Saturday, April 26, 2014

Traveling Nurse

By Jane Corby, ©1965
Nurse Sharon Stone always craved adventure. J. Morton Bishop, a wealthy hypochondriac, liked traveling to unusual places. And he took Sharon along as his nurse-companion. But when Bishop no longer needed her, would she be able to give up her exciting new way of life? Did she love Doctor Mike Baylis enough to return to Plainsville as a small town doctor’s wife?
“The only thing that mattered was the expression of the intense, preoccupied man standing before her, looking at her as a person. It was an unusual experience—one she valued because it happened so seldom. Like J. Morton Bishop, there were many men who looked at her and saw someone who wore clothes well and was, they often said, beautiful. Or, like Dr. Maurice Hamilton, men saw her as an efficient nurse. But only rarely did a man give her credit for intelligence and pride and character.”
“I’ll take it for granted you are a great lover and most girls swoon with delight when you make a pass at them.”
“I’ve been sure from the minute I saw you that you’re everything I want in a wife: red-gold hair, green eyes, a perfect figure …”
J. Morton Bishop is “a hard-hitting businessman who had successfully out-maneuvered all competitors in the hardware price war which had just been concluded,” and we’re not talking computers. He’s also a hypochondriac, and so has decided that he needs to be attended by a nurse at all times. Enter Sharon Stone—nurse, not actress—who decides she would like the job.
There’s just one hitch—her boyfriend, Dr. Mike Baylis. He’s been telling Sharon that they cannot marry for several years, until he’s finished his training. But now that Sharon’s been offered a glamorous job, he’s decided to take a job as a GP in upstate New York right away. “If she stayed on this glamour job, she would be spoiled for the simpler but more satisfying way of life he wanted,” Mike feels, so the only answer is for her to refuse the job with Bishop and marry him right away. “Can you deny that you’re trying to live like a duchess, without the title?” he shouts at her. It’s hard to see how a few months in luxurious hotels will ruin her forever, but such are the absurdities of a jealous male. Sharon, however, ignores his objections; “she could not let him go on assuming she would meekly follow whatever course he decided upon.”
And so off Bishop and entourage—which includes his son Luke, secretary Barney Armstrong, and now Sharon—for New Orleans, Yucatan, Denver, and San Francisco, where Bishop meets with a slick doctor in very swank offices who charges outrageous sums of money—$250!—in cash for consultations. Dr. Mellon refuses to allow Sharon to accompany her patient during the exam, and gives Bishop a $150 bottle of unnamed pills to take three times a day. When Sharon asks the pharmacist what’s in the pills, she’s told, “It wouldn’t do for me to give out the information. Professional ethics, you know.” Strange ethics that don’t allow a patient to know what medication they’re being given, but Sharon just nods and apologizes: “Of course. I shouldn’t have asked.”
Dr. Mellon doesn’t stop with the pills; he’s also pressing Bishop to enter his sanitarium for a month to regain his “precarious” health. In her alarm and conviction that Bishop is being swindled, Sharon calls Mike, who flies out and investigates, soon discovering that the pills Bishop has been taking are placebos. He also spends a day at the library and learns that Dr. Mellon has been investigated for tax fraud. So Sharon marches into Dr. Mellon’s office and demands that he tell Bishop that he is perfectly well, or she will call the IRS about his cash operation and the AMA about his sugar pills. Needless to say, the very next day, Bishop gets a call informing him that he’s completely healthy!
Back in New York a week later, there’s a big article in the paper about Dr. Mellon’s recent bust for fraud. It appears that the timing was a happy coincidence, but Sharon now takes credit for having “cured” Bishop of hypochondria and gives notice, returning to her pedestrian nursing job in the hospital. Now it’s just a matter of time before she agrees to go to Plainsville (and I have to wonder if the town name was deliberately chosen as a foil to the glitz of Mr. Bishop’s lifestyle) as Mike’s wife. Which comes as quite a letdown for a number of reasons. The issues of whether her fling with luxury has spoiled her, and of Mike’s presumption in trying to tell her what she should or shouldn’t do in her working life, are left completely unresolved. I wasn’t much of a fan of the domineering Dr. Baylis, and I wasn’t thrilled that Sharon, in the end, actually does meekly follow whatever course he decided upon, living up to Mike’s suggestion, early in the book, that “you’d better get this nonsense about traveling out of your system. As the wife of a doctor who is trying to build a place for himself in some community, you won’t have time for such nonsense.” In my opinion, it’s her choices after she gets home that are nonsense, but even without this perfunctory and unsatisfying ending, Traveling Nurse doesn’t have much to offer.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Young Doctor Kirkdene

By Elizabeth Hoy, ©1955
Doctor Kirkdene had made it quite plain that as a rising young medic he considered domestic entanglements and distractions as hindrances. But Nurse Lindy couldn’t help hoping that in spite of all his theorizing he would eventually come to love her!
“You mean, you actually make beds, wash patients, do dreadful terrifying dressings, watch gory operations without fainting?”
“Career women ought to marry docile men—otherwise they are heading for disaster.”
Nurse Anne Linden—Lindy throughout this book—is hopelessly in love with Dr. Kirkdene, who has no first name and is just known as Kirk. But the man, gorgeous and self-confident, is a shameless cad: “His conquests were legion; hearts fell before him like nine-pins.” But one night Lindy, off in a back room for a sanctioned nap while on night duty (and how I wish such a humane break were more widespread), is followed by the flirtatious Kirk. No sooner has he planted a wet one on her when the door flings open and the night supervisor catches them in the clinch. As if that isn’t bad enough, word gets out that Kirk has left his post in the ED, and when an emergency came in, the nurse there was unable to find him and the patient survived only through her quick thinking.
With the two of them about to be tossed not just out on the street but to the metaphoric wolves, Kirk does what any enterprising, ambitious young man would do in similar circumstances: He lies, telling the head of the hospital that he had just proposed to Lindy when they were discovered. This makes everything all right and saves them both—but now they have to pretend they’re engaged.
And pretend they do, through an extensive 192 pages. Lindy is angry at the sham, secretly wishing it were real, watching Kirk with alternating fury at his coldly shameless ambition to nail a post at a new pediatrics ward and reverential awe at his complete and selfless devotion to his patients, to the point that he risks his career to help them. There are a few side plots, but this is essentially the book in a nutshell. It may seem simple—in truth, it is—but Elizabeth Hoy is enough of a storyteller to make this little story worth reading.
After Elizabeth Hoy’s outstanding Nurse Tennant, I went shopping for more of her books. Young Doctor Kirkdene does not live up to its superlative sister, but it’s certainly better than the other title I found, Doctor Garth. The writing is easy and charming, with occasional pretty phrases like, “Sensibly she reminded herself of these things, while her singing heart went its own wild way.” And few VNRN writers can make you feel so acutely the wretchedness of a young woman pining over an unrequited love—she pulls me back to miseries I haven’t experienced since high school. It must be admitted that the length of this book does get a bit tedious, and I found myself wishing the miserable pair could just have one honest conversation and put a quick end to it—indeed, the end, when that finally does occur, was a bit of a letdown. But all things considered, this is a rarity among VNRNs, a novel that actually hurts, and so I happily suggest you make an appointment at your earliest convenience with Young Doctor Kirkdene.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Doctor Dee

By Elizabeth Wesley
(pseud. Adeline McElfresh), ©1960

When Dr. Dee Bailey joined the surgical staff of big, modern Still River General Hospital to serve as anesthesiologist under Surgeon Arn Thurston she made an implacable enemy of Nurse Cele Maynard. For the young nurse was madly in love with the handsome surgeon and believed Dr. Dee wanted him, too. Then fate played into the hands of Nurse Maynard. A powerful underworld czar was brought for an emergency operation and Nurse Maynard listened on an extension phone as a sinister voice offered Dr. Dee “real money, a hundred grand—if he don’t come through that operation.” When Phil Roscoe died on the table, the young nurse, almost insane with triumphant malice, made her accusation—Dr. Dee Bailey had taken a man’s life for a hundred thousand dollars!


“Let a doctor be personable and good-looking, and they don’t trust him.”

I didn’t realize until I started in on this book that it is actually the prequel to Dr. Dorothy’s Choice, which is not a book I cared for very much, since the Dr. Dorothy “Dee” Bailey was a spineless wimp buffeted about by the men in her life. Here, though, she shows a bit more starch, and with good writing to bolster the storyline, we’ve got a better yarn with Dee’s introduction, and one worth reading.
Dee has returned to Still River, Indiana, her home town, after medical school and residency and a job in New York, to work for Dr. Paul Courtney. She’s walked into a bit of a mess, however, taking control of the anesthesiology department from Celia Maynard, nurse anesthetist, who is not happy about her demotion. Cele is also ridiculously jealous because about a week after Dee’s arrival, Cele’s boyfriend, surgeon Arn Thurston, makes a major pass at Dee at a dinner party that he has attended with Cele on his arm. Dee does not show enough sense to tell Dr. Thurston to get lost, unfortunately, and the gossip about Arn and Dee’s moonlit peccadillo doesn’t make things any better between the two ladies.

Then, when a golf buddy of Arn’s collapses with a gallbladder attack, it is revealed that he has a bad heart due to an unspecified stab wound to the pericardium that makes surgery risky. Scrubbing up for surgery, Dee gets a phone call during which she is advised of a unique financial opportunity: Should former Sing Sing resident and wise guy Phil Roscoe not survive the surgery, her bank account could be $100,000 heavier. Then, when Phil does arrest on the table, Cele, present in the room as a curious onlooker, starts shrieking that she was eavesdropping on the extension and overheard the whole exchange, and that Dee is a murderer.

The rest of the book is a somewhat strange muddle in which a pack of fairly stupid gangsters threaten Arn to speak out against Dee or they will reveal an incident from his past in which he ordered a barbiturate for a young patient who subsequently died; he had denied having written the order and was never proven to be guilty of wrongdoing, though everyone suspected him of it. A bundle of cash is hurled onto Dee’s doorstep, and when she turns it over to the police, she is kidnapped. Instead of whimpering in a corner, though, she plots her escape, and thank goodness she decided to forego the heels for Keds this morning!

In the end, delivered back to Still River by a passing truck driver, Dee lands in the arms of a man she has dated but professed little interest in, so though we should see it coming, it still feels a bit odd. The fate of Dr. Thurston, the gangsters, Cele, and even Dee’s career is left unanswered, and unless there’s another book between this and Dr. Dorothy’s Choice, we can only guess how all that turns out. But there’s some nice writing and some fun characters in this book, and the plot is livelier than many. Even if you decide not to follow Dee’s career path going forward—and I can’t strongly recommend that you do—you could do a lot worse than to watch her debut.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Nurse on the Riviera

By Jane Converse (pseud. Adele Kay Maritano), ©1968
She took the posh European assignment to be near Bill Lindley. It seemed ideal, really. Private duty nurse to millionaire Richard Olner; guest of her patient, and his son and daughter on the glamorous Riviera. Once there, Terry Crane realized she’d made a mistake. The handsome and eligible Dr. Lindley was enjoying himself immensely—with the jet-set crowd. And Terry found herself alone in a climate perfect for love. … That’s when her millionaire patient turned romantic and his twenty-four-year-old son turned competitive. That’s when the amorous French doctor entered her life. For Terry Crane romance was everywhere on the Riviera—except in the eyes of the one man she really loved.
“It’s bad medicine to create a scene.”
Terry Crane is in love with Dr. Bill Lindley. We’re told that on the second page, and we’ll just have to take Terry’s word for it, because we hardly know the man. They exchange a few perfunctory words about their patient, a wealthy 46-year-old businessman felled by a major stroke, and then the crickets start chirping. She agrees to tag along on the patient’s trip to France, despite the fact that he’s recovered pretty well at this point—his main disability seems to be … an aggravating propensity … to drop ellipses into his speech … every few words or so … a trait that Terry adopts … to my increasing annoyance …. Her sole motivation is to spend more time with Dr. Lindley, but once they arrive, he sets off for the swankier spots along the Cote d’Azur, leaving Terry to wander the halls of the villa and go on occasional dates with the local medecin, Dr. Armand Gautier. After a few dinners, though, she tells him she’s in love with Dr. Lindley, and that ends that minor diversion. With little else to do, patient Richard falls in love with Terry and begins pressing her to marry him, much to the chagrin of his money-grubbing children. She resists him, too, but now she can squabble with the kids, who are intent on scaring her off.
After about a hundred pages in which Terry sees no sights but frequently moans that she’s missing out on all the action, and sees not much more of the elusive Dr. Lindley, we’re finally treated to some action! A boat crashes off shore during the local festival, and one of the passengers is found to have smallpox, so now Terry and the long-absent Dr. Lindley, returned a moment ago from Cannes, are to help vaccinate the village. But the crazy townspeople are under the impression that it’s bubonic plague that has washed ashore, and they are freaking out!!! Even Richard and his kids are flinging their Louis Vuitton cases pell-mell into the Mercedes and making for Paris! (They’re stopped by a roadblock set up for a quarantine, so back they slink in shame.) Bill heads for the clinic to do what little he can, like unpack boxes of medical supplies, since he does not have a license to practice medicine in France, and Terry goes downtown to help a French nurse quell a riot. Since Terry speaks little French, she is equally useless; all she can do is bolster the confidence of the shy nurse, who rises to the occasion and the day is saved!
This book is a waste of time. We are stuck in the villa most of the time and so take in little of the Riviera, which might at least provide some entertaining armchair travel. We are not at all invested in Terry’s devotion to the elusive Dr. Bill, so we share none of her anguish at his apparent disinterest and no joy at his (surprise) change of heart. The patient and his family are not appealing, even when they’re being snarky and mean, and the “excitement” of the end seems downright dopey, since smallpox is now a thing of the past and government laboratories, and the bubonic plague only makes me think of the Monty Python skit (“Bring out your dead!”). Even the trumped-up crisis of the ending shows us nothing about our heroine, and her and Bill’s part in it seems fairly trivial, even silly (Terry spurs the timid nurse to courage by fingering the veil of her nurse’s cap, which is supposed to remind her of the importance of her calling as a nurse). The writing is flat, and it wasn’t until page 110 that I found one small snippet to offer you as a Best Quote. Jane Converse is capable of putting out a great book, but not, apparently, on the Riviera.