1. Hot Dutch doctors, especially the wealthy ones, are incredibly generous and once in the hot throes of lovin’ say things like, “Oh, my darling, my darling!” And I have a hard time imagining Dutch doctors going into raptures of romantic expression by saying, “Oh, my darling! My darling!” However, I can imagine them saying, “But sit and fart in the duck!” Wait, no. I can’t.
2. If you get in a wreck in Holland, and are a British nurse, you and your bus full o’ spastic children (nice vintage terminology!) will end up at a hospital, one which will happily arrange to pay you as if you were one of their staff while you tirelessly and selflessly care for the children. Yeah. But what about retirement?!
3. The heroine is so relentlessly selfless it’s astonishing that she can stand upright. She’s got a backbone of the same durability as an old, damp dishrag. Her uncle and aunt treat her as one step up from hired help, and her cousin takes merciless advantage of her, even going to far as to slander her to The Hot Dutch Doctor Oh My Darling. But really, they fed and clothed her so she can’t complain. And according to what I’ve read online, many a Neels novel features plain but noble British nurse falling head over heels with Hot Dutch Doctor Oh My Darling. Did the Hot Dutch Doctors die out? Will angsty emo vampires suffer the same fate? Perhaps we need to spearhead the fund raising for the endangered romance novel hero species. Do not let the oversexed Regency Earl With Not a Hint of Venereal Disease go the way of the Hot Dutch Doctor Oh My Darling! Call now!
4. The heroine never complains, even when The Hot Dutch Doctor Oh My Darling has listened to Evil Cousin instead of Plain Noble British Nurse, and accuses her of being a thoughtless wench. Plain Noble Brit Nurse needed to administer an enema of justice to her shitass Evil Cousin.
5. Fortunately, the happy ending elevates the Plain Noble British Nurse, and rewards her for her selfless behavior. She wins an incredibly happy, optimistic future with the Hot Dutch Doctor Oh My Darling – in Holland, far far away from her family of craptastic crap.
6. Unfortunately, the happy ending elevates the Plain Noble British Nurse and rewards her for her selfless, and altogether spineless behavior. She never has to stand up for herself where it counts, really, and the selfish family never gets a hard paddle to the assal region like they deserve.
If Neels is part of the foundation of romance, and indeed I think she is, reading this book (complete with red page dye that came off on my hands) was both a quaint and educational experience. Quaint because romance, ma’am, you have come a LONG WAY. Imagine the heroine of The Magic of Living meeting up with a nurse heroine from a Blaze novel fresh after sex in the linen closet with Dr. McSchlong. Poor Plain Noble British Nurse would pass out cold. Her idea of scandalous was her cousin dating a married doctor – which is plenty sleazy but somewhat less of a shock when compared to what Blazing McSex can occur in Doctor/Nurse romances today.
However, reading The Magic of Living was educational because the elements at work in the story were effective on me, jaded reader that I am. The heroine was faultlessly noble, which got old but even still, she was amply rewarded and there’s no doubt I was rooting for her, especially because Neels took deliberate steps to make her sympathetic to the point of, “Oh, Honey,” but never quite so pathetic that I wanted to smack her around. The hero, however, was something of a stock background figure: enigmatic in his affections until the very end and even then, his mercurial announcements of love and of sweeping her off into the sunset were so abrupt it was creepy. Creepitude notwithstanding, the sudsy fantasy of vintage nurse/doctor category romance worked for me, much to my surprise, even though I could identify when Neels was working to make Plain Noble British Nurse even more Noble and Sympathetic. I more than enjoyed this trip in the wayback machine – but I wouldn’t want this to be the only type of romance I read. I like applesauce, but I also like hot sauce, and I wouldn’t want to eschew the latter for an exclusive diet of the former.