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An Independent Woman

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Julia Gracey has always lived by the rule that women should stand on their own two feet. But whenever there's a problem, Professor Gerard van der Maes always seems to be on hand with the perfect solution! Gerard seems determined to steal Julia's heart—yet she's just as adamant that he won't take over her life. But when Julia is about to lose her home, Gerard offers one final proposition that she finds impossible to resist—marriage!

192 pages, Paperback

First published May 4, 2001

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About the author

Betty Neels

495 books353 followers
Betty Neels was born on September 15, 1910 in Devon to a family with firm roots in the civil service. She said she had a blissfully happy childhood and teenage years.(This stood her in good stead later for the tribulations to come with the Second World War). She was sent away to boarding school, and then went on to train as a nurse, gaining her SRN and SCM, that is, State Registered Nurse and State Certificate of Midwifery.

In 1939 she was called up to the Territorial Army Nursing Service, which later became the Queen Alexandra Reserves, and was sent to France with the Casualty Clearing Station. This comprised eight nursing sisters, including Betty, to 100 men! In other circumstances, she thought that might have been quite thrilling! When France was invaded in 1940, all the nursing sisters managed to escape in the charge of an army major, undertaking a lengthy and terrifying journey to Boulogne in an ambulance. They were incredibly fortunate to be put on the last hospital ship to be leaving the port of Boulogne. But Betty's war didn't end there, for she was posted to Scotland, and then on to Northern Ireland, where she met her Dutch husband. He was a seaman aboard a minesweeper, which was bombed. He survived and was sent to the south of Holland to guard the sluices. However, when they had to abandon their post, they were told to escape if they could, and along with a small number of other men, he marched into Belgium. They stole a ship and managed to get it across the Channel to Dover before being transferred to the Atlantic run on the convoys. Sadly he became ill, and that was when he was transferred to hospital in Northern Ireland, where he met Betty. They eventually married, and were blessed with a daughter. They were posted to London, but were bombed out. As with most of the population, they made the best of things.

When the war finally ended, she and her husband were repatriated to Holland. As his family had believed he had died when his ship went down, this was a very emotional homecoming. The small family lived in Holland for 13 years, and Betty resumed her nursing career there. When they decided to return to England, Betty continued her nursing and when she eventually retired she had reached the position of night superintendent.

Betty Neels began writing almost by accident. She had retired from nursing, but her inquiring mind had no intention of vegetating, and her new career was born when she heard a lady in her local library bemoaning the lack of good romance novels. There was little in Betty's background to suggest that she might eventually become a much-loved novelist.

Her first book, Sister Peters in Amsterdam, was published in 1969, and by dint of often writing four books a year, she eventually completed 134 books. She was always quite firm upon the point that the Dutch doctors who frequently appeared in her stories were *not* based upon her husband, but rather upon an amalgam of several of the doctors she met while nursing in Holland.

To her millions of fans around the world, Betty Neels epitomized romance. She was always amazed and touched that her books were so widely appreciated. She never sought plaudits and remained a very private person, but it made her very happy to know that she brought such pleasure to so many readers, while herself gaining a quiet joy from spinning her stories. It is perhaps a reflection of her upbringing in an earlier time that the men and women who peopled her stories have a kindliness and good manners, coupled to honesty and integrity, that is not always present in our modern world. Her myriad of fans found a warmth and a reassurance of a better world in her stories, along with characters who touched the heart, which is all and more than one could ask of a romance writer. She received a great deal of fan mail, and there was always a comment upon the fascinating places she visited in her stories. Quite often those of her fans fortunate enough to visit Holland did use h

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5 stars
156 (39%)
4 stars
113 (28%)
3 stars
90 (22%)
2 stars
24 (6%)
1 star
13 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 23 of 23 reviews
Profile Image for Janet.
650 reviews12 followers
October 8, 2010
I was disappointed her little wee shoppe didn't work out but he was the typical RDD with hot and cold running servants and he was determined to "make the deal". Her sisters and their DHs were lovely -- great to have a warm, close family. Not too many "Cinderella" overtones.
Profile Image for Tanvi.
470 reviews53 followers
September 15, 2014
Beautifully written, sweet old-timey romance - a welcome change from today's bold romantic notions. The second of my instant faves by Betty Neels. Loved her 'Never The Time & The Place' (another old-fashioned romance). :)
Profile Image for Teri-K.
1,996 reviews43 followers
December 7, 2022
Julia and her two sisters live in house they inherited in a not-great part of London. They're all pretty and competent, friendly young women, though Julia has a peppery personality. When her sisters marry and the house is sold, Julia finds herself at loose ends, with only her needlework skills to provide for herself. Fortunately for her, surgeon Gerard van der Maes, has some ideas about Julia's future.

Which one is this?

NB - I've been asking myself why Neels' books are such good comfort reads, and finally I think I have an answer. They're fairy tales for grownups. :) Cinderella, Snow White, even occasionally Sleeping Beauty are the themes here. With some sort of evil person, or just misfortune, keeping the heroine down, still she has friends and a good attitude. Then the handsome Prince shows up and begins to take a hand in her life, whether she realizes it or not. Throw in lovely details like gardens, flowers everywhere, good food, beautiful homes, long walks with the dogs, and pretty clothes, and they touch just about all the details a fairy tale might have. So they're not great literature; some days my brain isn't up to a great book, no matter how much I love it. Instead I can fall back into a fairy tale world that feels real though it never existed, and rejoice in the eventual happiness of a plucky young woman who never lets life get her down. All while sniffing the New Dawn roses and nibbling on fresh strawberries and lashings of whipped cream. :)
14 reviews
September 8, 2020
The usual gentle Betty Neels fare

When I read a Neels book I know what to expect, whether it was written in 1969 or 2001. There's a comfort in that, which is why I read them. But my modern soul does occasionally writhe at the high-handed way the hero treats the heroine, the old fashioned to the point of absurdity ways of both, and the way that a desire on the part of the young woman in question for independence and making a living is a source of head shaking bemusement by everyone.

That being said, I do love the comfort and security of a Neels romance. Nothing very bad ever happens. You're assured of lots of descriptions of lovely homes and clothes, frequent meals (seriously, I think they eat 5 times a day), lots of animals, and a certain gentle pleasure.

If you're a younger person, these books probably aren't for you. But I have to say that I rather adore Betty Neels work and I've been reading it for comfort and pleasure for 20+ years, since I was young. So perhaps I'm wrong.
Profile Image for Nell.
Author 33 books167 followers
February 12, 2011
Enjoyable read although they ate rather a lot of watercress soup. Nice heroine.
Profile Image for SK.
116 reviews
December 22, 2020
I love to take a reading holiday periodically and read a Betty Neels book. This book was a new acquisition for me. It had the hallmarks of many BN books, but also some new twists. Yes, the heroine, Julia Gracy’s parents were not living, but no, she wasn’t destitute, she lived with her two sisters (Ruth & Monica) and the relationship was loving without angst. All three sisters were good looking, but her sisters had fair hair, blue eyes, and were rather slim, while Julia had russet hair and would not be described as slim or skinny. Similar to many Neels’ heroines, the sisters had to constantly economize. They have a place to reside, thanks to their aunt who bequeathed them her house, but there were still taxes, gas, electricity, clothes, and food to be factored in and paid. Also, like many Neels’ heroines, Julia doesn’t have a boyfriend, although her sisters are led to believe that she has a steady admirer, “the junior partner” in the greeting card firm she works for. Lastly, comparing and contrasting of BN’s heroines, Julia is not a nurse, although she is very resourceful. As is typical of BN’s male lead, he is a doctor and Dutch, Professor Gerard van der Maes. Gerard by happenstance and by contrivance connects with Julia in both England and Holland. She cares for her sick sister Ruth, at the behest of Ruth’s fiancé Thomas, who has a working relationship with Professor Gerard. For a time, Julia and Ruth stay at a cottage that is owned by Gerard and cared for by his old nanny. Then Julia is asked to caretake a cottage, while the old nanny is in the hospital in Holland and afterward, again in and out of Gerard’s life. Later, she runs away from her feelings for Gerard and lands a job as a needlework specialist at an old manor house that is redoing old tapestries. But then, oops, the manor house burns down, but no surprise, Gerald hears about it, flies up to rescue her. Sadly, she still is not ready to recognize true love. Her last adventure is starting a small business in a little village where she has no connections. She is efficient in her set up, but the business is not flourishing, but once again Gerald comes to the rescue and of course, all BN readers know how the book ends.
I do not think of Betty Neels as a humorous writer, but there are three really funny quotes that take place in the first chapter. Gerard is tasked to deliver a package to Ruth from her Thomas. Julie is on her hands and knees working on cutting out a dress, using material from some old curtains, which were left over from her Aunt’s time. The front doorbell rings, Ruth thinks it is the milkman, but it is Gerard. Ruth invites him in and offers him coffee. Julia still thinks it is the milkman, as her back is to the door. Ruth tells Julia that they have a visitor. Julia gets up and holds out a hand in greeting and has it crushed! She asks Gerard to sit down; he doesn’t, instead he crosses the room to look at the material that is all over the floor. He states, “It looks like a curtain.” Julia snaps at him, “It is a curtain.” A little later, Gerard’s eyes once again fall to the curtain and he asks, “You are a skilled needlewoman?” Julia says, “Only when I am desperate.” She asks Gerard, “What do you do at the hospital? Teach, I suppose…” Gerard remarks, “I do my best…” When Julia finds out he is a surgeon, she states, “So you’re handy with a needle too!” (pages 7-8). I loved the back-and-forth barbs. Great read, rate 4.8, rounded up to 5.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Lizabeth Tucker.
851 reviews12 followers
February 22, 2013
This is an oldie but a goodie in authors. The thing that attracts me to Betty Neels is her use of language. Mrs. Neels had a great love of the English language and used it to great advantage. She could paint such wonderful pictures simply through her use of a particular word.

The books rarely are more than period pieces, set in the 50s through the 70s, yet the mindset is that of a much older and gentler time. There is little action of the type expected in books of today, even romances, although you will find the occasional confrontation or, once or twice, a bombing. They are simply ways of increasing the character's and the reader's blood pressure. They are not essential.

In this particular book, a badly downloaded format (pre-ePub) from Harlequin which didn't do well with my Sony eReader, we have a young woman who strikes sparks off the Professor/Surgeon who works with her brother-in-law. As time passes and they constantly meet again and again, love grows, but will they ever get together? The late Betty Neels brings to life a more gentle romance.

While this isn't one of her best, it is still engaging. If you'd like a quiet couple of hours or have an older relative who bemoans the graphic nature of today's romances, try a Betty Neels' romance, still published by Harlequin Romance. I think you might be pleasantly surprised.
Profile Image for Barb in Maryland.
1,826 reviews104 followers
October 13, 2010
This is one of the last books Betty Neels wrote and it shows. It doesn't appear to have been edited, for example. Our hero and heroine are likable enough, but nothing special. All very tepid--but nicely so.
A few points, though--hooray for the fact that Julia's sisters are nice and that their husbands are also nice and that julia and her sisters have a warm and loving relationship. So often it is otherwise in Neels-land.
And I like that Julia went on with her life, not expecting our Rich Dutch Doctor to always save the day. And I so wanted her shop to be a success and I hope that off-screen they manage to save it.
Not a disaster of a book, but I will probably not remember it for long.
Profile Image for Anne.
52 reviews
November 9, 2014
Betty Neels has a way of writing as if the story were set in the Victorian era, so sometimes you'll get very immersed in the adventures of the nurse/caretaker and the Dutch doctor/professor, and then someone will mention a computer or a dress that ends above the ankles and you'll almost die of shock. You'll enjoy this book on a rainy, quiet day. However, as with almost any romance novel that has the word "independent" referring to the heroine in the title, everyone keeps acting as if the heroine just needs to stfu and get married and it gets extremely irritating. Dickish hero.
Profile Image for Pamela Shropshire.
1,287 reviews56 followers
May 25, 2015
I have very mixed feelings about this book. Some things I liked very much; other things I quite disliked.

Julia Gracy is the odd duck among her two sisters. They are both engaged and soon marry. Julia pretends to have no interest in marriage and borders on downright rudeness to the RDD; she also is right on the verge of TSTL. I do like that she is a skilled needle woman. I wish she had a bit more business acumen and that her little shop hadn't been such a dismal failure.
Just 3 stars.

Profile Image for Amy.
236 reviews22 followers
June 29, 2013
I liked this one. I was still annoyed that the hero kept his love to himself for so long like most of Betty's heroes do but I liked that Julia wasn't just waiting around for him. I appreciated the family relationship between the sisters.
1,314 reviews
December 10, 2013
Why doesn't the hero just speak his mind instead of deciding what the woman wants for her? Arghhhh.
Profile Image for Anna.
Author 2 books25 followers
September 23, 2017
For me, this had a strong start: the heroine kneels on the living room floor, converting some household curtains to a dress she needs. As an avid sewer myself, I hoped Betty might finally give her female protagonist some skills and hobbies she'd carry into marriage. But alas, before long we realize this skill will mostly merit pity and assumptions that only the poor would choose to sew clothes; whatever her strengths, Betty must not have discovered the rewards of making clothes to fit your body precisely.

Notwithstanding the somewhat disappointing treatment of sewing, this does give rise to one of the funniest comments on medical work I've seen in a Neels book, when Julia learns he does surgery: "Oh, so you're good with a needle, too."

Like other readers, I found some parts of the book rushed or not quite up to the usual standard (though, good heavens, God bless her for writing so long past the usual retirement age! That's a real career; I can only hope to write so close to my own death). The sisters have a nice relationship, though, which felt distinct from the close-knit families Neels often sketches. I also like the hero's moments of uncertainty and the unplanned feel of the denouement. Those passing scenes imbued him with a refreshing humanity distinct from the dozens of doctors so skilled at getting their way.
7 reviews4 followers
October 31, 2017
1/20/17-1/22/17* Not my favorite BN, but, as always, worth reading. They just took WAY too long to sort things out. 3.5+ rounded up to 4 stars.

October 2017: I've been going through my old updates, cleaning things up a bit, and, now, I'm catching up on my review backlog (I'm still in January of 2017!). In the past, I've always posted my reviews as updates, since they're really just a way for me to remember how I felt about the books I read (for my own benefit, rather than to inform anyone else) and because I'm a big coward, but it's annoying and inefficient, having to do it that way, so I might OFFICIALLY be reviewing things from now on.
...
Maybe.
Profile Image for Michelle.
1,954 reviews6 followers
August 9, 2018
Lovely

If you enjoy your romances clean, light, fluffy and vintage then you will enjoy the wonderful work of Betty Neels
Profile Image for Marcia.
96 reviews1 follower
December 2, 2018
The copyright is 2001, but it seems like it was written in the 80s or early 90s. There are touching moments, but overall reading the book was an exercise in perseverance.
February 4, 2021
Another wonderful read

A doctor but no nurse, also no blue blood. A lovely story that I have read more than once already.
Profile Image for Diana.
1,508 reviews85 followers
December 16, 2016
One of the first Harlequin authors I remember reading. I was completely enthralled by the exotic locales in her books when I was 14. Now reading these books are more of a way of remembering the aunt who got me started on them. I'll probably always love them due to the nostalgia factor. her books will always be some of my favorites to re-read.
Displaying 1 - 23 of 23 reviews

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