Possibly the most outrageously hideous outfit ever is to be found in Dangerous Enchantment (1969):
She had dressed with care in a new Crimplene two-piece of a delicious shade of salmon pink. The flared skirt was calf-length while the short jacket was double-breasted and scalloped on the neckline. With it she wore her double string of pearls and a beige llama coat
I googled “salmon-pink crimplene” and got this. I think even the dowdiest schoolmarm or vicar’s wife would shrink from wearing it, let alone on a first date with Julio Iglesias. But that’s what 21-year-old Julie chooses to wear when asked to dinner by internationally famous Latino pop-star 34-year-old Manuel Cortez. Manuel has lots of black hair and great big sideburns, and even though he’s only in his mid-thirties, he’s got “lines” which make him look older. Really not a very delightful prospect.
Julie is awful. She’s unambitious, prissy, endlessly leading on her perfectly pleasant boyfriend Paul and constantly lying to him. She gets frankly weird and stalkerish, invading Manuel’s flat when he cancels a date, issuing commands to his manservant, and playing nurse when he’s unconscious in bed. We’re frequently told that Julie is really into babies and children. I suppose this was considered a more attractive personality trait for a lower middle class girl in the 1960s than career aspirations. But to a modern reader, it’s not very appealing. She keeps kissing Manuel, then freaking out that it’s going too far. He hasn’t even tried to grope her or take her clothes off, yet she gets all panicky and irate. She even vomits after their first date.
Manuel jets off overseas (probably to escape her) and we get this:
Paul, now she was away from Manuel’s disturbing presence, became once again a very pleasant young man, and she found that if she tried very hard she could practically dispel all thoughts of Manuel from her mind when she was with Paul.
Then comes a scene so terrible I found it difficult to read. Manuel, back in the UK and clearly a sucker for punishment, picks up Julie from work and drives her home. She’s insanely rude to him: surly and sulky. Then she accuses him of driving her home because he had another woman in his flat. Not that she even wanted a lift from him, let alone to go back to his place.
It gets worse. Manuel gets out to open her door or talk to her or whatever, and she starts freaking out that he’s going to hit her (why?!) and calling her father to escape him. “Daddy!” she cried thankfully.
W. T. F. ? Manuel hasn’t even tried to lay a finger on her.
It gets even more worse. She has a date with Paul and some Manuel Iglesias records are playing. This turns Julie on and she starts kissing Paul more fervently. He’s shocked and “thrust her away” from him, demanding to know “where she learnt to kiss like that” etc.
The Other Woman is the gloriously-named Dolores Arriviera but there’s sadly not much of her. She does “laugh a brittle laugh” in one scene and grip Julie’s skin with her “sharp nails”. The other Other Woman turns out to be Manuel’s 16-year-old daughter. I’m not sure why Anne Mather decided to saddle him with a daughter.
Julie gets flu. People keep getting sick in this book, when they’re not in hospital having babies called “Tony”. Then she decides to go to America as her friend’s nanny. She needs a smallpox vaccination for this, which is rather a shame, because a hasty death from smallpox would save us from another hundred pages of her.
Before she goes, she invites herself round to Manuel’s apartment, defying the “commissaire” (doorman/concierge/security guard) to sneak up in the lift. She discovers that Manuel is out with Dolores Arriviera, so leaves again. Naturally she bumps into Manuel in the lobby and accepts yet another lift in his green Ferrari. Then – oh cringe oh cringe oh cringe – she asks him if he “loves” Dolores. Manuel basically tells her to piss off – “I don’t need you, honey” – and once more buggers off overseas again.
This couple have had like ONE DATE. Her level of obsession with Manuel is chilling.
Anyway it’s now March in California. We’re in for a string of bizarre randomness. Julie’s-friend’s-husband’s-colleague’s-mate turns out to be Manuel’s brother Felipe. Ben (the husband) is some sort of artist and wants to paint Manuel. Separately, Julie’s O-level German leads her to help a nun communicate with a sick a Polish sailor in a Mission Hospital. One of the doctors working there turns out to be “Felipe Cortez” and the spitting image of Manuel.
It could not be such a coincidence that there were two Felipe Cortez’ in San Fransciso.
Wanna bet? Try looking up “John Smith” in the London phone book and then do your “math” on the Hispanic population of California. Anyway, obviously this one is Manuel’s brother, because we’re past the half-way point (80 pages to go) and Anne Mather has got to reconnect the protagonists somehow. Julie starts working as a volunteer at the hospital. Please become a nun, Julie. Please become a nun and spare us all..
But no. Manuel reappears, gets jealous about Julie and Felipe.
“I have known dozens of women in my time,” he muttered, ” and they are all alike in that they are greedy and selfish. You must be the same!”
Manuel has a car crash. Proposes to Julie. The End.
Some bonus vintage notes:
- Manuel’s bedroom has silk sheets and a “vivid tangerine” carpet. He has a dark blue silk dressing gown. In California he drives a pale blue Cadillac with leather “in a brilliant shade of orange”.
- I don’t know if my copy was edited for the American market, but they keep going on about a “roadhouse”. It appears to be a regular British pub.
- It’s explained to us that French fries were what “Julie would have called chips”.