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Cassandra by Chance

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He needed her as a nurse, not a woman

Benedict van Manfeld was one of the surliest, most unfriendly men Cassandra had ever met. But when she learned he was a brilliant Dutch surgeon who had severely damaged his sight in an accident, her attitude changed. Benedict asked Cassandra to go to Holland with him as his nurse. She agreed…and soon began to feel something deeper than sympathy for him. But with his close friend Paula nearby, why should he even notice Cassandra?

224 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1973

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About the author

Betty Neels

536 books358 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
342 (46%)
4 stars
229 (31%)
3 stars
132 (17%)
2 stars
24 (3%)
1 star
10 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 29 of 59 reviews
Profile Image for Kathleen.
1,329 reviews29 followers
July 16, 2015
4.5 stars. Wow. Betty Neels really stepped outside her box for this one. I loved it!!

---First off, the hero is...blind. And very much a grizzly bear. (But he is a doctor)

---The heroine is NOT ordinary looking. She's hot. Smoking! And what else, with a name like Cassandra Darling. No Ermentrudes here! (But she is a nurse)

---The setting is...Scotland, on the island of Mull. (But halfway through, we move to Betty-land Holland).

---The manservant butler experienced an actual historical war horror. I felt for him! His story felt real.

Quibbles: A good story, but the second half, set in Holland, felt very much out of sync with the first half.

I need to add this to my "impaired character" shelf. Blind.
Profile Image for Preeti ♥︎ Her Bookshelves.
1,278 reviews20 followers
July 26, 2019
An absolutely delightful first half with all the charm and wit expected of a talented British writer like Ms Neels and peppered with classic Briticisms. Read it to appreciate the subtlety and strength of old school writing.

The h and H are first rate in their own way.
He, as the labelled ogre living in surly solitude in his cottage - the 'Ogre's Relish', another apt naming by her nephew - and living up to him name, most churlishly, and the good hearted but 'nosey' h determined to help him in her neighborly zeal - a help he rebuffs initially only to become dependent on her company. But only we, the reader, can see how smitten and appreciative he'd become of her while the h remains overly modest and self-effacing because of her self proclaimed 'plain' looks.

But the second half, when the scene shifts to Holland (from Mull, Scotland), drags interminably and I got tired of the H's very patronizing and cryptic talking down to the h, leaving her hanging and so insecure. It wasn't fun to read.
And that's before he decides to run her off to spare her a life with a possibly blind man. If he can appreciate her good sense and excellent nursing abilities, then he should have trusted her with everything else as well. In his own words, no other woman could have handled him so correctly and so sensitively (by not being over-sensitive!)
(Although anything will be dull in comparison, coming after that over-achieving first half.)

Still, a classic Betty Neels that has much to be appreciated by her fans and others.
Profile Image for willaful.
1,155 reviews371 followers
February 12, 2013
For some reason, I've always thought of Betty Neels in the same "a bridge too far" category as Barbara Cartland. But since two of my favorite book buddies really like her, I decided to give her a try.

Like them, I was charmed by the old-fashioned "Englishness" of the book… it was like reading one of the British favorites of my childhood with added romance, what could be nicer? Quiet, dry wit, teatime and puddings, a plain, sensible heroine who speaks her mind. The central relationship is between the classic "thorn in his paw" man, the temporarily blinded Benedict, and the devoted but spirited heroine, Cassandra; I got a lot of Jane Eyre vibes, too.

Unfortunately, the second half of the book literally and figuratively leaves that behind, when Cassandra travels to Holland to be Benedict's nurse. It just goes into standard old-fashioned romance territory, with Benedict playing games for no plausible reason and Cassandra insisted on believing he's in love with someone else in the face of all evidence to the contrary. (Benedict's apt comment, "a worse case of putting two and two together and making five I have yet to meet.") The pitying point of view about disabilities is also very dated, though mad props for including a character who's a Polish concentration camp survivor -- that's something you don't see in romance every day.

So I was left feeling kind of disappointed, but remembering how delightful the first half of the book was, I'll definitely try crossing that bridge again.
343 reviews47 followers
August 13, 2020
My new favorite Betty book, raised to sublime heights by an anything-but-placid large and in charge rich Dutch doctor (RDD in BN-fandom) and a heroine who may be one of BN's plain-but-not-really young ladies but has a temper and a sharp tongue when called for. And it is called for by the unusually energetic (for BN) Benedict, who has a temper (and a tendency to lose it) caused only partly by circumstances .

The Great Betty must have recently read Much Ado about Nothing before embarking on this book, because the squabbling and bickering between these two is pretty continual, although they are each highly amused by the other on occasion. (There's even an Dutch auntie named Beatrix.) So many good reviews of this one, so I won't go into detail, but a definite keeper and one I'll definitely enjoy reading again!

I love Betty's car-mania and always take note of the RDD's ride. Our volatile (for Betty) hero drives a veeeerrry rakish Aston Martin DBS V8:

And his second car is the more sedate doctorly Daimler Sovereign (which is still pretty flashy and I'd probably literally kill for either of these cars):
Profile Image for Laura.
761 reviews46 followers
January 30, 2010
Possibly my favorite Neels. Cassandra and Benedict have a great chemistry and relationship, and that is why I forgive a lot of sins in this book, there are quite a few plot threads that are silly and don't go anywhere (and in the case of Jan, may actually contradict themselves). I am very forgiving of a book that makes many mistakes provided that you are so invested or enthralled in the story that you don't notice the mistakes until long afterward.

The only thing that does bother me is that Cassandra and Benedict are so perfect for each other, so clearly flirting and attracted to each other, that I find it hard to believe that they don't realize it. Betty Neel's usual conceits of "he can't love me! he must love that glamorous lady he's friends with" ring so very false in this book. The teasing, loving, stealing kisses relationship feels very real that I am annoyed that they cannot feel it too.
220 reviews
June 25, 2011
The heroine meets the “ogre” while she’s staying for a month with her niece and nephew during their parents' vacation. Pollyanna-ish, she feels sorry for the grouchy man, rendered temporarily blind, that she ingratiates herself by bringing cakes and reading to him. He asks her to accompany him back to Holland for a corrective surgery as his nurse and she agrees.

What I liked about the heroine is that she’s not mealy-mouthed and not given to baby him for his injury.

What is unusual about this hero – when compared to other by Betty Neels – is his neediness. He’s given to black moods, understandable because of his fear that permanent blindness will end his medical career, but he knows early on that this girl is someone he can show his worst or most vulnerable self and yet still be accepted.

There’s this part when he complained of being left alone with former girlfriends. He goes: “Don’t leave me alone. Don’t force me to listen to girls tinkling on about the parties I missed…I’ve grown out of. I almost lost my temper, but I saved it to wreak on you. I don’t know about the rest of you, Cassandra, but I’m sure you have broad shoulders.”

She replies, “I don’t mind…” and catches her breath as he lifts her hand and kisses it gently.

It’s not the passionate, lusty clinch but it conveys what it must effectively.
Profile Image for Barb in Maryland.
1,843 reviews107 followers
December 4, 2010
As several other reviewers have pointed out--this is really two books. The first half, set on the island of Mull, Scotland is just marvelous. Cassandra Darling, a nurse between jobs, is babysitting her sister's children while sister and hubby go on vacation. The kids tell her all about the ogre who lives nearby. Well, Cassandra, tender heart that she is, goes visiting, bearing cake and discovers a very cranky doctor who is temporarily blind. And they proceed to strike sparks off each other--just lovely!
Second half of the book is Cassandra going back to Holland with the recovering RDD, to see him through the final tests to verify that his sight is recovering, etc etc. This part isn't as fresh--Cassandra has discovered she loves Benedict, Totally misconstrues his friendship with Paula (and he was even very up front and clear about the total lack of romantic interest in Paula and Cassandra STILL manages to convince herself that he loves Paula.) The twit!
First half of book is 5 star, second half is 2-3 stars--so I'm giving it a generous 4.
Profile Image for Pamela Shropshire.
1,292 reviews58 followers
August 21, 2015
Cassandra Darling is a newly qualified nurse who has agreed to care for her sister's children while her sister and brother-in-law, Rachel and Tom, go on holiday. Rachel and Tom live on the Isle of Mull, "on the south-west side" in a village with a church. (This means it's probably either Craignure or Lochbuie.)

Anyway, Cassandra settles in and the children tell her about a cottage where an "ogre" lives. It turns out the ogre is Benedict van Manfeld, a Dutch ear, nose and throat specialist who recently sustained an optic nerve injury and is temporarily blind. His companion/butler/friend, Jan, is a Polish survivor of a Nazi concentration camp.

Cassandra has the mistaken impression that Jan and Benedict are poor and so she takes them homemade cakes and pies for their tea. In spite of his irritability and sometimes rudeness, Cassandra likes Benedict and grows very fond of Jan as well. She doesn't allow Benedict to get away with feeling sorry for himself and he appreciates this. Even after she discovers that they have a Fortnum & Mason stash of comestible delicacies, Benedict charms Cassandra into continuing to bring her baking to tea. He also flirts with her (kisses!) to the consternation of Mr. Campbell, the local Scottish pastor, who has a crush on Cassandra but is prevented from doing anything about it by his obnoxious, overbearing sister.

Six weeks quickly go by and Rachel and Tom are soon to return. Benedict asks Cassandra to go back to Holland with him as his nurse and "dragon" to keep well-meaning but tiresome people away from him. Of course by this time she has discovered that he is a RDD and she is in love with him although she hasn't quite realize it yet.

When they reach Benedict’s home in Rhenen, Cassandra has her DR. One of the sweetest scenes is where, at the first visit to the eye doctor where Benedict is allowed to see without the dark glasses, he asks the specialist to shine a light on Cassandra's face - he wants her face to be the first thing he sees since he became blind. *SWOON!*

Almost immediately, Benedict is besieged by beautiful women and of course Cassandra is jealous - "I'm too plain/they're too beautiful/Benedict could never love me," yada yada, even though Benedict has advance from mere flirting to regular embraces and kisses and has shown he is attracted to her. Jan sees that Cassandra loves Benedict and approves, telling her that the pretty girls don’t really love Benedict, just his money and the good times/things it will buy.

Since his eyes are so much better and he is returning to work, Benedict no longer needs a nurse. We know that he wants Cassandra to stay, but it’s too soon to propose. Fortunately Cornelius van Tromp, his partner, needs a temporary office nurse. This allows Cassandra to stay longer and have time for them to resolve their relationship.

But not so fast. On a night they were supposed to dine together, Benedict cries off and Cassandra figures out he is seeing one of the beautiful girls, Paula. He tells Cassandra that Paula is engaged to a friend of his, but Cassandra imagines that Benedict harbors a secret love for Paula and that her marriage to the friend is off, allowing Benedict to have her. So Cassandra is very cool towards Benedict.

Then to make matters worse, Benedict gets an unfavorable report on his eyes, and he feels he could never ask her to marry a blind man, so he is very rude in order to drive her away.

So, with Mijnheer van Tromp's new nurse arriving, Cassandra prepares to go back to England. There is a poignant, angry scene between Benedict and Jan where Jan says that Cassandra is very sad and her heart will break if Benedict makes her leave. Benedict savagely replies, "Do you really suppose I would ask her to share the life of a blind man?" and makes Jan swear not to tell her.

Mijnheer van Tromp takes Cassandra to Schiphol and leaves her in reception. When her passport is checked, Cassandra is asked to step out of line and follow someone to another area. She finds herself out of doors in a car park and there is Benedict in the Aston Martin.

He takes her in his arms, kisses her and says he loves her and then whisks her away, leaving her luggage behind - of course, he can buy her a whole new wardrobe! He tells her they are going to Mull for Christmas and explains about Paula and his eyes, but that the specialist has determined that he will not be blind, but may have some weakness in his eyes from time to time. Then he pulls over and asks her to marry him.

They are married in the village church on Mull. Cassandra wears a blue velvet dress from Edinburgh, covered by Benedict's gift of a mink coat as well as his sapphire ring (TGB's heroines seldom wear white although they are certainly "entitled" to). Afterward they hike to Ogre's Relish for their honeymoon, discussing how many children they will have.

This book is very well written, as is usual with TGB. The scenery descriptions are as vivid as ever although there isn't as much food or fashion as usual. The secondary characters are wonderfully drawn, from Cassandra’s niece and nephew to the village pastor and his judgmental sister as well as Benedict's partner in Holland. But in my opinion, Jan stands out among the canon as one of the truly memorable secondary characters. He deserves an Oscar for Best Supporting Character.

The 2nd half of the book isn't quite as delightful as the first (reminds me of Midnight Sun's Magic where the Norway part was awesome but the Holland part was meh) in that their romance doesn't develop further. Yes, Benedict is waiting until he gets word on his eyes before he proposes, but in this book, the OW scenario isn't believable and Cassandra's character suffers from drawing baseless conclusions about Paula.

In spite of this, however, this is definitely one of TGB's best and most unique. I only wish that she had allowed us to revisit Benedict and Cassandra years later in one of her later books.

A full 5 stars!
Profile Image for Kay.
1,783 reviews98 followers
July 15, 2019
4 Stars ~ Cassandra's on a break in her nurses training; having recently achieved her qualifications, she's chosen to train further as a midwife. She travels to Scotland where she is going to look after her niece and nephew while her sister and brother-in-law take an extended holiday in Greece. It's a small Scottish island where all the towns people know each other very well and gossip is very active. Cassandra learns from the children that there is an ogre living in a cottage in the hills, he is blind and had an elderly man taking care of him, and that their father had called him a poor man. Taking this to heart, Cassandra bakes a fruitcake and takes it up the hill. The ogre turns out to be a youngish very handsome man with a bitter temper. He doesn't appreciate her intrusion but after time they form a sort of friendship. Benedict is a ENT surgeon, from Holland, convalescing from an injury to his optic nerves. There is hope that his sight will return with rest. What Benedict appreciates most about Cassandra is that she doesn't let him get away with his ill temper and she gives back as good as she gets. So when it's time for Benedict to return to Holland for further tests, he asks Cassandra to come with him as his private nurse. Cassandra by this time, realizes she's fallen in love with Benedict, and so she agrees, knowing that it will only be for a few weeks.

Ms. Neels must have had a ball writing the banter between Benedict and Cassandra. Benedict is also a rare dark haired hero for Ms. Neels. He's the lion with the thorn in his paw, and Cassandra is the mouse that removes the thorn and soothes him. She won't let him wallow in his fears and bitterness, and when he bites she bites right back. Benedict recognizes that she's someone that he needs to see him to his recovery. I liked that they easily were equals even though she was 23 to his 35, she the nurse and he the surgeon. I thoroughly enjoyed their journey to HEA
Profile Image for MasterSal.
1,962 reviews13 followers
February 20, 2020
As I grow older I find myself more enamoured of these Betty Neels romances then when I was younger. This was another charming one with a Dutch doctor and a plain English woman / nurse. You really shouldn’t expect differently which is why Ms Neels is so comforting.

This one, having been written in 1997 had more kissing (the shame 😳😘) than her older works. I liked that as it was clearer than the hero was interested in our leading lady and there was less paternalistic vibes here.

When we meet our hero he is blind so it added a dynamic to the romances which I liked. He obviously needs her and her kindness as he is quite grumpy. Made for a change from her omnipotent surgeon heroes.

My break from reading this helped too (or it could be that the spate of disappointing books that opened my new year made this seems lovely in contrast). Either way - a pleasant read in the end.
Profile Image for Marybelle.
344 reviews12 followers
January 29, 2023
I love how this book shows a proper ending with Benedict and Cassandra returning to her home and getting married. Betty Neels stories frequently ends with the reader not really seeing the happily ever after. This story is kind of fun because Cassandra never backs down from Benedict. Here the leading man meets his match.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
884 reviews49 followers
February 5, 2023
This Betty Neels had a different flavor from others I’ve read by her. I loved the first half of the book which is set on the Isle of Mull in Scotland. Cassandra and Benedict’s relationship gets off to an amusing and rocky start. I enjoyed this thread through the story of the ogre and the cabin Ogre’s Relish. 😆 Cassandra’s niece and nephew are sweet. I think the difference in this first part is that the setting isn’t a hospital and the hero, Benedict, is almost wholly blind to start and only slowly recovers his sight. Because of this, he’s got a lot of emotional stuff to deal with resulting from his loss of sight; he seems more vulnerable and less high handed than some Neels heroes. Benedict and Cassandra have an unique dynamic between them because of all this.

The second half of the story does feel removed from the first half, but I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. Cassandra goes with Benedict and Jan (a fabulous character!) to Holland as Benedict’s short term nurse. It is a world removed from Mull and matters come to a head in various ways. There is more “proof” in this story that Benedict loves Cassandra so it makes her self deception a little strange. I think Benedict himself finds it strange. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading this very much, and I thought the ending was particularly sweet.
Profile Image for Christina Dudley.
Author 16 books117 followers
August 12, 2020
My mom, who has read about 30,000 books since COVID started (I exaggerate slightly), recommended this author to me, so I picked a title at random and was delighted!

Betty Neels writes clean romance, people! I started a new shelf in honor of this dying genre because, while I enjoy a "juicy" scene from time to time with the best of them, I am sad that contemporary romances all seem to include 2-4 obligatory porn-o-rama scenes. (That is, unless you read the books with Amish women on the cover.) Even Regency romances, which I loved as a teenager, have gone the way of all FLESH, so to speak, and, unless it's a Regency I myself wrote or one written decades ago, I can't count on being spared the thrusting manhoods.

Anyhow, all of which is to say, CASSANDRA BY CHANCE is a lovely, old-fashioned love story. Nurse Cassandra goes to take care of her sister's children for six (!) weeks on the remote island of Mull, where she meets the world's grouchiest blind man, whom her niece and nephew call the Ogre. She and the mysterious Ogre and his servant Jan strike up a friendship of sorts, and eventually she is asked to accompany the Ogre back to the Netherlands as a nurse.

I will certainly read more by this author, so thank heavens she was prolific.
Profile Image for Franny.
38 reviews4 followers
January 30, 2013
This was another one that I couldn't put down. (There ought to be a law against that!) The story involves Cassandra, a girl who is ready to take the test to get her nursing degree, and a renowned surgeon who has gone blind, named Benedict van Manfeld.
Cassandra agrees to watch her niece and nephew while her sister and her husband, a prolific author, take a six week holiday. She's happy to leave crowded London and come to their small town and stay with her beloved sister's children on the small island they live on. While there, she hears about this poor beggar who lives in the house in the woods at the top of the hill, so she bakes a cake and takes it to them. The man is known by the children as an ogre because he has such a nasty temper. She gives as good as she gets, which is refreshing to see, and the romance continues from there.
I learned a lot about eye diseases and surgery in this book. I also learned about Holland, the surgeon's home country, because that is where he eventually goes back to.
The story takes place in the modern era, but it is a well written romance that didn't have to include any sex scenes. I recommend it highly.
Profile Image for Fiona Marsden.
Author 33 books115 followers
February 15, 2014
I really enjoyed this story and if we hadn't dropped into Other Woman mode which seems to involve the heroine becoming TSTL and falling apart I might have given this a fiver.

Cassandra is a practical, average looking girl having just finished her nursing training. While babysitting her sister's children she meets the ogre who is living in a cottage in Scotland while his eye injury heals. It was rather cute that the children called the cottage Ogres Relish because they overheard someone saying he relished his isolation.

Benedict is dark with a touch of the beast though Cassandra constantly says she isn't a beauty. I loved his reaction when he first glimpses her. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The six weeks in Scotland are lovely and a little different to the standard Neels fare. Jan, the Polish concentration camp survivor was a lovely addition though some of his story was a little odd and could have borne more explanation...but hey...short book.

When the story shifts to Holland we lose a little of the spark and it became very much the usual style though the self-sacrificing hero was a nice touch at the end.

Overall, a sweet Beauty and the Beast tale and pleasant read.
60 reviews
June 1, 2015
Absolutely one of my favorite Betty Neels book.

Cassandra believed she wasn't pretty after being rejected by a registrar at the hospital. She goes to Scotland to care for her niece and nephew while her sister and brother-in-law go on a six week vacation . Cassandra feels sorry for the man in the cottage the children have told her about . She finds out he is blind and after several meetings they become friends and she helps him by reading medical journals to him . The children adore him and his man that helps take care of him . After her sisters return Benedict asks her to accompany him back to Holland as his nurse . He needs a buffer with those people that don't understand his blindness . He is a surgeon and must go through tests to see if his sight will return. It's obvious that he is starting to care for Cassandra and she for him. This is really a lovely story.
Profile Image for Sharon.
35 reviews
December 16, 2022
This has moved to the top of my Betty Neels list as most favorite.
Profile Image for Wunmi.
16 reviews1 follower
December 29, 2020
I indeed love the first half of this book too. The needy Doc was a little way away from other Ms Neels hero, even though he's a doctor. But as opposed to the general rule of the damsel in distress heroine of BN novels, I love that Benedict Van Manfield (the Ogre)was the one in distress and our dear Cassandra was as feisty as can be, especially on the Island. The other half wasn't as compelling, it went back to the typical BN prose, but having said that, I'm still a sucker for anything BN
Profile Image for Tonya Warner.
1,214 reviews13 followers
July 27, 2011
Cassandra journeys to Ogre's Relish to face the ogre head on. Benedict had been blinded in an accident putting his work as a surgeon in to jeopardy. Bad-tempered and ornery, he met his match in the loving care Cassandra provides.

An excellent story.
Profile Image for Marcie.
144 reviews
August 25, 2013
Sweet simple romance. Fast evening read. First half of book was particularly good. 2nd half your standard Betty Neels.
Profile Image for SK.
121 reviews
August 25, 2021
Title: “A 5-Star Betty Neels Book Delivering ALL a BN Book Should & More”

“Cassandra by Chance” is a Best of Betty Neels fiction story with an added twist.
A List of Things That I Liked or Stood Out:
• I liked the “two stories-in-one” vibe. I loved the unique for Betty Neels variation found in the first part of the book. Some of the differences included: the rugged terrain, basic living situations, the nosy neighbors, the quaint village shop owned by Mrs. MacGill, the village Pastor (Mr. Campbell) who was looking for a wife, the ENT doctor and butler posing as poor, pathetic unfortunates, and the heroine, a talented nurse, who out of love and appreciated for her sister, agrees to babysit her children for 6-weeks.
• The descriptions of the Isle of Mull were excellent, pulling me into the world of Mull. The first paragraph felt like we had stepped into 1940s film noir, with the opening sentence, “The steamer from Oban drew into the island’s small jetty, deserted and unwelcoming, shrouded as it was in the chilly October rain and buffeted by an even chillier wind from the north” (page 5). The setting put a stamp of distinctiveness on this BN book.
• The secondary characters also effectively set the BN book apart from many of her others. The characters were far more fleshed out than in many BNs stories. Examples--(Jan, The parson & sister, the children (Andrew & Penny). Cassandra’s Sister (Rachel) & her author husband Tom, Benedict’s partner Dr. Cornelius van Tromp. The children were always speaking, as children do in a straight-forward, uncomplicated manner. For example on page 86 after hearing that Benedict, “their ogre” would be traveling back to Holland, they were at first “crestfallen,” but then excited to hear that their aunt would be traveling with Benedict. Penny’s response to WHY she would be traveling was “To marry him, Aunt Cassandra, and live happy every after?” What a wonderful foreshadowing
• I like the twist of a hero, who needed his heroine, versus the helpless female, who needed to be rescued by the RDD as many of BN’s books like to posit. The other nice metaphor was the heroine’s name, Cassandra Darling, as she thought she was plain and anything but darling.
• The contrast of the second part of the story with the first part, in my mind functions to sharpen the relationship of Cassandra and Benedict. Some reviewers thought the second half of the story wasn’t as interesting. I looked at things slightly differently. It was similar to other BN books, in that there is a trip to Holland to do some nursing, and the nurse often agrees to the travel because she is “restless, unsettled, or unrequited.” But the second half of the book is different because the reader can see that our nurse Cassandra and our doctor Benedict have budding feelings toward each other and have tentatively expressed those feelings. In many other BN books, you are left to guess, or assume. Benedict is far more open in expressing his attraction to Cassandra than in other Neels’ books (nothing inappropriate).
• Benedict: “You cried,” he began at once. “Jan told me you cried. Why? I really have to know.”
• After an eye exam by Mijnheer Viske, the first thing Benedict expresses is his acquiescence to Viske’s demands and then pleads a request. “There is just one thing. I want to look at Cassandra” … “Only for a very short time.” … “Not long enough, said Benedict softly” (page 133). This was very sweet, telegraphing to Cassandra that the first thing he wanted to see was her.
• Jan cared for Cassandra like a father and when he felt Benedict was treating her unfairly, he spoke up. “Miss Cassandra is upset, Mijnheer…Her poor face—it is stiff with unhappiness…. I also understand that Miss Cassandra’s heart will break…” (page 207).
• In response to Jan asking Cassandra, if she will write back once she reaches Mull, Cassandra said, “I don’t think so, Jan—perhaps, later…Bless you, Jan. I’m going to miss you.” [Jan asks] “And Mijnheer?” “All the rest of my life, Jan” (page 211).

What would I change? This is the Great Betty Neels. I read a BN’s book when I want to “hug a teddy-bear,” when I am looking for a comfortable, somewhat predictable but enjoyable read. I wish there had been an additional chapter between Benedict picking her up from the airport and their getting married. But who am I to quibble?

This is a book I have never found in my treks around the world, it had been on my Wishlist for some time. My daughter, after finding it available through her library, strongly encouraged me to purchase the book instead of waiting until I fortuitously located it in some dusty bookstore. So, I purchased it. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a good “teddy-bear” to read.
Profile Image for Anna.
Author 3 books25 followers
June 7, 2017
I thought I'd read most of Betty Neels' catalogue years ago, but certainly not this one! And it might be one of my favorites. Plot-wise, the first half is very strong, as other readers note. The interplay of angry surgeon, exuberant children, tender-hearted aunt and awkward minister works really well. Some stories set in fairly small, remote villages can feel faintly claustrophobic, but this one hums with life.

In a strange way, the second half seems hampered perhaps most by the growing (and unusual for a Neels book) happiness she allows her characters. On the one hand, it's so fun to see the characters' increasing affection and enjoyment for each other, but because so much of the story's dramatic arc depends on whether they'll get together, the narrative tension suffers for their happiness.

Romance-driven plots face an odd quandary in this: on the one hand, they compel us to root for the characters' shared happiness, but when they get it, we usually lose interest. One of few cases where I've seen an author balance the ongoing story of a couple's happiness with sustained dramatic interest is Elizabeth Peters' wonderful Amelia Peabody Emerson series. In that case, we get to have our romantic cake and eat it for 20 entertaining books because a happy marriage doesn't resolve the overall narrative arc; it instead sets up a long and very satisfying shared career in which the happy couple get to pursue meaning (and suspense) in their work as archeologists-cum-crime solvers.

Neels, of course, didn't have that luxury -- whether by choice or the constraints of her publisher's conventions. Given the strengths and shortcomings of this, one of her most unusual novels, it's interesting to see where she did and didn't take the dozens of stories that followed this one.
18 reviews
September 9, 2020
A book to remember

I read this first years ago, recalled that it was a Neels romance, but not the name. I finally found it, after much searching through her numerous titles, and reread it a few years ago for the first time.

There's always a timeless pleasure to reading a Neels romance. Nothing truly bad happens, the hero wins the girl, all live happily ever after... It's the stuff of tropes. But oh, how comfortable and delightful it is to delve into Neels world for a little while.

Cassandra is her usual run of heroines: practical, efficient and plain. She never minces words with Benedict, a fact which he values about her. There are, in fact, one or two positively delicious moments between them. For instance when the prim vicar is being old fashioned and absurd. The casual joke Benedict makes over one of his questions, and the cheerful, casual way he and Cassandra shout at one another makes me chuckle.

This is the perfect read for anyone wanting gentle humor, a happy ending, and a lack of true dramatics.
Profile Image for MaryD.
1,688 reviews3 followers
February 24, 2021
Many other have written great reviews of this. Please be sure to read those, too.

Some important thoughts- This book includes a character that was a Holocaust survivor. BN handles it with compassion and doesn't have an "HEA" for him, but treats his situation with dignity and shows that he has an integral part to play in the story.

As other reviewers have said, the first half- in Scotland- was very well written and I loved the interaction between the two MC's as they both struggled with their relationship. Unfortunately, the second half- in Holland- wasn't quite as good. Cassandra seems to have lost some of the intelligence she showed in the first half.

This was one of my favorite BN stories as this was one of those that showed depth.
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