Sunday, September 25, 2011

Doctor’s Nurse

By Dorothy Worley, ©1961
Cover illustration by Lou Marchetti

Attractive Patricia Lloyd, R.N., had two problems—both of them doctors. Dr. Jeffrey Wayne was handsome, mature and mysteriously drawn to Patricia, beyond the call of duty. Dr. Bill Gregory was young, very much in love and intensely jealous. Caught between the two, Patricia found her personal emotions—and professional duty—in sudden and grave danger.


“I wish you’d worn something besides pedal pushers today. I have guests coming for dinner.”

“There are other things in life besides marriage.”
“Not for a woman there isn’t.”

“You’re spoiled. You should have been spanked every day of your life.”

Rich girls have all the luck. They’re beautiful, everyone is in love with them, and they get to do whatever they want with your life. Even be a nurse. Of course, their beautiful society mothers are always going to be nagging them to give it up and get married, but they just move out into their own apartments. Some handsome doctor is always trailing around after them, begging them to get married, but they tell him no, kiss him a little, and send him home. Such is the life of Patricia Lloyd. She’s not ready to settle down, but Dr. Bill Gregory, who has loved her since she was in elementary school, will hang around until she is.

And then Dr. Jeff Wayne, age 48, the new chief of staff, moves to town and picks Patricia above all the other nurses – though she never even applied for the job – as his nurse. Pat’s longtime friend Donna, who has had nothing her entire life – her father left her mother for another woman, she had to hold a job all through high school to support her family, her mother committed suicide, and every man she’s ever loved has loved Pat instead – finally snaps and begins spreading vicious gossip about Pat and Dr. Wayne all over town. Dr. Wayne does show a lot of interest in Pat, inviting her to stay at his house to befriend his five-year-old daughter, Barbara, who has an undiagnosed medical problem that leaves her listless, exhausted, and unable to walk some days, and perfectly healthy on others.

The fiercely overprotective governess, Mrs. MacDugal, gives Barbara medicine that makes her sleep all afternoon, which everyone in the house is aware of except her father. Pat smells paregoric, a narcotic medication, on Barbara’s breath, and Pat’s dog, which Pat frequently brings to visit Barbara, is poisoned. Has Mrs. MacDugal mentioned that she despises dogs? Oh, yes, numerous times. The truth of what is going on here is no surprise, certainly not to the astute reader, who can figure this out by page 40. The real mystery is why no one, most of all the trained nurse, ever speaks to Barbara’s father about their concerns.

Another “mystery” of the book is why Pat does not at all resemble her father, Tom. A letter to Pat’s mother, Ilone, found by Pat’s father and shown to Pat, is mentioned early but never explained. Ilone says her first marriage was for love, but Pat knows that Ilone never really loved Tom Lloyd. Then we have the unexplained attentions of Dr. Wayne, a man old enough to be Pat’s father ...

The book concludes with a double crisis: number one, when Pat finally tells her suspicions of Mrs. MacDugal to Dr. Wayne, including the fact that sometimes Barbara smells of whisky (news to the reader), and he decides to fire the governess, and number two, when Donna, who has been “heading for a crackup,” finally decides to do herself in. Both these calamities has been bearing down on the reader like slow-moving dump truck for most of the book, yet they somehow manage to zoom past in mere paragraphs, offering absolutely no excitement, surprise, or satisfaction. The book is not badly written, but it has no spark and not a shred of humor or camp. You can do a lot worse than Doctor’s Nurse, but you can certainly do a bit better.


  1. I don't just love, I LUV vintage nurse novels. Whenever I visit my centenarian grandmother in assisted living, I still tear through her stack of 1960's-era "Nurse Nan" novels, and it's not even for the romance part. Rather, the camp earnestness of it all (and the sexist attitudes and attitudes about male/female roles and identity, all of which is explored so well in Mad Men) is amazing and hilarious. Keep up the awesome job, and I'm glad that, while critical, you don't mock the genre...not that it wouldn't be easy to do...

  2. Thanks so much! I agree that it's the camp and the (sometimes unintentional) hilarity that have me hooked --