A Betty Neels Christmas: A Christmas Proposal and Winter Wedding (Betty Neels)

5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
I love the first novella in this collection. Though I don’t normally even like novellas, A Christmas Proposal is probably the best modern-day Cinderella rewriting I’ve read. It’s not overly exciting or even particularly innovative, it’s just… nice, in a very lingering way. And Winter Wedding, though not my favorite, is still… good. These are two heroines that you really relate to and root for — they’re more mousy than pretty, and more gentle than spirited. They’re the true underdog wallflowers that you want to have a happy ending.

Greater Detail:
A Christmas Proposal is exactly what I’ve said, a modern (well, as modern as Betty Neels gets) retelling of Cinderella. Bertha’s father’s an important lawyer who’s always traveling and leaves his daughter in the care of his wife and stepdaughter. Claire is your prototypical stereotype of the mean stepsister. She’s shallow (though quite beautiful) and determined to marry well (it’s her main ambition in life!). Bertha meets Dr. Oliver Hay-Smythe at a party where she’s wearing one of Claire’s horrible cast-off dresses. He takes pity on her, takes her to eat bangers and mash at the local pub, and (initially perhaps because he merely feels sorry for her) begins to find excuses for them to meet again and again…

Winter Wedding, similarly, has the beautiful but shallow antagonist (this time a sister instead of a stepsister) as well as the gently bred, overly proper Emily Seymour. Emily’s a nurse, and, as usual in Betty Neels books, our hero is a doctor. This time their paths cross because they work together and because her young niece and nephew are drugged (yes, drugged) by Emily’s sister (she wanted to go to some modeling show, and was just trying to give them some sleeping tonic to make them be quiet while she snuck out). That drama aside, it’s a leisurely read. You spend a lot of time relating to Emily because she has so many beautiful people in her life and she’s just such an ordinary girl (and thus so easy to relate to). She daydreams about buying a nice dress and fancy sandals while her sister sells her treasured locket… and so on…

Really, these two are amongst Neels’s better works. They’re predictable and slow-paced, and there’s a lot of tea-drinking, country-side-driving, dog-petting, and kiss-less daydreaming, but still, a soothing read, and I always found, a nice way to end the day.

Comparisons to Other Authors/Books:
If you’re willing to talk about Betty Neels in terms of her ability to offer comfortable/comfort romance, where a kiss is the most passionate thing that might happen and where the romance is almost secondary to the daily tasks of the day (having tea, going on walks, rescuing kittens and whatnot), the closest I can think would be someone like Georgette Heyer, though that’s set in the regency era and Betty Neels’ romances are more or less present-day (think 1990s). I think most people either find her soothing or like the boringest writer ever… (I find her soothing!) This collection, along with When Two Paths Meet, are probably my favorites. If you don’t like these, you probably just won’t like Betty Neels.. she is most certainly NOT for everyone…

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