Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Jane Arden, Student Nurse

Book 1 of 7
By Kathleen Harris, ©1955

Jane Arden, student nurse, had heard a lot about Dr. Robin Crandall, but it wasn’t until a crisis arose and she was sent to assist in “Emergency” that she came face to face with the handsome young doctor—and in her first test as a nurse, and a woman, began to wonder if love and a career are an impossible combination.


Jane Arden, age 19, has begun nursing school at the hospital overlooking her small town, Elmwood, Ohio. At book’s open she hasn’t really told her sort-of boyfriend, David Hyatt, 23-year-old boy next door who before leaving to join the Air Force told her—essentially out of the blue—“You’re my gal” in a “blithe manner,” adding that if she looks at any other man he will “turn you over my knee and paddle you, or lock you in a dark closet and keep you there.” Apparently he takes this ownership thing very seriously. 

Eventually she breaks her treachery to him when he’s home on leave—and he tells her that if she wants to be a nurse, she must not love him the way he loves her: “A woman should be satisfied to be with the man she loves—to go where he goes, do what he wants to do.” Remarkably, his face remains unslapped, and even more remarkably for a VNRN, Jane recognizes the absurdity of his opinion. “Why should her being a woman make the difference he spoke of—why shouldn’t a woman choose what she did with her life?” she thinks, but rather than break her relationship with him off immediately, she decides that if he loves her, he will wait the three years for her to finish her training. Unfortunately she never bothers to tell him what she’s decided, so it’s unclear if David is going to play along, even though he does bring her a diamond so small “it almost took a magnifying glass to see.” Not surprisingly, the catty Jane pockets the thing when she’s at work.

So Dr. Robin Crandall, hospital heartthrob, has no idea she’s theoretically engaged when at the New Year’s gala he pulls her out to that den of iniquity, the ballroom verandah, and the two find there are fireworks exploding over Ohio. Oh, wait, that’s just their “very long kiss.”

Jane’s sister Roberta, the beautiful but cold model from New York, arrives home in an epic funk, slams the bedroom door and doesn’t come out for days. The family is too polite to inquire, but after a month of moping Roberta reveals she had inadvertently been involved with a married man whose wife finally showed up sporting a revolver to put her wise. The only thing that raises her spirits is a nasty bout of appendicitis—or, rather, that luscious Dr. Robin Crandall who is managing her care. After her two weeks in the hospital are up, she starts dating Dr. Robin. In the interim, he has pulled the classic yank-her-into-the-linen-closet maneuver to tell Jane that he’s absolutely mad about her, so she too agrees to date him, deciding that she feels “the mature kind of love only a grown woman could feel for a man. She had never felt this way toward David.”

Unfortunately the busybody nurse Millie Brooks sees them slipping disheveled out of the closet and reports Jane to the nursing supervisor, who tells Jane that unless Dr. Crandall vouches for her, she will be kicked out of the program. When she tells him this, he answers that he’d be glad to, except that it might “jeopardize my medical career”—and there’s no reason why they “should both risk our necks.” Furious, Jane breaks off what passes for a romance with him.

Fortunately for the doctor, he never stopped seeing Roberta, so he’s not completely alone—but Roberta, cold but not stupid, quickly figures out that the good doctor has done her sister wrong. Roberta surprisingly feels she owes something to her sister and flexes some muscle to get Robin to do right, at least by Jane—though naturally neither Roberta nor Robin tell her that she’s off the hook; Jane only realizes when the days pass and she isn’t called to the principal’s office. When the penny drops that her nursing career is not over, she’s only relieved “that David would never know that there had been a time when she had not been so certain. She would get out his ring and put it back on her finger. And when she did, she would have that old feeling of security again.” So here we have another VNRN that puts dull affection for the familiar ahead of passion and true love—though she certainly didn’t have the latter with Dr. Robin, either. However, there are seven more books in the Jane Arden series, so hopefully Jane will figure things out before she comes back to roost in Jane Arden’s Home-Coming.

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