Saturday, January 26, 2019

Marilyn Morgan, R.N.

Book 1 of 4
By Rubie Saunders, ©1969

Marilynn Morgan was thrilled with her job at City Hospital. Despite her parents’ objections, nursing was the career she wanted—and she had absolutely no intention of rushing headlong for the label of “wife.” But there was Sam, dependable and eager to tie her down … and Henri, wealthy and offering luxury she had never dreamed of … and Bill, full of fun and family plans for the future … and Matt—Matt, especially Matt … Suddenly Marilyn was forced to face the most important question of her life. Would she ever find a man who understood the proud longings of her heart? Or was sacrificing her career to be the going price for love?


“That boy is the greatest reason for birth control in the world!”

“He doesn’t mind spending money on a girl, but he expects a reward, so watch out for yourself in the clinches!”

“Linda is our local beauty queen all right. But we like her even if she does make the rest of us look downright plain.”

“I am in great demand to bring a little romance into the drab lives of the nurses who toil in this hospital You are lucky, Miss Morgan, I will be able to take you to dinner on Saturday night.”

This novel is a first for me, in the almost 350 VNRNs I’ve read—it’s the first one that ever mentioned birth control. Well, OK, it’s also the first one in which the heroine is black (and only the third black nurse or doctor as a main character; see also The New Nurses and Homecoming Nurse). And where the staff is a virtual UN—Marilyn’s roommate is Jewish, there are multiple black doctors, a Filipina nurse—who knew every healthcare professional in the 1960s wasn’t white? The issue of race, then, is not completely ignored: “she was glad to see other Negro nurses and doctors going about their duties. ‘At least being a Negro isn’t going to be a problem,’ she muttered to herself.” But for the most part it is not discussed.

Marilyn, born and raised in Harlem, lives with her parents, who feel that “nursing isn’t a fit job for a lady,” and that since they helped pay for college, they had the choose her career for her, which she stubbornly resisted. “Why couldn’t you be a teacher like we wanted?” shouts her father. “No, Miss High-and-Mighty had to have her own way and be a nurse washing naked men and all!” Needless to say, she’s chafing at the constant criticism from her father, as well as her mother’s alarm that Marilyn is not living the life of a nun. The fact is that she’s kind of a swinger, dating four different men fairly regularly. There’s Sam, the guy from home, who insists they go out only for Chinese food, and he “wasn’t thrilled about her career. … He seemed to feel that a woman’s place was in the home, or maybe he felt she didn’t have the brains or the guts to be a nurse.” Marilyn’s mom is assiduously working to marry the pair, but Marilyn is really sick of Chinese and Sam’s rigid attitudes, so she is trying hard to keep him at arm’s length—while dating (and kissing) him regularly. She’s also got a Haitian doctor who wants to marry her and stash her away in his Port-au-Prince estate, but he is also going nowhere fast except back to Haiti, alone. Then there are two black doctors from the hospital, Bill and Matt, to round out the quartet. It’s a wonder Marilyn gets any sleep at all!

Eventually the parental hovering becomes too much for Marilyn, so she moves in with the wise-cracking Marcia Goldstein, and their apartment soon becomes a wild bachelorette pad, with numerous docs dropping by for drinks, dancing, and dates with the gals. And so we spend most of our time following the nurses at work, enjoying their frequent joking, tagging along on their dates. Marilyn is an enjoyable  young lady who knows what she wants and stands up for what she wants—“If Marilyn wasn’t a lady she would have belted him in the mouth,” we are told at one point, which won her a permanent spot in my heart. Her only character flaw is that she continues to date men she even actively dislikes—“I’d do anything to get out of the house!” she explains when questioned by the rightfully dubious Marcia. At work, Marilyn is in high demand to care for the more obstreperous patients because she refuses to be cowed. “I’m the boss here and you’d better do what I say. Now keep quiet,” she tells the business tycoon recovering from a heart attack. She insists throughout the book that she’s not ready to get married, and cools it off with a couple of her beaux when she starts to feel she’s becoming too fond of them. She and Marcia throw lots of house parties, and go home for the winter holidays—and really that’s about all there is to this book. She doesn’t even wind up with a serious boyfriend, much less a fiancé. But there’s more than enough here to make for a really good book. The humor persists throughout, not so much as one-liners, but built up, and Marilyn is an admirable and feisty gal to pal around with for 120 pages.

There are four more books in the Marilyn Morgan series that I’m aware of, but they are hard to come by—my copy of this book was sent to me by a blog reader, but the other books in the series are running upwards of $80 on the internet, if you can find them at all. It’s my usual practice to post reviews of all the books in a series at once, but since it may be a while before I can track down the remaining books in this series, I’m breaking tradition and posting this one solo. But I will most certainly keep looking for them—the consistent humor, Marilyn’s enviable lifestyle and unusual fortitude for a VNRN heroine are rare and enjoyable qualities. It’s a pleasure to meet a nurse like Marilyn Morgan.

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