“Now, Helen, you aren’t going to go fussy on me. You know I wouldn’t have done a hysterectomy unless it was absolutely necessary. Don’t you worry about a thing. A few little old shots and some pills and you’ll feel younger than ever—prettier too.”
“Ladylike, that was the word for Linda. She would make a good wife for a doctor.”
“Climb into bed with a grateful patient, and you were climbing into bed with trouble.”
“I think she’s got trouble—doctor trouble.”
“She’ll stick around till he teaches her some facts of life she’s never learned in textbooks.”
“Why does a woman choose to be split from stem to stern when she could so easily produce her baby through the regular route? Maybe she wants to be fashionable and keep a virginal vagina on top of everything—no pun intended.”
“Witty women bore me. You’re just supposed to sit there and look decorative.”
“You don’t mean you’re going to turn down an invitation to go to this marvelous pool because of a bunch of crippled children?”
This is an Ace double novel, meaning if you flip the book over, another complete novel starts on the other side—which is why there is no back cover blurb accompanying this review. This book is backed with Dr. Kilbourne Comes Home, which not only features a male doctor as the star, but has no nurse, no matter what the cover illustration might make you think. So you will not be seeing a review of that story; I might put out a review of a book with a male protagonist if he ends up with a nurse in the end, but if there is no RN in sight, neither will I be.
In the half of this book that does concern us, Nurse Linda Shore is hopelessly in love with gorgeous OB/GYN Dr. Shelby Tailor, who is a shameless cad. He strings her along, breaking dates at the last minute when a better offer comes along, and she is hopelessly smitten, the poor dolt. She’s working on the pediatrics ward when she meets Adam Ralston, “an Abe Lincoln in specs,” Linda thinks of him. He’s studying for a master’s degree in education, with a focus on handicapped children. He steps in to comfort a frightened child, and Linda is impressed: “He had been so calm and cool, and—oh—exactly right.” Adam has a son of his own, Teddy, who is “spastic,” which is what they used to call someone with cerebral palsy. He has a farm in the country, where he takes Teddy and a group of handicapped children for a few weeks in the summer, but his dream is to turn this into a year-round rehabilitation center. Where his wife is, he is slow to reveal—they’re divorced, it turns out—but since Linda’s heart is irretrievably sworn to Shelby, it doesn’t really matter, right?
Linda’s sister soon moves to town, and 18-year-old Robin soon proves to be a quite the flirt. And when Shelby, who has been cooling toward Linda, meets Robin, suddenly he’s stopping by more frequently. When Linda finally gets wind of the fact that Shelby has been taking Robin out, he smooths it over by telling her, “You’re becoming more important to me than any woman I know.” And she falls for it, the dope. He keeps seeing Robin, calling her multiple times daily, and she becomes increasingly petulant, demanding that he drop Linda and marry her, but he is quite convinced that, despite his obsession with Robin, he doesn’t want to marry her, so he’s in a bit of a jam there.
His professional life isn’t going much better: He’s taken on wealthy Gilda Dalrymple, daughter of the hospital chief of staff, as a patient. He induces her labor for no medical reason, which is ethically and medically dicey, and messes up the dosing of the oxytocin. Needless to say, Gilda’s labor progresses too fast, her cervix tears, and she will never be able to have another child. Not only that, but her son turns out to have Down syndrome: “He was—dear God—he was an idiot!” Which is apparently worse than if he’d been stillborn, as Gilda lapses into a near coma of depression and grief and refuses to see the baby. Shelby’s career is in tatters, so he proposes to Linda—she’s become good friends with Gilda during Gilda’s long stay in the hospital, and “maybe she could put a good word in for him. Yes, it might be a very good thing for Dr. Shelby Tailor to be engaged to Linda Shore.”
Linda saves the day, of course, by gently encouraging Gilda to care for her son and by taking Gilda and her son out to see Adam and Teddy at the house in the country. Adam helps talk sense into Gilda, diagnosing her with postpartum depression, which her illustrious doctor failed to pick up. For his part, “Teddy, who loved everybody, leaned against Gilda’s knee, and slowly she overcame her revulsion for his braces and jerking movements, and her arms went around him.” Gilda stays at the farm for a week, with Linda there to nurse her, and soon she’s everything a new mother should be.
Now all that we have to do is push Linda into Adam’s arms, and what better to do that than a classic VNRN device, the natural disaster? A tornado blows through, destroying Adam’s farm—and the Black Cat, a seedy nightclub, where Robin and Shelby were, coincidentally, out on a date! Robin winds up in the hospital and, in her panic, blurts the affair to Linda, which finally wakes up our pathetic heroine. She dumps Shelby, who departs for Mississippi, and Gilda and her father are so grateful to her and Adam for their help that they fund the transformation of the destroyed farm into the John Dalrymple rehabilitation center for handicapped children, named after Gilda’s son. Adam offers her a job there as head nurse, and she accepts—thinking of the years she will devote to her career instead of a husband. And if Linda finishes the book with a broken heart instead of an engagement ring, we understand Adam will wait for her.
It’s a sweet ending, one of the better ones I’ve encountered, particularly since it doesn’t brush off her love for Shelby with a flick of the pen the way most VNRN writers do. The writing here is steady and enjoyable, if not the most exciting. Patti Stone’s prior four books (Nina Grant, Pediatric Nurse; Sandra, Surgical Nurse; Judy George, Student Nurse; and Big Town Nurse) have earned either a B+ or a C, and this is definitely good enough to win the former mark.