Sunday, September 27, 2020

Nurse Annette

By Rebecca Marsh 
(pseudWilliam Neubauer), ©1962

An overturned convertible—an overindulged scion of the prominent Hauser family lying injured. Nurse Annette saved his life and earned first the gratitude and then the wrath of his powerful father. Annette found herself involved in a bitter conflict in which lives as well as principles were at stake.


“I’ve read somewhere that yogurt people marry young, have a dozen children and live to dandle great-grandchildren.”

“‘When you’re married,’ Jenny King told her daughter, ‘always serve the brute his first cup of coffee before he dresses. It’s astonishing how sweet husbands can be after they’ve had their first cup of coffee.’”

“My, the poor sort of men we’re breeding these days. True, several of his burns must have  been painful, and his ankle must have pained him some. But the burns weren’t major, and he actually had no broken bones. So help me, ma’am, those screams and the final swoon were definitely unjustified and unmanly.”

“You know how it is. Boys like girls, and single girls dream of being married.”

“You have to be nasty mean and tough to cope with Emergency.”

William Neubauer has written three other nurse novels reviewed in this blog, Nurse of Ward B, Nurse Greer, and Police Nurse.  Nurse Annette is definitely in keeping with these books: the political intrigue of PN, the two-nurses-vying-for-the-top-job of NWB, the interfering newspaper editor of NG, and the confusing plotting of all three. Here Nurse Annette King, the bestest nurse you could ever hope to meet, is in line to be head of the visiting nurses division (sound familiar?) of Southworth Memorial Hospital located in, I think, Los Angeles, when she happens upon a car crash in which wealthy ne’er-do-well Dane Hauser is injured. She saves his life in superhero fashion: “What you did, King, was charge along in the finest tradition of the nursing service. You actually hoisted up the rear end of that Jaguar and shoved Dane Hauser clear with your foot. Your skirt caught fire. Were you dismayed? Nope. You wallowed it out in one of the irrigation puddles, and then you went to work on your patient.” And after she’d stabilized him, she flew him to Southworth Memorial in her invisible jet.

Her heroic deed, however, brings her nothing but trouble. The question of whether Dane had been entirely sober at the time of the crash is discussed in the papers, and as the nurse on the spot, her testimony is sought by all. Dr. Gramm, the head of the hospital, accepts more than $100,000 worth of iron lungs to keep mum on the subject from Dane’s dear old dad, Ludwig Hauser, who has Big Plans for Dane that the young man clearly isn’t too interested in. Annette, having literally saved his life once already, now sets out to save it metaphorically by freeing him from Dad’s clutches and finding him a spine as well as two feet to stand on. But because she refuses to kneel at Ludwig’s feet, she is passed over for promotion and the job goes to Ruth Larrabee, a very capable nurse but a terrible manager. Annette is forced out of her job by Ruth, and the other nurses revolt. Annette drops a dime to the newspaper editor who started the whole crisis with his editorial speculations and tells him she’s out of a job, but a top surgeon who—like every other medical professional in town—has been an admirer of Annette’s, offers her a job in his office, which she accepts.

Dane, finding himself increasingly sway to Annette’s guidance, soon figures out which branch of Daddy’s huge company suits him best. He lets Dad know that he’s not going to be the ambassador Dad had hoped for but instead a contractor—and now he wants to marry Annette. But out of the blue Dr. Lyon tells Annette that he loves her, and eventually she comes around to the idea of him as a husband—because no one can ever just date for a while.

One of the  best things about this book is our heroine, Annette, and you know damn well that it’s altogether too rare an occasion when we can say that. Annette is tough, smart, hard-working, kind, shrewd, and a great nurse. It’s equally rare that her main beau admires all these qualities and has no interest in transforming her into a meek housewife with a high likelihood of developing chemical dependence: “What he liked best about her in that moment was the unafraid gleam in her big blue eyes. Although it was clear she realized it would be a tough job, it was also clear that she was tempted to try it. ‘Honey,’ he advised, ‘always get the whole ball of wax whenever you can get it. If it’s work you like and think you can do, try it.’” A VNRN fianc√© who is encouraging his girlfriend to work instead of insisting that she quit her job? I’m swooning!

Another great aspect of the book is its sense of humor, which is wry, starts out strong, and never quits. There on the opening page, Annette’s father is razzing her mother about how slow breakfast is in arriving at the table. “Say more,” Mom responds. “I haven’t had a brawl in years.” One problem with the book are its supporting characters, who just don’t have much life to them; Dane, who is supposed to have this major breakthrough, is just a cardboard figure, as is Annette’s love interest, Dr. Lyon. Another is that, √† la Police Nurse, the political intrigue is initially hard to follow—but helpfully, about halfway through, Dane Hauser’s attorney sums it up for the lad, so the audience has the chance to catch up, too. But these slights are not particularly onerous, and with writing this good, it is no trouble at all to overlook them.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Nurse in Charge

By Elizabeth Gilzean, ©1959

When Jane was put temporarily in charge of Rossiter Ward, the senior surgeon thought her too young for the job, and said so. It was an irresistible challenge and Jane was determined to prove to him that—just for once—he was mistaken.



“Were all men fools, or did they really enjoy being offered the obvious?”

“Jane knew her prayer was not only for Sister Meadows’ sake but for the tall surgeon who had winced when he had had to offer her a small prick …”

“I never knew my ward sister had a brain as well! I see where I’ll have to watch my step.”



Jane Scott has just been promoted to staff nurse (a step up from junior nurse in the United Kingdom) when three months later, the ward sister (chief nurse) of Rossiter Ward, Sister Meadows (who unfortunately is never given a first name) is stricken with some sort of spinal tumor and Jane, at the tender age of 24, is made ward sister—something almost scandalous given her mere three years of experience. Certainly Dr. Ian Crawford, the 38-year-old surgical chief, thinks so; “You’re very young to be in charge,” he tells her condescendingly at their first meeting. Not the most vicious of put-downs, but “she still quivered with indignation at the memory of the way he had told her by look and word that she was too young for the job.” Nonetheless, just a few pages later, when resident Dr. Douglas Stievers, a bit of a cad who has been chasing Jane with an intensity that in today’s world would be called harassment, tells Jane that he’s in love with her and Ian overhears, “she had the odd sensation that his words were shutting and locking a door that had never really been open.” Don’t you worry, you silly little VNRN heroine! Never mind that he’s 14 years older and perpetually looking at you with “coldness in his face,” it’s simply meant to be!

I’m not convinced that there’s any real need to review the ensuing 160 pages of plot, but there’s a nasty nurse nemesis named Megan, who’s been kicked off the ward previously due to bad behavior—the details of which are puzzled over frequently but never revealed—who repeats a lot of gossipy lies about Jane and her platonic men friends; there’s wealthy, beautiful patient Gail who seems to be scheming to capture both Douglas and Ian; there’s Douglas persisting at virtually every page that Jane marry him and her pathetic if short-lived attempts to talk herself into marrying him given what she  believes to be her non-existent chances with Ian; there’s Ian’s increasing interest in Jane that she stupidly cannot be convinced of despite how incredibly obvious it is; there’s the ongoing obstacle of misunderstanding about Jane and Douglas’ relationship that impedes her progress with Ian. In other words, same old, same old.

The writing is easy and pleasant, with interesting characters—Jane, fortunately, a competent, efficient, admirable nurse being one of them; Ian, as per the VNRN norm, not—but more than 50 pages from the end Ian asks Jane to dinner at his house, and from then on their mutual regard is mostly assured, outside of a few pages of Jane’s quite irritating and baseless insecurities. Ian doesn’t help matters by running hot and frigid toward her for the rest of the book—perennially apologizing when hot: “Poor little Jane! Was I sounding cross again? I must watch myself,” and then doing it again five pages later. The last quarter of the book is contriving to whip up crises that quickly come to nothing and so drags not a little. Which means that if mostly easygoing and engaging, the book does creep into dull and irritating at the end. We’re spared the knowledge that Jane will be quitting her job after marriage—that decision is never discussed with us—but I can’t heartily endorse this book as anything special or a must-read. If “pleasant enough” is damning with faint praise, then damn I  must.