Wednesday, August 28, 2013

My brother-in-law has a question...

In yesterday's e-mail:

"In which book does the RDD have two dogs at home, but when our heroine takes them for a walk, one has magically switched breeds overnight!?
"Good luck looking THAT up on your Google translation service.

"PS: when are you arriving again?"

I'm arriving sometime tomorrow, after yet another in a recent series of doctor's visits.  But I can't answer the question on the breed-switching dog...


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Upcoming Reprise

Monday September 2nd.
Off With the Old Love
Melville the television producer, international convention, international nurses.

International Betty

via email:
Dear Bettys

As a was rummaging in Harlequin India website for any news on new romances, I stumbled upon their latest additions for Indian audience. They have taken to translating romances published by US and UK authors in regional languages for Indians. But never did I think they would choose Betty Neels. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they did.  

They have translated The Doctor's Girl in Hindi (India's national language), Marathi (local language mostly spoken in the western state of Maharashtra)  and Tamil (spoken in the South of India, mostly in the state of Tamil Nadu). 

The titles also changed with translation. In Hindi it appears as 'The Doctors Lover', in Marathi it changes completely to 'The Doctor's Remedy'. Not only that in the Marathi translation, Loveday becomes Lisa. Unfortunately I can't read, speak or write Tamil, so I don't know how they changed it there. Will keep you updated when I find my Tamil friends.

Here's the link to the page if you want to check it out. Cover's quite fascinating too. 

Have Fun
Betty Shilpa
Doctor Ki Premika
 by  Betty Neels 
Doctorancha Upay
 by  Betty Neels

If they turned a Betty Neels into a Bollywood production, who would you have play the leads?  My vote for the vast RHD (Rich Hindu Doctor) would be either Abhishek Bachchan or possibly Mohnish Behl. The part of a Neels heroine could be played by either Kajol  or Rani Mukherjee (as spunky Aramintas) or Madhuri Dixit (as an awesome Olivia).  Pure fantasy, of course. The girls I've chosen are a bit too old now, but a few years ago they would have been perfect.
Love and lardy cakes

Betty Debbie

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Suitable Match--Reprise

Good Morning, Darlings!
 I dug into the archives and found the discussion thread for this novel:
In A Suitable Match, our heroine prays to get the job which is just about as sweet as pie.  The Little Mijnheer and I have undergone periods of Abrupt Involuntary Sabbatical (early on in his career--I'll never forgive one of his employers for moving the company to Cyprus--in the Mediterranean(!)--two weeks after we signed the papers on our first house.  Though they were willing to move us out we opted to job search. (I was not going to give birth on an island with unresolved political issues.)) and, let me tell you, we were praying.
The employment situation being what it is, I wondered about our fellow Bettys.  What do you do to make a living?  Is your job, like the Great Betty's writing career, a Second Act?  Have you prayed to get one?
Love and lardy cakes!
Betty Keira

I read most of this book while holding my breath in the waiting room of the doctor's office (holding my breath in a somewhat vain attempt to avoid catching whatever plague du jour was being hacked up by the other patients).  Nearly four hours of my life I'll never get back. The school nurse called to tell me my son had a possible concussion (he's new to this school - this nurse is not familiar with his hypochondriac tendencies). Anyhoo...when the school nurse 'strongly advises' that you take your child to the doctor because they might have a head injury I feel it's best to cover my bases and take him in...but not without stopping off at home for A Suitable Match. (In my defense, my house was on the way). Having something to read probably helped save my sanity today. Shall we start?

Eustacia Crump...ugh...there's just no getting past that Crump. It does help that she's a total babe...tall dark and beautiful. I'm going to pretend that her age was a typo/editorial goof. It's given as 22 - but if you do the math - a few years after school traveling with parents and then at least two years as an orphan...she really must be closer to 24.  I'm going with that. Eustacia lives with her grandfather - both of whom have come down far in the world.  Instead of poor estate planning on the part of her parents, it's a little more serious. Eustacia's dad had been a high flyer for a while - but with his death, we find out that his company was bankrupt, and there's nothing left for Eustacia. Not only that, but most of Grandpa's money was invested in the company. Grandpa and Eustacia throw their lot together in London...but their 'lot' is really a 'little' and Eustacia needs to find a job to augment their dwindling funds.
Half a mile away from their flat is St. Biddolph's...which is in need of a new Assistant Bottle Washer for the Path Lab. It may not be an upwardly mobile career, but it will help pay the bills. In spite of stiff competition, Eustacia gets the plum position. In spite of having to dispose of some truly nasty things, Eustacia is a cheerful and willing worker and as an added benefit she gets to meet hot doctors. Big Man on Campus is Sir Colin Crighton (age 36, cancer specialist). He's not only hot, but also nice.  He doesn't laugh at her funny name, he remembers her, he carries on a conversation with her...ending with 'you are far to beautiful' in reference to her being a lowly Assistant Bottle Washer.

We next meet Sir Colin at Kew Gardens. Eustacia has trundled grandpa into a taxi so they can enjoy a little sunshine before winter sets in. Sir Colin is there with two young boys...Eustacia assumes Oliver and Teddy (age 8 and 9) are his sons, but he very soon disabuses her of that thought - they are in fact, his nephews who have been dumped on him by their parents (his brother) who have traipsed off to Brunei for a few months.  Grandpa is quick to see an opportunity here for Eustacia and Eustacia is just as quick to realize that she and Sir C. don't occupy the same social plane. Nope, 'I'll probably end up marrying another bottle-washer'.  Ah well. Sir Colin  knows a beautiful fish out of water when he sees one.

Skateboarding was just one of her many skills.
Sir Colin (oh heck, let's just drop the 'Sir'), is in a bind. Oliver and Teddy have had the flu, bronchitis and possibly Ebola and their regularly scheduled nanny has bailed on them. What's a Sir to do? Ask Eustacia and her grandpa to come to his country house and babysit. It's only a temp job, but he promises to give her good references.

Here's the job:
  • Looking after two little boys.
  • Going on nature walks in the country.
  • Riding bikes with said boys.
  • Grandpa gets to regale them with stories of India
  • Space aliens.
Colin spends most of the week in town, dating the locals (including a girl named Gloria) and coming home to the boys only on weekends.  This only lasts a week or two until...
Couple Killed in Automobile Crash! News at Eleven!
Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Crighton have managed to get themselves killed in Brunei. Luckily, they have managed to keep their will up to date, and Sir Colin is named guardian, per their request. Mrs. Crighton's mum, Mrs. Kennedy is not happy with the arrangement. She would like to take the poor little orphans back to Richmond with her, so that she may have the opportunity to weep copious tears over them continuously. Yup, she's a Drip.

Being a drip is seldom attractive.

Colin has to go to Holland for a few days lecture tour.  Mrs. Kennedy calls up and Eustacia accidentally lets that cat out of the bag.
I shall be there in the morning to pick up the poor orphans! says The Drip.
Eustacia finds the emergency contact number and confesses her sins to Colin who immediately charters a plane (as you do...) and flies back to sort it out. By 'sort it out' he PROPOSES a MOC and gives her two hours to make up her mind (that's when the drippy Mrs. Kennedy is expected). The boys are happy, grandpa is happy, Mrs. Crighton, senior, is happy, Colin is happy. Mrs. Kennedy is not that was ever going to happen, but there's nothing she can do about it. Eustacia just has one question. 'What about Gloria?' 'She's the last woman I'd marry.' As an added inducement, Oliver offers a great retirement plan. 'When you are an old lady, Teddy and I will take care of you and Uncle Colin'. You can't ask for fairer than that. The boys would like a full on wedding extravaganza...but Eustacia draws the line at a train, six bridesmaids and a diamond tiara. She does promise to wear white and a pretty hat. Eustacia actually accepts money from Colin BEFORE MARRIAGE to bankroll a fabulous new wardrobe and wedding outfit. While not unheard of in the land of Betty Neels, it is rare enough for me to raise my eyebrows.

Sir Colin and Lady Crighton (Lady Crighton = Eustacia!) are coming out of Harrods one day when they run into Gloria. Frankly, one of the best bits of the book:
'This is Eustacia, my wife; my dear, this is Gloria Devlin.'
They shook hands and smiled, and disliked each other at once. Gloria stared at Eustacia with cold eyes. 'My dear, how exceedingly nice to meet you, I have wondered what you would be like. Not in the least like me, but then it wouldn't do to marry an imitation of me, would it?' She laughed and Eustacia said gently,
'I should think it would be very difficult to imitate you, Gloria.' She allowed her gaze to roam over the woman's person, at the same time allowing her eyebrows to arch very slightly and her mouth to droop in a doubtful fashion. It had the effect she had hoped for - Gloria glanced uneasily at her flamboyant outfit and, since Eustacia's eyes had come to rest on her scarlet leather boots, bent her gaze on them.
Brilliant, Betty, brilliant.

Gloria haunts their relationship for a bit...she drops by with Clive The Plastic Surgeon, who is fully appreciative of Eustacia's manifest perfections...much to the chagrin of Gloria.  Frankly, Gloria is no real threat, but Eustacia is angsty enough about her unrequited love to assume things that are just not so.

  • Colin forgets to tell her that he has to go back to she plans to be out when he gets back.
  • The hospital throws a party for them...Eustacia gets to see some of her old associates.
  • Eustacia tells Teddy she loves him and Oliver AND Uncle Colin. Uncle overhears.
  • Mrs. Crighton mixes mild authority with a grandparents legitimate spoiling...nice.
  • Teddy and Oliver have to spend a week with the Kennedy grandparents.  You can tell a lot about a person from their home. The Kennedy's live in a red brick Victorian decorated in beiges and browns.
  • Teddy runs away!
  • Eustacia drives from London to Richmond to find him (The Drip plans to inform the police in the morning that an eight year-old is missing!)
  • Eustacia finds Teddy, Colin finds them both.
A lovely bit with the four of them sharing a bedroom and bathroom. Colin proves himself a man among men by procuring fish and chips and a bottle of wine at ten o'clock at night. All four, plus luggage, squeeze into the Mini for the ride home. 'Fortunately we're all on speaking terms.'

Trip to Holland. Haso and Prudence ter Brons Huizinga (Paradise for Two) put them up. And put up with them. Colin makes no effort to be alone with Eustacia...and she calls him on it.

Prudence drops Eustacia off in Groningen so that she can meet Colin for lunch in Groningen. Eustacia gets lost. Yes, first she gets lost in thought. She and Colin are going to be alone for the first time in a while, and girlfriend plans on making the most of it. Unfortunately being lost in thought leads to being actually lost, which leads to her sitting around in the wrong hospital, which leads to Colin being in a white hot rage when he finally finds her. All this angsty-ness does not go unnoticed by their hosts. Haso has a theory - their relationship needs to come to a head, rather like a boil (ew), before it bursts (double ew). Prudence tell him not to be revolting.

One of the perils of being married to a doctor...
unfinished conversations.
Back in London Colin finally decides that they must have The Talk. Of course he's interrupted by a hospital emergency, but as he's walking out the door he tells Eustacia that it was a case of love at first sight. What??? He loves her? So many questions, but Colin's not there for the answer round. Eustacia falls asleep on the stairs waiting...and snoring.
Lovely kissing and lovely implied conjugal relations. The end.

Rating: Lashings of Whipped Cream! Right up until Eustacia has her Dawning Realization the night before the wedding.  After that the book suffers a bit of unevenness...lovely bits and not so lovely bits which tend to drag it down a bit.
  • Eustacia may be a bottle washer, but she has also had a whirl in retail, taken a course in shorthand and typing AND looked into applying at the post office. I adore that she's looked into her options.
  • Grandpa...he's a load of fun and useful! He's going to be the best kind of person to have around - someone who's great at entertaining Teddy and Oliver AND a homework helper.
  • Teddy and Oliver are just as cute as can be. 
  • Colin is fine...but it would have been nice to have a little more insight into his character. 
  • Mrs. Kennedy is such a gosh awful grandmother - I love that Eustacia practically wants to smack her for being such a drip.
Final rating? Hmm. It probably averages out to nearly a Queen of Puddings.  Let's go with that.

Asparagus Flan? I'll pass.
Food: Cauliflower cheese, can of soup and scrambled eggs, muffins swimming in  butter, Marmite on toast fingers, tomato basil souffle, roast lamb with new potatoes, puree of broccoli (sounds like a particularly awful baby food variety...), asparagus flan (ditto), mousseline of lobster, noisettes of lamb, biscuit glace with raspberries and pralines, late night fish and chips in the bedroom.
Fashion: Pre-marital shopping trip (on his dime) at Harrods, including a white wedding dress and hat and elegant shoes, a beautiful tailored suit in a rich brown tweed, black skirt and a glamorous cream satin top, exquisitely embroidered.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, August26th
A Suitable Match
Bottle washer, skateboarding, orphaned nephews.

Monday, August 19, 2013

An Offer from Betty Beverly

via email:

Dear Betties:

I thoroughly enjoy your blog, although I don't read it as often as I should.  When I do show up, I spend way too much time laughing over your reviews.  I particularly enjoy the photos, funny comments, etc.   You all understand Betty Neels so well.  Half the fun of her books is hearing about the clothes, the food, the hero's house and the house servant.  Whenever I travel, I wish I had a manservant to take care of all the pesky details.  And I love your rating system.

Just so you know, I own about 80 of her books -- I got rid of some of my least favorites around 6-8 years ago, and now am wondering why I did that, because even one of my least favorite Neels books is better than just about anything else out there.

Now for the point of this email.  I write sweet quirky romances -- not completely in Betty Neel's style, but no trips to Brighton, and no serious swearing or Lord's name in vain.  I'm currently working on a Love and Chocolate series and the second book is going to be dedicated to Betty Neels because the hero is a doctor.

Like Betty, I love marriage of convenience stories.  Anyway, I would love to have Betty Debbie or any of  you, your readers, etc. be able to read any of my books for free.  That's my way of saying thank you for the all the enjoyment your blog brings to me.  It's so fun to read your posts and know that someone else understands a love of these books!

The one that is the most like a Betty Neels book so far is probably BABY COMES FIRST.  Girl ends up marrying her rich, grumpy boss, who turns out not to be so grumpy after all.

Anyway, if anyone wants to read a book for free, they can email me at, tell me which book they want, and I'll email them the coupon code for a free ebook at

My blog is

Anyway, thank you again for all your discussions about Betty Neels.

Betty Beverly

A Matter of Chance--Reprise

A Matter of Chance is not one of my favorites. Always in the back of my mind while reading this one is: 

1.She just lost BOTH  of her parents.  

Cressy is 26 when her parents kick the bucket. I was 25 when my mother passed - while it wasn't as sudden as the flu, and it was just one parent, it was still tough.  I'm pretty sure that loss at a similar age is what really sways my judgement of this one. I keep wishing Cressy had a better time of it, instead of being dropped into a canal without a life jacket. Literally.

I do not like you Doctor Fell, the reason why I cannot tell...  A Matter of Chance has such an engaging cover and I did so want to love it!

Cressida Bingley, 26, is to be pitied.  If I've done the math correctly, it can't have been much more than six weeks since her father and mother were both carried away by the flu and she's lost and alone on the back streets of Amsterdam in the dwindling evening light.
When a voice speaks behind her it really is the last straw.  'I can't understand you, so do go away!'  All she wants is to be left alone, to nurse her wounds in a safely out of the way place, to begin her job as typist to an elderly Dutch doctor on the following day and 'to drive and drive and drive, away from her grief and loneliness'.  So, no.  Girlfriend doesn't want a pick-up.
That's okay.  Giles van der Teile isn't interested in that either.  Raised as he was, by members of the Dutch Resistance, he probably has helping-British-people-find-their-way-in-Holland encoded on his DNA.  They march to her modest hotel and part ways; she in antipathy, he in the first throes of love-at-first-sight.
On the next day she sets out for her new job and meets the kindly (if scatty) Doctors van Blom and Herrima.  They also have another partner.  (Who could it be?!)
Giles calls their reintroduction 'inevitable' and quickly assures her that he has 'found the girl for myself and intend to marry her.'  Such a fast worker, that Giles.  All that's left is to book the banquet hall and call the preacher, no?  No.  While Giles is amusing himself with sly allusions to his eventual wedding, Cressida mentally stamps his manila folder and files that away for future reference. 
By and by, Giles introduces Monique de Vries into the tangled web of intrigue.  She is nothing more than a Babe (if aging one) and the widow of Giles' best friend.Naturally, Cressida thinks she is the next Mrs. RDD.
We also have the pleasure (for me a qualified one as I suggest The Great Betty was easing her guilty conscience by reassuring us of their HEA) of meeting Harriet and Friso Eijsinck.
As her nurse-ly fingers are tapping away at that manuscript, Cressida begins to notice the curiosity of the practice's set-up.  The 'junior elderlies are doing all the work--exhausting themselves in the process while the easy-living  Giles escorts his girlfriend here and there.   Cresssy's brave enough to take her concerns to Giles and get the snubbing of her young life.
And then the flu hits.  (What a lost opportunity.  Everyone is succumbing like ninepins and Cressida suffers nary a pang that this is the enemy that carried off her beloved parents.)
The elderlies get it and then the housekeeper and finally Cressy falls.  She feels wretched (and he's really very lovely while she's out to it) but congratulates Giles on buckling down and finally doing some work!
And that would be fine if that's all there was but she actually calls him selfish for what she assumes to be a date with Monique in the midst of the crisis.  Jealousy, mis-communication, pride, name-calling.  Shrug.  The washing machine is on the spin cycle.
But Cressy has her Dawning Realization anyway.  (And probably hates herself a little for loving a man who forgets his duties so far as to need reminding of them.)
Why don't you run along and take Cressy to the clinic, son?
It is only when Giles takes Cressy (rhymes with Nessy) to visit his mother that the gyroscope stops spinning.
Future MIL: Hi, Cressy.  I wanted to meet you.
Cressy: I won't spend a minute wondering why...
MIL: My son is an idiot.
Cressy:What a lovely woman you are.
MIL: Look, he's not going to tell you that he's only in with the elderlies as a silent partner because they helped my husband during the war.  And he's not going to tell you about his free slum clinic that he runs that takes all of his time.  And I'm sure he's not going to explain about Monique.
Cressy: About that...
This is going to be a fun mother-in-law.  Between them they ride roughshod over the hapless male (in one of the darlingest scenes) and get him to invite her over to the clinic and out to dinner.  But they never do make it to dinner because, somehow, they always fall out before she gets anything to eat--which is why they have to take their rare dinners together in front of muscled referees.  
After one such meal with Harriet and Friso, they come across a swerving car that lands toot sweet into a deep canal. 

Lives are saved and lost.  Clothes are ruined and it's all worth it (yes, even the death) for the look of outraged horror on Giles face when he realizes that Cressy has been bobbing along gamely in the canal without a working  knowledge of the Australian Crawl.  But, as with Cressy's dear departed (her parents, remember?), the wreckage isn't allowed to clutter up the grassy verge of her mental landscape for long.  She recovers from the ordeal at Giles' home and then installs herself back with the elderlies as soon as may be.
Which works out fine for Giles as I suppose he didn't like to propose to a woman recuperating under his own roof.  That's right.  Propose.  
He does so on the very day that Monique de Vries gets hitched and Cressy is in no mood to accept.
The balance of the rest of the book is:
Cressy wings off to do the heavy lifting...
  • Giles' teasing/pushing/nudging Cressida to make a decision.
  • Cressy refusing to marry a man who doesn't love her back. (She's not cut out for the half-loaf life.)
  • 'I love you, Giles, but you don't love me.  That's why I'm going.'(Followed by a hospital emergency that takes him away.) 
  • Her return to England, followed a week later by Giles--which is when things ought to have been sorted but aren't and he leaves in a huff.  (And I really can't stand them at this point.  They have the stupidest fights ever with very little sympathy for the other.)
  • Her flight to Holland to run him to ground.  'I had to...tell you I was sorry.  I love you, I told you that,...but-- well, it's made my love seem a very poor thing, hasn't it--not worth bothering about.'
He is finally ready to manfully make some declarations and they have at least the same chance that Harriet and Friso had to make a go of it.
The End

Rating: Boy, I hate doing it, but this was Ho-hum and the Cheese Board for me.  Here's what I liked:
  • Cressida is the kind of woman you'd want hauling buckets of hot shot to the guns during a siege war.  She's capable of the 'militant eye' and will not be pushed around.  When Giles is cold or snubbing or glacially angry, she raises an eyebrow and puts him in his place as though he is barely out of short pants and being impertinent.  
  • I adore that she is not above using the presence of his mother to get him to do what she wants.  She is a very clever girl.
  • Giles is not the horror that was Friso Eijsinck (but then, he doesn't have an AC 428 Fastback, so perhaps he felt he had no right to be.) 
And here's what I didn't care for:
  • There were some continuity issues in this one.  At the end, he tells her that she never revealed her belief to him that he was into Monique but she covered that point during the first proposal.  (She all but screamed her anxiety like a fishwife.)
  • I don't know why The Great Betty had to give Cressida such a poignant back-story (Dead parents within the last two months?!  That's heavy.).  It never really gets used (and hardly ever mentioned after the initial exposition) and feels like way too much just to get her to Holland.  Giles spends a paragraph telling her The Heart Must Go On, but even so, when she's so mopey about him in the end I want to yell, 'Remember those parents of yours?  The dead ones?!'
  • Yes, Cressida made a mistake about how much Giles worked but he carried his resentment unnecessarily far, giving her no chance to draw the right conclusions.  And then, when he is vindicated, she doesn't really apologize!  Dirty pool.
  • I never really feel like the momentum gets going.  There are a lot of great elements (Dutch Occupation stories and worldwide flu pandemics are not to be sneezed at.) but they're not strung together to make a pleasing whole...much like the annual Oscar telecast.
So there you go.  Cheese Board. 
P.S. When this plot enjoyed its first go-round on the karmic wheel as Nurse Harriet Goes to Holland, I gave it a slightly higher Mince Pies and I'm afraid it's been too long to remember if I actually like that one better.  I remember the hero as way more jerky but the angst-y-ness surrounding his inability to recognize Harry's vulnerability, shyness and seriousness made it a little more complex.  Cressida is not so crushable as Harry and Giles is not so mean as Friso--and that's the best I remember.

Food: Onion soup, chicken a'la King, trifle, erwten soup, toast and Dundee marmalade, grapes, thin bread and butter. When he refuses to feed her, she is forced to sneak downstairs for a mug of milk and massive slice of bread and gets kissed for her pains.  In a mildly paternalistic action, he implies that her girly taste-buds will be grossed-out by his  'underdone steak' and instead suggests she have Truite Saumonee' au Champagne and chocolate souffle. (Which I don't get at all, really, as my Mijnheer wants his steak to resemble jerky and I prefer that the cow suffer mild blunt-force trauma and be slapped on the plate.)  We also get vol-au-vents stuffed with prawns, iced melon and lobster Thermidor.

Fashion: Girlfriend gets a LOT of use out of tweed skirts and a ubiquitous fur hat (that manages to survive a dunking in an oily canal more or less intact).  Giles wears a car coat.  Cressida also dons a dark green woolen dress, a tweed skirt and angora jumper and she borrows an exquisite nightdress in blue with handmade lace (and he never does tell her that it belongs to his sister or unexpectedly fashionable (if elderly) housekeeper). Giles' mother (recovering from her bout of flu) wears a 'voluminous, long-sleeved, high-necked nightgown of finest silk.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, August 19th
A Matter of Chance
Recently orphaned heroine, typist, canal rescue.

Monday, August 12, 2013

At the End of the Day--Reprise

Afternoon, Dear Bettys,
Today's question revolves around THE eternal question:
Who is The World's Most Unfanciable Man?
Now, I ought to say Russell Crowe as he has let himself go a bit and likes to throw things at people but I love him.  I. Love. Him.  
Fat Marlon Brando?  Bring it.
But I can't stand either Brad Pitt or Matt Damon (commonly fanciable types) for anything unless they're in an Ocean's movie...
Such is the variety of individual taste.
Love and lardy cakes!
Betty Keira

Anyone familiar with the work of Betty Neels knows that she had a somewhat limited repertoire of plot lines. Her genius was more about filling in the little details.  At the End of the Day is a variation on a theme. It had some awesome moments and some great lines. Shall we see how we feel about it at the end of the day?

tick...tick ...tick.

Julia Mitchell, a ravishing fiery redhead of Junoesque proportions, has just turned thirty. The big three-oh.  She's nominally engaged to the slippery Nigel Longman.  Nigel is an up and coming doctor, with an up and coming job interview in Bristol. In the meantime, she's Sister for Women's Medical at a hospital in London. Sister Julia has a thorn in her side. Professor van der Wagema (41). Everyone knows they don't like each other.  He runs the gamut from tiresome to icy cold to bitingly sarcastic. I know what you're thinking: He's the hero? Julia doesn't have a good opinion of him, but then again, he barely registers on her radar. She doesn't know a thing about him, and what's more, she doesn't care. 


There must be some kind of trigger that gets the two antagonists thinking about each other - that trigger never gets revealed - but think about each other they do. Maybe Julia just needs to think about a vertebrate...and surprise, surprise, Professor van der Wagema has a fine backbone. Mighty fine. Even from the back he looked distinguished. Yeah, bum check. Her burgeoning interest in him just so happens to coincide with her dawning realization that the magic has gone out of her relationship with Nigel. Mind you, it's all baby steps at this point. In spite of working with Professor van der Wagema for over three years on the ward, she knows nothing about him. Is he married? Does he have children? Where does he live? None of these questions have ever flitted across her consciousness before. One of the questions is answered quite soon. He has an eleven year old son.  That must mean he's married. 


Julia  showers a little unused maternal instinct on a stray kitten. Nigel is off in Bristol and doesn't bother to call her with a status update. In order to find out if he got the job, Julia resorts to calling the Invertebrate's mother. Yes, her darling boy got the job. Julia shows way too much forbearance with Nigel. He is thrilled to get the job, but not keen on getting married anytime soon. Maybe next year. Julia is supposed to be satisfied with his less than thorough kissing.


If you haven't guessed by now, the sound that you're hearing is Julia's biological clock. Nigel figures they can live in the hospital-provided-flat and Julia can continue to work for a year or two (that's after waiting the better part of a year to get married)...Julia is not a nurse for nothing - she knows she doesn't have all that many childbearing years left. She reflects to herself that '30 is such a depressing age.'
 In order to fight off her depression, she decides to take a holiday back at Casa de Mitchell.  She can potter around, do a little horseback riding and think. Think about what? The depressing lack of commitment that she's getting from Nigel. He's proving impossible to pin down and have a serious discussion with. In fact, Julia wonders what exactly they have to talk about - beyond work?

Let's just get off the subject of Nigel, okay? He's really not worth the word count.

Remember when I said that Professor van der Wagema has a son? Young Nicholas is a pretty useful plot device. The Professor hires Mr. Mitchell to tutor the lad in Latin. It's a wonderful excuse for him to meet Julia's family.
Julia's mother is like a marital-status heat seeking missle. In less time than it takes to say 'lobster Newburg' - she manages to winkle out the fact that he has been widowed for eight years. Cha-ching! He's single. And happy to drive Julia back to London at the end of her weekend. For No Reason Whatsoever, Julia tarts herself up for the ride home...even wearing her Gucci shoes! I hope you dressed yourself to kill on my account...says he, and then he kisses her! An engaged woman (yes, she's still engaged)! Their relationship is quickly changing from adversarial to friendly.
Nicholas is more than happy to spend weekends at Casa de Mitchell. Julia goes home for another visit and the two go riding together. Papa van der Wagema rides up on his white charger hired horse and manages to get an invitation for the weekend. It's just a tiny step from spending the night to being on a first name basis. My name is Lauris. And now for some muddling.
Her: Nicholas needs a mother...
Him: He'll have one soon...
Yes, it's that hoary old chestnut: I'm In Love With You and Plan to Marry You, But Until Then You Can Just Assume I'm Engaged to Someone Else. Aargh. This will continue for the next 80 pages. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, Lauris is looming larger and larger in her thoughts.  Yes, that's the prelude to a Dawning Realization.
Lauris sees her distraught face in the morning and drags part of the truth from her - 'I can't marry Nigel'. He doesn't get to hear her confess her love for him yet, but you can bet he knows which way the Thames is flowing.  Lauris snatches the opportunity to offer Julia a ride to Bristol - so as to have it out with Nigel. Risky business that. Taking the girl you love to meet her fiancee - there's always the possibility that they'll make up. Nope. After an initial 'You're throwing ME over?', Nigel seems positively relieved to have dodged the matrimonial bullet. Very lowering to a girl, but Lauris is right there to get the post-game wrap-up. He invites himself to dinner at her flat and asks for all the gory details.
Now that Nigel is out of the way, let's start dating! If only it were so easy. Julia is firmly of the opinion that Lauris is engaged. She does go out with him a couple of times, but always under protest 'what will your fiancee think?' Lauris could seal the deal  PDQ if only he'd tell her that he loves her...not a mythical fiancee - but that's not how things roll in Neeldom.  There are formalities. First of all, Julia must have lunch at his house, meet his housekeeper and his dog Digby (whose name always reminds me of an old article about the 'redshirt' characters in Star Trek - the author named the redshirts 'Digby and Johnson'...but I digress). The Sad Tale of Nicky's Mother is told. She left them when Nicholas was little - and went to America only to die of viral pneumonia (as you do...).
Then a little excitement is in order. Julia feels the need to walk home from Lauris' place.
No, that's too far.
Okay, I'll take the bus from the British Museum.
Fine, but I'll walk you there.
It's a darn good thing he does, because they get caught in a demonstration. Lauris pushes Julia up against a wall and shelters her Excuse me while I grab a fan.  Wow, did it just get a little hot in here? Not only does he protect her, he then proceeds to Kiss Her Fiercely
Christmas is coming and Lauris has invited Julia's two younger brothers to go to Holland for a few days with him and Nicholas.  Would Julia please come too? Julia is only too happy (it will give her a chance to check out the fictional fiancee). But first she has to get a streaming head cold. Lauris comes up to her flatlet and bullies her into getting better. I'll have you up on your feet if it kills me. He makes tea, heats up soup, feeds Wellington (the kitten) and offers to wash her hair. Awww. His motive (besides being in love) has got to be the trip to Holland.
Lauris picks up all three boys, then stops by to get Julia. Night ferry from Harwich, he's got a lovely small castle with pepperpot towers, this is my mother, sleep well...
Julia gets up early in the morning to go exploring and is proposed to for her pains.
Him: You love me now, don't you?
Her:Yes, but what about your finacee?
Him: I never said I had a fiancee...I merely stated my intention of getting married. Nicholas knows I want to marry you, so does my mother, so does your mother.  You're the only one who didn't get it.
Proposal, kissing. The end.

Rating: This one was a mixed bag for me. Julia has dug herself into a very boring rut with Nigel. She's not getting any younger - and she's watching her dreams of a house in the country with 2.5 kids, a donkey, a pony, two dogs, a cat or two and a husband who loves her - slip slide away. Her dissatisfaction with Nigel isn't anything new in a Betty Neels, but it does ring true. She really does like him - but Nigel is unable/unwilling/too thick to see Julia as a  real woman who has needs and a biological clock that is running down. I didn't appreciate how long The Nigel Affair lingered on in the book (she doesn't officially dump him until page 114!!).  If you assume that the antagonistic feelings between Julia and Lauris at the beginning of the book are from suppressed desire, then his iciness and her statement "He's the most unfanciable man I know" (I♥Betty Neels)make more sense.  Betty Neels dealt with a somewhat similar plotline much more deftly in Heidelberg Wedding (published the year before this one). If I had one wish for this book, it would be that we knew more of what Lauris was thinking. Such as, when did he fall in love with her? Before she fell for him, that much is obvious...but when? The best I can give it is a Mince Pie.

Food: A whole meal with capitalization - salad Niçoise, lobster Newburg, soufflé Harliquin. Macaroni cheese, cheese sandwich and lager after the cinema, cress sandwiches, chocolate cake, smoked salmon with brown bread and butter, omelette Diplomate (more capitalization!), peaches poached in champagne,  mince pies, doughnuts, lobster soup, roast duck, syllabub with lashing of cream.
Fashion: The Professor wears slacks and a sport shirt (off duty), Julia wears old slacks and a disreputable sweater, an elderly corduroy skirt with a cotton sweater that had seen better days. She goes riding in slacks with an old out-at-elbows sweater and a bright scarf. When she 'dresses to kill', she wears a knitted jacket and skirt with a tucked silk blouse, all in grey, with her Gucci shoes.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, August 12th.
At the End of the Day
30 year old heroine,  Nigel the Fiancee, 11 year old son.

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Dream Came True - Reprise

I feel a bit like Lady Manderly this month - if you substitute Yellowstone for Stratford-Upon-Avon and a 'staycation' for Scotland. Yes, it's been that kind of month - 3 weeks worth of flitting here and there - and not a Betty in the Wild to show for it. (I actually have a few - but since they are practically repeats of ones that I have done in the past, I decided not to bore you with them).  
Betty Keira and I did have a few Betty-worthy moments last week. We took her entire family on a hike up to beautiful Lake 22.  Her 4 year old son started out cheerfully enough, but about 1/4 of the way in decided that he was done.  On finding a small hollow between a rock and the roots of a tree he declared his desire to move into said hollow and live there forever.  The next 1/4 of the hike he was a reluctant hiker (at best), the NEXT 1/4 he spent wailing: "It's all your fault!" "I don't want to be alone in the woods!""I want to go home NOW!"...etc, etc, etc.  He was happy enough during the final 1/4 of the hike - he spent much of that riding piggyback on his mother's back. I think that makes him Lady Manderly and Betty Keira is then Pooley.  Ten year old Laura said that she would would like to fly back down to the parking area, but alas, no RBD helicopter pilots were at hand.

Betty Debbie

This one deserved a better title.  Written in the midst of The Great Betty's Golden Age, it is a wonderful companion to the likes of Caroline's WaterlooThe Promise of Happiness andPolly.  Lady Manderly is one of those characters that would translate so deliciously to the screen, played by one of those stout, aging actresses who long ago gave up complaining about the lack of great roles for women over fifty.
As for the cover art...He's a babe (All hail the turtleneck!) but she's too glossy (are those claws?) and I don't think they could have a background that shouted, 'British lit!' more than if they were dressed as Beefeaters and touring London in a double-decker to the tune of 'Rule, Britannia!'. Love it anyway.

'Little Jack Horner sat in a corner...' Jemima Mason, 26, can't resist typing out on the abandoned typewriter in the empty office.  But it's 1982, and she doesn't have an iPod (with all those ABBA songs) or a Smartphone (with Angry Birds!) to distract her and she was probably fretting over the fact that her brother is about to fly to America (!).  She's looking for a job as a companion so that her next two years (until her brother can come back and save her bacon (...Silly, Jemima, no one ever comes back from America.)) can be spent in a shabby bedsit waiting for her life to begin.  But then she meetsProfessor Alexander Cator who throws a batch of typing at her and heads to his office. (Betty Debbie points out that his name is fine in print but beastly to say aloud.  Alexander Cator.)  She also meets the knickerbocker-clad goddess, Gloria.
Alexander doesn't think Jemima will be much of a fit for his imperious aunt, Lady Manderly, but no one else has applied for the position.
Jemima introduces herself to the woman and becomes a textbook study in salary negotiations--whose first rule is: Always be prepared to walk.
They settle into an uneasy relationship and Jemima settles into her shabby bedsit over the newspaper stand down the street.  (Meeting the charmingly colorful Shirley and her fish-cooking mother.)
Alexander pops in and out and, while there is friction, there is also a dawning appreciation on his part.  'You may not set the Thames on fire, Miss Mason, but at least you don't chatter.'  Words to hug to her bosom in her twilight years, perhaps...On her part, she admits that he can be kind when he has a mind to.  She witnessed his concern over a cat she rescues and then he shows enormous delicacy when he catches her in a lie about living in a flat versus a flatlet.  (It turns out that a cat rather minds about the 'let' part.)
But his interesting visits to his aunt's house aren't enough to compensate for the awfulness of her job.  After going through the physically harrowing and soul destroying process of planning Lady Manderly's birthday party, she makes up her mind to quit.  Which is a pity as the staff are rooting for her to catch the Professor's eye.  '[Gloria]'s got looks and our young lady hasn't.'
Alexander asks her to stay on until after Lady M. has a short holiday in Stratford-upon-Avon.  So she does.
The town is a welcome respite from London--plays, outdoor walks and proximity to Oxford (Jemima's hometown) are its main attractions.  She's lonely--more lonely than she's ever been and the professor seems to have forgotten his earlier kindnesses.' have the unfortunate effect of bringing out the very worst in me.  You would do better to avoid me.'  But even if he means it (and I very much doubt he does) then he's fighting a losing battle.  Not a page later he tells her, 'You really are a treasure, you know.  We must keep you in the family.'  (I'd like Dawning Realizations for a thousand, Alex.)
So he's in love and we can dust our hands because surely all is plain sailing from here...Now, don't go buying confetti and streamers just yet.  Jemima is convinced that Alexander doesn't like her (though she is unwillingly and unwisely interested in him) and then there's Gloria, looming over the protagonists like a golden-haired, bony-shouldered (she has to be!) gargoyle, shooting little barbs at Jemima every chance she gets.
Also, Jemima is chatted up and taken out by a New Zealander named Andrew Blake--a dead end episode that still pushes the plot along (we have such a smart Betty!):
  • We get to see Jealous Alexander--green-eyed and gorgeous.
  • He gets to kiss her and then shows himself to be worthy of her when, even after she says she wants to slap his face, he sends dinner up to her room so she won't be hungry.  
  • It underlines how desperate for company Jemima is.  A reckless-driving Antipodean?  Who can't even comment intelligently on Hamlet? She deems that better than the cold snubs (from whom, Jemima?) she's been enduring lately.
 She no sooner recovers from this visit when he's back for another.  And when she walks in the sitting room to see him, her dawning realization is right behind her. (Conga!)  And a very clear-eyed love it is too.  Even while she's staring at him like a looby she understands that she'll take a flawed Alexander rather than a thousand inoffensive Andrews. But there's no question of that.  He belongs to Gloria!
Or does he?  After reading book after book of Neels heroes excusing all manner of awful villainess behavior with a bland bon homie, what a joy it is to read the words, 'Be quiet, Gloria!'  And it's not only Gloria he's shouting at.  Responding to the mild observation that she will get coffee from the cook, Alexander shouts at Jemima, 'You're not a servant!'  That's not going to do his peptic ulcer any good...
Allowing herself to be got at, Jemima is persuaded to travel to Scotland (balmy, sunny Scotland) before looking for another job.  Though the interlude is fantastic, I'll opt for bullet points:
  • Jemima receives answers to her job advertisement.  Three positions, each vying to be more vile than the last.  Maybe she worded it wrong...
  • A blizzard blasts the coastline leaving Jemima, Pooley (Lady M.'s maid) and Lady M. stranded with dwindling food stores.
  • Pooley breaks her arm.
  • They drink deeply from the brandy bottle and Lady M. is stirred to near-pluckiness.  
  • Alexander flies his own helicopter in to rescue them!  (How very Prince William of him.)
'It's not snowing at the moment, I'd best be on my way.' He wandered back to her, bent and kissed her hard and swiftly...
They get back to civilization and Alexander plies her with boeuf en croute--her food fantasy while stuck in the cottage with a lot of potatoes.  Lady Manderly and Alexander have a chat about when he'll get around to proposing to Jemima (That's right!  She's won over the imperious old lady with her ladylike displays of moxie.  And it makes me feel great that Jemima will be welcomed into the family instead of enduring the shivs in the shoulder blade that might otherwise have been her lot.)
To Lady Manderly's horrified dismay, Jemima quits her job, covers her footsteps so that a trained Indian tracker would struggle to find her and disappears into oblivion.  (By that I mean to say, she is still at the flatlet over the newspaper stand and working part-time there.)  What a harassed expression Alexander wears when he finally runs her to ground.  'I didn't know you were lying,' he said evenly.  But he's done being mad and kisses her into a stupor. 
The End   

Rating:  Queen of Puddings.  Easy.  What makes it so great?  Though Jemina and Alexander don't spend very much actual time together (Their courtship consists of a few walks, the sliver of time before Lady Manderly walks in the room and some awkward meals.), it's always to good purpose.  Gloria gums things up a bit (a sticky millstone) but she serves a purpose:
  • If we pretend that Alex is a real person then I take him at his word that he's using Gloria as camouflage while he's trying to get Jemima to like him.  It's not a brilliant plan (If you lie down with dogs...) but Gloria keeps Alex's actions from screaming, 'IloveyouIloveyouIloveyou!' while Jemima decides if she'll give him a shot.  (Because she would have refused to go out with him on a straightforward date, I think.)
  • If we remember that Alex and and Jemima are merely characters in a book by Betty Neels (Breathe deeply, Bettys!), then I get that The Great Betty needed a true villainess (particularly as she made semi-evil Lady Manderly so likable) to sustain the tension and play off of.  It's okay for me--not great, but understandable (and particularly forgivable since we get a very complex and nuanced Lady M. in return).
And when we get long stretches while the principles aren't together you might expect to be bored to tears but, again, Lady Manderly just makes everything else so fun that you don't even notice.
It does need a new title (Jemima and Lady ManderlySnowbound in ScotlandLife-flight to Love! (Hey, I'm spit-balling here...)) but the rest is a dish.  Love it.

Food: Steak and kidney pudding, aPotemkin trifle (Thrown together at the last minute to replace a dropped dish, it is merely superficially attractive and probably tastes beastly), awful coffee and tea (has Lady Manderly lost her sense of taste?), vol-au-vents, pate, lobster patties, a lonely risotto and ice cream.  When he's so mean to her over The Kiwi's Kiss, he still sends her soup, a cheese souffle, a peach and coffee.  Lady Manderly asks for chicken supreme when they're stranded in Scotland but the others eat baked potatoes and cheese, bacon, fried potatoes and treacle tart.  While stranded, Jemima dreams of having French onion soup, grilled sole and boeuf en croute (which is not immediately available but he feeds her it as soon as soon as he can which is just about the most adorable thing ever.). 

Fashion: Gloria is decked out in black velvet knickerbockers and plaid knickerbockers at another point and I am consoled that, even though Jemima drools over her clothes, Gloria will live to regret her fashion choices.  Jemima is more often found in neat, navy blue numbers and brown dresses (one of which is a stunner ( a chestnut brown jersey with a pleated, calf-length skirt and a little jacket). Does Alex ever get to see it? Someone re-read it and tell me!).  In Scotland, Jemima goes rustic and dons an old cloth cap, a well-worn, too-big anorak and woolly gloves.  Lady Manderly, a reactionary if there ever was one, stuck closely to her purple satins, diamonds and furs.