Saturday, November 24, 2018

A Nurse Named Courage

By Florence Stuart
(pseud. Florence Stonebraker), ©1965
Cover illustration by Mort Engel

Soon after she became a nurse at Shields Memorial Hospital and met Dr Bert Ives, Courage Williams found she’d have to live up to her name. Handsome, intense and moody, Bert was known as much for his iron will as for his brilliance as a surgeon. He was not used to being contradicted. But Courage could be stubborn too, and she and Bert clashed violently over the treatment of a handsome young ward patient. Before long, Courage began to wonder whether Bert’s anger was professional—or jealous…and whether she was reacting so strongly to him as a nurse—or as a woman.


“One glance from your blue eyes, and the good doctor gives all the signs of a man entering a strong magnetic field.”

“It was doubtful, very doubtful, if the beauteous Bernice knew how to do a colotomy. But what man with all his marbles would want her to?”

“All you could say for her flannel robe was that is was warm and comfortable.”

“Why don’t you get busy and rescue him from that glamorous dish?”

“Maybe she has enough brains to pretend she hasn’t any, and that’s why she’s won the man you’d like to have.”

“‘Hello,’ Courage said, and was told that if every girl looked that cute in pants, he would happily approve the fashion.”

“She smiled back, and decided that the melting feeling that came over her when he was near might well be the beginning of some form of virus.”

There are some badly named VNRN heroines out there, but poor Courage Williams may well near win the prize. Even the man she loves, Dr. Nat Warren, can’t bring himself to call her by her name, and instead calls her “Billie,” for some odd reason. Courage is named in honor of her grandfather, who captured an entire platoon of Germans during the war with just one itty-bitty rifle, and just about every unsuspecting passerby is forced to hear the story of granddaddy’s bravery. But it’s the key to Courage’s feistiness, which in this book is focused on saving poor Wally Savage, a whimpering slip of a man who’s been overwhelmed by his domineering mother.

The woman, who wears tight lime-green pants and a satin jacket embellished with a bedazzled parrot, has forced him to go to law school, when all he wants to do is—is—sing! And marry Maria Marino. But mom breaks up the love-struck kids and ruins Wally’s singing career, and the poor lad is so distraught that he drives his car off a cliff, which is why he is now a patient at Shields Memorial.

Mom has enlisted the help of Dr. Bert Ives, who is a brilliant surgeon but not too straight in the head himself. Bert is obsessed with Courage, having conflated her with his mother, who never cared for him much, but rather doted on her older son, Kevin. When that god-like hero had been eaten by a shark off the coast of San Francisco—I kid you not—Mrs. Ives had killed herself, and now Bert is living some sort of sick Oedipal complex, insisting Courage be both his wife and mother. Attacked several times in his office, even slapped in the face, Courage keeps showing up when ordered and neglecting to bring the cops with her.

She concocts a hare-brained scheme to rescue Wally by convincing Maria to marry him—Maria will surely go along with it since she’s “probably very romantic, because Italians are like that. That’s the reason they wrote so many tragic operas, all about lovers dying because they couldn’t have each other, on account of somebody stood in the way, or somebody clobbered one of them, or something.” Amazingly, the plan goes off without a hitch, and now Maria has the right to spring her husband from the hospital, just in time to save him from the lobotomy that Mrs. Savage has planned to send him for with Dr. Ives. Now if only Dr. Nat can free himself from his gorgeous fiancée Beatrice, who is “quite a dish” …

Florence Stonebraker is easily one of the best, and her prose here is top-notch. She loves a screaming shrew, beautiful or otherwise; insanity-driven shoot-outs; and the spunky roommate; and lucky us! Here she’s given us all three! There’s not a lot of the usual squirrelly games that VNRN heroines frequently play with their beaux, just some legitimate lack of confidence, which Courage easily makes up for by being one of the few VNRN women who actually tells her man how she really feels. This book is a light and thoroughly pleasurable romp, and we can be grateful that the venerable author has yet again delivered a fantastic book into our eager hands.

No comments:

Post a Comment