Thursday, May 30, 2013

Betty Beth's Books (say that fast three times...)

via email:
*not the actual books being offered.
 Hello Founding Bettys and the lovely ladies of Neeldom,

I have managed to enjoy a wonderful Winter Wedding, plus a very nice honeymoon at The Edge of Winter on Kauai – does that make me a Pineapple Girl?  (I’ll admit to having a frozen drink out straight out of a pineapple, which was pretty neat.)  

Right after our return to The Magic of Living a life without wedding-related planning, my work hit the annual busy period.  Luckily, my husband (the Professor, as he’s a teacher) is very understanding, and didn’t mind the massive amounts of travel I was required to do this spring… While I was lucky enough to see the Midnight Sun’s Magic in Alaska and a Stormy Springtime in Maine, the big trip was going north on a freighter bound for Dutch Harbor, Alaska, where I worked for some time and read quite a few Betty Neels books by Sun and Candlelight!  But I recently finished my last trip to Oregon Last April Fair, so now I will finally stop feeling like An Independent Woman and return home to spend time with the Professor.  It’s A Dream Come True to be back from so many work trips!

Oh, all right, I’ll stop with the title puns. :D

As I’ve been doing so much travelling, I bought as many Betty Neels books as I could afford for my Kindle (the Professor’s first gift to me!).  While it feels a bit disloyal somehow to the great Mrs. Neels to read her books electronically, I now have almost a hundred of her books in my digital library!  (And I’ve managed to read almost all of them, too – only twenty left before I get to buy some more!)

But this means that I have a few paperbacks that could use good homes.  As I know it’s sometimes a bit hard to find Betty Neels books, I thought I’d offer them here first before taking them off to Goodwill – if you Founding Bettys would like the books to use during future give-aways or events, I would be happy to deliver them or mail them (I believe there's a Pacific Northwest contingent, if a meet-up would be easier).  Too, if you don’t have a use for them, if any of the other Bettys would like one (or more) of the books, I’d be happy to mail them out to fellow Bettys.  (If that’s the case, could you perhaps put up a post so people could claim which they want? I could contact them afterwards to get their mailing addresses so I could send them their books.)

I have quite a few books – the ones with a * are the original covers (ranging from some lovely seventies artwork to some truly awful 90s Harlequin covers), but most of them are the “Best of Betty Neels” reissues.

1. A Christmas to Remember
2. The Chain of Destiny*
3. Roses Have Thorns*
4. Stars Through the Mist
5. Cobweb Morning*
6. Once for All Time
7. The Little Dragon
8. Christmas Miracles – this is an anthology with one of Betty’s short novels inside
9. Small Slice of Summer*
10. Waiting for Deborah*
11. A Little Moonlight*
12. At Odds with Love*
13. Wedding Bells for Beatrice*
14. The Final Touch*
15. Cassandra By Chance
16. The Hasty Marriage
17. An Old-Fashioned Girl*
18. A Matter of Chance*
19. The Engagement Effect – another anthology with one of Betty’s short novels
20. Wish with the Candles
21. Nanny by Chance
22. Tabitha in Moonlight*
23. Not Once but Twice
24. The Hasty Marriage* - yes, I somehow had this one twice in two different covers
25. The Little Dragon* - this one too!

… Well, now that I type it all out that’s more books than I thought!  I hope there are a few ladies out there who can help them go to good homes – if not, I’ll release them into the wild and take them to a Goodwill so they can be discovered anew by future Betty fans.
Happy almost summer, fellow Bettys!  I hope all has been well with all of you, and I hope my absence won’t be held against me.  I missed you all!

-Betty Beth

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Betty in the Wild

In honor of this week's reprise, I decided to take Kate and James on a mini vacation with Dr. van der Stevejinck and I.  They chose not to go to the cinema with us on Friday - but they did tag along on Saturday went we ventured out to Pike Place Market.  As a cook, Kate especially enjoyed the World Spice Merchants - and was more than happy to help us choose some salt-free spice blends.

 In spite of it being the end of May, the weather was persistently cool and overcast. Fortunately it stayed dry enough to leave most of the brollies and macs in our great socking mini-van. James brought his, just in case.
 After church on Sunday morning, we all donned some sensible lace-ups for a walk near the beautiful Snoqualmie Falls.

Going somewhere fun this summer? Take along a Betty Book and take some of your own "Betty in the Wild" pictures.  Send the pictures and descriptions to and we will be happy to post them!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, June 3rd
At Odds With Love
Dying grandmother, Prussian blue dress (x2), handy earthquake in Amsterdam.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Love Can Wait - Reprise

A toddler playing with a keyboard could have come up with a more interesting title for this book.  Better yet, a blindfolded toddler.
A blindfolded toddler monkey.
A blindfolded toddler monkey with one arm in a sling.
You get my drift.

How about if we give a shot at renaming it?  
Here's my blindfolded, one arm in a sling attempt: Kate Cooks up Some Romance! 
Your turn.


Betty Debbie


Love Can Wait is a boring title.  It just is. The memorable story is briefly obscured by the vanilla title and, just by way of freshening things up, I suggest forever-after thinking of this asClaudia Gets a Kiss-Off.  You're welcome.

...and a Cup of  'Blog about Betty whenever you want'...
Editorial Note: (Today, I begin with editorializing.) I am going to allow myself to succumb to the enormous temptation, since our heroine is a professional cook cum housekeeper, to shoehorn this review into one of those darling (cough*tacky*cough) recipes for a Happy Marriage that someone near and dear to you might have worked in embroidery as a wedding gift and which currently hangs in the guest bathroom (aesthetic purgatory) above the decorative towels with heavy beading.  
(Oh dear. When you speak of me, speak of me kindly...)  

Recipe for a Happy Marriage:
...a tall Cordon Bleu with generous curves...
Take One gorgeous Cordon Bleu cook.  For our purposes, a well-seasoned 27-year-old with generous curves and a predisposition to hard work is just right.  If you can find one with a sickly mother, crushing financial obligations, and a snobbish employer, then all the better.  (You may call her Kate.)
Gently fold in 14 stone of James Tait-Bouverie brand Rich English Paediatrician (35-year-old vintage).  This superior brand comes with an aloof nature, an aesthetic appreciation of curvy working-lasses, is wedded to his work and possessed of relations littered over the British countryside.
Dump in one Tiresome Aunt.  Though both class-conscious and penny-pinching, this is the glue that holds our dish together long enough to let it set.  Lady Cowder is to Kate and James what the movie Footloose is to Kevin Bacon and Sarah Jessica Parker--an unhappy if integral link in the chain that connects our star-ingredients.  (Of course I'm joking.  I love Footloose.)  
Claudia takes one too many cheap shots...
Add one Maraschino cherry.  The combination of sweetness and toxicity, coupled with its improbably scarlet color will add just the zest needed to make this dish a winner.  Since this ingredient, we'll name her Claudia, is highly reactive when combined with Cordon Bleu cooks, it may be necessary to chop it up into tiny bits (though that may not be enough to mollify La Cordon Bleu, as she would prefer 'strangling', 'dumping soup on' and putting a dead rat in her bed.)
Stir together with a Dash of Indifference and a Pinch of Attraction.  Any social occasion may serve to stir the pot, so to speak, but ones in which our heroine does all the cooking with little support and scant gratitude (Argh.  That Tiresome Aunt is getting lumpy again.  Beat it!) would work well. If your Rich English Paedetrician is not beginning to integrate with La Cordon Bleu, you might throw them together (like taffy).  I have always found the fjords of Norway very handy for this sort of thing.
Chill.  Ah, so you took my advice.  We're in Norway and though the consistency of La Cordon Bleu is curdling from too much overexposure to Tiresome Aunt (and her incessant bridge-playing and enforcement of segregated dining times), this mess can be mitigated by adding teaspoon-fulls of iced Brit Paeditrician.  
Car wreck?! BAM!
Knead the Dough (which is a euphemism for getting involved in a multiple-car car wreck in a tunnel (like a sausage extruder!) and suffering the outraged put-out-ed-ness of a disapproving employer).Through the violence of tossing about the dough, the material begins to yield results. ('He knew as he watched her smile that he was going to marry her.')
Throw in some Hard-boiled Eggs(Kate is mugged (those thugs!) and loses her savings (100 pounds!) just as she is on the point of delivering it to the bank which would have enabled her to set up her own 'cooked-meals service'.  (Cut her some slack.  She's a recipe ingredient.  She doesn't do math.) ) At that, the souffle has fallen flat.
Pour in Generous Amounts of Salt-Water, Mop up with British Superfine Wool  What's a crisis if it doesn't end in tears and a painfully avuncular embrace?
Cool the Pie on a the Window Sill of an Old Poppet  All that sturm and drang is upsetting your mixture.  Time to move it.  Find another aunt with deeper pockets.  Persuade her to employ La Cordon Bleu.
Shake it Up (Throw a party, introduce a future mother-in-law into the mixture and have Kate's mum develop appendicitis--trust me, the meal will go down as smooth as silk if you don't skip this step.
Pick out the Bits of Maraschino Cherry and Toss them in the Garbage Disposal  ('Yes, I got your message, Claudia.  I'm afraid that it is a waste of time including me in your social activities--indeed, in any part of your life.  I feel that our lives are hardly compatible.  I'm sure you must agree.')
Give Yourself a High-Five.
 James proposes: ''Shall we throw Claudia out of the window?'
Take Your Picnic Lunch to the Bosham Cottage.  Corner your prey and pounce. 
Turn off the oven, clean up the kitchen and await future pledges of mutual affection.
The End

Rating:  This book is one of those meals that sticks to your ribs--hearty but plain fare.  Kate the Cook makes some memorable dishes, treats her nemesi to some wicked-hot mental violence and suffers some enormous reversals of fortune--though some of that is due to pride. When she loses her money we get a chance at some real pathos--it's almost heart-rending to be along with her through all the crap she has to put up with from Lady Cowder, only to have it be all for nothing.
James is no slouch himself.  Like a casserole, he took a little time to prepare but baked up to cheesy goodness once placed within the Oven of Love.  (Okay, I'm done now.)  I do wish that the first half of the book had more movement down the field (It's all a lot of 'Oh, nice legs.  I'm not interested but I'll help her anyway and forget her as soon as I can.') but once he decides to marry her it all gets way more interesting.
I really enjoy the bits with Claudia and Lady Cowder--they're a couple of nasty serpents in the garden. When things with James and Kate are a little dull, you can always count on his aunt making a crack about the dubious table manners of her housekeeper to keep it interesting.  Though why The Great Betty kept insisting that Lady Cowder wasn't intentionally unkind is a sort of backhanded compliment as the alternative is to think that she is socially moronic...
Mince pie.  
Though their implied conjugal relations were satisfactory,
 Kate kept telling him not to call her The Naked Chef...
Food:  Kate is a cook so there is a lot.  Chocolate cake, meringue nests with strawberries, roast duck with sauce Bigrade, raspberry sorbet, strawberry cheesecake, madiera cake, strawberry tartlets, lamb sweetbreads (a dish with the most mis-leading name in the history of food as they are neither sweet, nor bread, but rather the thymus glands of veal, young beef, lamb and pork), ham on the bone, whole salmon, toad-in-the-hole and Kate knocks back some cooking sherry (!! Isn't that supposed to be salty?) when life gets her down.

Fashion: Precious little clothes to talk about.  Her housekeeper's uniform is a white blouse paired with a navy skirt, she wears a pale green jersey, wears a mole-colored jersey all over Norway and dons a jersey dress the shade of warm mushrooms (which, despite my ambivalence to mushrooms, sounds yummy).

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, May 27th.
Love Can Wait
Accident and illness prone mother, Kate is a cook, multi-car accident in a tunnel.

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Star Looks Down--Reprise

Dirk, Dirk, Dirk.  He's a point of contention in A Star Looks Down.  To some he is a misguided and no more than casually awful pre-pubescent boy.  To others, he is a holy terror.  Having spent some educational years as a leader of Cub Scouts, my offering is that I have met Dirk before.  And I don't like him. It all gets muddled when you consider that little people often engage in semi-murderous activity in The Land of Neels and that my willingness to proffer forgiveness swings wildly from case to case.  Locks heroine in abandoned warehouse to be potentially attacked by indigent hippies?  Poor baby!  Lures her into scary house with rotting floorboards?  The darlings! Sets a boat loose with children on board?  String up the wicked varlet!
So, in the words of Betty Debbie, your forgiveness mileage may vary...
Love and lardy cakes,
Betty Keira  

Once upon a time, in the kingdom of Langton Magna, there was an enchanted princess. 
Her name was Elizabeth Partridge.  Elizabeth Partridge of Chifney House.  At her christening an evil fairy cursed her with Plainness of Face - the curse was quite effective, but it couldn't diminish her violet eyes and titian hair.  The curse could only be broken by True Love

After the death of their father, the king, her evil stepbrother Philip assumed the throne and exiled Princess Beth and Prince William, her brother, to the Dark Abyss of London.

Prince William is left just enough money to finish uni and take a medical course. Beth is left much less...she becomes a nurse to supplement the tiny annuity that was given her.  The two exiles share digs which means that Beth usually covers the rent and the groceries and the cooking and the cleaning.  Prince William is diligent in his studies, but often borrows a fiver from the princess for dates or new clothes - never realizing that the plain little princess might want a new pair of court shoes herself - after all, she is quite plain.

On her way to the hospital one day, Princess Beth runs into a mighty wizard from a far country.  A mighty wizard with a keen sense of sight - he can see past The Curse of Plainness. The wizard is not only powerful, he's also hot.

My favorite wizard.
The wizard has a sister who is under a spell...a cruel spell that necessitates an appendectomy. Mevrouw Thorbecke (wizard's sister) needs an indentured servant to take care of her 4 little horrors.  Prince William has a man-crush on the wizard, and blithely volunteers Princess Beth. He sees no problem with her forgoing her upcoming vacation to be a temporary nanny. What does she need with a vacation anyway? It's not like she was going to have any fun.  Much better for Beth to work and make a bit of lolly(I♥Betty) that  she can share with him. Beth is tempted to turn down the job, but Prince William is right, Beth really didn't have anything better in the offing...and there is that hot, hot wizard.
The wizard stops by the digs and is treated to a meal of macaroni cheese and orange squash while giving Beth a description of the children, ages 5 to 10.  Mind you, he's a bit misleading - Beth has no idea she'll soon be minding The Bad Seed. More on that later.

Princess Beth takes care of the children for a week in Darkest London.  They all get along just fine, and Beth enjoys the late night chats with the wizard.  He's really a bit of a poppet.  On her morning off, she makes a bee-line back to her shared digs, where she spends the morning cooking and cleaning.  During one of those late night chats, Princess Beth tells the wizard about her childhood home, her old pony Sugar and her horse named Beauty.  They were left in the hands of the evil stepbro, Philip.  Hmmm.
Princess Beth's leave is extended (she has been 'lent' by the hospital) so she can spend a couple of weeks in the country!

Thank you for saving my horse.
You really are a wizard!
The wizard, whose real name is Professor Alexander van Zeust, takes the whole party - Mevrouw Thorbecke, the 4 little horrors and Princess Elizabeth down to his country home.Three of the children are just fine - but the eldest is another story.  More on that later...yes, yes, we'll get to it soon.
The wizard has a surprise for her...he takes her for a ride one day - right up to the palace of the evil stepbro. The wizard casts a spell or two and manages to flatten Philip and save Sugar and Beauty from the knackers. Professor Wizard is some kind of wonderful.  He even invites Beth to go riding with him - of course she knows how- what with being a princess and all.  He also tells Beth what his idea of a good marriage is.
Him: I want fun, fights and a love to toss me to the skies.
Her: You should marry a beautiful princess who wears beautiful gowns and runs your wizard castle beautifully and is a  super hostess too.
Him: That sounds like a dead bore to me.

Mevrouw Thorbecke has recovered enough to go for a ride with Professor Wizard, Princess Beth and the kids.  A journey to Cheddar Gorge!  The mevrouw stays in the car while Beth and the Wiz shepherd the kiddies around. It's all good fun...right up until the Wiz leaves Beth alone with the kids in the canyon (so as to take the mevrouw out for tea). The Bad Seed scampers up the cliff despite repeated entreaties not to. Princess Beth has to climb up and join him. Of course she can't get him down...but the Wizard comes to the rescue. Up until this point, Dirk (The Bad Seed) has been a fairly normal boy of 10 - but he comes out of the Wizard's study a changed boy.  From here on out he is sullen, moody, full of rage, dislike and contempt.  He's loaded his emotional M-16 and pointed it directly at Princess Beth.  It's too bad she doesn't own a bullet-proof vest.

Because Mevrouw Thorbecke suffers from SSoRDD Syndrome (spoiled sister of rich Dutch doctor), she needs Princess Beth for MORE time (so far Mevrouw is at least 3 weeks post-op) arrangements are made for Princess Beth to accompany the troupe to Holland. A quick stop off in London - just enough time to cash her cheque, cook and clean for Prince William and leave him part of her hard earned wages (grrr...), and they're off to the continent and the Thorbecke's hometown of Willemstad! Not before a little foreshadowing in the form of an enigmatic incantation from the Wizard, "I'm waiting...."

Willemstad is a lovely little town, right smack on the waterfront. This is important.

Princess Beth has an incredible Dawning Realization.  Instead of  the usual "I love him and now must hide my love away"....she says the 'L' word right out loud! "Oh, my goodness, I love you...sorry.  I promise I won't bother you a bit - I'm quite sensible." It seems like her curse is broken.  Or is it?  She has accidentally spilled her emotional beans. In spite of all the clues we have that the Wizard is in love with Princess Beth, he fumbles the ball here.  Epic Fail!  She has declared her love and pretty much laid bare her soul, but for whatever unfathomable reason, Alexander the Wizard doesn't bother to seal the deal right then and there.
Her: harm done.  I may not have ever been in love before, but I promise not to moon around.  You're so hot and rich, I'm sure you can forget all about me with anyone you fancy - all you need do is lift a finger and they'll come running.
Him: I am not in the habit of chatting up the birds.
Her: Let's just forget this conversation.
Him: I have a retentive memory.
Sure, it sounds okay, and I'm a big fan of Beth right now - she isn't pretending that she's not in love - and she's woman enough to say it.  I am irritated with the all-knowing all-seeing Wizard.  As far as I can tell, the only reason he doesn't put a ring on it, is that she doesn't think she's his ideal wife.  Instead of words of encouragement, Beth is packed off to bed.

Lovely House Tour O' Love...with some even lovelier snogging.  Princess Beth kisses right back, 'may as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb', thinks she. 'Call me Alexander', says he. He dances around the subject of outright, she's fobbed off with 'Next Time we'll talk about love'. (grrrrr...teeth grinding).  You just know that something will happen...Alexander was tempting the fates when he left her hanging like that. 
The Revenge of Moby Moody Dirk!!!
Ten year old thug Dirk decides it's time to make Princess Beth pay for her alleged crimes.  He nicks a small sailboat and bundles his other three siblings in - they will all go sailing! Beth sees them and tries to stop the young felon.  Since he won't stop, she sheds her shoes and swims out to the boat.  Now they're all in trouble.  Bad weather is coming, Moody Dirk is all talk and no trousers - he doesn't know how to sail.  Princess Beth may ride horses but she's hopeless at water sports...the other three kids are just ballast. By dint of working together, Moody Dirk and Princess Beth (mostly Beth) manage to finally make it into a harbour and off the boat.  Alexander is in a white hot rage, Mevrouw Thorbecke has roused herself enough to be mildly put out that Beth would endanger her children.  Yes, Moody Dirk has managed to shift the blame to Princess Beth.  Everyone, it seems, is mad at Princess Beth and ready to blame her for the entire nautical debacle.  She's suddenly tired of the whole business, so instead of explaining, she leaves.  Leaves Holland and takes the next boat to England. It seems she's back under the curse again.

Moody Dirk confesses his sins to Uncle...the little toe rag finally feels remorse for his transgressions. Alexander catches up with Beth at the train station in London. A final few kisses to break the curse, proposal of marriage...
...and they lived happily ever after.  
Epilogue: Beth kept a wary eye on their children...she had to be sure that the taint of Moody Dirk was not hereditary. All the right fairy godmothers were invited to every christening to help ward off the whiff of Bad Seed-i-ness.

Fancy waistcoat?
Rating: Gosh, there's a lot of fun here, but it's a real curate's egg for me. I have a tough time with Beth being such a doormat for Brother William.  I don't mind that they share digs, I don't mind that she does the lion's share of the cooking and cleaning (some people are just like that).  What I do mind is that she constantly sacrifices her wages so that Willy Boy can go on dates and wear fancy waistcoats - that behaviour just strikes me as beyond the pale. I also have a problem with the dear professor.  He works just fine for me right up until the point Beth has her dawning realization and blurts out her love.  She's adorable...really, really adorable - but he's a bit of a prat.  Although it's never stated, it's pretty obvious that he fell in love at first sight, and now that the girl confesses her love...he fumbles the ball. Moody Dirk leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  I don't have a problem with his first foray into disobedience - it really only affects himself...and it is something a naughty ten year old would do (thus speaks a woman who has had 5 ten year old boys of her own, and dozens of 10 year old cub scouts.  I know what I'm talking about here).  The entire scene where he takes his younger siblings (including 5 year old sister) on a boat ride is frankly disturbing. That and the fact that he would hold a grudge and act on it. Ew.  I really can't do better than Mince Pies on this one, but if someone can give me a really good reason for a) giving money to brother William for dates and fancy waistcoats and b) why Alexander doesn't get off the dime sooner, I'll be willing to reconsider.
Food: Sandwiches and yoghurt from the canteen, macaroni cheese and orange squash, anchovy toast, rich chocolate cake, beef olives Provenḉal (which strangely enough, don't have any olives...), apple pie and cream at least twice, pâté of cod's roe, Sole bonne Femme, bread and butter pudding, ratatouille, fillet steak, cake batter licked from the bowl.
Fashion: Brown tweed skirt and sweater, William has a taste for wildly expensive waistcoats, suede jerkin, leaf green jersey dress, Irish tweed suit, uninteresting brown woollen dress, deep mauve jersey dress, Alexander wears proper riding gear while Beth wears slacks and borrowed wellies, quaker grey jersey dress.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, May 20th
A Star Looks Down
Cheddar Gorge, dramatic boat rescue, 10 year-old nemesis.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Stars Through the Mist - Reprise

Whenever I write out the title to this one, I always want to call it "Stars Through the Midst"...which doesn't make any sense - but I suppose it's the seminary teacher in me (Luke 24:36 - KJV "...stood in the midst of them..."). 


I actually like this one quite a bit.  The title even helps a bit - although Botany Class in the Mist or Deborah Gets Kissed in the Catholic Orphanage would have been more descriptive.   Deborah is a dandy heroine, plucky and perhaps a teeny weeny passive aggressive("me, me, me also..."). My biggest problem with Stars Through the Mist is the bit about being lost (then found) on the moors...which is such a fabulous set-up for declarations of undying whatchamacallit...and then it simply fizzles.  Why Betty? Why?  I'm willing to give TGB a pass though - her finale in the orphanage more than makes up for the previous stalling.

I wasn't crazy about last week's hero because he's a suave man-of-the-world who, after sustaining a Youthful Disappointment and without really understanding his future wife at all, plonks a bloodless offer of marriage before a girl who loves him and then practically ruins her life. And, oh my heck, that's exactly the set-up for Stars Through the Mist. And I really liked it.

Somebody get a chapel and a choir to sing...!
Deborah Culpeper (Why does Betty Debbie get all the fun?) has turned down several offers of marriage.  She's a nice-looking 27-year-old Theatre Sister with a quiet, self-controlled manner and efficient way about her job.  This is probably all that Mr. Gerard van Doorninck, 37, knows for sure. 
On the strength of his assumptions, he follows her into her office at the ragged end of one very trying day and asks her as baldly as possible: How do you feel about marrying me?
Deborah must restrain the impulse to throw herself across the blotter (never mind the off-duty and the laundry rota) and grab at his lapels shouting ecstatically, 'Yes, yes, yes!!! A thousand times yes!', dancing off waving her nurses' cap and singing with glee,'Somebody's getting married!'
She has been in love with this man since the moment he asked her to hand him his first Langenbeck retractors more than two years ago and no amount of chatting up by eager young housemen is going to change that.
So, here we are.  Gerard, laboring under the false premise that her single status is because of her cold-fishyness and inner reserve, proposes a partnership. (The job description is your standard MOC contract deal: No implied conjugal relations, no pledges of mutual affection, run the home, entertain the guests, pour the tea, weather ill-temper, consent to treatment that the authentic Chippendale davenport wouldn't put up with, etc.)  He proposes because she feels safely encased in ice (as he is) and never guesses that her reserve is so absolute because for the last two years it's been quite a job stemming the tide of her nigh on uncontrollable passion.. 
I'd rather be miserable with
you than without you...
She tells him that she will give him his answer in a couple of days and works her way around to a Gigi-esque compromise (weighing her desire to be with him against her own potential for an awful life) and says yes.  But she wants to know about his marriage--the first one.
'Did you love your wife?' 
He said with a bitter little sneer which hurt her, 'All women are curious...' 
'Well, I'm not all women...and I'm not in the least curious...but it's something I should have to know.'
He doesn't volunteer much but Sasja, it seems, was a mistake. 
That's good enough for Deborah.  She consents to an elopement (Well, what else do you call getting married without friends or family and sneaking your wedding hat on in the car in case anyone should see?) and then they're speeding their repressed way down to her parent's home.
But just when you're grabbing the hankies and wondering how this will manage to avoid becoming theThornbirds they're chatting about room assignments and willing to toss for the dubious honor of faking a migraine on their wedding night in case Mama Culpeper wants to bunk them together.
And then we're off to Holland where, if we read the subtext right, Gerard still doesn't love his wife.  The evidence, Mr. Prosecutor, if you please:
  1. No Home Tour of Love--and worse, her new mother-in-law takes her on the tour instead of an anonymous, if well-loved, family retainer who will promptly forget the Master's carelessness.
  2. Gerard makes no mention of finding someone to give her Dutch lessons.  Sure, she rings up the ubiquitous Professor Wit but Gerard neither knows nor cares. I know he gives her a car but in Neels a car might simply mean, 'You may run your own errands.'
  3. Despite making her skin crawl, Gerard's cousin Claude van Trapp is allowed to run tame at her home.  
Yeah.  About that flesh-eating virus...Claude is a nasty piece of work.  His first bit of undermining is to tell her all about Sasja and to shoot poisonous darts at Deborah.  She's up to the challenge, however, and makes mincemeat of him.  And it's handy that Gerard overhears both his cousin's slander and his wife's defense (heroic defense considering she knew none of the details of her husband's life).  Out goes Claude on his ear and we'll catch up to him at the end.
The middle of the book then becomes a character study about how well Deborah manages to hold up under the grim conditions--her husband neither acknowledging her efforts (but then, the point is that he shouldn't see any effort) nor conceding an inch of hard-won independence.  She exhibits determined resoluteness to ignore that ravishing woman he was seen driving with, hurt and wonder (how was she to know he liked children?) that his relationship with her little sister, Maureen, should be so natural, sudden uplifts of  hope when he meets her at the ferry just so she won't have to drive home in a torrent, all that trying to learn his language and make friends with his friends, plunging despair when (in the wake of a tractor accident) he calls her strapping, and full of strength and common sense...
And just as you're at your wits end with these two crazy kids, Claude the Debaucher of Young Maidens waltzes back in through the sadly not dead-bolted door in the garden.  (And thank heavens he does or this balloon would have had a short and unhappy flight.)  He sees her trying on a wickedly expensive Gina FratiniFratini!) and she doesn't struggle as mightily as she might otherwise because, after all, she was wearing a Gina Fratini.  But she does slap him.  But Gerard, walking in unexpectedly, isn't of a mind to praise her heroics.  He only saw the non-struggling and when he dresses her down for being apparently willing, he deserves her scorn.  'I bought this dress because you told me to and I've charged it to you--it's a model and it cost over a thousand gulden, and I'm glad!  I wish it had cost twice as much!'
Deborah could have really used a handy
guide to inter-religious Dutch conflicts
Gerard goes out of town almost immediately and Deborah decides to pass her time by volunteering in a Catholic orphanage--a bit of a sticky wicket as Gerard is a Calvinist and there were some familial beheadings in the way-back.  (Deborah was probably very lucky that she hadn't wandered into an Arminian orphanage.  Actually, as Calvinists are big into predestination, it probably wasn't luck, per se...)
Gerard finds out that she's gone every week but doesn't know where.  'Where do you go Thursday evenings?' he asks. But he hasn't earned the right to ask and he knows it, so accepts her refusal to tell.
She is in a lorry accident and he's aghast she thinks he doesn't care two straws about what happens to her.  But now he wants to make headway and invites Deborah see his consulting rooms wherein he has a hot, nubile secretary.  (Hmm, thinks Betty Keira, puckering her brow.  If she's not on her way out and already sporting an engagement ring, then what is she doing in Neelsdom?)  It seems as though Claude the Debaucher of Young Maidens has finally found a girl willing to ruin her reputation in Nice (French for Brighton).  But Gerard walks in, assumes the worst (that his wife as arranged to snog his cousin at his place of business), clocks Claude and makes some wild accusations.  
Finally the secretary, on the way out the door with her lover, fesses up to Gerard.  (How does that conversation with the boss go, I wonder?  Mr. van Doorninck, I just don't like my retirement pension plan here and the dental plan isn't that I'm running away to live in sin with your sleazy cousin.)  But it's too late to apologize.  Gerard returns to his house to find that Deborah has packed her bags.  She's going to Scotland.
In Scotland there is mist, St. Julian's botany class, and Gerard and stars.  (I would go on about this sometimes adorable interlude but I'm annoyed that Deborah and Gerard resolve nothing (nor does she extract a serious enough abasement and apology) while there.)
They return to Holland together and it looks like ruts will be stuck in but one day he finds her at the orphanage and catches her mid-game when her back it turned.   They sort themselves out amidst the clamor of young children.  He is agreeably ecumenical...
The End

Rating:  I loved the beginning.  Deborah is a near-tragic figure, swathed in a mask from head to toe, hiding her love away from a man whose first name she doesn't even know.  (High drama, Betty!)
The middle wasn't as good as its early promise, lingering too long on the placid day-to-day of life as a neglected wife in Holland but, then, that's sort of the point. Nothing ever happens to Gerard because Gerard doesn't let it happen and so Deborah's plan of action is to insinuate herself rather than bust molds and shatter calm.  The altercations regarding Claude van Trapp don't have quite enough set-up for me and I think Betty might have siphoned off some of her talk about tea and jewelry to give to him.  But then, he's a quite tantalizing character with lurid passions (spiriting off a young secretary to the French equivalent of Brighton--though, honestly, isn't the entire country just a great big Brighton?), fierce jealousy, and real meanness.
By the end, La Neels gives us a great walloping finish--the image of them embracing in a mass of orphans, young children of the kind that Gerard would have denied them both, is darling.
I give this a Boeuf en Croute.

Food: By agreeing to marry him, Deborah trades cold beef, salad and rice pudding for Supreme de Turbot Mogador. (Turbot is a kind of flat fish and I leave it to you to determine if her trade was a trade up or a mixed bag.)  

Fashion: Hospital masks which are symbolic.  A pinafore dress (you know my thoughts on these) in green ribbed silk.  Her wedding outfit is a pale blue dress and jacket with a wisp of a hat she doesn't put on until she's in the car so her friends can't see.  In Holland she wears a pink silk jersey and a soft lavender chiffon with a plunging neckline discretely hidden by frills  Rescuing the farmer she ruins a tweed outfit a replaces it with a white silk, long-sleeved, pin-tucked Gina Fratini number that cost the earth.