By Arlene Hale, ©1962
With an office off Park Avenue, a partnership with two established male doctors, Myra Fielding, heart specialist, felt that she had arrived as a doctor. Then Doctor Sam, who had staked her to medical school, came to New York and laid his case before her. He was old and Lake Mills would soon be without a doctor—unless Myra came back. Myra could not imagine what her reception in this small Midwestern town would be. There were only a few—among them, Ross Devon, the high-school coach; Steve Dixon, who owned a farm just outside town; and a bewildered young minister—who were willing to accept Myra on her own terms. It took a major tragedy before Myra was to know the deep satisfaction of what it truly means to come home.
“I aim to see that you don’t forget you’re a woman, as well as a doctor.”
“Come on, now. Don’t go female on me.”
Arlene Hale was a prolific writer, but unfortunately most of her books were perfunctory at best. Though I wanted to love this book—chiefly for the divine cover illustration, I’ll admit—it is an ordinary story without much heart.
Myra Fielding is a cardiologist in a Park Avenue office with wall-to-wall carpeting and a heartthrob partner who dates her occasionally. Then old Doctor Sam comes a-calling. He is a GP in Lake Mills, the town in which Myra grew up, and he had supported in every way her dreams of becoming a doctor. Now he wants to retire before his bad ticker fells him, and he comes to Myra to ask her to step into his shoes. She just can’t turn down her patron, so she packs her bags and along with her sassy nurse, Liz O’Connor, heads west.
After a couple of weeks of shadowing Dr. Sam, he heads off for some fishing and leaves her in the office … where the crickets are chirping as loudly as they are at the trout pond. Only emergencies will stoop to see this uppity New York woman doctor, but Myra soldiers on and manages every new crisis with a sure hand and an accurate diagnosis, despite the fact that few of her new patients’ diseases have anything to do with cardiology, which she has practiced exclusively for the past three years.
If the patients won’t show up, the men are certainly forming a line outside her door. Coach Ross Devon, whom she meets during athlete screening physicals, finds her attractive, as does Doctor Sam’s nephew, Steve Dixon. Good thing that impossible doctor, Wade Lincoln, who works in the nearby hospital, is such a nasty man, so she doesn’t have to fend him off as well! Oh, wait, even though he fights with her every time they meet, he still feels compelled to grab her now and then and kiss her, which makes it more of an assault than a romantic gesture, but we know that VNRNs never seem to notice the difference.
Things begin to get tense at home in the apartment Myra shares with Liz when Liz also gets a hankering for Steve; sadly, Myra prefers to fight for a man she’s not sure she really wants, possibly sacrificing her best friend and a great professional relationship, rather than let one of her beaux go. On the office front, Myra’s pocketbook gets thinner and thinner, and she’s contemplating going home to New York when a fire at an old school building puts her into trauma mode for about 36 hours straight. Shortly after this episode, every single loose end is systematically and unimaginatively wrapped up in short order. You’ll not be at all surprised to know that the townspeople eventually do warm to Myra, but it isn’t until she has a man in her arms that Myra decides “she had truly come home at last,” because no woman is complete as long as she’s single. It was a disappointing ending in several ways, mostly because it was so perfunctory and soulless. So, like many other Arlene Hale books before this, I have to give Doctor Myra a middling grade, and you no compelling reason to read about her.