Saturday, May 11, 2013

Nurse from the Shadows

By Arlene Hale, ©1975

Nurse Adena York had been in love with Dr. Dave Bradfield for a long time. But every time the subject of marriage came up, Dave found some excuse to put it off. Adena became alternately depressed and exasperated. Why couldn’t Dave see that they were really meant for each other? Why? A new doctor had joined the hospital staff. He was quite a bit younger than Dave. But Adena, tired of what she regarded as the runaround from Dave, found it easy to accept the newcomer’s date-offers. But one day a bombshell erupted—and it seemed as if Dave, her dearest, most wonderful Dave, was caught right in the middle of it. It was then, while Dave fought to save a life, that the dark shadows fell away from between them … at long last.


“ ‘You certainly know how to please a man, Adena,’ Doctor Dave Bradfield said. ‘I always thought nurses made terrible housewives. Yet, you have this very nice apartment and you can cook like a dream.’ ”

“Most women frighten me unless they’re anesthetized and under my scalpel in the O.R.”

“I take my belt to all lovely women.”

“Go home and fix your warrior a nice supper—nothing rich or heavy.”

Adena York is unique among VNRN nurses in that she is in her 30s. Her boyfriend, Dr. Dave Bradfield, is in his 50s, though, so there’s still that classic 10- to 15-year age gap that always baffles me—the inherent inequality of a relationship in which the man is almost old enough to be your father is absolutely not appealing to me. Adena has been dating Dave for five years now, and he still hasn’t come up with a ring. He had been married early in life to a woman who’d walked out on him, and this seems to make him gun-shy. Adena, naturally, is beginning to lose patience.

Then Dave interviews surgeon Scott Lockwood to work at the clinic he heads up. Scott is a brilliant doctor at 26, and he works with Dave in the OR like he’s Dave’s left hand. But Dave is uneasy: “He couldn’t shake the feeling that something didn’t ring true about Scott.” He hires him anyway, and soon he’s starting to wonder if Scott is scheming to unseat him in his position as clinic chief. Then the son of his best friend is brought in after a car accident and requires urgent surgery. Scott is off, not even on call, but Dave is unreasonably furious at Scott for not being available to do the surgery, and insists that even on his days off, Scott should be calling in every hour. Scott is not convinced, and the two now become overt enemies.

Meanwhile, Adena dumps Dave and starts dating Scott. Scott is also dating the daughter of the clinic’s owner, and Dave believes that both relationships are meant to unsettle him, one emotionally and the other from his job. Then a malpractice lawsuit comes up, involving Dave’s handling of a patient we have only met in passing, and this lawsuit is threatening to destroy Dave’s career and bring down the clinic at the same time. These days, when doctors expect to be sued regularly, this crisis seemed overblown, but maybe the torts were different in those times. Dave is indeed asked to step down from his job, and as he’s hanging up the phone from hearing this news, it rings again—it’s his ex-wife, in town and dying of emphysema, and now the secret comes out that Scott is actually Dave’s son! Which the savvy reader began suspecting 50 pages ago!! Dave responds by getting into a boat and drifting around the local fishing hole for an entire day, moping. “All his life he had wanted a son, needed a son and when he had found him, he was betrayed by him!” Poor Dave!

But he needn’t worry, since there are only six more pages left, so everything is quickly set to rights: Dave and Scott kiss and make up, the clinic owner’s daughter marries to an Englishman, the malpractice suit is dropped, Scott decides he really wants to date his secretary, and even Adena gets her man in the end. The fact that she’s been kissing Dave’s son is not addressed, so it’s just left to the reader to imagine the awkwardness at Thanksgiving.

This book is a complete dud. In the first place, the title turned out to be too true—the nurse is left completely in the background in this book, as it is told entirely from Dave’s point of view, so it doesn’t actually qualify as a nurse novel. Secondly, even if nurse Adena York had been the star of the book, its plotline—how the young lady lands the reluctant longtime beau—is my least favorite: There’s no surprise and no real choice for the heroine, as she’s already made it when the book opens. Then the “drama” of Scott turning out to be Dave’s son is so not; I had suspected this all along. But even if I hadn’t figured that out, I just didn’t care what happened to Dave or Scott or even Adena. They’re all vapid, empty characters with not a thing to recommend them. I don’t expect anything much from Arlene Hale, who despite her prodigious output is mediocre at best, but the interesting title and cover illustration did give me some hope. Fooled again.

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