Desert Isle Keeper
The Most Marvellous Summer
As far as TBR Challenges go, “comfort reads” always makes for a tough prompt. My definition of a comfort read generally involves rereading a much-loved book. It doesn’t do much to whittle down the TBR mountain, but such is life. After some thought and rummaging through my bookcases, I surfaced with a Betty Neels book I somehow hadn’t read. Betty Neels’ novels at their best are the perfect comfort reads. Published in 1992, The Most Marvellous Summer is one of her later works – and it is sublime.
In an unusual (for Neels) twist, this book doesn’t take place in a hospital and the heroine isn’t a nurse. Beautiful, red-headed Matilda is the daughter of a vicar and she works as a secretary for the unbearably stuck-up Lady Fox. And unusual for romance in general, Matilda ffinch (that really is her last name, I know, I know) is part of a happy family with two parents who are actually alive. The family doesn’t have much money, but it’s obvious that they are close and as a reader, I found that refreshing.
The story begins with a strong bolt of love at first sight. While sitting in church, Matilda spies a very handsome man sitting with the local doctor. She is instantly smitten. The object of her affections turns out to be one James Scott-Thurlow, a well-respected surgeon. Matilda figures she will never see him again after church, but he turns up the very next day as he comes to visit her employer’s home.
And as it happens, their paths just keep crossing. Even though Lady Fox is seriously unpleasant, her daughter Roseanne gets on quite well with Matilda. This results in Matilda being hired to accompany Roseanne on a visit to her aunt in London as a companion of sorts. Apparently Lady Fox is concerned that the shy, awkward Roseanne might decide to run off with unsuitable young men if she isn’t travelling with a minder of sorts. While in London, Roseanne meets the man of her dreams and Matilda crosses paths once again with the handsome James.
As you can guess from the summary, Betty Neels specializes in writing quiet stories. You won’t find spies of tons of quickly moving action, but you will find yourself gradually woven into a comfortable fairytale world where good heroines are rewarded with devoted doctor husbands and everyone gets to eat comfort food galore. This isn’t the kind of book that gets the heart racing, but it does leave one with a nice case of the warm fuzzies.
Even though Neels tends to write quiet stories, they don’t lack for conflict. In this case, James is already engaged to another, so while Matilda is quite smitten with him, she knows that nothing can ever happen between them. Matilda may meet acquaintances of James along the way who are convinced of her superiority to James’ current fiancee, but Matilda continues to be honorable and treat the engagement as completely real. The fiancee is not a very nice person and her interests don’t align very well with James’ at all, so it’s really not hard to see what will eventually happen. Still fun to be along for the ride, though.
The Most Marvellous Summer is perfect if you’re ever in the mood for a sweet summer romance. The beautiful girl gets the handsome doctor and by the end of the book, all is right in the world for almost everyone in the story. That certainly fits the bill for a comfort read in my library.