Monday, December 12, 2016

A Vacation for Nurse Dean

By Sharon Heath
(pseud. Norah Mary Bradley), ©1966

Lovely Nurse Avis arrived at Applecroft with only a vision of a peaceful rest in mind, after long months of tireless, uninterrupted nursing. But the vision was soon to be shattered as the days became increasingly filled by the attentions of two attractive young men: charming Keith Pearson and the serious-minded doctor, Bruce Horsley. But romance was not the only surprise Fate held for Avis—for the young American nurse could not reject an urgent plea for help which would pose dangerous consequences to her career and her newly discovered love …


The cover illustration instantly brought me to Women Running from Houses, a blog that seems to have given up the ghost, but it’s still a great idea; this book is a prime example of ithe sub-genre, Nurses Running from Houses (see also: Nurse at the Castle). Unfortunately, the cover illo has absolutely nothing to do with the story, which is about Nurse Avis Dean, who is forced to take several months of vacation—can you imagine!!!—by the unfeeling hospital chief. She curiously decides to visit the home town of her British mother, who swooned for an American soldier, married him, returned to the U.S. with him, and regretted it ever after.  You can see why she opts for Calberton Prior in Dorset, mum’s home town.

Arriving in Dorset, Avis is staying with her mother’s childhood friend, Margaret Pearson, and her two children, Nell and Keith. Guess what? Keith is instantly smitten with Avis and makes a creepy ass of himself by insisting she go out with him—she’s too polite to say no, unfortunately—and forcing himself on her. Even more unfortunately, the town medico, Dr Bruce Horsley, has the uncanny knack of turning up whenever Avis is grappling with Keith, so he soon takes a dim view of her morals. For her part, she seems to like him, though we really don’t see enough of him to understand the attraction.

Eventually Keith’s stalking proves too much for Avis and she starts looking around for a way out that won’t offend Keith’s kind mother. Fortunately, sort of, villager Lance Alloway has recently lost his wife to childbirth, and is saddled with a sickly baby and a cold sister who has swooped down to take over, and Avis quickly scores the job of baby nurse. What she does all day and what’s wrong with the baby are never really explained, as who wants to spend the whole day with a baby when there are men to swoon over? Rather we watch Avis fence with the cold sister Blanche, pine over the aloof Bruce, and offer an obliging shoulder for the overwhelmed (but not especially grief-stricken) widower Lance.

As Blanche becomes increasingly nasty, suggesting that Avis is after pretty much every man in the neighborhood, Avis is saved from yet another bad situation by the baby’s inevitable death, which occurs when Avis has taken the evening off and left him alone with Blanche. To escape the oppressive atmosphere at home, Avis goes for a walk in the countryside and meets a lovely woman with a friendly dog and a room to let, and promptly moves in, since she can’t leave the country until the inquest is over.

I need go no further with the plot, which conveniently pairs off a total of six characters, as it will sound about as unexciting as it actually was. The thing is, though, that this book is written in a gentle, pleasant style that makes it worth reading, no matter how frivolous the actual storyline actually is. In fact, it is hard for me to believe that this book was written by the same author as Jungle Nurse, which was bad enough to earn a coveted berth on the 2010 VNRN Awards Worst Books category. Nurse Dean may not have zip enough to yield even one single specimen for the Best Quotes category, and Avis’ dealings—or inability to satisfactorily deal—with the men around her are usually irritating, but it’s still not necessarily a complete waste of time, paradoxical as that may sound. This is a perfect example of how it’s not always what you say but how you say it that matters.