Saturday, April 13, 2024

Million Dollar Nurse

By Rebecca Marsh
(pseud. William Neubauer), ©1966
Cover illustration by Darrell Greene 

When pretty Dorothy Malloy left Buttrick Hospital to become wealthy Andrew Bossart’s private nurse, her orderly world changed overnight. Young and handsome, Andrew Bossart was recovering from an accidental gunshot wound. His reputation as a dangerous ladies’ man made some people wonder if the shot had been an accident after all … Despite Dorothy’s determination to remain uninvolved, she was too attractive a girl to escape Bossart’s attention—and too good a nurse to ignore the needs of her patient. Before long she found herself entangled in an unexpected mystery, a strange romantic triangle—and a scandal that would rock the city …


“There’s more to conversation than attractive legs.” 

“Even a hospital should be hospitable.”

“Like all career girls, you get flustered when someone behaves like you’re human.”

“I don’t think it helps a man’s innards when a bullet is shot into them.”

“There are proper and improper ways to go about achieving a desired object. You learn that quickly in surgery. You don’t incise down from the shoulder to remove an appendix. Similarly, you don’t club someone in order to reason with him.”

“In our special ways we’re all ill.”

Author William Neubauer, here writing as Rebecca Marsh, is one of my favorites. His plots are usually more intricate, and his heroines are smart, hard-working, sassy gals who put up with little nonsense. The problems with his books are that the romance part of the book is usually just crammed in around the margins, barely visible; the plots can sometimes get overly confusing; and the boyfriend is sometimes not especially desirable. Here he has done pretty well, as the plot is mostly navigable, but he did stick us with a middling man. At least we scored an amazing cover illustration.

Dorothy Malloy is a surgical nurse at Neubauer’s classic Buttrick Hospital—this noble, California coast–institution has hosted at least three other of his VNRNs (TV Nurse, Pam Green Rehabilitation Nurse, and Recovery Room Nurse) and some peripheral characters in this story (Dr Lee Vaughan, with whom Dorothy lunches one day, for example, is the alleged hero of TV Nurse) are stars in other books, which is a fun bonus for the die-hard Neubauer fan. She is an ambitious lass, hoping to be promoted to assistant chief—and her ambition is viewed with some skepticism around the hospital, because why would a woman want to be promoted?

Anyway, she’s called to special Andrew Mark Bossart, a devilishly handsome playboy who has gotten himself mixed up with Lisa Locatelli, a 17-year-old student nurse at Buttrick, as well as Catherine Cowell, the owner of a large corporation in town. The young gal swears Andy proposed to her, but then dumped her for the wealthy Catherine, so she calls Catherine to give her the down-low about Andy’s sneaky dealings, and then tries to kill herself—but is saved due to fast action on the part of her nursing school roommate. Catherine calls Andy over to her beach house—and the next we see him, he’s on the OR table with a bullet in his gut, and Dorothy is part of the team commissioned to dig it out and repair the damage.

She’s then transferred to the recovery ward unit (unfortunately we didn’t cross paths with Jane Kemp while we were there) to special Andy—but this puts her out of the running for a promotion, because “in the surgical suite she had status, even a type of seniority. Logically, the longer she remained there, the better her chances would be to make the jump to rank as a junior executive. But if she were popped into a recovery-room suite, she’d be the low girl in an area where promotions were few and far between.” The transfer is happening, we learn, because the chief of the surgical unit, Miss Sipsie, is dating Joe Elyot, an orthopedic tech, who is also seeing Dorothy, whom he might possibly prefer.

The head of the recovery room, Clara Dendrock, likewise recommends that Dorothy should be transferred to another department. Clara, it turns out, is upset that Dorothy didn’t sign a petition like all the other nurses opposing the expulsion of Lisa Locatelli, who has been deemed too unstable to go on with a nursing career. Dorothy has been one of Lisa’s chief mentors, so her “betrayal” of Lisa doesn’t sit well with the other nurses, but Dorothy is an astute player, and has already discussed her opinion that Lisa should be allowed to continue with Mrs. Dolezal, the superintendent of nurses, and feels that signing the petition might undercut her chances for promotion and won’t accomplish Lisa’s reinstatement.

Caring for Andy Bossart, Dorothy has a front-row seat to the drama. Though there is no proof that Catherine shot Andy—the gun has not been recovered, without which she apparently cannot be arrested—Andy, who’d been working a high-paying job ($25,000 a year!!!) at Catherine’s company is suing Catherine for a million dollars for loss of his career and, oh yeah, that hole in his gut. When he’s finally out of the hospital, he invites Dorothy to dinner to thank her for her hard work—but has also invited Catherine and the local newspaper columnist, Millicent Haight, to the party, and Catherine beans Dorothy on the head, giving her a black eye. This injury—plus her current political situation at the hospital—leads Mrs. Dolezal to give Dorothy two weeks off to recover, and Catherine, out of gratitude that Dorothy has not pressed charges, offers Catherine use of her beach cottage—the house where Andy was shot—to recover.

There she has lovely meals and walks on the grounds, sails on Catherine’s yacht, and pleasant conversations with Catherine’s housekeeper, who is another of the locals deeply devoted to Catherine—like Dorothy’s boyfriend, Joe Elyot, who was rescued from a life in the slums when Catherine, a high school classmate, offered to pay for his schooling to fit him for the job he currently holds.

Eventually all the threads are neatly tied up—the story of what happened to the gun, the alibi that is going to get Catherine off the hook for the shooting, Lisa’s reinstatement at the hospital, and Dorothy’s career—in a manner that is mostly understandable. We even wrap up Dorothy’s love life when she announces out of the blue—many Neubauer women have this annoying habit—that she is going to marry Joe. While we are certainly happy for almost everyone, and for Dorothy’s clever playing of her career and hospital politics, I wasn’t too please to see her end up with Joe.

Joe is clearly very devoted to Catherine out of gratitude for her help—to the extent that he helps fabricate her alibi and plant false evidence, basically abetting a felony assault—but he starts out the book as something of a cad, telling Dorothy on a date that he’d kissed Catherine once and dates other women, Miss Sipsie in particular. This hurts Dorothy’s feelings, so “he condescended to lean forward quickly and give her left cheek a greasy peck. As she drew back, flushing, he laughed.” It’s so amusing to be a jerk! Later he tells Dorothy that he’s chatted with several nurses who are upset with her about the petition business and that he’d defended her “because I like you,” but then complains that feeling like he wants to defend her can push him into marriage, and he doesn’t want to get married—and somehow Dorothy takes this for a compliment, but then gets mad when he tries to persuade her to sign the petition instead of supporting her decision. Next time we see him, he’s hanging out at the beach house with Dorothy and sighing that he should have tried to marry Catherine. Two pages after that, she decides to marry him while he’s not even present. So you see we don’t have a lot to admire in him.

Another odd thing about the book is that both Catherine and Andy end up getting inpatient psychiatric care—but Lisa, the would-be suicide who clearly needs it way more than anyone, does not. Instead, everyone refers to her suicide attempt as a “goof” that she shouldn’t be punished for. Overall, though, as I have said, this is a brisk, interesting, enjoyable book with an excellent heroine to admire. If William Neubauer here has not given us his best work, it's still better than most VNRNs out there, and easily worth an afternoon of your time.

Friday, March 22, 2024

The Nurse with the Silver Skates

By Virginia B. McDonnell, ©1964
Cover illustration by Lou Marchetti

Inga Larsen, showing a newborn babe to its father, a baby she had helped to deliver …Inga Larsen, soaring through the air on ice skates amid the gasps of thrilled spectators …
Which was she, student nurse or rink champion? And which was the right man for her? Scott Marshall, ice-skating master, idol of her childhood, or Dr. Thor Eriksen, whom she had secretly loved for three years? Inga Larsen just did not know, and both men were not making it any easier for her to find out!


One of my absolute least-favorite tropes is the nurse in love with a jerk. Here we have a Class-A example of Jerk Thor Eriksen, who has apparently never once been kind to Nurse Inga Larsen. “Thor Ericksen was the one man Inga could have loved deeply and personally and forever. It didn’t even matter that Thor Ericksen disliked her as a person.” How can that not matter? The man “bullies” her (Inga’s word), never has anything nice to say, and constantly criticizes her nursing ability and how she spends her free time (like it’s his business), and questions her dedication— “Perhaps if you knew a little less about skating you’d know more about nursing. The time you spend skating every day might be better used in studying,” he snaps—never mind that “the nursing staff considers you one of the top students”—because exercise is so bad for you! She understands that he’s way off base, at least, thinking, “Nursing’s a serious profession but you need relief for a few minutes each day. Otherwise you’d either become hardened to suffering or you’d be so torn up inside that you’d have no strength to give your patients.”

Anyway, right on page 10 she shows how wrong he is when she identifies a comatose patient as Scott Marshall, one of the best figure skaters in the world—she would know, because she’s a former junior national champion, coached by her father, but she gave up top-level skating to pursue nursing. Scott’s been in a car crash, and somehow landed at her tiny hospital in Wisconsin. Who is going to nurse him back from the edge of death?

Well, one morning when she utilizes the reflection pool in front of the hospital for a practice rink and is spotted by a local reporter. Now there’s a big article about her—somehow the press knows she’s the one who identified Scott—and she’s in hot water for bringing publicity to the hospital and making nurses look frivolous. Plus it puts a national spotlight on the fact that the doctors have not been able to bring Scott out of his coma! Curiously, after reaming her out for the article, the nursing supervisor makes her a special nurse for Scott, in the event that she can talk to him about skating and perk him up. “She just couldn’t win,” she thinks, and she is right.

She leaves her skates tied to the foot of Scott’s bed, talks to him of his past successes—and is “dreaming, just a little, of his opening his eyes, seeing her, falling in love with her? Wouldn’t it be the realization of a long buried wish?” But overnight Scott wakes up, sees the skates, and tries to slash his wrists with the blades. Now she’s in even more hot water, and off the Scott Larsen case—but the papers are now declaring that Inga and Scott are going to be married.

Meanwhile, Scott’s former skating partner, Cindy Meredith, calls Inga and asks for a meeting—she’s quit skating because she got married and her husband won’t let her work with Scott anymore because he’s “terribly jealous.” Honestly, the men in this book just make you want to become a nun. Scott wakes and asks for Inga—he’s paralyzed from the waist down, of course, though there’s no organic cause for his paralysis. So she’s back on Scott Larsen’s case, and trying to urge him to recover by talking about skating—and Thor again knocks her down, saying, “There’s not much point in your urging him to hope for that. If he can walk, that should suffice.” Then Scott starts moving his foot—and to celebrate he grabs Inga and kisses her. Then, with Inga to lean on, he is miraculously able to walk across the room!

Now he is bullying Inga, telling her, “If you walk out on me too I’ll wish I’d died back there in the crash. I can’t do it without you.” Inga, the dope, totally falls for it, thinking, “If she failed him now he might be lost for good.” So she takes a leave from nursing to become Scott’s skating partner, because he’s able to go from complete paralytic to a world-class skater with a woman who hasn’t skated except for fun in three years, with the aid of Inga’s father as their coach. She’s only in it out of obligation, and she is convinced that “a skating partnership would lead almost inevitably to another more permanent alliance.” It doesn’t take much to push these people into marriage, it seems.

The morning of the Sectionals competition—two weeks after they started practicing together—Inga’s dad tells them their skating lacks joy, so Scott proposes, and Inga agrees, because “I can help him, I can give him his heart’s desire, the championship. I have already given him back his reason for living. If I can help him that much I can love him.” Sure! Guess what—they win sectionals, and now they’re on to the Nationals and the Olympics—and there’s a guy from Hollywood offering a movie contract! But every now and then she stops and thinks, “She had only agreed to compete this one time. No one listened to her.” But she agrees to a test film—a live television event—on the reflecting pool in front of the hospital, which will be a benefit event for the hospital as well. She and Scott are giving the performance of their lives when Inga gets a phone call from Thor. He’s across the lake, and needs surgery supplies to perform a C-section or the mother and baby will die, and she’s—get this—the only person in an entire small town in Wisconsin who can skate the supplies over and assist in the surgery.

The ending is pretty much a foregone conclusion, with Thor being kind to Inga for the first time in 120 pages, giving the pair exactly 6½ pages to kiss, get engaged, and save Inga’s career as a nurse and the hospital to boot. The whole story is absurdly riddled with implausibilities—but the worst of it is how Inga time and again subverts her own feelings for everyone else’s. It’s hard to imagine how a woman at the top of her nursing school class can be so amazingly dumb, and how she can be in love with an ass like Thor. The descriptions of skating are beautiful—the only reason to consider reading this book—but at the end, it’s just not enough. Leave these skates hanging in the closet.


Saturday, March 9, 2024

Hurricane Nurse

By Joan Sargent
(pseud. Sara Jenkins Cunningham), ©1962 

A hurricane in Miami draws a cautiously mixed assemblage to the Flamingo Elementary School for shelter. Among them are: Donna Ledbury, red-haired school nurse, the current girlfriend of the school principal. Hank Fincher, who, according to the school grapevine, had a new girl each year, and who had just jilted Mary Hendley, first-grade teacher, who still carried a torch for Hank; Cliff Warrender, a “gangster” lawyer in Donna’s opinion, but whose worse fault was in defending the oppressed whether they were in the right or not; Melissa and Jack Hartson, whose first baby was destined to be born in the cafeteria of the school, with the aid of Donna and Baby LaRue, an ex-strip-teaser, now in her seventies, who welcomed the hurricane season as a relief from the humdrum of life; Old Dr. and Mrs. Ward, gentle people whose greatest fear was of dying and leaving the other alone—a fear that was never to be realized because of the hurricane; Dusty Hosey and his leather-coated gang of teen-agers, who came looking for trouble, but found their match—and incidentally, friends—in the school nurse and Cliff Warrender. There were others, of course, at the schoolhouse during those three days of the storm, but how the lives of these people were changed by a cataclysm of nature makes an exciting and intensely human nurse story.


“You’re polite enough for a divorced couple meeting for the first time in public.” 

“Nothing draws two people together like a common dislike.”

“Wouldn’t it be painful to be the complete lady all the time?”

“New lipstick had made the menace of the storm seem less imminent.”

“Even if you haven’t been here but a month, surely you have heard of hurricane parties? They’re one of the nicest features of our fair city.”

You’d think a major hurricane bearing down on a school full of frightened Floridians would make for an interesting book. Though there are quite a few adventures in this Hurricane Nurse (see also Peggy Gaddis’ version with the same title), unfortunately the story dwells mostly in stupidity—and the primary sinner unfortunately is our heroine, Donna Ledbury. She is a 22-year-old school nurse about to experience her first hurricane, which she did not realize means that she has to ride out the storm at the school with whatever refugees show up, though that seems an important part of a job description to neglect to mention to your new hiree. She’s not alone, though; principal Henry Fincher is there to lend a hand. He’s a rather hot guy, and the pair have dated a few times—and “she liked Hank. She always had fun when they went out together. But was that love?” Well, a hurricane is certainly just the ticket to help her figure it out!

So off she goes to the high school, unfortunately accompanied by Cliff Warrender. “He was a lawyer, not the sort of lawyer she wanted to know. ‘A mouthpiece’ they called his sort in gangster novels. He had got Genio (the Ox) Alcotti off from a bookie charge. She didn’t want to be friendly with Cliff Warrender.” She’s even scornful of the fact that he is well dressed, though “there was nothing garish about him.” The problem with him in my view is that he comes on too strong, constantly saying things like, “This is my girl, but she hasn’t caught onto it yet,” adding that he’s going to win her over despite her prejudices. She snaps back, for some strange reason, “If you are implying that red-haired girls are man-crazy—”. But Cliff just helps her into the car and off they go to the market where he purchases lots of helpful supplies, and everyone greets him like he’s their best friend. But she’s angry that he’s going to defend a woman who was arrested for shoplifting, even though the woman told him she did it. “She was disgusted with him,” we are told, but the sad part is that Cliff never is allowed to explain to this moron what defense attorneys do, that they are there to keep the system honest and keep people from being given unfair sentences if they are convicted. So her prejudice against his occupation is never dealt with in any satisfactory way, just swept under the rug.

Over at the high school, people show up—even after the hours after which the staff is supposed to turn away anyone seeking shelter, like that’s a good idea? There’s a 90-something couple married for 65 years, each expressing privately to Donna that they can’t imagine how the other will survive after the other dies. There’s a gang of “smart alec” “young squirts,” initially sassy to Donna, but quickly brought in check by Cliff, before he takes off on a run to the hospital to obtain medical supplies that Donna never thought to bring. Baby Larue, a 70-year-old former stripper, shows up in a tiny dress and three-inch stilettos, and carrying her mangy parrot, which Donna stuffs in a locker in the dispensary and promptly forgets about.

Once the storm gets underway, the hijinks ensue! A bunch of middle-aged men show up with cards and whisky, and spend about two solid days gambling, only to take a break for a knife fight, which Donna treats with a tourniquet. Later Donna hears loud voices in the hall and “resolved to do nothing about it.” It turns out it’s a married couple and the husband is beating the wife. With a crowd watching, the man “hit her with his fist with force enough to lift her from her feet. She fell several feet away, whimpering, accusing, begging somebody, anybody, to save her from being killed. None made a move. They only stood.” When Hank finally steps in and is knocked unconscious, Donna, too, just stands and watches. “She did not move to Hank’s side”; only Hank’s wannabe girlfriend comes to his aid. Which is appropriate for a woman who’s always saying that she’s not allowed to do anything unless a doctor tells her, but still!

Then one of the women staying there is robbed of $100, and one of the male refugees is found to have given the kids marijuana. But Donna, now back in her manic phase, insists that everything is fine: “We haven’t had any crime, not really,” she insists, “still argumentative.” “And we haven’t had a death,” she adds—but she should be careful what she wishes for, because while having cake with the old couple, a palm frond comes flying through the window and whacks the old lady on the head, killing her instantly—and her husband has a fatal heart attack at exactly the same instant. Donna’s first words after this calamity, interestingly, are, “I’m glad,” because now they won’t have to be alone. Awww.

You will not be surprised to learn that as soon as the lights go out, though, Donna falls apart. Her hands start trembling, and she’s convinced that everyone in the place is going to die, especially a young woman in labor who can’t walk from one building to another, yet is “pacing up and down, flinging her arms about wildly, moaning and muttering” during her contractions, wailing, “Why doesn’t my mother come? She would stop all this hurting. I want my mother.” Donna is equally helpless: “She had a sudden picture of the girl dying because she was inept, because she was ignorant, because it was dark.” Soon it’s “time for her to grow more nervous, to feel more helpless.” As Cliff heads off to let her deliver the baby in peace, she’s “fighting off the desire to cling to his arm, to beg him not to leave her alone with the responsibility that was hers.” Everyone really needs to pull themselves together! But Baby Larue shows up with some whiskey, gets the mother-to-be drunk—with Donna’s permission—and stays to help, proving to be of far more worth than Donna: “Baby had a good deal of practical experience with the work in hand. And best of all, she remained self-confident and cheerful.” In the next sentence, the baby is born, and now Donna starts worrying that the baby is being held by too many germy people. “I do hope she’ll stay well. We haven’t been able to keep her in sterile places, and she’s already been handled by unsterile people.”

Now one of the young kids in the place gets sick, and Donna promptly starts obessing again: “She fervently prayed that it would not turn out to be acute appendicitis, with an operation indicated.” Guess what? It’s not! But what is it? “Polio? Scarlet fever?” As more of the kids start dropping with the same symptoms, she spends literally two days worrying about what it might be—until the first kid gets a scarlet rash, and now she’s so relieved, because it’s just measles! Even though most of them have gotten their vaccinations!

Between caring for sick kids, she’s starting to flirt more with Cliff, who again and again proves himself to be useful and reliable. But “she didn’t believe that Cliff was the man for her. She honestly couldn’t approve of his idea of the practice of law. He spent most of his time defending criminals. The right sort of lawyer would defend the law, not support those who broke it.” Then, in a very bizarre scene, Donna joins the teenagers dancing in the gym and completely loses control while dancing with one of the hoodlums. When the dance stops, “she saw disapproval in hard adult faces,” and she’s pretty much shunned—Principal Hank even suggests that she may lose her job after such a shocking loss of decorum. “She had made a spectacle of herself. She felt shamed by the scorn of the older faces,” and for the rest of the book she’s apologizing for disgracing herself and the school. But what she’s really upset about is that Cliff had gone off to talk to another woman while Donna was dancing, giving her “a feeling of being lost in the great reaches of the universe, as lost as a child who knows not where to go. Somehow it was in the midst of that feeling of being lost that she knew she was in love with Cliff Warrender.” But wait! Two sentences later, “I can’t be in love with him. I have more sense than to get a crush on a stranger. Even a crush. Certainly I wouldn’t fall in love with one.”

Again and again while reading this book I was overcome with the desire to slap Nurse Donna Ledbury silly. She is badly trained and without the disposition to be caring for a complex group of refugees with few supplies and even less sense; she’s frequently telling everyone that she does not have the authority to dispense medicines, bandage wounds or practice any kind of medicine apart from taking temperatures—but she can’t sterilize the thermometers, so there’s only so many times she can do that. “Nurses don’t give whiskey to patients except on order from a doctor,” she says, after she’s already gotten the mother-to-be drunk. She is a complete disaster as a nurse and as a human being, and I could only feel pity for the man she ended up with. I don’t want to have to pity you, too, so take my advice and run for shelter if you happen to encounter this appallingly awful Hurricane Nurse.


Monday, March 4, 2024

Doctor’s Nurse

By Jennifer Ames
Maysie Sopoushek), ©1959
Cover illustration by O. Whitlock 

She promised not to marry … that was the condition on which Gail Stewart went with Dr. Grant Raeburn’s research unit to Hong Kong. Gail was as pretty a nurse as you could hope to see and Grant made her promise if she joined his staff not to marry for two years. That seemed easy for Gail loved Grant—and he never even noticed Gail as a woman! But when she met Brett Dyson in Hong Kong—well, things took on a very different hue …


“All men know whether or not they’re good looking, though they pretend they don’t.” 

Poor Nurse Gail Stewart is the victim of so many nurse novel tropes! She’s an orphan—her parents died in a war camp in Hong Kong when Gail was six, she herself having been packed off just in the nick of time back to Britain—and she is smitten with her boss, Dr. Grant Raeburn, who is one of those cool, aloof, driven men who has never looked at a woman in his life (is he gay or just autistic?) and is not especially kind to his staff; he is described as a “withdrawn and unsympathetic” “martinet” who “drove his staff hard, almost ruthlessly.” But he’s cute, so that’s OK! 

He is off to Hong Kong to do research for two years and has asked his office team to come along. There’s Dr. Bobby Gordon, the usual foil who is hopelessly in love with Gail and has absolutely no hope of ever being loved in return, and Mildred Harris, a plain spinster who types and is passionately in love with Dr. Raeburn. Gail is asked to come along, but she has to agree to a special rider on her contract: She is not to marry for two years, because apparently if a woman gets married she is no longer able to work. But it’s not a problem for her to make this agreement because “the only man she had ever dreamt of or contemplated marrying was himself.”

So off she goes to Hong Kong with a secret agenda stowed safely in the hidden compartment of her attaché case: She’s going to track down the man who betrayed her parents, who had gotten them locked up in that prison camp where they died, and the rat fink had stolen dad’s lucrative business to boot! “She had to make this man pay,” she decides, though she does not know who he is or even the name of her father’s business, and it was 16 years ago that all this betrayal transpired. But sweet revenge will be hers: She vows, “I’ll kill him with my bare hands!”

So off she goes, delayed by a month because her aunt gets sick, and meets a cute but lazy rich boy on the plane, Brett Dyson. He is going to Hong Kong with the intention of not working for his godfather, Tom Manning, as much as possible, and to marry a rich heiress. He is, in short, the antithesis of everything she believes in, and of course “She disliked him intensely.” But then, bizarrely, her plane crashes in Persia, and she spends a night delivering first aid while Brett very uncharacteristically acts as her capable assistant—and as the sun rises, she passes out and he carries her behind a rock and makes out with her when she wakes up and tells her that he’s falling in love with her because he’s so impressed with her strength and skill and stamina. Naturally he spends the rest of the book trying to bully and dominate her, insisting that she go out on this date or that drive and that she marry him immediately.

She, however, remains committed to Dr. Grant and her work with him, and of course to her plot for revenge! Even though she is “strangely drawn” to Brett and his kisses, she does ask herself lots of questions about whether it’s love or lust (Gail asks herself a LOT of questions). And though Grant tries to express an interest in Gail and takes her out to dinner, she allows herself to be dragged off by Brett, whom they naturally meet in the restaurant, and swoons over his rudeness: “She knew Grant didn’t like it, but for the moment she didn’t care. Her heart was singing; she was strangely, almost unbearably happy. ‘Is this love?’ she wondered,” even though she had just been thinking, after the doctor asks her to call him by his first name, that “intimate friendship seemed natural, love was a beckoning shadow lurking just around every corner.” Her behavior on this first date does cool Grant’s ardor noticeably, and he asks her if her penchant for late-night parties is going to impact her ability to do her job well. “She felt they were no longer friends—almost they were enemies,” and cries herself to sleep, but then goes out with Brett almost every night, even oversleeping one morning and angrily deciding that Grant’s insistence she not marry is unfair. Gail is, in short, an erratic, unstable character.

Butspeaking of erratic, unstable charactersout on a deserted island one afternoon with Brett, he presses her yet again to marry him, and when she refuses him, he takes off in the boat and leaves her there. She takes a nap in a cave while waiting for him to return, and when she wakes up, she is trapped by the tide—the waves eventually lapping at her knees while she clings to a cliff—until her screams attract the attention of a fisherman who takes her back to Brett’s godfather’s house, where she is tucked into bed for days, and one gets the impression that Godfather has no intention of letting her leave. But on the third day she’s home alone and heads off for the phone in his office, and while rummaging in his desk for a phone book, she comes across a large pile of passports. What could this be about?

Though she might have been drowned by Brett’s alarming stunt, Gail promptly forgives him—“Why should she hold this against Brett?” Ummm, because he almost killed you when you refused to be bullied by him?—and continues dating him. Now Gail decides she’s going to buckle down and find out what happened to her parents, so she goes around asking everyone at Godfather’s cocktail parties if they knew who killed her parents—it’s kind of a mood-killer, actually—and soon everyone is telling her that she’s in danger and she’s feeling uneasy all the time.

Dr. Grant, meanwhile, apologizes to Gail, telling her that he grew up poor and had to work two jobs to get through medical school, so he doesn’t know how to relax, and asks her for another date. He eventually tells her he’s thinking of leaving Hong Kong because his boss is thwarting all his research efforts, and he thinks his work is being stolen for other governments. Suddenly Gail realizes—and you will be stunned to hear this—that she’s in love with Grant, “something she hadn’t realized. She knew now that deep down within her she had been in love with Grant for a very long time.” Right, since that time it occurred to her on page 8.

Now we have only to clear up the mystery of who is the murderer—and since the list of suspects includes only three people, it doesn’t take long—Gail connecting some extremely tenuous plot points in order to do so, but leaving a larger number of mysteries for us to puzzle over once everything has been “resolved.” If Godfather Tom is already rich, why is he fencing passports? Why does she instantly abandon her life-long plan for revenge, not even pressing charges since he’s done a few nice things in his past, and is suddenly declaring he has been planning to return the company to her anyway—sure he was!—and even forgiving him, which she sees as somehow a prerequisite for her continuing to be friends with Brett—though it’s not clear why she wants to be friends with Brett at all.

Logic and common sense are not widely employed in this book, which left me mostly irritated with heroine Gail for being such a wimpy, gullible victim who all but begs for the bad guys to come bludgeon her over the head. Gail’s adversarial relationship with the secretary Mildred is a cheap, unfortunate side note, as the desperate spinster is too blatantly mean, when her legitimate feelings of jealousy toward the beautiful, popular Gail could have been explored with more interest if the pair had actually been friends. (And there’s a creepy twist at the end when Mildred starts dating Grant’s evil boss and is seen staggering out of a restaurant with him: “What had Dr. Kalavitch given her to drink? And to what purpose?” Even enemies don’t let other women get date raped.) The food and scenery in Hong Kong are beautifully and lovingly depicted, but the few Asian characters in the book are not drawn without prejudice, and Hong Kong is described as a city with a veneer of civility but “there are innumerable rackets; gangsters in high positions—gangsters who would stop at nothing, not even murder.” So it’s another contribution from the White Doctor Foundation from me. I had high hopes for another book by Maysie Sopoushek after her fabulous Doctor’s Wife, but Doctor’s Nurse was a profound disappointment in virtually all respects, and I will approach her next book with a bit less of Nurse Gail’s wide-eyed innocence.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Navy Nurse

By Virginia McCall, ©1968 

Lieut. Tracy Moore is shocked to discover that on her first sea assignment she is the only nurse aboard a naval transport sailing to the Far East. Trouble starts happening in sick bay immediately. Several emergencies—including an operation for appendicitis during a typhoon—test Tracy’s skill to its fullest. Tested too is Tracy’s love for Dick Simpson, the biologist she left behind. For on shipboard she meets and is attracted to handsome Lieut. Wade Cochran, who makes no secret of the fact that he is falling in love with her. With her superior officers watching her professional performance carefully, and Dick waiting for her answer back in port, Tracy knows that this voyage will determine her future as a Navy nurse—and as a woman.


“Sukiyaki and kimonos—and no Dick, she thought, with a sudden foretaste of loneliness. She would be leaving Dick behind.” 

Tracy Moore is a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, and a nurse stationed in the Oakland hills, when she gets orders that she is going to be shipping out soon. Tracy has been seeing Dick Simpson, who appears to be a graduate student at U.C. Berkeley studying migratory birds, but their relationship seems to be foundering. When they’re together, Dick can only talk about birds, and he certainly never talks about getting married! He even makes Tracy late for an important Navy appointment—and spatters her beautiful dress uniform with unsightly gunk!—when he abruptly pulls over on the Bay Bridge and wades into the muck of the bay to rescue a loon encased in oil. “Not that she was willing to admit that she was falling in love with Dick!” Well, she certainly doesn’t act like it. But her young man’s name does make for amused chuckles, such as when reading the line, “In the back of her mind she was constantly thinking of Dick.” So juvenile, but there it is.

She’s attached to a transport vessel, which seems mostly like a sort of Navy-sponsored Carnival cruise line in which hundreds of women and children are shuttled from one side of the Pacific Ocean to the other; there’s even an officer in charge of scheduling movies and activities and entertainments for the passengers. Tracy’s job is mostly to keep their tummies soothed when the waves get choppy, plus manage anything else that might come in. And a few emergencies do; there’s a bleeding ulcer that receives more than a dozen units of blood (pumped from the blood bank of sailors also being ferried on the ship) and one cute 19-year-old who gets an appendectomy during a typhoon, but apart from “tying everything down” (not sure how one ties down sterile instruments), even that back-cover-worthy event passes without much ado.

Onboard ship she is attracted to the only single male officer, Wade Cameron, who is a smooth and unfathomably handsome man who pays her some passing attention but doesn’t seem especially interested—at least until the end of the cruise, when he starts hanging around in her group more frequently. And so with little plot or interest we arrive at the end of the voyage, when Wade is telling her that he has something important to discuss with her. But when Tracy calls home to talk with Dick and he is out with her roommate, that is all that she needs after months apart to come to her senses! “I’m in love with Dick,” she realizes, after having given him little or no thought except exasperation at his letters, which blather on about ducks and other waterfowl. Now all she needs to do is head Wade off at the pass, but he wasn’t really interested in her anyway, because he only wanted to ask her if “a confirmed bachelor has any right to allow himself serious attentions when he’s off to Vietnam. You’ve relieved my mind,” he tells her when she mentions her boyfriend, so I guess he wasn’t that smitten after all. Back in port, she has only to sort out her future with Dick in four days before she hits the sea again, but it doesn’t even take that long, as he presents her with a “modest” diamond ring.

The best thing that can be said about this, the fourth book titled Navy Nurse I have read (see also Navy Nurse, Navy Nurse and Navy Nurse), is that the Navy jargon is not so thick that you can’t understand what the heck they are talking about. The plot is ho-hum, Tracy as a main character is kind of paradoxical—flying into rages and shouting at people out of the blue while displaying little gumption or backbone apart from creating a first aid kit that the U.S. Navy should have come up with on their own decades ago, and demonstrating little to no interest in her boyfriend until she thinks she may be about to lose him. One of the best parts of the book is the descriptions of the drive from Berkeley to San Francisco along the mud flats of the bay—one I have made many times and which felt very nostalgic to me. The descriptions of the Asian ports did not veer into stupid racism the way may of VNRNs do, though they do take a very American view of those countries—sukiyaki and kimonos is all she can picture when she imagines Japan—so the armchair travel is limited here. In short, it’s not all bad, but it’s fairly blah. The C-grade book, I have said before, is the worst kind—neither cold nor hot—and so I suggest that unless you have a burning interest in the 1960s Navy, you should leave this one on the shelf—and the cover illustration should make that choice easier.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Navy Nurse

By Adelaide Humphries, ©1954

Ensign Dorothy Phillips was beautiful; life was beautiful; her work was wonderful; and everything was right with her world—until the day, her arms laden with bundles for the Chief Nurse’s surprise birthday party, she was almost run down by a carload of brash young Air Corps officers. An impudent apology, yelled by a handsome lieutenant, was the crowning insult. Then the lieutenant appeared unannounced at the party—revealing himself as Lieutenant Keith Cameron Townsend, and the dour Chief Nurse’s nephew, no less! The fact that Dorothy was engaged didn’t mean a thing to Keith. The more she snubbed him, the more persistent he became. It takes a battle at sea—and all the suffering connected with it—for the ensign to realize that love and hate are often akin.


“Oh, you know a kiss or so doesn’t mean anything. At least most people don’t think it does in this progressive age.” 

Author Adelaide Humphries, who has previously given us two A-grade novels (Nurse Landon’s Challenge and The Nurse Knows Best), here has achieved a truly remarkable feat: She has written a novel in which not a single one of the five leading characters is a likable individual. One might wonder why you might want to write a book about spoiled, selfish, inconsiderate people—and a skilled writer might even craft a thought-provoking, Pulitzer Prize–winning epic from such a cast—but alas, here we are just left to grit our teeth and endure through to the end—or just toss the stupid book aside and move on to something better. I advise the latter. 

Let’s start with leading lady Ensign Dorothy Phillips. She is the most gorgeous woman in the entire world, somehow made even more dazzling by her uniform: “Ensign Phillips had features and skin a poster-girl could never have surpassed,” so “when a beautiful girl like Ensign Phillips donned her Navy nurse’s uniform, wolf whistles were the order of the day.” Oh, boy! When the book opens, she is on the sidewalk, carrying purchases for an upcoming party, when a car overflowing with Air Corpsmen whizzes around the corner. She’s pulled back from stepping into the street, knocking her packages askew and somehow keeping her from getting run over though she was never actually in the street, and one of the men in the car leans his whole torso out the window, shouts something unintelligible and waves his arms above his head—it actually seems as if his life was more at risk in this incident than Dorothy’s. These brief seconds leave her “with an impression of laughing black eyes, a flash of white teeth in a tanned, handsome face—and a burning sensation around her heart.” Yes, she’s in love already, and this is why she is overwhelmed with a relentless, obsessive hatred for the young man.

The fellow who had kept her from stepping into the street, Charles Henry Hale, who unfortunately chooses to be called Skid, is the closest we have to a decent human. As a first-class gunner’s mate, he is outranked by Dorothy, a fact that is made much of, and Dorothy’s condescension to even speak to such a lowly creature is treated with great admiration. Don’t worry, though, she is ultimately extraordinarily cruel to the respectful young man, who kindly and humbly helps Dorothy with her packages and carries them back to the launch for her (she is stationed in a hospital ship off the coast of San Diego). He hopefully suggests they have coffee, though noting the invitation is “entirely too brassy,” but Dorothy condescends to accept, after first having berated him for causing her to drop her packages.

During coffee, Dorothy decides that Skid is a “darned nice boy,” and he, of course, falls immediately in love with her and asks to see her again. “Dorothy despised anything that hinted of snobbery,” we are told, so she immediately wades into it, thinking, “An enlisted man couldn’t get seriously involved with a Navy officer. It would lead to all kinds of gossip, and no telling what it might lead to.” The only reason she decides to agree to see him again is that she spots that darned guy who almost fell out of the car that didn’t hit her, and becomes furious that he seems to be laughing at her, so she “deliberately turned her back on him” and gives Skid an overly enthusiastic wave and shouts that she’ll see the poor dope next week!

The party she is helping to plan is a surprise birthday party for Chief Nurse Capt. Nettie Leonard, the quintessential gray-haired spinster martinet, and who should turn up at it but that darned guy again, who is revealed as Capt. Leonard’s nephew, Lt. Keith Cameron Townsend (the two male leads both absurdly have middle names)! Darn the luck, her entire day is ruined! At the party Dorothy’s flirtatious and backstabbing roommate, Micky, flings herself at Keith, scorching her own boyfriend in the process, but Keith manages to grab Dorothy and tell her that he will win her, “no matter what or how long it takes,” because all women find stalkers irresistible! And when Keith crashes her next date with Skid, Dorothy takes her revenge on Keith by telling him that the pair have known each other since childhood and that they are engaged. “She felt good. She was glad she had told that big fib. She would whiten it by explaining later on to Skid, although she didn’t know just what her explanation would be.” This is the same woman who, “besides believing that the best policy was to stick to the truth,  believed that when a person gave his word to someone else he should do his level best to live up to it.” Lets see how honest Dorothy is going to play this out.

So having gotten herself into one bad situation, she now plans to make it worse: “It looked more and more as though there was nothing she could do except try to make this trumped-up betrothal authentic,” because the honorable thing to do is to marry a man you’ve just met to spite someone else. Dorothy also promises Micky’s boyfriend, Dr. Tommy Simms, that she will keep Keith away from Micky, though this goes completely contrary to her life’s purpose of never speaking to that horrid man again. It doesn’t exactly work, as Keith presses her and Skid into double dating with him and Micky on a regular basis—though, out one evening celebrating their engagement, Dorothy dances with Keith and discovers “one dance had made all the difference in the world,” because Keith kisses her and tells her that he is in love with her—and that “you’ve got a lot to learn, Dorothy. But you will.” So the next scene finds Dorothy admitting to Skid that she does not love him, but that she’ll agree to get married if he wants to. Ugh!!

When word gets out that Dorothy is engaged to Skid, however, the chief nurse becomes unprofessionally hostile and assigns Dorothy to night duty out of spite, and then calls a staff meeting in which “everyone present agreed that it was a mistake for an ensign in the Navy to become engaged to, or even go with, an enlisted man.” Now nothing can possibly save Dorothy from this horrible situation—except a really big sea battle! So off her ship chugs, following the battleships into war—I’m not exactly certain which war we’re supposed to be fighting—and on the eve of the big battle, Skid sends Dorothy a “beautiful” letter in which he tells her that he loves her because “she was so sincere, the kind of girl a fellow would be proud to take home to show off to the home folks.” Clearly this man barely knows herand her true character is again revealed by her reaction, which is not remorse or shame, but rather “fatality”—and then she hopes that she’ll get a letter from Keith. But when she hears Keith has survived the battle, she’s remembering “his pride, that masculine ego of which he had more than the average share. His pride would demand that he, an officer, must never give up trying to win a girl away from an ordinary enlisted man.” That jerk!

Soon Skid turns up on the medical ship, one of the worst burn cases in a coma for days, his chances of survival a hundred to one, and “it will take plastic surgery to restore that burned face.” Dorothy tells him with tears and kisses to get well, that they’ll be married as soon as he’s better, but “Skid knows Dottie doesn’t love him. He probably knows she feels sorry for him and so is willing to make the best of a bad bargain.” And so he does the decent thing, committing suicide by willpower and dying in his sleep, because “if a fellow wants to die—well, nothing any doctor, or anyone else, can do will help him,” declares Dr. Tommy Simms. “He had the courage to die—because he wanted you to be happy,” adds Micky. Dorothy replies, “It makes me feel almost as though, instead of helping him, I had caused Skid’s death.” Probably her first honest thought—and her last, as without another thought to her likely role in manslaughter, she steps off the ship to “where she belonged—in a certain handsome young lieutenant’s arms.”

There is not one admirable quality in Dorothy, her manic roommate Micky, or the egotistical and domineering Keith, and not much better in the vindictive chief nurse, or even Skid, who is self-sacrificial to the ultimate degree. Dorothy’s stint in the Navy makes it look like a casual weekend gig, and her commitment is definitely wanting; early on she confesses that she’s not sure why she joined the Navy since she has a deep-seated phobia of water, gets seasick easily, can’t remember all the darned rules and regulations, and after six months she still cannot get the hang of military time! But she gets excellent training in the Navy, and she doesn’t have to work very hard—“a navy Nurse’s duties are much lighter nowadays; they’re mostly supervisory.” Interestingly, it is suggested that if she were to marry, she would just resign her post. I’m not sure how that could ever have been a thing, because my impression of the military is that it’s not an optional sort of arrangement. This book, however, is optional for you, and so I recommend that you forego it, and instead try the much more interesting Navy Nurse penned by one of my favorite authors, Rosie M. Banks—it’ll be much smoother sailing.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Nurse March

By William Neubauer, ©1957

Dawn March had her future all planned—she would marry handsome Dr. Ken Jones and they would settle in the little seacoast community that she loved and build a happy and beautiful life together. But Dawn hadn’t figured on a couple of interferences that became substantial obstacles to the realization of her dream. The first was Ken himself. There was a side of his nature that Dawn was slow to recognize, that shocked her when she did. Ken fancied himself a big-time success, and his impatient ambition was such that it left little room for the kind of life that Dawn had hoped they would share. Another was the entrance of Mrs. Clara Royce, a divorcee of great wealth, considerable beauty and no scruples whatsoever. Clara Royce offered Ken the fulfillment of his dreams—and a short-cut to the success he craved. Dawn began to realize that even the best-made plans of bright young nurses can sometimes get pretty well upset!


“Oh, I know you young girls. You simply refuse to eat proper meals and sleep proper hours. Dash here, dash there, hurt this young man, hurt that young man, call the district attorney a liar, call the newspapers liars, and go careering on your way straight to a nervous breakdown.” 

“What you ought to do is marry me while you still have something to offer.”

“I ought to break a leg. That would interest you, wouldn’t it?”

“A girl so lovely, so obviously decent and well-intentioned, ought to have been married long before this. What had happened? What was her problem?”

“Lovely women aren’t often interested in business.”

“I’m told a woman never quite forgets her first husband.”

Faithful readers will know that I am a big fan of Bill Neubauer, a truly interesting individual (check out his biography) and the author of about 20 nurse novels (this is the 11th book of his I have read). With Nurse March, he again proves he is capable of a meatier book than most authors, imbuing his story with multiple plot threads that, even if they don’t all easily weave together to create a cohesive whole, nonetheless make for a more interesting read than the usual VNRN. 

Nurse Dawn March is a 24-year-old visiting nurse who provides free care to the residents of Port West, a seacoast California town. She has a “sense of duty that had always kept her moving along and had earned her the reputation, at least in certain quarters, of being a girl dedicated wholeheartedly to her career.” As part of her duties, she is sent to the shack of Dan Colby, an artist who lives at the town dump, who is diagnosed with a fractured patella. He is receiving a monthly stipend from a local business magnate who fancies himself a patron of the arts, which allows him to concentrate on his painting without needing to waste all that time earning a living or even selling the paintings he produces.

Dawn does not  agree with this arrangement and has it out with Dan who, for his part, explains that he doesn’t like to sell his work because “the subjects mean a great deal to me. Or perhaps because expression of any kind is too personal a thing to sell.” She argues with him about it, and he tells her he’s not interested in compromise, which would force him “to paint pretty birds that aren’t birds at all, to paint the sea as it never is, but the way some editor thinks it ought to be.” Ultimately he decides, “She had the same sort of mind that his father had. Bend to the storm! Sell your heart’s blood, if necessary, to provide material comforts for the rest of your body! And live, therefore, without dignity, without meaning!”

Unfortunately, when Dawn finds out that Dan has turned down several offers of work—selling his art to a gallery, accepting commissions from magazines to create artwork for a magazine—she feels it’s her job to make him change his ways. She starts by telling him he’s a bum in a rut, but he responds, “It sems to me that I have a pleasant existence, one with considerable point. I paint. I work very hard to learn what I need to know. I grow. Now what precisely is wrong with all that? Perhaps in another society there would be room for people who like to paint.” Its not a bad point.

Appallingly, she takes it upon herself to meet with Dan’s benefactor, Mr. Patton, and convince him that he’s ruining Dan’s life by supporting him. Though several art critics have stated that Dan has a lot of talent, she declares that Dan is not gifted or even working on improving his art. She tells Mr. Patton that Dan works “only as it suits him to, and when it suits him to. And he does not learn, and he therefore does not progress, because the only work he does is the work he chooses to do in the way he chooses to do it. That isn’t the way to develop.” Which is ironic, because we have witnessed Dan fielding criticism that the feathers of a painting of a seagull were overdone, and he appraises his work and finds that the evaluation was true, and decides to alter his technique.

It seems Dawn’s biggest complaint is that Dan is receiving the charity of the city through her nursing visits while not contributing to society by earning a living. She misses the point that Dan is in fact being paid to paint, whether he offers a canvas in exchange for the money or not, and its not her call as to whether the exchange is worthwhile. “I simply think he must learn the same things we all learn—that is, to earn our living while we’re also preparing ourselves to do the sort of work we want to do. He owes it to himself and to the community to accept the commissions he’s offered. He’s had free medical care and nursing care. To that degree he’s certainly obligated to the county and to the community.” When Mr. Patton offers to pay for Dan’s medical care, she turns it down, telling Mr. Patton that his patronage is turning Dan “into a bum.” Unfortunately, she prevails, and Mr. Patton cuts Dan off. She smugly decides, “She’d at last managed to do Dan some real good.” God forbid anyone else she decides to “help”!

In her personal life, Dawn is also on the wrong tack. She’s hopelessly smitten with dentist Ken Jones, who is essentially just a pretty face. He’s been dating Dawn but doesn’t bother to remember the anniversary of their first date; it’s his kind and generous sister Hattie who invites Dawn to dinner at her and Ken’s house to mark the occasion. Curiously, though, when Ken expresses a desire to open a chain of dentistry offices throughout Southern California and in so doing reap large profits, with the investment of Clara Royce to back him, Dawn is outraged. “I think you should work as my father works, for something other than purely personal gain.” She’s convinced that Clara’s attentions have given him too much ambition: “Much of this big talk hadn’t been hatched in the mind of Ken Jones. Just a month ago, he’d been happily talking about the pleasure he found in living and working in Port West. Then, quite suddenly, here he was talking in grandiose terms and dreaming grandiose dreams.” So she dislikes one mans lack of ambition but also decries what she feels is too much in another. Apparently Ken is not impressed with meddling women either; ultimately he nakedly says to Clara Royce in front of Dawn, “You stop leading me on, and I’ll stop leading her on.” Ouch!

The man who actually loves Dawn, Wes Overton, is a real estate agent with some interesting ideas, and who seems to fall into Dawns sweet spot as far as ambition goes. “I think a fellow owes it to himself and to society to do a good hard day’s work every work day of the year. But I don’t think life should be twisted into a mean grubbing for money. I think a life so twisted is a life without dignity.” He believes, he tells Dawn, that “a person has an obligation to himself to do whatever will make himself and his loved ones happy.” But never-happy Dawn sneers at his attitude, telling him, “There you are just plodding along as you’ve done all your life.” 

Toward the end of the book, the now endowmentless Dan is forced to hire an agent and accept commissions to paint particular subjects for wealthy movie moguls. Dawn is elated, but I was not. Dawn’s father hints that “of late you haven’t been yourself, but it’s not clear what he’s referring to. Her meddling with Dan’s life? Her moping over her ill-fated romance with Ken?

The book has a truly interesting and complex idea at its heart, that everyone must earn a living even if that means doing something they don’t enjoy on their path toward getting to what they really want. But if the person can find support by some other path, even if that means accepting a sponsorship or charity, is that wrong? Is Dawn forcing Dan to be in some respects a whore to do work he does not value? Should an artist be supported by the community on their path toward developing their technique in a way that a doctor or nurse, for example, is not, and may be forced to work, say, as a nurse’s aide or EMT to pay for their training toward a more complex career? The problem with how this issue is handled in Neubauer’s story is that Dawn is a hypocrite, chastising both Ken for his ambition and Dan for his lack of it and ignorning Wes’s happy medium; she believes Ken should be doing more for free and settling for less, while Wes should be working harder to expand his business. And why is it her job to wreck the good life Dan is enjoying for himself, and even Mr. Patton’s enjoyment in helping Dan achieve that?

The end of the book holds some real surprise twists, and Dawn ends up with a man who deserves better. I had hoped that the self-righteous and shallow Dawn, meddling in affairs that didn’t concern her and chasing a pretty boy with no character, would face some sort of come-uppance that would cause her to realize the error of her ways, but she did not, and I can’t feel that Dawn is a better person at the end of the book. But the story did give me a lot to think about, and talk over with other people who hadn’t read the books, so in that respect it was successful. As usual, Neubauer gives us delightful characters and charming writing, so if the heroine was not all I wish she had been, this book still has a lot to offer, and my high opinion of Bill Neubauer remains unchanged, and even fleshes out my ideas of what his character was that he produced a book with this message.