Thursday, February 13, 2020

New Surgeon at St. Lucien’s

By Elizabeth Houghton,
pseud. Elizabeth Gilzean, ©1966
Ever since the new surgeon, Mark Castle, had arrived at St. Lucien’s there had been trouble for Staff Nurse Fiona. Mark’s glamourous, spiteful house surgeon, Aurora Kane, did nothing to ease matters—and it was not long before Fiona found herself facing a crisis.
“The Professor was positively licking his lips. I gather she’s quite a dish.”
“It was comforting in a way to be bossed, to be told what to do.”
“No wonder teenagers are aggressive—it’s all this beat music. It does something to you!”
“You’re nothing  but a man-mad little flirt!”
“Pity th scientists can’t bottle sex appeal and sell it. I’d like some sprinkled over me, just to know what it feels like!”
Some books seem to be a collection of VNRN tropes thrown into a salad, and this is one. I swear I’ve read one in which the male protagonist is biased toward the heroine because she has red hair, but I can’t find it. Beyond that, here we have the one where the pair hate each other out of the gate for no good reason anyone could discern, plus the hissing jealous cat always clawing the eyes out of the heroine, and for good measure the car accident with a man she doesn’t love but has to pretend she does so he will get better. The end result is that the whole time you feel like you’ve read this book before.
Fiona Graham is a 23-year-old nurse at St. Lucian’s, and she has red hair, which incoming surgeon Dr. Mark Castle abhors for some reason—“that’s an old story, and not for young girls,” he tells her, letting her, and us, think that he had a bad breakup with a redhead, but the joke is that he didn’t at all! Ha ha! Fiona hangs out a lot with Dr. Colin Ramsay, another surgeon who was passed up for the job that Dr. Mark is taking, so that’s one reason she hates Mark. Colin had proposed to Fiona but she’d turned him down, though in typical fashion she spends the rest of the book wondering if she should marry him anyway—“Perhaps she should have done the sensible thing and accepted Colin’s propsal after all—perhaps love was only quiet affection after all, and not the bright searing flash that the films and magazines seemed to suggest”—until she’s pressured at the end to marry him, when she finally decides to kick.
Mark, it must be acknowledged, is a colossal prick. He’s always snapping at Fiona for stupid things, like when there aren’t any Adson’s toothed forceps because Dr. Kane dropped them all on the floor. Again and again we hear about his pettiness, how he walks fast and “expected her to keep up,” “he always seemed to enjoy tucking a thorn into his remarks,” “she had almost forgotten how brutal Mark could be.” Guess who she’s kissing at the end of the book?
But not before Colin gets in a car accident and finds himself blind and his right arm paralyzed, which everyone thinks is psychological. Mark orders Fiona to pretend she will marry Colin in order to help him get better, or else Colin will die! “Unless you intend to sign Colin’s death certificate, you’ll carry on just as we arranged,” he snaps. “You’ll tell him how much you care, how much you want thim to get better. I don’t care whether it’s weeks or months, but you’ve got to do it. Colin’s got to learn to see again, hear again, and live again—and you’re the only one that can do it!” No pressure or anything, so she goes along, and it looks like the job she loves, working in the OR, is going to be scrapped so she can be Colin’s full-time hand-holder. Fortunately, another young lass turns up who actually does care for Colin, and he won’t mind who he marries, so that’s a quick fix. Then Fiona just needs to be masterfully kissed by Mark and have her knees turn to jelly and we can close the book.
Much of this book is rather dull—in the first half Fiona is lurching from one scolding to another to the point where it’s hard to keep track of who’s angry with her now and why—and then the Colin story stretches much too thin with so many abrupt turns—first his illness is psychological, then he has a late brain bleed and it’s real; his fiancée is first one woman, then another. Plus you’ve seen all these plot devices numerous times before, which wouldn’t be such a crime if they were well done, but here they’re just kind of lying there on the page, struggling to get up like the unfortunate Colin. Author Elizabeth Houghton Gilzean gave us the lovely Next Patient, Doctor Anne, so this book is particularly disappointing. Hopefully she’ll be back to her old self in the next book of hers that we read.

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