Okay, not really, but it grabbed your attention, right? My husband has a joke that the legendary punk band the Ramones only had one song (or to be more specific, all of their songs sounded alike). He likes that song, however, so he likes the Ramones. Well, Betty Neels is my version of the Ramones. If you’ve read one Betty Neels book, you’ve basically seen the template for all of them. If you like that sort of thing, you’ll like most, if not all, of her books. If you don’t, you probably won’t. Betty passed away several years ago, but a few of her 100+ books are reissued each Christmas by Harlequin.
Here’s the template for a Betty Neels novel: Young English girl, not pretty or wealthy, usually a nurse, meets a wealthy, older, handsome man, usually a Dutch doctor. They spend the book traveling back and forth between England and the Netherlands, eating and drinking, shopping, sightseeing, and possibly tending to patients (if the heroine and hero are the usual nurse/doctor combo). He treats her somewhat condescendingly, but she’s the plucky sort and doesn’t take it lying down. She’s convinced that her pluck has alienated him, but secretly, he admires her for standing up to him. She becomes convinced that her love for him is unrequited, and she doesn’t catch on even when he steals a kiss or two. Usually in the last five pages, he proposes marriage, and she happily accepts. The stories usually take place at Christmas, and Neels uses the opportunity to educate us about Dutch holiday customs. Betty Neels worked as a nurse in England and began writing only after she retired. Her stories are set in a non-specific time period. Although they were written mostly in the 70s and 80s, you always get the feeling that Neels is setting her stories in the post-war period of her youth, in reality if not in name. There are no references to modern cars, television, or contemporary social mores, and the fashions often seem, well, extremely tweedy for young people in 1980s Britain.
If you’ve never read a Betty Neels book, the above description may not tempt you much. But I find something extremely reassuring about her books. They are warm, and they bring me into a cozy, safe world of tea and tweed that I find deeply comforting. Every Christmas, I find myself wandering into the bookstore to purchase the latest Betty Neels reissues. This year was no different. I’m sure next year won’t be, either.
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