Monday, May 28, 2012

He Married a Doctor

By Faith Baldwin, ©1943
Cover illustration by Forté

Carey Dennis had been in love once, deeply in love. Then he had been hurt, just as deeply. Once was enough. If he ever fell in love again, Carey told himself, it wouldn’t be with a woman like Hilda. A woman whose mind and hands had been highly trained, a woman whose heart was big enough to love all humanity—but perhaps not intimate enough to love a man.


“I might forgive you your profession if you were plain and wore your teeth on the outside and had mouse-colored hair in a bun. Or if you were the hearty collar-and-tie type.”

“How come you aren’t taking pulses somewhere instead of increasing them?”

“Kathy didn’t like women her own age, she loathed those who, like Hilda, were younger, but she was wonderful with any woman over fifty.”

“She was forbidden alcohol. Besides, she didn’t approve of the stuff, except medicinally. However, she had no objection to other people’s ruining their stomachs and brains, she said cheerfully, adding disparagingly that, as far as the brains went, few individuals had the type you’d miss, if ruined.”

“Possibly your aunt feels you might turn into one of these very modern, hideously efficient young women who scorn all masculine aid and protection. Perhaps she’d like to prevent it as it would reduce your chance of marriage.”

“If you married a woman you expected that you would be her job.”

“Most marriages are a compromise, an armed truce—men and women having been born natural enemies.”

“Confession may be good for the soul but it could raise merry hell with married life!”

“The bridegroom instinctively expects to be greeted on the threshold of the home by the palpitating bride crying, ‘Darling, I thought you were never coming, the day has been endless!’ ”

Hilda Barrington is a doctor. Not just any old kind of doctor, though; she’s a very special kind of doctor. She’s a woman doctor, a “hen medic.” At 27, she has just finished her training and gone home to Waynefield, New York, to work alongside her aunt, Jane Redding, who is a general practitioner there. And a spinster, because being a woman and a doctor is difficult enough, but to add marriage into the mix is utterly impossible. Indeed, Hilda has decided she herself will never marry: “That problem hasn’t changed, no gadgets have solved it. I ought to marry and have a dozen … well, three or four. How can I? Someone would be hurt, someone neglected even. Unless I stopped practicing. And I won’t, she told herself fiercely, not for any man alive. I can’t.”

Then she meets this guy … Carey Dennis is 36 and has just moved to town. He’s very wealthy and recovering from a broken heart, as his fiancée, Maida, abruptly married a German baron, Franz von Kunst, which he learned about in the papers. Carey and Hilda get off to a spicy start with plenty of witty and insulting repartee. So we know where this is going. The problem with this book is that it gets there too fast, and indeed, as you might have guessed by the title, Hilda and Carey are married before we’re even halfway through. This takes some of the starch out of the book’s spine, as now the central question is not whether they will end up together but rather whether they will get divorced. It just doesn’t make for an entirely satisfying problem. (A little zest, however, comes from the fact that the couple actually has a sex life, which is demurely alluded to on occasion.)

The plot concerns the arrival of Maida and her new husband in town. It turns out that Maida doesn’t love Franz after all; it’s Carey she wants, again, despite the fact that he’s married now, and—oh, yeah—she is, too. So she plots and schemes, aided and abetted by Carey’s discontent with Hilda’s career and the arrival of World War II. Franz, being both German and dislikeable, is highly suspect, though we are advised several times that even if he is an ass that doesn’t necessarily make him a Nazi. (The Japanese cook, however, is not treated so gently after the bombing of Pearl Harbor; no sooner does the news come in over the radio than Carey turns to Hilda to say they must fire him. “I can’t look that little—” he begins, and Hilda agrees to do the job.) Hilda is always running out of parties when an emergency arises, missing dinner, and leaving the house in the middle of the night, and Maida is usually around to point this out to Carey, and then cry on his shoulder about how frightened she is of her husband.

If the love triangle is the skeleton on which the book hangs, its heart is the conflict of being a woman, a doctor, and a wife. The urgency and importance of this question is vastly exaggerated, when viewed through 21st-century lenses, but it’s not entirely foreign to the modern era. The situation is summarized in a scene in which Carey is obliged to help Hilda intubate a seven-year-old boy with diphtheria and is utterly horrified by the entire experience, and at the same time awed by Hilda’s skill and competence. This makes him, as “a mere man, feel degradingly inferior. No man likes that feeling. I’d rather you weren’t—so capable; I’d rather you screamed at spiders and sickened at snakes.” Her abilities, detrimental as they are, are made up for by the fact that she’s “a feminine woman. A woman.” And a good-looking one, at that. Then again, he wonders, “What would it be like to have such a woman in love with you and yet to know that you had a rival always, one stronger than yourself, which all her love for you could not deny?” It’s all right for him to have a career that keeps him out late, and some day there may be children who will supersede him a fair amount of the time, but that’s different.

Dr. Jane is another mirror on the question of being a woman doctor. Jane was a real pioneer in medicine, having been born in 1875 and attended medical school before the turn of the century. It’s regularly acknowledged that Jane has made greater sacrifices than, and opened the door wider for, Hilda and the other young women doctors. Jane also points out the differences in medicine in the 1900s compared to the 1940s—which sound true even today: “Sometimes it seems to me that we diagnose by gadget. Your grandfather could tell more about a heart by using his ear, a stethoscope and common sense than any machine ever invented. Use every new scientific aid—provided it’s been tested and proved—that you can lay your hands on, but don’t forget you have eyes and ears and common sense. All the rest is help, new knowledge and short cuts. But sometimes gadgets fail. They haven’t souls or hearts.”

Faith Baldwin is a wonderful writer, and starting with the first page I sighed happily when a hospital was described as “exclusively expensive or expensively exclusive,” at “a small, plump, dyed woman,” that Dr. Jane has “fine, square teeth, all of them her own.” Her characters are warm (well, most of them are), true, funny, and smart, people you wish you could hang out with for more than just 223 pages. The world she creates is relaxed, humorous, comfortable, and smart. She thinks about things, mulling them over through the course of the book, and if no easy answer is found, it makes for a much better book than arriving at some pat, facile truism with enough holes to make an excellent colander. The second half of the book is not its finest, but even with that flaw, Faith Baldwin handily outscores almost any other writer in the genre.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Young Nurse Rayburn

By Arlene J. Fitzgerald, ©1964
Cover illustration by Mort Engel

A career in a big-city hospital … marriage to a brilliant, popular surgeon—or a life of service to the Indians and lumbermen of the rugged timber country…and the thrill of working beside a virile, dedicated young doctor? As Nurse Rheva Rayburn hesitates between two ways of life, drama and mystery explode—and in a night of crisis and terror, she makes her fateful choice.


“One of the first things a good nurse learned was not to take the drug inspired comments of her male patients too seriously.”

“It was common knowledge that an Indian was incapable of holding his liquor with any kind of grace.”

“Half aware of Dave’s appraising eyes following her movements, she thought again that the administration of a pain relieving agent, or an anesthetic certainly had the power to release the wolf in a male patient.”

“Pregnancy is a woman’s natural role.”

“Hell, Doc, I’ll bet you could take it. And I can stand anything a damn Indian can.”

“Once we’re married, you won’t have to worry over patients, or anything but making me happy.”

Being optimistic in nature, I always start a new nurse novel with a sense of hope, an expectation of a pleasant hour or two, a few laughs, enjoyable characters, and good writing. And I took up this book, with its Mort Engel cover, with just such anticipation. “The road twined inland,” it began, but right there – with that one word, twined, a feeling of dismay settled over me, an inclination that only worsened until the back cover approached and the realization that it would soon come to an end dawned.

Rheva grew up with her lumberjack father, Tim, in rough logging country in the Pacific Northwest, but left all that behind to move to San Francisco to become a nurse. In that fabulous city she was scooped up by Dr. Spencer Sandeen, and the handsome, wealthy surgeon is about to head off to a glorious internship at a fancy Chicago hospital with her as his bride. Her heart doesn’t seem to be in it, though, judging by the constant snarky observations she makes about her so-called beloved. For starters, “He would be shocked, to the tips of his immaculately polished kidskin shoes, if he could see her now, crouching in the dense woods beside the big, rugged ranger.” And then, “Spence had never exhibited that certain, thrilled exuberance for his work—or anything else.” “It was the sort of thing Spence would say. And do, Rheva thought. The easy way out, with little danger—to Dr. Spencer Sandeen’s flawless medical record.” “Spence had made it clear to her that he wanted a wife willing to devote herself exclusively to him, body and soul.” Good luck with that, buddy.

She’s come home to visit her dad for two weeks and help him bag an elk (he scored one of the few permits distributed during the elk season). While she’s there, she meets Dr. John O’Garra, a “strange, dark halfbreed doctor” of Irish and Hoopa Indian ancestry. If you find the term half breed a bit unsettling, better pour a tall glass of Pepto Bismol right now, because the word is used at least half a dozen more times, along with a liberal helping of “inscrutable” and “mysterious” – we are treated to all your favorite Native American stereotypes, from the beautiful, wild young woman Sasoo to drunk Indians getting into bar fights.

Rheva really has quite the hots for the doctor, and her lust is quite startling for a VNRN: “Dr. O’Garra’s long thigh pressed against her own, as he leaned with the swerving ambulance. The hard, sinewy pressure of his muscles burned through the thin fabric of her uniform. A sudden surging tingled along her veins in response to his ruggedly appealing masculinity. She hadn’t known a woman could be … She pushed the thought out of her mind, telling herself that the feeling Dr. O’Garra aroused in her was the mysterious ‘libido’ defined by her nursing textbooks.” Call it what you will, sister, but I call it more appropriate for a sleaze novel.

Beyond her own unabashed hankering for Dr. O’Garra’s lithe, muscular form and “exotic Indian darkness,” it seems we’re also supposed to sport a hard-on for Rheva herself, as we are regularly offered glimpses of her uniform “rustling cleanly against the length of her shapely thighs,” her “soft, full mouth,” or in the shower, where “the chilling water sliced against her creamy, pink tinted body.” She’s scrubbing to assist in a surgery in which her father, gored by his elk, may die, but before we scrub up for a very serious operation, we watch her “slip a wrinkled scrubgown over panties and bra, and bind her generous mop of soft hair away from her pert face.” Speaking of lingerie, we learn more about that, too:“She slipped out of her old hunting pants revealing startlingly brief and pretty underwear, mere wisps of filmy, delicately tinted nylon. Most of the nurses Rheva knew were extravagant in their choice of undergarments. A nurse’s uniforms were attractive, coming in a variety of attractive styles. But it somehow enhanced the femininity of the white garments to know that she was daintily attired beneath them.” Whoa, Nellie!

In a shockingly original plot twist, Dr. O’Garra offers Rheva a job at the woefully understaffed hospital, and she can’t decide whether to stay with the half breed hunk or go back to her asshole fiancé who will force her to give up the career she loves and host parties for his shallow friends. Hmmm – what to do, what to do? Then there’s the “night of crisis and terror” alluded to on the back cover blurb (see above), when she and Dr. O’Garra deliver a baby. We’ve already met the woman’s husband, Dave, when he checked into the hospital after rolling his rig. In Rheva’s every encounter with Dave, he makes salacious remarks and looks her over with x-ray vision. She tries to shame him by mentioning his enormously pregnant wife Peggy, but it doesn’t work: “ ‘She’s not much to look at right now,’ he added, his young, handsome face naïve. His gaze traveled the length of her trim figure, shapely in the well fitted, princess style uniform.” The best thing about his wife’s pregnancy, it seems, is that it will soon be over. Indeed, the first words out of Peggy’s mouth after she delivers her son allude to her relief at getting her figure back: “ ‘It feels … good to be thin again,’ Peggy managed. ‘Dave … will be glad.’ ”

So with the baby – and Peggy and Dave’s sex life – saved, all that’s left is for Rheva to choose Dr. O’Garra. Spence shows up to be jilted to his face, but not to worry: There’s that hot Indian woman, Sasoo, for him to claim instead. All the better that she’s actually an accomplished painter.“Sasoo was beautiful. And with a talent like that she could make a fortune in San Francisco. Spence had a penchant for primitive art, as did most of his friends.” Apparently no matter how many art classes you’ve taken – and she’s been studying for years, financed by Dr. O’Garra – if you paint people with brown faces, it’s classified as primitive.

If I were a bigger person, I would not feel compelled at this point to whine about the book’s numerous allusions to Rheva’s pericardiac anatomy: “Her heart twisted behind her sternum.” “Rheva felt a dull ache starting behind her sternum.” “Rheva felt her heart quicken behind her sternum.” “Her heart had begun a sudden fluttering behind her sternum.” “Fear tugged behind her sternum.” “A knife-sharp pang sliced somewhere behind Rheva’s sternum.” “The wild beating behind her mediastinum had grown to thundering proportions.” (Apart from everything else, it would have helped if the author had checked an anatomy book to find out what the mediastinum actually is.) But this book has not encouraged my finer qualities, no doubt because it has none of its own.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Dude Ranch Nurse

By Arlene Hale, ©1963
Cover illustration by Charles Gehm

Jan Gordon came to Deer River, with its dude ranches deep in the Rockies, in order to thrust aside all the unpleasant memories of the past and rediscover herself. But Jan found that as a nurse and as a woman, she couldn’t turn her back on conflict. There were two young doctors in Deer River; Jan owed loyalty to both. To Dr. Coe, Jan was bound by her conscience, but it was Dr. Lester who held her heart.


“You’re too pretty to be a nurse.”

“You’re more than a nurse. You’re a woman. You know that no matter how important he is, or how old, or even how tough, a man needs the touch of a woman’s hand.”

“There’s some joy in gettin’ sick, if a fellow’s got a pretty nurse like you.”

“I let a few women slip through my fingers. Nice, tasty tidbits, but a man can’t exist on that sort of thing, can he?”

“Wow! Man, you were pretty before, but that uniform really does something for you.”

The cover of this book, after I posted it on my companion blog, Vintage Romance Covers, earned more comments than any other (so it was just two, but still!). I take it from this (albeit meager) sign that the general public holds some interest in this book, perhaps similar to its feeling for Hootenanny Nurse. These titles epitomize the extremes of the genre and bespeak great possibilities of camp, adventure, and fun. If only what lies inside held half the joy of its promise. Dude Ranch Nurse, I am sorry to say, has one E too many in its title.

Now, some may call this a quibble, but our heroine, Jan Gordon, does not work at a dude ranch. In fact, the only time we actually see one is when spends an evening at Pete’s Dude Ranch on a date, and then it’s a passing reference to singing cowboys and thick steaks. Jan has left her home and a boring, nice guy there to “chase her rainbows and satisfy her dreams and search for that elusive thing called happiness.” Just so you know, this is actually a bad thing – the smarter plan would have been “to fall into a dull, humdrum routine. It would have been safe, secure.” But here she is, in Deer River, Colorado, an hour into the mountains from Denver. She gets off the bus and carries her letter of recommendation straight to Dr. Dan Lester’s clinic, and he hires her on the spot, as his son, Dr. Noel Lester, is expected to return home from a few years in New York doing research, and Noel will need a nurse.

The Lester clinic is a shabby place. The paint on the walls is peeling, the linoleum is badly scuffed, the medical equipment was “only fair and very old.” It’s staffed by Nurse Schmidt, one of those stereotypical battleaxes: “the buxom, hard-eyed, tough kind … that sassed patients, jabbed roughly with the needle and ate spike nails for breakfast.” The only thing it has going for it is that it’s “scrupulously clean.” Needless to say, patients are in short supply at Dr. Dan’s. Across town, though, is the Coe Clinic, run by Dr. Mavis Coe. Her establishment is new, modern, decorated with plush carpeting and the latest in medical technology. She even has a few hospital beds, which saves desperately ill patients from being trucked to Holden General Hospital, 20 miles away, in emergencies. Jan’s first day in Deer River gets her into the Coe Clinic when a young girl is thrown from a horse and Jan accompanies the patient there. The problem is that Dr. Coe and Dr. Dan are bitter enemies, and if Dr. Dan finds out that Jan is stopping by the Coe place to visit with little Debbie, who is paralyzed from the accident, she will lose her job.

After much asking around, Jan learns that Dr. Noel and Dr. Mavis had once been engaged. But Mavis had wanted a bigger and better clinic, and Dr. Dan had refused. She and Dan waged a tug of war over Noel, and neither won: Noel packed up for New York. So Mavis opened her fancy clinic across town, and it’s been a big success. The story is a bit confusing, but it seems that Noel had asked Mavis to wait a few years, for Dr. Dan to retire, before improving the Lester clinic. “All he’d asked for was a few years. All they had to do was wait, but Mavis wouldn’t,” Noel thinks. “She had always been ambitious, going hell bent toward her goals. … If Mavis had really loved him, nothing else would have mattered – neither the clinic nor her fantastic ambition. Mavis didn’t love him, never had and never would.”

There’s a lot wrong with Noel’s assessment, starting with the fact that Noel is mulling this over after he had gone to Mavis’ house before she had arrived home, let himself in with the spare key she keeps under the flowerpot, fought with her, grabbed her and kissed her against her will, and she had bitten him on the lip so hard it bled. Then one could ask why, of the affianced couple, it’s Mavis who ought to have given in. If Dan’s clinic is so clearly shabby and not meeting the needs of the population, why must a new facility that would improve local healthcare hinge solely on Dr. Dan’s whims? We could say that if Noel had loved Mavis, he would have chosen her over his father. This is the point of view taken by Jan: “There was too much respect for this woman doctor in her heart. She had seen how skilled she was, how much she cared about her patients. Perhaps she was ambitious. That was no crime. Perhaps she had wanted a nice building, a decent place to treat her patients. That was no crime either. Dr. Dan was wrong. Worst of all, he knew he was wrong and it ate at him like a burning infection.” But this exculpatory passage doesn’t let Mavis off the hook until the penultimate chapter, so for most of the story Mavis wears a scarlet MD.

Anyway, all that’s just the backstory. In the meantime, Jan has a monster crush on Noel, who is quite the hot tomato. “Noel Lester was one of the most attractive men she had ever seen. … To be involved romantically with a man that looked like this was probably the answer to most girls’ dreams.” So she hankers after Noel, but he mostly just toys with her, as it’s Mavis who owns his heart; Jan “was his ace in the hole,” thinks the lousy cad. For her part, Jan dates Noel, a frisky mountaineer called Buzz, and a reclusive writer next door named Damon. It’s a little peculiar to watch Jan and Noel bounce around, kissing everyone in sight despite their professed love for one person only. By the end of the book, the only person I really respect is Mavis.
This is another cover of the same book.

The story concludes with Noel – once again – displaying his hydrozoan tendencies by decamping for New York, letting his father and Mavis know via a cowardly telegram. The wrench in his plans is the fact that his plane comes to earth a bit prematurely, in the mountains just outside of town. Does he survive? Will this tragedy bring peace at last to all the warring factions? Will Jan find herself a man? All these important questions are answered, of course, but you won’t be surprised by any of it, and you will care even less. And so my quest for a sublimely titled book that is actually worth reading continues.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Winged Victory for Nurse Kerry

By Patricia Libby, ©1965

When Kerry came to Hartford Memorial Hospital, she wanted to forget the past, with its nightmare of the airplane crash, and Johnny … She did not want to risk love again. Yet Dr. Garth Hamilton, handsome and rich, offered her a new kind of love, a love that protected without demands or challenges. Kerry knew she would be safe with him. But there was another doctor, a young man with stormy eyes who reminded her of the lost Johnny … and the spark of his courtship threatened to kindle a flame in her that would push security away in a renewed memory of peril and ecstasy.


“It was nice to be regarded with something akin to awe. Did lots for a man’s ego.”

“She was a tall girl with creamy skin, black hair, and the kind of a figure that even a critically ill male patient had been known to appreciate.”

“The Officer’s Club. Center of the base social life and springboard to romance.”

“It isn’t nurses that I dislike. It’s career women in general. When they work it tends to make them competitive and independent. They lose much of their femininity. But you’re different, Kerry. Gentle, vulnerable. All woman.” 

“Don’t lean too close with that sensational figure of yours, or he’s liable to have a relapse.” 

“Don’t look so embarrassed. You aren’t the first nurse to be caught necking in the sacred halls of Hartford.”

“She might fail as a woman, but never as a nurse.” 

“Smile if it kills you, sweetie. No man likes a moody girl.” 

“Brett slept on through dinner and dishes and Gina washing her hair.”

“Honesty was a vital part of courage.”

After the long dearth of good nurse novels that I have recently endured, I am all the more grateful to Patricia Libby, who has given us a pretty good book with Winged Victory for Nurse Kerry, even if the title is a bit of a mouthful. In Ms. Libby we have the campiest writer in the genre, who can toss off phrases like, “There was no security in Brett—only challenge,” with a flip of the carriage return on her Smith Corona. We have high drama, in this case a plane crash into the ocean that left our heroine bereft of her fiancé, Johnny, and with an enduring phobia of airplanes. And we even have characters whose evolution over the course of the book is its central theme, and the boys circling around the perimeter are just the prizes for conquering your personal demons.

Kerry Kincaid had once been a second lieutenant in the Air Force, working as a flight nurse with pilot Major John Bowman. But then came the aforementioned plane crash, in which he tows her through stormy waves to a life raft, then slips into the briny depths, à la Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic. After 11 months in the hospital, she’s honorably discharged and lands a job at Hartford Hospital in San Diego. She’ll never love again, or step on a plane, either. But she can still date, and Dr. Garth Hamilton, a wealthy OB/GYN senior resident, quickly impresses her with his showman-like skill in the OR and lines like, “It seems to me that a little girl like you belongs in a house dress instead of a uniform.” He obviously prefers his girlfriends without spines, and she’s only too happy to oblige: “Garth knew the terror she’d been through. He wouldn’t ask her to be brave, to put aside memory and do things that were beyond her. The strength that Garth Hamilton offered seemed like a kind of haven. Suddenly she wanted to lean on it. Let herself be protected, sheltered.”

On the other hand, there’s Dr. Brett Taylor, a ladies’ man, flippant, brash, demanding, and rich, too. And—can you believe it?—he owns a plane, which he uses to make mercy medical missions to Mexico. No girlfriend of his can be afraid of flying, so he presses Kerry to let him take her up in his plane to conquer her fear, and she shrinks in terror until Garth steps in and defends the frightened little mouse nurse. When Brett hears that Kerry is dating Garth, he snaps, “It should prove to be a sterile relationship. No danger of you being infected by any consuming emotion.” All they do is argue when they meet in the cafeteria, but she allows herself to be coerced into a date with Brett, largely because his humble dedication as a surgeon and his Mexican missions bespeak a big heart inside the wolfish exterior. Before long, over the hospital bed of a young boy whose life Brett has just saved, they’re kissing and declaring their burning love for each other.

But it’s only page 69, so we’ve got time for more internal struggle. Garth does not approve when he finds Kerry specialing a young Mexican patient of Brett’s who has suffered severe burns: “Brett has no right to carry his experiment in psychology this far, forcing you to accept challenge in the belief that it will give you back your courage. Make a strong, self-reliant woman out of you. Kerry darling, don’t allow Brett to make you into something you aren’t. Something I don’t want you to be.” This actually gives her pause, and then, on a date, Brett decides to surprise Kerry with a little trip to the airport, telling her he’s going to take her up in his plane. She becomes completely hysterical, running out onto the landing strip, and Brett has to bundle her back into the car before a plane runs her over. He takes her home and tells her that he can’t see her again: “You need a different kind of man. One who won’t push and demand and apparently hurt you so much.”

So when Garth proposes to her, she accepts, because she thinks marriage to Garth will bring a life of security and peace—and then she meets his parents, a snooty pair who immediately starts impressing on Kerry their need for grandchildren. She is unnerved by this, but when Garth tells her that his parents are coming with them on their honeymoon in Hawaii—which is going to be a business trip as well, by the way—she says nothing of her discontent with his fabulous idea. Garth, who doesn’t know when to quit, then tells her that he is having her transferred from surgery to OB/GYN so she can special a rich woman who might send Garth lots of referrals if she is pleased. “It had never occurred to Garth to ask if she minded the transfer. He simply took it for granted that she’d follow his wishes, just as with the honeymoon arrangements.” But she still can’t tell Garth what to do with his spoiled, rich patient, so she goes to the chief of staff and asks him not to take her out of surgery. Dr. Keller tells her he wouldn’t have approved the transfer anyway, then mentions that Brett is flying to Mexico shortly to work at a village wracked by typhoid fever. Will she go with him? Panic ensues, and she quickly flees Dr. Keller’s office.

Safe inside the elevator, she promptly has an epiphany: “Everyone wanted to decide things for her. Garth. His mother. Even Brett. Did they all think her incapable of decision? Unable to stand alone? And was she to blame? The choice was suddenly, frighteningly clear. She could marry Garth and be babied, asked to do nothing more hazardous than compete in tennis and bridge. Or she could be the real Kerry Kincaid again. Dependable, self-reliant, unafraid to make decisions and stand by them.” Guess what she does next? Well, it’s not a completely straight road; she still tries to convince herself that “Garth would make a wonderful husband. She was lucky to be marrying him.” It’s irritating to watch her waffle, though it is quite clear to us what the right, and best, choice is. But it’s just a few pages until she’s finally resolved, and the ending is actually kind of cute—a real rarity in VNRNs.

I found this book all the more pleasing because Kerry is made whole again not by one guy or the other, but by her own design. Though she ends up taking the path Brett would have her follow, it’s on her own timetable, not his; Brett’s attempt to coerce her onto his plane on their date fails badly, and when she eventually does get back on a plane, it’s because she has made that choice herself, not because someone else forces her to. I also feel compelled to note that this book, like many VNRNs I’ve read, takes a rather dim view on wealth. Poverty is noble in these books, and if you must have money, you have to work pretty hard to overcome that disadvantage by ruthlessly sacrificing yourself, for example, in impoverished Mexican villages. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s seldom poor doctors who take on these missions; they’re too busy working themselves to the bone to get through their residencies and refusing to marry their girlfriends. Fortunately for Kerry, Brett has money, so they can get married and she can keep working, so as to prove her worth as a useful person. Happy endings for all.