Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Nurse to Marry

By Patti Carr 
(pseud. William Neubauer), ©1967
There should have been nothing unusual about a young, handsome multi-millionaire having a hobby. But in Nicholas Meers’ case there was. His hobby was collecting wives—and number five had already cost him a lot more than he bargained for … physically, emotionally and financially. As a nurse, Carol Drake felt sorry for the man. As a woman, she felt confused. And as the rumors began to fly that she would be the sixth Mrs. Meers, she felt herself becoming inextricably involved in a case that could not only destroy her career, but her dreams of happiness—forever.
“Money puts one above the bother of being polite.”
“Hal Brent ordered: ‘Pucker, please.’ ”
It’s not often you get to meet such a collection of nutcases in a single novel, all of them passed off as normal human beings. Our own heroine, Carol Drake, proves herself to be rather unsympathetic right off the bat when she is rudely condescending to her nurse roommate, who’s having a hard time with nursing. According to the all-knowing Carol, Pat isn’t cut out for the profession because she was raised by well-off academics; farm-raised girls like herself, Carol thinks, are best suited for nursing. So when Pat sighs that it’s hard taking care for terminally ill patient, sympathetic Carol snaps, “Be a play nurse in some ad for Noxema if you want just the uniform rather than the work.” I’m not sure why the author felt this would be a helpful addition to the character’s backstory.
As the book opens, Carol has been sent to deliver papers explaining a potential business deal to multimillionaire Nicholas Meers, who will only see “dollies” and not bankers like Carol’s fiancé Hal Brent, who is desperate to obtain Meers’s backing. Meers is so outrageously out of touch with the real world that upon arriving at the bench on his estate where she is waiting for him, he tells her, “Presently, I may converse with you. I’ve not made up my mind.” So the pair sits in silence until her pressing schedule forces her to hand over the papers. During their ensuing short conversation, he can’t remember the names of his wives, refers to himself in the third person, and tells her, “I permit women to smoke in my presence.” Her impression of him, therefore, is that “he’s young, fairly attractive, and very rich,” and she can understand why so many women want to marry him. And so the rumors that she’s to be his sixth are born.
And when the otherwise perfectly healthy Meers is admitted to the hospital for some unspecified tests that will take weeks, Carol gets the job of specialing him. She doesn’t have much to do, since there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with Meers, and though talk swirls of a desperately needed psych consult—ordered after Meers attempts to shoot himself in the head and misses—it never materializes. But while on the job, she learns that Helen Meers, the current wife, has some unspecified hold on her husband that makes him incapable of divorcing her. He’d like to, we are told, because when he attempted to assault her, she fought back with a hard blow to the solar plexus that left him gasping. This is presented as the crowning evidence of Helen’s deviousness, regardless of the fact that this is a pretty clear-cut case of self-defense. Then Carol is sent on a three-day drive to Vancouver to retrieve an envelope from Meers’s safe, which he instantly shreds the minute it’s delivered into his hands back at the hospital.
But what the document was is never revealed. It’s presumed to have been a will, but who cares? Mrs. Meers’s hold over her husband also vaporizes when he offers her a divorce and a paltry $100,000 or enforced residence at one of his homes in India; apparently living in any other of his many homes makes her guilty of abandoning him, and never mind that Mr. Meers has no intention of living in India himself, so if she were there, the pair would still be separated. Carol, for her part, advises Mrs. Meers, “All you have to do is be a proper wife to Mr. Meers. He needs someone who cares about him.” Um, sure. That and a lengthy stay at a psych hospital.
But it’s all moot on the very next page, when Mr. Meers, now out of the hospital, succeeds with his second suicide attempt, a drowning at sea. So what’s the point of the story? Damned if I can figure that out, so this book, annoying at the outset, just remains true to form straight through to the end. As with Ms. Carr’s other book, TV Nurse, I didn’t care for the characters and couldn’t even really find much of a plot worth pursuing. Don’t waste your time with this irritating throwaway.

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