Monday, July 25, 2016

Student Nurse

By Peggy Gaddis, ©1959

“Being nice to you could easily become habit-forming,” he said quietly. Loyce Hamilton, pretty student nurse, felt a warm sweetness in her heart at handsome Reed Shelby’s words. For he was the head of the Shelby clan—and a bachelor to boot! But when Loyce realized the callous way the Shelbys dominated everyone in town, the warmth began to chill. And Reed’s jealousy of Dr. Gordon Grant didn’t help matters …

GRADE: B

BEST QUOTES:
“People who are destitute or almost, and who have mental quirks, are called crazy! But if they have enough money to get themselves out of unpleasant jams, then people say they are merely eccentric.”

REVIEW:
In Loyce Hamilton, we have a nurse named in one of the finer Peggy Gaddis traditions (see also her Leota, Luana, Leona, and Linette). Also like these lovely ladies, Loyce is a strong, capable, and compassionate nurse working in Georgia in a small community hospital of only 40 beds out in the sticks. There she meets another Gaddis staple, the stuck-up city doctor who hates the country but is forced to work there until his med school loan is paid off and he can go back to the city and become the highly paid specialist that only pompous, lazy, heartless snobs endeavor to be.

While she serves out her month-long rotation, Loyce rooms with the Shelby family, local landowners who own, well, everything in town. The family is headed by Ruth, the “very, very handsome” but “big—very big” spinster sister doomed never to marry, the numbers stacked against her: age (30), height (5'10"), and weight (200). Rounding out the family is Reed, the big brother, the obvious love interest, and Marcy the sister-in-law, widow of Hank, who died in the war. Marcy has a son, Paul, but she has been divested of any responsibility for the baby, who is cared for exclusively—and has even been renamed—by Ruth. Marcy is essentially a prisoner of the family, which they frankly admit: “Marcy wanted to stay in California and get a job after the baby was born. But of course we couldn’t permit that,” Reed tells Loyce. Marcy, though she has an inheritance that could support her, can only hand over the baby on command and cry. Loyce, hearing this story, is incredulous: “But for goodness sake, Marcy, he’s your baby!” she says. “I can’t see any reason you shouldn’t take the baby and go away.” There is no logical answer to this; all Marcy can do is fume that she’s a prisoner. She’s not exactly wrong; when she asks Reed if she can leave Georgia, he says she is free to go—but the baby stays. “This is his home; he’ll stay here and grow up here and take his rightful place.” Since she lacks the gumption to just take the boy and go, there she stays.

Loyce comes to fall for Reed, which we saw coming from page one. The two go on several dates, including to lunch at the Cloister, a historic hotel on Sea Island, which I know well; it’s like unexpectedly meeting an old friend when we drive up the causeway past the “century-old oaks, their massive limbs draped in swaying curtains of green-grey Spanish moss.” Despite these dates, when Marcy suggests that Reed is in love with Loyce, she all but falls off her chair: “I have never heard of anything so silly in my life,” she stammers. “Why, he’s never given me a second glance or a second thought!” This, after pages of him giving her tender looks and calling her “darling” and “wonderful,” and suggesting they honeymoon at the Cloister. If it were simple insecurity that makes Loyce respond so, I could forgive it, but it comes across as a false modesty that “nice” girls were forced to adopt in the day, pretending not to notice a man at all until the day he proposed, which I find irritating and stupid.

After the Shelbys grudgingly allow it, Marcy takes a volunteer job at the hospital, and while she’s there, she comes under the notice of Dr. Grant. So Loyce goes to bat for Marcy, telling Reed that she thinks the family is domineering and cruel to the spineless little lamb, pretty much pouring ice water on her blooming romance. Dr. Grant then shows up at the Shelby mansion for a meeting with the extended family, where he tells them he will stay in Shelbyville and marry Marcy—though he has never had any discussion with Marcy about his feelings for her—once again treating her like a voiceless pet. This time, however, she doesn’t seem to mind so much, and agrees to marry the doctor after he says that he will take her and the baby away from the Shelby house. 

Though the family is in uproar, Reed later thanks Loyce, surprisingly enough, for having pointed out some hard truths, and he tells her that they will make it up to Marcy, possibly by even “allowing” her to remarry. But there’s another marriage he wants to discuss, and he asks Loyce if she will mind becoming part of such a domineering family. Loyce, horrifically enough, after having fought for Marcy’s independence, is thrilled to have the chance to shed her own: “After being alone most of my life, having to make my own decisions, hoping they were right and sort of muddling through, I can’t think of anything more wonderful,” she coos. Even if she insists that she is going to work after they marry, it can’t quite resolve my nausea after she says, “No place in the world where you are could ever be dull to me! It would be exciting and beautiful—because I love you so much!” Ew.


On occasion Peggy Gaddis can turn out a great book, but this is not one of her best. The biggest problem is that it rehashes of all the usual Gaddis gimmicks and sexist attitudes, even if the latter are largely a product of the times and the region. For most of the book Loyce is an admirable, outspoken woman who fights for the underdog, and Gaddis’ writing is generally entertaining. Though she’s capable of better, this book is enjoyable enough for an afternoon on the veranda with a mint julep. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Police Nurse

By W. Neubauer, ©1964
Cover illustration by Rudy Nappi

They warned her—you’re asking for trouble! But Nurse Elaine wouldn’t gFive up. As a police nurse it was her job to help people, and Ed Morley, accused of murder, needed her help. His youth, good looks, and wealth had turned the whole town against him. Elaine was sure he wouldn’t get a fair trial unless Lydia Shelton helped. Lydia was the owner of the town’s paper—and Elaine’s rival for reporter Mike Jones’ heart. And Lydia promised to help, but her price was high—Nurse Elaine must leave town and never see Mike Jones again.

GRADE: A-

BEST QUOTES:
“The purple eyes glared. Elaine didn’t die.”

“Girls, you know, have the oddest minds.”

“If it wasn’t for men, us girls wouldn’t have no trouble. I say a girl which marries a guy can’t blame anybody but herself. Don’t ask me to say more.”

“True feminine beauty, Warburton, is compounded of appearance and serenity. Always be serene.”

REVIEW:
Elaine Warburton is both a police sergeant and a prison nurse, which makes her one exceptionally tough cookie. And this proves very helpful to her, for at book’s open, she is embroiled in a political situation that I never quite got a handle on—one of the book’s few weaknesses. As far as I can tell, the hospital director, Dr. O. Walter Thorpe, is tussling for control of the prison hospital with Police Commissioner Hendricks; the mayor, too, is involved in the fray, and the upcoming election is going to decide the fate of the prison ward. Elaine, who is head of the prison ward, is being thrown under the bus as a means of demonstrating that the police are not suited to run a hospital. The problem here is that by pretty much everyone’s standards, Elaine is absolute tops at her job. As various factions push to get her fired, she ups the ante by threatening to quit, and is quickly begged not to leave, which gives her more power than ever. It’s a real pleasure to watch Elaine Warburton successfully wrangle numerous politicos and doctors with a hard-boiled aplomb that would do Sam Spade proud—she even knocks out with a punch to the face someone attempting to abduct her. Doing her one better than even Mr. Spade, however, is the fact that she’s a damned good nurse, knowing even before her surgeons what they will need next.

Complicating the situation is the fact that one of Elaine’s nemeses is Miss Lydia Sheldon, who is publisher of the Pacific City Times, 400 pounds, and angling to steal Elaine’s boyfriend, newspaper reporter Mike Jones. Lydia’s scheme is to set Mike up as editor of the paper if he will marry her. Interestingly, though Mike is, of course, an excellent reporter, he understands that he is not a very good editor, which conflicts with his desire to hold the top spot. In a way, this inner discord helps him choose the right woman in the end (you knew he would), but it adds a bit of unexpected complexity to the story.


Lydia’s father is planning to run for mayor, so it all loops back again to the prison vs. hospital control of Elaine’s ward. I never exactly understood why the prison ward was so important to everyone, and all the machinations of all the characters were hard to follow, but overall this is a very enjoyable book. It’s funny, written in a succinct style, entertaining, energetic, and remarkably appreciative of its heroine in a way few VNRNs are—Elaine is not just talented and smart, but powerful. Elaine’s female coworkers are supportive and strong, which I must confess I didn’t expect from a male writer (curious that William abbreviates to just the initial; usually it’s women writers who do this, depending  on basic sexism that readers will assume the writer is male and correspondingly give the book more weight; was Mr. Neubauer hoping his readers would assume he is female?). I confess a fondness for William Neubauer beyond his apparently egalitarian views as suggested in this book, as her penned the fabulously titled Scandalous Career Girl under the pen name Gordon Semple—“She would do anything for success,” breathes the cover lines. Neubauer wrote two other nurse novels as well as a sluttier nurse book (Playboy Nurse) that I will look forward to after the romp—or alley fistfight—that is Police Nurse

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Doctor Myra Comes Home


By Arlene Hale, ©1962

With an office off Park Avenue, a partnership with two established male doctors, Myra Fielding, heart specialist, felt that she had arrived as a doctor. Then Doctor Sam, who had staked her to medical school, came to New York and laid his case before her. He was old and Lake Mills would soon be without a doctor—unless Myra came back. Myra could not imagine what her reception in this small Midwestern town would be. There were only a few—among them, Ross Devon, the high-school coach; Steve Dixon, who owned a farm just outside town; and a bewildered young minister—who were willing to accept Myra on her own terms. It took a major tragedy before Myra was to know the deep satisfaction of what it truly means to come home.

GRADE: C

BEST QUOTES:
“I aim to see that you don’t forget you’re a woman, as well as a doctor.”

“Come on, now. Don’t go female on me.”

REVIEW:
Arlene Hale was a prolific writer, but unfortunately most of her books were perfunctory at best. Though I wanted to love this book—chiefly for the divine cover illustration, I’ll admit—it is an ordinary story without much heart.

Myra Fielding is a cardiologist in a Park Avenue office with wall-to-wall carpeting and a heartthrob partner who dates her occasionally. Then old Doctor Sam comes a-calling. He is a GP in Lake Mills, the town in which Myra grew up, and he had supported in every way her dreams of becoming a doctor. Now he wants to retire before his bad ticker fells him, and he comes to Myra to ask her to step into his shoes. She just can’t turn down her patron, so she packs her bags and along with her sassy nurse, Liz O’Connor, heads west.

After a couple of weeks of shadowing Dr. Sam, he heads off for some fishing and leaves her in the office … where the crickets are chirping as loudly as they are at the trout pond. Only emergencies will stoop to see this uppity New York woman doctor, but Myra soldiers on and manages every new crisis with a sure hand and an accurate diagnosis, despite the fact that few of her new patients’ diseases have anything to do with cardiology, which she has practiced exclusively for the past three years.

If the patients won’t show up, the men are certainly forming a line outside her door. Coach Ross Devon, whom she meets during athlete screening physicals, finds her attractive, as does Doctor Sam’s nephew, Steve Dixon. Good thing that impossible doctor, Wade Lincoln, who works in the nearby hospital, is such a nasty man, so she doesn’t have to fend him off as well! Oh, wait, even though he fights with her every time they meet, he still feels compelled to grab her now and then and kiss her, which makes it more of an assault than a romantic gesture, but we know that VNRNs never seem to notice the difference.

Things begin to get tense at home in the apartment Myra shares with Liz when Liz also gets a hankering for Steve; sadly, Myra prefers to fight for a man she’s not sure she really wants, possibly sacrificing her best friend and a great professional relationship, rather than let one of her beaux go. On the office front, Myra’s pocketbook gets thinner and thinner, and she’s contemplating going home to New York when a fire at an old school building puts her into trauma mode for about 36 hours straight. Shortly after this episode, every single loose end is systematically and unimaginatively wrapped up in short order. You’ll not be at all surprised to know that the townspeople eventually do warm to Myra, but it isn’t until she has a man in her arms that Myra decides “she had truly come home at last,” because no woman is complete as long as she’s single. It was a disappointing ending in several ways, mostly because it was so perfunctory and soulless. So, like many other Arlene Hale books before this, I have to give Doctor Myra a middling grade, and you no compelling reason to read about her.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Peace Corps Nurse

By Josephine James, ©1965
Cover illustration by Stan

Kathy’s decision to join the Peace Corps was the most important step she’d ever taken—and the toughest. Strict self-discipline was required to face the cram courses, endurance tests and survival outings. Each day offered new—and demanding—experiences. Then, suddenly, she realized that something sinister was happening at the training school. A strange African spirit mask had been stolen—and the theft threatened the success of the entire program. Kathy knew that if she tried to solve the mystery, she’d be risking everything she had worked for … but she also knew that if she didn’t try, she would never find peace with herself …

GRADE: B

BEST QUOTES:
“I’ve seen  movies of Africa, and it’s no place for a girl.”

“Falling in love isn’t like falling in a swimming pool. There’s no lifeguard around to haul you out if you can’t make it.”

REVIEW:
This book is billed as a romance novel, but I have to say that is a huge stretch. Nurse Kathy Martin does have a boyfriend, Steve, who is mentioned now and again, but the truth of the matter is that she is basically leaving him for a couple years to head off to Liberia with the Peace Corps, and we’ll see if he’s decided to wait around until then.

Though titled Peace Corps Nurse, this book is about Kathy’s application to the Peace Corps and then her training, which is held in the San Francisco Bay Area, and has nothing to do with any actual nursing while on assignment, which disappointed me, but it was still a pleasant enough story. Kathy arrives on the college campus with her best friend, nurse Jenny Ramirez, who has also been accepted into the Peace Corps. The pair has been assigned to Liberia—as has pretty much everyone they run into on their training—so they are especially interested in Africa and are taking classes about what life is like there. In a book written in 1965, this could well be a recipe for a racist-laden nightmare, but author Josephine James does a stellar job of discussing the problem. One character, Tony Kepatu, is a Liberian native who is a graduate student acting as a teaching assistant for the Peace Corps training, and he is an upstanding, intelligent teacher. Though accused of stealing a Liberian mask, Kathy and her fellow students largely refuse to believe it. Another Peace Corps student, Faith Channing, is a wealthy black woman whose father is a college professor. She is somewhat spoiled, but she is also vigilant about pointing out racism when she sees it, such as when a group of costumed native Liberians sings and dances for the trainees. “That’s how people think about all Negroes. Happy, dancing clowns,” she says.

The main story is about Kathy’s efforts to locate the Liberian mask, which belongs, coincidentally, from her field nursing teacher, a woman who has spent many decades practicing nursing in rural Liberia. The mystery is not the strongest element of the story, as clues are dropped ham-handedly at routine intervals. But the main reasons to read this story are its light touch, its sense of humor, and the Bay Area armchair travel. If it’s not the greatest nurse novel, it’s easily a pleasant afternoon.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Nurse Transplanted

By Teresa Holloway, ©1971

Nurse Karen Carty was upset about her father. Unless the deadly disease he had was overcome, he was doomed. There was hope, of course. Dr. Court Delaney—young, capable, dedicated—had an idea that just might work. Suddenly—out of the blue—Karen and Court realized that there was a sinister plot afoot—one that was more violent, more horrible than any conceived by nature. But then—almost at the last minute—a sacrifice paid off.

GRADE: C+

BEST QUOTES:
“Anybody who can design and sew like you do is wasting her time as a nurse.”

“Oh, come on, Milly. You’re tiny enough to fit into a man’s pocket. Just be sure it’s not Dr Bryson’s.”     
 
“No corner of America is immune from the scrutiny of alien eyes.”

REVIEW:
Nurse Karen Carty lives with her father, who works at the local paint factory—you don’t have to be a close reader to figure out that this guy isn’t just inventing new dining room colors. It’s also pretty easy to tell that the envelope her father gives her to hide is more than just the light bill, particularly when someone tries to snatch her handbag as she leaves the hospital and after her locker is ransacked. Third time’s the charm, though; eventually the house is totally ransacked and the envelope goes missing.  

Also complicating her life, Dad has been admitted to the hospital, and it turns out that he has kidney failure and needs a transplant—hence the book title! Fortunately, Karen’s childhood sweetheart, Court Delaney, is a doctor who specializes in transplants, and coincidentally has just come home to practice medicine, so he’s available to help save Mr. Carty’s life. But his “big brother attitude,” as Karen calls it, is wearing thin. If only nice girls made passes!

Court has a human kidney that’s been transplanted into a chimpanzee, so as to “heal” it from the rigors of the donor process, just waiting for someone to need it, so things are looking up for Mr. Carty. But then Nurse Milly, a good friend of the Cartys, is attacked and badly burned, but she insists that she just “fell” on the wood stove in a clumsy accident and won’t tell who did it. Milly’s biggest concern, actually, seems to be about her beachwear: “Am I going to have such a horrible scar that I won’t ever be able to wear a bikini again?” she pathetically cries to Karen. (Rest assured, readers, that the answer is no.)

Finally the FBI arrives on the scene and the agent spills the beans that Mr. Carty has developed a special paint that is immune to light and heat, which means, apparently, that it has huge benefits to the military. Still Karen hasn’t figured out that the envelope has something to do with this. For a highly intelligent surgical nurse, she can be mighty dumb.

The last twist in the case is that the chimpanzee is found shot dead, so there go Mr. Carty’s chances at a new lease on life. A meeting at the hospital of likely suspects finishes with the guilty party being led away in handcuffs, but there’s still the matter of Mr. Carty’s need for a kidney. The obvious solution finally reached, all that remains is for Karen and Court to arrive at an understanding and smooch us out the back cover.

The ham-handed patriotism is so dated it’s almost cute, but the extensive plot to steal the paint formula is as far-fetched as housing a kidney inside a chimpanzee. The writing is not terrible, but not great either, and in the end I find it hard to come up with any real reason why I should try to persuade you to read this book.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Art Colony Nurse


By Jane Converse, ©1969

It was all so simple … in the beginning. Handsome young Dr. Larry Rhodes wanted a capable nurse; Eileen Bonham, R.N., had all the qualifications. Eileen wanted romance with marital possibilities; Larry had all the qualifications. Simple. Storybook perfect … until the day Eileen discovered the Bohemian art colony on the California coast and nothing seemed duller than life with a successful, hard-working doctor, nothing more exciting than a free-swinging affair with a flamboyant artist. Suddenly Eileen found herself torn between the man and career she’d always dreamed of—and a thrilling, carefree adventure she’d never dared to imagine.

GRADE: C

BEST QUOTES:
“Nobody bothered to warn me you were beautiful.”
                                                                                                                 
REVIEW:
Eileen Bonham has taken a break from nursing in Los Angeles to spend a few weeks at her parents’ house in northern California, though her parents keep hoping she’ll stay for good. There are no good job prospects to keep her there, however, until local GP Dr. Larry Rhodes advertises for an office nurse. On the interview, she finds him hunky but a bit somber for her taste. Nonetheless she takes the job—well, after she learns Dr. Rhodes is single. After weeks at work, though, she becomes increasingly disenchanted, busy and interesting though the job may be, because Larry hasn’t asked her out yet.

In addition, she soon sees a side of him that she doesn’t particularly care for, when a family of hippies brings in their young son, who has fallen from a tree. Dr. Rhodes, disgusted with the young parents’ lifestyle, terrifies them by painting a horrific description of the lockjaw that will almost certainly ensue, he says, if young Tad Shearer hasn’t gotten his vaccinations. After a few calls to the boy’s pediatrician, it’s found that he’s up to date, but man! What a bummer! Eileen is not impressed with Larry’s deliberate cruelty to the parents, and when they do go out to dinner for the first time, they get into a heated discussion about whether the Shearers have any right to have children, since they are not financially stable and live in an art colony of dubious reputation and plumbing. The date, needless to say, is a fiasco, and Eileen decides that Larry is a rigid square who thinks that only an orderly life is worth living.

Curiously, however, Eileen, chides herself for having “fallen in love with a man whose basic thinking was so at odds with her own,” and she continues to believe that she loves him, even though through many of the ensuing pages it is quite clear that she doesn’t like him one bit. She’s hoping that “some restricting bonds inside him would break, he would sweep her into his arms, and she would reach to the warm, relaxed core of a human being named Larry Rhodes who had only been pretending he was made of wood.” It seems imprudent to wait around hoping that someone you dislike will suddenly change into someone you do like, but maybe that’s just me.

Also curiously, Eileen deliberately decides to do something that would piss off the good doctor: hang out with the Shearers at the art colony. There she meets another irritating ass, Nick Hamilton. Tall and handsome, he has a tendency to sport dandyish outfits such as a white Nehru jacket trimmed with gold braid, tightly fitted black Edwardian trousers, and gray suede boots. Spotting an unattached female with a steady paycheck, Nick proceeds to woo the gullible Eileen. Though she spends many ensuing evenings canoodling with Nick on a picnic blanket in the hills, she is still having Larry over for dinner on occasion despite the fact that she dreads his boring conversation, and again, she chastises herself that “this was the man she was supposedly in love with.” So when Nick announces to the entire colony that the pair are engaged—without having consulted Eileen—“it seemed right, somehow,” and she goes along with it. Really, not one thing in this woman’s love life makes any sense to me at all.

Eventually she tells off Larry, letting him know what a straitlaced dullard he is and that his condescending attitude toward the artists is appalling. Unexpectedly, Larry seems to take her words to heart and soon is inviting her to carnivals and otherwise trying to be less stultifying. She instantly warms to him, but decides that it’s “important to let him know that she liked him (loved him?) for himself, for what he was, and not only for what he was trying, in the hope of winning her approval, to be.” When she’s just spent the last five chapters sneering at how tiresome he is? Then, when Larry proposes, she accepts—now to quickly call it off with Nick before Larry finds out!

It’s just not to be, however, because a tapestry weaver whom Nick threw over for Eileen attempts suicide, and when Larry is called out to save the woman, Eileen’s double engagement comes to light. Eileen has written her letter of resignation to the doctor and is about to clear town when Mrs. Shearer comes to her in the middle of the night—there’s an outbreak of hepatitis at the art colony! Eileen rushes out to the encampment, leaving word with Larry’s love-sick secretary to let him know what’s going on. Needless to say, the jealous secretary fails to pass on the message, leaving Eileen to manage copious infectious bodily fluids alone for almost a day before the situation is revealed. Then the two are working side by side for almost a week to cure everyone, and when it’s over, Larry has a new-found appreciation for the hippies and the art they produce, and for Eileen as well, so she gets her man in the end, after all.

I never understood Eileen’s feelings for either Larry or Nick, so it’s difficult to find any satisfaction with this book. The artist colony and the hippies are a fun bit of cultural time-traveltheir vocabularly in particularand of course the title of this book is pretty superior, so there may be some reason to pick it up. But if you’re looking for a satisfying story, you will not find it in this art colony.  

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Queen’s Nurse


By Jane Arbor, ©1954



Whatever he wanted, Muir usually got! Even before she knew who he was, Jess Mawney learned that Muir Forester was unusually strong willed. Now she was practically living on the doorstep of this man—a man she might reasonably have hoped never to see again. But Jess soon changed her mind about him. She wished that Muir Forester wanted her in the same determined way that was making him fight for the love of the beautiful and delicate Liane.



GRADE: A-



REVIEW:

Queen’s nurse, it turns out, does not mean nurse to the Queen, but rather a district nurse. I was a little disappointed by that, hoping this might be some roaring bodice ripper of a nurse novel, but I have to say that was almost the only disappointment in store for me once I turned past the cover of Jane Arbor’s very neat little book. Jess Mawney, age 24, is leaving the city to practice amongst the country folk—but first she must attend the auction of her recently deceased father’s estate. He had instructed in his will that everything be sold and the proceeds given to Jess, which was mostly fine with her, except there is one piece of furniture she had wanted to keep and now is forced to bid, along with the public at large, for the right to own it.



Enter the uppity rich gentleman, who is stuck with a flat just outside the auction house. While he waits for his car to be fixed, he is regaled by the mechanic of the story of the new orphan with no resources other than the proceeds from this auction and her work as a nurse. So he grandly strolls in and instantly recognizes the 17th century Welsh dresser as the only item of quality, bidding relentlessly on it—far outstripping Jess’s meager pocketbook—until he has won. After the auction, she attempts to buy it from him, but apparently this is a shameless thing to do, and he rudely brushes her off.


Imagine their surprise when, ensconced in her new position weeks later, Jess calls on the housekeeper of local squire, who has twisted her ankle—and they meet again! Muir Forester is a Mr. Rochester type, alternating kind and cold, but he and Jess soon become friends. Even more so because an orphaned young woman, Liane Hart, is a lonely waif who has been taken in by him, and wants very much to be Jess’s friend. Liane’s dead father was a very good friend of Muir’s, and Liane believes that Muir intends to marry her, despite the fact that she is not in love with him and 15 years his junior. In fact, after the housekeeper’s son, Peter, arrives home from the war in Korea, Liane quickly tumbles for that young man instead. Jess, of course, has fallen in love with Muir, but is determined to keep it a secret, knowing of his deep love for Liane. Oh, what a tangled web we weave!



There are a few additional plot lines to keep us entertained: the local busybody who is determined to see Jess fail, the young woman who wants to be a veterinarian, Jess’s would-be suitor from the city who pops in now and again to roil the waters of true love, the explosion at the beet factory. But really it’s a fairly classic setup, with many obstacles in the way of our star-crossed lovers, and every fresh misunderstanding between them—which we clearly recognize as such—brings on a pained wince as we wonder how they are going to find their way out of this one. The only disappointment was the final scene, when the pair unwind all their errors of judgment and learn the truth, which was a bit anticlimactic in the telling. But no matter: Overall this was a very good story, with humor, a thoroughly admirable heroine, and good writing. If the love interest was a bit severe for my taste, the ending too bland, and the writing not campy enough to yield any nuggets for the Best Quotes section, these are minimal quibbles that I can easily forgive when the rest of the book is this enjoyable.