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.

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