Monday, November 29, 2021

Desert Nurse

By Jane Arbor, ©1963 

After the break-up of her romance with Greg Ryder, Nurse Martha Shore decided that the best thing to do was to find a new interest, which she did with a vengeance when she accepted Doctor Jude Tarleton’s offer of a past at his tiny hospital east of Aden. She had successfully managed to jump out he the frying-pan. But did her new job, in the burning desert heat, not ominously resemble the proverbial fire? For it was not long before Martha had to admit her love for Greg was forgotten in her new, overwhelming attraction to Jude—an attraction which he made it clear was not returned. How could she hope to appeal to him, anyway, when the experienced and glamorous Naomi was already so firmly in the picture?


“That’s how feeling needed does take one, I think—grateful for the chance and set-teeth determined to be worth it.” 

I had been dreading reading Desert Nurse, and with good reason, given the VNRN genre’s track record with foreign peoples, and the cover illustration was not very encouraging. But I am happy to report that Jane Arbor has here drawn a portrait of Saudi Arabians as being different from the English, of course, but no less honorable or dignified. Nurse Martha Shore, who in fact has spent some time in the area as a child and speaks some Arabic, returns for a one-year stint at a hospital supporting a rural (can that word be used with a desert?) community and a team of Brits attempting to strike oil under the auspices of Dr. Jude Tarleton—and her reason for doing so is the dissolution of her engagement to Greg Ryder, a pilot who prefers to marry the rich daughter of his intended employer instead of our steady, honest, plucky heroine.

Given that beginning, you can easily deduce the bones of the story that follows, including Greg’s crash landing at the settlement and insistent efforts to take up again with Martha—his fiancĂ©e had left him when he’d carelessly let fall to her father that he’d considered his daughter “good company and a looker, and if she was the price of her old man’s backing, that was all right.” Martha is no longer interested, but the big question here is why she would ever have had anything to do with the shallow, conceited ass for a minute, much less be engaged to him for a year. The usual misunderstandings between her and the camp’s doctor, Jude Tarleton, unfold, but there are side stories demonstrating Martha’s strength and pluck to amuse us—even if she does have a tendency to fall (sometimes literally) into scrapes form which Jude must rescue her.

The plot holds no surprises, but the writing is pleasing and we are treated to multiple interesting peripheral characters. I was even actually convinced of Martha’s feeling for Jude, “a secret madness that didn’t show” no matter how intensely she feels when their hands brush. The final conversation reconciliating their misunderstandings went on for far too long and could easily have been cut altogether: As Frank Capra said of the scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” when Donna Reed and Jimmy Stewart skipped a page of the script in their first and only take of the scene in which they kiss, “with technique like that, who needs dialogue?” A thin plot, though it might keep a book out of A-range grades, is not a big drawback in a VNRN, and the rest of this book is charming enough to make it a welcome oasis in a too-often dry genre.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

A Strange Case for Dr. Rolland

By Jeanne Judson, ©1962
Cover illustration by Lou Marinelli 

It seemed like a routine call when young and attractive Dr. Teresa Rolland was summoned to see a patient in the slums of Manhattan’s West Side. But later she was glad she asked for a police escort—especially since he turned out to be a handsome and attentive plain-clothes man named Bill Fraser. For when she arrived, Teresa found no patient. Instead she found herself caught up in a case which demanded not only her skill as a doctor, but all the wisdom of her woman’s heart …


“If I’d wanted a really easy life I’d have studied dermatology. That’s the best racket of all. People with skin diseases seldom get well and never die, at least not from their disease.” 

“Who would want to marry a doctor, anyway? Always smelling of iodoform and things.”

“If only one could take them away from their parents and give them to people who need children, people of wealth and culture. We could soon change the world. Believe me, Doctor Rolland, environment is everything. Heredity means very little.”

“When men talked about women leading normal lives, she knew they were referring specifically to having babies.”

“He had confused liberality with generosity. He had given his niece and nephew everything they asked for, but they had never asked him for companionship or understanding or love because people, especially young people, never do ask for those things. They only hope for them.”

I am a fan of author Jeanne Judson, who has given us three A-grade novels out of five reviews, so it was with enthusiasm that I picked up this book, spurred on by the Lou Marchetti cover illustration. And if this book is slightly outside the VNRN norm, what with a female doctor and a “mystery” for a plot, neither of these aspects contributed much beyond an initial flash of interest that rapidly faded as it became clear that neither would offer much to think about. 

Dr. Teresa Rolland is a “pediatrist,” old by VNRN standards at 26, and just starting her first year in practice in New York City, on one of the 10th Streets near Fifth Avenue. Jenny Dorian is a “beatnik” who is married to a musician and has a five-month-old son, Jerry, who is a patient of Dr. Rolland’s. Jenny’s uncle, John Flemming, calls up Dr. Rolland to ask about Jenny and, in a huge breach of ethics, the doctor tells what she knows of the Dorian family.

And then we drop that story line and move into another prong—the “mystery,” if you squint hard enough at it—which involves a 3:00 am call to Dr. Rolland from a shady address on West 43rd St. requesting her immediate attention. Concerned about the “anything but reassuring” neighborhood, she calls the police and asks for an officer to meet her there and act as bodyguard, apparently not an unusual request. Sergeant Bill Fraser shows up and escorts her into the building, where she meets a gypsy family that is apparently unaware of why the doctor has been summoned—the mother produces a healthy but tired two-year-old, and after she agrees the boy is perfectly normal, Dr. Rolland heads for home. Days later, though, the mother Isobel Flame shows up on the doctor’s doorstep saying that her family has sold her son into an illegal adoption, and the purpose of the early-morning call was to have a witness of the boy’s existence, should the family deny he had ever been born, and—if he ever turns up again—another person who can identify him.

Numerous hints already having been dropped by John Flemming, along with a completely random lunchroom encounter with a talkative stranger who suggests that “if only one could take children coming from bad backgrounds away from their parents and give them to people who need children, people of wealth and culture,” it doesn’t take long to spot the metaphoric red neon arrow lighting the way to John’s friend Lila Vale, who is in the market for a child identical to little Johnnie Flame, or to figure out that Johnnie is the son of John’s estranged son Jerome Flemming (Flame was the pseudonym he used to publish his poetry), who had died of pneumonia shortly before Johnnie was born.

Now we can turn our attention to Dr. Rolland’s ringless fourth finger. The police sergeant makes a valiant and reasonable effort, while John Flemming and Dr. Rolland’s gadabout officemate offer more lackluster options, if they themselves seem far less plodding than poor always-stern Sergeant Bill. But since Isobel is a gypsy, she can read Dr. Rolland’s cards and let her know that when a fourth man, who kisses her after a page and a half of conversation, is her real love, and we learn that “Isobel had told true.”

The only aspect approaching interesting in this book is the discussion of adoption. Isobel is pressed on several occasions to give up her son to the shallow, foolish Lila Vale, who admittedly has a habit of losing interest in everything after a week. Predictably, Lila loses interest when it becomes increasingly clear that Isobel is not going to give up her son and says, “You know, I’m rather glad I can’t have the baby. He wasn’t much fun.” Though she quickly comes around to the humane point of view, even Dr. Rolland “thought for one minute that all the wealth in the world could take the place of Isobel, no matter how poor she was.” The story could have been more interesting if Lila had been a valid potential mother, and we could have had some discussion about parenting and wealth and class, but unfortunately author Judson ducked this deeper subject, just skimming the surface with comments like, “He would go to the best schools, have the best food and clothing that money could buy.” Designer clothing obviously doesn’t equal good parenting, but we never hear that from Judson. Even Man Number Four—“though his heart wasn’t in it,” a lousy cop-out—makes an attempt to persuade Isobel to give up her child; he is actually Lila’s lawyer, and we could talk about whether a person’s lawyer should attempt to accomplish their client’s bad decisions, but we don’t. Only honest Sergeant Bill never doubts Isobel as a parent, and his good heartedness earns him no credit with Dr. Rolland. The fact that Isobel is a gypsy also lends a tinge of racism to the entire incident—no one is asking the dumped Jenny to give up her boy, and it isn’t until Isobel has rejected all exorbitant offers that they tell her that as Jerome’s widow she is now quite wealthy, and can give her son all the same luxuries that Lila Vale can.

Perfunctory, obvious, and dull, this book is far from Jeanne Judson’s best. It’s only the sixth one we’ve read of a dozen nurse novels she seems to have written, though, so maybe we’ll do better next time. It’s just especially sad to see buried here the bones of a good book that we were never given.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Nurse Incognito

By Fay Chandos
(pseud. Irene Mossop Swatridge), ©1964 
Cover illustration by Bern Smith

When a love affair between a nurse and a doctor goes wrong, the unhappiness of the situation is naturally increased if they have to go on working in the same hospital. That was why Caroline was glad to get away from St. Keverne’s … and Brandon … to a temporary job in the lovely Bahamas. It was disconcerting, though, for her to find herself in the middle of a family feud. Her first loyalty was to the old lady who employed her, but she couldn’t help liking and trusting Roland Dayler and sympathizing with his refusal to give up his children; couldn’t help, either, liking (though she didn’t trust) that “wicked” younger brother whose bad reputation was enough to make any woman look twice at him.


“Men are children at heart. Given the opportunity, they all grab at the fairy on the Christmas tree. It’s a wise woman’s job to lead her man firmly in the other direction, not to let him stand under the tree, gawking up at the glitter.” 

“Sparks aren’t a fire, but they can start one.”

“At my age, one rarely cares for advice, however sound.”

“Wouldn’t you like to try your hand at civilizing me?”

“‘Tis better to have loved and lost’ than to be obliged to realize that one has been played for a sucker.”

Poor Nurse Caroline Whytham has pinned all her hopes on Dr. Brandon Hessare, who has been taking her out for years, and now that she is about to graduate from nursing school, they are going to announce their engagement! Unfortunately, “if she had to look out for herself, she always would be among those stranded at the bus stop. She lacked the assurance and initiative to fight her way on board.” So she misses the first car to the graduation party, which is held at the family mansion of her best friend, Clover Pontock-Pikey, and when she does arrive—could she have been more than 30 minutes behind Clover?—she discovers that Brandon and Clover have, in that narrow window, fallen in love and become engaged. 

The silver lining to her sudden freedom is that Clover’s grandmother decides to take her to the Bahamas with her, ostensibly to serve as her nurse—the battle axe has a heart condition—but also to help Mrs. P-P wrest her great-grandchildren, six-year-old twins Viola and Sebastian, away from their father, Roland Dayler, who owns a large estate. It’s kind of staggering that we’re asked to believe that the claims of a great-grandmother outweigh those of a father, even if he must be a man, but here we are, and we must make the best of it. Roland had been married to Mrs. P-P’s granddaughter Pearl, a beautiful but shallow flirt who had lost interest in her husband almost immediately after marrying him, but who had died in a water-skiing accident—while pregnant, no less, losing the baby as well. An odd detail we’re not quite sure what to do with, but there it is. Clearly the couple weren’t as estranged as all that.

Upon their arrival, sinister things begin to happen! The electricity in both Caroline and Mrs. P-P’s rooms fails, and the candles that are always stocked in the bedrooms vanish! Worse than that, someone lets a kitten loose in Mrs. P-P’s bedroom! Attention turns to the children’s nanny, Annette: “She wants to drive me away from this house. Anyone can see that,” Mrs. P-P concludes after her narrow escape from death. Though there are other possible suspects, including Roland’s brother Ruy (how do you pronounce that?), who with Annette is “allied against me,” Caroline concludes, not wanting to miss getting in on the paranoia.

Further nefarious adventures ensue: Mrs. P-P is drugged into a stupor by the children, who are obeying the orders of a mockingbird outside their window, who sounds like Annette. Caroline falls hard and fast for Roland: At their first meeting, “she was seized by an extraordinary sense of exultation—as though this was the moment she had been waiting for, half her life.” The rub is that she very much resembles Pearl—which is just creepy, though it’s not the first time we’ve encountered this trope. And Ruy, who has been in love with Annette for seven years, she herself chasing Roland, decides to complete the circle by kissing Caroline, who astonishingly decides to go for it without giving a single thought to Roland. “She couldn’t go on mourning over Brandon. That was futile and humiliating. If Ruy was trying to flirt with her, why not let him?” Because, um, Roland?

Here the book becomes part Gothic novel, part mystery, and almost not a nurse novel—as despite the fact that Mrs. P-P seems to be sinking further into a coma, Caroline cannot reveal she’s a nurse, and so leaves Ruy’s secretary Jessamy to babysit the apparently dying woman, and even when the two children also ingest the same poison and the remaining conscious adults “work on” the children all night to bring them around—Caroline, curiously, taking the less dangerously ill child—her occupation remains a secret until the last page.

It’s an odd book, with machinations and suspicions abounding, and the poisoning/attempted murder of four different people, the guilty party still roaming free on the last page, and no discussion of their being taken into custody. Author Irene Swatridge continues her affinity for alliterative names, but also unfortunately displays a tendency toward paragraphs made up entirely of questions: “Had Pearl found him a domestic tyrant? Was that why she had preferred the amenities and social life of Nassau to her home here? Or had she been bored by Roland’s pre-occupation with the estate and its crops? Had she been weighed down by him? Take away his good looks and his old-world courtesy, and what was left? Mightn’t he be singularly heavy and humorless as a husband?” Also I do wish Caroline were less of a wimp. “Roland seeks subconsciously for a gentle, loving wife who will be his complement, and content to be ruled by him. You are such a one, I think,” she is told—and even worse, she answers, “Thank you.” Not surprisingly, her nursing career seems likely as over as the book is on the last page. Still, this book is curiously compelling, as Swatridge’s books have proved to be so far (see Nurse Willow’s Ward and Jubilee Hospital). Also, there are beautiful ball gowns! And a fabulous, snidely witty grande dame in Mrs. P-P! So if it’s not Swatridge’s best, she’s still not done badly by us, her readers, at all. 

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Nurse with a Dream

By Norrey Ford, ©1957
Cover illustration by Chapman 

When Jacqueline Clarke came from France to nurse at a Yorkshire hospital she had never known any Englishmen except her father. Soon she was to meet two very attractive ones; her farmer-cousin Guy, who ruled over his broad acres from a centuries-old farmhouse, and the distinguished surgeon of whom nurses spoke in awed whispers as “the great Mr. Broderick.” Guy fell in love and started proposing marriage almost at once, while she wasn’t supposed even to speak to Mr. Broderick—and what a sensation there was when she did! She couldn’t presume to imagine that he would ever give her a serious thought … and yet the idea of him seemed to come persistently between her and Guy.


“We’ll make a nurse of you some day. Even if we kill you.”

“We all condemn what we can’t understand.”

“No house is big enough for two women if they don’t agree.”

“He is a doctor, but only just, I’d say. I mean you could still see bits of eggshell and fluff on him.”

“Whoever heard of two weeks’ convalescence, when we’re short-staffed and you’re not actually dying?”

“Only twelve more operating days to Christmas, Nurse?”

“‘He showed me the Charleston. His grandma taught him.’ She rolled down her nylons and proudly displayed blue bruises. ‘Those old-timers must have been tough.’”

“Bad as January was, it rushed all too soon into February, and those nurses taking the examination went about with glazed eyes and moving lips.”

“If you understand children, you understand men, mostly.”

Jacqueline Clarke is a Cinderella of a nurse. Orphaned during “the war,” she has “warm youth and vitality,” “richly curved red lips and gentian-blue eyes, fine skin as delicate and rosy as a ripe, sun-warmed peach.” Her father was English and her mother French, and she was raised in France her entire life, so though her English is perfect, she speaks with “the slightest trace of accent, just enough to make her sound enchanting to English ears.” I hate perfect heroines; what’s wrong with being a normal, flawed woman? 

Anyway, Jacqueline has returned to Yorkshire, the land of her father, to learn about his home country. She says she’s never met a young Englishman, which seems hard to believe, given that she works in a hospital. Not that it matters; “I’m not interested in men. I just want to be a nurse,” she says. Then we hear about the lion surgeon Dr. Broderick, who “doesn’t care for nurses. He’s a terror and twists their heads off, like eating shrimps.” I’m betting $100 he’s starring on the last page.

On her first weekend off, she takes a trip to the moors to see the farmhouse where her father was raised, and meets a birder named Alan who takes her on a long walk with him. She’s telling him how nice her father was to her, when suddenly she gasps, realizing that “today she had been happy and comfortable with a man who had not talked down to her, or patronised, or treated her as a pretty little woman fit only for flirting; to this man, as to her father, she was a person, with a mind and ideas of her own.” Heady stuff! They talk of love, and he insists, “my love is elsewhere”—perfect grounds for a misunderstanding, as indeed there is one about his identity, which we saw coming half the moor away.

At the farmhouse, she meets her half-cousin Guy, and his mother Connie—her father’s wicked stepmother, who indeed “looked like an earthy troll”—and he is a big, handsome Guy, who makes her pulses race, but you know there has to be someone to interpose. Actually, it’s initially more complicated than that, as, when Jacky takes a stroll on the moor, she spots a dog and is then knocked unconscious. She’s soon found by Alan, however, and carried several miles to the village. She wakes in her own hospital, but the curious twist is that she has lost her memory of the day, and when Alan shows up and chews her out for being irresponsible, as he thinks she had fallen from a steep crag he had warned her about. She is livid, and spars feistily with him, even threatening him with a water jug before he ducks out the door. “As a junior nurse, I’m less than the dust, but as me I won’t be anybody’s doormat,” she declares, winning my heart instantly. And … Alan turns out to be Dr. Broderick! Who would have guessed!?!?

Of course, she can’t believe that a mighty surgeon could like her, even though they have frequent friendly and amusing exchanges. Her confusion is manipulated by Guy’s sister Deborah, who is hankering after Dr. Broderick herself, and she convinces Jacky to agree to marry Guy, so as to avoid subjecting Dr. Broderick to idle gossip that he could be involved with such a lowly creature as herself. “It was so plainly a breach of hospital etiquette to have her life saved by its most eminent surgeon! Perhaps if he had known she was a nurse, he’d have left her lying there, and saved himself and everybody else a great deal of unpleasantness!”

For his part, Guy has been pressing her for her hand—insisting, actually, in the most unpleasant and frankly alarming way. He tells her he’d like to hold her in his hand—“Slowly, keeping his gaze on his palm, he closed his muscular hand till the fingers were pressed down tightly and his knuckles showed white.” Yikes! She valiantly resists: “You can’t just say ‘that’s for me’ as if I were a cake in a confectioner’s window,” she insists, but he does anyway. He doesn’t improve his case when he says, “As if a woman’s career mattered, when she has a chance of marrying!” (To her credit, she laughs in his face, saying, “Do men think they are the be-all and end-all of a woman’s existence? Do you think we’d throw anything over that we cared about, just to marry one of you?”) But she gets flustered when he kisses her, so she wonders, “Was this love, this pounding of the heart, this disturbance of the senses?” Eventually she figures out it’s not, but by then she believes it’s too late to get out of marrying Guy, which is a preposterous manifestation of honor, and I would say that it’s dishonorable to marry a man you don’t love, to yourself and to the gentleman in question.

Anyway, everything sorts out in the end, as you know it will, but the great fun is watching it all unfold. This book has some really lovely people in it, but tops is Jacky’s nurse friend Bridget, who fortunately has to recover from her own stomach troubles in the bed next to Jacky, so we have lots of time to appreciate her sense of humor. Bridget is the kind of pal who, looking down on her cafeteria tray, quips, “When I came off-duty I was hungry enough to eat a dead dog, but I didn’t think I’d have to.” Pretty much everything she says is equally glorious. Initially disappointed with Jacky’s looks, I was quickly won over with her spunk and her ability to stand up for herself, even when facing dragons like Dr. Broderick. I even liked Dr. Broderick, who really was mostly respectful of Jacky, and at one point he berates himself for his hand in the charade that was Jacky’s engagement to Guy in a way that felt honest: “Fool, fool, fool! He had not even tried—not raised a hand to stop her falling into Guy’s grasp. He’d shown too much darn self-sacrifice, too much nobility; in fact, he’d been a stuffed shirt.” The question of who clubbed Jacky over the head is a bit of unnecessary detour for the plot, though it’s not badly done, and I was left wondering until the end, and the reveal offered some interesting insights into minor characters. And the writing! So witty, so amusing, so enjoyable! Writing this good is rare enough that it must be celebrated, and I am happy to pop a cork for Norrey Ford and this lovely book.

Monday, November 1, 2021

Hotel Nurse

By Tracy Adams
Sofi O’Bryan), ©1964
Cover illustrations by Lou Marchetti 

When pretty nurse Kay Mercer agreed to take a part-time job at the luxurious Hanes hotel, she found herself in a new world. Here, in the plush, elegant hotel was a way of life so gay and glamorous that it seemed to have everything she had missed in the grim halls of Deepwood Hospital. And there was handsome, gifted young pianist, Johnny Riels. He wanted to make this Kay’s world too. But could she forget the life she come to know and understand at the hospital? And how about the young doctor who had broken her heart?


“The day she had to work to hang on to her guy, as Madge said would be the day she’d turn in her womanhood badge.”

“They were all like this man during the first few hours in a hospital, apprehensive, suspicious as to what was being done to and for them, and afraid, terribly afraid unless they were well informed. And few patients are well informed, Kay often thought, because it’s easier not to know the truth sometimes.” 

“I’m going to do a few tests, find a fancy name for what you’ve got and then send you a bill.”

“What the hell kind of nurse are you anyway?”

“Why don’t you try to hang onto yourself until your doctor completes his tests?”

“I’m indestructible. I’m a nurse.”

“‘I’ve got things to ask you, Nurse,’ he said. ‘Like what to do about blood pressure when a guy’s kooky about a girl and all that!’”

“‘I’m a nurse.’ It was more than a word; it was a badge; it was honor and duty and love and fulfillment for any woman.”

Kay Mercer RN is, in a word, stubborn. This can be a useful trait, as it was for our poor orphaned heroine, but she calls it “pride”: “You have to have lots of pride to wear hand-me-down clothes, to go to high school without extra money, and more pride to borrow from a girlfriend for lunch hoping you’d get a baby-sitting job to pay it back. Kay’s determination to get an education, to enter nursing school and graduate had also been sustained by her pride and the wish to not give into [sic] circumstances but to fight and get what she wanted most out of life.” And one of the things she wants most out of life is Dr. Mark Bell. We don’t really get to know Mark, because the first time we clap eyes on the alleged heartthrob, he’s squiring TV starlet Penny Adair, who is doing research for her upcoming role as a nurse, around the hospital. 

Unfortunately, in addition to stubbornness a.k.a. pride, Kate is also mighty jealous. This portends an ominous future for the lovebirds. Mark is so busy showing Penny around the hospital that he’s not free to talk to Kay about a part-time job she’s been offered: Her friend Ruth, who is heading off for six-week (!!!) honeymoon, is desperate for Kay to fill her part-time nights-and-weekends job while she’s away or she’ll lose it. Working for a 1,100-room hotel with a full medical staff—what mega-luxury hotel is complete without an operating room?—is not all glamour; “A guy in the kitchen whacks off a finger, we have to be there to pick up the pieces.” Literally.

Kay, won over by the allure, wants to take the job, knowing it will bring in extra money so her little sister Betty, in college and with a part-time job herself, could quit working and focus on her studies. But Mark’s reaction to the news of her six-week gig is that of a possessive lout; he implies that he will mention her moonlighting to the director of nursing, who might kibosh the deal, and adds, “I don’t like you fooling around some hotshot hotel. I have a little enough time to be with you; this means I’ll never be able to make a date with you.” Kay immediately spots his hypocrisy, thinking, “last night he’d been busy with Penny Adair or when they might have had that hour or so together. It was all right for him to take on extra-curricular activities such as Penny Adair, but not for her to do it!” The snarky remarks tumble from her lips, and half a page later, she’s storming off and he’s not following after her. Or calling, or dropping by her apartment, or speaking to her in the hospital hallway. “Stubbornly, however, she clung to the thought that in this instance she was right and he was obstinate.” Which doesn’t help as the days go by.

What does help, however, is for meeting the hotel’s piano player, Johnny Riels. Johnny regularly presses Kay into a corner table with a cocktail after work while he performs for the lounge crowd, then takes her to tiny, exclusive jazz club until 3:00 a.m. This is not a woman who believes in sleeping. But the glamour of it all! “Kay heard music such as she had never heard, improvised music, sweet and low, sad and haunting. There was jazz that tingled, and time was forgotten as the men played because they loved every sound and every tone that came out of their instruments.” So she decides, “From now on it was going to be glamour and excitement and Johnny by her side.”

Eventually Mark turns up at the lounge to see Kay, for the first time they’ve spoken in five weeks, and proposes marriage—though he still has to live at the hospital, for some reason, for another six months, until he finishes his residency. He plunks a ring on the table—and then Johnny comes over and kisses her on the mouth. Mark, not surprisingly, decides to head for the door. “Let him go then; let him stalk off like a spoiled brat,” she thinks to herself. “What had he to offer her, ever? Waiting, hoping, planning and then who was sure they’d ever get married? Who could be sure Penny wouldn’t come into the picture again and make him change his mind?”

It seems unlikely this will happen, given the genre, and equally unsurprising is that calamity that strikes—but here, unfortunately, the calamity is that a small plane has crashed into the building. In the post9/11 world, it’s PTSD-inducing and, less importantly, unrealistic; the floor where the plane has crashed is still largely intact, with just a small fire, and the pilot’s body is undamaged enough to determine that it’s dead. This scene also a study in what not to do in a mass trauma situation; the hotel doctor focuses on a woman with a broken leg and worries about a blood clot instead of concentrating on victims who might die if not treated immediately. It’s over in two pages, though, and the hospital MD prescribes for his staff, passing around paper cups of brandy and saying, “Chuck-a-lug and that’s an order.” He’s not the only one: Mark shows up at her apartment and tells her, “It’s time I stopped being patient with you and started giving orders,” he says, though I don’t think the cold shoulder counts as being patient, and don’t get me started on the “giving orders” bit. Instead of slapping him, Kay says, “Mark, I was just going to say the same thing.” Any esteem I might have had for Kay melted away when she tells him that while she had been working on the crash victims, “I even prayed you’d come charging in, like they do in the movies, or the Penny Adair television things, you know? Then you’d rescue me and we’d cling together.” Except that she was a rescuer, not a victim.

Though she’s eager to be saved—and ordered around—by her man, when Johnny shows up and tells her to quit her job and marry him, she’s not convinced. “I don’t dig that medicine jazz, sweetie,” he says, adorably. “I want my woman warm and soft and smelling of perfume, not antiseptic. I want you to kick the habit and come out to the west coast with me. I can give you plenty to take care of—me.” As appealing as his language is, she tells him she’s “from another world” and slips out of the club while he’s playing a song for her, deciding that for him “love was as make-believe as the tinsel decorations,” which seems heartless and convenient.

Overall, it’s not a terrible book. Even if she shows no growth of her character during the story, Kay is a strong, independent woman—well, up to the end, anyway. The book demonstrates a lot of respect for the nursing profession, and the writing overall was pretty good. This seems to be the last of the three nurse novels written by Sofi O’Bryan (see also Washington Nurse and Spotlight on Nurse Thorne), both in terms of chronology and in reviewed books, and I am happy to report she’s going out on a high note.