Sunday, December 29, 2013

Rangeland Nurse

By Suzanne Roberts, ©1967

Trudi Dalton left the bluegrass country of Kentucky on a very special journey. On a sprawling ranch set in the deep purple mountains of the West, a little boy named Ricky was confined to a wheelchair. And the young nurse had come to take care of him Trudi soon discovered that her real problem was not in nursing the boy, rather it was in dealing with his father, widower Matt Frazier. For the handsome rancher’s bitterness and indifference to his son provoked Trudi’s fiery temper. Yet, unwillingly, she found herself falling in love with Matt Frazier. Faced with a terrible crisis that would affect all their lives, Trudi would be forced into a desperate gamble—if she succeeded, they could become a united family—and if she failed she would lose both Ricky and Matt forever…

GRADE: C-

BEST QUOTES:
“Men like girls with tempers, you know.”

“I learned long ago that you can’t sop a woman from doing what she wants to do. Oh—you can tie her up and maybe horse whip her, but if she doesn’t want to stay around, she isn’t going to.”

“I—I’m through making promises about what my talented, noble, sensitive doctor’s hands can do in surgery.”

REVIEW:
Rancher and widower Matt Frazier is not a nice man. He’s rude, bitter, distant, angry, “cold and mixed-up and yes even cruel.” He insists that his ten-year-old son, Ricky, confined to a wheelchair with myasthenia gravis, will be completely cured, though the chances of this are slim—and talks to Ricky “as if nothing else in this world was important, except that he be able to walk again. As if there would be no kind of life for him if he wasn’t made well.”

Naturally, Nurse Trudi Dalton, trucked out to the West to care for Ricky, instantly falls in love with this monster. Even at their first meeting, when he grabs her by the shoulders and shouts at her, “You’ll damned well do what I tell you to!” all she can think of is how “strangely exciting” are his fingers digging into her shoulders, of Matt’s “amazing power and charm.” Charm? Though she thinks that “falling in love with Matt Frazier would be a deadly, heartbreaking business. Might as well fall in love with a cobra,” it’s a short seven more pages before the dope is doing just that. Now, when Matt “barked orders at her, she merely nodded and obeyed.” Several times when he has actually fired her, she goes crawling to him, begging for her job back. It’s positively revolting.

Matt has hired San Francisco surgeon David Fielding to come to the ranch for two weeks to prepare Ricky for removal of his thymus gland, which might improve Ricky’s myasthenia gravis. While he’s in the neighborhood, David takes out Trudi and falls for her, and Trudi finds that “there was a wonderful kind of closeness between them. David was—security.” The surgery, when it finally comes to pass, is complicated by an unspecified problem with Ricky’s breathing that necessitates a tracheotomy, and somehow this means that the thymectomy is a failure, and that Ricky will not improve after the surgery. It also means that Trudi can’t marry David, because now Matt and Ricky will need her back at the ranch. Ricky certainly will, because now his father refuses to see him or speak to him. “My boy might as well be dead as live the kind of life he’s going to be living from now on,” he tells Trudi. “A lifelong cripple leading a dull, useless, futile life!” Thanks, Dad.

So when Matt leaves for a three-week business trip—without saying goodbye to his son, of course—Trudi cooks up a wild plan, to teach Ricky to ride the most dangerous, wild stallion on the ranch, the one who’s constantly kicking down the walls to his stall. It’s “a way to change a lot of things and make them better,” she tells Ricky. I’m not sure I follow the logic, but there it is. And I’m not going to be as patronizing as author Suzanne Roberts is and tell you how this all pans out, because you already know. The ending is as nauseating as such an insipid story deserves, is all I’ll say, and hope that you are persuaded to avoid this brainless novel altogether.

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