Friday, December 30, 2011

Hootenanny Nurse

By Suzanne Roberts, ©1964

Julie Dodd was in love with David Stace, the boy next door, ever since she could remember. When he studied to become a doctor, Julie decided that nursing would be her career so that their work would bring them together. And that is exactly what happened. Then Chad, a handsome folk singer, came into her life, and suddenly there was a new song in her heart.


“Julie walked as fast as she dared down the hall, pressed the elevator button, and hoped on the brief ride that she still had a bit of lipstick on.”

“ ‘All right,’ Julie said crisply, asserting her authority as on-duty nurse in Emergency. ‘Let’s get those last two out of the hall. That boy with the harmonica, too.’ ”

“Julie’s hands were shaking as she gathered up her purse and the library book on disturbed children she wanted to renew.”

“Losing a dream can sometimes be as hard as losing someone you love.”

If you are a fan of this genre, you’ve surely been waiting for Hootenanny Nurse. I must confess that I let out a small shriek when I saw this book in Kayo Books, the fabulous vintage book shop in San Francisco. (Florence Stonebraker once lived in the apartment building across the street, for added VNRN thrills!) I promise, you will never find a book in which the word hootenanny is used so frequently, which has its ups and downs. It’s way too much to expect that this book could live up to such an outrageous title, and I’m sorry to report that it doesn’t possess anywhere near the camp factor you’re probably hoping for. But it does offer up a few laughs, so it’s not a complete waste of time.

Nurse Julie Dodd is a student nurse in her final year at a hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. She’s nervous about doing a stint in the ED, though the supervisor tells her not to worry: “Some nights we only get a few phony suicides that need a good stomach wash, and then we send them home. Hysterical women, mostly.” Julie’s true calling is up on the child psych ward, because she more than the other nurses realizes that all these psychotic kids need is “love and comfort and soft words and kisses,” and soon they’re all behaving and there are no more incidents like the one where a schizophrenic boy broke into a medicine cabinet and attacked a nurse with a surgical knife.

Her boyfriend—you knew there was one—is David Stace, who grew up barefoot next door, on a ramshackle farm crowded with too many children. At fourteen, she’d been trying to figure out what she wanted from life—“somehow, just falling in love didn’t seem to be enough.” So when David declared a pre-med major, she signed up for nursing school so they could start a clinic in their poor hometown together. But as he nears the end of school, David buys an expensive car on credit and starts taking her to expensive restaurants, and soon he’s talking of setting up shop in Chicago. Well, she doesn’t think much of this at all! So she smoothes down her uniform and her pride and says, “I want whatever you want, of course.” She spends a lot of time seething about it, but “she didn’t want to be a nagging, pushy wife. She wanted to be, as she’d been all these years, deeply in love with him, letting him make the decisions, and glad that he did.”

Then a bus holding a group of folk singers rolls over, and now they’re encamped on the hospital’s fourth floor. She goes up to visit them and strikes up a conversation with the lead folkie, Chad. Soon she’s singing along with them on an impromptu “folk singing whing-ding.” “I think we’ve found ourselves a regular little Hootenanny Nurse!” Chad says. Before long, Chad is kissing her and talking about having kids. Run, Julie, run! But alas, she is another VNRN heroine without an ounce of sense.

Chad makes an appearance under her window with his guitar and asks her to join his group. They’re finally well enough to leave the hospital to go on tour, but he’s calling her every night and pressuring her to tell her she loves him. She hates the weakness inside herself that “made her cling to Chad, and yes—David. David still, and her parents, and yet she felt as if she didn’t belong with any of them.” Fortunately she has those schizophrenic kids to help cheer her up. Little Maryjo is blooming, thanks to a rag doll that Julie sat up all night sewing for her. “Honestly, Julie, without you, I think that kid would still be sitting up in bed, screaming and needing medication every four hours to calm her!” the ward nurse tells her. “All she needed was love and attention.”

She invites Chad and the gang to her parents’ house for Christmas, and when she gets off the plane, Chad is there to meet her: “We’ve got a Christmas Eve hootenanny going full blast!” He proposes to her, and she accepts, for the best of reasons: “If I don’t marry him, someone else will! And I may end up all alone, an unmarried nurse, just like some of them I’ve seen—with no place to go at night when I get off duty except a lonely little apartment and a TV set for company!” But when she goes back to the hospital wearing his tiny diamond and he goes back on tour, he’s peeved that she has to work and can’t talk to him on the phone. He calls constantly when she’s supposed to be studying for her final exams, sometimes after hours when could get in trouble for being on the phone. Then she goes to visit him one weekend in Memphis and one of the singers comes down with appendicitis, and Julie takes her place in the big solo number, “My Butternut Tree.” She’s a smash hit, of course, so now on weekends she’s performing with the group. “And if a small, nagging doubt, a bit of sadness, came to her now and then, she pushed it back firmly.” There’s a big TV performance coming up, after all, and graduation, and then a wedding to plan: “What more could a girl ask?”

So when graduation is all over and Julie is just about to leave the hospital forever, she learns that little Maryjo, who Julie has been too busy to say goodbye to, has gone missing. Julie misses the big performance in Atlanta to help find her, hiding in the locker where she’d left an old uniform. Despite this little setback, she decides that Maryjo is “nearly well! And Julie realized, with a sudden stab of pride, that she was responsible for Maryjo’s complete change.” So she puts on that old uniform again, “and quite suddenly, without any more struggle, worrying, heartbreak, Julie knew she had found her answer. A wonderful, deep meaning had come into her life.” She calls Chad to dump him: “I can’t leave those children!” she tells him, and tomorrow she’ll talk to the superintendent about getting a permanent job on the children’s ward. And then there’s intern Mike Farrell, a “short, homely young man with unruly, sandy-colored hair and steady, mature gray eyes,” who’s been helping in the search. He offers to buy her a cup of coffee, and Julie thinks, “This too, might be a beginning,” and the two of them walk off together into the elevator.

This is the first nurse romance that doesn’t end with the heroine’s love life completely sewn up, and I have to say that was a nice break. But overall I was not won over by Julie’s spinelessness and her constant obsessing about what to do, what to do? Chad was kind of a creepy character, but she can’t see him for the controlling manipulator that he really is, even if she does leave him in the end. The hootenanny shtick can be amusing, but the constant pounding on this one note makes it a bit wearing in the end. You may not come away exactly singing its praises, but if you must read Hootenanny Nurse, it’s not a complete flop.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Las Vegas Nurse

By Jane L. Sears, ©1963

Marta Humphries had been a nurse for six years. In that time it had not occurred to her that she was using the nursing profession as an antiseptic white wall to protect her from the hurts of the world outside, or from her own fierce craving for a passionate involvement in life. Returning to Las Vegas’ Hoover Memorial Hospital after an absence of five years, Marta discovered that Doctor Spence Marlow, the brilliant young surgeon, and the man responsible for her self-imposed exile, now desired her as she had once hoped he would. Marta unhesitatingly accepted his proposal of marriage. Then handsome Dev Russel, manager of the glamorous Desert Spa Casino, came into her life, first as her patient, then as her sister’s employer. For Marta, Dev personified everything she despised about Las Vegas. But as she got to know him, suspicion turned into an emotion that Marta hardly dared recognize…


“I wish she’d hurry up and find herself before I end up in a padded cell!”

“I’ve always been crazy about interns. They’re so … so grim and sexy looking!”

“Why, she hadn’t worn seams in ages!”

“Nothing can kill a romance faster than having family label it: acceptable.”

“Doctor McNulty deserved more than her shaking hands and whirling, numbed mind could give him when he began cutting into his patient to remove a cancerous colon.”

“How soignée you look in those tapered pants, Marta!”

“There was this gookie Knight […] The Ogre knew that he’d have to bump off the Knight because the Princess imagined that she was ape over him and the Ogre knew that he couldn’t get all shaped up until this babe loved him. […] The Ogre hunched in his cave far up on the mountain and looked down and watched the Princess and the Knight in their snow white clothes and pondered on how to get the Knight out of the way without making the Princess flip her wig.”

“I kept asking myself how she could go around in that sacky old uniform and have men falling all over themselves.”

Marta Humphries has returned to Las Vegas to work with surgeon Dr. Spencer Marlow, the same man she ran away from five years ago because she could not bear the heartbreak of his indifference toward her. More than that, though, she's got to start whipping her family into shape. Her father has leukemia and has 6 to 12 months to live; he feels fine, but he’s got to check into the hospital to start dying, even though he emphatically declares he wants to spend his last days in his own home. And then there’s her kid sister who needs bossing around: Polly’s “too tight clothes, a hint of defiance in her attitude toward Marta, and now complete disregard for the parking ticket which was probably just one of many, labeled the girl as rebellious.”

She’s working in the OR, “slapping the required instruments into Doctor Spence Marlow’s gloved hand almost before the command left his lips.” In the OR, Spence becomes “dictatorial, whiplashing impatience. He literally barked his commands, swore under his breath periodically, sighed and snarled… His sudden harshness indicating to Marta that so far things were going well.” And since he even has “the clever surgeon’s hand that had held Marta tense with admiration for its skills,” he’s got all the prerequisite signs of a brilliant surgeon. When she’s not in the OR, she’s attempting to take a patient’s temperature by holding his wrist and counting—which in modern times we would call a pulse, but you know how quickly medicine changes. Another patient of hers is Dev Russel, the owner of a hot nightclub on the strip. Polly, who is 17, takes to visiting Dev in the hospital, where the pair indulges in cocktails and cigarettes. This is one swinging hospital!

It’s not long before Spence notices Marta’s gray dress and asks her out, and by Chapter Six he’s proposed and he and Marta are squabbling about picking out the furniture for his new house. And about the wedding date—Marta feels she can’t marry for a year, considering that she’s just gotten home and she needs to get Polly safely grown up first. The first step is getting Polly a job at the airport. “Perhaps it would be interesting enough and exciting enough to nurture higher ambitions in Polly, secretarial school for instance, where she’d learn the tools necessary for a good, steady and high paying job with a future and security.” As for her own future with him, apart from raising children, “when the children were of school age she’d be able to act as Spence’s office nurse and even continute her surgical work at the hospital if he wanted her to. That decision, of course, would be up to him.”

Spencer is furious about the delay; he tells Marta, “I want a wife and home, and I want it now, Marta!” Though considering they’ve only been dating a few weeks, one wonders why he doesn’t want to make sure he’s got the right gal picked out. But then he takes her to Dev Russel’s nightclub to catch a show, “the chorus girls prance onstage, their scanty bikini constumes winking brilliantly against the spotlights, breasts bouncing, hips grinding to the fast jazz music … It was Polly!” The fact that Polly is a showgirl degrades both Polly and Marta, Spence says, and she is rightly furious for his comments and for springing this “surprise” on her. The next day she goes to visit Dev Russel and plead with him to fire Polly, but Dev just laughs. She’s humiliated and inscensed, but she can’t get his browned muscular figure out of her head.

Then after work the next day, Dev is parked outside the hospital, waiting for her. He tells her that if she just lets Polly get this showgirl thing out of her system, she’ll drop it soon enough. This instantly makes “wonderul sense” to Marta, and when Dev next asks her to meet this family he knows, she goes along. Cathy Murray is the widow of his best friend, and the oldest of her three children works for Dev as a busboy. Cathy and the two younger children all have muscular dystrophy. “They were all going to die. … Marta’s practiced reserve very nearly melted when Kit limped unsteadily toward her and said: ‘Pretty lady!’ ” From then on we spend quite a few days with the Murrays, agonizing in italics but without benefit of commas about how poor Cathy “couldn’t even lift the pot her muscles were so deteriorated!” There’s also a star-crossed flirtation between Dev and the engaged Marta, in which he says charming things like, “Can’t you see I want to get that good-looking broad … I mean dame, alone for a minute!” Who will she choose—the shady nightclub owner or the steadfast but domineering doctor? Well, all I have to say is that Las Vegas Nurse has, hands down, the most peculiar marriage proposal I’ve ever seen in a VNRN: “How’d you like about fifty years of private duty, you dumb broad?”

Jane L. Sears, author of the sublime Ski Resort Nurse, is ever high in my esteem based solely on the utter fabulousness of that one book. Television Nurse also had its moments, but this, her third and apparently last book, is sadly not the equal of either of its sisters. Campy characters and situtations should come easily to a book about gangsters and showgirls, but what we get most of is syrupy sentiment about the dying family. Or Marta freaking out about her sister’s wild behavior, or sighing over Dev’s devilishly handsome mien, or grumping to herself about Spence’s selfishness. There’s just not all that much to hold your interest in this book. Given my high regard for Ms. Sears, it pains me greatly to say it, but there it is. She is capable of greatness, but the only divine aspect about this book is its cover.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Nurse with Wings

By Marguerite Mooers Marshall, ©1952

Anne was engaged to mary Dr. “Staff” Stafford, ambitious young New York society doctor who demanded that she give up the career she loved. Then, one storm-tossed night, her plane crashed in the Canadian wilderness, and the whole pattern of her life was swept out of her control. For as she sought to save her passengers from the burning wreckage, she found a stranger working skillfully by her side. He was Dr. Paul Roy, a young Canadian doctor. Back in New York in Staff’s possessive arms Anne Austin tried to forget the quiet, masterly young Canadian.


“Some women steal spoons. Others, if they get the chance, steal the fillings out of your teeth or the man who is your man.”

“I’ve known her for a long time, which may be the reason I should never consider her anything except a former associate and acquaintance, certainly not a friend.”

“Hadn’t someone said a woman’s husband is simply the oldest of her children?”

“Every rule has exceptions between friends.”

“Pity is a beautiful virtue but no basis for lifelong happinss in marriage. A woman wants to look up to her husband, not look after him.”

“A girl gets used to realizing the nicest men she meets are almost always married.”

Nurse with Wings opens with a bit of a literal bang: Anne Austin, stewardess and registered nurse, is assisting her passengers off her plane—which has just crashed in a field in Quebec. She’s trying to get a baby boy untangled from a smashed seat and his dead mother, but “she was no Amazon,” and it’s only the assistance of passenger Dr. Paul Roy that frees the boy. Once out, she and Dr. Roy agree to drive the baby to his father’s house, several hours away. On the drive they impress each other with their patriotism, their love of flying, their interest in “mercy flights” bringing remote, ill people to hospitals. They soon discover they are both bilingual, French and English, and binational, with one American and one Canadian parent. And she trained at the Quebec City hospital where he now works as an eye, nose and throat surgeon. When they part on page 23, “Anne, with the queer feeling of losing not a new but an old friend, gently freed herself from the strong, sensitive surgeon’s fingers still holding hers.”

Back at home, she has a fiance, Dr. William Lee Stafford, waiting for her, and he manages to irk in the very sentence in which we first meet him when he kisses Anne “proprietorially,” and then it’s all downhill from there. He’s pissy about the years he was drafted into the army during World War II, which he feels were a waste—nevermind about the waste of Anne’s brother Doug, who was killed in the same war. He’s described as brusque, suspicious, petulant, bitter and sullen, and this is all on the first page we spend in his company. Then we learn that “Staff” is constantly nagging Anne to quit her job, though she loves it, is well-paid, and has to work half the hours she would in a hospital, which gives her time to care for her ailing mother. He is such a complete ass that it’s extremely hard to figure out why Anne puts up with him. She is clearly an intelligent woman—she went to Vassar, after all—so her stupidity on this score is quite baffling. Fortunately, Staff is one of those guys who won’t marry until he can support his wife, regardless of the fact that she makes a decent salary and is self-supporting, so she’s unable to ruin her life by chaining herself to this loser just yet.

Mrs. Austin, Anne’s mother, has terrible migraines induced by the summer heat in their New York city apartment, so Anne takes her on vacation to their New Hampshire home on Great Pond in Belltown—Mrs. Marshall was born and raised in Kingston, N.H., which hosts a pond of the same name—and she invites Staff to join them. Soon after his arrival, she takes him to Great Boar’s Head, a rocky promontory in the real-life Hampton (named “Campton” in this book), where the wind is so ferocious that it almost sweeps Anne off the rock into the water. At that moment, rather than grab for her, Staff pushes her off him so as to avoid being pulled in as well. She recovers her balance in time, but she can never quite look at him the same way after that. But soon he decamps, lured away by the promise by a comely young nurse of a job in a sanitorium outside of New York City catering to the ubiquitous wealthy neurotic women. She’s not happy about it, but decides it’s not her place to criticize his choice of career—perhaps forgetting that he has no qualms about doing the same to her.

In the meantime, cataracts are eroding Mrs. Austin’s eyesight. Anne calls Staff, and he gives her the names of two eye doctors in New York. But he makes no effort to help her by calling these doctors, who might be inclined to offer a discounted fee to family of another doctor. The consultations are a complete bust: One doctor refuses to see her out of hand, and the other demands more than $1,000 for his services. So her thoughts turn to the eye surgeon Dr. Roy. What a difference a Canadian makes. While her American fiance offers next to nothing when asked for help, a letter from Dr. Roy magically arrives the day after she thinks of writing to him, offering his services if she should ever be in need of them. After she writes back of her mother’s situation, he sends a telegram offering his surgical services, and soon she and Mrs. Austin are en route to Quebec City. And this is not an isolated incident; time and again, Dr. Roy offers up something Anne and her mother need even before they can ask for it.

Anne is under the impression that Dr. Roy is married—he speaks of two children at home that he has brought up—and at the same time, he tells her that he expects to be paid for the surgery he performed on Mrs. Austin, though he won’t name an amount. Well, we savvy VNRN aficionados completely understand what is going on here, even if the couple in question does not. Then there’s her engagement to Staff in the way as well—

This book has quite a few of the same ingredients we savored in the other book we’ve met by Ms. Marshall, Wilderness Nurse: New Hampshire, New York City, Quebec, bilingual main characters. I enjoyed them all the first time around (and not just because I’m from the same area of New Hampshire), and they’re almost as well done in this book. The picture she paints of a summer cottage in rural New Hampshire is bucolic and beautiful, something you feel you are experiencing with Anne and her mother. The heroine is spunky, independent and likeable, if slow to realize that her fiance is a total dolt. It’s a gentle, easy-flowing book, well-written and intelligent. Its only real flaw is that the plot never really offers up much excitement; this story is more of a pleasant walk along a pretty garden path than any wild ride. So while I did enjoy it, it’s not quite as stellar as Wilderness Nurse.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Kay Manion, M.D.

By Adeline McElfresh, ©1959

For the first time in her life, Kay Manion was running away, driving alone cross-country, fleeing her position as a surgeon in a large California hospital. The young and beautiful doctor could not face the thought that a moment of weakness had endangered a patient’s life—or that the man she loved, Dr. Frank Silvester, was infecting her with his own self-serving attitude toward medicine. But when the floodwaters of a raging river suddenly stranded Kay in the ravaged town of Woodbine, she could run no longer. In the midst of terrible human disaster, she had to prove her worth as a doctor. Forced to choose between a love she could not forget and a new love she could not bring herself to trust, Kay learned how foolish a woman’s fears could be, and how wise her heart.


“Since when have pain and illness and death recognized office hours?”

“I’ll bet when he takes my pulse I’ll really register!”

“That was good—‘Good,’ Kay said.”

“She was, first of all, a doctor. First a doctor, then a woman—”

“Her heart plummeted to the toes of her pumps.”

“If you don’t stop talking I am going to pop a thermometer under your tongue.”

“You can’t believe that, Kay. You’re no dewy-eyed teen-ager, you’re a doctor, sweetheart—you know love is strictly biologic.”

“A surgeon pitting his skill against time realizes that time has snatched his patient’s life and is running away with it and he doesn’t dare make one swift, reckless plunge to catch up. If he does, if in his haste the hand holding the scalpel, the fingers tying a ligature, or handling a clamp—as hers had—God—please God—”

“Perhaps she needed to get away from strictly surgery for a while, perhaps that had been a part of her trouble. She had heard it argued that surgery was not for a woman. Pediatrics, definitely. And o.b., internal medicine. But not the long tedious grind that was surgery.”

“Didn’t it give her a turn, sometimes, to open people up? He wan’t right sure that he approved any such shenanigans, looks as though if God had wanted such things done he’d have put a zipper in.”

Kay Manion, M.D., is fleeing California in her red Jaguar. Like all VNRN heroines who flee home, she’s running from a terrible tragedy: While in surgery, she starts thinking about her miserable love life and misses the call for a clamp from the senior surgeon. An artery spurts for an extra moment or two until she is called back to earth—but “in that infinetismal span of time before the strength she willed came back into her hands, had Harvey Webster’s chance for life been snatched from him?” In the throes of despair, Kay’s “heart and her whole future crumbled and trampled beneath her own foolishness,” she flings her belongings into a bag and heads out of town, before it’s even known whether Mr. Webster is going to pull through. (This is the second VNRN I’ve read where an extra second of hemorrhage convinces the heroine that she’s a murderer; see also Surgical Nurse by Florence K. Palmer.)

Stopping at a gas station in Indiana for directions, the friendly fella there warns her under no circumstances should she stay on Route 50, because there’s a huge flood coming. But when she gets to the intersection where she’s supposed to turn, she’s busy ruminating over that fateful day and biting her lip “until the salty taste of blood was there,” so she just keeps on going. Even as the water gets higher and she has to drive on flooded roads, it never crosses her mind that maybe she ought to turn around. Until she’s crossing this rickety bridge and it collapses under her.

She’s saved by a couple of locals, but now she’s stuck in this backwater, because the bridge was the only way out. But they can always use another doctor, and before long she’s helping with disaster management. She always seems to be seconds away from hysteria, though; Harvey Webster is never far from her thoughts, of course, but even when she’s in the middle of treating patients, she’s still hysterically obsessing: “Kay opened her mouth to ask why hadn’t the Davidsons gotten out while they could, then closed it, the words unspoken. Why didn’t people, herself included, do a lot of things? If she had paid attention to her driving she wouldn’t be here, she would be headed east on 50, far from flood-drowned southern Indiana by now. If she hadn’t followed her foolish heart until even the marrow in her bones was weary, if she hadn’t fallen in love with Frank Silvester the instant their eyes met that day in Dr. Frank’s cubbyhole of an office—she withdrew the needle from Evy’s hip, straightened.” This woman is a nervous breakdown or a malpractice lawsuit, or both, waiting to happen. Fortunately, she can turn it down a notch after page 50, when she finally calls home and finds out that Harvey Webster is going to be all right. The wise old doctor she talks to tells her that she was running not just from Harvey Webster—“It was Frank, too,” she thinks. “And—and her—”

You see, back in California she is engaged to one of those ubiquitous young doctors hoping to set up an office catering to neurotic rich women, apparently not recognizing that his fiancee is, perhaps more than anyone, in need of his services. To develop his clientele, Frank spends a lot of nights out club-hopping and being seen at all the fashionable spots, and poor Kay has been at the verge of exhaustion trying to keep up with him and still get up early for surgery in the morning. But on her midwestern detour she meets steady, dependable Chris Buford, publisher of the local newspaper. For some reason, he falls for her, and now Kay has another reason to anguish endlessly and speak with italics and em dashes: “Chris, I—Oh, Chris, please! I—I don’t know!

The town is predictably on the verge of going under in the flood, but relentless sandbagging by the townspeople saves it, and there is much rejoicing. The strain, however, is too much for the elderly doctor, who is felled by the hard work: “Pinching the doubt in the bud she found a pulse in the muscular hairy wrist, with an eye on the sweeping second hand of her watch counted … seventy-nine…eighty…eighty-one, and it was a minute. Eighty-one! Oh, God—” Before she completely freaks out, someone ought to remind her that 81 is a normal pulse. So Kay has to stay on to help, and six months later, the old doc is better and hoping she’ll stay permanently. But there’s a rumor going around town about Chris and a beautiful music teacher, who is soon sporting a diamond. Kay flees home to California without finding out the truth of the situation—clearly she hasn’t learned anything at all—and we’ve got 20 more pages, plenty of time to develop a subplot! Back at the hospital, the staff is gossiping that one patient declined surgery, “not if Dr. Manion was to do the operating,” and that she’s a tramp, and now the medical board wants to see her in a closed session. But another surgeon tells her that there is “a master plan behind the whole thing,” an attempt to drive her out of the hospital. Who—who would do such a thing? Oh, God

Frankly, I’m torn over this book. Kay is a horrible doctor, unable to keep her mind on her work and needing to be talked in off the ledge on every other page. Though she does seem to be a magnet for disaster, the amout of emotional drama she wrings from even ordinary events is seriously psychotic. The camp factor is turned up to eleven, and though it does offer up numerous laugh-out-loud moments, it can feel overdone at times and leave you rolling your eyes at yet another self-absorbed diatribe. I did enjoy the fairly realistic descriptions of surgery and the red Jag—before it drowned, anyway—but this book is a roller coaster of amusement and exasperation. I think it’s worth reading—aloud, preferably, to a group of like-minded friends—but be prepared for a wild ride, on a rickety, collapsing bridge.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Trust in Love

By Jeanne Bowman
(pseud. Peggy O’More Blocklinger), ©1966

Nurse Merry Cowels was good at handling the problems of all her patients and friends. But when it came to her own love problems, she was at a loss. Because of her fear of letting her emotions go with Dr. Sam Baker and because of the emotional hodgepodge in her heart, Merry took a vacation from her work and from Sam … in order to think. But an accident brought handsome Les Carlson into Merry’s life and into her heart. Would Merry finally be able to let herself love and trust again, or would ugly rumors bring rejection once more?


“Her very going into training had been inspired by her—or was it their—belief such a profession could bring in needed income during the off fishing season.”

“Oh, eat your lunch; you’re disturbing the ducks.”

“She remembered the swan that had swung in from somewhere to the pond they’d sat beside that noon, lost from its flock but content, assured his inborn radar would carry him on, unless man and gunfire sought him as a trophy.”

“No, I will not kiss you. If you have picked up a few germs, I don’t want to catch any from you.”

I seem to be on a roll here, having just finished reading Peggy Gaddis’s finest book so far (Nora Was a Nurse), and now finding that Trust in Love is actually Peggy O. Blocklinger’s best as well. But before you start searching the internet for a copy, remember that this is the author who thus far has earned the only failing grade (for the spectacularly loony Conflict for Nurse Elsa; Door to Door Nurse secured a D). Her best is still pretty dreadful.

Marilyn Cowels, known as Merry, is a nurse at Westhills Hospital. She’s overworked and tired, and upset that when she ran into a former patient whose life she had saved, he asked her, “Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?” She’s a bit loath to leave Dr. Sam Baker, despite what the back cover blurb says, but gosh darn it, she is really tired! She’s going back to her parents’ old house, which is between tenants, for a vacation. But on her way home she picks up a couple of hippies, called, I am sorry to say, Lad and Lass, and witnesses a car accident involving engineer Les Carlson. She saves the life of the old geezer who caused the accident, and is not too traumatized by the events to accept a date from Les. The next day, she turns up at the town doctor’s office to report what she saw at the accident and learns old Dr. Mathis is woefully understaffed. Soon she is suited up in her nylon uniform and efficiently ticking through the doctor’s to do list. Not long on the job, she manages to get all kinds of truths out of patients who have been seeing Dr. Mathis for decades, like the woman whose husband beats her, and the man—an old beau who dumped her—who has TB. So she never really gets that vacation.

She dates Les when he’s free, and Dr. Baker pops up from Westhills to see her from time to time. There’s a storyline about a suicidal woman artist who uses everyone and nearly starves to death when they get tired of it, but other than that, not much really happens. Except a lot of preaching: This book hasn’t met a cause it can’t take time to cluck over: elderly people swindled into buying homes in flood plains, pyromaniacs, duplicitous politicians, soil erosion, gun safety, bad drivers, war, impoverished nations, weapons in outer space. It’s like every one of the Berenstain Bears books under one cover. The author’s prose is not as spacey as it has been in previous books, but it still made me stop at times for a breath of fresh air. This book is neither entertaining nor interesting, and the writing is stilted and condescending. Sad to think the author has done a lot worse.