Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Betty in the National Parks: Carlsbad Caverns

via email from Betty AnoninTX:
Never fear, dear Bettys!  This was just a day trip!  The PRT and I loaded up the Land Rover Chevy Blazer, and we shot off down the road to New Mexico for a day of fun and hiking in Carlsbad Caverns National Park.  We did load up the truck, but not with luggage.  We took people this time!  My niece Jennifer and great nephew Aidan went with us.  The back seat was extremely full because we also took Rijk and Sophie from The Awakened Heart

So why did I take Rijk and Sophie?  As I was staring at my Betty books and pondering which one to take, I realized this one was perfect because of the title.  Carlsbad Caverns was my very first national park to visit.  I was approximately six years old when my family (minus my oldest sister) made the trip to visit relatives and to go to the park.   I was scared to death when I saw that big black hole, but Betty AnoninNM held my hand.  We all look so happy in this photo!  I imagine we were all telling my dad to hurry.  This trip and a wonderful ranger we met on the trail started my love of national parks and monuments that endures today, many years later.  That ranger took the time to talk to a skinny kid and explain things about the caverns.  He showed me a fossil along the trail, and I was totally amazed.  Carlsbad did awaken MY heart to the national parks and monuments.

I still get a thrill when we exit the highway and drive down Walnut Canyon to the visitor center.  After we paid our entrance fee, we started down the path that leads to the entrance.  When Aidan saw the natural entrance, he said “whoa,” paused a few seconds and stared, and then said “awesome.”  His eyes were huge.  I myself am still awestruck when I see that big, dark opening.  The bats do enter and exit here, but they are still in Mexico and don’t migrate back until April or May.  If any of you ever get a chance to visit Carlsbad, I urge you to take the time to watch the bat flight in the evenings.  Here are Rijk and Sophie posing on the path down.

The Caverns are truly beautiful.  We have visited Mammoth Cave and Wind Cave National Parks, but I love Carlsbad the most.  There are 117+ caves in the park, with three of them open for tours, but the majority of visitors go to the big Caverns.  We took the self-guided, natural entrance tour.  It is a 1.25 mile hike down.  Once down, approximately 750 feet below the surface, we took the Big Room tour.   Over six football fields would fit in the Big Room, and it takes an hour and a half to tour it. The ceiling is 250+ feet high.  It is a beautiful place.  Aidan and I talked all about how stalagmites might grow up to touch the ceiling and how stalactites are stuck tight to the ceiling.  The ranger taught me that all those years ago!  Aidan particularly liked the soda straws, which are very thin and delicate.   Aidan and I decided we liked the Bottomless Pit the best.  In the Big Room, there are huge stalagmites.  Here, Rijk and Sophie are posing in front of Crystal Spring Dome, which is the largest active formation in the Caverns.  I apologize for the poor photo, but it IS dark in there.  The PRT does his best to oblige.  After the Big Room walk, we took the elevators up to the surface.

After a quick meal, we headed back to Texas.  The PRT and I intend to go back in a couple of weeks because we want to take a few more tours.  We want to do the Kings Palace tour again.  It is a ranger-led tour of another big room, and the rangers always turn the lights out for a few minutes so that people can experience cave darkness.  Then we want to do the Left Hand Tunnel tour, which we’ve never done.  It’s a lantern tour, led by rangers also.  I hope you enjoyed our quick Carlsbad trip!  It was fun to have my niece and great nephew with us, as well as the van Taak ter Wijsmas.

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, May 6th
 Only By Chance
Orphan heroine, first glimpse of the sea, Jill-of-all-trades at a stately home.

Monday, April 29, 2013

All Else Confusion - Reprise

I just returned from a lovely weekend at Betty Keira's - holding the baby and making appropriate cooing noises.  Plenty of pictures were taken (but not with my camera - it stayed home) and I reminded Betty Keira that she needs put together a post - even if it's just a pictorial one.  Expect one on Wednesday or Thursday of this week...I will be nagging ( Baby Maren is such an angel - so the 'colicky baby' defense won't fly!).

Have I mentioned how awesome the cover on All Else Confusion is?  That hair is some kind of fabulous.

 Pop Quiz!

Jake and Annis are the names of the prospective couple in which other book in the canon?
Jake is not an RDD or even a BRD...what is his profession?
Where are Jake's main business concerns located?
What song was sung at their wedding?

Sincerely (in need of a nap),
Betty Debbie

Cover art? Betty Debbie suggests that she looks like she's wearing a Dolly Parton wig and is set to take to the Grand Ole Opry stage to sing the heart out of some honky-tonk song.  Betty Debbie is kind of awesome.

Annis Fothergill, 22, is the kind of country girl you might find in a Ralph Lauren print ad where the languidly affluent pretend to muck about in wellies and prohibitively expensive flannels--the sunlight glistening through their artfully tousled hair.
Jake Royle, 35, (whose very name annoys me in an Alpha Male pin-striped way) crests the hill on his tediously magnificent steed. ('Maidens ho!')
Mr. Royle is not a doctor. He is a businessman. A CEO. He owns a factory. In New Zealand. It manufactures who knows what. We never find out. Betty never tells us. (I have just one question: Is he or is he not employing Oompa-Loompas?)
No matter. He sees our beautifully rumpled heroine and makes himself invisible--watching as she greets her childhood friend Matt, fusses over a broke-down donkey, and promises her birthday money for veterinary hoof treatment.
In all his life, Jake has never met someone like Annis.
Annis has never met anyone like Jake.
On one side there is attraction and curiosity and on the other instant antipathy--a defense mechanism as useless as 'duck and cover' in the event of a nuclear bomb.
Annis takes a temporary job as companion to Mrs. Duvant (Jake's godmother) while she settles into her house in Bath. Of course Jake is pulling the strings here--arranging to keep an eye on Annis and breeze into town to chat her up. (Which ought to indicate that he loves her but it doesn't so don't get too excited.)
But back to chatting up. Boy does he. They have a date and she thanks her lucky stars that she had time and money enough to splurge on a knock-out out-fit. She has a lovely time and when he kisses her soundly at the close of the evening it seems only sporting to kiss him back.
Mrs. Duvant dies. Yeah. Dies. No one bothered to tell Annis about the incurable and imminently terminal cancer that renders her redundant. Still, it is worth a pause to mention that the old lady was carried off at the height of her frippery-purchasing, bridge-playing life and you can't do better than that.
Jake dispenses with all business of death and then takes Annis (who is finally in love with the dingus) for a drive into the country...to meet his parents and grandmother and offer her a proposal of sorts. It's a very casual proposal attached to a mill-stone of elephantine proportions.Some girl, what's-her-name, threw me over when I was poor-ish and young so now I am doomed to walkthe earth cursing the name of womankind and hoping I might find a companion to share my wealth but not my bed. Yes. Well, almost. I believe the exact words are 'Six months if you like. See how we get on, getting to know each other, becoming friends, nothing more if you don't want that...That's a promise.' It's a wonder he doesn't offer her a receipt and ask her to sign for delivery.
Editorial Note:
But the part that sticks in my throat is his grandma (whom we are told to like but I stubbornly refuse) disliking the fuss of a big wedding. 'Annis had no doubt in her mind that his granny had had a wonderful and very grand wedding--white satin, orange blossom, bridesmaids, the lot.' And that's when it seems all very cruel (though nearly the same set-up in other books doesn't strike me the same way)--taking an unaffected country girl in her dreamy youth and marrying her because she's very nice to look at and 'fills the bill'. (I know that there are forces at work that he hasn't put his finger on yet--that he recognizes someone he can love--but he doesn't know that when he asks for her hand in marriage.) He can't be bothered with noticing that she told him that the only reason to marry was for love (and that she agrees to do it) and he can't be bothered to notice that she gets a sick pit in her stomach every time he calls her darling--a word which in the wilds of the countryside means cherished sweetheart and in a London flat means 'Thanks for passing the olive tray.' So Jake Royle has a lot of catching up to do before I like him.
They take off to Lisbon for a sort of business/honeymoon which is also Annis' first trip out of the country. He manages to squeeze in time for shopping (a lot of shopping) in between sessions of ignoring her at breakfast and running his multi-national chocolate-making empire in the afternoon. Still, she does the best with what she has--performing all sorts of acrobatics in her new clothes (short of loosening indecorous buttons) only to have her enthusiasms snuffed out by his prodigious apathy.
She sees him one afternoon with a lovely Senora. Jealousy, like that white tiger in the Sigfried and Roy act, turns on her ferociously. To pay him back, she rashly dines in The. Hotel. Dining. Room. (Roxanne! You don't have to turn on your red light.) Jake's hot, swarthy business partner, Roberto Gonzalez (Here, I imagine my caliente Mexican/Dutch husband. You may find your own mental candy. I recommend Andy Garcia. You're welcome.), asks to join her. Enter a furious Jake (bent on tossing a few crumbs of affection (read: money) at his wife). This isn't really an important episode but there are un-pretty feelings all around and no implied conjugal relations to disperse them.
Back in England they settle into the flat (ugh--which in any other book than a Neels one I wouldn't find so objectionable) and Annis divvies up the chores with the daily help--she's to do the shopping and ironing. (Don't you just love her?)
He reminds her that their social obligations will be starting soon and when she expresses misgivings he answers her, 'I shouldn't worry about that, darling, you're pretty enough to get awaywithout making any effort at anything.' 
'Oh, do you think I'm pretty?'

(Prepare yourself for the caddish and offhand answer.)
'Why else should I have married you?'
And Annis does carry off the social side without much of a hitch--though readers are given vague generalities when a well-settled cross-over character/future BFF would have suited nicely, indicating that she really will be happy and find friends there. When she has time on her own (to navigate the strange and jarring city life) she does charmingly simple things like stand with a crowd of people to watch a society bride go into a church. These things she doesn't share with her husband, assuming he won't be interested. (And in her defense, he might be beginning to be interested in her but probably not in those little darling details that remind him what a simple and dreamy young girl he married.)
The time comes for Jake to make an extended business trip (Who can take the rainbow, wrap it in a sigh, soak it in the sun and make a groovy lemon pie? The Candyman can...) and he suggests that Annis go to her parents' house for the duration--contrary to his expressed expectations at the time of his 'proposal' (oh, yes. It deserves the scare quotes I'm giving it.).
Don't I fit in with your life in London? Don't your friends like me?' comes the desperate plea from a love-starved wife.
That's when he quotes Tennyson (From that early feminist tract, The Princess, that I mentioned here) with less happy results:
Man with the head and woman with the heart: 
Man to command and woman to obey;
All else confusion

(I'm pretty sure that the person in the poem saying it is the one who is supposed to be speaking rubbish.)
So she goes home and is miserable and when he comes again she has have him help rescue her little sister from frightening tinkers. And then Jake hears her telling Nancy (the broken burro) that she'll just have to tell Jake. And how can she when he's given her and her family all those lovely things?
Erm. Tell Jake what?
That she loves him.
But that's not what he thinks.
So he leaves her and goes to Naples...where she follows him!
They take a run out to Pompeii (a partially buried city, frozen at the moment of a single cataclysmic event--as good a symbol of his ability to love as any) and after much sight-seeing she gives him her news.
He tells her that he fell in love at first sight (a nigh-on-indigestible morsel of information) but didn't know it right away. (That's right. It only occurred to him on the drive to the volcano!)
Kissing and a promise to start a conjugal-relations Honeymoon toot sweet.
The End

Rating: I'm not crazy about this one. Our heroine is quite likable--she's got a bit of sauce to her even if she has to swallow her pride in marrying a man who looks through her like she's a plate glass window. She's awfully down-to-earth and charmingly scheming and always says 'sorry' when she's done something mean.
It's Jake that bugs me. Jake and his conventional Harlequin-esque-ness. Business tycoon? Marries a babe? Nurses an imagined slight by an insignificant and lost-to-the-sands-of-history female into semi-misogyny? Lives in a posh London flat? Swanks about with anonymous blondes? (Which would make a great name for a girl-band if you like.) Spends money like it's monsoon season and the tap is running?
I salute her trying out a new paradigm but, at the end of the day, I don't think The Great Betty goes far enough. Annis is the kind to make Jake healed and happy--she's just adorable that way. He'll come home late from his business meetings, have his whiskey, and thank his lucky stars that Annis shed all that baby-weight so quickly. But can he make her happy? The jury is out. He's got a lifestyle I imagine her tolerating but she's clearly the 'run-down cottage in the country with a couple of derelict sheds wherein they might house foundling donkeys' type and I can't help but think she's going to wish she'd held out for Jake's college chum from Zierikzee (with a medical practice and time for snogging) or, failing that, Roberto Gonzolez might do (though I confess that Gonzalez is my least favorite of the Hispanic 'ez' names--for the first week of knowing him, I thought Mijnheer van Voorhees' last name was Gonzalez and I had to really consider if I thought him cute enough to take it.  He was.  But I was more than happy to be a Dominguez instead.).
But I read this more than a week ago and I'm probably being way harsh on the poor man (and honestly, writing the review just egged me on to find all his most awful parts). He gate-crashes adorably at one point and if we'd only got something definite in the way of a dawning realization I'd have liked him much more. So, it's not really bad (if it were a random Harlequin by another author I might have liked it quite well)...I just didn't love it. Madiera Cake.

Food: Chilled melon, roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and sprouts ('...very English,' says Betty). Charlotte Russe, oyster soup, spiced chicken with apricots, mac and cheese, lobster patties, tournedos Rossini (which makes me think of weather events and opera all at the same time), pommes de terre Berny, dried cod souffle, balo de mei (on their no-implied-conjugal-relations-honeymoon), beef en croute (!), sherry trifle, steak and kidney pie, souffle Harlequin (twice, I think), and medallions of beef...mmmmm, beef.

 Her mid-West farmer's daughters outfits comprise wellies, an old coat, flyaway hair, a blue velvet dress (on the dowdy side), and a tweed suit. She buys a blue dress with a ruffle and bronze sandals ('going cheap but nonetheless elegant') for her date with him in Bath. She makes her own wedding dress. Their Shopping Spree of Surrogate Affection yields a good many treasures: pale green crepe de chine, a 'blue thing with pleats', organza in patterned green with a pie-frill neck, a Jaeger three piece of cotton jersey in cream and lime green, a black satin (which tells you as much as anything that Jake is no staid RDD), and a silvery crepe dress (turn that into a pant-suit and an RDD's mother would have snubbed her).

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, April 29th
All Else Confusion
Non-doctor hero, Marriage of Convenience, business/honeymoon in Lisbon.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Roses Have Thorns--Reprise

Good Morning, Dear Bettys!
Circumstances require me to write this before I deliver myself of the latest van Voorhees pledge (no later than Thursday!) and I apologize for such a thin post.
I dipped into the comments section of our original post of Roses Have Thorns and found this gem from Betty Kitap: "This book has one of my favorite Betty lines: If this is your bedside behavior it's a wonder you have any patients." Such is the awesomeness of our heroine Sarah Fletcher.
Hopefully hailing you from the wonders of the post-delivery bed,
Betty Keira

Oh what fun. A spunky Araminta and a RDD who has been thrown over for a South American millionaire! Get comfy, I'm pretty sure this is going to be a long one...

Sarah Fletcher, orphan. Age 28. Clerical worker in Outpatients at St. Cyprian's. Lives in a bedsit with Charles - her cat. She has known Professor Nauta for two or three years - he has an Outpatient clinic once a week. Sarah considers him impatient and ill-tempered and figures that he never really notices her. The Professor does notice her...but not romantically. He considers her a sensible young, but not too young, woman who dresses appropriately for her job. Things might have gone on like this for years...possibly decades, if a strange woman hadn't stopped by one evening. The Prof. has asked not to be disturbed, but this woman is insistent. Sarah calls the doctor to let him know a woman is here to see him. The Professor responds with some language that is rather stronger than Sarah likes. You should watch your language...she says to him - oh dear, such strong language on her part could get her sacked. Not to worry, the insistent lady is his own mother and she has taken a liking to Sarah, which, as any Neels aficionado knows, is the Future Mother-in-Law Stamp of Approval, No Substitutions Accepted. For her part, Sarah can't imagine anyone wanting to marry the Professor. While having a fine manner with his patients, he is impatient and irritable around pretty much everyone else. Well, he would be, wouldn't he...having been thrown over for a South American millionaire, years before. That's bound to make a man irritable.

Mummy would like the Professor to arrange for Sarah to come to Holland and be a companion to the Professor's granny. Mummy's had one of her 'feelings'.
Much to Sarah's surprise, Professor Nauta (which sounds sooo close to 'naughty') invites her to lunch. After first discovering the state of Sarah's vacation time, it's time to discuss granny-care. Granny is ninety years old and extremely tetchy; she is also dying. Sarah is not about to be steamrolled...however, she might be willing to do it except for Charles. Your, er, young man? Um...that would be no. Charles is her cat. The Prof. can solve all her problems - with one caveat - Sarah is not to discuss their arrangements with anyone - hospital grapevine, don'tcha know. This Will Come Back to Haunt Him. The sound you hear is the low rumble of foreshadowing....
Sarah will be getting paid, quite handsomely...which makes her rightly suspect that granny is a handful. Tetchy grandmas are an Araminta special...Sarah has no problem holding her own with the often ill-tempered old lady. Ill-tempered? The Professor evidently came by his honestly. Sarah spends hours reading to the old lady, and when that palls, a piano is wheeled in and she plays for her. At any hour of the day or night. One night as she is thundering her way through some Brahmn's, the Professor surprises the heck out of her.
Him: What the devil do you think you're doing?
Her: Tsk, tsk...you should watch your language! What are you doing here?
Him: Um. My grandmother is dying...I'm here to say goodbye.
Her: My bad.
Sarah and the Professor take turns playing piano for the dying woman at all hours, and in various states of dishabille. There's an adorable scene with Sarah playing piano in the wee sma's and having her hair plaited by the Professor.
This goes on for a couple of days - then granny goes to her final reward, and Sarah is invited to stay for the funeral...in fact, the family practically insists. They're charmingly naive about the realities of life re: working class folk. Sarah agrees to stay - even though her vacation is over. She writes a letter to her boss, aptly named Miss Payne. There was no way of knowing there would be a lightning strike of postmen...which for some reason means that Her Letter Never Gets to Miss Payne. Rumble, rumble. Remember when I said that thing about something coming back to haunt the Professor? When Sarah gets back to London, Miss Payne loses little time in giving her the sack for coming back late from her holiday. Not only does she sack Sarah, but she also gives her a bad reference - says she's 'unreliable'. Where's the Professor in all this? Oh he's off lecturing on something somewhere...
No one wants to hire her for clerical work, but she finds an untapped market for domestic situations! A job as housemaid in Bedford with a cottage to share with Charles. For some people this work would be considered beneath them, but not our Sarah, or rather, Fletcher - as she is now called. Fletcher is happy to be in the country. Happy to work with nice people. Meanwhile, the Professor is unhappy. And by unhappy, I mean enraged. Little Miss Sarah followed his instructions not to blab about the Holland trip and now has lost her job. It's His Fault and He Knows It. I like to think that somewhere around here, he has a sort of dawning realization - but he doesn't recognize it for what it is. Sarah has not only lost her job, she's moved out of her horrible little bedsitter without leaving a forwarding address. He spends every spare minute obsessively searching for her - even resorting to bribing girls with bottles of sherry for information. As far as he can tell, she's dropped off the face of the planet. Wracked with torment and guilt, he's more than a little startled to walk into his godmother's house and see Sarah trotting briskly towards the dining room in her housemaid's uniform.
Him: *#&@, what the devil are you doing here?
Her: Mind your language, Professor. If you don't go away, you'll get me dismissed - and that will be twice.
She shoots, she scores! He might be relieved to find her, but he's not happy to see her working the other side of the baize door. The rest of the staff are curious about the relationship between Fletcher and Lady Wesley's godson - but she very calmly gives them a slightly edited version of the facts.
A word about the household help. I love them. They love Sarah - and don't hold it against her that she obviously isn't working in her natural sphere.
Wherein Lady Wesley spends a month in London.
The country staff get to go to the city too! The London house is harder work, mostly due to Lady Wesley's increased socializing and late hours, but there are some compensations - mostly in the form of shops and cinemas which are generally thin on the ground in the country.
The professor stops by to visit Lady W. and is treated to an 'enticing' view of Fletcher/Sarah crawling backwards down the stairs. Sarah is not nearly as pleased to see him. After turning red, she ignores him and hands Lady W. her lost ring and enquires in exactly the right tone of voice if that would be all.
Lady W: Back to work, Fletcher.
Professor: (frowns)
Lady W: (to herself: The girl has gotten under his bullet-proof skin) to him: I think I'll have Mudd train her as a lady's maid.
Professor: (grinds his teeth!!)
Lady Wesley continues to make seemingly innocent, but highly inflammatory (to the Prof.) remarks about Fletcher, while the Professor nearly gives himself a rage-induced ulcer. All Sarah needs to do is ask and he can have her reinstated at the hospital and even find her better housing. As if. By the time he gets home, he's calmed down and tells his dog that Sarah can take care of herself. Way to tempt fate, dude.
Sure enough, as he's driving down the street one Sunday morning, there's little Sarah beating off a band of ruffians who were attacking Sir William a hospital colleague of the Professor's, with her purse. She doesn't manage to escape without some collateral damage - in the form of a slight concussion. The Professor takes both Sarah and Sir William to St. Cyprians to be looked over - Sarah is worried about Charles.
'Her boyfriend,' declared Sir William, who was sentimental.
'Her cat,' said the Professor, who was not.
Thank you, Betty.
Being in London has one other advantage - plot wise. Just after buying a fetching new frock, Sarah runs smack dab into who else, but the Prof? He's no snob - not above asking a housemaid to tea at Fortum's.
Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, it's Back to the Country We Go!
The Professor toddles up to the country just as soon as Lady Wesley and her minions have gotten back. Poor Fletcher has a Dawning Realization as the Professor cuts the cheese (Brie is cheese, right?) she's serving. It hardly seems fair that he kisses her at the bottom of the stairs that evening.
Poor Professor Nauta. He is fighting a losing battle. No way does loving Sarah fit into his nice neat bachelor existence. There's only one solution! Get her out of his system by seeing as much as possible of her! He manipulates his mother into visiting England and has her request to 'borrow' Sarah from Lady Wesley for a month to be a companion. Sarah privately does a little fuming at being treated like...uh...a servant, but in the end she packs her fetching frock and follows orders. The house (the lovely house) that Mevrouw Nauta is staying at just so happens to belong to the Professor. It's too bad that Sarah and the Professor are at that awkward stage in their relationship. The stage where Sarah goes out of her way to avoid him. So much so, that she fibs about a lunch date after church and ends up taking a nap in the woods. Fortunately, her fetching frock stands out and the Professor has no problem finding her. He's pretty peeved at her...and she feels foolish. Editor's Note: This whole scene is so cringe-worthy to me. I always feel embarrassed for Sarah - not only to be caught sleeping, but also to have been caught fibbing. It's just the kind of stupid that someone in love would indulge in.
Mevrouw Nauta asks her son if there isn't more suitable work for Sarah than being a housemaid. Of course he'd love to help her out, but she would refuse help. At least he knows where she is,' the obstinate little fool' he says savagely. Poor guy - he needs to seal this deal before he has a coronary.
At the end of the month, Sarah is returned, like an overdue library book, back to Lady Wesley's.
As a reward for doing a little overtime, Sarah gets a day trip to London with Knott the chauffeur. She can't even avoid running into the Prof. in the few hours she's there. It seems he's ready to give up his battle for bachelorhood - the 'm' word is bandied about - but who's the lucky winner? Will it be Sarah or the mysterious Miss Lisse whom the Professor calls 'darling' and discusses wedding plans? Sarah does the math and comes up with Miss Lisse. Miss Mudd doesn't help matters when she passes on a bit of news she heard Lady Wesley talking about on the phone -about the Professor getting married! Lucky for Sarah the Professor brings his houseman with him on his next visit. His houseman Wilf. Wilf is just as surprised as the Professor was to find Sarah working as a housemaid. Wilf knew Sarah back in her halcyon days of affluence. When she lived in a house with her own servants. Definitely a case of hail fellow, well met! Sarah, in a bit of a desperate attempt to get the Prof. to leave her alone, pretends that she and Wilf are delighted to be reunited. Wilf further muddies the waters by talking about getting married (my, my vague mentions of marriage are sure going around). The Professor succumbs to jealousy and goes to bed not quite three sheets to the wind. Very muddy waters...of course the Professor soon finds out about Wilf's real girlfriend - Janet (I'm pretty sure that Janet is the default name for girlfriends of promising housemen).
Grand Finale!
Charles runs off in a thunderstorm. He's missing for 3 days! Sarah goes to look for him and gets trapped in a rabbit snare with him! Lady Wesley calls the Professor who races out to the country to find her. Which he does - after dark. It's too late to find their way out of the woods - so the Professor puts his arm around Sarah and holds her through the night...sounds lovely...but there's still a sticking point. Who is the mysterious Miss Lisse - she who is called darling and talks of wedding plans. No problem - it's his sister! Kissing and proposal in the driveway - in full view of the entire cadre of servants. And then a couple of encores. The End.
Rating: Queen of Puddings with Whipped Cream on top! I truly loved this book. It might even make it into my top ten. I really only have one little quibble - Lisse. After spending two or three weeks in Holland at the family home, then later spending a month with Mevrouw Nauta, surely Sarah would have seen or at least heard of the Professor's sister???? Other than that, I adored Roses Have Thorns. Sarah is a plain little thing - but she's got spunk. Radolf can't believe he's finally fallen for someone - fallen hard. He spends much of his time being annoyed or enraged by her and trying to devise ways to improve her lot - it takes him a while to catch on to the fact that he's in love. Sarah can take his irritability, she's constantly reminding him to watch his language. The fact that she cheerfully accepts a job as a housemaid and makes that work for her, just makes me like her all the more. I find her fellow servants charming...the fact that they peg her as someone who is working 'below her station', and the final scene with them all peeking out the window while Radolf obliges them by kissing Sarah again...priceless.
Food: Sausage roll, steak and kidney pie with rice pudding for afters (in the servants hall), petit pois, creamed spinach and carrot sticks, new potatoes, canapes, pasties, iced melon, jellied chicken, strawberries and fromage blanc.
Fashion: brown pleated skirt, neat little jacket and a couple of drip dry blouses. Dove grey jersey, various housemaid's uniforms including the black with white apron used for serving meals, rose patterned cotton jersey(possibly inspiration for cover art?), another girl wears an indecent red dress to the London dinner party at Lady Wesley's - Sarah could see clear down the front when she was serving.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Today Is Most Definitely Probably Almost Certainly The Day...

...that Little Sister will make her debut. 

And by Little Sister, I mean Betty Keira's baby girl.  

Betty Keira is even now in hospital with the Minjheer providing a cool hand on her fevered brow.

Pictures to follow.

Soon, I hope.

Betty Keira's baby bump is a wee bit bigger than Kate's.   

*UPDATE (at 2:25pm) - she's here! 
Maren Kathleen...cute as a button!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, April 22nd
Roses Have Thorns
Charles (the cat), Fletcher (the housemaid), and Lisse (the sister).

Monday, April 15, 2013

Polly - Reprise

First of all, for those following along at home...no.  I cannot yet share the happy news that Betty Keira has produced her most recent pledge. She was due last Thursday, so it really could happen any time now.  ANY. TIME. NOW!!!

I promise to keep all of our dear Bettys updated. (I just talked to Betty Keira, she's had two contractions in the past 1/2 hour! fingers are crossed!)

Let's talk about Polly.  

I have a niece (by marriage) named Polly.  After a brief, unhappy first marriage (and possibly second?), she finally settled down several years ago with her current husband.  He happens to be much older than her - somewhere in the range of 15 to 20 years.  They seem to be blissfully happy - and have had two or three kids.  The times, they have changed since The Great Betty's days - instead of having the luxury of staying at home full time, this Polly went back to school and earned a degree in nursing.  I consider it a bit of a luxury that she was able to get a nursing degree instead of stocking store shelves during the off hours, for minimum wage, to help supplement the family income.

Betty Debbie

Professor Sam Gervis, 36, is lost...in more ways than one. On a physical level he has merely taken a wrong turn onto one of the byways branching off the shortcut from Pulchester. On a metaphysical level he is lashed together with the wrong soul mate and doomed to swirl around the Toilet Bowl of Infinity with her if something doesn't happen soon.
Polly Talbot, 20, happens.
She stops to give him direction (in more ways than one), is called a rustic chatterbox for her pains and dismisses him from her mind--a mind chockablock with Latin and Greek. (Sona si Latine loqueris. Honk if you speak Latin.)
Polly has a temp job typing up a manuscript for Sir Corpus-Mortem (not really), the local dead languages expert, handily located within cycling distance from home (where live her parents and two gorgeous older sisters and maybe some other people too but we don't care much about them).
Sam discovers her working at Wells Court and he is revealed to be a friend of her boss and mildly gobsmacked that someone who he wrote off (or would like to have written off) at first sight turned out to have a first-class brain. But he can't say the same for her sense of style. 
Those were your sisters in church?...very pretty girls and dressed charmingly....You know, you intrigue me.

'I couldn't care less,' said Polly.
Yes, she has herself well in hand when it comes to the Professor, cheerfully lobbing back every volley he sends her way.
Sir Corpus-Mortem mextremum vitae spiritum edere (gave up the ghost) which is all very sad for his family but allows Polly a change of venue. Instead of pounding away at her manuscript in the neighborhood, it is determined that she should come to Sam's house to finish her work, keep his soon-to-married sister, Diana, company and keep out of his elegantly affianced way. That's right. He's engaged to Deirdre--a horse-faced local belle. (He didn't hate it so he put a ring on it.) Naturally she has a bosom which calls to mind breakfast foods of the pancake variety which bodes ill for his future implied conjugal relations...
To Polly, Sam is cold and aloof unless he's being irritable. (But charmingly so.)
On weekends he drives her home, becoming acquainted with her family and her lifestyle. Cora and Marian (the Talbot Babes) are initially very taken with Sam but twig to Polly's as-yet-undiscovered feelings fairly quickly. (Being nice girls, they leave him pretty well alone.) Mother Talbot is just a darling--she has ideas about Sam and Polly, never mind the age gap, their public indifference to one another or his flat-chested fiancee.
And what does Polly feel? Well, she has awakened to the awfulness of her wardrobe and the desire to look better than she does. That's as far as it goes.
When Sam sees her in her off-the-peg but charming two-piece the temptation (oh yes, Sam has been unwillingly tempted for weeks) to kiss his overwhelms his better judgment...which makes her imminent departure that much more pressing.
She has been surreptitiously making plans to begin a nursing course at a nearby children's hospital, not at all sure why Sam can't know, only knowing that when she's gone she must stop thinking about him.
When the last Greek word is thumped out and the last proofs are placed upon his desk, Sam drives her home again. His departure is dispassionately swift and it is only the next day, while taking a solitary walk with the dog that she is poleaxed by the dawning realization. Oh my dear Sam, it's me you need!
Thank heavens she has her position to take up in a few days which will keep her busy and her mind off of Sam...
...right up until he walks onto the ward, nearly swamping her with delight. She didn't even know he was a surgeon. No one ever said.
'Do you have to screw your hair up like that, Polly?'
She gave him a surprised look. '...it doesn't make any difference.'
He studied her for a long moment. 'No, it doesn't.'
That's when we know that love has caught up with Professor Gervis.
Editorial Note: He goes out of his way to tell her that she'll never make a nurse (she takes this to be a comment on her aptitude and he means it as a crypto-love note) which reminded me of Baroness Schraeder making cracks about Fraulein Maria becoming a nun. I don't want to throw any bombs here but I'm betting that his telling Polly her future (some might say dictating) might offend some more modern sensibilities. Might I offer that they are both the kind of folks to want a large family and that she's more a do-the-work-at-hand type than the self-actualized-through-professional-success type. (I think Sam knows this about her.) I also offer that I know someone who nurses, is happily married and has raised 8 children so I'm not saying it can't be done but she doesn't have time for the kind of gentility and luxurious shopping that I think The Great Betty forecasts for her heroine. So, anyway, it didn't bug me a bit and I find him charmingly casting out hint after hint like a Discovery Channel host chumming the waters during Shark Week.
Sam invents reasons to take her home and fetch her back. He conveniently forgets to have dinner until they're on their way. He chats her up in the hallways (breaching all sorts of unspoken hospital etiquette concerning whom a student nurse may speak to and whom they may most definitely not speak to). He's doing a spot of skirt-chasing and it is only by implying (loudly and publicly) that, since he knows her father, he merely is casting an avuncular eye on her, that he avoids having her gossiped about.
And then Diana invites her over to see her wedding dress. There is a storm. Polly, cautiously suggests leaving early. Sam calls. Diana peels out of the driveway anyway...nearly killing them both in a highway accident. Polly saves them by driving to the verge. Sam finds them and since Diana has fallen asleep he bawls out Polly.
And then later he finds her on the ward and bawls her out again. 
Editorial Note:
I remember being more bugged at this part in previous readings but, since he hasn't been told anything other than, 'Polly insisted we leave,' I don't blame him too much. He's shaken and furious and still loves her anyway: 
My only regret is that I've started my training at this hospital; I had thought I would never have to see you again.

'You don't mean that, Polly.' His voice was so gentle...
He manages to force her into a public acceptance of his sister's wedding invitation (he is so clever and single-minded!) and we get a simply charming interlude where Sam in practically drunk on the wine of love. Polly wears a sweet, little Laura Ashley dress and he only just stops himself from proposing on the spot.You look so pretty... Deirdre slithers around and makes herself objectionable...oh, and his sister clears up the accident mis-communication at the end which didn't matter at all since Sam had decided that he'd take Polly any way he could get her.
For her part, Polly is beginning to notice the Professor's partiality. This has to stop, you know...
In a muddle, Polly decides to give in her notice and quit--seeing Sam everyday and waiting with morbid fear for his wedding to be announced is killing her. Before she can formally do so, she finds a choking baby, does all the right initial aid, and then sprints across the hall and thrusts the poor darling at the Professor. Sam...do something! Being ticked off for rule-breaking is the last straw on her frayed nerves and she practically flings her notice at the SNO and takes a bus back home.
Mother, brilliant, brilliant mother, knows to make an extra large dinner. Sam will be showing up soon, she just knows it.
And he does, and we're ever so close to some top-drawer snogging when he gets a blasted phone call. (The good health of an entire tenement full of sleeping children was sacrificed for this minor plot twist. I hope you're happy.)
Deirdre shows up, uncorks her vial of venom and pours it into Polly's ears and Polly, who had begun to hope, turns into a block of ice.
She must get away. Immediately. Scotland!
Sam tracks her down at a train station lunch counter and does his explaining, proposing and snogging in cheerful view of an appreciative audience.
The End

Rating: Lashings of No-Calorie, Guilt-Free Whipped Cream! This story belongs to both the hero (our scheming, plotting hero) and our heroine (our dizzy, Latin-drenched heroine) equally. Yes, the age difference is not incidental (his 36 to her 20) but she's so good at managing him that you have no doubt that she'll have him meekly tucking into his soup while she presents him with pledge after pledge of her affection for years to come.
I love that his name is Sam--a lovely, accessible name--and that he falls so hard and so publicly (I mean, everyone knows he's got a yen for the plain little student nurse) for the girl he named the 'rustic chatterbox' at their first meeting.
I love Polly--she's at just that age when personal make-overs (particularly for girls who like their Latin more than fussy footwear) are uncomfortably embarked upon (feel free to sing the icky lyrics of 'Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon'). And it's usually a boy who gets the ball rolling in that direction--that's how you know that Polly likes Sam.
If there is a moment that dates itself a bit, it's when Sam's young cousin is essentially told that being a surgeon's wife is the next best thing to being a surgeon. She's a little young to be told that having a family and career are mutually exclusive (though I am of the camp that thinks you can have it all but often not all at once--which applies to my husband and myself) but this is a very peripheral quibble.
This was one of the last Neels titles I ever read and I was over the moon that she still was able to surprise and delight me. Go get this one. You'll thank me.

Food: Rhubarb jam, porridge, bacon, eggs, fried whitebait, lamb chops, lobster patties, roast lamb, trifle, avocado pear stuffed with prawns smothered in a delicate sauce (no, thank you), salmon patties, bacon and egg pie and Mrs. Talbot plans a large steak and kidney pie when Polly washes out of nursing school because she knows Sam will be 'round for supper.

Fashion: A too-big blouse with a prim collar, a plain pleated cream dress with bronze leaves, an elderly jersey dress, a candlewick dressing gown which has him looking down his nose at her (purely a defensive move on his part as she's been easily entrancing him--lovely clothes or no). Polly goes on a not-overly-thought-out shopping trip to update her look, buying a pink cotton blouse and skirt, a sleeveless dress in cream jersey, a knitted jacket in all colors I'm having some trouble imagining, some frivolous sandals and a flimsy apricot night dress (the better to be caught on midnight forays to the kitchen in). Deirdre wears a blue crepe trouser suit with jangling jewelry. Sam's sister wears a wedding dress of white organza and lace. Deirdre wears a vivid yellow dress to the wedding with a wavy-brimmed hat covered in pink roses. Happily, due to last week's Bertha I know that to La Neels a vivid dress is code for blindingly garish.