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 clich√© 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.

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