Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, August 5th
A Dream Came True
Lady Manderly in Scotland, Gloria in knickerbockers, and Jemima in a flatlet.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Not Once But Twice--Reprise

Good Monday, Dear Bettys,
Today I realized that we haven't provided a venue (much though you've tried) to discuss the little Prince. (When I say it, it sounds like Bambi, but frankly, Wills is not quite Alpha-male enough to be Bambi's father who I can't help but anthropomorphize as something more approaching a just-shy-of-middle-age dangerous Sean Connery in a serious kilt.)  "But, Betty Keira!" you say, "That doesn't fit the theme of this book!"  To which I respond that Kate will have to do her royal duty...ahem, cough...not once, but twice. "Oh, Betty Keira.  That was terrible," you say, your voice laced with the pain of disappointment. "Not worthy of you at all..."  


(Inadequate silence full of remorse)
But nevertheless, we can't let The Daily Mail have all the fun picking apart every detail... 
Love and lardy cakes,
Betty Keira

My apologies to all those who love this book. I knew going in that it wasn't one of my favorites, so I tried to keep an open mind.  Didn't help. 

He said:
I could have been a great...I could have had it all. It was all within my reach, but I foolishly let it slip away. Now I'm just a lonely old man, with nothing but my money to keep me warm. My name is Adam. Adam ter Brandt (24-ish). This is my story.

It all started with George Henry Forbes. We first met at a seminar in Brussels. If I hadn't run into him again in London, none of this would have happened. We were sitting in his study talking shop (he's a doctor...I'm a doctor) when She walked in. George Henry's sister, Christina Forbes. She was oozing with sensibility and sereness...and the most gorgeous eyes...other than that, she was a plain looking little thing who was getting long in the tooth.  A plain little thing that looked like she'd never been chatted up in all her twenty-seven years. Not my usual type at all, but she had something. I wasn't sure what that something was, but she had it and I was going to find out what it was. 
My time in London was limited, so I came up with a great plan - have her apply for a job at the hospital in Holland where I studied.  I knew she'd get the job, after all, my older brother Duert(37) is the director. She jumped at the chance rather pathetically - like she was jumping at straws. I found out a little later that she was anxious to find a place away from London - George Henry was engaged to be married shortly to a woman who didn't care for Christina.

Duert came running (as I knew he would) when he heard that I wanted to send a little English nurse over to his precious hospital.  He is rather a stickler for things like 'proper medical care' and all that rubbish. For some reason, he didn't object to little Chrissy.  Granted, she's a good nurse - evidently a better diagnostician than many of the junior doctors at St. Athud's, but besides that and being able to speak 3 languages, she's not all that.

When I got back from England, Chrissy was already in Holland.  We went out a few times, had a few laughs, everything was going great...and then Duert started horning in on my territory. He succeeded in turning her affections to himself, then exiled me to...America. Thus I have been reduced to the status of an ex-pat...I run a private clinic in LA. Cosmetic surgery has been good to me - liposuction, face lifts and silicone.  That's what my life has boiled down to. Money galore, but no sweet Chrissy.

She said:
What a load of hogwash. Sure, I fell for him. I fell like a ton of bricks.  With a face that's as plain as a pikestaff added to my increasing age - I was ripe to fall for anyone who gave me the time of day.  Even though I fell for Adam, I still retained a tiny little kernel of common sense. I knew that not all was as it should be. He was fun to be with...most of the time. But he was also rude and manipulative: 'Chrissy, get your hair done!' 'Chrissy, you need new clothes!' 'Chrissy, try some make-up!' 'Chrissy, you look a fright!' Yes, deep down I knew these were not the words of true love.

Duert was always there for me...he had the patience of a saint - waiting for me to shake myself out of the stupor that was Adam, offering his shoulder to cry on, taking me out for meals after the inadequate (and foreign!!) food that was all Adam saw fit to give me. He once held me in his arms for an hour while I slept! Duert grew on me slowly - Adam was frequently distracting me, and Duert seemed to be encouraging my relationship with Adam at every turn. That's not to say all was smooth between Duert and I. Once he told me, "Adam favours pretty girls, and you aren't pretty.' Duert's still paying for that one.

Adam wouldn't have been so bad if he had limited himself to flirting with me. He also lied continually about having to go to work or lectures, when he was really out with other girls. Why did he feel he had to lie? It wouldn't have come as a shock to me to hear (from him) that he was dating other girls too.  It should be no surprise that he also lied about and belittled his older brother.

What really got me was how close he came to ruining my life. Adam and I had already broken up and I was seeing more of Duert...I'd even been given the House Tour O'Love. Adam found me standing outside of Duert's house a day or two later and proceeded to be absolutely Vile and Malicious. He insinuated that I was after the richer brother, then went on to say that Duert would marry me because he felt sorry for me and that neither one of us would ever be sure of the other person's motives. Of course I didn't take him at face value, but he had sown a seed of doubt.

Duert saw the two of us together and assumed the worst. His attitude towards me changed and I felt wretched, just wretched. I was sure he despised me, so I gave notice. I couldn't leave without a parting shot - I as good as told Duert that I loved him and that the only reason I was outside his house that day was that I wanted to see his home again and remember it...then I bolted.

He said:
Hey, Duert here. In my defense, I was in quite a pickle. On the one hand, Adam is my brother. I've been privy to more of his skirt-chasing than any brother should have to be.  Christina seemed to be in love with him, so what else could I do but help her along?  That's not to say I let Adam have it all his own way.  I knew that sooner or later he would dump Christina and if I played my cards right, I would be right there ready to step into the breach.

It did take Christina a little while to make the switch...and then that no-good-dirty-rotten-scoundrel brother of mine deliberately went out of his way to to be vile. He broke the code of RDD siblings. The code clearly states that RDD siblings have the right to be:
  • selfish.
  • self-centered.
  • navel-gazing.
  • inadvertently cruel.
No where does it say that siblings have the right to be intentionally malicious. I found him guilty and sentenced him to no family holidays or family reunions for 5 to 10 years, sentence to be served in the USA.

After Christina stopped by my office on her way and of town and dropped that bombshell, I was gobsmacked. I wanted to run after her and sweep her into my arms, but I got roped into some hospital matters for the next half hour or so. I made arrangements to be gone for a few days - calculating it might take me that long to track Christina down - but I figured without my loyal household help. They were able to put me on her track much closer to home. I found my Christina walking on the beach in the teeth of a gale. We quickly sorted out our misunderstandings and I proposed. The end.

Rating: Not one of my favorites. Not even close. I didn't mind Christina...except that she spent way too much time being fooled by Adam.  Way. Too. Much. Time. And way too little noticing how much cooler and classier Duert was. I did like her inner thoughts...she knew she was being foolish. She didn't chase Adam - she just passively let him walk all over her.  I didn't mind Duert...except he spent way too little time with Christina.  I also had a tough time buying his 'love at first sight'. I do object to Adam - in a big way. I object to the thought that he is genetically related to Duert. I object to the thought that Christina will be related by marriage to the little toe rag.  Beans on Toast.  For a better treatment of this type of storyline see: Uncertain Summer (at least the heel is only a cousin...)
Fashion: Christina spends every waking hour (when not on duty at the hospital) wearing grey. A grey flannel suit, a grey jersey two piece, a grey chiffon ball gown. For some reason she's decided that grey is her colour - no wonder she never gets chatted up.  You can tell Adam's true caddish-ness by the outfit he wears to go clubbing with Christina. A blue velvet suit with an (I kid you not) open necked ruffled shirt. Duert looks pretty splendid in white tie and tails...I assume.  Christina doesn't really notice him.
Food: Adam takes her out to cheap little Bohemian little places - including Greek food twice, first kebabs, second time - fish salad.  Duert takes her out to fancy places - The Ritz for tea - thin cucumber sandwiches, little iced cakes and tiny meringues, The Claridge for lunch - avocado, salmon (because she wasn't sure what you did with lobster) and profiteroles. In Holland Adam takes her out for nasi goreng (an Indonesian fried rice dish) then Duert takes her to Le Bistroquet for avocado vinaigrette, sole Veronique and a hot souffle.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, July 29th.
Not Once, But Twice
Chrissy dates younger brother Adam first, Chrissy's own brother is not very nice, nursing job in Holland. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Awakened Heart - Reprise

I am currently out of town on holiday.  This past week was spent mostly in Wyoming with a bit of Idaho and Montana thrown in for good measure.  Tomorrow my #4 child is graduating from college, so I'm in Rexburg, Idaho helping him to pack up his worldly possessions in preparation for his move to Boise, Idaho, wherein he has a job (hooray!).

Have a very Betty week!

Love and lardy cakes,
Betty Debbie
 When Betty Debbie ran the Upcoming Reviews feature last week, Betty Barbara commented: "According to my spreadsheet, I have actually read The Awakened heart. Could've fooled me!!"  What ills does this portend...?

Here's what you need to know about our heroine.  When Sophie Blount(27) brings home Rijk van Taak and her mother sees them together, the wise woman thinks to herself, 'A good thing Rijk loved Sophie so much that he was willing to put up with her ideas...'  Sophie practically makes a cottage industry out of peddling a lot of old trot.
...Which is all a shame as they started off so well, the darlings.  Rijk met Sophie while her shoe was stuck in a grate.  Rather than use it as an opportunity to oogle her legs (which is rather a short-term gain, long-term loss, I'd say), he unties her sensible heeled lace-ups (shudder) and helps her out.
Though he makes no headway on his initial sortie, he reconnoiters at her flatlet shortly thereafter and says in a loud, carrying tone, 'Your good landlady has kindly allowed me to visit...' Every troubled maiden worth her salt is guarded by a beastly dragon and Rijk is quick to note Miss Phipps the Landlady's status as the Gatekeeper...er...Keymaster.  Anyway.  Over the course of the next weeks, Rijk is here, there and everywhere like that foam insulation that expands into every nook and cranny.  Message?  Sophie's heating bills this winter will be low, low, low.
But, as much as the professor loves his Sophie (Oh yes, he is one smitten-kitten.), he is less enamored of her living situation.  Miss Phipps's slipping wig and ready tongue, Sophie's dire flatlet, the fact that Rijk has to do his wooing while on flying visits from Holland, night duty, Sophie's strange reluctance to commit romantically to the only disease-free millionaire to come calling, and that awful, poky side-street all combine to bring things to a brisk boil.
Which leads him to say gently on a brief overlook of Epping Forest, 'May I take it that we are now good, firm friends, Sophie?...Then perhaps you know what I am going to say next.  Will you marry me, Sophie?' 
Her response is disappointingly gobsmacked and they have a short little chat about how her heart was broken most vilely during her mis-spent youth and how she vowed never, ever to let herself be vulnerable again.
Editorial Note: I lose patience with Sophie at this point.  Though hitherto adorable (if unwilling to play ball), she's decided to blight her life over a man whose face she can't even remember?!  She's decided to skip the whole marriage and kids thing over that?!  I felt more sympathy for Tishy (A Small Slice of Summer) who at least had been broken-hearted within recent memory instead of Sophie's cock-and-bull reasons to cloister herself away from life--a decision arrived at over the course of eight loooong years.  Gah! 
He agrees to wait for her answer and here Betty loses me a bit. Maybe I was muddled myself, but there are several points at which she tells him that she agrees to marry him.  But they go back to, 'Is this your final answer?'  She tells him 'yes' on page 83. (Before they go to Holland.)  Reiterates it to Miss Phipps on page 89.  Mentally waffles on Holland (wherein the reader says, 'What?!') and tries to tell him again on 119.  She finally convinces him she means to marry him on page 137.  
You'll notice I skipped Holland.  The trip isn't that lengthy or that exciting and I kept getting distracted by the fact that she's spending her time deciding to marry him after she already said she would....Also, I really missed Miss Phipps and her sickening twitters.
Sophie seems to have no dawning realizations hovering on her horizon but in the lead-up to the wedding she is disturbed by Rijk's seeming inattention and absence.  And then one morning she awakes to an earthquake. (Not a real one.  Don't be silly, Bettys, real earthquakes only happen in Greece!)  She's in love with Rijk and he doesn't seem to love her back.
The marriage of convenience is all very well--it's certainly a pick-up after that so-so first Holland trip.  Sophie finds his servants endearing, his home lovely, her in-laws accommodating...But every Eden has a snake in the grass and Sophie's appears to be Irena van Moren.  She's one of those icy blonds who never have a hair out of place and has a vague, if disturbingly secretive, relationship with our hero.
Naturally there's a fight.  Sophie upbraids Rijk for stepping out with a woman she can't even loathe properly.  ('If she hadn't hated her so thoroughly, she would have liked her.')  Rijk ices up and Irena catches Sophie in the aftermath and sorts her out nicely.  'My husband--you knew?  You said you did.  He had a brain tumor and Rijk saved his life, but we told no one because Jerre is the director of a big business concern and if it were known that he was so very ill it would have caused much panic and shareholders would have lost money...'  At last!  A reason for secrecy and stealth that entirely exonerates everyone in a believable fashion!  I could kiss Irena.  And then Irena really does Sophie a solid by dragging her off to meet Rijk and make it up.
Jerre is the Steve Jobs of Holland
And they do.
The End

Rating: Parts of this one are very good.  Rijk is adorable and persistent and totally disgusted with Sophie's living set-up.  Miss Phipps is probably the all-time Betty Neels champion for objectionable (yet awesome) landladies... 
But the problem areas are nothing to sneeze at.  This is not one of The Great Betty's most consistent reads--I think Sophie has to tell Rijk that she'll marry him, like, three times and I kept thinking, 'I thought you'd settled that already.'  Also, though I know that Love's Young Dream Blighted is a common plot device to explain the unmarried state of hot, hot Dutch millionaire surgeons in La Neels' other books, when applied to Sophie* and explained out (the over-explaining murdered my sympathy for her rather than rousing it), I just wanted to slap her around.  Nobody (maybe by 'nobody' I really mean 'no gorgeous and oft-chatted-up nurse') ruins their life because they were thwarted in love at nineteen by some rotter unless one's sense of priorities or proportion are out of whack.  Look Sophie, chalk that one up to experience and move along.  The girl does redeem herself by allowing Irena to rush her off to apologize to Rijk at the end and I generally liked her otherwise but her youthful and sustained silliness was a mighty big pill to swallow.
So, the beginning is just great (maybe Queen of Puddings great) but the middle sort of muddles around and we only get a little lift in the end so the rest is just Treacle Tart for me.
*I read this in the midst of a three-week-long barf fest at Casa van Voorhees so my grumpiness at life might have spilled over at Sophie...

Food: Milk pudding (which the idea of offends my sense of texture probably), cornflakes, grilled Dover sole, sherry trifle, hot sausage rolls, mince pies, roast duck and orange sauce, mushrooms in garlic, lemon syllabub, smoked eel on toast, tiny quiche, cheese puffs, baby sausage rolls, creamed chicken soup and potatoes 'whipped to incredible lightness'.

...but in velvet.
Fashion: A notorious heeled lace-up, a quilted rose pink dressing gown, a dark red checked skirt and jacket, a tweed skirt and needlecord jacket, agorgeous midnight blue velvet dress with a low neck, a short dress in a rich mulberry silk, a dark green cowl-neck dress with a pleated skirt.  She briefly regrets that her wedding won't allow for a white satin wedding dress and wears instead, a winter-white dress and coat along with a hat (a velvet trifle decked with pink-tipped feathers), and a long dress of almond-pink chiffon (which would look beastly on me, I just sure of it).  And to contrast the heroine and the female burr under her bustle, Irena wears a scarlet anorak and stretch leggings when she glides effortlessly across the lake and Sophie skids around wearing corduroy slacks and a thick sweater.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Little Betty Emergency

Greetings, dear Bettys!
I am in a bit of a spot.  A good friend of Betty Kylene and myself is decamping to The Netherlands with her husband and teenaged daughter.  The woman is a darling and doesn't know what culinary joys await.  Sadly (well, no), she is already married, so no Rich Dutch Doctors will do her any good at all.  But Betty Kylene is determined to speed her on her way with a quick primer on mid-century Dutch living, major tourist spots and what to wear when greeting a Dutch mayor.
So, the question is:
Which Betty Book should we give her that hits all the high spots?
(And don't say Caroline's Waterloo (we're both unwilling to part with our copies even for so good a cause) or Sister Peters in Amsterdam (we can't find a copy fast enough!))

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, July 22nd
The Awakened Heart
Sensible lace-ups, Miss Phipps the landlady, MOC.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Never the Time and the Place--Reprise

Good morning, Dear Bettys
The title of this one obviously references the Robert Browning snippet, "Never the time and the place and the loved one all together..."  We here at Casa Van Voorhees are in just such a state.  Pledge 1 left for a week of Boy Scout camp this morning at 4am and Pledge 2 is on a great West States adventure with Tante Betty Debbie.  Meanwhile, we have appropriated three teenagers (2 from Betty Brother Brian and 1 from Betty Sherri) for the week and so we're having a lot of fun and a LOT of ice cream.
When I looked over my discussion thread for this original post I wrote:
Another nurse says Mr. van Tacx has 'such a lovely dark brown voice'.  Betty Debbie was telling me that our grandmother had such a 'metallic' voice the other day.  After much thought (okay, no thought at all), I figure Mijnheer van Voorhees has the voice of not-quite-ripe pears.  Lovely.
So my question is, what does the voice of your loved one remind you of?
Love and lardy cakes!
Betty Keira

I was several pages into Never the Time and the Place before I remembered the plot...or rather, some of the plot. Imagine a light bulb( here, I'll help - ☼◄that's my lightbulb).  This is one of the few books in the Canon that features a full-on white(cream)satin wedding!  From the beginning to the end, this love story moves along at a cracking pace. Put on your running shoes, and let's get started:

Week One (sometime in October):
Josephine Dowling (hereafter to be referred to as 'Jo' in the interests of brevity and not getting carpal tunnel) is 25, tall, gorgeous and built.  Not only that her relationship status is engaged. While taking Cuthbert(the dog) for walkies, she contemplates her cold feet.  Sure, it's a cold, windy, sodden sort of day, but that's not her problem.  She's just not sure she wants to get married at all.  Her thoughts, plus the wind and rain nicely mask the sound of a great socking Bentley that nearly runs her and Cuthbert down. Her cold feet are nothing compared to the glacial blue eyes and frosty manner of the handsomely rugged (or is that ruggedly handsome...see cover art) man.  Words are spoken and they both go their separate ways, her to her parents home, he to Branton house...just a few miles away.  He loses little time in ferreting out the name of his One True Love.  Oh yeah, it's love at first fight.

In the kind of coincidence seldom found outside the pages Neels, Jo just so happens to be the Ward Sister in charge of the 'gyny' cases at St. Michael's, and Tall Dark and Handsome will soon be spending a month as locum for Dr. Bull - the regular surgeon of women's 'parts' at St. Michael's.  Up until recently TD and H has been engaged also - but as this plays very little part in the proceedings, we'll ignore it right up until the ex-fiancee rears her figuratively ugly head. His name? Julius van Tacx.  Relationship status: It's Complicated.

The part of Tony the Fiancee will be played by Malcolm. Being engaged to Malcolm isn't entirely a piece of cake...there are...shall we say, some problems. 
  • First and foremost is the fact that Malcolm's mum and Jo do. not. get. along.
  • Malcolm can't wait to move back to his hometown and share a medical practice with his dad.
  • His hometown is pretty far away from her hometown.
  • He tells her his mother can teach her to sew her own clothes, instead of frittering away money on cute, stylish, well-fitting, new clothes, fripperies.
  • His mother's taste in clothing was as remote from fashion as the moon was from cheese.
  • Malcolm drives a Ford Granada and considers The Golden Egg good enough for a dinner date.
  • He calls her 'Old Girl'.
What it really boils down to is the fact that she doesn't love him.  So she breaks their engagement  He's not exactly brokenhearted. ..which sort of makes it worse for her.  Mr. van Tacx is the first person she runs into. Hullo, had a tiff?
Jo is not in the mood to be consoled. It's off to a very hot bath to cry her eyes out in peace. She may not have been in love with the tick, but she's had an emotional wrench just the same.

Mr. van Tacx stops by Jo's office to beg a pot of tea where Jo increases her hold on his heart by coming up with cheese sandwiches.
Please don't call me 'sir' outside the hospital.
I doubt if we'll run into each other.
There is a divinity that shapes our ends...rough hew them how we may. (I ♥ Betty)
He's quoting Shakespeare?  Call mama and engrave the invitations.
Well, not quite yet.  First Julius takes Jo out for a bite and some advice to the lovelorn. Editor's Note: The first time I read this book, I didn't get why Jo would be upset over the broken engagement.  She dumped him - move on!  Upon re-reading I have much more sympathy for her.  Yes, she dumped him, but it wasn't because she was shallow or flighty.  Her reasons were sound, but that doesn't mean it didn't hurt - and to have Malcolm dismiss her so lightly afterwards would have been like pouring salt in the wound. 
Julius offers a shoulder to weep on, some advice, and a hearty pub dinner. Nice. He trots out his broken engagement as proof that he knows what it's like to be jilted (mind you, he doesn't seem broken hearted about it).
To sum up week one: Josephine and Malcolm break up. Josephine doesn't think she likes Mr. van Tacx. In spite of this, Julius starts making friendly advances .

Week Two:
Jo waits until the weekend to break the news of her new relationship status (single) to her parents.  They aren't very fussed about it - they never really liked Malcolm (or his mother).  Jo and Julius run into each other at Lady Forsythe's party...Julius drives Jo back up to London.  Julius is gone for 3 days...Jo misses him. Julius kisses a surprised Josephine. Dinner together - with a casual, no kiss, good night.
Malcolm sends a Malcolm-ish letter...in which he requests to split the proceeds from selling a clock that they purchased together - which sends Jo off to cry in the bathtub.
Julius is quick to notice the puffy eyes and red nose. 
Him: Buck up!
Her: You have no right to stick your nose in.
Him: I'm working on that...you need a holiday - at least 10 days.
He wants to get rid of me, thinks Jo...and that hurts.

Week Three:
Jo takes a holiday at home. Her pride over the broken engagement had suffered more than her heart. We may now dismiss Malcolm entirely.

Week Four:
Jo's holiday, continued. Julius shows up for the weekend - right where they met the first time. After church Julius invites Jo to spend the afternoon with him at Stourhead - where he eyes the damp statues of the grotto with an unromantic eye. I find it hard to work up any romantic feelings over statues.  Well, that's a relief. Jo wonders where romance has gone...Oh, Julius has some romance all right, he hauls out his great big Cookbook O'Love and gives her a recipe....no one needs time to fall in love - one may not realise it when it happens, but sooner or later one becomes aware. Yes, he's just given her the recipe for a Dawning Realization.
As the weekend winds down, Julius takes his leave of Mr. and Mrs. Dowling with a handshake and a front row view of him kissing Jo...unhurriedly. Mum knows which way the wind is blowing, even if Jo doesn't.

Week Five:
Back at hospital the other nurses tell Jo that Mr. van Tacx is going on a date with the small, sexy, gold digger, Moira.  Julius is much too smart for Moira.  He invited Sister Clark (in her fifties) and Mr. Dean, the elderly Senior Pharmacist ...there was no way Moira could compete. Julius tells her it was a case of safety in numbers -
 but he always feels safe with her.
Mr. Bull returns. Julius leaves.

Week Six:
Home for the weekend. It's nasty weather - biting wind, icy gale, is it the same weather in Holland? Julius would have no idea, he's sitting in her parent's cozy sitting room discussing anaesthesia with her dad. Did she spend any time thinking of him?Never. What, never? Hardly every. She does accept an invitation to go for a walk on the morrow.  Six miles through a nasty mixture of frozen mud and ruts, but that is mere piffle to a Neels gal.
Paging Dr. Dowling, paging Dr. Dowling! There's been an accident in your neck of the woods...A milk tanker, a furniture van and a small family car have tangled and need medical attention.
After church Julius asks Jo to go back to Stourhead - this time they tour the church. I should like to be married here.  To you, Josephine. Umm...think about it while I'm gone. Yeah, I'm going back to Holland. (at this point you can either channel Arnold  "I'll be back" or MacArthur  "I shall return)
Jo goes back at the hospital wondering about Julius.  This is a very unsettled week for Jo. Where is Julius? When will he be back?

Week Seven:
Julius is back!  He invites Jo to dinner at his new flat.  The flat that he purchased from a friend, because he knew that he and Jo would want their own place in London. His proposal is renewed, vital statistics given (he is possessed of one father, three married sisters and two unmarried brothers). He can arrange for her to leave the hospital at the end of the week, and they can be married in three weeks in the Stourton church.  It's to be a full on wedding, cream satin, two bridesmaids and all the family.

Weeks Eight and Nine:
Wedding preparations, shopping for wedding clothes. Missing Julius.

Week Ten:
Wedding at Stourton and honeymoon in York. Dawning Realization. On the way back to her parents house, Julius makes his first attempt to tell Jo how he feels.  He tries again on their way to London..unfortunately Jo is asleep.  He tries AGAIN at the London flat...but is interrupted by Mrs. Twigg, the housekeeper. They drive to the ferry...talking about lots of things, but not love.  I do get that - I'd want to look someone in the eye right then, not dodge traffic. A fairly passionate kiss in front of the family retainers - Jo giving as good as she got. Another interrupted attempt by Julius to have The Talk.

Week Eleven:
Holland. Magda the Ex-Fiancee. Jo invites Magda to stay for lunch and then Magda implies she and Julius will spend some time together...Julius is out very late. Jo chews him out like a fishwife. Julius quietly tells her she's as blind as a bat and they will have a TALK in the morning. He's not there in the morning, so she ends up going to the village school's Christmas party by herself.  In spite of not speaking the language, Jo manages to be the life of the party - to the extent of starting a conga line with all the students and the teachers.  Julius takes her home, puts up a do not disturb sign and finally has The Talk. At last - the time and the place, but only you can tell me if I have the loved one...some delightful snogging ensues. The End.

Rating: Julius was delightful...twinkling eyes before a kiss, twitch of a smile before a kiss, advice to the lovelorn, and he's a pretty fast mover.  From the time he met her in October(whilst she was engaged) until the final delightful snogging sometime near Christmas the pace never really lets up. He's persistent about wooing her, which I like. A lot. Josephine was pretty plucky too - from breaking off her engagement to Malcolm to getting engaged to Julius it was really only a matter of a few weeks.  Sure, her emotions swung about - but all things considered, she did a pretty good job of handling herself.  I adored the scene near the end when she had all the kids and teachers doing the conga. Cross-over characters Tane and Euphemia van Diederijk (from An Apple from Eve make an appearance - they now have two children). And now for the tough part. I have no idea what to rate this one.  It has lovely moments, delicious bits of prose and likeable characters...but for me it ends up being slightly forgettable. I think I'll go with a Boeuf en Croute (with maybe a side order of Queen of Puddings).

Fashion: Julius falls in love with her while she's wearing a wringing wet macintosh,  whoever thought up dinner jackets had him in mind, Jo bought knitting wool to make herself a chunky sweater in the Italian style, bridesmaid dresses of deep claret cotton velvet, were found at Laura Ashley, cream satin!!! wedding dress, silver grey taffeta party dress with a long skirt, scoop neckline and extravagantly puffed sleeves (which sounds so much like Princess Di's wedding dress.
Food: Apple crumble and cream, 'as nice a piece of 'am as I've seen for a long time and real cheese', tea that would drive a train, onion soup, homemade pate and toast, a morsel of trout, fresh caught from the river running through the hotel garden, Tournedos Rossini, homemade ice cream, chocolate orange creams, Vichyssoise, poulet chausseur, weak coffee and sandwiches that had been wrapped by a fiendish hand.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Betty in the Wild...

...or better yet, Betty at the Beach!

James and Matilda (from The Most Marvelous Summer) came along for some summer fun on the beach.
Grandson Henry is ready to devour a good book. Seriously.  He would have eaten the book if I had let him.
Betty Keira's 3rd pledge was a pretty good sport about posing with  a romance novel while keeping warm in his mound of sand.
It was a nippy morning at Oswald West State Park - plenty of surfers wearing their full Oregon surfing regalia (wet suits). The waters from the Pacific Ocean off the Oregon Coast are really quite frigid.  I can see why some wimps surfers might want protection from the icy waves.
Betty Debbie's youngest pledge calming strides out into the waves  - without a wet suit.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, July 15th
Never the Time and the Place
Broken engagements, Stourhead, full-on wedding.

Monday, July 8, 2013

No Need to Say Goodbye - Reprise

I'm going to lead off with a picture here.
Gorgeous Baby van Voorhees.

The point of these pictures (besides showing off Betty Keira's adorable pledges), is to point out the girls here.  Betty Laura is 10 years older than Betty Maren. Laura is the type of girl who is going to grow up to be gorgeous, but not really aware of it.  Much like the heroine in our book.  Fortunately, Maren will never turn out to be a Zoe.  If Betty Keira and her husband die in some unfortunate motoring accident (and let's pray they never do), I will personally ensure that Maren is never a blight on Laura's love life.

Last week was Never Say Goodbye (which was so, so good) and I guess Betty felt quite strongly that to utter the word 'goodbye' was the kiss of death for a relationship.  Let's see if we like No Need To Say Goodbye  as well...(pssst.  We don't, more's the pity.)

For the first fifty pages I was trying to stop sniggering over her name: Nurse Payne (which sounds like some basement dweller's World of Warcraft avatar).  Louise Payne, 26, is a lovely and serene girl about whom nobody feels the slightest temptation to make a pun.  She is the possessor of four millstones; Zoe, 19, (which name actually has an umlaut over the e but I refuse to make the effort for a character I feel so conflicted about--actually, that's not so.  I don't feel conflicted.  I want to smack that treacle-y darling up the backside of the head.), Christine (we don't care about Christine except to note that she is underage), Michael (another sibling only trotted to fill out familial conversations and to leave notes like'Gone fishing') and Dusty the dog.
They're orphans about to be evicted from their dreary London home.
At times like this you can only thank your lucky stars that comfortably-off and satisfyingly distant and disagreeable relatives obligingly pop off and have the good sense to leave their cottage to one.  Louise, hitherto downcast and worried, practically dances a jig on the sidewalk outside the solicitor's and Dr. Aldo van der Linden, a long-time colleague, crosses over out of curiosity.   
Though they've worked with one another for years, there hasn't been an atom of attraction between them. (Which I don't buy for a minute but, if pressed to explain, I might ascribe to the probability that Louise has turned off her pheromones for the duration of raising her siblings.)
Aldo finds out that their new home will be in Much Hadham, just down the street from where he lives!...but he doesn't tell her until he walks in on her scrubbing Great-Aunt Letitia's cabinets. 'Well, I never...'
Editorial NoteOne of my gripes with this book is that you don't really get a feel for when he falls in love with her.  (I don't require a time and a place for most books but since they've been like icebergs, bumping along in the mid-Atlantic for eons, then, yes, I would like to know when his fire was lit.)  Anyway, with very little evidence to work with, I think this might be it.  He's there in her kitchen, enjoying surprising her, glimpsing a peek behind the closed curtain of her private life (and getting to see her gallant struggle to keep their family together, enormous sacrifices she's made to achieve it and pathetic relief that they get a small cottage off in the country) and getting told, in the kindest way possible, that if he'd just shove off, she could get on with it.  I think that seeing her hair down (a hoary, if accurate, cliche) sparks things off. 
Over the course of the next few weeks, he volunteers to be the family chauffeur, ferrying cleaning supplies and small luggage down to Much Hadham.  Zoe, greets her sister (home from cleaning excursions), with hot tea and sympathy and then is sure to be the one to walk Aldo out to the car for a delightful coze.  On this very thin beer, Louise constructs a relationship.  To her wearied mind, not only does Aldo find Zoe attractive but he also must want to marry her.  And Louise is nothing if not resolute in pressing for Zoe's advantages.
The main theme here is that Louise is an outsider.  She never gets a chance to be with the rest of the family, or is included in other activities (she works night duty, after all) or enjoys a light flirtation with a handsome Dutchman.  Now, a bunch of that is circumstantial and some of it is her own fault but I feel bad for her anyway. 
When the time comes to retrench to Much Hadham, Louise (sensible, good sport, serene, Louise) is being sucked into a vortex of silliness.  She is determined to throw Zoe at Aldo's innocent head and conversely strives to avoid meeting him.  She can't make heads nor tails of her feelings but follow them she does--dodging his invitations time after time on the thinnest of excuses.
Aldo, meanwhile, finds Louise's'maidenly shrinking tedious' (Ouch.) and he calls her out on it.  He is also becoming increasingly amused by Louise the Yenta.  But he's also more than a little annoyed too.  Though the book doesn't make a wonderful case at this point that he is in love, subsequent events lean to the probability.  The girl he loves is evidently impervious to his attractions, determined to force him into wooing Zoe (whom I like to think he thought of as insipid), and closed off to thinking of her own love life.  This has to stop!
The Log Jam of Pre-Mature Spinsterhood is finally unloosed by a couple of things.
  • Zoe meets George Standish--a junior partner at the firm of solicitor's that she works at.  (Though her attraction to George doesn't stop her from ruining her sister's courtship as much as possible.  'Hey, feather-brain, you're about five years too old to be flinging your arms around every personable fellow you meet!  Stop it.')  
  • Also, Louise gets a short-term nursing job for Aldo which requires her to travel up to London with him and, even better, up to Scotland.

'Well, it is romantic, you know.  Grottoes and things,' she added vaguely, and thought how wonderful it would be if he were to take her in his arms and kiss her, a hollow hope.
He turned her around smartly.  'In which case, I think it advisable not to visit the grotto.' A remark which made her face flame...Never, never, she promised herself, would he get the chance to say anything like that again...    
Though signs of his growing attachment have been nearly nonexistent, all at once the jello sets.  He is suddenly tormented, leashed and awesome.  He'll be patient and he'll get his girl and he'll let us watch.  (Which irks me because it would have only taken a couple of paragraphs to sustain us through the first half of the book, when lots of great things happen (I love when cottages are cleaned!) but nothing excites.)
They travel back to Much Hadham in the teeth of a fierce storm and come upon an accident, written superbly by The Great Betty.  While a small family, a couple of teenagers, some house pets and a baby are fed through The Plot Chipper-Shredder, we witness how perfectly they are suited to one another and how much their happiness depends on the other not being incinerated in an auto explosion.
The kids will be fine!
And then he takes her to Holland.  (She doesn't want to go (There be Grottoes!) but he plays the 'You are in my employ' card to withering effect.)  She overheard a telephone conversation before they left which sounds pretty definite: 'I think we had better wait until we are back again before we say anything, Zoe.  You haven't talked about it at all?...You need not feel guilty, my dear...'  (Zoe feels a smidge bad that she wants to fly the coop just when she is in a position to shoulder some of her sister's burdens.)
Louise is only just holding herself together and has begun thinking that a job in a Chilean mine or at a Himalayan base camp.  Christine and Michael (the shadow siblings!) seem to be doing very well without her, watched over by the motherly home help, Mrs. Wills.
So, when Zoe kisses Aldo upon their return, it's only what she has rigidly tried to accept.  Aldo is quick to sack her as soon as he drops her off.
'sokay though.  He's back the next day while she's ironing and proposes the tar out of her. 
'...my dear heart, I cannot go on any longer without you.'
The End

Rating:  This one feels like two separate books.  You've got the first part where Louise struggles to hold the family together, plots to match-make, feels some vaguely unsettled feelings (Is it a dicky appendix or a reaction against bad shellfish?  We get no real illumination for.ev.er.) and avoids Aldo.  I wish that it all added up to the seeds of attraction or something but it just doesn't go anywhere.  Add that to the flawed premise that Louise talks herself into a cockamamie idea about Zoe and Aldo...Gah. Is it wrong that the parts I liked best involved cleaning the cottage?  Anyway, all this is middling Treacle Tart.
And then comes part two.  Louise has a dawning realization and we are told that Aldo has already had one and the difference is like driving your beat-up Morris and then hopping into a great, socking Bentley.  I loved second half (except for Sweet Zoe.  I couldn't like that gummer of works. The wrap-up tells us that Zoe fell in love with George and that that love gave her second sight into Aldo's feelings.  So, what's she doing kissing him in front of the girl he's trying to woo?  She's fine.  She deserves to have her George.  Just don't make me try to like her.).  Angst, tension, bridled passions.  The works.  That part is a Queen of Puddings
So, split the difference somewhere between Mince Pies and boeuf en croute but don't blame me when you don't start loving it until you're half-way through.    

Food: They eat a LOT of food.  Salmon mousse, pineapple with kirsch (?) and whipped cream, gooseberry tart (I like to think Betty was winking at the readers, 'Louise thinks she's playing gooseberry!'), genuine lemonade, toast fingers spread with Gentleman's Relish, cottage pie, lime souffle (mmmmm), sole bonne femme, sausage rolls ice cream, steak and kidney pie, game soup, hunter's chicken with buttered rice (yum. yum), creme souffle a' l'orange, asparagus mousse with chicken livers and truffles (Come on, Betty.  You're making things up now.), an entire dinner of 'of's with her future in-laws (quenelles of sole, saddle of lamb, bavarois of raspberries), green herring toast (no, thanks), and parfait of chicken livers (what is it with her and chicken livers?). 

Fashion:  She wears an old apron when he catches her cleaning house and dons an abundance of uniforms for work.  Her funner clothes include an amber crepe dress, an angora stole (for the Hospital Ball), a cotton jersey skirt, a blouse and jacket in soft blue, and a grey crepe she is 'heartily sick of'.  One of my favorite scenes in the book is the image of Louise shopping in town and weighing the merits of buying a new blouse versus a bathmat for the house.  Because Louise always does the right thing, she gets the bathmat.