logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: comfort-read
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2016-01-31 04:00
The Promise of Happiness ~ "One sees clearly only with the heart..."
The Promise of Happiness - Betty Neels

One of the things I love to search for when reading Betty Neels romances is where and how exactly the title comes into play. And it almost always is hidden in a bit of dialogue or in some internal musings by the heroine. In The Promise of Happiness, it comes late in the book and well after the "Rich Dutch Doctor", Baron Tiele Raukema van den Eck, falls in love with a plain, skinny little mouse of a girl, Becky Saunders:

 

They were all surprises for me,’ he told her, which explained nothing, and put his coffee cup down. ‘You’re growing into quite a pretty girl, Becky.’

 

She shook her head sadly. ‘No, I’m not, thank you all the same.’ She added quite fiercely: ‘I wish I were beautiful, so that everyone stared at me…’

 

She looked away, ashamed of her outburst so that she didn’t see his smile.

 

‘There are so many kinds of beauty—have you ever looked in a small hidden pool in a wood, Becky? It’s full of beauty, but it’s not in the least spectacular, only restful and quiet and neverendingly fascinating.’ He got up and wandered to the door. ‘Someone said— and I’ve forgotten who - ‘‘Beauty is nothing other than the promise of happiness.’’ That’s very true, you know.’

 

He put out an arm and pulled her close and kissed her gently. ‘Good night, my pretty little mouse.’

 

A remark which gave Becky a sleepless night. (188)

 

Though Baron van den Eck cannot remember who said it, the quote - "Beauty is only the promise of happiness" - is from Stendhal's On Love, a series of essays in which Stendhal examines love generally (all while mixing in culture, history, politics and literature) and specifically by trying to exorcise his obsession with an Italian countess who was allegedly not amused by his attentions. The story behind his "crystallization" concept as it applies to love and falling in love is both poetic and weird with an implication of love having an illusory quality, an idealization as well as an unhealthy sense of "perfection" is bestowed on the beloved. Stendhal latched on to the idea while visiting the salt-mines at Salzburg. Miners toss a leafless branch into the works during winter, the salt water works its magic, and in summer, a plain, brown twig is transformed into something which appears to be "scintillating", "dazzling", a "diamond-studded bough" covered in salt crystals. What was once plain is now beautiful. I'm more in the camp of "one sees clearly only with the heart." Physical beauty is just one element and is subjective, but seeing with the heart allows us to look beneath the surface to see honor, strength, humor, honesty, confidence, generosity and a million other reasons why we love. It's the entirety of the relationship that makes lovers see the other as unique and beautiful.

 

Becky is one of my all-time favorite Neels' heroines. Why? Well, because when we first meet Becky, she's sopping wet, schlepping along the lonely and drizzling moors before dawn with a battle-scarred cat named Pooch in a plastic bag, an old black Labrador retriever named Bertie trudging slowly beside her, and "a pitifully small sum in her purse." She's running away from home, of course, after overhearing her wicked stepbrother, Basil, tell his mother that he intends to murder Becky's pets (drowning for Pooch, shooting for Bertie). Becky, a trained nurse, has for the last year or so been the unpaid housekeeper and general dogsbody to wicked stepmother and evil stepbrother. The only reason she stayed was to ensure Pooch and Bertie were unharmed, but overhearing their fate compels her to take them and run with £30 6p she has saved. She could be depressed. Downtrodden. Morose. Miserable. Overwhelmed. Did I say depressed? But she's none of those things. Instead, she and her faithful friends are finally free. She is optimistic without being a Pollyanna, and happy despite her problems. She has a plan. She is resourceful and refuses to go down without a fight. I love her. She has gumption. How heroic is that?

 

Of course, it's not a case of love at first sight for dear Tiele. He sees Becky for the first time when she is at her lowest, least attractive point:

 

She offered a wet hand and he shook it, still with an air of amusement. She really was a nondescript little thing, no make-up and far too thin—her pansy brown eyes looked huge and there were hollows in her cheeks, and her hair was so wet he could hardly tell its colour. (8)

 

To continue Stendhal's analogy, Becky is just a brown twig at this point without those glittering diamonds of salt crystals to dazzle and mesmerize. Though there's not one bit of sparkle on Becky for Tiele at this point, he has been kindness itself - offering her a lift in his honking Rolls, paying for her meal, treating her pets with amused and gentle tolerance, and offering her a job as a personal nurse to his mother who's recuperating from a broken leg. Over the next weeks, Becky, with regular meals, begins to gain the weight she lost and the Baroness's compassion helps her build up some much needed confidence. Of course, Tiele's sister does a pretty fine job of knocking her down, but Becky holds her own.

 

The girl’s smile deepened. ‘You said she was plain,’ she observed to her brother. ‘A half starved mouse.’

 

He gave Becky another look. ‘And so she was—it must be the food and the fresh air.’ He gave Becky a bland smile. ‘You filled out very nicely, Becky.’

 

He was impossible! Becky hated him, although she didn’t hate him in the same way as she hated Basil. There was a difference, like hating a thunderstorm and something nasty under an upturned stone…

 

‘If you have finished discussing me,’ she said haughtily, ‘I’ll tell the Baroness that you’re here.’ At the door she paused to say: ‘Such manners!’ (63)

 

You just have to love her. And if that's not bad enough, Tiele expounds on his thin mouse statement in a later overheard conversation with his mother:

 

The Baroness looked at him thoughtfully. ‘No,’ she said at length, ‘the child has pitifully few things to put into a bag, she has bought almost no clothes since we have been here.’

 

‘Very sensible of her. She’s presumably saving for her future comfort.’

 

‘Don’t you like her?’

 

He laughed gently. ‘It depends what you mean by that, Mama. I like Becky, she’s a good nurse, and she’s gone through a nasty patch, but she’s hardly a beauty, is she? and her conversation hardly sparkles. Shall we say that she’s not quite my type—I’m not attracted to thin mice."

 

It was a pity that Becky heard him as she came back into the room. The self-confidence she had so painfully built up since she had been with the Baroness oozed out of her sensible shoes and her face went rigid in an effort to compose it to a suitably unaware expression. (68)

 

Yes, I know eavesdroppers never hear good things. Blah, blah, blah. But how utterly heartbreakingly painful is that? You can say "sticks and stones, etc" till the cows come home, but words really can hurt and harm. So very sad. Still no sparkle. Still not dazzling. Still just a plain old brown twig. But wait! This is Becky the Valkyrie-in-training. She's not about to take that lying down. Besides, Tiele will be hearing those words parroted back to him until he is sick unto death of them and wishing he'd never allowed the thought to cross his mind, much less say those hurtful things, before any snogging begins and wedding bells chime.

 

Somewhere after a side trip to Molde is when Becky begins to topple the Baron from his lofty turret of arrogance down into the murky moat to mingle with mere mortals. Could it have began when she called dear Baron on his unfortunate remarks about her thin, mousy person? Or possibly when he realizes that this rather nondescript little female was not going to allow him to use her as a doormat? An object to be taken for granted? Or maybe it was learning that there was more to Becky than her outward appearance? Or maybe it really was her creamy skin and large dark eyes? All of the above? Hard to say for sure, but Becky certainly captured his attention.

 

"You don't like thin mice," Becky reminded him coldly.

 

His eyes twinkled and his smile very nearly made her change her mind about him. "I'm not sure about that any more." He eyes her without haste. "And you aren't so thin, you know." (75)

 

In Stendhal's On Love, he offers an example of which lover a man falls in love with when given the choice between a woman of great beauty and a woman who is thin and scarred from small pox. It surprises him that his friend falls in love with the thin, scarred woman. Love has its reasons, after all. Baron-Not-So-Charming, too, has a choice: the coldly glamorous and tousled blonde Nina van Doorn (I always read that as 'Doom' for some reason.) and plain, mousy, thin Becky. Now Becky isn't a hag or anything, but she is a bit malnourished and just not. . .flashy. Of course, Becky found a place in the Baron's heart instead of Nina van Doorn, who is ideally beautiful but lacking in the character and compassion departments.

 

Becky is independent, honest to a fault, and dauntless. She should have been the true fish out of water but settles into a city comfortably where everything is twice as hard for her - the language, the customs, a job which is challenging even without the extra stress of being contingent upon her fitting in. She does it all, and without complaint. It doesn't take Tiele too long to begin making the comparisons between Nina and Becky with Becky coming out on top. In fact it is Tiele who is the fish out of water, reeling with emotions Becky lets loose in him. What follows - midnight snacks in the kitchen with buttered rolls and coffee, a quick stolen kiss as Becky passes him in the doorway, an impulsive and impromptu visit at her flat along with an improvised picnic including a sweet Moselle to drink (which he detests but Becky loves), and one toe-curling kiss culminates with Becky's dawning realization that she's in love with the Baron and the Baron fleeing her flat like the hounds of hell were on his tail.

 

One of my favorite scenes shows exactly how far Tiele has come from his "I am not attracted to thin mice" comment, and is shortly after THE KISS. Things are tense between Becky and the Baron after she blurts out in an alcoholic haze (it was the Baron's best Napoleon brandy that did it!) that Nina is not the wife for him. That bit of honesty only earns her a blast of icy anger and frozen hauteur that freezes her on the spot. She begins to avoid him, but contrarily he won't allow it. When Tiele insists he and Nina give Becky a ride back to her flat and then on to the hospital, the only one satisfied with this situation is Tiele. Clearly neither lady is happy about being pushed into each other's company.

 

She couldn’t walk away because he had taken her by the arm. Now he turned and said something to Nina which made that young lady sizzle with temper. ‘I’ve told Nina that she can wait if she likes to. Let’s go up.’

 

But before he did he took the ignition key out of the car and put it into a pocket, blandly ignoring both girls’ astonished faces.

 

Inside the flat he sat down, watching Becky putting food out and opening the door on to the balcony. ‘And let me assure you, Becky, that I don’t find Nina’s behaviour towards you in the least funny. I’m not sure what I find it.’ He bent to lift an impatient Pooch on to his knee. ‘That’s not quite true, but there is no time to discuss it now. Are you ready?’

 

Nina had gone by the time they reached the car. ‘Get in front,’ begged the Baron. ‘We can talk shop until we get to the hospital.’

 

Which they did in a comfortable casual fashion, brought to an end when they were crossing the vast entrance hall together.

 

‘I should prefer it if you were to call me Tiele,’ said the Baron apropos nothing.

 

Becky would have stopped if he had given her the chance, but as he didn’t she contented herself with a long look at him. ‘Quite impossible—you’re a Baron and a doctor, and I worked for you…’

 

‘I wish you wouldn’t keep throwing Baron at me in that inflexible fashion; I was Tiele first, you know. Besides, you told me that you liked me…’

 

She marched on, not looking at him, her cheeks glowing. ‘I like you, too, Becky.’ His voice was beguiling.

 

She said stonily: ‘Yes, I know. I heard you telling your mother that in Trondheim—you liked me, but I wasn’t your cup of tea.’

 

‘And I was quite right—but I do believe that you’re my glass of champagne, Becky.’ (173-174)

 

*sigh* Isn't that just lovely? From thin mouse to a glass of champagne. I think that means he loves the girl. Despite Stendhal's crystallization craziness, that little quote about beauty and the promise of happiness is quite lyrical and somewhat analogous to the long and winding road Baron Doctor (or is it Doctor Baron?) van den Eck travels to get to the point of really seeing, appreciating and, yes, loving his plain little mouse, Becky Saunders. Tiele comes to know Becky, with knowing her comes loving her and in loving her a fulfillment of the promise of happiness.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2016-01-26 14:28
ARC review: Rustic Melody by Nic Starr
Rustic Melody - Nic Starr,Book Cover by Design

Very sweet and sexy comfort read! 

 

 

Adam Chambers is a young man on a journey without destination. After a big falling-out with his father about business and their private life, Adam leaves his home, family and job in order to find his own way in life. The problem is, he still has no idea what to do with himself.

 

Joey is 21 and owns his own bar/hotel/bistro. Not that this ever was his dream choice, but after his father's death and his mother falling ill, he was slightly out of options. Now all he wants is for the pub to pay for itself on the market, set up his mom comfortably with his aunt, and finally start his own life for real.

 

These two lost boys meet each other at the Tamworth Country Music Festival and immediately feel the Zing! But after Joey's vacation is cut short abruptly, these two have a lot of decisions to make - alone and together. Good thing they can help each other figuring things out. 

 

This book is a sweet, low-angst comfort read for rainy days or dark moments. Adam and Joey are cute together, but Joey especially stole my heart. He's not perfect, he's not a gym rat, his hair is red, his skin too pale, he has practically no business skills other than interacting with his patrons, but his pride is still alive and kicking. I loved him! And I enjoyed the journey of these two boys very much, especially because there were no fabricated misunderstandings, no artificial shouting matches or silly games. These men talk and listen. Granted, they might be a little slow on the uptake here and there, but they're adorable and sweet doing it, so who cares, really? 

 

In the beginning I was a little afraid this would be an insta-love kind of story with a very predictable main plot. I'm happy to say that while there is some insta-lust going on here, the development, the sexy and sweet moments and the personal journey of both MCs was well thouhgt out - nothing insta about it. The pace was good, and the writing drew me in right until the end. Was it flawless? By all means, no. There were some "Well, duh?!"-moments, some situations where I wanted to shake both MCs and make their teeth rattle. But it never reduced my enjoyment of the story at any point in time. 

 

The only niggle I had was the showing vs. the telling. When it came to the side characters, some of them remained a little rough around the edges and pale in comparison to the MCs. Same goes for the main conflict between Adam and his father. It's not that I didn't get the drift, or that there weren't interactions between the two that made it clear how big the rift between the two really is. But I really wished for more on-page action showing it to me. Joey's struggle keeping the bar afloat was handled similarly, although we got more glimpses of how hard he really works in order to survive. In both cases though, while we did get some hints and clues, a lot of it was only told and explained. I just wished for a little more showing here and there. 

 

But overall, this was a very enjoyable book, perfect for curling up under a warm blanket with some hot coffee and cookies. It certainly got me out of my little reading funk, after some of my other books started to weigh me down with the angst. Definitely recommended! 

 

 

*copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Nic Starr! 

Like Reblog Comment
review 2014-08-22 11:23
A splendid feast for the bibliophile in all of us!
The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafón

After the first few pages, I already knew this was going to be one of my favorite books. I especially fell in love after the description of Barceló's eccentricities, and all the literary references. Safons narrative and descriptive writing is rightfully compared with Dickens, vivid and maybe, if I dare say, a tad more exciting than Dickens.

I disagree with some of the commenters that the mystery was easy to figure out from the middle, or maybe I'm just not as quick witted as others--it kept me questioning.

There was a point in the book where it went into the history of an old house, and explained a ghastly murder so...what's the word I'm looking for? Accurately? That I got this tingle up the back of my neck as I read the paragraph a few times over, and my eyes pricked with frightful tears. There was twice that I almost cried with sadness, once at the end after the discovery that Carax made in the basement about Penelope, and after a certain accident with a fire. I was gripping the book, fingers trembling, saying "Oh no..." in my head.

I became enamored with the characters, even the evil ones. They all had pasts that I felt for, but that certainly doesn't mean they were all justified in their actions. The many passages about choices and regrets and passed opportunities and loss gathered a lump in my throat, especially a many passages towards the end, including the fate of Penelope, the fate of her maid Jacinta after a visit from Carax, and the passages with Nuria's father...but to be honest, the part that nearly broke my heart was the fate of dear, dear Miquel...I did feel for him so.

Don't misunderstand, though. Many scenes are very very funny, especially with Fermin, who I've added to my list of favorite literary characters.

Truly a wonderful atmospheric book---be prepared to get lost in it, and watch the pages gather in your left hand as the hours fly. Expect laundry to pile up and for that cup of tea/coffee/cocoa to accidentally get cold on your bedside table. A novel of love, gothic mansions, and subplots, among other things. If any of this strikes your fancy, don't resist that bargain copy on abebooks.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2014-07-08 02:07
Fate Is Remarkable
Fate is Remarkable - Betty Neels

For mysterious reasons some of Betty Neels' books aren't available for Kindle, and, unfortunately, Fate Is Remarkable (1970) is one of them. The blurbs on these books really don't do them justice, but here's the one for Fate Is Remarkable:

 

Sarah Dunn had worked with Hugo van Elven for a long time, and she was astounded when he suddenly proposed to her. Both of them were still recovering from previous unhappy love affairs, which was why Sarah decided to accept. Surely neither of them would wish to get emotionally involved again for a very long time, but she had not considered what would happen if her feelings for Hugo changed, while his remained the same. Could their need for love overcome their painful pasts, and allow a new companionship to grow?

 

Betty Neels has become my ultimate comfort read author, and it all began with reading a review over at Miss Bates Reads Romance on Tulips For Augusta. Now, 60 books later, the rest is history. Her books aren't for every romance reader: there's no steamy sex, the heroines are almost always sensible English nurses, the heroes are always enigmatic and as inscrutable as the sphinx, and there will be lovingly detailed descriptions of food, fashion, and architecture/furniture. They are almost always a medical romance, and since Ms. Neels was a former nurse, most narratives will be chock full of medical terms and surgical procedures. If you like eavesdropping on what the hero is thinking, you won't get it in a Neels book. Although there are one or two I've read in which short glimpses are allowed about his thoughts/feelings (Discovering Daisy), but that's the exception, not the rule.

 

What you will get is crisp writing, characters you care about, cheer for, laugh with, cry with, and worry over. Reading Betty Neels is as comforting and restorative as a cup of tea at the end of the day, when it seems everyone and everything has taken bites (or nibbles) from your soul. I know exactly what I'll get when I begin a Neels' book, but that doesn't ruin the journey. In fact, despite a formulaic premise and predictable plots, Ms. Neels manages to make each book feel unique. Where to begin, you might ask, if you'd like to try one? Well, you can try Tulips For Augusta, as I did, but Fate Is Remarkable is as good a place to start as any.

 

Fate Is Remarkable has a couple of my favorite tropes: unrequited love and marriage of convenience. Hugo has been in love with Sarah for years, but she is in love with and dating Steven, a resident, and is oblivious to all the greatness that is Hugo. When Steven dumps her, Hugo wastes no time in picking up the pieces and shortly offers a shocked Sarah a proposal:

 

"Why are you so surprised? We're well suited, you know. You have lost your heart to Steven; I - I lost mine many years ago. We both need companionship and roots. Many marriages succeed very well on mutual respect and liking - and I ask no more than that of you, Sarah - at least until such time as you might feel you have more to offer." (P. 49)

 

Now there's nothing romantic about his very business-like proposal. But look closely at his hesitation, the pause, before he tells her he lost his heart years ago. That's where the heartbreak is. It's Sarah he lost his heart to, not Janet (as she believes), the ex-fiancée who jilted him to marry another man long ago. Hugo is playing a very deep game here, biding his time until Sarah can come to love him as he loves her.


Hugo, like many of Betty Neels' heroes, is Dutch, and as I said, enigmatic. You'll need to look for clues about his thoughts: a bland expression, eyelids at half mast, a gleam in his eyes, a keen searching expression directed at our heroine, a curt reply, a silky tone of voice. For example, when Steven corners Sarah just before she marries Hugo, he's insulting in the extreme until Hugo puts him in his place:

 

"Hugo's voice behind her, quiet as always, but full of chilling menace, said:

'My friend, it seems I must tell you to get out yet again - and I should go if I were you, otherwise I might be tempted to use persuasion.'" (P. 73)

 

Steven, a bully but no fool, makes tracks as fast as his spindly little legs can carry him. For to stay and challenge Hugo would have resulted in a Hugo's very businesslike fist planted in his nose.

 

Hugo and Sarah enjoy an extended honeymoon at his cottage at Wester Ross overlooking Loch Duich. On the way to the cottage, Sarah and Hugo take an early morning walk, and the easy companionship between them underlines how perfect they for each other.

 

"They walked in the opposite direction this time and discussed the pleasures of getting up early, something they were both used to, as their jobs demanded it. The sun struck warm upon them, early though it was, and Hugo looked up at it and murmured, "'Busie old foole, unruly Sunne,' although perhaps that's a little out of context.'

 

'John Donne,' said Sarah, pleased that she knew what he was talking about, 'and most inappropriate, if I remember the rest of the poem.'" (P.80)

 

I disagree with Sarah. It is very appropriate for what's on Hugo's mind. Oh my. This poem, The Sun Rising, is such a big beautiful clue to what Hugo is feeling. He's married the woman he loves, she's with him - smiling, talking, enjoying his company, perhaps learning to love him at long last - and he feels like the world is his oyster right now despite Sarah's broken heart and their business-like arrangement. Hugo is sure that, at some point, he and Sarah, like Donne and his lover in the poem, will have a wonderful life together and that their love will be eternal ("Love, all alike, no season knows, nor clime,/Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time"). And that's another reason to give Betty Neels a try. There's always a snippet of classical literature or a poem scattered throughout each offering in the Neels' canon.

 

There's a big old honking hammer of foreshadowing as Sarah and Hugo make their slow progress to the cottage, hampered by a narrow road, and up a rather treacherous isolated path on the side of a mountain. Sarah remarks that she would never be brave enough to travel this road by herself.

 

"'Only the direst of circumstances would make me drive all this way; I should be terrified by myself. Supposing I got a puncture, or ran out of petrol?'

 

Hugo laughed and said in a comfortable reassuring voice:
'The country looks empty, doesn't it? But you're far less likely to be overlooked here than in London. Would you really not drive up here?'

 

'No - at least, only if I were desperate.'" (P. 81)

 

"Direst of circumstances"? "Terrified by myself"? "Desperate"? I knew then that at some future time, Sarah would indeed find herself navigating that treacherous, mountainous path to the cottage - alone, perhaps to lick her wounds privately. I imagined the Great Betty giggling maniacally as she scribbled these lines of dialogue.

 

Hugo is a wonderful man: kind, considerate, generous, supportive, caring; and it takes Sarah a really long time to come to her "dawning realization" that she loves Hugo. This is probably the only minor quibble I had with this book. Here's a wealthy doctor who volunteers his time to a clinic twice a week to provide medical care in a "dodgy" part of London. A man who ensures Mrs. Brown's, an elderly indigent patient, last days are as comfortable and pleasant as possible including redecorating her shabby apartment, hiring a companion to see to her needs, and adopting her cat when she passes away. And don't forget, he's the man who helped Sarah pick up the pieces of her heart after Steven dumped her.

 

He treats Sarah as if she's royalty - gifts galore, compliments on her beauty, praise for her expertise as a social hostess, an extended honeymoon in the Scottish a Highlands, trips to Holland, anything to make her happy. He even invites her to work with him at the clinic after he sees that being a social bee isn't quite enough for this hardworking, efficient former nurse. So for her not to recognize Hugo for the honorable wonderful man he is was frustrating. Sarah spends about half the book alternately mooning about her lost love, Steven, and wondering why she yearns to spend more time with Hugo.

 

Dawning realizations for the heroine in a Betty Neels' book are things I look forward to and try to keep track of. They can come as the heroine listens to his quiet tread up the stairs to bed or across a Mayo table in the OR or as he leans against an outcropping of rock or the first waking thought our heroine has after a restless night's sleep. They're all different and as much a part of the heroine and the story as the professions of love toward the end. Sarah's comes about mid-way in Fate Is Remarkable and at a most inconvenient time - at a dinner party.

 

It was during their first dinner party that she made an interesting discovery about herself. (...)

She was roused from her pleasant domestic thoughts by Kate, who asked her if she had heard the news that Steven was to marry Anne Binns in October. Sarah stared at her, struck dumb by the sudden awareness of a total lack of interest in Steven. She hadn't thought about him for days - weeks; she saw no reason to ever think of him again. She went on looking rather vacantly at Kate until Hugo's voice bridged the awkward little pause. 'There you are, darling. A chance to buy a magnificent hat!' (P&P. 120-121)

 

She not only hasn't thought about Steven, but also has just realized she is, in fact, in love with Hugo. I say, can we get a "Alleluia!" It hits Sarah hard, too, because there's that pesky Janet situation and she's wondering how to tell the man you love that you love him and not that weasel with the spindly legs, Steven, especially if your beloved might still be in love with Janet. Oh dear! So she has a bit of a cry in her pillow with a hope that he might one day return her love. Sarah pretty much wallows in her realization for a while which was good for my heart. Her heart thumps against her ribs as it never thumped before just from his smile. She floats across the breakfast room to wish him "Good morning." He takes her arm as they stroll, and she shivers with "excitement and happiness." Unfortunately, she misses Hugo's rather "penetrating look" at her puzzling demeanor and a chance to make her declaration. And how on earth did she pass up the opportunity to tell him how she feels when he declares that they've been married "three months and ten days"? Think about it. Hugo knows to the day how long they're married. No, no, I believe that Hugo knows to the exact minute how long they've been married. For most of the morning following Sarah's dawning realization, she moons "along the streets" as she visits the grocer, the butcher, as she does a "little desultory dusting", enjoys being called "Mrs. van Elven". If she went near a piece of paper and pen, I had no doubt she would be writing "Mrs. van Elven" in pink curlicues with a plethora of hearts or maybe "Sarah + Hugo = Love" Anyway, it was sweet and cute and charming the way she was bowled over by this.

 

The fly in the ointment that keeps these two from declarations and kisses is, of course, Janet. Janet makes a surprise appearance about 60 pages later and manages to muddy the waters for true love until the very end. There are a lot of "other women" characters in Neels' books, and most are cut from the same cloth - hateful, cruel, and spiteful. Janet isn't that at all. In fact, Sarah admits that she and Janet could be friends if the situation were different. The title of the book comes when Sarah remarks to Hugo how "marvelous that [they] should meet again, isn't it? Fate is remarkable." (P. 192) Finding the significance of the title of the book is another treasure hunt for me like the Neels' heroines' various dawning realizations. But what Sarah doesn't discover until the end is that Hugo, not fate, engineered her transfer to the Out Patient Department to work with him because he fell in love with her years ago when she worked in the Men's Medical Unit. That he waited three years because she was in love with Steven. That he was resigned to wait even longer after marrying her so that she could recover from Steven. He doesn't deny he loved Janet in the past, just as she loved Steven, but for him, now, there's only Sarah.

 

The outside world does encroach on Hugo and Sarah - Steven, Sarah's insecurities, jealousy, jobs, social commitments, Janet - but in the end, back at the Scottish cottage (I told you so!) high on Wester Ross overlooking Loch Duich, the two lovers are united finally, echoing the last two lines in The Sun Rising: "Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;/ This bed thy center is, these walls thy sphere."

 

My review really doesn't do justice to this little gem. If you'd like to read one that does, head on over to The Uncrushable Jersey Dress http://everyneelsthing.blogspot.ca/p/undefinitive-neels-canon.html and read that one. The ladies over there have done a wonderful homage to just about every Neels book available. And, if you're so inclined for further adventure, I also urge you to visit Miss Bates Reads Romance http://missbatesreadsromance.com review blog for intelligent, insightful reviews of romance novels. Be sure to read her Tulips For Augusta review.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2014-07-04 21:07
Review- Takedown Twenty
Takedown Twenty - Janet Evanovich

I used to read every Plum book when it was released but then like so many others I got very tired of the same ol', same ol'.

 

Stephanie never got better at her job, she forgot her gun most of the time, her car would get trashed, the Buick survived any catastrophe, Grandma Mazur attended a viewing at the funeral home, on and on and most importantly (for some of us) Stephanie could never decide between Morelli and Ranger. After a while her lack of competence and inability to make a decision grew frustrating in the extreme and I left Trenton behind.

 

But not entirely, I would sneak back every once in a while like one of Vinnie's FTAs looking to catch up with family.

 

Early this week I picked up this book at the grocery store and immersed myself in Stephanie's world. Yes, all the things that made me leave these books are still there and, yes, Evanovich is still phoning it in but there is something comforting (for me) in a Plum book.

 

It's like your favorite comfort food, sometimes there are lumps in the mashed potatoes or the mac and cheese is bland but when you go to it you aren't specifically looking for culinary greatness, you are looking for familiarity.

 

I find the same in Stephanie's adventures, so I'm not going to complain about the same ol', same ol'.  I found it comforting that Stephanie and Lula were still out and about, the one thing about Stephanie we tend to forget is she somehow gets her fugitive. Sure, it may take all 300 pages of a book and a lot of falling down and rolling in suspect fluids, a helping hand or several from Morelli and Ranger, and an almost always unbelievable amount of sheer dumb luck but it happens.

 

Evanovich has found a formula that works for her, Stephanie, and a comfortably large number of readers. She writes a light, fluffy plot with moments of fun, whimsy, and charm. I am not going to complain anymore, there are times when a Plum book is just what I need or want.

 

 

 

 

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?