Saturday, June 18, 2011

Nurse Conner Comes Home

Arlene Hale, ©1964
Cover illustration by Lou Marchetti

Sue Conner never thought of competing with her sister Marsha. Marsha was the family beauty who led an exciting life, never lacking for a date. Sue was the serious and sensible type—dedicated to her demanding job as a nurse and resigned to the fact that no man would look at her twice while her sister was around. Yet everything changed when handsome David Wakefield came into their lives. For then Sue found herself in the role of her sister’s rival for a man destined to break one of their hearts.


“It was odd, she thought with a smile touching her lips. All those patients, all those interns, all those doctors and not a single one of them for her!”

“Sometimes, Sue, Marsha just needs to be turned over someone’s knee and spanked.”

Sue and her sister Marsha share an apartment in Grimes City. Sue is the plain, responsible ant who works as a nurse. Marsha is a beautiful, glamorous, grasshopper who has just quit her job as the book opens and proposes to Sue that they move back to their hometown, Point Pleasant, which they left five years ago after Marsha’s boyfriend, David Wakefield, unexpectedly married someone else. Sue doesn’t want to leave, but she feels responsible for Marsha, perhaps because the two are orphans, raised by their Aunt Kate when their parents were killed in a car crash.

So two weeks later they are back in town—and guess who else is there? David Wakefield and his four-year-old son, Davie! David’s wife died of a heart condition a year ago, and he himself has just returned to town. Coincidence? Sue thinks not, and she is peeved. But Marsha is determined to win him back, and Sue backs down from her indignation, the little doormat. The problem is, Sue can’t stop thinking about David herself. Once, when they were in high school, he had kissed her as a joke, but he’d been dating Marsha even then, and nothing came of it except a hysterical fit from Marsha.

Sue gets a job working for old family friend Dr. Joe Sarten, who counts the Davids Wakefield amongst his patients, so it isn’t too long before Sue runs into David at the doctor’s office, and he asks her out to lunch. They have a lovely time, but soon David is seeing Marsha again—and soon after that, the pair are engaged. The only rub is that Davie doesn’t care for Marsha, though he thinks the world of Sue, who she meets for the first time when he comes to see Dr. Joe for a cut on his hand. Then on a visit to see Davie, Sue notices that the boy is limping. Turns out he’s stepped on a rusty nail, and he’s looking feverish, and when Davie’s mother was ill a few things got neglected … like vaccinations for little Davie …

There’s really not much in the way of plot in this little book, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth reading. Sue’s complex feelings toward David and Marsha are recognizable and sympathetic, and they evolve organically over the course of the book. It’s obvious where the story is going from the second chapter, and it doesn’t have a lot of excitement or camp to it, but it’s a gentle and worthwhile story.

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