A new year. A new website. I’m back in full writing mode, and how glorious it is!
It’s doubtful I would be feeling so cheerful and inspired right now if it weren’t for Betty Neels.
Montana winters can be grueling with one bitter cold, gray and dreary day leading to the next. My daily morning walk (no matter the weather) with my faithful Australian Shepard, Annie, at my side, gets the day off to a brisk, refreshing start, but—unless the sun decides to make a brief appearance to remind us Montanans that it still exists—my morning energy has said farewell by early afternoon.
Back in late December on a particularly cold and dark day, one of my neighbors shared with me that he and his wife are moving to North Carolina this summer. “For good!” he said, rubbing his gloved hands together and stomping his booted feet in the snow to keep warm as we chatted. “It’s more for me than her, though. I’ve got SAD. Have to sit under one of those special lamps for a couple of hours every day. I’m driving her crazy.” I commiserated with him. Then, occasional forward thinker that I am, I asked him what he was planning to do with his snow blower since I doubted he’d need it in that southern clime. “I’ll give you first dibs. Hundred bucks.” Visions of me not having to shovel my driveway next winter lifted my spirits for a few hours. Yet, it still wasn’t enough to inspire me to write the next chapter in my book. Gloom was settling in as I wandered over to my bookcase and scanned its offerings.
Sun and Candlelight by Betty Neels. Well! How perfect is that! Soon I was immersed in Betty Neels land, journeying with a British nurse (circa 1979) to Holland with her Handsome Tall Broad Shouldered Dutch Doctor Husband. One of Betty’s Marriage of Convenience story-lines, old-fashioned to some but as timeless and lovely as it was the first time I read it many years ago.
Of course, once I finished that story I had to find another Betty Neels on my shelf. Then I pulled up my Betty Collection on my Kindle. Dear, sweet Betty carried me through the winter slump and brought sunshine into my heart. I spent a lot of time in Holland and in London hospitals and Cotswold cottages. I took a cruise to Vienna and spent a few months at a remote camp in Norway. I drank a lot of fortifying tea and savored the imagined taste of treacle tart and Queen of Puddings,
sausage rolls, madeira cake and thin slices of buttered toast eaten in front of a cozy fire, a big furry dog of “dubious lineage” draped across my feet, a wise old cat keeping an eye on us from its perch on the mantel. I shopped for Jersey Dresses, and dinner dresses, fur hats, practical felt hats, rain coats, headscarves and Sensible Shoes.
The thing about Betty Neels—and all true Betty Fans can confirm this—is that you can read any one of her books a dozen times over the years and still feel like you’re reading it for the first time. Betty is that one true friend who is always there for you and will never let you down. There’s a reason why the 135 romance novels she penned for Mills & Boon have been published and re-released and have never gone out of circulation since her first novel, Sister Peters in Amsterdam, was introduced in 1969.
Here are the covers over the years for just one of her books (Tabitha in Moonlight, one of my Top 5 Favorite Betty Neels) from its original release (1972) to its current release. And these are just the English versions! (I wonder how much the cover with the typo is worth?)
Betty was 60 years old when her first book was published. She was 91 when she passed away in 2001. Her last story, An Independent Woman, was released that same year.
As a writer of what today is being called “clean & wholesome romance”, I find great inspiration in Betty’s life story and her writing. I can only dream of having the success that she achieved. But I take heart that her books, in which the Hero and Heroine never take the reader further than a kiss, have maintained (and very likely grown) in popularity over the years. Because of Betty, I know there will always be a place in readers hearts for sweet, heartwarming (and well-written!) romance novels.
So, Thank You, my dear good woman, Betty Neels. Spring will soon be bringing its sunshine and two new books from Yours Truly.
If you’ve never read a Betty Neels (Oh, my dear good girl!), or if you want to expand your journey into Betty Land, I recommend these sites:
11 thoughts on “A Betty Neels Winter”
Betty Neels is a great favorite of mine. Her books are such comfort reads! I have downloaded nearly all her titles to my Kindle. She’s a great storyteller and her books are soothing and calming. A refuge from the turmoil of the real world. We all need it sometime. Her tropes might be a bit far-fetched at times, but they never take away from the serenity and beauty of the world she creates.
Twenty years ago when I was going through a particularly hard period in my life, I plucked a book off the reshelving trolley at the library to give it a flip through. Don’t know what drew my attention but it was The Quiet Professor and for some reason which defies all literary logic, I was hooked on Betty Neels and now own at least one copy of each and rarely go a month without reading one. I truly credit her books with if not actually saving my life then at least keeping me from turning to drugs or alcohol for escape. Tea and scones and desserts with lashings of whipped cream and rescuing dogs and donkeys and riding in a Bentley or a Rolls and shopping for clothes when you don’t have to look at the price tag, even vicariously, can bring great solace and soothe a troubled mind. Thank you and the responders for letting me know I’m not the only one who has this special bond with Betty. I have one friend who has joined me in my need to read and read Betty’s books and now I know we are not alone.
You are not alone! All of us “Bettys” understand exactly where you’re coming from. What a beautiful story. THANK YOU for sharing!
This blog is wonderful. I’m enjoying it.
I read my first Betty Neels story a month ago, now I’m a serious Betty addict. Of course the stories are predictable, but her characters aren’t. It is quite obvious Betty had a wonderful sense of humor and was master of dry wit. It’s refreshing to read a story where the woman is frequently described as plain, plump, magnificent or mousy, but she wins the love of a large, tall, handsome, mature gentlemen looking for a nice girl.
So glad you’re enjoying it. I need to add more blogs about Our Dear Betty. This year, I started reading her books from the beginning again (Sister Peters in Amsterdam). I’m currently on Two Weeks to Remember. Although I’ve read every book at least three times, it always feels like the first read. And you’re right – they can be so predictable! – but there’s something comforting in that. 🙂
BTW – I have a character named Gigi in my Sweet Grass – Montana Romance series. How cool to get a comment from a real life Gigi!
I’ve taken a look at your Pinterest board. I love it!
You’ve got 135 numbers, but 136 covers, because there is one double:
#100 AT ODDS WITH LOVE – Harlequin 3323
#100 AT ODDS WITH LOVE – Mills & Boon Aug 1993
Aha! I think I put both covers on there because only one showed the 100th Anniversary banner. Removed the HQ edition. All “perfect” now! Thanks for looking. Can I call myself “Betty Maggie?” 🙂
I would have kept the M&B cover too, Betty Maggie – because of the banner: Betty Neels’ 100th Romance. Her 100th novel! Quite an achievement!
Yes, I do have “The Proposal” in my Kindle collection, the Mills & Boon edition, which unfortunately you don’t get in the States. I am blessed, because, in my country, Amazon offers both Harlequin and Mills & Boon titles.
Thank you for this wonderful post. I am glad to hear Betty’s novels have been able to bring light and warmth into your cold dark Montana winter.
I have all her novels in print, as well as on my Kindle. And I am a follower of The Uncrushable Jersey Dress. :o)
It’s lovely to know there are so many more people who appreciate the Great Betty’s style of writing.
I have to correct you on two things, though:
Betty Neels has written 135 stories. One wonderful story more than stated on some pages!
That is not a picture of the young Betty Neels. I know it has appeared on several sites, erroneously captioned Betty Neels. It’s the graduation picture of Nurse Gertrude/Gerty who attended nursing school at the University of Washington, graduating in 1948.
The picture is from this page: http://www.markscott.biz/dad/gertrude.htm
So glad you enjoyed the post, Betty Anonymous! Thanks for the corrections. Yes, last year when I created a Pinterest board of Betty Neels book covers, I realized the number was actually 135, possibly 136? https://www.pinterest.com/mdesmondauthor/betty-neels-always-forever/betty-neels-harlequin-mostly-covers/
I also have all but one of her stories on my Kindle and – for the first time – I’m reading them again in order of publication. The one story I’m missing is “The Proposal.” If that’s in your collection, please let me know!