Monday, March 22, 2021

Nurse Morgan Sees It Through

Book 4 of 4
By Rubie Saunders, ©1971 

When Broadway star Valerie Vale’s daughter entered City Hospital, the little girl became the center of her own personal drama—one that seemed doomed to end in tragedy. Marilyn Morgan was the child’s nurse, and assigned to the case was handsome, ultra-eligible Dr. Ed Clark. Desperately involved in a professional struggle to stabilize, did Ed and Marilyn realized they were growing deeply involved—with each other?


“A good aide was worth her weight in gold.”

“Isn’t she beautiful? Look at that groovy pants suit.”

“If Patty was worried about her appearance, she would be all right.”

“Oh, will this beautiful nurse and I ever be free at the same time? I might as well drink myself into a stupor and forget her.”

“I mean—how can you propose to a beautiful girl with half the hospital breathing down your neck?”

“If you’re ever going to have your own apartment, the first thing you absolutely have to have is a good recipe for meatloaf.”

“Hey, when you stop talking, you must be getting serious.”

In this, the last in the series about nurse Marilyn Morgan, we pick up essentially the same book we’ve read the last three times. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing: Marilyn and her sassy roommate, fellow nurse Marcia Goldstein, work, party, date, and hang out at their swinging bachelorette pad two blocks from City Hospital, which means that doctors and nurses are always dropping by. Here we have back again Marilyn’s old standby, Dr. Matt Evans,  who had disappeared off to Chicago for an internship in Nurse Morgan’s Triumph, but pops up here without a word about his time in the Windy City, or what his current job in the hospital is. Poor Matt is always trying to take Marilyn out, but on his one weekend off, an emergency comes up and he has to work after all—clearing the deck for super-cute Dr. Ed Clark, who is researching leukemia at City Hospital and is the hospital’s most eligible bachelor. But Marilyn just doesn’t feel like she’s ready to get married, even in her fourth book. “Your trouble is that you’ve always dated so many men at once that you don’t have time to concentrate on any one of them,” says Marcia, probably a little jealous. She shouldn’t be, though—it can be really hard work fending off the gentlemen! “He was kissing her again, and Marilyn’s thoughts were racing. If she made him stop, he would start talking about marriage. He had often in the past, and Marilyn knew he was ready at any time. But as for herself, she wasn’t sure at all.” 

At work, Marilyn has a lot going on, too. Jeff Cross, a young boy from her old Harlem neighborhood, has been bitten by a stray dog and required surgery—and may need rabies shots as well if the dog starts frothing at the mouth in the next six weeks, which it may well do, since it’s allowed to run free in the New York City park. The boy’s father is adamantly opposed to rabies shots on the grounds that they would be very painful—never mind how distressing death by rabies would be, a point no one thinks to bring up—and it’s Marilyn’s job to convince dad to go through with it. Then there’s the new nurse’s aide to break in, and giggling Patty, who spends more time on her hair and makeup than she does on her job, gives little Jeff some orange juice the morning of his surgery, which might have killed him if the anesthesiologist hadn’t caught it in time! Lastly, there’s ten-year-old Pamela Frini, whose mother Valerie Vane is a famous actress, who has been diagnosed with leukemia, and Marilyn is assigned to be the child’s nurse. At the time of this book, some leukemia patients “have lived for five years or more,” the nursing supervisor explains. Some are even “long-term survivors … who have the disease and live with it for over eleven years.” Oh boy!

The upside is that while caring for Pamela, she is working alongside Ed, and what a dreamboat! Eventually they start dating, and that’s fun! They go to a gala party for the debut of the musical that Valerie Vane is starring in—as a lion tamer, in fact—and they stay out until sunup, even though she has to work the evening shift that day, which seems like a bad idea to me! They head home only to find that Marcia, who’s been on vacation in Florida with her parents, is home a day early—sporting an engagement ring! The two women are instantly rendered insane, fleeing to the kitchen and leaving poor Ed to cool his heels in the living room and wonder, “What ever gets into females at the sight of an engagement ring?” Eventually he realizes they’ve forgotten he’s alive, and as they chatter in raptures in the other room, he slinks out of the apartment, and that, believe it or not, is the end of the book.

It’s a strange and very anticlimactic conclusion to the four-book Marilyn Morgan RN series. As frequently as we hear Marilyn say she’s not ready for marriage, it’s peculiar that we end the series with her virtual orgasm over her friend’s engagement, which is something of a mixed message. I’ve been mulling over the question of whether the heroine needs to be engaged at the end of the book to qualify as a VNRN, and I’m leaning toward no. Dating is certainly romance, and does not need to end in marriage to be such. The problem here is that there’s not much dating, either. We’re also denied the enjoyment of lifestyle scenarios that Rubie Saunders usually gives us in these novels, because what we do see is infrequent and unenthusiastic, and Marcia—frequently the life of the party in these novels—is packed off to Florida for about half the book. I don’t need to see Marilyn wind up her series with a ring on her finger, but I did expect her to go out with a bang, and I am disappointed to see her fade away with the whimper we have here.

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