas to you and yours,
Hugo, Theodosia, Max & Gustavus

p.s. Betty Debbie sends her regards along with Lashings and Lashings of Whipped Cream!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Betty in the Wild

Dr. van der Stevejinck and I took our youngest pledge (who turned 18 during our trip) to Orlando, while our daughter, her husband and their four pledges drove down from South Carolina. We had a lovely week...and I even remembered to take a few Betty in the Wild pictures...though I am tempted to call these "Betty and the Princesses"...

I took Cordelia and Charles (Magic in Vienna) along with me. Magic Kingdom/Magic in Vienna - it seemed appropriate.

No trip to the Magic Kingdom is complete without a photo op in front of Cinderella's castle.

While not exactly a great socking Bentley, I was sitting on the passenger side - British passenger side...while my 7 year old granddaughter gleefully sped down the expressway at the maximum allowable speed. Let's just say, she won't be getting her Advanced Driver's Certificate anytime soon.
Cordelia, Belle, and anonymous Beast's library! (my camera ran out of memory right after this picture, and I didn't clear it out in time to get more)
True, there is no picture of Cordelia here, but my granddaughter was enjoying the moment...
...and I did attempt a picture...but as you can see, it wasn't going to work...
...undaunted, I handed my book to Cinderella for an autograph, which she was much too gracious to refuse.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Somewhat Less Metaphysical Baby Shower

Dear Bettys!
I have read with interest and amusement the offerings of your Betty-inspired alter-egos to my Virtual Baby Shower.  I particularly find myself partial to Betty van den Betsy's offer to be Sarah Fletcher (cooking, fetching and carrying...).  My only question is, how soon can you come?

Though it wouldn't be exactly kosher for the expectant mother to participate, I wanted to log on as The Vogue Model in the Gold Lame Pantsuit. I would trip in on ridiculous, flimsy heels all unaware that my offering, Good Bourbon...for teething, would be viewed with raised eyebrows and mild outrage.  My days would be numbered but I would mean well.

But on to the Shower of Knitted Goods!  What?  Yes, Bettys.  I was showered with other things as well but Betty Kylene (who devotes whole seasons to knitting) and her ally, my friend Paula (a Ward-maid Maisie if Maisie were interested in fashioning period-correct Oregon Trail garb (down to hand made corsets and corded petticoats!) in her off hours), rained their bounty on my head.

Since La Neels was so interested in knit-wear, I HAD to show it off:

The Pledges of Huis van Voorhees generally come in the strapping (cough*9 lbs*cough) variety--not needing the tender ministrations of Gold Medalist Rose Comely or the eye of Professor Baron Tiele Max van der Sibbelt ter Brandt--and we hope to wear this cute little number home from the hospital.

Betty Kylene, being somewhat cheeky, couldn't resist a gentle reference to the most hard-fought battle at The Uncrushable Jersey Dress short of whether The Hasty Marriage is the BEST Betty book (yes, yes it is--no throwing things Betty JoDee!) or the worst. Baby turbans?  Okay, maybe.  Of course, it helped that Betty Debbie's grandson (secure in his awesomeness) was happy to model it and win us over.

The gorgeous A-symetrical number in lovely winter white that, I imagine, could only be drooled over by a frustrated doctor's wife in the baby department of Harrods while she contemplates her cold, loveless marriage.  As she inspects each tiny, perfect stitch she will be filled with a sudden resolve to fix it.

Sarah van Elven, enjoying implied conjugal relations in a snowed-in Scottish croft, would be anxious, no doubt, to warm her first pledge of affection from the brisk Autumn wind several months later with knitwear and hats.  Lots and lots of hats.

Julia van der Maes, her entrepreneurial spirit dashed by a faulty business model and a limited Mills and Boon word count, would channel her talents into producing the best knit-wear the more exclusive London suburbs would ever see.  Would it be her fault if, upon seeing a fabulously honeycombed bodice and coordinating, ribbed bonnet, the ladies of the area would begin commissioning her for her work?  How nice not to have the hassles of a store-front shop, she smiled as she knitted, where the takings would be slim and the overhead high, instead enjoying the patronage of the insanely wealthy all under her husband's nose... 
Baby Henry van Oeste ter Lindemann rocks hats and bonnets.  For you, Gentle Bettys!
Betty Kylene, had to feed her family sometime (not being contracted into actual sweatshop conditions), and presented Betty Keira with a shoe and a half.  Betty Keira was delighted and could not help but think of the story of the fairy tale of The Wild Swans.  She hoped that her littlest pledge was not stuck with a bird foot forever...

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, March 25th
A Christmas Romance
Attic bedsit, not so 'great' great aunts, groceries from Fortnum & Mason.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Roses For Christmas - Reprise

In honor of yesterday being St. Patrick's Day...I offer another Patrick from Ireland: Our Hero Fulk, has an Irish wolfhound named Patrick O'Flanelly

Um...that's all.

I love the idea of Eleanor wearing her old clothes around the MacFarlane homestead - because that's exactly what I would be wearing in similar circs.  I was just talking to Betty Keira - she is currently (at 7am), wearing an old t-shirt of her husband's, paint stained sweats and I'm sure her hair is delightfully tousled.  I am wearing a dress,  my hair has been styled, AND I have a necklace on...and I have been dressed like this since 5:20am.  Betty Keira will soon be showering and tarting herself up for a doctor's appointment (just over 3 weeks to go!!!!), while I, on the other hand, will be doffing the dress and necklace in favor of yoga pants and a tshirt.  

What are you wearing?

Eleanor MacFarlane, 25, lives in the tippy-top of Scotland. And when you live in the tippy-top of Scotland you should be pretty safe against unexpected visitors interrupting your free time and any raised eyebrows over your wardrobe choices (no matter how scummy). I mean, you know you're in the wop-wops when the nearest town of any name is Tongue.
But Eleanor didn't bank on Fulk van Hensum, 36, showing up in her life again.
Yes. Again.
There was a torrid affair lasting some years that broke off due to his insistence on her abandoning her career ambitions. She's been hiding out in the tippy-top of Scotland (building up a world-class 'consultation' empire) ever since--working to ruin him and dreading the day he would walk back into her life.
(But can't you totally see another Harlequin of similar vintage with just that plot?)
No, Fulk is a friend of the family and he knew Eleanor when she was a five-year-old terror. That he catches her at her most unglamorous (sitting in the barn, eating an apple and playing with kittens) is an annoyance.
Editorial Note: I must have read this as one of my first Neels because the 11 year age gap felt really big. Silly me.
Their re-acquaintance is swift enough to cover all the pertinent details.
Him: Married? No. Engaged? Yes...Do you always dress like this?
Her: You're just as hateful as you were when you were a boy.
Her antipathy toward him is as irrational as his love for her is sudden. And pity the poor man. One minute he's engaged to Imogen (a name whose Latin meaning is 'image of her mother'--which is both hilarious and illuminating) and the next moment he has chucked his bonnet over the windmill for the gorgeous former-ankle-biter. All this is reason enough to excuse his wicked twitting of Eleanor, if you need one.
He takes a shine to her eight-year-old little brother, Henry, whose medical frailty is like a looming billboard over the proceedings. (Buy rheumatic fever! Satisfaction guaranteed! New, brighter formula!)
Fast forward a month. Eleanor is visiting home when a sudden blizzard traps Henry, his teacher and several other boys on a mountain-like pass.
Editorial Note: I love this episode. Fulk calls Eleanor his 'pocket compass' (which passes for a compliment in the tippy-top of Scotland) and they both have to pilot an aged school bus up some treacherous roads--showing up as brave, hearty, and full of good spirits.
Even though Henry escapes the event in relatively good health, Eleanor and Fulk's medical spidey-senses detect signs of an approaching illness. To head off any downturns, Fulk invites little Henry to Holland. Eleanor accompanies them to the passport offices and spends her time making a list (Doubly underlined) titled Things I Would Like to Have:
  • Roses for Christmas
  • Sable coat
  • Gina Fratini dress
  • Givenchy scarf
  • Marks and Spencer sweater
  • toothpaste
  • surgical scissors
  • every paperback I want
(It is an exhaustive list with catholic tastes. Pause here to wonder if Fulk sees the list.)
Interlarded in all this to-ing and fro-ing Eleanor finds out that Imogen (Oh that's right. Imogen.) is in Cannes. We don't know exactly how Fulk feels about her absence and he manages to answer any questions Eleanor puts to him with all the piercing specificity of a Chinese fortune cookie. (Confucius say Guinea-blonde in Cannes, an American millionaire will find.)
And then Henry's illness goes from hypothetical to nearly lethal. The rheumatic fever has arrived. Fulk fetches Eleanor, makes time to ogle her legs in the airport lounge and then whisks her off to her brother's side.
This part of the book is where our hero is thoughtful and distant--managing to convey the kind of interest and concern one might expect of one's insurance salesman. He avoids her as often as possible as they get Henry slowly back on his feet.
Baroness Oss van Oss (Imogen-image-of-her-mother's mother) is pretty much the supercilious harpy you would expect, swooping in to make sure her daughter's fiance isn't playing patty-fingers with the nurse. That Eleanor by this time knows she loves Fulk (and that Imogen's mother might have a point) makes no dent on her moral outrage.
Fulk rushes off to Cannes for a weekend and Eleanor stews like a girl who minds. (Naturally she minds.)
Things float along for a while in a trench warfare kind of way--either side is going nowhere and poison gas attacks are kept to a minimum--until one day Imogen (the much anticipated Imogen) shows up in Fulk's house. 
Imogen isn't exactly raining hellfire and brimstone on the poor nurse's head--she's catty, to be sure (Mama said you were pretty, and I suppose you are in a large way, but not in the least chic--I wonder what Fulk sees in you?), but marvelously direct when Eleanor tells her to wait for Fulk.
'But you're going to marry him--you love him,' declared Eleanor persevering.
'No I'm not, and I don't.'
'Well, now what?'
Fulk will take care of 'now what'. He's got dozens and dozens of roses for Christmas if she'd care to step into the next room. He's going to do his proposing in style.
The End

Rating: I didn't dislike it but I wasn't in love with this one either. Maybe I've been suffering an embarrassment of riches (The Mistletoe Kiss last week and A Christmas Romance coming up) so that this selection is being judged against those really great offerings.
The characters are interesting, they have a compelling back story (a hero who remembers her when she was a snotty ankle-biter! Yes!) and they have a menacing (if traditional) threat of Imogen the Affianced.
But, like making jello in a heatwave, this story never quite gels for me. The Great Betty tells us that they're getting along but more often she shows us that they're ready to fly off the handle with one another--not that that is unexpected in the circumstances. If I had a mad passion for a man and he was engaged to a guinea-gold paragon I might find myself easily nettled as well.
Henry is that rare literary child who is a genuine delight and Ma and Pa MacFarlane add a homey and tolerant touch to the mix.
The beginning and the end are really the best parts for me and the culmination is charming.
Tasty Mince pie for me.

Food: Ice cream with nuts, boiled fish, nourishing stew, braised heart, spaghetti on toast (I need to be assured that this would be garlic toast.), hake and chips, poffertjes, Crowdie (a parcel of which Fulk is taking back to Holland for Henry who is sick), ham souffle, baked apples and cream, caramel custard and ragout of game.

Fashion: She meets him again wearing old slacks and a thick shabby sweater. She dons a russet tweed suit to impress him and has a tweed coat and fur hat. His servants give him a dreadful tiefor Saint Nicolaas which she doesn't doubt he will wear.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, March 18th
Roses for Christmas
Scotland, sickly little brother, and a list of "Things I Would Like to Have".

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Very Betty Baby Shower

As most of you know, Betty Keira is due to deliver another 'pledge' (a girl) in just under ONE MONTH!!! This Friday, Betty Kylene is hosting a baby shower in Portland - 200 miles away from me, and much, much farther for many of you...which got me thinking that we should host a baby shower right here on TUJD.

Brilliant, I know.

Instead of actually buying/making/sending a present to Betty Keira I thought it would be fun to share what Betty Neels character we would like to be, and what we would give her if we actually were Araminta Susannah Emily Dawlish-Fford.  For those of you who are metaphorically (I hope metaphorically) scratching your heads in...

  • a. amazement
  • b. puzzlement
  • c. dandruff
I will clarify.

My character of choice is Ermentrude Foster from The Mistletoe Kiss.  As you may remember, Ermentrude was pretty handy with a Emmy (much better than Ermentrude) would make Betty Keira a beautifully hand stitched piece of embroidered art to go on the nursery wall. 

Betty Keira flushed prettily as she tried to come up with a nice way of telling Betty Debbie (aka Ermentrude) that there was no way on earth she would hang those embroidered pieces in her little angel's nursery.  No. Way.

Now it's your turn.  Let's see what we can come up with by Friday.  

A Christmas Wish--Reprise

The rosy fingers of Dawn didn't tickle us awake at Casa van Voorhees.  It was more like a smack across the cheek.  Daylight Savings Time (Do other countries enjoy this bi-yearly torture or is it just we few, we unlucky few, we Americans?) is always a bit of a bother.  Add to that, a lingering family-wide chest cold (augmented by my youngest pledge with vomiting (!) and eye-welding sleep gunk), being 8 (!) months pregnant and a Media-Free Fortnight ('This sounds very Betty,' you say. 'It is,' I reply--no media for two weeks and 10 days in, I'm not going to lie, it's killing me.) and what you have is a failure to appreciate being told by the oppressive hand of a nigh-dictatorial State that 6am is really 7am. 
But Betty Debbie is back from her sojourn on the incorrect coast and, let me tell you dear Bettys, that outweighs the entirety of the other, less happy, side of the ledger.  Don't you just LOVE Betty Debbie?  Because I do.
Love and lardy cakes (and a great lie-abed if you can afford it),
Betty I-promise-not-to-always-be-so-grousing Keira   

It's funny that a book with the title 'A Christmas Wish' should be so thinly connected with Christmas. I strongly suspect that the title owes more to publishing exigencies than anything else. I'm not saying bah, humbug, it just means you'll have to get your Christmas fix elsewhere.

Olivia Harding is THE Olivia...famed in song and story. A tall, junoesque red head with a cheerful disposition who has been dating Rodney the Rat for a few years. That's our girl. She's 27, 'on the verge of 28'. By the end of the book verging on 29...
Banished to the dismal hospital dungeon as file clerk with Debbie, The Incompetent But Cute, Olivia bursts into song. ♫Oh,what a beautiful morning♫ (Trilled somewhat off-key)... Enter handsome stranger. He's there to get the notes for Eliza Brown which he asked for and to return Elizabeth Brown's notes which were sent by mistake. And so begins a story that takes nearly a year from start to finish (February or March-ish to January-ish). Olivia and Haso are bumper cars (or, if you prefer, 'dodgems') in the game of love. They bump into each other at irregular intervals...but after a couple of initial bumps that are quite accidental, Haso starts aiming for Olivia's car.
Olivia selflessly offers to be the file clerk to be made redundant during the hospital 'downsizing'...Debbie the Incompetent But Cute needs the job much more than Olivia does. Don't worry about me, I can turn my hand to anything, she cheerfully tells her soon to be ex co-worker. Unfortunately, she really can't (turn her hand to anything). 'She couldn't use a word-processor, she had no idea how to work with a computer and a cash register was a closed book as far as she was concerned.' File clerk jobs were pretty thin on the ground, and Olivia was starting to get a bit desperate. Haso hears from Debbie about Olivia's joblessness and he 'bumps' fate a bit and in a very roundabout way, manages to get Olivia a job offer as a Jill of all trades at the boarding school that his goddaughter Nel goes to.
Easter holidays come round and Olivia is surprised and delighted to see Haso coming up the steps. Haso is not at all surprised, but he manages to look it. He is there with Rita, Nel's mum, to pick up Nel for the holidays. Olivia puts one and one together and assumes that Haso and Rita are part of that equation. They're not, but she doesn't know that. Olivia spends the holidays with her mum and granny in London - which is loads of fun when you have a granny like hers. A granny that refers to Olivia as 'her great disappointment' - in front of Haso and Nel. Oh well, at least Olivia has a pleasant ride back to school with him. They get on quite well together...well, she's a friendly, unpretentious girl - predisposed to like people in general. Haso sees a wedding invite on the mantle - a wedding invite to Rodney the Rat's wedding...which is in a month or two. Editor's Note: Get used to the pacing - most of Olivia and Haso's interactions have a gap of weeks or months in between. Olivia takes a bus to Bath and manages to put together a suitably glamorous outfit for the wedding - a dress that looked like linen, but was nothing of the sort (from British Home Stores), a wide straw hat from a department store and a length of green ribbon to dress it up. Those items along with a pair of Italian shoes from more prosperous days and a pair of good stone-coloured gloves(also from better days).
End of's time for Nel to get picked up for summer vacation - and another chance for Haso and Olivia to chat - over a joint of beef and a ham. He proves his handiness with a carving knife...'he carved the meat in a manner worthy of his calling'.
Haso just happens to be going her way - and offers to take her up to London. Lunch at his place is enlightening - in a dawning realization way. She realizes she's in love, and yes, her immediate thought is that she must hide her love away and never see him again. Thankfully those resolutions are very quickly tossed out the window.
Nel expresses a wish to Haso to see Olivia while they are in London. He's more than happy to have an excuse to see her - but then Rita invites herself along. You just know this won't end well. And it doesn't. Olivia is not at home - the thought of six weeks of summer vacation at granny's place was daunting so instead of hanging around the house, Olivia has gotten a part-time job at The Coffee-Pot. Which is where our hero, Nel and Rita find her. Rita senses competition and positively sparkles at Haso - while being rude and condescending to Olivia. Olivia assumes more about Rita and Haso's relationship than it deserves. Haso doesn't have any interest in hooking up with Rita. The one and only reason he is nice to her and spends a little time with her is Nel. Haso is a trustee and godfather to the little girl - and frankly shows more feeling for her than her own mother does.
Back at school Olivia doesn't see Haso again until Sports Day. Which is some time before half term. Let's say early fall. A page or two later it's end of term...just before Christmas break. Rita didn't keep a promise to Nel of attending the school program, but really, what did you expect? Olivia does get a bit of a shock - not from Rita's lack of attendance - no, it's worse...she's sacked. That means it's back to Grandmother's flat we go.
Sylvester Crescent is rather a depressing sight. Evidently the 'genteel' inhabitants are above putting anything so crass as Christmas decorations and/or trees up. Mr. Patel's corner store is the only cheerful sight. Mr. Patel is a sweetie pie. We'll see more of him soon. In the meantime, Haso and Nel stop by with a Christmas floral arrangement and Haso learns of employment difficulties. Which might be why he sends a large Christmas basket by way of Mr. Patel. Half a page later Christmas is over and it's the day after Boxing Day.
Haso needs a favor, and Olivia is his go-to girl. He's in Holland with Nel. Nel ran away from Mevrouw Schalk the wart faced housekeeper of Rita's. Haso would like Olivia to fly over and take care of Nel until things can be 'worked out'. Well, of course she'll come...
Olivia and Nel spend a couple of days in Amsterdam, culminating in a visit to Rita. Rita would much rather keep mean Mrs. Schalk than her own daughter. Haso drives Olivia and Nel up to Friesland to spend a few days at his mother's place. After saying goodbye Haso practically runs back to kiss her goodbye. He plans to come back in a few days to sort things out. Indeed, he comes back twice. The first time he catches her and Nel playing with his younger brother Dirk. A green eyed monster rears it's ugly head briefly - but Olivia takes an early opportunity to assure Haso that Dirk is just like the brother she never had. Whew. That's worth a steamy-ish goodbye kiss.
The next visit is when Things Will Be Resolved. Haso brings Rita...and just as Things Are About To Be Resolved - **RING** - it's A Medical Emergency. Haso has to run back to Amsterdam for a quick operation - he'll be back ASAP. Unfortunately Rita is even ASAPer. Once Haso is out of the way Rita quickly convinces Olivia that Haso is going to marry her, and that Olivia is making a fool of herself, and BTW, here's some money for your fare. Olivia packs her bags, writes a farewell letter to Haso, says goodbye to Mevrouw van der Eisler and Rita (and mentions the letter), then leaves.
The next morning Haso returns to find Olivia gone and the letter she left has mysteriously disappeared. Haso is not mystified at all. He takes Rita's purse and dumps it out. Yup, there in the detritus is Olivia's letter.
Rita: My lipsticks, my powder compact - it's smashed - and my money's spilled over the floor.
Haso: A Look of Utter Contempt.
Best Treatment of A Villainess in Neeldom. Ever.
Haso rushes back to London - he doesn't have to go to Granny's flat. Olivia is filling in at Mr. Patel's corner store. Kissing, proposal, more kissing.
'Love,' said Mr. Patel, and started to pick up the oranges.

Verdict: I love this book. My only two complaints are 1. It takes both characters quite a while to realize they're in love - they only see each other about 8 times in 8 or 9 months... 2. It's really not about the title is a wee bit of false advertising. Nevertheless, I love it. I really think these two kids are going to have a great marriage - he'll be a great dad, she'll make his life funner (yes, funner). Queen of Puddings - and here's a few more reasons why:
Ten Things I love about Olivia: (1)She's cheerful. (2) She's willing to work, not only that, (3)she doesn't consider working at The Coffee Pot beneath her. (4)She doesn't mind telling Haso about how she contrived her outfit that she wears to Rodney's wedding. (5)I love the way she winks at her mother to let her know that Granny isn't getting to her. (6) Her mad skills at being a Jill of All Trades at the boarding school. (7)Playing in the snow with Nel and Dirk - building a snowman and throwing snowballs. (8) The way she tells off Mevrouw Schalk for being unkind to Nel. (9) The way she makes up stories about the big painting at the Rijksmuseum. (10) Did I forget to mention that she gives up her hospital file-clerking job so that Debbie the Incompetent But Cute can keep hers? Ten Things I love about Haso: (1)He's nice to file clerks - helps Debbie do some filing and (2)has enough of a relationship to be able to tell Olivia about Debbie's family circumstances weeks(possibly months) after Olivia has left the hospital. (3)Not only offers to take Olivia to Rodney's wedding, (4)he goes the extra mile and does her proud by wearing a morning suit. (5) He is a very conscientious trustee, taking better care of Nel than her own mother does. (6)He's never mean to Olivia - going to see her when she's waiting tables at The Coffee Pot was not his idea. (7)He drives a great socking Bentley. (8)He never flirts with Rita - who dangles after him fairly blatantly. (9)When he comes back to Friesland and finds that Olivia is gone and so is the letter she left for him, he knows Rita is the culprit and he makes her confess by first dumping out her purse to find the missing letter. (10) He earns Mr. Patel's admiration (and mine) - for his unhurried kissing of Olivia. Five Things I Love to Hate about Mrs. Fitzgibbon. (1) She's the most unpleasant grandmother in Neeldom. (2) She constantly belittles Olivia. (3) She's selfish to the bone. (4) Granny is a social snob (she's distantly related by marriage to a baronet). (5) She only likes to sit in the most uncomfortable chair in the house. And Then There's The Thoroughly (and Easily) Hateable Rita. Earns 'Worst Mother of the Year Award' in the category of Widows with Young Daughters.
Fashion: Olivia may as well be walking around starkers for all the mention of clothing in A Christmas Wish. There is the infamous outfit she wears to Rodney's wedding...but I've already covered that. A blue wool dress - plainly made of good material and hopelessly out of date. Other than that, she borrows a padded jacket and wellies from Mevrouw van der Eisling so that she can play in the snow.
Food: Hospital canteen food: shepherds pie and two veg. Breaking up with Rodney meal: mushrooms in garlic sauce, Dover sole, and a gin and tonic. Rodney waves away the dessert trolley. Lunch at Haso's house: watercress soup with a swirl of cream, lamb cutlets, new potatoes, peas and baby carrots, trifle. During an outing with Haso and Dirk: potat frites with generous dollops of pickles.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Request

via email:

Betty Keira/Betty Debbie

I would like to ask for your help.  I am pursuing a long-delayed Bachelor’s degree from Regis University.  As part of my final semester, I have to complete a research project.  I have chosen to do a study to learn what qualities in a Betty Neels novel today’s readers would find appealing.  My study got off to a rocky start when the professor assigned to advise me on my project read part of the first sentence of my proposal and threw it in the discard heap because it mentioned wanting to write a romance novel!  Hopefully, I can keep your attention a bit longer!  

I want to write a romance novel that pays tribute to my favorite romance writer, Betty Neels.  In order to improve the marketability of such a book, I would like to learn what characteristics of a classic Neels novel modern readers would find appealing in a tribute novel.  To this end, I have designed a survey and would like to ask the members and readers of your forum to take it.  The survey can be found on  

Clicking on the link will take you to a page full of academic red tape/fine print.  This is required by Regis University for anything they deem “human subject research.”  Human subject research seems to include any time you ask anyone anything!  I now wonder if I need informed consent from my DH before I ask him if he wants a kiss!  Click past the fine print and you are in the survey.  Be sure to save your answers at the end!  The survey will be open until March 20, 2013.

Would you be willing to post a link to the survey on TUJD?  I'd be happy to share the results with you if you are interested.


Betty Miller 

Dear Betty Miller,

So sorry that I took so long to post this - I was on vacation when your email came, then I've been sick for over a week! I'm finally crawling out from the rock I've been living under.  
Betty Keira isn't much help right now - she's in her final month...FINAL MONTH!!! (before her baby!).

Good luck with your class!

Love and lardy cakes,
Betty Debbie

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, March 11th 
A Christmas Wish
The Olivia, Jill of all trades, unpleasant  grandmother.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Mistletoe Kiss - Reprise

I worked on this reprise three weeks ago. I was plowing through a few posts so that I wouldn't have to take time away from vacationing with my daughter's family - (with her husband and 4 children) at Disney World this past week.  In fact, as this is being posted I am probably sitting in the airport in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I'm a little bewildered by the fact that we have a layover in Minneapolis...I have always had my connecting flights to or from the east coast through either Atlanta or Chicago.


I reread The Mistletoe Kiss a few weeks ago.  This was one of the very first Betty Neels that I ever read (Betty Keira loaned it to me along with a few others...and so it began...).  I remember being puzzled by a heroine described as plain and plump.  I didn't realize at the time that that was Betty Code for small, buxom and smoking hot to Rich Dutch Doctors. I also didn't get her name - Ermentrude.  I still don't particularly care for the name, but I can pass over it much more lightly now and just think of her as 'Emmy'. 
Betty Debbie

Betty Neels was in her late 80s when she wrote The Mistletoe Kiss. I slap my forehead, sink gobsmacked on the nearest sack of potatoes and goggle my eyes in wonder. May we all be so needle-witted and full of feeling in our sweet 80s...

Once upon a time there was a fair maiden disguised as a ordinary-looking hospital telephonist (operating a telephone is not exactly brain surgery). Ermentrude Foster, 23, is on the lowest rung of the hospital ladder (almost the scullery!) and she is asked to deliver a message to a beast in the tower.
Professor Ruerd ter Mennolt, a neurologist (operating on the human brain turns out to be brain surgery), is really a handsome prince but has been enchanted by a wicked witch named Annaliese. He meets the maiden, suffers the full force of her considerable charm and remains unmoved. Be good enough to tell Miss Crother on no account to send you here again. And then he polishes off a few villagers and lays waste to the countryside. The beast has very thick skin.
Each day, as he comes to and from his tower (to burn cottages and terrify the populace), he notices the little maiden, plying her needle and practicing other 'womanly skills'. He does not want to notice her.
One day, not too long after, Wicked Witch Annaliese flies into town on her broom. Confident that her spell is as powerful as ever, she neglects fully transforming herself into the Fairy Princess alter-ego so necessary to keeping the beast in her coils. Her answering machine voice, he notices, is grating and high-pitched. (Maybe he hears the lilting sounds of woodland singing from his mousy telephonist.) Also, she is not particularly interested in hearing about all the cities he has sacked or all the brains he has held in his hand. The beast develops a pucker in his brow. Maybe, he thinks to himself, my Fairy Princess is not all spun sugar and sticky toffee pudding...
Then there is a bomb.
Ruerd the Beast uses all his supernatural skills to save everyone. (Who will he pillage or terrorize if they're all dead?) And then he finds the maiden stranded. Well, what's a beast to do? He takes Emmy the Maiden to her door, shares her meal and wins her trust. As he leaves he marks her door with a heavy mark. He knows where to get a good meal in future...
Strangely though, it isn't thoughts of gobbling her up that possess his mind. As he passes her humble nook each day he begins to look for her and even to talk with her. This will never do.
Hoping to regain his old irascible self,Ruerd tells the Wicked Witch about the maiden. Maybe speaking her name aloud will make his growing obsession melt away like his mortal self under a full moon.
But it doesn't and, worse, it stirs his Fairy Princess to action.
The Wicked Witch can smell a threat to her enchantment a mile away and the sound of this little Ermentrude simp sends a shiver of fear through her frozen heart. Swooping down on the maiden in all her spun sugar glory, she scatters a few poisoned apples and waits for them to do their work.
Though mortally wounded by the attack, our gentle maiden is no push over. She rallies in time to assist the Beast in choosing a pet.
A pet. The Beast can't believe he's choosing a pet. Of course, he already has a familiar (a cat) but an animal strictly for pleasure...and not for eating? The maiden is beginning to chip away at his shell to find the handsome prince beneath.
He has so little desire to add her to his menu that he arranges for her father to be offered a job in a neighboring village--far enough away, he hopes, that he will be saved from his own temptations.
Unfortunately, the world holds more dangers than wicked witches and flesh-eating beasts. Emmy, alone in her cottage, is set upon by two highwaymen. She mostly vanquishes them by masterfully wielding a common umbrella. Sadly, the margin between entirely vanquishing andmostly vanquishing a thief is a mild concussion and unsightly bouts of vomiting.
Who should she send for but the Beast who seems considerably less toothy and hairy than when they first met...
As for the Beast, he loves her, of course he does. He has taken a long look at himself in the inevitably cracked mirror in his gloomy beastly lair and admits it to himself at last. But it is foolishness. 'She would forget him. Only he wouldn't forget her...' 
Her concussion gives him an excuse to indulge himself in foolishness a while longer. Telling lies enough to shame a sinner and exaggerating her concussed condition, he manages to invite her father and mother and herself to join him in Holland (hereditary homeland of beasts like him) for Christmas.
His Fairy Princess will be none too pleased, he considers, but her wrath will just have to be dealt with. Nothing will get in the way of keeping the maiden with him...for a little bit longer.
At the beast's magnificent castle Emmy the Maiden looks into the Mirror of Erised (oh, no, wrong story) and sees herself happily wed to a handsome prince. Because her maiden heart beats true she is able to clearly see that this is the beast in his true form and she discovers she loves him. Of course she does.
Aware of perils ahead (to her heart and (thanks to the Wicked Witch's brewing powers) to her health), Emmy reminds herself, 'I must be circumspect...'
Meanwhile, two princesses (sisters of the beast) have fallen at Emmy's feet like the rescuing antidote she is. Princess Joke and Princess Alemke exchanged a quick look. Here was the answer to their prayers. This small girl with the plain face was exactly what they had in mind for their brother. But Ruerd, deep in his painful transformation from beast to man, has to keep himself well away from the maiden. Each moment with her threatened to carry him away on a tide of feeling. He wondered why the sight of her in a sensible nightdress with her hair hanging untidily in a cloud around her shoulders, should so disturb him in a way which Annaliese, even in the most exquisite gown, never had.
But one day the heady temptation of her proximity undermines his rigid control. Passing off the fierce and possessive kiss he gives her as a bit of mistletoe nonsense and beastly behavior is a lie and he knows it.
The Wicked Witch, her Fairy Princess disguise wearing thin around the edges, casts more enchantments and spells to little avail. The beast (hardly a beast at all now) is lost to her but she'll be cursed if there's going to be a happily ever after--not if she has anything to do with it.
She dips an arrow in deadly poison and lets fly. White-faced and shaken, Emmy is able still to banish her from the castle but staying with the prince is now impossible.
She turns to her Fairy God-uncleOom Domas, and asks him to escort her back home to her cottage. He agrees, though with some misgivings. But he must grant the wish as that is a FairyGod-uncle's job.
However, before they leave, Emmy the Maiden, with the courage of ten men, follows the wounded Beast (wounded at her news of her departure) out to the wind-lashed dunes. I'm going because I'm in love with you. You know that, don't you?
...He kissed her soundly. 'We will talk later. I'm going to kiss you again.'
And then the Beast was never a beast again.
And they lived Happily Ever After

Rating: I just adored this one from beginning to end. Ermentrude is so friendly and has so few deferential feelings toward Ruerd (at least until her Dawning Realization) that he is disarmed and then captivated. Expecting to be treated like the eminent professor that he is, Emmy instead adopts him just as she would a lost puppy.
The tension in this feels very like that in An Ordinary Girl--hero, engaged to one girl, finds himself pursuing (quite madly) another. The principles like one another throughout and the angst revolves around seeing if hero will let himself go. This is also one of the best books for supporting that 'I loved you from the start but didn't know it right away' tropes.
But Ermentrude. Any takers on whether Betty Neels named her that for a drunken bar bet?
The Mistletoe Kiss is particularly good in the supporting characters department--his sisters, her parents, even his Oom Domus. Brilliant.
Lashings of Whipped Cream for me.

Food: Chocolate cake, tiny macaroons, lemonade, bacon, eggs enough to start a poultry farm, mushroom soup, sole a' la femme, apricot pavlova, roast pheasant, smoked salmon with brown bread and butter, game chips, creme brulee, lobsterThermidor, ubiquitous New Year oliebolljes, a 'horrid' salty candy she is pressed to try in his village (Zoute drop), sorrel soup, mustard-grilled sole, milanaise souffle, red cabbage, mushrooms in garlic, and a traditional Christmas feast with turkey, pudding and mince pies.

Fashion: Ruerd thinks she wears a lot of ill-suited clothes 'with an air'. Plastic mac, a brown suit with a cream blouse, and a 'useful' brown velvet evening dress. While staying at his home, he presumably sees her wearing his sister's gossamer nightie (not too gossamer, I hope). In contrast, his fiancee' Annaliese wears a slim cerise silk sheath (nice alliteration, Betty), stone-colored crepe de chine, red chiffon (which is a middling way to be a vamp--chiffon isn't exactly dangerous and tarty material), a cashmere and quilted jacket, gold tissue and chiffon, peacock-blue taffeta, and a soft blue wool coat with a high-crowned Melusine hat.