Year : 1997
ISBN: 0 733 51176 7
Source: Salvos Store
Heroine: Phoebe Grant
Occupation: Trained Librarian tempting as a waitress-cum-nanny
Description: Not much of one but typical Craven heroine great hair slender body. ‘He paused, taking in every detail from the top of the smooth brown head, down over her working uniform of white shirt and brief black skirt, to her slender feet in their sensible shoes.’ (p19)
Hero: Dominic Ashton
Occupation: Insolvency Accountant
Description: ‘The thick dark hair, untouched by grey, still waved untidily back from its widow’s peak. He would never be handsome. His nose was too beaky, his mouth and chin too firmly uncompromising, and the grey eyes under the cynically lifted eyebrows too piercing.’ (p20)
Nothing screams fulfilment of contractual obligation quite like A Nanny for Christmas. With both a television and movie adaptation of Jane Eyre released in 1997 it seemed natural for Mills and Boon to capitalised on this perennial favourite with its Nanny Wanted! Series. Not being overly familiar with Jane Eyre it was easy enough to discern the direct counterparts in Craven’s novel.
Tara Ashton = Adele Varens
Carrie = Mrs Fairfax
Serena Vane = Celine Varens/Bertha Mason
Hazel Sinclair = Blanche Ingram
The storyline: Phoebe Grant first encounters Dominic six years earlier as part of a prank perpetrated by his step brother Tony Catherty (it seems in the Craven universe reading a Fines Arts degree is indicative of bastardry vis a vis Jon Audley TVWN). Phoebe is drugged and left naked in Dominic’s bed. Dominic upon finding Phoebe there labels her a whore and throws her a twenty pound note to remove herself from the premises. Fast forward to present day, Phoebe who is waiting upon tables in a tea room is drawn to an apparently neglected little girl, Tara and in a confluence of events only found in MB, the incompetent Nanny has an accident, Phoebe loses her job, the flat she is renting conveniently burns down leaving our heroine no option but to play Nanny. Thus our six week courtship period is established.
What of Mr Rochester lite, we meet Dominic ‘in the middle of some business empire, with computers, modems and machinery as far as the eye could see…’(p21). Oh yeah all the hallmarks of business success…though it is easy in 2010 to be snide about the modem after all was not the 1990s the decade of the information revolution. Without expansive property holdings, being at the helm of a multination corporation and a healthy bank balance of millions Dominic simply no longer cuts it as a MB hero.
As for Phoebe, she is the usual Craven innately domesticated character. At one stage we find Phoebe sewing clothes for Tara’s dolls…This is suppose to be 1997!!!. The self flagellation of Phoebe is nothing short of a petition for sainthood.
‘All those years she thought. All those years I hated Dominic. Blamed him for cruelty and insensitivity when all the time he must have been totally traumatised himself.
What must he have felt-finding his wife with his own stepbrother? She wondered helplessly. And then, after all that, to find himself the victim of a sadistic practical joke.
Tony had used and betrayed them both, she thought but Dominic’s suffering had to be greater than her own. His scarring deeper, and more bitter. The treachery he’d endured was unforgivable.
And all I saw was the anger and contempt, she thought wretchedly. I never noticed his pain-his humiliation. Never stopped to ask why he’d overreacted so violently. I only thought of myself.’ (p142)
Seriously???? Phoebe was sixteen. A school girl. Drugged, betrayed by her friends and berated as a whore and she must atone for the night. It gets worse (and this is allowing for the suspension of sexual harassment legislation in MB world) when Dominic confesses that he recognises Phoebe from that night, ‘And, for the record, don’t think I wasn’t tempted darling.’ (p155). Do we need to repeat she was sixteen?!!!
Like Rochester, Dominic is absolved from any personal responsibility in the failure of his previous relationship. Serena Vane like Celene Varens is a promiscuous actrine who abandons her child to go abroad with her lover. By the end of the novel Dominic has a socially acceptable reason to lock her away. Mental illness of the nineteen century has evolved into a rather nasty coke habit of the twentieth condemns Serena to the metaphoric attic.
We are left with a morally smug hero and heroine at the end (why Phoebe would stay with a jerk like Dominic is beyond me) and as to Tara’s fate we all know what Jane did to Adele in the end.
Skip this one and read Jane Eyre instead….
As mentioned previously, Craven occasionally refers to Australia and in this book it isn’t particularly favourable. You guessed it, the nationality of this incompetent nanny is Australian. Cindy, neglectful of her charge is described as a good time party girl, ‘Australian, tall, blonde, endless legs, a bit loud and altogether too keen on other girls’ blokes…’pp.7-8. Australian is thrown around like an insult in this book.
The second reference perhaps reflects middle class consternation of the corrosive impact Australian soaps has allegedly had on British modulation. Tara is caught watching Down Under (oblique reference to Neighbours/Home and Away) by Dominic, ‘‘All the same I would you watch something more edifying than an Australian soap opera.’ There was an edge to his voice.’ (p.100). God forbid that Tara starts speaking with an upward inflection.