Monday, August 23, 2021

The Fledgling Nurses

By Diana Douglas, pseud. of 
Richard Wilkes-Hunter, ©1971
Cover illustration by Allan Kass

“Tina,” John whispered, “I’ve never seen you the way I’m seeing you now.”
“No? I guess you never bothered to look,” she answered. Any second now he was going to kiss her, and most girls would give anything to have such an attractive man look at them as he was looking at her now. But all Tina felt was a diminishing satisfaction that John’s date Dell would see them—that what Dell would feel would be payment for some of the dirty tricks she’d played on Tina at the hospital. John’s kiss was passionate and very, very exciting—too exciting. For when Tina saw Dell staring at them furiously, she knew that what had started out as a simple act of revenge might signal the beginning of a love that would threaten all of them … 

GRADE: B

BEST QUOTES:
“Inside this hospital, nurses do not run even in an emergency. Running promotes panic. In patients as well as nurses. Remember that.” 

“‘Sometimes it’s like that with people,’ he said. ‘You just look at one another and you vibrate.’”

REVIEW:
Tina Lambert, a second-year nursing student, hates her fellow student Dell Blandon with a burning passion. Dell, who’s at the top of their class, is always ratting out Tina, who is somewhere at the bottom. Tina’s problem is that she has mixed feelings about nursing, mostly stemming from her mother, who is director of nursing at a hospital in Berkeley, California, across the bay from Bayview Hospital, where Tina is a student. “My mother’s more than a trial—she’s a conviction, too,” Tina gripes, adding that it was her mother’s idea that she become a nurse. Honest and self-aware, though, she admits, “I wanted to be a nurse. But I wanted to make my own decision about it, that’s all. I didn’t want to be taken by the ear and led into a nurse’s uniform. Would you?” No, I wouldn’t, and it explains Tina’s attitude and mixed performance as a student. 

One evening Tina and the gang and their men friends go to a club—“It’s now, it’s wow, it’s the Rainbow Pad,” and I laughed for about ten pages at the wild, swinging hippie scene with hypnotic, psychedelic lights and a “depth-perception machine,” whatever that is. Unfortunately, Tina is not able to “swing your hang-ups away!” and instead decides to wreak her revenge on Dell by taking away her boyfriend, John Small. Unfortunately, it’s not very difficult, as John seems too eager to kiss Tina from the moment he lays eyes on her. She lets him do it as she sees Dell exiting the ladies’ lounge, and Dell, furious, leaves the club with Stanfurd playboy Peter Spain. That night, Tina hears Dell sneaking into the nurses’ dorm way past curfew and cry herself to sleep, and—too late—she starts to feel remorse. But it proves difficult to drop John, who now is hypocritically angry with Dell for dating Peter. Eventually, trying to get Dell to go back to John, who Tina is sure still loves Dell, Tina comes completely clean to Dell, in her startlingly honest way. Dell, not very surprisingly, is devastated and humiliated, and thinking that she’s lost the man she loves forever, walks out of the hospital when she should be heading for class.

The next 40 pages devote themselves to a long, drawn-out, day-long hunt all over San Francisco for Dell, ending with Tina, John and two friends driving through the thick fog (you knew the fog would make an appearance at some point) to track her down—only to end up in a car crash, and wouldn’t you know it, the car they hit contains Dell and Peter! Tina, who’s been a hit-or-miss student—though we do hear she’s especially strong on the first aid exam, in a bit of foreshadowing—saves John’s life while the other two student nurses go to pieces, and when the victims are finally wheeled into the ED doors, Tina wins the admiration of chief surgical resident Dr. Roger Carr.

Eventually everything is tied up, but not before Tina pulls a half-hearted Dell maneuver herself and runs into the park after dark and is nearly assaulted before Roger shows up in the nick of time, in a perfunctory 2½-page adventure that feels insulting to the reader. Overall it’s certainly not author Richard Wilkes-Hunter’s worst, which can be pretty bad (see Resort Nurse, Nurse Deceived, Mystery Nurse, and Surfing Nurse, to name just a few—he has definitely earned his berth on the Worst VNRN Authors list). But here he has given us a short story stretched yawningly into 125 pages, and we can’t avoid Wilkes-Hunter’s trademark awkward references to Tina’s “firm breasts” and the shower in which she is “letting the warmth pour down over her smooth young curves,” which make me feel like a creepy voyeur. But Tina is a forthright, insightful, admirable young woman who learns from her ability to perform under pressure that “if I can do that once, I can do it again, can’t I? I mean, I can help people who need what I am able to do for them.” It’s a rarity for Wilkes-Hunter to give us such a feisty and enjoyable heroine, but after wading through 13 of his other books and finding them overwhelmingly to be duds, I am glad to have met her.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Seaside Hospital

By Pauline Ash, ©1964
Cover illustration by Bern Smith

As a nurse, Lisa Bryant knew the importance of treatment for kleptomania, but when she found that her own sister was suffering from it she didn’t know who to turn to—well, she did know, but she was determined not to drag Doctor Randall Carson into it.

GRADE: B+

BEST QUOTES:
“For a girl with such an innocent face, you certainly manage to get men to run around and do things for you.” 

REVIEW:
The first pages of this book bring Nurse Lisa Bryant’s younger sister Jacky, who has been incommunicado for three years, back into her life with a bang. “Do you know,” Jacky trills, “that’s the first time I’ve seen you in nurse’s uniform! Isn’t it perfectly hideous?” We are not surprised to learn that Jacky “takes, all the time, and has very little to give back”—but Jacky takes literally, and has swiped a solid gold cigarette case that Lisa has to get out of the pawn shop to save Jacky from ruin. And you will not be surprised that Lisa is eventually suspected to be the thief, which is how these klepto stories usually go (see The Case for Nurse Sheridan and Nurse’sDilemma). But here we have a new twist, in that the man Jacky has been stealing from was her boyfriend, who tells Lisa, when she nobly returns the case, that he won’t call the cops if Lisa will “be a hostess, a companion—which she had had to agree to as the price for Jacky’s freedom.” Ew. 

Well, she has some free time, because she’s just been jilted by gadabout Derek Frenton. You have to acknowledge that he has a point when he tells her, “You adore hard work, or else you wouldn’t be so keen on staying at that hospital of yours until you qualify, marriage or no marriage. As for myself, I’ve never done a day’s work in my life, and a working wife would bore me as badly as I should bore her. I know you’ll be sensible about this, so let’s call it quits, shall we?” The knife in the back, though, is that he’s fallen for Jacky, the louse!

She also has a run-in with Dr. Randall Carson, who is “the most important (and the most short-tempered) surgeon at St. Mildred’s,” and wouldn’t you know, the man always seems to be picking on her. “She wished he wouldn’t keep watching her. It almost made her do stupid things. She tried to assess the thoughts going on behind that lean dark face of his, and wondered what he was feeling behind those cold, slate-grey eyes. He was so efficient himself that he just hadn’t patience with anyone who hadn’t achieved the standard of perfection, she supposed.” He is, in a word, horrible—so guess who Lisa develops a crush on?

Unfortunately, Lisa perseveres with her near-suicidal compunction to clean up after Jacky, which means she gets tangled up in all sorts of bad situations, such as when Derek Frenton’s mother’s jeweled brooch is stolen at a house party, and when another cad that Jacky had been dating decides he’d rather go out with fresh, unspoiled Lisa and blackmails her to make her go along with the plan. We know the eventual assault is coming, but alas, Lisa does not.

It’s a fairly convoluted story, with all the secrets and entanglements and coverups, that it’s a little hard to keep track of who knows what, and which lie is being told to whom. Meanwhile, there’s a young boy who’s been run over, and wouldn’t you know it, Jacky’s tangled up in that, too, having attempted to steal a diamond ring from the mother right before the accident, but now the parents are not coming forward to claim their mangled son, and Lisa is playing detective to try to track them down. Of course, through all of this, Lisa tries to keep Randall from thinking the worst of her—with little success, as he is always on hand when she is getting into or out of one man’s car or another. Eventually she takes Randall into her confidence and tells him the truth, so they decide they are going to have Jacky committed, and as Jacky attempts to sneak away before they can capture her, there’s a scene on the beach with the tide coming in, and Lisa and Jacky are trapped in a cave, while the police are closing in on them as well as on the blackmailing beau, who is wanted by the cops (surprise!). Of course, Lisa takes a tumble from the cliff while attempting to go for help, but that’s just the usual clever ploy to snag her man in the end.

I was hopeful from the first sentence: “Casualty was almost empty after a really busy Monday, when they brought in the man who was to play such havoc in Lisa Bryant’s life.” The rest of the book was not as quite as interesting, particularly when they trotted out the klepto relative with the covering nurse storyline, and the plot did get a bit bogged down in the end. But overall it was a quick-paced, lively and pleasant enough book. I could swear I’ve read this trapped-in-a-cave bit, too, but I couldn’t find it – no worries, that will pop up again, I’m sure, along with another kleptomaniac and an aloof, older doctor you can’t imagine anyone would reasonably fall in love with!

Friday, August 13, 2021

The White Jacket

By Kate Norway (pseud. Olive Norton), ©1961
Cover illustration by Paul Ann Soik 

Vivien loved her surgical work with all the enthusiasm of her temperamental nature. She had been attracted to Johnny Dysart by his even temper and sound common sense. But the arrival of a new and disturbingly attractive member of the staff changed both their lives—and indeed the lives of many of the doctors and nurses at Queen’s Hospital.

GRADE: A-

BEST QUOTES:
“Men! she thought angrily. As soon as a woman begins to think for herself they tell her she’s tired. Tired!” 

“Well, if there’s any giving in to be done, I always think it’s best to let the men have the last word, Doctor. They set a lot of store by it. Women know when they’ve won, and they don’t need to have it in black and white the way men do.”

“Nature heals and the doctor only encourages the patient while she does it.”

“Nothing worthwhile ever is simple.”

REVIEW:
It’s interesting to me that when a VNRN has a female doctor protagonist, there is often at least one more woman MD on the staff—but when the book’s heroine is a nurse, almost never do you meet a female doctor. Anyway, here we have Dr. Vivien Bromwich, who is working in an English hospital. From what I can tell she’s finishing her residency, and covers all specialties, though she spends a lot of time in surgery with Dr. Malcolm, her boss and mentor. 

She’s sort of engaged to Johnny Dysart, though it’s not “official,” whatever that means, because “I want to feel a hundred per cent sure,” she tells Johnny. I guess it really means they’re not engaged. Johnny is a cool customer: “It wasn’t easy to tell with Johnny. His comfortable cheerfulness never varied very much. Big and confident, he made her feel safe.” Safe, of course, is not always a promising feature in VNRN men.

The other woman MD in the book, Dr. Rena Todd, is a 36-year-old surgeon in training who is much discussed by the staff. “Too much ambition,” Johnny snorts. “Rena’s determined to be a Great Surgeon—and if she only knew it, she’d probably be a darn sight happier being the Little Woman to some nice chap.” Vivien, to her only partial credit, disagrees, saying, “She’s not a cabbage like me. I don’t want to be a career woman all my life.” Rena, it turns out, has been married and even had a baby, but it had died and her husband had left her. She’s now unable to have children, so she feels “I’m a failure as a woman,” and that’s part of the reason she works so hard at surgery.

On her own career front, Vivien is proving herself in the OR, and Dr. Malcolm asks her to stay on as his registrar, which I think is the British term for fellow. “Wasting your time, working with me, if you’re not going to go on with it,” he points out. When she says she might get married—the horrible inference being that she’ll quit working—he answers, “Any fool can keep house. But you can do surgery.” I love Dr. Malcolm. Discussing the invitation with Johnny, he refuses to even recognize the compliment, much less consider the offer. “I’m a man, and I have to think about having a career and providing for a family. You don’t,” he tells her. “Why can’t he let me glow, just for once?” she wonders.

In her personal life, while she’s waiting to feel 100 percent certain of Johnny—good luck with that—Vivien meets Edward Featherstone, who is working as an OR porter. “Emboldened by the perfect fit of their interlocking glances,” she starts snatching kisses with him in the autoclave room, and her secret smooching leads her to think she shouldn’t marry Johnny. But then she and Johnny are in a car crash, while he’s driving their friend Dr. Dick Clements’ car, and Johnny is badly hurt, requiring the amputation of several fingers. Now surgery as a specialty is out for him—and we’re panicking, thinking she’ll marry him out of pity, but he breaks up with her from his hospital bed. “Now I begin to live my life the way I want to live it,” she thinks, and the freedom in that sentence truly made my heart lift up.

Unfortunately, the insurance won’t pay for Dick’s car, and the book takes a turn into a mystery story. Vivien borrows $200 from Edward Featherstone and gives it to Dick for his car, but then Edward comes to Vivien in a panic and says he needs the money back immediately, as he’s leaving the area in a highly suspicious hurry! Then avuncular Dr. Malcolm is assaulted and dies of a head wound, and Edward has disappeared, and a patient has been robbed of $200, bills he had fortuitously marked in advance. Edward calls Vivien and tells her to leave the $200 in a telephone booth, and then she learns that he is wanted by the police for murdering Dr. Malcolm. While trying to decide what to do, she confides in Dick Clements, who is increasingly but gently making it clear that he has feelings for Vivien. He sends her to the hospital archives, where she learns that Edward was once signing hospital notes as Edward Featherstone Catlow MD, and that he had lost his privileges at the hospital for stealing drugs.

She and Dick go to the police, who are supposed to surveil the telephone booth after Vivien drops off a fake envelope, but they seem to have gone for doughnuts at the crucial moment because one of the OR nurses is discovered knocked out in the telephone booth and the envelope is gone. Vivien and Dick then head for the coffee shop, but it turns out that the bill Vivien uses to pay the tab is one of the stolen bills! Dick stands by her as she’s questioned by the police—who now think she was the one who knocked out the nurse. “If you’re in it, Viv, I have to be in it too, until it works out,” Dick tells her. “I’m with you.” He’s the kind of person who sees she’s troubled and pulls her aside for a talk. “His quiet strength was unbearably moving to her, the more so for its silence. He put an arm across her shoulder and waited. It was clear that he was prepared to wait all night, if necessary, for her to confide in him.” Well, I was won over!

The mystery is wrapped up, not in the way I’d imagined, but it does turn out that Vivien is innocent after all! This book is a little above the usual, with a mystery that actually is one in some places, solid writing, fine characters, and luscious ball gowns. If we are subjected to the usual sexism that the heroine doesn’t work especially hard to shrug off, she doesn’t completely accept it, either, and lives her life in an honest, forthright way—with a little help from her friends. Olive Norton, here writing as Kate Norway, is quickly becoming a trusted source for an enjoyable, pleasant read, and I am happy to have found her, and this charming book.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

The Odds Against Nurse Pat

By Ray Dorien, ©1958 

Nurse Pat Merriford’s friends said the fire that inflamed her red hair sparked her impulsive personality. For Pat’s impetuous nature gave her a talent for landing herself in difficulties. Luckily, Dr. Kent Willerby had always managed to protect her from being burned. Yet Pat wished that Kent’s protective attitude would change to something more akin to the love she felt for him. Then Janet Westbrow came to work at the hospital. For the sake of loyalty, Pat found herself defending this girl she disliked; one, furthermore, who seemed determined to win Dr. Willerby for herself. To make matters worse, Pat found herself professionally opposed to the doctor she could never stop loving.

GRADE: B+

BEST QUOTES:
“Even our best patients think there’s nothing to be done for men except smooth their pillows and hold their hands while they make love to us.”

“I don’t think that is quite the way for a respectable doctor to behave in a telephone booth.”

REVIEW:
Nurse Pat Merriman is the usual impetuous red-haired nurse who is running afoul of the cute but imperious surgeon Kent Willerby at every turn. Then one day, after a bad day in the OR with him, he actually speaks to her, to tell her that “a few words of blame don’t matter. Cheer up.” And with that, “the man she had admired from a distance, almost with a touch of schoolgirl hero worship, was human, approachable. She loved him then, impulsively, foolishly, hopelessly, from that moment.” He’s still quite cool, of course, so I don’t know how “approachable” he actually is, but he does give her the barest of hints that he has feelings for her—a ride home from the farewell party and a kiss on the lips—before he sets off for a year on an expedition to Antarctica, a voyage her brother Tom will coincidentally be making as well. 

A year goes by in a few pages, and Pat is half-heartedly dating Dr. Lee Gauntley and shepherding socialite Janet Westbrown through the first year of nursing school, when Janet quits and goes to South Africa to welcome home the adventurers—and there becomes engaged to Kent. Upon the team’s arrival in England, however, there’s a bizarre and poorly explained accident in which Kent, carrying a heavy case of instruments, fell into Tom, who “hit the bulkhead” and now is paralyzed from the waist down. He’s pretty glum about it, naturally, and it turns out he’d fallen in love with Janet in South Africa—though honestly if you’re going to fall for something you’re better off with the bulkhead than with shallow, materialistic, selfish Janet—but there’s the heart-of-gold physical therapist to tell him off and set him straight, not to mention back on his increasingly sensate feet!

In the end, Lee asks Pat to a weekend house party at his sister’s, and here we spend a lovely few days with good food and company and dogs and charming children, and Pat and Kent reach the understanding you knew they would, but not without a crisis—Janet’s gone missing, and every character in the book is out looking for her, but Janet’s not the kind of gal who is ever short of a man or three, so you know she’ll land safely on her Jimmy Choo’s.

This is a fairly typical VNRN, but the party at the ending is rather sweet, as is the rapprochement between Kent and Pat, even if the kerfuffle about the “missing” Janet is overly manufactured. The writing can be charming, as when newly secure of Kent, “even Pat’s hair seemed to be of a brighter color.” If it’s not the greatest of the nurse novels, odds are you’ll find Nurse Pat a perfectly pleasant afternoon companion.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Special Duty

By Arlene Hale, ©1970 

When Dr. Taylor assigned her to special duty, lovely, auburn-haired Margo McKim felt a sense of pride—and also relief. Perhaps if she poured all her energy into her work, there would be no time left to brood over a love that was lost … but not forgotten. But the assignment only created new problems. Because the patient was famous folk singer Jedd Buckley, the case was kept secret. And his illness itself was shrouded in mystery. What had really caused Jedd’s breakdown? Why was his manager Steve so hostile towards Margo’s help? Why had the handsome, cool-headed Dr. Taylor insisted on her for assignment? Whatever mysterious motives lay behind this case, it was soon no secret that Jedd, Steve, and even Dr. Taylor all were looking at Margo not only as a nurse … but as a woman. She had thought that work would help her run away from love—was she actually running towards it?

GRADE: C

BEST QUOTES:
“Being late is just a form of being dishonest, you know.” 

REVIEW:
Dr. Alex L. Taylor has just relocated to White Hill Hospital from Topeka, Kansas, and the man “has a way of walking by people as if they were sticks of furniture. Did you ever see him smile? … It was inconceivable that he knew any of them by either their first or last name. They were simply women in white. When he wanted one of them, he crooked a finger and expected her to follow obediently behind him, do what he ordered.” Naturally, every nurse in the place is hot for him. 

Except for Nurse Margo McKim. Sure, he’s handsome, but “that holier-than-thou attitude is for the birds,” she thinks. So she’s the one he calls up, arrogantly insisting she meet him at the Oasis Club, to discuss a private duty job he wants to hire her for. He’s got a top-secret patient whose “nerves are shot,” or so the official diagnosis goes. “You have a good figure. You’re also a pretty woman,” he says to Margo. “Just exactly the kind of nurse I’m looking for.” He even asks her if her auburn hair is real, if you can believe it, which of course is what makes for a good RN.

She agrees to take the job, which is to nurse rising folk singer Jedd Buckley out of his stupor. Manager Steve Ryan is extremely concerned about Jedd’s mental health: “You’ve got to have him on his feet in time for Dick’s Discotheque opening,” he insists. “Big deal. Big money. Big publicity. You’ve got to have him ready for it. He sure isn’t ready to crack up! I can just hear what talk that would cause—he might even lose some juicy contracts.” How sweet!

Almost immediately after arriving at Jedd’s mansion, she regrets taking the job when Steve snaps at her, “What I say, goes. And whether you agree or not, I know what I’m doing, and I know what’s best.” But her reward, outside of a big paycheck, is that Dr. Alex is going to see her every day, and he ends his first visit with a kiss. “I’m not just a cold fish after all. There’s hot blood in my veins,” he tells her. So hot that he starts their first real date by assaulting her in the car. She slaps him, and “he reached for her again and he kissed her until she struggled free.” She jumps out of the car and starts walking back to the house, but Alex says he’s really sorry, so she gets back in the car, they have a lovely picnic, and she kisses him back for real when he drops her off at the end of the day. I really don’t understand why it’s so common in VNRNs for women to end up dating, often happily, a man who’s assaulted her.

Back at the mansion, Margo slowly warms up Jedd, whose recovery is aided by numerous pills, because “tranquilizers will help him get a grip on himself.” Eventually he opens up enough to take her on a walk in the woods to meet Zeke, who is the father of a woman he’d been in love with back home, but whom he’d left behind to be a star. Of course, it’s obvious that Sallie Mae is the reason why Jedd has gone into this funk, but it takes everyone else 75 pages and a crisis in which Jedd grabs a rifle and holes himself up in a cave to figure this out.

At this point in the book, everyone, including Jedd’s oldest friend Charlie, who has stood by him through it all, is revealed to have had a fiscally related motive for pushing Jedd to succeed as a performer. Even Margo falls into the pattern of treating Jedd like a show pony who just needs to be whipped a little harder when she tells Alex, “Jedd shouldn’t be allowed to throw in the towel on his career. He has far too much to offer!” Curious that in all this book, no one once asks Jedd what he wants, even in the explosive crisis.

Thank goodness, though, for Nurse Margo, who runs up to the cave with Jedd’s bullets whizzing past her ears to tell him that she’s directed Steve to fly to Tennessee and pick up Sallie Mae on a chartered jet, so hadn’t he better get back home and shave? Everything is quite predictable after this point, though to be honest, it was predictable from the first mention of Sallie Mae’s name. For Margo’s love life, there is a limp red herring in the form of Steve, who has a turn at assaulting Margo and then asking her to be his girl. She mulls it over for about three seconds, and spends twice as long considering Greg Walters, the first man she ever loved, who broke her heart and rendered her an iron maiden, and who makes no actual appearance in the book. But in the end she’s cured of her frigidity as easily as Jedd is cured of his dystonia and homicidal ideations. All you need is the right person in your life!

It’s more than a little disconcerting that not one person in the book puts Jedd’s well-being above his potential as a star; we never hear a single word from Sallie Mae, so we have only the fact that she’s from the sticks and knew Jedd before he was successful to vouch for her character. But Charlie had those same credentials, and look how he turned out! As Jedd pulls himself together and wows them at Dick’s, all the leading players in his crackup express remorse at how selfish they’ve been, but it rings false to hear their regrets only after their own admittedly juicy slice of the pie has been reassured.

The treatment of Jedd in this book as a commodity to be jollied into giving up what everyone wants is not far removed from how the men treat Margo, so that’s a disturbing narrative twin in this book—again, not something that’s ever discussed. The story and the writing are ordinary and serviceable, neither being especially interesting, and the characters are no better. Arlene Hale is not my favorite writer, having garnered a less-than-C+ average in 21 reviews, and unfortunately for me, she was as prolific as she was ordinary. So if it is my duty to read her books, they are seldom special, and Special Duty is true to form.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Wanted—One Nurse

By Joanna Grey, ©1977

Celia Price’s new life in New York as a nurse to a struggling young doctor meant complete freedom from her English mother’s old-fashioned ideas. But it also meant imprisonment by feelings which she tried to suppress for Dr. Eric Adamson, feelings which she rationalized as respect for him as a skilled doctor. But Celia didn’t fool herself one bit! It was love. With no interest from Eric in return, the only direction she could take was away from him. Yet, could she run away from life again? 

GRADE: D

BEST QUOTES:
“New York could turn you daffy, and in a very short time, at that.” 

REVIEW:
I felt no small amount of apprehension when I realized this book was copyrighted in 1977; VNRNs tend to get worse the more recently they were written. (Six of the seven reviews of books written in 1975 or later got C- grades, while the earliest VNRN I have found, “K,” which dates to 1916, got an A.) The trend continues with this dud. 

Here we have gratuitously British Nurse Celia Price, who has been living in New York at 85 West 88th Street in New York City, deciding to work for Dr. Eric Adamson at 226 West 89th Street. He’s setting up a new practice that hasn’t actually opened yet, so they wash the walls and baseboards of his office and go shopping for carpet and linoleum. After the doors have opened, they take care of the patients who trickle in at a gradually increasing rate. Eventually Eric takes Celia for a picnic and, the poor dolt, does not kiss her at a moment when she was hoping to be kissed. This proves to be a fatal mistake for poor Dr. Adamson. “The bitter disappointment and hurt that Celia felt was like a physical pain. As well as that, she felt betrayed. It had taken some courage, and some difficulty, to bring herself to the point where she had to admit that her feelings for this appealing young man went far beyond what was normally expected of an employee. And then, having struggled with her conscience, and forced herself to look at the truth of the matter, he had turned away from her.” This “total rejection” renders her cold and snippy for the next four weeks. Undaunted, he asks her to go to Shakespeare in the Park with him, but she shows him who’s boss when she turns him down—and then “it upset her that he had not asked her again. When she noticed in the paper that the season had ended, she felt that it was almost a personal affront to her.”

In the interim, her roommate Joan meets Eric and they go for drinks while Celia does a slow burn at home. Then she meets his roommate, Mike, and “not that she was thinking of Mike in any romantic way,” but she hopes he might date her. He drops by her apartment and meets Jean, “her hair wet and straggly, her body anything but curvaceous under her shapeless robe,” but within a few hours the two “were completely and totally in love.” So Celia is back to being “curt and short” with Eric even though he remains completely magnanimous, and even takes her to lunch to try to get her to tell him why she’s being so horrid. She doesn’t, but at least she defrosts enough to agree to go with him and Jean and Mike on vacation to a cabin in the mountains. Not surprisingly, Mike falls into a ditch en route to the cabin and breaks his leg, so Eric and Celia are at the cabin alone, which is a shocking risk for her reputation, and there’s a long, dull scene in which Celia becomes increasingly enraged that Eric won’t take her back to New York as he lies smugly on the sofa with his eyes closed. Guess how it ends?

Time and time again, Eric proves himself to be a much bigger person, while Celia is irritatingly small and petty. No sensible reader could possibly understand what drives him to continue to pursue her, but there it is. I wasn’t sure I understood why author Joanna Grey devoted the hours it must have taken to phone in this soggy lump. Some books are so bad they’re good (see Harbor Nurse, A Nurse at the Fair), but this one is just dull, to the point that I was grateful on multiple occasions while I was reading it that it was only 124 pages, and the font not overly small. I can only hope Grey didn’t write any more VNRNs, or if she did, that they were written in the 1930s.