Review: The Fifth Day of Christmas by Betty Neels (1971)

The fabulous Miss Bates Reads Romance is in the process of reading and reviewing Betty Neels’ entire oeuvre of romance novels. Inspired to check out some of Neels’ work, I picked up this one on Miss Bates’ recommendation.

Heat Factor: Sneak attack kisses!

Character Chemistry: Our hero is an enigma, so it’s hard to tell

Plot: Young nurse cares for malicious patient, falls for doctor

Overall: Take off your feminist hat before you read this book

Here’s the line that sums up the ethos of this book for me:

“She had discovered in the last few days that sometimes it was nice to be told what to do.” 

Julia Pennyfeather is the epitome of competent femininity: she’s capable, nurturing, and beautiful. But when Ivo Van den Werff comes along, she also becomes meekly acquiescent to his desires. He initiates kisses without warning, and, though she is often surprised and flustered, she goes along with it. He tells her to wait in the car, and she does until he opens the door. He chastises her (sometimes because of her minor failings, sometimes because of utter nonsense, sometimes because of his emotional constipation), and she apologizes to appease his anger. 

As you can see, readers who have come to expect feisty feminist heroines in their romances might find this book frustrating. 

On the other hand: Julia is not wrong. Sometimes it really is nice to be told what to do, especially if you’re usually the one taking care of all the little things. While the juxtaposition might seem incongruous, Ali Wong’s bit about being dominated in bed comes to mind. (Please note: I think Ali Wong is hilarious, but she is 100% NSFW.)

Furthermore, Julia does not become completely acquiescent. She argues back, and remains a capable nurse throughout a range of medical crises. She never loses her competence. While Ivo may sometimes turn her into what I would ungenerously describe as a blithering idiot, she does handle the Manipulative Other Woman Villainess with aplomb. (The MOWV is really something to behold. So manipulative! So evil! So clever with her books and her Latin!)

The fantasy Neels creates here is about finding someone to take care of you; even if you don’t really need it, it’s still a nice feeling. Like being wrapped in a snuggly blanket and given a cup of cocoa, whether you asked for it or not.

Buy Now: Amazon

Looking for something similar?

Heroines who heal

Heroes who domineer (but in a good way)

Throwback reads

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