Sunday, April 21, 2013

An American Nurse in Paris

By Diane Frazer
(pseud. Dorothy Fletcher), ©1963
For years, pretty private nurse Norma Scott had dreamed of a European vacation. And when she was offered a special case which would take her to Paris, she had her dream on a silver platter. Europe—first-class, all expenses paid! But, on the day of departure, Norma’s aging patient, Mr. Whittaker, did not arrive. In his place, aboard the deluxe airliner, was his handsome son Thorne. Norma was outraged. Had she been deceived by the rich young man with whom she was Paris bound? But Thorne was persuasive and Norma’s heart found him hard to resist.


“You don’t have to make plans for Paris, Miss Scott. Paris makes plans for you.”

Norma Scott is a nurse and a good girl. We know this about her because of one scene early on when she “quickly became aware that his eyes were focused on her legs. She hastily smoothed down her skirt, resolving to let it down an inch when she had the time. They were making them shorter and shorter these days. You could scarcely blame a man for … but oh, these Frenchmen.” So when she is lured into a two-week trip to Paris with the promise of an aging businessman patient and then finds that it’s the gentleman’s son, Thorne Whittaker, who seeks her company in other professional ways, she is outraged!

On their first night in Paris, before she has figured things out, he takes her out on the town, and soon finds her to be “very young, very untouched,” and decides that he really cares for her and has to tell her the truth. But once the cat is out, she refuses to have anything to do with him, though he swears over and over he will never lie to her again. She checks out of their chi-chi hotel near the Arc de Triomphe and into a pension, and gets a job at the American Hospital, where she immediately starts dating Dr. Bob Hoyt. “Yet her blood pressure remained at its usual level; there were no delicious little chills running down her spine.” And her thoughts continue to turn to that scamp, Thorne.

Soon she is involved in caring for the young son of a French friend of Thorne’s whom she had met before their parting; the boy, born in Algeria and now depatrified with the Algerian independence of 1962, has been injured while making a bomb. She is tipped off that the police are planning to search the family home, so she asks Thorne help her dispose of the boy’s illegal pistol. After scolding the boy into behaving himself from now on, she and Thorne set off on a very long date, which includes a meander through the Bois de Boulogne, espresso and Dubonnet on the Champs Elysée, and dinner and wine at a bistro on the Ile St. Louis. As they sit on the banks of his Seine—he’s spread his handkerchief on the cold stones for her—he apologizes and kisses her. She resists, saying “I wish I could believe you’re really a decent man and that never again will you try to trick me, be deceitful, that you’re not a playboy.” He just laughs: “If you don’t mind, Miss Scott, I don’t want to talk small talk,” so they stop talking for a while, and then Norma breathlessly says she’ll never doubt him again. Crossing the Seine, she suddenly remembers the parcel! “He laughed lightly. ‘I got rid of it,’ ” he says, admitting he dumped it into a trashcan hours ago. “Of all the low and dirty tricks!” she exclaims, and that’s the end of it.

This book is a throwaway. I adored the cover, and Paris as a backdrop had promise, bien sûr. Florence Stonebraker could have worked something better of the slightly risqué setup with half a typewriter, but in the end this is fluff with a paradoxical ending. Perhaps it’s meant to be amusingly ironic that Thorne’s latest trick is revealed after Norma has forgiven him for the last one, but I found her response only irritating and bewildering. And so you might want to leave the American nurse in Paris and try rather for some other exotic locale.

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