Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Betty of Bettys

Your winner, Betties:

The Promise of Happiness 
(or, as we have been affectionately calling it for years: Becky and the Baron, the Hot, Hot Baron)

(Do you think we need a soundtrack on this? Yes. Definitely. Let's have a soundtrack. Feel free to dance around the kitchen.)

It was a hard-fought contest of titles and The Promise of Happiness only beat out A Gentle Awakening by FOUR votes. So it seems fitting to pause a moment and give the runner-up a moment in the sun.

I like what Betty Janice had to say about A Gentle Awakening: "...she leaves her mean father, earns Nanny's respect and devotion, teaches Pauline to bake, gets Sir William to eat his daughter's attempts, responds to fiancee Wanda's slap with an entire jug of lemonade, nurses the sick household, speaks Dutch... delicious book!"

Florina is such a sweet and unassuming heroine and I writhe for her, having jumped from the frying pan of her father's house (Is there a more loutish father in Neelsdom?) and into the fire of Sir William's employ. She's top over tail in love before she knows what's hit her and the prospects look dire. But her sterling qualities (fluent Dutch, Grade A cookery and a real affection for his daughter, Pauline) coupled with Sir William's willingness to do menial housework (make coffee, bring morning tea, deliver trays of food, hoover (!), scrape potatoes and wash dishes in the midst of the measles epidemic) make me sure that these crazy kids will go together like vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce.

Now, on to our winner. The Promise of Happiness is often my favorite Betty (Always top five but these things shift around like the sands of an outgoing tide. You feel me.) because of the indomitable spirit of the heroine. Though running away from the only home she has with two pets and no real luggage or money is dramatic, the part that gets me by the throat is when she regrets that the Baron only sees her as "a dowdy girl who wore cheap clothes and didn't know how to make the best of herself--and she wasn't really like that...it was difficult to splash out...and he was so secure himself that he would never have known the insecurity that not having money brought with it." 

There is an entire library filled with things Doctor Baron Tiele Raukema van den Eck doesn't know but, by the end, he's taken a seat in the front row of the Becky Saunders Memorial Lecture Hall, composition book open, pencil at the ready. He sees her at last.

Tiele wondered if there was extra-credit labs offered or opportunities for field trips.
He'd offer to drive the instructor in his Rolls Royce Corniche...take it in easy stages...stop off at every handy lay-by.
He was a very dilligent student.

I do think it's interesting that both of our top finalists had instances where the hero (A Rich British Doctor in one and a Rich Dutch Doctor in the other, as has been noted.) did not scruple of be slightly caddish in pursuit of his ends. 

Sir William's fiancee, Wanda the Wicked, gets marched through briar patches so she'll run back to London in her laddered tights, flinging her engagement ring (in a modern setting, you just know) over her shoulder.

Nina van Doorn gets dragged to a chamber concert to provide the flimsiest cover to Tiele as he stares at the back of Becky's head all night. It was perhaps as flimsy as Nina's evening gown that, no doubt, exposed far too much bosom of the salt cellar variety. (He would have disapproved of it if he'd bothered to glance at her even once.) 

This has been such a fun ride, Betties, and I'm so happy you all took it with me. The final vote, as we all know, hasn't settled anything at all. I'd love to hear your Top Five books in the comments section and whether any of your favorites changed over the last months as you've reread the selections.


  1. My top three are pretty constant:

    !. The Promise of Happiness
    2. The Magic of Living
    3. Dearest Love

    and usually in that order too. But for my other favorites, they do indeed shift with the sands. Tabitha in Moonlight is right up there, as is Henrietta's Own Castle and Esmeralda. Pineapple Girl, even with my intense dislike of the hero. Winter Wedding, with the Seconal twins. Caroline's Waterloo, despite (or is it because of?) the donkey comment. An Apple for Eve, because of the tipsy heroine scenes (I don't think that ever happened in another Betty). The Secret Pool because it was just so sad, but oh so well written. And the Gemel Ring, which despite being the lowest rated book on the blog, is one I have a great fondness for.

  2. Betty Barbara here--
    My top 5 order shifts as my mood shifts, but usually contains:

    The Promise of Happiness
    The Mistletoe Kiss
    Roses Have Thorns
    End of the Rainbow
    and then--Tabitha in Moonlight or Matilda's Wedding or Dearest Love. I must say that A Gentle Awakening had somehow slipped off my radar until this tournament brought it back to my attention. Now I find it hard to believe I ever lost track of it. I continue to love The Hasty Marriage and Henrietta's Own Castle.

    Thank you Betty Keira for all your hard work. I certainly had fun and hope all my fellow Bettys did too.

  3. dancing a little jig šŸ’ƒ

    My Top Three
    The Promise of Happiness
    The Hasty Marriage
    Caroline's Waterloo

    Runners up
    Not Once But Twice
    Winter Wedding
    Small Slice of Summer
    Sister Peters in Amsterdam

    The order shifts and there are other great stories that climb up into the top rangs.

    This has been so much fun the second time around. Thank you again, Betty Keira!

  4. I've always liked A Gentle Awakening but I think I've come to appreciate it much more as so many Betties have told me why they like it.

  5. My top 3 are pretty firm:
    The Promise of Happiness
    Caroline's Waterloo
    Dearest Mary Jane/Sister Peters - tied for 3rd

    But after that it gets more difficult.

    Fate is Remarkable
    Cassandra By Chance
    Not Once But Twice
    A Gentle Awakening
    Tabitha in Moonlight
    Henrietta's Own Castle
    The Magic of Living

    would round out the top 10, but the order of those will jump around a bit, depending on which ones I've read most recently.

    It has been so much fun to hear everyone's opinions about their favorite books. I'm never going to love The Hasty Marriage or Winter Wedding, but I love hearing from Betties who do love those. It would be a dull world indeed if we all liked the same things!

    Thank you so much, Betty Keira, for these very enjoyable weeks!

  6. Yay...whichever way I list promise of happiness is always first. I do not find anything disagreeable in it vs the nasty reilof, the too long to get there date is remarkable, Caroline of the 'donkey' fame..you get the drift? It also has another feather on its cap as the only betty my DH has read and loved :-)

  7. I bet no-one would ever guess that Saturday's Child is the top of my list!

    If I had to choose five Betties today to tide me over a week of being snowed in in a remote Scottish lodge, I would choose:
    Saturday's Child
    A Dream Came True (naturally, if only for the emergency advice)
    Tangled Autumn, with its ancient title wrapped around it like a cloak
    Discovering Daisy, because I have to have something...
    and Hannah, because Oom Valentijn.

    1. One of my snowed-in choices would be An Old-Fashioned Girl, especially if I were in Norfolk. ;)

  8. My top five would be

    Damsel In Green/Blow Hot Blow Cold
    Tabitha In Moonlight
    Never Say Goodbye
    Henrietta's Own Castle
    A Dream Camp True

    It's so hard for me to put these in order because I love them all. There are only a couple that are at the bottom of my list that I don't read often and I rotate the others over and over. I love her heroines......they never give up. I think that is why I love her books so much.

    I also want to thank you Betty Keira for putting this together and for all your hard work. I had so much fun and I enjoyed reading all the comments from fellow Betty fans. I would be interested in knowing the top books in the last book contest.

  9. It's so hard to pick just 5. These are my old friends who I turn to when I need to get back into Betty's world

    Waiting for Deborah
    Dearest Mary Jane
    Only By Chance
    A Girl To Love
    An Old Fashioned Girl

    Waiting in the wings are
    Discovering Daisy
    A Valentine for Daisy
    Cassandra by Chance
    Winter Wedding from A Betty Neels Christmas

    I do love how Betty uses the same names over and over. Like an big extended family.

    1. An Old-Fashioned Girl is right up there in my top picks too. I like the snow drifts and the flowers she sets out for him that he can't help but notice. Discovering Daisy is a really strong showing for a book written so late and the couple are so right for each other.

  10. Visual clues please! If the books had photos would the Neels' doctors, professors, etc. look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, a member of the Dutch Olympic swim team or (please!) Colin Firth? Sometimes reading her descriptions of massively built men I think of the Hulk (just less green). How tall is tall and what is massive? Is hooded eyes an appreciative comment or a slight medical description. How is he able to doctor w/ half-closed eyes?
    Even knowing that the books are stuck in an older time period, what do these dressed so beautifully described on shopping trips look like? Long, tight sleeves, high necks, wide belts, many patterned dresses. Eternally stylish like Audrey Hepburn of more Church lady w/ an expensive dress allowance?
    These questions are asked with love but the visual is wavy & I have not even started to wonder about those multicolored tweeds! If this has been covered before, please point me to the SEARCH button or the archives. Thanks.

    1. Sometimes I have a hard time picturing things too. (Specifically Laura's wedding turban from The Hasty Marriage. I can't imagine it looking just right.) Betty Denise keeps a sweet Pinterest board that she has to file away those visual clues you mention. Here's a link: https://www.pinterest.com/denisegrimes35/all-things-betty-neels-then-some/

  11. I don't have a Top Five, but thought perhaps some of you "Romantic Betties" might enjoy this short poem. Shy heroines such as Caroline (a.k.a. Caro) and Gold Medalist Rose Comely (who are secretly romantic at heart) come to mind; Anne Elliot of Jane Austen's "Persuasion," as well.

    Somewhere or Other


    Somewhere or other there must surely be
    The face not seen, the voice not heard,
    The heart that not yet—never yet—ah me!
    Made answer to my word.

    Somewhere or other, may be near or far;
    Past land and sea, clean out of sight;
    Beyond the wandering moon, beyond the star
    That tracks her night by night.

    Somewhere or other, may be far or near;
    With just a wall, a hedge, between;
    With just the last leaves of the dying year
    Fallen on a turf grown green.

    --Anonymous Betty Lea in KY

    1. I liked that very much. 'Made answer to my word', 'the wandering moon'. She has a gift for expressing longing.

  12. I just remembered: Becky and Tiele from The Promise of Happiness reappear in one of my other top three titles, Caroline's Waterloo.

    Cross-over characters:
    see Betty van den Betsy's flowchart Betty by the Arrows

  13. my top five rotate around based on which ones I've read most recently. Besides PoH, there's Henrietta's Own Castle, Tabitha in Moonlight, Tulips for Augusta, Gentle Awakening, Dearest Mary Jane, Discovering Daisy-- all rotate in and out of the top five for me. I had better stop or I'll end up listing twenty (Course of true Love, Two Weeks to Remember, Philomena's Miracle...).

    Probably if forced to pick just one it would be Henrietta, which I just re-read last week, so maybe that's the only reason. So often Betty heroines get mad about things that don't make sense to me (she bubbled with rage because he said the dress looked nice instead of she looked nice.... whaaaat??? that is just not something that would even irritate me, let alone make me bubble with rage) or they don't get mad about things I would get mad about. Henrietta's reactions all make sense to me, so maybe that's why.

    My two least faves are easy-peasy: Right Kind of Girl and Independent Woman.

  14. I can't stop at five so here are my top 10 Betty books:

    1/2 Fate Is Remarkable and Once for All Time I love them both so very much that I can't possibly pick one over the other.

    3 Christmas Romance My first and still dearly loved Betty
    4 Dearest Love
    5 Only by Chance
    6 Saturday's Child
    7 Ordinary Girl
    8 Mistletoe Kiss
    9 Roses Have Thorns (darling portly Charles)
    10 Cassandra by Chance

    Mind you, The Promise of Happiness, A Girl to Love, The Convenient Wife, Matilda's Wedding, and Heaven Is Gentle are all in a tie with Cassandra by Chance so that they are all in the top 10. :)

    Why? They all have moments that take my breath away.

    Betty AnoninTX

    PS In the US, all Betty books are now available for the Kindle except A Christmas Romance and The Proposal. Just FYI.