Thursday, August 18, 2011

Nora Was a Nurse

By Peggy Gaddis
(pseud. Erolie Pearl (Gaddis) Dern), ©1953
Cover illustration by Robert Maguire

“Your reasons for coming to Shellville are your own affair and I have no desire to know them,” Nurse Nora Courtney told the new young doctor—but she knew she lied both to him and to herself. Everything about Doctor Owen Baird interested her for she knew she was hopelessly and passionately in love with him. And when beautiful Lillian Halstead set her cap for the young doctor, Nora realized she must make him see her as a desirable woman as well as an efficient nurse. How Nora achieved her purpose and what these three handsome young people made of their lives is thrilling reading, growing to an unexpected and satisfying climax.


“You’ve been my brother for a good many years and I’m very fond of you. Within reason, of course. But when a man your age who has been a country doctor for forty years suddenly is turned out to pasture and starts kicking up his heels, I fear for the future.”

“Secretly he had been relieved that she had not wanted to be ‘a female doctor,’ because he was old-fashioned enough to object to ‘women medics,’ though torture would not have forced him to admit it.”

“Women have an instinct about other women that is as sure as death and taxes.”

“Come off that lofty peak of disdain, my good woman, and mingle with your betters.”

“Don’t let your profession blind you to the fact that the greatest happiness the world can offer anyone is love and companionship. In being a fine nurse, don’t forget that being a fine wife and mother is an even greater profession.”

“Those white uniforms are so becoming, and I love that crazy little cap!”

“Oh, well, gal-young-’uns ain’t so bad. Reckon wimmen is useful same as men, even if they cain’t plow as good.”

“Lily was a disease that ran rampant, unchecked, because so far nobody had been able to dream up a cure for women like her!”

“Oh, she’s got the usual number of features assembled nicely and all that, but I don’t know that I’d call her beautiful.”

“I told you if you went off like that by yourself you’d make a fool of yourself. And now look at you—running around in slacks, for Heaven’s sake, and that awful shirt, and not even tucked into your pants.”

Orphan Nora Courtney (VNRN heroines, like Disney characters, are frequently orphans) lives with her grandfather, country doctor John Courtney, and his spinster sister, Susan. Dr. John is getting long in the tooth at 65, and is looking to go on vacation. Enter another orphan, Dr. Owen Baird. He is honored to be stepping into Dr. John’s practice—and Nurse Nora, who runs the office, does her best on his first day to make him feel that he’s made the right choice. “To find a doctor with your qualifications who is willing to come to a place like Shellville, when there are so many richer and more varied fields open to ambitious men in your profession—” she begins, but he cuts her off. “I didn’t murder a patient in an absent-minded moment and have to take it on the lam and hide out here, Miss Courtney,” he snipes. She’s insulted, and tells him so, but before they can smooth things over, in breezes Lily Halstead, the dreamiest belle in all of Georgia. “Dr. Baird sort of melted and ran into the usual gooey consistency of men seeing the beauteous Lily for the first time,” she later reports to her great-aunt.

As gorgeous as she is on the outside, it turns out that Lily is actually an ice-hearted conniving tramp with her eye on the fortune of Dick Blayde, who hired her mother as his housekeeper when Lily’s father was killed in his mill. Dick deserves his name, apparently, and runs Lily and her mother ragged, but he’s conveniently at death’s door. Only the women in town see Lily for the gold-digging tramp she really is, but they can’t tell the men that, because the dopes just think the women are jealous. Nora also realizes that if she reports what Lily actually says, no one will believe her and she herself will end up looking bad. This is a bit of a problem because shortly after Owen tumbles for Lily, Nora realizes that she is desperately in love with Owen.

There’s not too much in the way of plot in this book, but it doesn’t really matter, because it’s a fun ride regardless. The banter between Dr. John and his sister is always amusing, and the camp factor is pretty good. We visit a few patients, including the de rigueur white trash family with a wife-beating drunk for a husband, and a brow-beaten young woman who is healed when Dr. Baird convinces her to stand up to her overbearing mother. We catch Lily out at a seedy diner at 4 a.m. with a ferret-faced flashy wanna-be gangster, but she slips into the bathroom and hides until Nora and Dr. Baird have finished their eggs and bacon (don’t get any ideas, now; they were on their way home from delivering a baby). The chief fun of the story is following Lily’s scheming and Nora’s increasing frustration that Owen is such a chump. We witness some gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair on Nora’s part, but not too much to make it overly nauseating when it comes along. Whenever I open a Peggy Gaddis book, it is with caution; from Dr. Merry’s Husband to Leota Foreman RN, you just never know what you are going to get. This book, happily, is her best so far.

Harlequin reprinted this book
in May 1956 with this
delightful cover illustration

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hong Kong Nurse

By Ellen Elliott, ©1968
Cover illustration by Edrien King

For blonde Betty Anders, the offer to nurse in Hong Kong hospital seemed the answer to her prayers. Far from home, she might forget the shattered romance that had left her heart in tatters. There was little time in her new job for sad memories. Days were spent in the hospital, and evenings with the young and handsome Dr. Rod Corbett. But just as Betty felt almost ready to love again, disaster struck. Inspired by pity, she had become involved with certain confidential problems of Dr. Sun, a brilliant Chinese surgeon. Angered, Rod turned away from her. How could Betty explain the truth without violating Dr. Sun’s secret: Amid danger, international intrigue and pulse-racing excitement, the lovely young nurse found the answer.


“He was extremely good-looking without being in any way weak or effeminate; they were the strong good looks of a man very much a man.”

“Betty watched her, graciously diminutive beside the tall, white-smocked doctor, aware of a tiny start of fear and apprehension as she reflected upon how gauche Occidental women must appear beside such gentle, gracious creatures.”

“An American nurse—a beautiful American nurse, that’s an event. Especially when she happens to be a blonde, with a head-turning figure and eyes as blue as Texas skies.”

“Betty, watching him, suddenly felt very sorry for the elderly, plain-faced English matron. People behaved as she had behaved for one reason—because they were unhappy, because society, life, the happiness of a husband, a home and children had been denied them. The old cliché about embittered spinsters being found more in the nursing profession than in any other occupation was a true one.”

“Sister Gwen Robertson, a short, dumpy woman in her mid-thirties, had come out to Hong Kong because she felt that her chances of landing a husband would be better than at home. Once glance at her face, and Betty had known why the sister was still a spinster and likely to remain that way.”

Nurse Betty Anders has run away to Hong Kong because her previous boyfriend of eight months turned out to have a wife and two kids back in Maine. It seems like a long way to go from Texas, her home, but what the hell, they’re short-staffed in Hong Kong. There she meets a white guy, Dr. Rod Corbett—“Rod was a nice name, a good masculine name, a name that fitted his appearance and personality as tightly as the rubber gloves he wore on his hands.” He gets pissed at her because she asks whether his mentor, Dr. Wade Ching Sun, has a family. Then she hears his story from another patient: He’s married to another doctor, a surgeon who is a Communist, working in Canton. The patient asks if she is American: “You are good people—all the world knows that,” he says. “ ‘Get to the point,’ Betty said irritably,” the irony of her answer escaping her. The patient needs a favor; he would like to meet Dr. Ching Sun.

When Dr. Ching Sun sees the patient, he learns that the patient has a letter from his wife, and the patient will give it to him only if he is granted asylum in Hong Kong. The doctor is so upset by this that he breaks down in tears in surgery and can’t finish. Dr. Rod is furious! He starts seeing the beautiful Jeanne Liu, who runs an orphanage, and barely speaks to Betty. He even asks Jeanne to marry him, but Jeanne’s twin sister is some sort of harlot—she is a nightclub entertainer, and “it certainly wouldn’t help his career to get mixed up with a girl who has a sister like that”—so Jeanne turns him down.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ching Sun asks Betty to help him get the letter back, and when it is in his possession—it was being held by Jeanne’s sister, for some odd reason that is never explained—he learns that his wife is disillusioned with communism and wants to come to Hong Kong. Then Jeanne collapses, and we learn that she has been sick all her life, though appearing to be in perfect health. After many tests at the hospital, it is found that she has kidney disease, which is killing her. If only she could have a new kidney … but wait! She has a twin sister!

After the geneticists run tests—“they compare hair color and texture; iris color and texture; ear and tooth shape; finger and toe prints are compared; blood tests run for the major blood groups as well as the many subgroups”—they’re apparently a long way from DNA testing—the kidney is transplanted by Rod and Dr. Ching Sun in a brilliant surgery. In an odd conclusion to that story line, Jeanne dies anyway, and her sister “would not ever enjoy the same sort of perfect health she had enjoyed before agreeing to sacrifice her kidney in an effort to save her sister.” Rod asks Betty to help him forget Jeanne, and on a date with Dr. Ching Sun and his wife, newly rescued from China, who strongly reminds Betty of Madame Chiang Kai-shek, Dr. Ching Sun tells Rod and Betty that they’ve really been in love with each other “for weeks, only you’re both too silly to know it!”

This is a throwaway book that makes virtually no use of its setting apart from brief descriptions of nightclubs and food, and the characters are not very interesting. It has little plot, and the “intrigue” of the communists using Jeanne’s sister is only hinted at, with the barest of explanations which makes no sense at all. If you want a book that will allow you to do some armchair traveling, try Wilderness Nurse or Aloha Nurse, but leave this one on the shelf.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Research Nurse

By Florence Stuart
(pseud. Florence Stonebraker), ©1968
Cover illustration by Martin Koenig
Also published as A Nurses Nightmare

Nurse Sue Brinkley’s life had seemed complete in the arms of handsome Dr. Luke Connor. But the time came for her to prove her love—when a man from her past pleaded for her help and her heart. She went to him—and suddenly her life was torn by fear and terror.


You know how much I need this job, Dr. Favour, how much I need the money, because my dad is a helpless paralytic and my mother is up against it, trying to catch up with all the bills.”

“I’ve had experts try to make out with me. The best never have any luck, and your approach is rather amateurish.”

“Oh, stop sounding off like something out of a book for morons.”

“It was the nature of man to elude capture as long as he could, just as it was the nature of woman to resort to all sorts of wiles until the object of her pursuit was safely in the bag.”

“Since he firmly believed that mental disturbance triggered a vast number of physical ailments, Luke was not surprised to awaken with his temperature way up, his head splitting, and the worst cold he had experienced in years.”

“She knew the explanation of alcoholism. The victim was allergic to alcohol, and after one drink hit the blood stream, some compulsion in the brain took over. And that was it.”

Once again, writer Florence Stonebraker has chosen a title that has very little to do with the actual book within. Nurse Sue Brinkley is a nurse in Los Angeles, trying to decide whether she should marry Dr. Luke Connor, when she gets a love letter from Dr. Carl Favour, who actually is doing research, on leukemia. Carl was the major crush of her adolescence, when she was a self-described “moronic, idiotic, lovesick, sixteen-year-old problem brat,” but when she told Carl of her feelings, he laughed in her face. Crush over. Now, nine years later, Carl writes that he’s always loved her and wants her back—and, by the way, his brother Bob is dying of leukemia and needs her nursing skills. Luke, curiously, takes the position that Sue should go to Carl and take care of Bob, as in so doing he feels she will learn if she is still in love with Carl. “You sound like you’ve been sniffing glue or something,” she responds, but eventually agrees to go—more to help Bob than to see Carl.

Carl is living in Clayton’s Castle, a 60-room mansion in which a young bride scorned her old, wealthy husband and was locked in the ballroom on the top floor until she jumped to her death. He spends most of his time in the basement doing research, but he’s assisted in the upkeep by Pete, a shotgun-totin’ ex-con who guards the gate, and Laura Blaisdell, the old family housekeeper. To say Laura is mean and nasty is an understatement. She feeds Bob a starvation diet of broth and skim milk, and leaves a bottle of barbiturates on his bedside table in the hope that he will decide to swallow them all down one day. “You’re just a worry and a burden for your brother to carry and do for—a brother worth ten thousand useless, worthless bums like you,” she tells him before Sue cuts her off and orders her from the room. Bob’s also getting odd phone calls in his room in which a woman’s voice tells him, “Why don’t you jump, you bum?” But no one seems to piece together who might do such a thing.

Bob, home from the (Vietnam?) war with a diagnosis of malnutrition after months in a prison camp, has been given the death sentence of leukemia by his esteemed brother. However, no other doctors have been consulted on the case, which Sue finds strange. Then Dr. Carl starts getting creepy. When Sue returns from a drive into town, he says that she should have asked his permission. When she stops laughing, he adds, “I would like to feel that you regard my wishes as a command you are only too happy to obey.” Before long, she learns that Carl is keeping his and Bob’s alcoholic mother, Siggy, prisoner in a room down the hall, the closets full of cases of whisky to keep her out of commission. Sue drives home to see Luke and talk things over with him—and finds that Luke has learned that Carl spent time in a mental institution after he deliberately injected a child who was allergic to penicillin with a large syringe full of the stuff and kills her. Luke helpfully tries to rationalize Carl’s actions, though he himself is worried literally sick, because he can’t talk her out of going back to the house.

Carl soon tells Sue that he is planning to inject cancer cells into Bob and then try out this new curative serum on him. It doesn’t work, so Bob will certainly die, but what Carl learns from the experiment will help further his research. Siggy even overhears this conversation—but instead of running straight to the cops, Siggy concocts a fabulous plan for Sue to marry Bob so as to rescue him. It’s not clear how this is going to happen, as it would be about as easy to smuggle the vicar past Pete as it would be to get Bob out. Then Sue remembers the gun in her car. “Bob had been through jungle fighting. Bob would know exactly how to handle a revolver. He would know how, if necessary, to take a pot shot at Laura; just a harmless little shot, the kind that would knock her senseless, but result in no serious injury.”

How everything works out in the end is pretty typical, dopey stuff, even stooping to include babies switched at birth—not very satisfying at all. There are occasional flashes of Ms. Stonebraker’s usual witty writing, but the plot is drawn-out and silly, and the heroine is a total imbecile. I remain a devoted fan of Florence Stonebraker, but this is not one of her best, so you might as well just leave it on the shelf and re-read one of her better books (e.g. The Nurse and the Orderly, Runaway Nurse) instead.

This book was also published
with a really terrible cover but 
a better title.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Jet Set Nurse

By Jane Converse
(pseud. Adele Kay Maritano), ©1970
Cover illustration by Allan Kass

They were island hopping, flitting from one tropical paradise to another … laughing readily, drinking steadily—wealthy heiress Marlaine Hayden, her fifth husband, Noah, her financier cousin, Durward, and an entourage of hangers-on. Why did they add Nurse Roxy Ferris, blue-eyed, beautiful and disapproving, to their glittering, glamorous caravan? Someone had to watch over Marlaine’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Gee Gee, a gorgeous child, really, with a genius I.Q. but with a personality her private-school principal had called sick … “very sick.” Gee Gee’s was a rare malady, an infection destined to endanger them all!


“I shouldn’t even consider ending my blessed bachelorhood with a girl who can’t mix a decent martini.”

“Another ring on her parched hands would have tilted her to starboard.”

Wealthy Wall Street financier Durwood Kingsley is recovering from a heart attack under the care of Nurse Roxy Ferris. He’s also attempting to persuade her to marry him, but she won’t. For starters, she’s decided that she will never marry a man who doesn’t “share my interest in medicine.” (You can bet she doesn’t mean an orderly.) Furthermore, like many a VNRN heroine, she is recovering from a broken heart: Her previous fiancé, after the invitations had been mailed, decided he didn’t want to be married or a doctor and ran off to San Francisco to write poetry, study Zen Buddhism, and play the sitar.

In his efforts to persuade her that he can do something other than work, Durwood invites Roxy to accompany him and Marlaine, his newly married sister (this is her fifth husband), on a tour of the Caribbean by private jet. She will be needed to tend to Marlaine’s daughter, Gee Gee, who is 16 and, in Roxy’s words, a “weirdie”: She’s voluptuous, contemptuous of her mother, a genius, and plotting to ensnare her new stepfather, who she thinks is “masculine and sexy.” There’s also an entourage of pathetic rich people, including an astrologer, an aging tennis star, a French art film actress, a Russian prince, and a Colombian coffee magnate. And Dr. Noah Hayden, “Daddy Five,” as Gee Gee calls him. Roxy, upon clapping eyes on the medicine man, is instantly smitten, and spends a lot of time chastely wishing he weren’t married.

The travelers are soon identified as a party of lazy drunks hurtling from one entertainment to the next; Roxy and Noah are the only two who find this activity nauseating. Noah spends a lot of time “talking sense to Marlaine, pleading with her to stop drinking, to stop running, to end her shallow existence and begin living as the wife of a dependable, devoted physician.” It never works, and a few pages after these heart-to-hearts, she’s found screaming with wild laughter on the dance floor, clutching her fourth martini glass.

Before long, Roxy and Noah are strolling on a beach in Trinidad at sunset. Noah tells Roxy that his previous fiancée was discovered returning from a weekend away, not visiting her mother, but with an ex-boyfriend. He’d fled to Las Vegas, drunken too much, and woken up married to a virtual stranger. But he’s such a good guy, so devoted to the institution of marriage, that he decides he loves Marlaine and is determined to make a go of it. But his long walk with Roxy leads them both to realize “we sensed a rapport that had no right to exist.” I sure didn’t see that coming.

Most of the book is one party after another; Roxy psychoanalyzing Gee Gee (“No child could have emerged from her background unscarred … only a thoroughly miserable youngster would seek attention with destruction and hysteria.”); Noah shouting at his drunk wife, breaking her bar glasses, and punching would-be sycophants in the mouth; Gee Gee pitching hysterical rampages; and Noah suggesting that the best cure for her would be a lobotomy. Finally they decide on a cruise, a “quiet relaxation” with just the family—which, in addition to the Haydens, includes Durwood, Roxy, and eight of Marlaine’s dearest drinking buddies. One night Roxy wakes up in the night and finds Gee Gee missing from her bunk, and when the entire yacht rises to search for her, it is determined that Marlaine is also missing—and then Gee Gee turns up safe and sound in her bunk. It is soon determined that Marlaine has gone overboard in the night, and Gee Gee accuses Roxy of having murdered her in an attempt to win Noah for herself, but Roxy knows that Gee Gee is in fact the guilty party. In retrospect she realizes, too late, that it was a terrible mistake not to inform everyone about Gee Gee’s morbid obsession with the “ruthless genius” of Emperor Christophe, who suppressed the “crummy, expendable natives” of Haiti: “Can’t you almost smell blood and hear wild shrieks?” Gee Gee had asked Roxy in “enraptured fascination with horror.”

Roxy does eventually clear her name, but only by a chance stroke of luck, not through any actual intelligence on her part. The book doesn’t close on her in Noah’s arms but instead a year later, the two of them having endured an enforced separation, waiting for an appropriate amount of time to pass before the widowed Noah can see her again. This book is not one of Jane Converse’s best, without even much camp that she can usually do so well, and we certainly know she can do better (e.g. Surf Safari Nurse, Nurse in Crisis). I’m always a bit disappointed with books that purport to take you inside a glamorous world but then sneer at it, suggesting that we poor stiffs in dungarees are so much better off than wealthy people living on luxurious yachts or in staffed Caribbean villas. None of the sumptuousness of this lifestyle is given to us in this book, just drunken tirades and pathetic sycophants. It’s too easy to villainize a way of life you can’t have, and in the end it makes this book not very much fun.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Surgical Nurse

By Florence K. Palmer, ©1963
Cover illustration by Robert Maguire

It was love at first sight when Surgical Nurse Sloane McBain met Dr. Vince Alvord, senior resident and head surgeon at Mercy, engaged to socialite Valerie Cosgrove, a very jealous and possessive woman. Sloane knew she had to hide her feelings for Vince if she was to continue assisting him in the operating room. But how was a girl supposed to control her emotions when she worked so closely with the man who filled all her thoughts? Sloane knew she had to find the answer to her dilemma before it interfered with her duty as a nurse—and her integrity as a woman.



“He won’t marry me until either I go on a diet or he gets a practice going. He says no intern can afford my appetite!”

“Dedication is admirable in any field, but a woman wants to be looked at as a woman, not a potential laboratory specimen or the inspiration of a piece of advertising copy. A woman, any woman, wants to feel she’s needed and cherished, if it’s only for the span of a casual date.”

“They can sew starts together with that darned Space Needle for all I care!”

“Let’s go apartment hunting. It’ll take our minds off the dumb public maybe.”

“One of our profs in med school used to tell us that R.N. is short for real necessary to doctors.”

“He does have the hands of a surgeon, she thought, unaware that she’d said it aloud. ‘I hope they are.’ Nick spread the sensitive, yet steel-firm fingers, and stood staring down at them. ‘The hands of an obstetrician, too, and an internist, and a minister, and a friend—I’m just asking them to be the hands of a family doctor.’ ”

“ ‘When I was on surgery, it was the strangest feeling—’ she said, remembering the white glare of lights beating down, the click of instruments, and the ever-new wonder of seeing sick, broken bodies respond to a surgeon’s inspired touch. ‘It’s hard to describe, you aren’t yourself. For an hour, two hours, you’re almost a part of Creation itself.’ ”

“I know you want to help humanity and all that jazz, but doesn’t it make more sense to marry me and go at it from a different angle?”

“She’d been assigned to Surgery and was a regular member of Mercy’s operating team—anesthesiologist at the table’s head, assistant resident and surgical intern at one side, the attending surgeon across. And by his side, a pair of hands; hands to anticipate the instrument required next, passing retractor or forcep or scalpel the instant it was demanded; hands that blotted sweat and counted sponges; hands threading a curved needle with black silk for suture ladders—Nurse Sloane McBain’s hands.”

“It seems to me being a nurse must be like holding your finger on the pulse beat of humanity, and maybe getting a glimpse of God.”

“A guy doesn’t want his wife jockeying bedpans, or whatever you do there at Mercy.”

“Fine thing. A whole evening of Valerie, and me without an aspirin to my name.”


Sloane McBain is a scrub nurse living in Seattle with fellow nurse Dena Williams, who is engaged to Dr. Joe Dardis. Sloane is, of course, checking out the doctors on staff, but there are only two options. Dr. Nick Lawton is so fiercely dedicated to pathology that Sloane crosses him off her list: “I’m not about to compete with a corpuscle,” she tells Dena. This leaves the dashing Dr. Vince Alvord, a silver-haired 30-something surgeon who looks down on Nick and Joe for their interest in becoming GPs. He shows interest in Sloane—but alas, he is engaged to the stunning, wealthy socialite Val Cosgrove. So he asks her to work with him in the OR instead, where she watches “the awesome flash of scalpel and the healing deftness of Vincent Alvord’s fingers. And because her own alert skill flowed into his, the sense of being a part of him strengthened daily.” After a particularly tough case, she asks him in for coffee, and before long they’re kissing in the living room. “A cozy twosome—for heaven’s sake, he’d think she was as predatory as the rest of them!”

One of their patients, Johnny O’Brien, a diabetic 16-year-old who works at the hospital and plans to become a doctor, loses his leg and the will to go on. Sloane, who has cared for Johnny for weeks, tries shock treatment: She tells him, “I didn’t realize your mind was crippled too—of course you can’t ever be a doctor now!” This is exactly what young Johnny needs, and soon he can’t wait to get at those crutches! But then one day in the OR, as she’s deep in thought about how Dr. Alvord’s fiancée “should be down on her knees to a man like him,” she misses the call for a clamp and the mighty doctor has to ask for it twice before he gets the instrument he needs to stem a spurting artery. The patient dies just as the surgeons are closing, and Sloane is convinced that it’s her fault: “Did she lose too much blood because I was day-dreaming?” So she quits the OR and goes to work in admitting.

Torn to bits that she has killed this patient, Sloane literally cries on Dr. Alvord’s shoulder at a dance when his fiancée—and the entire room—is watching. Val is wild with fury and makes a veiled threat to Sloane, “the pupils of her gray-green eyes dilated to a consuming black.” Sloane recognizes this as a sign of deep mental illness: “Jealousy is sometimes only a symptom, the outward manifestation, of deep emotional trauma. If the cause isn’t found and treated, such injuries to the psyche may lead to serious complications.”

She’s still spending time with both doctors: Nick and Joe are working on an artificial leg for Johnny with an old dentist friend of Sloane’s, which means they all hang out at Sloane’s apartment talking the matter over. As for Dr. Alvord, his fiancée postpones the wedding, so he comes to Sloane to hash it all out. He takes her out to dinner at the public market, where he used to work when he was young and poor. He explains to Sloane that he has vowed he will never be hungry again. This is why he picked surgery, because you can make the most money. He met Val’s father when he was still a young doctor, and the rich man opened doors for him, including, apparently, the one to his daughter’s bedroom. But, Dr. Alvord sighs, Val just doesn’t understand the demands of a doctor’s life. Only a nurse would, he says, making Sloane’s heart leap, but then he adds, “The truth is, nurses seldom have a private Fort Knox to draw on, and gals like Val do.” Sloane finally begins to see the tarnish on the doctor’s halo. “You’re so right,” she answers. “Nurses seldom have anything that counts—except a pin with R.N. on it!”

When the doctor drops her off at the hospital, Nick borrows Dr. Alvord’s car and Sloane to go see Johnny try his new leg, which is a success. On their way out, Sloane tells Johnny to keep working at rehab, even if it’s not easy. “Being crippled is what’s easy—you ought to know!” he snarls at her, an apparent reference to her quitting the OR. On their way home, Sloane is distraught and Nick parks the car on a dark street to comfort her. Another car slowly passes them, then speeds up … In the final scene, the crazed Val shows up at Sloane’s apartment with what is apparently a vial of poison, and every man Sloane has ever met shows up at the apartment to rescue her, and Sloane has to choose between Dr. Alvord and Nick, and even Val gets a nice man to take her off to the psych ward. Then someone needs surgery unexpectedly, and the only scrub nurse around is Sloane …

This is a pretty good book, a bit along the lines of the older VNRNs, with two women in their own apartment with busy social lives but also a strong relationship of their own. Sloane’s manufactured career crisis is a bit weak, her reaction way over the top for what was a minor transgression. But the characters are well-drawn and fun to watch, and there’s a good dose of camp throughout. I was intrigued to find, after reading more than 100 VNRNs, a passage devoted to the nurse’s hands (as opposed to the doctor’s, about which we hear much in virtually every book) and their importance in medicine. Ultimately, though, while there wasn’t anything that really elevated this book into the extraordinary, this is a good book overall, and worth reading.