An Ideal Wife

Louisa Howarth works as a receptionist for a kindly old doctor; he’s brought in a fellow practitioner to help out when he needs a break, and Dr. Thomas Gifford is hot.  Louisa finds out that he is engaged to the flighty, shallow Helena, while she’s been dating a somewhat pompous attorney–hey, wouldn’t Percy and Helena be a great match for each other?

Okay, I’ll say it:  Betty Neels stories seem a little bit predictable. Our heroine Louisa is a girl-writ-large, like in the prior two books I’ve read by this author, our hero, a doctor of medicine. The good doctor has a really rich, spoiled, and thoroughly-unsuitable girl dangling after him, whilst he would prefer someone a bit more…practical, which our heroine conveniently is.

Ho Hum.

Or not. As with my prior two reads from this author, Neels again presents us with a rich, living world, with enough solid descriptions to give us a feel for the locale and people. Louisa is a competent, self-assured woman, who enjoys her work very much, and is much flustered by the attractive, but stoic, Dr. Gifford. The plot starts to thicken when Dr. Gifford must help out her employer whilst he is out of the country; he enlists Louisa to go with him to his home to help handle paperwork, on the days when he’s at his regular practice. They gradually get to know each other, moreso when she goes on holiday in Scotland and he just happens to need to go up there for a seminar, and just happens to have a few days free, and just happens to be not far from where she’s staying…oh, yeah, we saw that one coming.

But Louisa is convinced that he’s committed himself to the tacky, spoiled Helena, even though that young lady has become quite enamored with Louisa’s ex-boyfriend, the pompous Percy. She’s doing all the right things, for all the right reasons, not knowing that Thomas, in his turn, has fallen madly for her, and is only waiting for his chance to get free of Helena.

Typical of Neels’ other books that I have read, this one is totally chaste, just some kissing, and the end, where they admit to each other what we’ve seen going on since the get-go, is in the last couple of pages.

The Wikipedia article on Betty Neels (here) tells us that Neels wrote over 130 books for Mills & Boon/Harlequin, spanning thirty years, right up to her death at the age of 91. Given the times she came from, I’m not at all surprised that her works come off as somewhat dated, and chaste; she was born before World War I, after all!  Yet, despite the disparity between her world and mine, I’m always pleased to find another Betty Neels story in my reading stack, as she was a talented author who wrote wonderfully sweet love stories.

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