Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, December 2nd
The Final Touch
MOC, twins, burn unit.

Betty in the Wild: Lubbock!

So BettyAnoninTX and the PRT took me in for a couple of nights in Lubbock.  Once I'd figured out the time zones (Arizona doesn't do daylight saving, which makes it a little extra complicated), the visit was pure delight.

We visited the Buddy Holly Center, to mourn the early death and celebrate the great achievements of Lubbock's favorite son.  We also visited his gravesite, where his family got a chance to correct the historical record by spelling his surname correctly; it's 'Holley.'  They used his nickname, however -- 'Buddy' -- in place of his birth-name, Charles.

This total stranger, wearing Buddy-style specs,
agreed in the most friendly fashion to show Alexandra around.

Then we were off to the National Ranching Heritage Center, which includes a park adorned with actual homes, businesses and a schoolhouse (no church?) moved to Lubbock from various points in Texas and maybe eastern New Mexico.  These were fascinating.  BettyAnoninTX and I agreed that, had we had to build a house from cactus to survive the harsh desert in the 19th century, we most likely would have died sunburnt, thirsty, hungry and soon.

Where Penny Bright wound up after her misspent months
in Vegas.

Penny would no doubt have shacked up with
this cowpoke if he had any money at all.  But he doesn't.
(Note book resting on his left wrist.)

If Taro were a poor man, Alexandra would have loved him
just as well, and would have made their home a haven of peace
with the help of her trusty (American-made) Singer.

BettyAnoninTX loves one-room schoolhouses, which this is not.

BettyAnoninTX and the PRT both love pronghorn, even
when desecrated -- I mean, decorated -- by 'yarnstormers.'

After dinner at Chuy's, which is every bit as good as BettyanoninTX will tell you it is, we strolled the Pumpkin Path in celebration of the vulgar American holiday Halloween.

Trick-or-treaters are fine for vulgar Penny; Alexandra will stick with mummers, thank you veddy much.

And on my way out of town, I saw a working ranch with traditional entryway.  Lovely visit!  Thank you so much, BAiT and PRT!

Jenny might not be right at home on the range, but this is
at least as substantial a family heritage as are most of the
estates in Somerset.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Fortunes of Francesca--Reprise

Good morning, Bettys!
This is my last reprise and, let me just say, it's been a peach rolling around in all this Betty awesomeness.  Having read through all the comments on the original post and discussion thread, I have two observations.  1) I think it's agreed that Francesca is one of the best heroines in the late Canon. and 2) The comments from the Great Socking Betty Blogland are the thing that has made this so fabulous.  Here are snippits of comments from just this novel:
  • It was nice for an RDD to recognize a snub and react against it (rather than hand one out himself like, oh I don't know...Nasty Reilof?) when he walks out on his godmother's shindig. She doesn't know it (after all, you're kinda stuck with godmothers), but FRANNY does. Good for him!
  •  You failed to mention that Lady Trumper is Marc's godmother. I think this is the only time a Neels hero has a rotten godmother. I was quite surprised when that little plot point came along. How did either of his parents come to know such a person? and value her enough to make her godmother to their child? Or maybe Lady T was nicer 35 years ago??
  • $5000 pounds for Harrods? Really? Wow. I've never even shopped at a place where I could spent $5000 in one go. There are no such places in Podunk, PA. None.  
  • Betty Barbara here--
    Thanks for mentioning the mobile phone, because that jogged my memory for something else I wanted to mention. Mayhap this book was written earlier that it was published--a lot earlier.
    Marc's elderly butler/man of the house is mentioned to have been in the resistance with Marc's dad. Given that the book was copyrighted in the late 1990's, that would make faithful retain around 80 years old(If he had been in his 20's during WWII). If Marc's dad was his contemporary, and Marc is typical RDD age(say 37), the Marc's dad was well into his 40's when Marc is born. Of course, dad and retainer could have been teens during the war, which would make retainer in his early to mid 70's and put dad back to typical RDD age when Marc was born.
    Anyway--a round about way of mentioning that I think this is the last Betty Book that mentions WWII.
See what I mean?  You are all so wonderful to hear from!
Love, love and lardy cakes!
Betty Keira

I can't believe this is my last review. I was a little nervous about doing The Fortunes of Francesca - I know it's not a universal favorite (as if there is such a thing!). There are no 'other women', no pet rescues, no adorable kiddies...the romance is really long in coming...despite all (or perhaps because of) that, I adore this book. Adore it. Let's dig in.

Francesca Bowen (23) is sorely in need of work.  She's had two years worth of nurses training, that and a dollar bill will buy you your hearts desire (as long as your heart only desires things from the dollar store).  She's the breadwinner of a family that includes, a) her aunt, Mrs. Blake and b) her younger brother (and medical student), Finn. Auntie can't work (health issues), and Francesca and Auntie won't allow Finn to work. Their household is oddly devoid of animal companionship.

Francesca answers an ad seeking a 'girl Friday'. Lady Trumper is not willing to engage her, Francesca is not deemed suitable. She is however, suitable enough to do a spot of heroic rescue work in Lady Trumper's kitchen wherein Elsie (a servant) is bleeding from a nicked artery. Professor Marc van der Kettener (35) is impressed with Francesca's sangfroid-i-ness. It's not every day that you meet a small mousy stranger who's that cool in the face of adversity.

Working for Lady Trumper is not particularly fun, but Francesca manages to spread a little sunshine, endure what must be endured and enjoy whatever little pleasures are offered - and she's a pro at recognizing the good things in life. Editor's Note: If you don't like characters like Pollyanna, you probably won't like Francesca - she seems to go through life playing The Glad Game (see first paragraph of the plot summary on wiki if you're not familiar with this game).

The Professor sees Francesca walking down a busy street - so he pulls over and picks her up.  She's her usual outgoing self, but he's not sure what to make of her.  It's like she doesn't have an off switch.
'I trust Lady Trumper doesn't have to listen to your chatter?'
'No, no...I speak only when spoken to. Sorry to have bored you, but you did look like the kind of person one could chat with.
I'm not sure that you could call the Professor a kindred spirit - at least not when it comes to chatting, but he is intrigued by Francesca's indomitable spirit. When life hands her lemons, she doesn't just make lemonade, she makes a friggin' lemon meringue pie.

What kind of medicine does Professor Marc specialize in? He's a heart surgeon, that's what. In Neeldom, where heart surgeons flourish, can heart attacks be far behind? Nope, they can't. In this case, the revelation that Marc is a heart specialist comes only 4 pages before Auntie has a heart attack.  It's clear to Francesca that Auntie will need more supervision when she leaves hospital - so Francesca starts to contemplate getting a new job working the graveyard shift - she'll just have to forgo sleep for the foreseeable future.

Franny, being Franny can't help but be forthright.  When Lady Trumper discloses her unethical bill paying strategy, Franny corrects her.  Faster than the grass is growing in my front yard (the van der Stevejincks have an embarrassment of lush greenery at this time of year), Lady T sacks her. Francesca isn't overly fussed - after all, she was planning on quitting in a few days. Lady Trumper threatens non-payment of wages, but Franny very reasonably counter-threatens to take her to court.

The Haven in Pimlico. It sounds to me like a place where old racehorses are put to pasture - which is sort of what it is.  The Haven is a small rest-home/geriatric facility, conveniently located only a short bus ride from Francesca's home on Fish Street. The pay isn't great - neither are the hours, but at least it's a job.  At least it's a job right up until Francesca slips and sprains her ankle. Then loses her job. The little household is firmly wedged between a rock and a hard place. There's simply not enough funds to go around. Truly the low point for Francesca, Auntie and Finn. If only the Professor was around to chat with...

Francesca could have whipped the winged Nazgul all by
herself...if she hadn't needed to protect Auntie. 
SirWilliam Meredith, the Winged Nazgul of Opportunity comes a-calling. He offers a home to Franny and Auntie. Francesca has grave misgivings, but what's a breadwinner to do, when she can't earn any bread?  Uncle William has spent his life planning revenge and simply can't pass up such a rare chance to get back at his sister and the daughter of his other sister.  If he had a mustache, it would be twirling like a cordless drill with a new battery. Things are looking dire for Auntie - no medical attention, no money, no home of her own - and a brother who would just like her to die ASAP. As for Franny, Evil Uncle plans for her to be an unpaid servant for the rest of his life - and not receive a penny piece afterwards. Where, oh where, is the Professor...?

You have no power here. I plan to marry Francesca.
He's back in London and Franny is on his mind, but where is she?  Not on Fish Street, that's for sure. She's gone without a forwarding address. The Professor is not without resources...and by resources I mean Finn. Finn has been uneasy about Franny - her letters don't sound like her. The two men cook up a rescue plan. Leaving at the crack of dawn, the men drive down to Dorset and beard the dragon in his den. Uncle William doesn't care if they take Mrs. Blake, but for some reason he feels that keeping a 23 year-old niece is his right. The Professor says, I have that right, we're to be married. Franny just about swallows her tongue - but Finn shushes her - leave it to the professor.  Auntie is dropped off at the hospital and Francesca is to stay at Marc's place.
  • Francesca might be too thin, too pale and too tired, but she had the light of battle in her eyes.
  • Marc's secretary, Mrs. Willett, will chaperone (and thus preserve Francesca's reputation).
  • Marc gives Francesca carte blanche at Harrod's for a new wardrobe, including wedding outfit. Francesca sensibly agrees to it - she has no money of her own.
  • Marc watches Francesca walk back to his place looking 'as though she intended to conquer the world'.
  • Francesca tries to be more of a silent type...I find your silence quite terrifying.  Francesca has a knack when it comes to chatting with absolute strangers. She gets to hear about all sorts of interesting things - how proud the saleslady at Harrods is that her son got into cathedral choir school, which hospital the cabby had his appendix out at, the butler's sister's chilblains, etc...Her effort at being quiet is to try and fit herself into a mold - a mold of what she perceives as the ideal wife for Marc. Although he's not able to articulate it yet, he just wants her to be herself. He's had glimpses into her awesomeness - just enough to know that while she may be small and plain and mousy, she is also happy, courageous and, well, awesome.
  • Oh, and she realizes she's in love with him. Has been for some time.
The wedding is, of course, by special licence.  Finn and Auntie along with Mrs. Willett and Crisp make up the wedding party.  Then it's off to Holland for a bit. Marc admits to himself that he is getting fond of Francesca. He thought of her often and with pleasure. He drops her off for a day of shopping in Den Haag, but neglects to give her any money.  Francesca is resourceful enough to survive the day with ten pounds in her purse - enough for morning coffee, a sandwich for lunch and the entry fee for the Mauritshuis.  Not enough for a trolley ride all the way back to the hospital.  Marc is a little put out that she is late, until he finds out why - then he grovels quite nicely. Franny, being Franny doesn't hold a grudge about it.

Truer words were never spoken.
Marc has to go away for a few days - he leaves Franny at their home in Holland. She misses him, but more importantly, he has been looking forward to coming home and finding her waiting for him.

Back in London Marc tells Francesca that they are going to a dinner party at Lady Trumper's. No! says Franny. Yes! says Marc.  He's not ashamed of her.  Franny finds her friendly salesgirl at Harrod's and together they find The Amber Chiffon Dress of Destiny.  It turns Franny into a stunner. Marc is somewhat gobsmacked at how pretty she is. She can see the unspoken compliment in his eyes, which helps carry her through the cocktail hour.  Lady Trumper can't help but be spiteful and rude about Francesca - to Marc, who won't stand for anyone to insult Francesca.  He invents a medical emergency and takes Francesca out to dine and dance.  Editor's Note: Marc has been very gradually leading up to falling in love with Francesca - I think this evening is the critical eye-opener for him. He's still not quite ready to admit it to himself, but he does very soon hereafter.

Marc has to go to Israel for a week or so. On the brink of leaving, he nearly confesses his love - but is interrupted. Dang. There's just time to give Franny a kiss.

The final scene is as cute as it is short...
  • Marc hides out in his downstairs office - Franny knows he's there because she can see his car. She finally goes downstairs to see him.
  • Franny thinks Marc is happy because he's fallen for someone - she tells him she just wants him to be happy.
  • Why?
  • Because I love you more than anything in the world.
  • I love you too - and I was sitting here wondering how to tell you.
  • Family van der Kettener, the later years.
  • I'll tell you how to do it, said Franny...(brilliant, absolutely brilliant)
Future pledges of affection are discussed.
'...Two of each, said Franny, then they can make up a tennis four.'
'...At least you don't hanker after a cricket eleven.'
The End.

Francesca reminds me of a doll I owned in the early
1960's .
Rating: If you were hoping for a love story, The Fortunes of Francesca might disappoint. It doesn't disappoint me.  I adore Francesca.  She's such a fun character - indomitable, chatty, cheerful - a glass half-full kind of girl.  She's not entirely sweetness and light - she does have a fierce side.  I love her when she's calling bad Uncle William a tyrant. I love her when she shares a few truths with Lady Trumper - and is willing to do so even in the face of being sacked. Brother Finn is a surprisingly consistent character - in many of Betty Neels other books, he would have barely rated a mention - but in The Fortunes of Francesca he hangs around for an unusually long time. It's rather adorable that he has a bit of a man-crush on Professor van der Kettener.  It's also adorable that while he thinks the Professor will make Franny a good husband, he also hopes that Franny won't be pig-headed about it. Marc is a fine hero - but let's face it - the story is not really about him...Francesca steals the show each and every time she makes an appearance. Marc will spend the rest of his life see-sawing between a wish for peace and quiet and wondering how he ever got so lucky as to be married to Francesca. Lashings of Whipped Cream!
Food: Eggs, bacon and fried bread, fish and chips supplied by the Professor, steak and kidney pudding (twice), tea and crumpets, 'warm milk laced with the best brandy', fairy cakes, sprits, roast pheasant, red cabbage and a rich pudding with whipped cream. Franny makes three kinds of sandwiches - Gentleman's Relish, cucumber and egg and cress.
Fashion: navy skirt with a white blouse topped with a navy cardigan, a sodden woolly hat and a mac that clings damply, TWO pre-wedding shopping trips to Harrods - fully financed by Marc! At her first post-wedding dinner party she wears a dark red velvet dress. To go to Lady Trumper's dinner party, Francesca splurges on the Amber Chiffon Dress of Destiny that pretty much stops Marc in his tracks.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, November 25th
The Fortunes of Francesca
Medical student brother, evil uncle, MOC.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Doctor's Girl--Reprise

I think this cover is just as cute as can be.
Good day, Bettys!
 "Oh," you're thinking.  "This is the one with THAT surname."  The one that I can't help but say in my head 'Fuhforde'.  So, I looked it up:
Last name: Fforde
This ancient name is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is one of the earliest topographical surnames still in existence. The name derives from the Old English pre 7th Century "ford", ford, a shallow place in a river of water where men and animals could wade across. The term was used as a topographic name for someone who lived near a ford. Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages. In some cases the modern surname may be locational in origin, deriving from one of the many places named with the Old English "Ford", such as those in Herefordshire, Northumberland, Shropshire, Somerset, and Sussex. The modern surname can be found as Ford, Forde, Foord, Foard, Forth etc.. On March 2nd 1589 Izabell Forde and Henry Embertonn were married in St. Giles Cripplegate, London, Sir Ambrose Forde was knighted at Leixlip, County Kildare, by Sir George Cary, the Lord Deputy, on August 2nd 1604. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Bruman de la Forda, which was dated 1066, in the Book of Winton, Hampshire (included in the Domesday Book of 1086), during the reign of King William 1st, known as "William the Conqueror", 1066 - 1087. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

It made me wonder what sort of topographical surname I would have if I were in need of one.  Possibilities include Mintfield, Riverside, Greenspace, Butte, and Powerlines...depending upon which home at which time.  What would yours be?

And here's a link to the discussion thread.
Love and lardy cakes!
Betty Keira

The Doctor's Girl was one of the very last Betty Neels stories to be published.  The Venerable Neels was in her 90's at the time! As far as I could tell, there were absolutely no references to Holland, no Dutch doctors, the heroine was not a nurse...what kind of Neels is that?  A sweet little gem, that's what kind. I wouldn't recommend it as an introduction to the works of Betty Neels - but as a little postscript, it's just fine.

Miss Mimi is peeved to learn that, no, Dr. Fforde will not
 write her out a prescription for three gin and tonics.
Loveday West (24) has a soul sucking job. There's just no way to sugar coat the pill that is Miss Mimi Cattell.  Rich, spoiled and nasty would easily make it into a list of top ten descriptors of that she-devil. Shrewish also. Upon waking up with a stuffy nose, the wealthy harpy demands that her doctor make a house call.  Her regular doctor must be used to such antics, but since he's off playing golf for the week, she'll have to make do with his partner.  Dr. Andrew Fforde is a tall drink of medicinal water...but he's not her cup of tea. He doesn't coddle her. Not even the teeniest bit.  Loveday considers him 'a man after my own heart'.
After a day  spent lounging in bed swilling gin and tonics, Mimi disregards Dr. Fforde's advice and goes out on the town with her friends. Her drunken homecoming in the wee small hours is typical - Loveday is required to haul Mimi's inebriated person up the stairs and into bed. A few days later Loveday breaks a vase and Mimi wallops her a good one - giving her:
  1. A doozy of a shiner.
  2. Her marching orders.
  3. No references.
  4. All of the above.
The black eye proved to be a
hindrance to finding gainful
Loveday is not only out of work, she's also homeless. Thank goodness for Mrs. Branch (the cook?) who happens to have a sister with rooms to let, and abandoned cats ready to be adopted. Jobs are not forthcoming for a girl with few skills who looks like she's been knocked around. Loveday finally goes to the hospital to have her eye checked. Dr. Fforde happens to catch a glimpse of her - and dismissing patient confidentiality as a thing of nought, finds out Loveday's address and work status .
When Miss Priss (Dr. Fforde's secretary) has a family emergency, Dr. Fforde has to resort to a temp agency's offering, which in this case is a giggler with no common sense.  We can't have that! Dr. Fforde now has a perfect excuse to visit Loveday.  He can not only offer her a job, but also a tiny flat. Loveday is refreshingly un-uppity about him showing up and gladly accepts the job and the new home.

Loveday daydreams about the man of her dreams. Interestingly enough he bears a striking resemblance to Dr. Fforde.

Meeting new people! The lovely (and nice) Mrs. Seward drops by the office to see Andrew (Dr. Fforde) 'Margaret - this is delightful,' says he, and with that, Loveday imagines a romance between the two.

Brighton! Where engaged men can date other women
without that pesky danger of being found out!
Romance of another kind finds Loveday.  Dr. Fforde's younger cousin Charles stops by the office.  He's quick to chat up the mousy little receptionist.  A couple of dates later (at places that Charles is sure not to see any of his crowd - including a trip to Brighton!) and Loveday starts glowing with happiness. Dr. Fforde observes this happiness with a niggling sense of unease.  Why is she happy?  Long story short? His caddish cousin Charles is engaged to be married in a couple of weeks time, he's is having one last fling.

Loveday is somewhat crushed when she hears about the upcoming nuptials - but she wouldn't be if only she knew that Dr. Fforde is head over heels in love with her - but he can't see what she would see in him.  He honestly believes he's too old for her, she believes he's at least dating Mrs. Seward...

Now that the make-believe romance with Charles has ended, Andrew starts to make some tentative moves of his own.
  • Invitation to his place. Meet Mrs. Duckett the housekeeper and a little lame dog which they name Bob.
  • Another invite to his place...this time Andrew pumps Loveday for information about her family. It is discovered that she has a long lost great-aunt living in Buckland-in-the-Moor whom she doesn't remember ever meeting.
To sweep or not to sweep?
The information about the long lost aunt is soon very helpful. Miss Priss (the long lost receptionist) is coming back to work and needs the little flat.  As soon as is humanly possible, Andrew drives down to Buckland-in...etc. and meets the aunt.  He explains everything - including the fact that he loves Loveday and would like to sweep her off her feet - should she be so inclined to be swept. Great-Aunt tells him that she was under the impression that Loveday was a modern career girl and since she's not, Loveday is welcome to stay.

Andrew gives Loveday a week's notice at work and suggests that she go and stay with her aunt. That's all well and good...but then the thought of not seeing him shakes her down to her toenails. Yup, she's in love.

Andrew insists on driving her down to Great-Aunt Letitia's - and spending the night in the village so as to be able to have more time with Loveday. He's not sure why Loveday has been stiff with him - then he mentions his family - including his sister Margaret. So, that was why she'd pokered up. Two obstacles out of the way...first Charles and now Margaret - the only obstacle left is that pesky age difference.
Call me Andrew.
I've always called you Andrew inside my head. 

A week alone with Great-Aunt (and her cats) and then a lovely ending.
She ran to the door and flung it wide as he reached it and went into his arms...
All that's left is some kissing and a promise to marry him just as soon as he wants - 'today if we could.'
Aunt Leticia...reflected that she would give them the silver pot which had belonged to her great-great-grandmother for a wedding present.
The end.

Is it me, or does the cover
art for An Ordinary Girl
look suspiciously similar?
Rating: Perhaps there should be a different rating system for novellas.  The same plot devices that drag on and on in longer books are given a much shorter shrift (is that a word?) - which can be quite a good thing. The Doctor's Girl isn't a perfect book by any means, but it has a fun hero and I adore the very end  - abrupt though it may be. For me it earned a Queen of Puddings (but that is partly due to the relief I felt at being able to read the entire book in the car between running errands all morning). I'm not saying that it's fabulous (for instance why did Loveday let the horrible Mimi get away with assault?), but it's a nice little slice of Neels - the perfect length for reading during Saturday morning errands.
Food: She eggs a lot of eggs and egg based dishes (such as omelettes), rice pudding, milk pudding, beans, Charles takes her out and plies her with cream cakes. 'Mrs. Duckett's teas were like no other: there were muffins in a silver dish, tiny sandwiches, fairy cakes, and a cake thick with fruit and nuts.'
Fashion: We have pretty thin pickings here. A middle-age appropriate navy blue wool crepe, and 'a plain sheath of a dress, and well cut, although the material from which it was made was cheap - but the colour was right: a pale bronze which gave her hair colour and flattered her eyes'.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, November 18th
The Doctor's Girl
Black eye, caddish Cousin Charles, trip to Brighton.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Fate Takes a Hand - Reprise

I spent last weekend in San Francisco, visiting my eldest son and his wife in their new home.  Well, it's new to them.  It was actually built in 1906 - right after the big earthquake.  They purchased the home right around Christmas of last year.  Stay with me here...
Max and Sophie enjoyed the view from the front porch, but were dismayed when they found out that they would have to spend the weekend sitting on the floor.
Both my son and his wife are hard working computer-y types and are able to afford to live in a nice neighborhood in an expensive city.  

Dr. van der Stevejinck and I loaded up our great socking Bentley minivan with our two youngest sons (ages 18 and 22) plus air mattresses and bedding for the entire crew. Because my eldest and his wife are new to home ownership, I didn't mind bringing our own sleeping arrangements.  My son did mention we should bring chairs.  "Chairs?" I said to my husband, "I refuse to haul chairs 800+ miles. Each way."  


Had I known that my son and his wife only have TWO pieces of furniture in their house, I would definitely have tossed a couple of camping chairs in.

One of the things that I really love about books like Fate Takes a Hand, is the housekeeping details.  Even the most destitute of orphans can manage to have a table and chair or two.  Sure the chairs might be wobbly (especially when sat upon by vast RDDs), but they have them. 

The Heir's home does share something in common with Lally's - the historical angle - no exterior improvements without the planning commission's go ahead.  Lucky for him he already has bathrooms.

-Betty Debbie

We had to shoot a pack mule.
The Founding Bettys, donning their tasteful Pith helmets and explorer monocles, ventured forth and were lucky enough to get their hands on the original Betty Neels novel outline!  (We traded one demon baby, our pinky fingers and three gold fillings for what you're about to read.)

Working title: The Doctor and the Hot Flower Girl (Call agent and demand Harlequin stop slapping my novels with bland and taupe-y titles!)

HeroineEmily Haven't I done that already?  Eulalia Warburton.  (To sound more au courant they can call her Miss Lally...There, publishers, I'm throwing crumbs to your hip-hop generation.)
DebitsLimp  Squint  Evil brother  Homelessness, Elderly retainer (I'll call her Trottie!), Care of orphaned cousin (Precocious but not treacle-y 8-year-old...Bobby (too American!) Peter)
Assets: Built like a brick-house, loads of money,  loads of familymarketable skill-set, arranges flowers, willingness to work, spine like honed steel

HeroBrian Churchill (No.  Eureka!  I have it!  This time he's Dutch.) Fenno van Linssen
Debits: Short,  Skinny,  Bad Career (He's a junior executive at a greetings card firm...), Small-minded and bony-chested fiancee (Sarah (Much too nice-sounding. I want something that says, 'I lop the tops off daffodils in the springtime because they look happy.'Ursula)
Assets: Deeply romantic nature, enduring honesty, willingness to lie like a trooper, a libido, likes children, has cash
Eulalia, flower shop girl by day, 
Goddess of Spring by night

Set-Up: Simple (and plain gorgeous) flower shop worker struggles to maintain financial solvency while lashed to the rocks, waiting for the Kraken to devour her.  (Ha!  I kill me.) Trottie is a pensioner, fruit of misspent youth cousin Peter is an orphan and Eulalia has a sweaty-handed gentleman follower a lease that's about to expire.  What next?!  Fenno walks into the shop and asks for flowers--red roses definitely not red roses for his fiancee.  Sparks fly (figure out a way to imply that he's looking at her body without being tacky enough to say 'body') and a palpable attraction is beaten into submission by her irritation at his coldness and his gobsmacked shock (which reads as coldness) at finding Persephone working in retail.

Conflict: When Eulalia delivers the flowers to Ursula (I'm thinking of an anorexic version of that hard-eyed villainess in the Disney picture...but less smiley and more willing to slap the parlor maids.) a minor row ensues.  Fenno visits the shop again and again (he's never said it with flowers before) so that he can observe her artfully arranged...er...arrangements (Too explicit?). Eulalia twits him about what a fractious man he must be to need so many flowers and never guesses that his motives are inclining to wickedness.  Peter contracts loprosy  runs away gets a broken arm (caught in a protest rowdy curb-hopping bikers) and so needs a doctor.  Fenno!  He goes above and beyond the call of duty, making house-calls, having them over for tea..And it all works very well until Ursula (receiving yet another unwanted flower offering from Fenno via Eulalia) screeches out that (well, how do I put it?)...Fenno has been picking flowers in Eulalia's garden.  (Oh dear, we'll have to tone that down for publication. It's a mite smutty.)  So, Eulalia tells her where to get off.
50,000 Pounds!

Beam-Ends: Eulalia gets a promotion and a medal fired.  Fenno, nursing a terrific sense of guilt (and passion--but tastefully!), throws Ursula over and proposes a MOC to our heroine buys her a house!  (Note to self: Remind my publishers of my substantial fan base and remind them, too, that this isn't the part where the RDD buys himself a mistress. Leave that to the Harlequin Blaze stable of tarty writers...)

Beam-Ends x2: Eulalia entrenches herself happily in her home town, swallowing the solicitor's lie about a deceased great-uncle and the one thousand ten thousand fifty thousand pounds!  She gets a rabbit and a cat for Peter and plans a flower shop with cautious optimism.
But all is not well in Eden.  Victor, a local lad lately returned from the outer reaches of hell America, tries his arm with the fair heiress.  Trottie breaks her leg.  Fenno fixes both Trottie's leg and Victor's wagon. 

Muddy Waters: Eulalia meets a hooded stranger named Deep Throat in a parking garageoverhears the village drunk mention a Bentley-driving stranger. Eulalia, having obtained five A-levels in her salad days, is no fool and quickly tracks down the kernel of brandy-soaked truth at the bottom of the barrel.  She travels to London and lays her case before Fenno.  He bought her a house!  Are there quid pro quos? (Too tarty?)  Fenno, sure he loves the fair maiden, offers her a proposal contingent on his getting out of an entanglement with Ursula (page count!) shakes it off, dismisses her fury and makes her spend the night.  (Be sure to mention chaperones.)  

He sends your girl flowers, you send his diamonds.  
He buys your girl a house, you get his in a clinch.  
THAT'S the Chicago way!
Notes: Trottie won't have a home if Lally gets married so develop a secondary romance for her with Dodge, Fenno's accountant butler.  Also, clear up the mess with Ursula--have Fenno catch her in the arms of a demon from the darkest corners of the underworld an American...from Chicago!

Filler: Fenno invites Peter to Holland where Eulalia meets his evil and insecure aunt delightful mother and gets the Indoor/Outdoor House Tour of Anticipatory/Implied Conjugal Relations.  Her humiliation over finding out she owes him her home and 50,000 Pounds is not to be mentioned.    

Resolution: Home once more.  Fenno waits until Dodge takes Trottie off for a spot of snogging the day and then makes a short (if to the point) declaration of undying love. He promises to install Eulalia in an upscale London condo with open duct work and an industrial finish his garden oasis in the city, serve her several Cordon Bleu meals a day and await pledges of her affection.
Page Count Neither Exceeded or Skimped: The End

Rating:  The biggest issue I take with this book are the names.  Miss Lally (which I kept intentionally mis-reading as LAY-lee instead of LAL-lee so that it wouldn't seem quite so bad) and Trottie (which any way you slice it sounds like a mix-breed Labrador with a case of the runs) are difficult pills to swallow.  Still, they're just names and I found the rest of the book really charming.  Though written in the last few years of her career, La Neels hardly seems like she's flagging (would that I could be a tenth as awesome). 
This is a Boeuf en Croute or maybe even higher--I read this when my husband was out of town and it's all I can do in those circumstances to keep the kids from sharpening sticks and circling helpless neighbors with tribal cries of 'Kill the Pig!' Anyway, just when I'd get going on the book I'd be interrupted with all manner of Lilliputian catastrophes. ( I know it's a great book when I'm more than usually annoyed that I have to put it down and know it's a Beans on Toast if I'd rather deep clean the oven than pick it up.)
But in blue...
I loved the secondary love story, adored Peter and wanted to pop Ursula in the nose myself even though, as it turned out, she had every reason to be suspicious about Fenno and that gorgeous flower girl.

Food: Banana sandwiches and Marmite and orange squash are her meals with Peter.  Trottie doesn't trust fish on Mondays.  They make cheese sandwiches, Madeira cake, and when Fenno does his spot of Good Samaritanism he has a ploughman's lunch of bread cheese and beer.  More refined meals include lobster bisque, chocolate pudding, and chicken a la king.  Adorably, Trottie and Dodge court while making cucumber sandwiches and scones.

Fashion: She wears a navy dress in the flower shop.  Fenno changes from country tweeds to sober grey suiting after popping out to the country to BUY A HOUSE.  Eulalia owns a small-brimmed velvet hat and Ursula unwisely dons a bright blue dress cut very low 'which was a mistake, for her figure was what she described as boyish and the dress did nothing for her flat chest.'  Cough.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Betty in the Wild: Southwestern Desert

Having introduced Tishy to that nice man in Santa Barbara, I threw Alexandra into the sinkhole of garish, smoke-heavy, pedestrian-unfriendly Las Vegas, first stop in a desert tour.

She only nipped into the casino to assist a pregnant woman...

Penny Bright ran off to Vegas.

Then I forgot to take any BitWilds around Sedona, but this is what it looks like without the book:

Somewhere between Albuquerque and Lubbock there are road signs for The Blue Hole.  That sounds enough like The Blue Pool that I took the short detour.  And kinda wished I hadn't...

Third-most-boring tourist attraction on the list I keep in my head.
There were a few scuba divers in it, at least.
The Blue Hole is 81 feet deep, 60 feet wide and maintains a water temperature of 61 degrees Fahrenheit.  Oh, how wonderful.  Apparently.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Upcoming Reprise

Monday, November 11th
Fate Takes a Hand
Flower shop girl, orphaned cousin, secondary love story.

Hilltop Tryst--Reprise

Dear Bettys,
If I may steal from my original discussion thread:
 When Beatrice has to pack in a hurry to leave Great-Aunt Sybil's,  she throws her odds and ends into plastic bags...'A plastic bag!" exclaimed Great-Aunt Sybil. 'Must you, Beatrice? In my day, no young lady carried such a thing - why have you no luggage?'...I shall give you suitable luggage for your birthday".
I send the little pledges off to overnight with Grandma van Voorhees toting their belongings in plastic bags.  I can see that it pains her--offends her ideas of a lovely childhood memory-to-be.  But, in fairness, the 4th little pledge will probably have need of a plastic, semi-fluid-retentive bag when be totes his belongings back to Mother.  
Love and lardy cakes,
Betty Keira

I remembered really not liking Hilltop Tryst...it was among one of the last Betty Neels I read.  I couldn't remember what exactly bothered me about it, so I approached it with some trepidation last week. Thankfully, it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought.

Beatrice got to the hilltop a little too
early on Midsummer's morning.
Beatrice Browning (26 going on 27) and Oliver Latimer (35 - ish) meet on the morning of Midsummer's Day. It's love at first sight for him...like at first sight for her. She's a tall gorgeous glass of water - looking for a tiny bit of excitement...which she doesn't see in the placid Dr. Latimer.

Beatrice's life is anything but exciting. Instead of training to be a veterinarian like her father, she is his assistant. Lots of on-the-job training, but no room for advancement either. Her lack of career leaves her open and available to take on such mundane jobs such as 'Acting Companion' to Great-Aunt Sybil - who she is not fond of (the feeling is mutual). Great-Auntie should probably have been set adrift on a convenient iceberg years ago, but failing that, she spends her time bad-mouthing her family and medical professionals. After a visit to a noted cardiologist in London (that would be our boy Oliver), a suitable companion is found. Or rather, a suitable companion is sent. Oliver just so happened to know someone.

Papa Browning, the village veterinarian, has a heart attack. It's sure a handy and convenient thing that Oliver is a cardiologist. Oliver suggests to Beatrice that she hire a locum. It's really a shame that he doesn't know a handy vet who happens to be at loose ends for a few weeks, because, well, you'll see.

The agency sends a man. I suppose we must call him a man, although he is more closely related to the reptile kingdom.  Think of a snake with opposable thumbs.

Colin Wood, he of the showy yellow sports car with lots of luggage, several tennis rackets and a set of golf clubs.
Colin Wood, young and exciting. Danger, danger, danger...(I'm saying this with a fake Australian accent).
Colin Wood, sniffing around the veterinary practice account books.
Colin Wood, plotter of mercenary marriage to the unsuspecting Beatrice...until she overhears the Phone Conversation O' Doom wherein he outs his true mercenary motive for chatting up Beatrice.
Colin Wood, stalker extraordinaire.

Papa Browning takes on a new partner. NOT Colin. Colin stays on in the village - much more handy for his new hobby - stalking Beatrice.  It gets so bad that Beatrice can barely stick her nose out the door. What's a girl to do? Oliver suggests a pretend engagement! Beatrice demurs - what will his fiancee think? What fiancee, you ask? Yup, there isn't one, it's that hoary old plot device wherein the hero states he plans to marry soon...zzzz.

Colin practically attacks Beatrice in the middle of the village - Beatrice is saved by Oliver - whom she calls her 'fiancee'. Oliver assures Colin that the announcement will be in the Telegraph the very next day. Which it is.

Oliver invites Beatrice to go on a two-week lecture tour with him (and his assistant, the delightful Miss Ethel Cross).
Colin has taken to writing impassioned letters to Beatrice. Beatrice is so over him by this time - the letters don't even mean anything to her.

Lecture Tour O' Liking or Great Hotels of Europe. Two weeks at the finest hotels in Utrecht, Cologne, Copenhagen and Brussels...Just as Oliver drives away from dropping her back at her house - finally, finally! Beatrice realizes she's in love - but since she has endowed Oliver with an imaginary fiancee, there's nothing she can do about it.

Chasing burglars was just a way to let off
a little excess steam, after all, she couldn't
bring herself to chase Oliver.
Great-Aunt Sybil's suitable companion has to take a week off for a family emergency. Beatrice is press-ganged into being an acting companion again. A day or two before she's due to go home, she wakes up and finds a robber stealing the silver...Beatrice chases him down in her dressing gown - Oliver providentially drives by and knocks him down for her (I'd wager Beatrice could have done it herself, after all, she was gaining on him). Great-Aunt Sybil is deeply mortified that Beatrice stooped to running around in public in a state of 'undress'. Oliver doesn't want to hear anyone give his fake fiancee a bad time, so he hustles her back to the family home.

If she wasn't already in love, two weeks of forced Oliver Drought would have certainly make her heart grow fonder...as it is, she's in such a muddle about her feelings for him, the faux engagement, his imaginary fiancee and life in general that she scampers into hiding the next time she hears the gentle purr of his Rolls. Two can play the sneaky game...Oliver pops up unexpectedly and asks her why she hid. Em-bar-ass-ing, much?

Sorry Colin, the better man is going to win this time.
The Return of Colin. Like yesterday's split pea soup, Colin won't stop repeating. He's also stepped up the stalking to include cornering her in her own house and accusing her of having a fake engagement (true) AND being in love with Oliver (true)...and then telling her that when she marries him, he expects a partnership, a good salary AND a decent house. Oliver rides in on his white charger and routs the reptile once and for all.
Time to wrap it up:
  • Visit to Aunt Polly in Cornwall (a whole 3 pages worth).
  • Kissing on the street.
  • Takes her home...thorough kissing in front of the whole family. Muddled thoughts for Beatrice.
  • Proposal on the hilltop where they met. 'I promised myself when we met that one day I would ask you to marry me on this very spot...'
The End.

Miss Ethel always wore her little black
number when she received her employee
of the month award.
Rating:  I'm pretty sure the reason I didn't like Hilltop Tryst before had to do with how monumentally thick Beatrice seemed.  She meets a great guy, then falls for a weasel, then has to get over the weasel, THEN falls for the great guy. Ugh. On closer reading I'm willing to cut her a little bit of slack.  Yes, she's still pretty (very) thick, but she'd been fending off the feeble advances of the local doctor's son for years  - I get the impression she wants a little more zip in her love life, and her first impression of Oliver is that he's pretty un-zippy. Along comes Colin - he's a flash in the pan, but a charmer - in the smarmy, insincere kind of way.  Beatrice is side-swiped by his flattery, and nearly falls for it.  It takes her longer than I felt was strictly necessary for her to get over Colin - especially when he shows his true colours so boldly (and badly). I do love a few of the bit players - Great-Aunt Sybil is fabulously awful (but we've seen her type before), little sister Ella is fun (but we've seen...etc...). Miss Ethel Cross is one of my favorite characters, but considering her limited word count, that doesn't speak too well of the book. All things considered, I found this book both better and worse than I remembered.  Better, in that I understood Beatrice a little more, and worse, in that it takes quite a while for not much to happen. Madiera Cake for me...
Fashion: My favorite outfit, by far, is the 'little black number' worn by Ethel Cross. Beatrice wears a pale rose wild silk bridesmaid dress to her sister's wedding while Oliver is 'wearing his morning coat as if he was in the habit of doing so frequently...it was certainly not hired from Moss Bros.' Blue linen dress and little jacket, pale pink cotton dress with a demur collar, dark blue one piece swimsuit.
Food: Bacon, eggs and mushrooms for breakfast, ham on the bone and potatoes in their jackets, pork pies, duchesse potatoes, strawberry tart, lettuce soup (???), grilled sole, fresh fruit, peach tart, brioche.