REVIEW: Judith by Betty Neels
Perhaps her dream of love was only a dream
“Working nights in a London hospital is no life for a young girl!” Her mother hadn’t actually said it, but Judith knew she was thinking it.In a way, Judith agreed, but what else could she do? Marry Nigel? No, she didn’t love him. She had no great feeling for any man—except Charles Cresswell—and that was certainly not love. But could her feeling possibly have any bearing on her agreeing to nurse his mother in his home?
I decided to try this book because I hadn’t read one with an English hero yet and it also promised a trip to Portugal. Our story kicks off in London where Sister Judith – who is tall, blonde and has a splendid figure – is trying (once again) to quash the proposal of a particularly full-of-himself surgical registrar (US= surgical resident). As Nigel thinks he’s God’s gift, try as she might, Judith can’t depress his expectations that she will fall into his arms. However she’s actually much too busy doing her job to waste much more time on him just then.
A short time later, a measles outbreak sweeps into the hospital and apparently not having been vaccinated, Judith succumbs to not only that but a rip roaring case of conjunctivitis and bronchial pneumonia. She’s given a week or two to recover before being allowed to totter off for a month off with the parents. Given the detailed driving directions Neels provided, I feel I could drive from London to her home village and from there up to where her Uncle Tom is a GP in Cumbria – county of bracing fresh air and obnoxious neighbors.
Working for her Uncle for two weeks – what was that about a recuperation month? – she runs afoul of Professor Charles Cresswell (Odious Man). Unfortunately for Judith and Charles, half of England immediately think they’re perfect for each other despite the constant way they snipe and snarl at each other. Once her time there is up, Judith is delighted to leave this rude, nasty man behind. When Judith returns to London, one of the first patients she meets up with is Charles’s mother. The Odious Man is not far behind but after a cozy chat with another nurse, Lady Cresswell discovers that Judith isn’t married or engaged – just merely still fending off Nigel. Now the rest of England is set on marrying Charles and Judith off.
Needing skilled nursing care for a while, Lady Cresswell sweetly manipulates her son into using his clout at the hospital to engage Judith. When Judith hesitates, he snidely reminds her that she herself told him she felt she was in a rut. Odious Man. Soon Lady Cresswell decides she wants to revisit Portugal and feeling that the warmer climate might be good for her, everything is arranged with lightning speed. As they settle in and begin collecting stray animals – a mother cat, two kittens and a dog is the final tally – Judith discovers that a change of scenery doesn’t appear to change Charles any. Odious Man. Some out-of-nowhere hot kisses might just change her mind. But does Charles care for her at all? Honestly, she still isn’t sure.
Initially I was giggling with delight at how Judith firmly puts men like Nigel and Charles in their places. She’s like a consort battleship. No squashed cabbage here. She’s magnificent as well as competent and a good cook. Which is helpful as the British men around her can’t seem to even put the kettle on to boil and are in constant need of sandwiches (Judith makes an especially nice beef sandwich) and tea. Whatever the Odious Man verbally flings at her, Judith slings something right back. So far, so good.
Lady Cresswell is a doll and not nearly as good at hiding her hopeful desire to see her son and Judith get married. The time they spend in Portugal is okay though rather too detailed in a travelogue way. Charles skips in and out, ruffling feathers all the way until we’re told that Judith realizes in a stunning moment that she loves him. Um, no I’m not quite with her there and I realized that for me something had shifted in this second half of the book. The zest and fun of their verbal sparring wasn’t working for me anymore.
The Odious Man has remained little more than that. Yes, there are lots of moments earlier on when it seems as if he’s deliberately nettling Judith just to rile her but there are just as many times later when he genuinely appears to be as rude and obnoxious as she (for the longest time) believes he is. In his interactions with other characters, he’s shown he knows good manners so I can’t believe it’s merely being socially inept that accounts for the way he continues to act in a cloddish way around Judith. Neels tosses in some comments about how Judith doesn’t see him looking at her admiringly but is that because he likes her or just likes the way she looks in her well cut, blue bikini?
If your mother has to pleadingly tell a young woman that you’re not as horrid as you appear to be and make torrents of excuses for you, I’m not seeing ♥ and fluffy bunnies in the future. Even after she says yes, Judith wonders if she’s made a mistake and they can possibly be happy. She also becomes a bit spineless and acquiescing. Where did our Valkyrie go? I want her back and I want her to verbally smack Charles around a bit. Sigh …. B for Judith and Lady Cresswell but C- for the rest of the book.
I have a question for British readers. Is “squashed cream cake” an actual thing or merely a cream cake that’s been flung around in a container until it’s lopsided?