Saturday, October 12, 2019

Nurse Caril’s New Post

By Caroline Trench, ©1959

Doctor Justin Garthorpe was reputedly a tyrant, and while Penelope worked for him, sparks were bound to fly. And she had to cope with family worries as well as an exacting job. Here’s the story of how she succeeded.


“Nursing was the most worthwhile life in the world and she loved it all, from the work that could sometimes be so satisfying and sometimes so hard, to the friendly companionship of the other nurses.”

“Justin never thinks of the decorative value of nurses when he engages them, although I’ve told him it would make all the difference to the patients. Not to mention the doctors!”

“How encouragingly human you look! The starch and stiffness have all evaporated into thin air!”

“He thinks of me as someone who helps him in his work, not as a woman.”

“You’ve made me absolutely agog with curiosity. How do you look agog, by the way? But I clamp my lips together and nobly forebear to ask more.”

Penelope Caril is a London-based nurse who suddenly learns that older sister Alison and her husband Bill have been killed in a car crash, leaving her guardian of nephew Sandy, age 7, and niece Grace, age 17. This means she can no longer work the alternating shifts of her hospital because she’ll need a steady schedule for the children, so she relocates to the coast to take a position in a small children’s hospital founded by Dr. Justin Garthorpe. He’s got a reputation as a strict martinet but a genius with children and their illnesses, and during Penny’s interview with him, she finds him “infuriating,” three separate times but nonetheless thinks “she didn’t know whether Justin Garthorpe infuriated her or interested her. But, whatever her feelings were, she knew she wanted to work for him.”

Not that you will be surprised to hear this, but soon she is in love with him. They seem to have a close friendship, and he involves her in his toughest cases, but he is also at the same time somewhat aloof—“what had brought the brusqueness to his voice, the lines between his eyes and the streak of gray to his hair? What was the mystery of his life—and would she ever know it?” Of course she will, and it’s revealed by a shrew who calls herself mother of one of their patients: Justin’s own daughter had come down with appendicitis and the diagnosis had come too late, he had operated and she had died, and his wife had died shortly thereafter of suicide. The scandal!

But Justin’s friend Simon has a slightly different take, and explains that Justin had been working through an epidemic at the time on four hours’ sleep a night, living at the hospital, and that little Barbie had been seen by another doctor who’d blown the diagnosis. By the time Justin had finally gotten home, Barbie was too ill to be saved. And the wife had left Justin and died of an overdose of sleeping pills. Justin, of course, doesn’t see it that way, and is so haunted by Barbie’s death that he can never love again.

So Penny sets out to find the whole truth, and drags Justin off to meet an old friend of his wife’s, who tells the real story—that Adele had been on the brink of coming back to Justin to try to start over, but had been troubled by severe anxiety which necessitated the fatal sleeping pills, and her death was an accident!

Exonerated by the truth, Justin is free to tell Penny that he’ll never marry again, but that he expects she’ll be happy with any of the several beaux floating around Honeysuckle Cottage, where she lives with the children …

It’s a slight, pleasant enough story, with a few interesting characters (Penny and Justin, unfortunately, not being among them), but no surprises of plot to make it particularly unusual—apart from the nurse’s dorm fire that Justin extinguishes with his hands, blistering them so badly he nearly faints from the pain, but strangely the next day he is driving around the countryside and gripping Penny’s wrist, “the hardness of his grasp almost bruising her flesh,” but apparently with no discomfort whatsoever. Rather, the story seems to be a goodly number of the usual conventions strung together—surly misunderstood teen made right by love, crabby doctor made right by love, perennial bachelor and ugly nurse and crippled fiancé made right by love. Still, if there isn’t much to it, what there is is enjoyable, and you certainly could do a lot worse.


  1. I find it interesting that the the cover art for this book was apparently so hastily assembled, the artist clearly reused another book's cover for the collage, without even bothering to fully crop out the previous book's author name. Via some sleuthing, I tracked down the source image to the cover for "Next Stop Gretna" by Belinda Dell.

    1. Yeah, I noticed that myself. It's curious that Harlequin, which was such a powerhouse publisher, produced mostly awful covers. I guess they figured they didn't really have to try, but it's still shameful.