Saturday, December 20, 2014

Washington Nurse

By Tracy Adams
(pseud. Sofi O’Bryan), ©1963
Nurse Amy Loring considered herself the luckiest girl in the world. She loved living in glamorous Washington, D.C., where her brother was a rising politician. And she was in love with—practically engaged to—young Doctor William Tabor. But then she met Congressman Bob Ainsley—handsome, dynamic and so ambitious that everyone knew he’d get whatever he wanted from life. And Bob Ainsley wanted Amy. Soon the young nurse found herself swept helplessly along by the passionate force of his personality. It was impossible for Amy to think of Bob as the ruthless opportunist others labeled him. After all, she reasoned, in Washington every gesture was suspect, every act a matter of intrigue. But how well could she reason when she wasn’t really certain if what she felt for Bob was love or just romantic infatuation?
“Anyone tell you you’re not good for heart patients?”
“Will Big Brother be chaperoning or should I bring my wolf license?”
“There is always a reason for a cocktail party.”
“Obviously I am not dying of a broken heart because I can eat.”
“Gossip is to a hospital what sun is to a flower.”
When we first meet nurse Amy Loring, she is trying to elude a herd of 20 reporters camped on the hospital steps, all hoping for news about Senator Matters, who is a patient. But “to expect twenty reporters from the Washington press corps to ignore a stunning redhead in blue nurse’s cape, trim white figure and legs that were whistle bait even in flat heeled white oxfords, would have been treason.” So she is pestered for news, which she happily provides: “My patient did have a B.M. yesterday,” she giggles. What a joker!
Amy loves Washington because “it had the feeling of a universe on the move. Even the thousands of secretaries who are lured to Washington each year stay on, despite the man shortage, despite the few and rare invitations to glittering events, because there is always the feeling that one is listening at a keyhole, is on the verge of putting a finger on the pulse of the world, is taking part in the shaping of history.” She happens to be the sister of Representative Hugh Loring of Indiana, so she is a little closer to the inside than some, particularly since they share an apartment. She’s dating resident William Tabor, but is a little unsatisfied: “Maybe that’s the whole trouble, he’s too dear and nice. I wish … well, what do I wish? That he was a brute, masterful?”
Cue Bob Ainsley, junior representative from Florida. He gives her a ride home from work, and she is mesmerized by him: “He had an aura about him of impatience and of forcefulness.” So soon she is dating him, too, and finding that “even the way he kept his hand lightly on hers now, looked at her in a deep, personal way, made her heart jump as though someone had pumped adrenalin into her.” His ambition and arrogance, discussed by everyone who knows him, make him a somewhat suspicious character, but he seems genuinely smitten with Amy.
Hugh comes down with hepatitis—must have been the canapés Amy served at the cocktail party—and has to take six months to recuperate, so his appointment to chair of the house finance committee seems almost certainly quashed. A newspaper columnist accuses Bob Ainsley of angling for the same spot, and of having bought his seat in Congress to boot! Bob, furious, calls up Amy and tells her he is going to dispute the charges on the house floor tomorrow and wants her to be there. “A man can’t afford not to fight,” he explains to her. “You can’t understand that. You’re a woman.”
Amy switches shifts to be present when Bob takes the floor and explains that he did indeed take money from his constituents—loans for his education, which he is repaying with interest. Furthermore, he says, he proposes that the chair of the finance committee be given to Hugh despite his illness with an interim appointment to someone else until Hugh is well enough to assume the role. He receives a standing ovation, of course, Amy herself “applauding long and hard, tears in her eyes.” Bob also makes another proposal, in private, to Amy: “I didn’t count on a redhead with soft lips and a way of eluding me that is driving me bats. I have work to do here, Amy, important work, and I can’t let my mind wander. I want you to marry me so I can get on with what I have to do.” The flattering dog.
It never rains but it pours: Dr. Bill gets a big grant that is going to enable him to set up the lab he’s always wanted. He proposes, and in what may well be a first in a VNRN, tells her that she has to keep working because he won’t have enough money to support them both. “I wouldn’t give it up anyway, Bill,” she answers. “I can’t. I spent too much time studying to be a nurse to give it up and sit around a house.” The author gets a lot of points from me for this scene alone. Unfortunately, Bob walks in just as Bill is kissing her fiercely, and Bill storms out. Now Bill is pressing her for an answer, and insists that she give it to him tonight, at dinner, after a cocktail party he has to attend to meet Senator Phelps and before his 10:00 appointment with someone else. The fact that her answer to his proposal is sandwiched between so many other appointments helps Amy determine her answer, but unfortunately she decides to give it to him over the phone. Then she grabs her bag and runs off to the airport to catch up with Bill, who is going home on holiday before he starts working on his lab. It’s actually a sweet ending, better than most.
This is the second of Tracy Adams’ books I’ve read, and I have to say that Washington Nurse is an improvement over Spotlight on Nurse Thorne. It’s well written, with occasional spots of humor and archaically interesting scenarios (such as when Amy realizes she has forgotten to set out cigarettes for the cocktail party and thinks this could be interpreted as a deliberate snub to the tobacco industry, or when another guest reacts in horror that Hugh isn’t married and has only his sister to act as hostess for him). If it is more than a bit obvious, well, there are worse crimes in a VNRN, and overall this is a generally entertaining book.

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