Saturday, April 14, 2012

University Nurse

By Arlene Hale, ©1967
Cover illustration by Lou Marchetti

Sara Arnold, the nurse at Heights University, knew what it was to go beyond the call of duty, to help sick or troubled students. But she needed love, too, and she couldn’t share Noel with so many of his devoted—and beautiful students. Sara loved the dedicated young professor, but how could she accept just a small corner of his life when someone like Hal offered her his whole world? For Hal was the kind of man who would give up all for the woman he loved. As a responsible nurse, Sara could understand Noel’s dedication to his career, but sometimes even a girl like Sara, usually so full of common sense, had trouble choosing between what reason dictated and her heart demanded.


“It’s a living. I’d swap it any time for a home, kids and a husband.”

“ ‘Hmm, your hair smells so good.’
“ ‘Shampooed it last night, just for you.’ ”

“ ‘You look right in a kitchen. I thought professional women were never much for homemaking.’
“ ‘You’re wrong,’ Sara answered. ‘We’re women first and then professionals.’ ”

Arlene Hale was a very prolific writer, penning more than one hundred books under this name, and she had at least six other pseudonyms as well. Quantity, however, seldom has anything to with quality in a best-selling author; I have found Arlene Hale’s books to be mostly mediocre (this is the eighth I’ve read). And so we have University Nurse.

Sara Arnold, the RN for Heights University, is dating sociology prof Noel Tyler. Their dates consist of her laying her head on his tweedy shoulder as he smokes a pipe in his book-lined study. Oh, and fighting about how he spends too much of his free time with his students, the co-eds especially, and this one girl in particular. Anne Marie Parker, a 22-year-old senior, is perennially turning up on Noel’s doorstep. Noel won’t tell Sara what he and Anne Marie talk about, because it’s confidential, but Sara has a few unflattering ideas.

Despite Sara’s objections, the visits to Noel’s house don’t stop, and now Professor Garth, the old chem prof, is dropping by as well. He has a troubled marriage, and rumors are flying that he is involved with one of the undergrads. Soon the Dean hears that it’s Anne Marie who is getting extra help in chemistry, and Prof. Garth is fired. Anne Marie is about to be expelled herself when she turns up at Noel’s house again. Noel sees no problem in “tightening his arms around her for a moment. In a way, Anne Marie was much as he had been as an orphaned boy, needing help, needing love, needing someone’s shoulder to lean on. He would and could help this girl. He lifted her tear-smudged face in his hands. Even like this, she was a fragile, beautiful thing and his heart ached to help her.” Clearly he has learned nothing from the cautionary tale of Prof. Garth.

Anne Marie tells Noel that nothing happened between her and Prof. Garth, and he insists that she go to the Dean and tell him this, or he will. Of course, when Sara learns of this latest tête à tête, she argues with Noel; she feels that if she had really wanted to, Anne Marie would have gone to the Dean long ago and prevented Prof. Garth from being fired in the first place, and Sara wonders if Anne Marie needs some therapy. Noel is hotly defending Anne Marie’s psychiatric integrity and about to break up with Sara when the phone rings: rather than go to the Dean, Anne Marie went to the medicine cabinet and attempted suicide with its contents.

When Sara and Noel get to Anne Marie’s hospital room, she asks them if anyone has cabled her father, an elusive businessman who has never had time for his daughter. “They must! They must!” she tells them. “Otherwise, it was all for—” Sara and Noel immediately deduce that Anne Marie had set up the whole “affair” with Prof. Garth as well as the suicide attempt to get her father’s attention. Noel takes the whole thing very hard, feeling that it’s entirely his fault that Anne Marie attempted suicide, because his rescue of Prof. Garth’s reputation and Anne Marie’s enrollment in the university meant that Anne Marie felt compelled to take some other drastic action to force her father to notice her.

I’m sure I don’t have to explain any more for you to see where this story is going. It’s a simple story, simply told, without much camp or fun or humor. It’s a quick read, but the best thing about this book is the cover—the illustration by Lou Marchetti as well as the cover line, “The professor understood everything but love.”

No comments:

Post a Comment