By Marjorie Lewty, ©1968
Everyone at Denley’s was wondering what the new dental surgeon would be like. But when Alison Blake learned that his name was Christopher Stevenson, she knew only too well—and her heart sank …
“There is nothing like a dental surgery to make all men equal.”
“On the whole men liked the outside of the package to look glamorous before they bothered much about what was inside.”
“The bad things you know about are so much easier to face than the bad things you just have to guess at.”
Marjorie Lewty, who wrote the splendid Town Nurse—Country Nurse, has written only two other pseudo–nurse novels, I am sorry to say, so there’s only one more after this one. All three novels are about dental nurses, who assist during oral surgeon and so are not immediately disqualified as hygienists but do not neatly fit the category of Registered Nurse. But with books this good, I’m willing to be a bit generous.
Alison Blake is a dental nurse at what appears to be a large factory called Denley’s, which is especially odd, because there are three oral surgeons working for the outfit. Three years ago, when she was just starting out, she had worked for Dr. Terry Stevenson, and had fallen madly, blindly in love with the suave cad. But one day, Dr. Stevenson had made a huge blunder and pulled out the wrong two teeth of a teenager, and the mother, rightfully ballistic, was intent on ruining his career. In the throes of her infatuation, Alison the dope agreed to take the blame by creating a new chart in which she falsely indicated the teeth he had extracted as the ones on the hit list, and he got off scot-free while she shouldered the blame—but due to her youthful inexperience was not punished. In his gratitude, Dr. Terry had taken her in his arms and kissed her madly, declaring that they would be married soon. The next day, though, when she had shown up for work, Terry was gone, and his older brother Christopher—also an oral surgeon—was there, telling her she was being fired for her “mistake,” and she never heard from Terry again. Well, until we meet him in this book, which surely you expected.
In her present life, the old surgeon Alison works for is retiring and a new one is coming in, and it turns out to be big brother Christopher. She’s convinced he will sack her the minute he claps eyes on her, but he does not recognize her, and instead they quickly become like perfectly paired steeds in the harness, “on the same wavelength, but we got on marvelously together. Before the morning was finished I felt as if I’d been working with him for years.” And, of course, she’s soon in love with him. But he has one big pet peeve—he cannot stand to be lied to, which he makes plain to Alison early on. So … she continues to keep secret that she’s worked for Terry, because then she’d have to explain about the sacking, and she’s not sure he’d believe her over his own brother that the error had been Terry’s.
Needless to say, it isn’t too long before Christopher asks Alison out to a concert, as they are both passionate about music, and he kisses her afterward. She is giddy with the prospect of their blooming romance—but the next day Terry shows up, and Christopher soon learns of the prior relationship, and his disgust at her dishonesty by omission cools him to approximately the temperature of a bag of frozen peas. The interesting point is that Christopher is aware that Alison had covered for Terry’s mistake—the blighter had gotten into a car crash the night of his “engagement” to Alison and killed Christopher’s fiancée, who had been in the car with him (VNRN readers picking up on the hint immediately), and while recovering in the hospital Terry had told Christopher all, and more!
Now Terry, who lost fingers in the crash and can no longer work as a dentist, is in town to obtain a job at Denley’s in the hush-hush Department Y on Christopher’s reference, so he’s hanging around causing more trouble for Alison in Christopher’s eyes, who has a tendency to misconstrue every interaction Alison has with a man, unfortunately, and to be relentlessly snippy at work. To her credit, she finally tells him off: “Suddenly I’d had enough of his irony, of his jumping to conclusions, of his misjudgment of me. I was as angry as I’ve ever been in my life. I was on my feet, facing him, and I hardly recognized my own voice as I said, ‘Just stop, before you say any more. What right have you to judge me? You just seem to put your own construction on everything that happens,’” and she sets him straight on several matters, including that the two men he’s seen her out with are engaged to other women, as well as the fact that she thinks Terry is actually an industry spy stealing secrets from Denley’s. Well, somehow this isn’t such bad news as you might think, because suddenly Christopher is over his Big Chill and takes Alison in his arms, tells her he believes her, and kisses her silly. Then they go to the authorities and report Terry, who manages to escape the law, but no matter, they’re engaged, and now “I’ll have to find myself another nurse,” Christopher says, tragically, at the end.
There’s a lot more to this book than the plot I’ve revealed here, though. There are two roommates with men troubles, Christopher’s charming mother to have tea with, men friends to hang out with, and jokes galore. The writing is quite witty and amusing, and makes the book a pleasure to read. The characters were well-drawn, and if Alison’s immediate and deep passion for every Dr. Stevenson that walks through the door is a bit hard to understand (though to be fair, she readily acknowledges now that Terry is an ass in designer clothes, and she had been too naïve at 17 to pick up on his actual nature, which she easily spots now), as we don’t really see much of Christopher that’s especially attractive. But in a book this enjoyable—and it has been a while (December 2019, if you want to know) since we’ve had an A-grade review—minor flaws are easily forgiven.