Saturday, February 27, 2016

Hockey Star Nurse

By Diana Douglas (pseud. Richard Wilkes-Hunter), ©1972
Cover illustration by Allan Kass

Lovely, dark-haired Tina Grahame, private nurse to wealthy Mrs. Derwent, was enjoying having her patient’s two handsome, eligible sons in love with her. Rugged, headstrong Terry Derwent showed his open admiration for Tina despite his involvement with a society girl. A star hockey player, Terry reveled in the adulation and glamor that went with being a sports star. He was delighted to find that Tina understood the strong hold the game had on him, for her own brother was an internationally famous hockey player. But it was Shane, Terry’s younger brother, a dedicated doctor, to whom Tina found herself turning more and more. In Tina’s perplexed heart the score for the rivals in love was tied. Gentle, considerate Shane was obviously in love with her—and they shared the special world of medicine. But Terry was not a man whose kiss she could easily forget …


“My experience of nurses is that they’re always ravenous and cost a fortune to feed.”

“If I marry I’d want my woman to be a wife, not a nurse.”

“The human male has certain instinctive, but very definite, ideas about such things as ownership when it concerns a favorite girl.”

“It was not a way-out place, though some of the dancers wore hippie clothes.”

This is the tenth book by Diana Douglas, aka Richard Wilkes-Hunter, we’ve discussed in these virtual pages. I wish I could say that his productivity was in any way an indication of talent, but no. I read his books mostly so that I will be done with them sooner.

In this relatively benign little number, Tina Grahame is not, in fact, a hockey star. Which you are surely not shocked to learn, because, as we are told early on, “It’s not a game for girls.” She did play a bit when she was younger, to help the boys fill up the sides, but “grew out of it”—she wasn’t pushed, she jumped. Her brother, however, went on to become a famous goalie for a Canadian hockey team, so maybe the book’s title should be Hockey Star’s Nurse Sister.

Tina hires on at the home of Senator Derwent to care for his wife, who has no first name and multiple sclerosis. Living at the house, she spends a lot of time with the Derwent sons, Terry and Shane. Terry has decided to try out for a professional hockey team, and being the sister of a hockey star makes her knowledgeable enough to pass judgment on Terry’s playing, which is weak. Besides, he gets into fights on the ice, and is even sent to the penalty box for fighting! “It hasn’t happened all that often in league games I’ve seen,” Tina sneers at Terry. But soon Terry comes around, starts playing better and quits fighting, and scores a few game-winning goals. Still, Tina is not impressed, and finds Terry rude, supercilious, conceited, and horrid, among other poor qualities. “I hate you, Terry Derwent,” she thinks, which is all but a guarantee she’ll end up kissing him at some point in the book, if not out-and-out marrying him.

Meanwhile, the other Derwent son Shane went to Harvard Medical School and is doing his residency at Massachusetts General Hospital. “Poor Shane is a plodder,” moans his mother, who clearly has no favorites. Tina likes Shane, but early on they have a conversation in which each of them discusses how they would not want their spouse to be a doctor or a nurse. Which is all but a guarantee she’ll end up kissing him at some point in the book, if not out-and-out marrying him. Indeed, as she walks along Tremont Street in Boston on her day off (wandering into the movie “Love Story,” not realizing what it was about, “midway through the movie she began wishing she’d skipped the film,” and walking out before it was over), she decides that she is falling in love with Shane, “despite her hang-ups about marrying a doctor.”

Nonetheless, she accepts a date with Terry, and smooches him good in his car afterward. He tries to tell her that he’s falling in love with her, but she obtusely pretends she doesn’t understand what he’s saying, the tease. Then June’s disease relapses, and she becomes increasingly sick, demanding more and more of Tina’s time, so our nurse hasn’t any time for breaking hearts. Eventually June succumbs to her disease—another big surprise you will hate me for revealing—and Tina leaves the Derwent estate, heading home for a well-deserved vacation. And to watch the playoff game between Terry’s team and her brother’s. During the game, the camera pans to one brother’s surprise fiancĂ©e, a woman he had previously stated he would never marry, so all there is left to do is wait for the other brother to pop in and declare his troth, and this book is all wrapped up. And not a moment too soon. While not as out-and-out horrifying as the majority of this author’s books, Hockey Star Nurse is perfunctory and dull, and the only reason to read it is to be horrified by the dated attitudes about women and the utter disregard for a patient’s rights; June dies not ever knowing what disease she had. Probably not the best reasons to read a book, but that’s all I have to offer you.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Night-Duty Nurse

By Katherine McComb, ©1970

Pretty red-haired Karen Hayden was new at the hospital, but already she had a reputation for efficiency and dedication—since work came first in her life … Then one night a tragic explosion brought scores of emergency patients to the hospital. In the excitement Karen was kissed by Clay Palmer—the handsome, aloof new intern all the nurses were whispering about. After that kiss, sensible as she was, Karen could not wipe the moody Dr. Palmer from her dreams. It was only when Clay Palmer turned all his attention toward a female patient that Karen agreed to date the flirtatious Jack Arlen, an ex-patient of her own, and the son of the most influential man in town. But Jack Arlen was more than an irresponsible playboy, as Karen would soon learn—and Clay Palmer was not a man whose kiss she could easily forget ….


“Right now she was all for planned parenthood, though she knew that on the following day she would change her mind.”

“Close my eyes—with you to look at?”

“Did you, by any chance, have surgery for the removal of the heart, and then run away before they could transplant the new one?”

“I’m going to ask those doctors over there to examine you if they want to discover a sensational phenomenon—a living woman without a heart.”

“ ‘I formed the habit of eating early in life,’ she told him, ‘and I don’t seem able to break the addiction.’ ”

“Did anybody ever tell you how pretty you are when you’re angry? I see now why fishwives always keep their husbands.”

This book opens with a bang—a literal one, as a ship loaded with crude oil explodes in the harbor outside the hospital. “Enemy attack!” gasps our paranoid heroine, Karen Hayden, as she scrambles to her feet. She reports to Emergency, where she is teamed with the dreamy new resident to help a young man with a severe leg injury. Dr. Clay Palmer is back from a stint in Vietnam that seems to have left him rather crabby, as his first remark to her is, “Stop your daydreaming, Nurse!” To his credit, he apologizes in the cafeteria later, but as Karen starts babbling on about how the patient was petrified he would lose his leg: “It’s like being half a man,” she says understandingly, and Dr. Palmer abruptly stalks off.

Karen quickly recovers from this unfortunate gaffe, or at least with us readers, as she’s soon bantering with her friend Lorna with a sense of humor often relegated to minor characters. With Dr. Palmer, however, it’s another story, and the next time they meet he overhears her saying to a group of tittering nurses, “He has a disposition about as sweet as a crabapple!” Awkward! To her credit, however, she immediately apologizes. He asks about new patient Jack Arlen, spoiled son of wealthy Judge Arlen, who’s cracked up his head and his latest sports car and wants Karen to rub his pains away and otherwise gratify his every whim while he’s in the hospital. Dr. Palmer offers to get young Jack a special so as to free Karen from his wiles, but she tosses her head and declares, “I can take care of myself!” In response to this, Dr. Palmer grabs her and kisses her—and when she kisses him back, he pushes her away and says, “All women are vulnerable.” There is just no way to leave this scene with any fondness at all for Dr. Clay Palmer. And we are reminded of this on two other occasions, when Karen recalls “a young, brash doctor who had kissed her to show his superior strength and laughed at her anger.” But—and you will not be surprised to hear it—her heart is constantly racing or doing double flips or hopping and skipping like a frolicsome rabbit, I’m sorry to report, every time he is near.

Soon the wise “old” charge nurse (she’s 40) is telling Karen that Dr. Palmer is in love with her, but she’s finally relented and started going out with Jack, who respects her fortitude, though the two are really just good friends. Dr. Palmer doesn’t know that, however, and starts dating a rich widow: “My advice to any working girl is: ‘Marry for money.’ That’s what I intend to do—if I ever marry,” he tells her. In the meantime, there’s a young girl with a bone cancer in her leg who needs an amputation, and who runs away from the hospital because her mother insists that she’s better off dead than with just one leg: “What man would want to marry a girl with one leg?” she shrieks. But Karen tries to calm the girl down by telling her that “many amputees live normal, happy lives”—a curious about-face from her earlier position. And after a quiet half-hour chat with Dr. Palmer, young Laurie bravely marches off for her amputation, and “a fund had been started by the townspeople to buy Laurie the best leg possible.”

Eventually Jack proposes, and Karen turns him down because she is not in love with him. He suggests it’s because she thinks he’s an irresponsible kid, she essentially agrees, and he speeds off down the street in a huff. Needless to say, he’s later found with the wreckage of his car wrapped around a tree, with a girl “from the wrong side of the tracks” in the passenger’s seat. Karen soon learns that the girl, Nancy Lord, has recently acquired a new last name—she’s Nancy Alden! It turns out that Nancy and Jack had been in love since they were kids, only Jack was too worried about what his father would say to marry her. Karen’s barb, as it happens, was exactly what he needed to pop the question to the right woman. Who is now in surgery having her skull fracture repaired. You’d think this crisis is going to be the one that skates us into the book’s finale, but no—the darned hospital catches on fire, and it’s up to Karen to rescue at least two-thirds of the patients when some of the more skittish nurses abandon their posts. Dr. Palmer, even more heroic than Karen, is the last one out of the building and suffers some burns, but Karen is there to nurse him back to health.

There’s a little bit of the usual “he doesn’t love he” waffling, unfortunately, at the bitter end when the rich widow Dr. Palmer had toyed with briefly returns to the scene of the crime, which mars the ending slightly. But it’s over as quickly as most of the various scenes in this book, which at times gave me a bit of vertigo with its rapid spinning from topic to topic. But overall this is an enjoyable and amusing book, easily worth the two hours it will take you to blaze through it.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Nurse with a Past

By Diane Frazer 
(pseud. Dorothy Fletcher), ©1964
Cover illustration by Harry Bennett

“Let’s leave Nancy alone, shall we? She’s a nice girl. Maybe she’s shy.”
“Shy!” Midge shrieked. “Now I’ve heard everything. Her Highness shy! Why, she’s conceited and snobbish. Apparently we’re not good enough for her.”
“Oh, Midge, you don’t even mean that,” Minerva protested. “She’s a little bit nuts about
meddcin, as she calls it. She really wanted to hang out a shingle herself.”
“Stop it,” Midge answered, “we’ve all heard that sob story. If you ask me, it’s just a front. She doesn’t give a damn about a career. What she really wants is a man with money. But real money. If she finds one, you’ll see how quickly she forgets about doctors and nurses!”


“ ‘You make me want to cry,’ Ralph said. ‘What a hideous waste! A girl with legs like yours reading that kind of stuff.’ ”

“It wasn’t a bad place to work, the lab. Plenty of quiet corners for confabs with cute nurses.”

 “She had gone out with him twice, but one time didn’t really count because they had gone to a movie she had wanted to see, a movie called The Savage Eye, which left him shaky and unfit for normal pursuits afterward.”

“If you want to behave like a doctor, read Playboy, or something like that.”

“Who wants to leave the hospital, with nurses like you around?”

“Margaret Wilkerson had come to nursing through a simple process of elimination, more or less as young men of small talent decide to take up business administration in college instead of the humanities.”

Nancy L. Woodward, RN, is 22 and has a reputation of being a bit of a snob. That’s because, well, she sort of is. Right there in the opening paragraph, she’s enjoying, and not just because it tastes so good, a slice of coconut cream pie, which, “she thought with some satisfaction, not all of her nurse colleagues could afford to indulge in.” Nancy had really wanted to be a doctor, but hadn’t been able to afford it, so had “settled for nursing as second best,” but once in, she now views nursing as “an almost holy vocation.” This loss and the fact that it was lack of money that caused it has made her a bit, shall we say, practical, and dedicated “to the idea of not wasting time with young men like Ralph Bleeker who, though decent and pleasant enough, was neither ambitious nor dedicated and who therefore would not go very far.”

This young man Ralph is a lowly lab technician. “You had to take in stride that Nancy was more than normally interested in medicine and science,” he thinks to himself. “He shrewdly catered to her strange dedication, hoping that in time she would get over it and become more interested in other things.” There’s also another nurse, Midge Wilkerson, who hates Nancy because Nancy has supplanted Midge’s place in Ralph’s affections. So Midge plots revenge by engaging Nancy to do some typing for Dr. Sonia Aronoff, who happens to be sharing a flat with Richard Chandler, son of a wealthy shipping magnate. Midge, who believes Nancy is only interested in marrying for money, is sure that Nancy will chase Richard—and Midge doesn’t mention to Nancy that Dick has been completely disinherited because he is only interested in art, not business. For his part, Dick takes one look at Nancy and is smitten—and sure enough, she soon is with him. Even though he tells her that he’s not going to inherit one dime of his father’s money.

The thing is, early in the book, she was asked to witness a new will—Orrin Chandler, aged wealthy cardiac patient, had rewritten his will after receiving a fatal diagnosis, leaving every bit of his fortune to his son, art career notwithstanding. She is eventually reminded of this incident, which she had forgotten—and responds by breaking up with Dick out of concern that he would believe that she was only interested in his money.

I need tell you not one thing more about the plot, because you well know how it ends. Its predictability, however, does not detract one whit from the complete pleasure. Author Dorothy Fletcher, here writing as Diane Frazer, is a hit-or-miss author, and has certainly given us a number of dogs (see Date with Danger?), but when she’s on, she has a wonderful ability to paint a scene or a character. In this book she is in top form, and her dialogue is amusing and snappy, right out of a Hepburn-Tracy movie. Her erratic output does make you wonder what makes a great writer produce a bad book (short on the rent?), but in Nurse with a Past, you are completely safe. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Nurse of the Grand Canyon

By Virginia Smiley, ©1973

The Grand Canyon was a long way from New York City … but pretty young nurse Kathleen McMasters was ready for a big change. She became enchanted by the spectacular beauty of the West and decided that this was where she wanted to live and work. One of the first people Kathleen met in Grand Canyon Village was little Kerry Loughlin. Kathleen was charmed by the child, and Kerry thought Kathleen would make the perfect wife for her handsome widower father, Pete. Kathleen truly liked Pete. But she also found herself attracted to another man. Now she would have to choose between them …


When I first opened this book, it reminded me of Marjorie Lewty’s magnificent Town Nurse—Country Nurse, but perhaps that’s mostly because they are both written in the first person. Kathleen McMasters has a bit of the same character as Lewty’s Kate Moorcroft, but as the pages turn, it’s really not that much.

The story begins with Kathleen, having traveled to the Grand Canyon for a solo vacation, peering over the edge and crying for the beauty of it. She’s instantly tackled by cowboy Cal Fulton, who thinks she’s suicidal. When she hotly denies it and accuses him of attacking her, he drawls, “Not a bad idea at that,” but oddly she is not impressed. Nonetheless, before he leaves her, he “glanced at my ring-free left hand,” which is apparently some sort of permission slip, and kisses her, pinning her arms so she cannot escape. “No harm done, ma’am,” he concludes when he lets her go. This is one of those all-to-frequent devices in a VNRN that I can only pray was not as common in real life fifty years ago than it is in these books. The only thing worse than these assaults is the fact that the heroine ends up dating the creep, almost every time. And despite her initial intention to “do my best to avoid him,” Kathleen is indeed soon dating Cal.

In another tried-and-true plot device, she has a boyfriend back home that she doesn’t like, this one an architect who “dressed in tailor-made suits and $25 shirts” so as to wow wealthy clients. He is pressing Kathleen to marry him, but she thinks he just likes her as “the bit of color on his arm, a soon-to-be possession,” and is really seeking a hostess for his swank parties. Despite the many, many flaws in her young man, “I was sure I loved Tod”—but in this case she actually makes short work of him. He jets out to express his horror that she’s staying in a cabin and not the ritzy hotel, and secondarily to propose: “ ‘I want you to marry me,’ he had said, not ‘I love you Kathleen. Will you marry me?’ The lovely diamond, meant to be a symbol of love between two people, had almost been flung at me, along with an order to wear it. The entire scene resembled someone else’s nightmare.” She declines.

She soon meets Kerry Loughlin, an eight-year-old girl who is raising herself (she seems to subsist on instant coffee and donuts, a diet that passes unremarked upon by Kathleen) while her widowed father, Pete, works as a naturalist at the canyon. Kathleen is quickly absorbed into the life of this family and their close friends Cowboy Cal and Nurse Holly. She gets a job at the nearby (understaffed, natch) hospital and decides to relocate to the area permanently, and goes out with both Pete and Cal. There’s the owner of the nearby grocery store and Pete’s sister-in-law to add to the mix, and then it’s just a question of figuring out which lap everyone is going to sit in when the music stops.

It’s a fairly straightforward book without a lot of zip to it, a mundane plot, and nothing to offer for the Best Quotes section. Kathleen is a bit more feisty than some, and decides to keep working after she’s married (“You’re a liberated woman, Kathleen McMasters. If you want to work, I sure won’t try to stop you,” declares her betrothed), but not enough to make it a good book. It will pass the time without too much pain, but this Grand Canyon is not really worth the stop. 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Caribbean Nurse

By Diana Douglas 
(pseud. Richard Wilkes-Hunter), ©1972
Cover illustration by Josep Maria Miralles

For lovely, blond Rowena Garland, being head nurse at the clinic of the luxury hotel on Lago Island in the Caribbean was the perfect job—glamorous, exciting, and full of surprises. She had never expected to be working with a doctor as attractive as Paul Martin. Or that this handsome young man with the deep blue eyes would become interested in her. But the biggest surprise was the mysterious man she encountered on the beach early one morning. Little did Rowena suspect that this intriguing stranger would involve her in mystery, danger—and romance. She would be forced to face the ultimate challenge of her nursing career, and make the most crucial decision of her life—to follow the true yearnings of her heart …


“I feel the two of them—nursing and marriage—don’t really go together. My feeling is that you can be committed to only one or the other.”

“It was a known fact, proven over and over again, that by giving a complaint, no matter how paltry, the importance of their interest, doctors only served to perpetuate it. The patient was stuck with the complaint, and the doctor stuck with the patient.”

I pick up a book by Diana Douglas/aka Richard Wilkes-Hunter with more than a little trepidation: The eight other books by this author that I have read have garnered a pretty solid C- average, and not a lot of high praise. But duty calls, so I waded into Caribbean Nurse to offer up this travelogue. It’s like many of this author’s other books, namely simple and boring. This one has the significant bonus, however, of not being overtly misogynistic or irritating. The opening pages, however, gave me significant concern: When we first meet nurse Rowena Garland, she’s wearing a string bikini, plopping down next to the only other person on the beach, and striking up an intrusive conversation in which she expounds to the man, who is sporting a thick robe, hat, and zinc oxide stripe on his nose, about the therapeutic benefits of sunshine. All while rolling around on her towel as we are treated to descriptions of her “well-shaped” or “long golden” body. “You’re probably thinking I’m a kook or something,” she says; if he’s not, I certainly am.

After he retreats back to his car, which is driven by two men in suits with binoculars, she returns to the Buccaneer Inn, which has been established on the Caribbean’s Lago Island as a destination for wealthy individuals who want to undergo medical care in an exotic location. Before long it is revealed that the hotel has been acquired by billionaire Ryan Stressor—who, you will not be surprised to learn, was the gentleman on the beach that Rowena had been harassing in the opening chapter. After ejecting all the paying guests, Stressor and his staff move in, leaving Rowena and hotel doctor Paul Martin with little to do but swim on the beach every day—and pander to the hypochondriac Ryan, who is prone to staying up all night and pestering Rowena with demands for medical attention for various minor complaints that he’s convinced are killing him. He’s also excessively concerned about security, and maintains a force of armed guards that rivals an American president’s. “Many people wouldn’t even stop at murder to prevent, or to learn about in advance so they might profit at our expense,” he explains with grammar to rival any of the Bush clan, and a not insignificant dose of paranoia to boot.

Rowena has enough gumption that she calls Ryan out, telling him to stop being such a baby and get some exercise. All sequestered away in his penthouse suite, she says, “there is only one way for you to escape, and that is into your snug shelter of ill health.” So with the help of a staff member’s daughter, she encourages him out onto the beach—after a bristling perimeter of security guards has been established—and day by day he grows more tanned and healthy. The climax of the book comes with an assassination attempt that any four-year-old could have seen coming. After Ryan emerges from surgery, he insists that Rowena marry him, a proposal that we expected from the opening chapters but that nonetheless feels sudden, given the fact that he has made no overtures whatsoever up to this point. Another surprise follows: Rowena declares that she is in love with Dr. Paul Martin, a man about whom she has previously stated after their one date (to “eat real Creole food and watch a frenzied display of local dancing”) that what she felt for Paul “wasn’t love at all.” The only thing of actual interest in this story, little as it may be, is the fact that it ends after this conversation between Ryan and Rowena; the scene in which Rowena breaks her news to Paul is to be played off-stage at a later date. It’s a scene probably far more exciting when imagined than if it had been written out by this author, though, so we’re probably better off. Overall this book could certainly have been a lot worse—and we know the author is certainly capable of it—but there really isn’t anything to recommend it, either, apart from the glorious cover illustration.