Food, wine, and Betty Neels

Food and wine. Heaven. They’re synonymous. That’s it.

Oh, not enough? Sorry. Let me think.

My friend Nan says what I drink isn’t really wine. I don’t know what she means by that, but my beverages of choice usually have screw-on caps or come in a box and they’re sweet. Way sweet. We are friends anyway, but Nan does roll her eyes a lot when I pour my moscato over ice and have at it. With Cheetos. I’m quite sure it’s a vintner’s nightmare but damn, it’s good.

My palate is no more sophisticated when it comes to food. If it has the word “chip” attached to it, I like it. If its sodium levels are through the roof, I like it. If someone else cooks it, I like it. If someone else is paying for it, I like it. If it makes my cholesterol and/or blood pressure jump 50 points, I like it. Sigh.

I haven’t yet figured out a way to connect this to writing, but it’s coming.

Oh, yes. Seven writer friends and I had a retreat in May. We had a lot of wine, a lot of food, and some of us even got some writing done. The food and wine were necessary and enjoyable components.

          And then there’s Betty Neels.

I don’t know if you’ve read her books. She wrote 134 Harlequin romances over a 30-year period. The stories all included doctors and/or nurses, took place in the Netherlands and/or England, and were completely sexless. Their plots didn’t vary a great deal and you could very nearly pick out in which chapter certain things were going to happen simply because they always did.

I loved every one of them. Even now, several years after Ms. Neels’ death, I’ll read one of her books for the manyeth time when I need a comfort read. I’ll sit in an elegant hotel dining room with the protagonists and share their wine and food. Because there was always wonderful wine and food in her books and her heroines ate with gusto. They didn’t drink all that well—the stuff always went to their heads—but there are worse things.

I don’t write like Betty Neels, and I’ll never complete 134 books. I don’ t pay attention to whether or not I put food and wine in books, although I know I did in Back to McGuffey’s because, you know, McGuffey’s is an Irish pub in Vermont—just sayin’. Nonetheless, I hope my books give comfort in the same way hers do. I hope when readers are looking for something to make the day end better, they read something I wrote. I hope they spill crumbs and drops of liquid on the pages—or maybe not liquid on an electronic read, but you know what I mean.

I hope they enjoy it.

Thanks, Betty Neels. And thanks for reading. Bon appétit.


Food, wine, and Betty Neels — 20 Comments

  1. Okay, so maybe I do cringe a little at the moscato thing, but the food? So with you on all of it except that I’m all about the sugar, not the salt. I never read Betty Neels, but, I am that way about certain authors too–they are comfort read. Agnes Sligh Turnbull, Gene Stratton Porter, and L.M. Montgomery come to mind. In romance, Kathleen Gillis Seidel, Jennifer Cruise, Kristin Higgins, Liz Flaherty … so yeah, when I need to make my day better, I read you. But it’s on Kindle, so no crumbs or liquid, but I have been known to read at breakfast or lunch–my Kindle propped up against the napkin holder. 😉

  2. Why, yes, that is what napkin holders are for, right? I’m reading Kristan’s new one right now–trying to make it stretch out for a few days. Not sure that’s going to happen!

  3. I can’t imagine people reading my books years from now, except maybe my granddaughters. I can hear them now, “My grandmother was a feisty old girl and I can prove it.”

  4. I’m with you on the wine-in-a-box thing. :-) Mostly because I’m the only one drinking it and it lasts longer in a box. And there are some pretty darned good ones out there. Right now I’m drinking sangria. Loved Back to McGuffey’s!

  5. I don’t drink the ‘real stuff’ either, Liz! Strawberry Daquiris are my favorite and they’re basically a LOT of sugar, a little alcohol and a lot more sugar. lol But it sure tastes good!
    I only discovered Betty Neels a couple of years ago (I know! GASP!) but I do love her books…and your books are some of my favorite comfort reads!

  6. Sadly, this is the first I’m hearing of Betty Neels. She was certainly a prolific writer, which is a goal of mine for the months and years ahead. Gotta add her to my research list.

    • She was a brand before there was such a thing. If all you had was an anonymous manuscript, you would know two pages in that it was Betty Neels. She was very old-fashioned, which makes her a tough read for some, but her voice has always spoken to me.

  7. My mother-in-law used to pick up tons of old books at garage sales, and when I visited her I always checked out her stash of romance novels. There was always a few Betty Neels books in the bunch. They were old-fashioned and sexless, but she always managed to tell a great story. Like Reese, being that prolific is a goal of mine, too. And if people read my books and are comforted or entertained, I’m a happy camper!

    • When I was younger (by quite a bit) I took being able to write fast for granted. I no longer can, and it’s something I miss (like smooth skin ). Being prolific isn’t in my cards.

  8. Liz, I love Betty Neels, too! They were some of my first romance reads, and I still go back to them over and over again. I think part of the appeal for me, knowing what I know about her life, is that it was like reading her and her husband’s love story over and over again. Who wouldn’t want a career writing their favorite love story like that, imagining slightly different ways things could have gone?

    I read several different kinds of romance now, and I must say I like your stories as well, Liz. All romances give me comfort, albeit different comfort from different authors. Loved this post. You can’t go wrong with good food and Betty!

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