By Adeline McElfresh, ©1955
Lovely, dark-haired Jane Langford had but one dream—to become a doctor. Orphaned, penniless, she fought her way through her internship in a big, tough, city hospital. A brilliant career lay before her. But tall, handsome Lance Hart—ambitious and socially prominent young lawyer—wanted Jane to renounce her dream, to belong to him alone. This is the story of a beautiful young woman forced to choose between a life of luxury and the stern rewards of her dedicated profession—of her daring quest for the truth which led her into a bitter battle against powerful and evil forces.
“That beautiful head of yours is as empty as the gourds I used to use for birds; nests when I was a kid. You could have a husband and a couple of kids—half a dozen, if you wanted them—but here you sit, waiting to go chasing off in an ambulance or to be called to Emergency.”
“Don’t go clinical on me, Dr. Langford. I don’t enjoy kissing a test tube.”
“I don’t see any royal carpet. Are you sure they’re expecting you?”
“I’m sick! Quick, someone, call me a beautiful doctor!”
I have seldom been more disappointed by a VNRN than I was when I finished Dr. Jane, Interne, the debut novel in this series about Dr. Jane Langford. I am pleased to say that this follow-up novel does much better, and I have to admit that the cliffhanger is an effective way of propelling you on to the next installment in a series.
When we last left Jane, she had agreed to give up her most fervent dream of being a surgeon at City Hospital to join the staff of one of those posh and distasteful convalescent hospitals for rich neurotic patients. It’s smooth Lance Hart, the object of a schoolgirl-like crush, who has persuaded her to do so, as he had been unable to convince her to abandon medicine altogether, and this seems like the next-best he can do. She had also agreed to marry Lance, whom we know is completely wrong for her. As I said, it was quite an upsetting conclusion for our otherwise strong, dedicated, brilliant, and honorable heroine, and I remain upset that Jane tossed her career in surgery away without any apparent regret, particularly after the extreme dedication and hard work toward that goal we witnessed in Dr. Jane, Interne.
As this book begins, Jane is a year into her tenure at the convalescent hospital, and she is still not married to Lance. She’s not happy, with Lance or her career, but neither does she seem sure she wants to give either up. Furthermore, her emotional growth has been nonexistent, and she agrees with Lance that she would want the word obey included in her wedding vows—though she has gotten where she is today precisely because she has refused to obey, fighting the bromides of the medical establishment about what women should be. She decides to take the weakest form of action, a leave of absence, and goes back to the small town where she grew up poor and orphaned and miserable. Dr. Ed Johnson, the Old Doctor, begs her to temporarily step in for him so he can have the first vacation he’s had in decades—three months, the lucky guy. She agrees, and soon she’s making house calls and seeing patients—and Lance, who drops by from the city to sneer at the small town and make Jane swoon in giddy lovesickness that I should have become somewhat inoculated against after the first book, but no such luck: “Don’t let me go, Lance! her heart cried. Don’t ever let me go!” You see what I mean.
Soon, though, she’s entangled in a scandal, after the wife of the son of the owner of the town’s major enterprise, the box factory, runs over a small child in the street. Jane is the only eyewitness, and swears that the driver, Mrs. Lola Morton, never even swerved or braked as she sped through town. Lance turns up, now an attorney hired by Mr. Morton to hush up the incident and keep Lola out of jail, and begs Jane to drop the case. Though weak in the knees from Lance’s kisses, Jane clings with the barest of fingertips to her conviction and refuses to drop her accusations. Soon the town drunk turns up as a “witness,” clearly bribed to swear Lola did indeed try to avoid the child, and Jane’s patients, whose livelihoods depend on corrugated cardboard, stop showing up for their appointments. Jane is convinced that Lance is behind all this, and the pair stops seeing each other.
Next door, however, is Minister Bill Latham, a calm, dependable type whom Jane likes immediately. He is always supportive of her job, never objects when she has to cancel a dinner date, and even runs helpful errands for her. She’s slowly falling for him, but there’s the small matter of that photograph on his desk of a young woman signed, “With all my love …” God forbid she just ask the man about it.
Most of the book is about Jane’s work with the townspeople, and this works out well for us readers. Jane is quietly humorous, serious, and never foolish, outside of her relationship with Lance (though to her credit, her increasing distaste for him speaks of a similarly increasing maturity in terms of her love life). Her growing love for Bill feels neither sophomoric nor frivolous, the way her feeling for Lance does. Though it’s obvious from the word go how Jane’s decision to leave town for good when Dr. Ed returns from vacation is going to play out, the book overall is so gentle and pleasant that I didn’t mind a little simplicity of plot. So while the opening salvo of the Doctor Jane series had me a bit worried, with this next all is forgiven, and I look forward to Calling Dr. Jane—though if the series stretches on for four more books, somehow I expect that Bill is doomed.