All sorts of rumours were flooding the hospital about the new R.M.O., the handsome, romantic Doctor Michael Rydon—and Nurse Leanda Kenny was determined that she for one was not going to follow the crowd and fall for him like all the rest! And anyway, she was as good as engaged to James Martle, wasn’t she…?
“Leanda thought how lucky she was to have such a pleasant Sister to work with. Bridget had a Tartar, for her sins, and Nell Jones lived a life of terror.”
When a book is based on a terrible premise, it’s hard to really make something good out of it, but this one partly succeeds. The problem here is that our heroine, Leanda Kenny, is dating an absolute ass of a man, Dr. James Martle, who insists that she wear gray tweed and not that smart yellow dress with the birds and bees on it, and to change her hair from her stylish bangs into something more matronly. “Why did he feel he had to be educating her, shaping her to his ways, all the time? Why couldn’t he accept her as she was?” Why, while we’re at it, does she continue her relationship with the oppressive fuddy duddy, even if he is “solid and consistent,” even if “he’ll be good to me”? Indeed, we’ll spend about 180 pages wondering why? why? why? when on page after page he proves to be a self-absorbed, inconsiderate bore who against his better judgment finally gives her a peck and a cold cuddle when he tells her, “I’ve planned to announce our engagement” on her birthday, six months from now, without even bothering to ask if that’s OK with her, when he decides who her bridesmaid will be and that she should give up not just her career to become “that sort of senseless creature which she abhorred, the social wife,” but also her friends when they are married, when he is shocked that to be frank and open as she is is “a luxury hardly permitted in our family.” So many reasons to run pell mell from this man, and yet there she goes again, agreeing to another soul-crushing oppression.
On the other hand, and you knew there was one, is Michael Rydon, “the best-looking young man Leanda had ever seen,” a young medico new to the hospital over whom all the nurses and indeed quite a few of the patients are in uproar. With the reputation of a bounder and a cad, Dr. Rydon arrives with a car wreck hot on his heels, in which the beautiful Phyllida Blane and her young niece Rachel Varney are injured. Phyllida immediately alerts everyone that Dr. Rydon is her intended, but that’s just fine with Leanda, because she absolutely despises Dr. Rydon! He’s always laughing down at her as she flushes, and “the thought of having to work near him made her pulses race and her heart bang miserably fast,” because she hates him so much!
There’s the usual misunderstanding about the actual state of Dr. Rydon’s relationship with Phyllida, which even a toddler could see through, but by which Leanda is wholly taken in. The gradual awakening of her true feelings for Dr. Rydon, despite her fierce resolve to have nothing to do with him because of his loose reputation, and the fact that the hospital grapevine is placing bets that she will end up with him, although why they’ve singled her out for that especial privilege is a mystery. Her resulting resolve is to go through with the very bad idea to marry James. His near disaster in a car wreck of his own brings her illusions crashing down with it, and the final reconciliation as she is eventually allowed to see him, or what bits of him are showing in between all the bandages and plaster, is sweet even if it is not completely unforeseen.
The plot, painful as it is to wade through, should result in a more distasteful book than this one. If Leanda is so hell-bent on her own emotional suicide, we could at least be given a reason why, a plausible psychology that makes her susceptible to it—and we actually have the bones of one, in the fact that she is an orphan from an early age, raised in foster homes, but this is never fleshed out. But as exceptionally hackneyed as this story is, without much humor or sparkling writing to bolster it, it is still a pleasant read, though I am hard-pressed to say exactly why; I just couldn’t bring myself to give it a C+ rather than a B-. Perhaps it’s because in between the irritating scenes with Dr. Martle there are some enjoyable moments with patients and friends, and Leanda’s tumultuous feelings for Dr. Rydon are sympathetically drawn. So if the framework is rotten, there’s enough pretty wallpaper to make this a pleasant room, one worth spending an afternoon with.