Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Girl in the White Cap

By Margaret Howe, ©1957
Cover illustration by Rudy Nappi
Assignment: With complications ...
Kate Mallory was pretty and red-headed, but as old Dr. John said, “there was no nonsense about her.” That is why he chose her as the nurse for the Vincent case.
The Vincents were a powerful family, and Kate knew that caring for a crippled child in their isolated mansion would be demanding, but her job was not made easier by—
Sam Vincent—the handsome, charming widower who came to need and depend on Kate.
Dr. Sargent—suave and successful, who came to see the baby, but was much more interested in his nurse.
Dr. Peter Vincent—who treated her as a teammate, but who turned out to be the most troubling of all.
“It’s a relief to see a girl with naturally curly hair; also, something that approaches a real female figure.”
“I don’t want every man present to regard my girl as though she were a lollipop.”
Visiting Nurse was a top-ten VNRN of 2011, which has made me eagerly search out more books by Margaret Howe (see also Special Nurse and Debutante Nurse). Unfortunately, none has lived up to the promise of that first book, and The Girl in the White Cap is more of the same disappointment.
Kate Mallory is a nurse at Vincent Memorial on the OB/GYN ward, caring for the nasty hussy Rita Vincent—she’s married one of those Vincents—who is going into premature labor. She’s pissed as hell that being pregnant has ruined her figure, and none too happy that when she gets it back she’ll be saddled with a squalling brat. Or that the nanny will be. But Rita won’t give us too much trouble—she’s dead six pages in, leaving an overly distraught widower, Sam Vincent, with nought to do but hire Kate to care for his son Daniel.
At home, Sam has nothing to do with the baby; he’s too busy struggling with his conscience, for his physician has decided that it’s Sam’s fault that his wife died: “He indulged her and humored her and accepted her tantrums. High tension and hysterics are poor preparation for what that girl faced.” Making his grief all the more insurmountable is the fact that Daniel has club feet. “A normal child might have healed Sam’s hurt in time, reconciling him to his loss. But what about a child with crooked, deformed feet?” Instead of a romance, this book should be a mystery story—see if you can understand why Sam loved Rita and despises Daniel, and why Kate Mallory is going to tumble hard for a gloomy, rude curmudgeon.
On duty 24/7, Kate soon is hopelessly devoted to baby Daniel—though we seldom see the two together. It wouldn’t be hard at all to draw us a few bonding scenes to demonstrate her attachment to the infant, but instead we’re mostly told about her fondness for him. She’s so fond, in fact, that she decides to leave her post, so that it won’t destroy her to leave him later on. Get it? She tells everyone she’s going, and they even find a replacement nurse—a young colleague of Kate’s who has made no secret of her plans to attempt to win the heart of the rich widower—and then she changes her mind at the last minute, leaving the hospital gossips abuzz with the idea that Kate is in love with Sam. Which she is, but whatever. To squelch those rumors, she dates the baby’s pediatrician, Dr. Ray Sargent, who is one of the creepiest characters I’ve met in a VNRN, who practically screams, “I’m a date rapist!” as he ushers Kate into the car. Having barely escaped one date with him by fleeing on the tractor of a passing farmer, she naturally agrees to see him again but is saved when the baby’s orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Peter Vincent, tells everyone that Kate is engaged to marry him. What a mess!
The ending is a bit of a surprise, though it all makes sense in a satisfying way. But it’s generally a slow read, and if Margaret Howe’s prose is pleasant, it has little witticism or humor here, and not much more of a plot. It’s not a bad book, but it doesn’t really have anything to recommend it.

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