A Star Looks Down
We’ve had a pretty mild winter here, but I could still use a few afternoons to curl up with a comfort read. This time around, I sought the comfort of a favorite author. I read a fair amount of category romance, but I’ve never found another author quite like Betty Neels. She wrote for Harlequin for decades, but somehow her books always have a fairytale feeling to them as the setting of her books seems anything but real or modern. If you like her world of fabulously rich – and probably Dutch – doctors and the practical women who sweep them off their feet, curl up in something comfortable (perhaps a jersey dress?) and read along.
I have a lot of Neels in the TBR pile, and this time around I chose a 1976 novel called A Star Looks Down. As with many of Neels’ heroines, Elizabeth Partridge is a nurse – a very efficient and well-liked one at that. Beth had a privileged upbringing at Chifney House in the country but after the death of her parents, we learn that a hateful stepbrother inherited Chifney and Beth was exiled from her kingdom, along with her moderately feckless brother.
Beth and her brother now live in London. The brother, William, is constantly sponging money off of Beth, but since he is bright and gainfully employed as a medical student, he seems more immature than truly awful. The two are fond of each other, and one gets the feeling that William may someday get his act together. In the meantime, Beth seems to do the lion’s share of supporting the two of them on a rather meager nursing salary.
Into this existence strolls the rather large person of Alexander van Zeust. Alexander is a Dutch doctor who is apparently quite brilliant. Throughout the book, we are reminded often of his hugeness and brilliance. In spite of this, he’s actually somewhat likable. Unlike some of the Neels heroes I’ve encountered, he may be worldly and sophisticated but he does have some awkward moments that make him seem a little more human. Something about his feelings for Beth seems to bring these out, and their courtship is at times kind of endearingly awkward because neither one knows quite what to say to the other.
However, I’m getting ahead of myself. So, how do these two find themselves thrown together for awkward moments in the first place? Well, Dr. van Zeust needs someone to care for his 4 nieces and nephews while his sister recuperates from an injury. William, of course, volunteers his doting sister and somehow Beth finds herself out in the countryside playing governess temporarily. Naturally, Beth ends up liking her charges – and developing feelings for their uncle. There is some mild drama in the form of a child who decides to be unusually mischievous but this story is more sweet romance than high adventure.
I did get a little annoyed at the degree to which Beth allows her brother and his needs to dominate her like. Still, A Star Looks Down is really an adorable story overall. It features many items that Neels fans will recognize: wealthy Dutchmen, a sweet and sensible nurse, mentions of sensible clothing, and comfort food. If you like Betty Neels, you will likely enjoy this book quite a bit. And if you’re in the mood for quiet, fairytale-ish medical romance, you may want to give this author a try.