Friday, December 31, 2021

Doctor Mary

By Jeanne Judson, ©1964

Her fiancĂ©, Henry Clifford, a rising young lawyer, couldn’t understand why Dr. Mary Spencer chose to live in Chinatown. Her best friend, Dr. Edith Silliman, wanted Mary to join her in an expensive practice in an exclusive neighborhood. Both Henry and Edith thought Dr. Mary was a fool. And perhaps, thought Mary, they were right. Who but a fool would alienate her best friend and her sweetheart and the prospect of the successful career, to follow a dream — a dream of helping the poor. But, wise or foolish, Dr. Mary was going to continue in the past she had marked out for herself.


“People who are always right are unbearable.” 

“It’s surprising how many people in New York will go anywhere if there is a prospect of lots of free champagne.”

“In cases of high blood pressure there is almost always some frustration or worry that increases the trouble.”

Sometimes it’s hard to pick up a book because its cover is so appalling. Eventually, though, you become so sick of looking at this cover that you are forced to read the book just so that you can put it away in the back bedroom with all the other books you’ve already read, saving your delicate sensibilities from further encounters. Such was the case with me and Doctor Mary. The fact that it was written by Jeanne Judson, who has been known to put out some excellent books—though I haven’t met one recently, unfortunately—was not much of a lure. But now the job is done, and I can report that the book is in fact better than its cover, but maybe not so much that you should run out and buy a copy. 

Dr. Mary Spencer is a lonely orphan who, upon graduating from medical school a year earlier, moved to Mott Street in New York City’s Chinatown to practice medicine. She had picked this spot as a launching pad for her medical career because during her internship she had encountered many Chinese patients and found them “so patient and polite.” “I haven’t any family to impress with my brilliance, and I don’t know any Joneses to keep up with, so when I finished at St. Vincent’s that’s where I went,” she explained her decision. She likes the interesting neighborhood and her patient population, even if she’s not getting rich like her med school classmate Dr. Edith Silliman, who at book’s open is pressing her to join a practice with her on E. 71st St. “If only you’ll be sensible, Mary,” chides Edith. “If you’ll get an office uptown and stop all this do-gooding,” she says, Mary might be able to keep her fiancĂ©, up-and-coming attorney Henry Clifford.

Edith has a point: Henry has already told her, “You can see for yourself that it wouldn’t do for a member of one of the leading law firms to have a wife working in the slums. If you stay here, it will be no marriage at all.” But Mary wants to “work with an uplifted heart,” and has found her calling: “For her, it was a vocation; for Edith, it was a profession.” It takes Mary no time at all to refuse Edith, and not much longer to come to her senses after Henry tells her, “You must choose, Mary. I love you, but I have no intention of ruining both our lives by letting you continue in this absurd obsession about helping people who aren’t willing to help themselves.” So when the afternoon mail brings an engraved wedding invitation to Edith and Henry’s upcoming nuptials, “when her head stopped whirling, she thought that nothing could be more suitable.”

Mary spends about ten minutes feeling sorry for herself, but then she starts thinking about this guy she met while taking care of a patient with pneumonia. Jim Tracy is unemployed and living in a seedy residence hotel: “Despite the need of a shave and a haircut, he was well dressed. Also, and more surprising, he looked clean. He had spoken like an educated man. He was young and, though underweight, apparently healthy. But what was he doing in Joe Grimes’s hotel when he was perfectly competent to hold down a good job, routine, perhaps, but respectable?” Between cases she goes out with the man, who is alternatively kind and grouchy, but he is always able to pay for dinner despite his low living conditions. Even more curious, he is able to engage Dr. Grenning, the city’s top cardiologist, to see an impoverished pediatric patient of Mary’s for free. Unfortunately, after a mere three encounters with the man, “the awful truth came to her. She loved him. She loved him. Thief, murderer, whenever he was, she loved him. She wouldn’t marry him because he wouldn’t have her. Still, it was good to love even if the love were never returned.” Ugh.

When the cardiologist shows up, it turns out he’s an old friend of Jim’s, who is—surprise!—Dr. Jim Tracy, “one of the best bacteriologists in the country—a man who could have a big future.” But Jim is done with his career, he says: “I got this way by killing my wife.” It’s only another dozen pages before we find out that his wife was a pretty but shallow debutante whom Jim had married too quickly, only to find out they weren’t compatible. She had wanted to party, and he had wanted to work, which meant they lived essentially separate lives, she with her socializing friends, and even a few gentlemen escorts as well — until one day, coming down the stairs in a beautiful, trailing gown to open the door for another party, she “tripped on some chiffon and fell halfway down the stairs.” She lived “long enough to tell Jim that it was all his fault, that it was his indifference, his coldness, that was killing her.” That or the broken neck, it’s hard to tell for sure. After this revelation, though, all the guilt that has caused Jim to abandon his former life for years is quickly boxed up and put away into storage, never to peek out at us again.

As the closet door is swinging shut, Mary is enlisted by Dr. Grenning to help persuade Jim to sign up for a two-year stint at a brand-new hospital in the wilds of Brazil, though at the dinner party where Jim is won over to the project, she doesn’t do much more than pass the gravy. One thing I do like about Dr. Mary, however, is that she goes after what she wants. Before the dinner with Dr. Grenning, where she had learned the truth of his past, she had written to Jim to say, “Whatever they have to tell me, I’d rather hear it from you. I don’t want to know anything about you that you don’t want to tell me yourself. I love you.” And on the way home from dinner, Jim talks about how the new hospital’s staff (being all male, of course) is not likely to be married because “for the wives it will be insects and heat and snakes and noise.” Undaunted, Mary retorts, “It might be different for a woman if she were a doctor, too.” You go, girl.

Overall this is a fairly straightforward story without exceptional interest, outside of the ad for Newport cigarettes bound into the book, which was printed in the era before cigarette advertising was outlawed. If one or two characters demonstrate bigotry toward the Chinese, Mary does not, seeing only hard-working immigrants pursuing the American dream; her most prominent Chinese patient eventually brings his two grandsons to the country to study at Columbia, aided by Jim Tracy, who had grown up alongside Chinese workers on his family’s pineapple plantation in Hawaii and is completely fluent in multiple dialects of Chinese. Actually, in this book it’s the white family that is stuck with a drunken, abusive, jobless patriarch, and no one is sorry to see him drop of pneumonia in the end; the black and Asian families Mary cares for may be poor, but they won’t be for long, especially when the kids graduate from an Ivy League college. It’s pleasant enough, but a little disappointing for author Judson, who has given us the delightful Small Town Nurse, Visiting Nurse, and City Nurse, three A-grade gems. Those books came out in the 1950s, however, giving more evidence to my belief that the more recently a book was written, the worse it is likely to be. Given the fact that the four reviews of her books published in the ’60s earned a C+ average with no grade higher than a B, it seems that this dread curse is so powerful that not even the talented Jeanne Judson was immune to it.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Doctor Chris

by Elizabeth Seifert, © 1946

When the new doctor arrived at Lakeside Hospital, the reaction was lively. Nobody had expected Dr. Chris Metcalf to be a girl. The nurses were not pleased, for another young woman meant keener competition for the attention of the handsome Chief of Staff. The Chief of Staff himself was not pleased, for he believed that medicine was for men alone. So Chris had something to fight against, as well as a lot to learn during her year of hospital life. It was anything but a dull year, however, what with this vigorous opposition, with sabotage in an Army Ordnance plant nearby, and with the personable young lawyer in town who appreciated Chris as a woman rather than as a doctor. In her latest novel Elizabeth Seifert shows the development of Chris Metcalf is a person and as a doctor, and adds a vivid new story to her popular group of novels about doctors and the drama of their work. 


“Just so I’m the biggest something in your life, sweetheart.”

Poor Dr. Chris Metcalf is a 24-year-old intern, having just graduated from medical school, and is arriving at Lakeside Hospital somewhere in Missouri. Of course, the initial joke is that with the nickname of Chris, everyone thinks from her resume that she is a man. What fun when she arrives wearing a skirt! Well, maybe not fun, as she gets the fisheye from multiple mossbacked and/or jealous nurses and doctors, including her new chief, 40-year-old Dr. Key Edmons. (I know, “Key” is about the worst name ever, but it’s not the first time we have met one, and probably won’t be the last, unfortunately.) But Chris is not intimidated: “I’m not frightened of you, and you don’t shock me,” she tells him. “Another thing you can count on, I won’t bother you by falling in love with you.” That shows him! Except maybe not, as he has an exceptional amount of prejudice to overcome, and she is perennially smacking into that wall. Frankly it gets more than a little tiresome to continually encounter remarks such as, “There is something you’re going to have to learn, Dr. Metcalf, though I’m damned if I think you can learn it. Because you’re a girl!” Or, “You didn’t handle the father, and the reason you didn’t is the same reason we have against your trying to be a doctor. You’re a girl.” Honestly, Chris is never going to experience any gender confusion, she is reminded so frequently of hers, though it seems likely that she has progressed through puberty and actually qualifies as a woman.

She does not have much spare time, being an intern and all, but soon Chris has hooked up with a local playboy, 35-year-old attorney Allan Gifford, who is apparently about to be engaged to one wealthy socialite while also having an affair with the chief OR nurse. If that doesn’t make him enough of a catch, he, too, is ridiculously prejudiced against women doctors. “Why should a pretty little girl like you go into anything so gruesome as the practice of medicine?” he asks her when they first meet. He repeatedly pressures her to marry him, but is very open about his insistence that she quit medicine if she does, so she doesn’t really take him seriously.

The book rolls along and we watch Chris tackle with varying degrees of success various medical situations, always carrying the weight of her entire gender on her back. I will say she is a bit on the wimpy side and does have a tendency to break into tears, but the pressure of one’s intern year combined with the accompanying lack of sleep might do that to anyone. She is fierce in her regular and ongoing battles with Dr. Edmons about her capabilities, I will give her that: “Don’t you dare say that’s why I have no business doctoring,” she snaps at him when he tells her that women can’t be doctors because they have “a tender heart.” “Men have tender hearts, too. Don’t they? Don’t they?” (Dr. Edmons, who is obviously falling in love with Chris, begrudgingly admits she may be right.)

Two of the more interesting cases that Dr. Metcalf encounters involve reproductive rights: a young woman, pregnant by a bounder, who asks for an abortion—Chris refuses because it’s illegal and she is only an intern without the requisite skills; it’s not clear which is the bigger obstacle—and in another case a woman who is having her appendix out asks to have her ovaries removed as well. Dr. Edmons refuses to do it because the ovaries are not diseased, but Chris replies that they would take out healthy ovaries during a hysterectomy. The argument is dropped before it progresses, but it is curious that author Elizabeth Seifert introduces these weighty topics in such an offhanded manner.

Eventually, as you knew there would be, there is a case of serious sabotage at the nearby Army ordnance plant in which a plane crashes into it, and Chris and Dr. Edmons work all night to save the burned men. Chris than deduces who the scurrilous foreign agent is—the only character with a German accent (*eyeroll*)—and plays a large role in bringing the criminal to justice, with the help of Allan Gifford, who turns out to be FBI! Unfortunately, “all the glamour Cooper and Hoover have given to the G-men, the aura of Sherlock Holmes—all glimmered about Allen’s big, homely person” and now she thinks she is in love with him and accepts his ring, “the badge of submission, of subordination.” Well, that sounds lovely! Then he is injured in a shooting accident and she saves his life, proving to everyone that she is a “real” doctor—but also to herself that she is not in love with Allan: “Have I got so hard, so unfeeling that I could have done what I did for Allan, if I really loved him—the way I should love him?”

Overall, this is a low-key, satisfying book by an excellent author. It’s not especially exciting or unique, but it is well-written and has a quiet humor in several instances that unfortunately doesn’t translate to the Best Quotes section. It certainly is a slice of life of a young woman trying to forge her way through a career that is difficult today, much less 75 (!!) years ago, and if the incessant prejudice is trying for us to endure, I imagine it was a great deal more so for the brave women who actually lived through it. If this gentle book isn’t the most memorable, it has a pleasant competence that makes it worth reading about Dr. Chris.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Part-Time Nurse

By Elizabeth Houghton, ©1964

At home, Karen was very much in the background, coming a poor second to her glamourous half-sister Celia, but in her work as part-time nurse in a home for old people, she was loved by all her patients, and she found a good friend in Simon Guthrie, the consultant physician. And then Simon met Celia. Would the inevitable happen? 


“Love isn’t just a one-way street. Parents have to earn it as well as their children.” 

It’s really an insurmountable problem when the heroine of your book is unlikeable. Is the author so out of touch that she can’t understand what qualities the reader will find admirable? There must be a few books I’ve liked despite its heroine, and in these situations a generous reader might believe that the author, for some unknown reason of her own, chose to write a dislikeable heroine while assembling a more interesting supporting cast and story line. A better option would be to create a heroine who starts out badly but improves through personal growth, but these, too, are rare. This book, unfortunately, is neither of these. Here we have the milquetoast Karen Shelley, not aided by the modern meme imposed on her first name, who is several times referred to as a Cinderella who has given up her hospital nursing job to care for her aged, invalid mother—a woman in her mid-50s who’d had “a heavy cold and threatened pneumonia” that “was brought under control with drugs in a few days” and now, months or possibly years later, mother is still not allowed to leave the house by her physician, and Karen is obliged to spend every waking hour waiting on the “whining invalid,” a mean and ungrateful woman who runs Karen down as much as she spoils Karen’s younger half-sister Celia, who contributes neither labor nor money to the family but insists Karen be home at 9:00 am to wake her up for her job as a receptionist for a real estate firm.

Through what may be divine intervention, given the thin eye of a needle she is threading, Karen finds a job at Langdale Place, an old folks’ home that needs her only between 7:00 and 9:00 am—and ever-grateful mum is peeved both that Karen is not starting sooner because they need the money and also because Karen will be out of the house when she’s usually bringing in breakfast on a tray: “I suppose I’ll have to manage,” mother says “grudgingly”—and never mind that Celia would be at home and could get breakfast for her if she’s unable to do for herself, though it’s difficult to see why she can’t.

All this mistreatment has left Karen beaten down: “She had learned long ago not to heed the defensive urge to talk back.” She’s horrifically spineless, absorbing direct and implied insults from her family without a word, but curiously, in her first encounters with Dr. Simon Guthrie, who oversees the Langdale Place residents, she slams out of his car before he’s even started the motor because he’d asked her if she was sure she wanted to work with geriatrics—and then she freaks out for the next five pages that he’s going to fire her the next time he sees her.

Bizarrely, Simon seems interested in Karen though her minimal hours mean they never cross paths, and she’s such a pansy that she is blushing almost constantly in the first pages. But maybe that’s what he likes, as he swoops in and, without discussing it with her, frees her mother from the doctor’s orders that have kept her indoors, offers mom a job at Langdale Place, and tells Karen that she’ll now be working full-time, so less than halfway through the book its title is no longer applicable. Karen is so grateful to be liberated from her prison that she fights him at every turn, even concluding pathetically, “Celia will never wake up without me there!” (Simon reminds her of this handy invention called an alarm clock, and Karen reluctantly goes along with his plan, but only because she’s sure mum will refuse to take the job at Langdale Place. She doesn’t.)

The plot next turns on a real estate deal that threatens the building Langdale Place occupies, but coincidentally Celia works for the financier behind the deal, apparently doing more than just answering the phone, as she’s spotted in clubs and limos in cocktail dresses and mink coats accompanied by old men with “dark greedy eyes” “licking his lips,” disappearing with her suitcase apparently en route to Paris with her boss but turning up at home in the morning, her dress ripped, and her sometime boyfriend Barry worrying that Celia is “getting mixed up with something nasty” as Karen thinks of “white girls kidnapped for Moroccan night clubs”—but no one ever bothers to ask  Celia what’s going on.

Simon at least plays true to character and organizes a plot that he never explains to Karen even as it’s unfolding, in which Celia uses her influence on her boss—though it’s not clear how, as Langdale Place is ultimately torn down—and is “taken” by her boss’s gang for the evening, all very murky and never explained. In the end, the most we hear is that Celia has “decided to forget it ever happened. It’s the best way.” Oh, OK.

There are happy endings for all in the end, and Karen wins a prize at work, though we’re not sure why, since all she seemed to do was submit everyone else’s ideas for the new home that’s to be built when the current building is torn down. This is the book’s most consistent problem, that Karen is a spineless cipher to whom good things are given after her term of suffering, for little apparent effort or merit of her own. I do wonder whether a Cinderella can really be a likable personality—if you have willingly subverted your wishes for your own life, are you likely to be interesting when set free, particularly if you played no role in obtaining your freedom? Karen is not a character we root for, and so her liberation is meaningless to us, and we have no regrets when we close the book on her, apart from the hours wasted in her insipid company.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Nurse Martin’s Dilemma

By Rosamund Hunt, ©1961
Cover illustration by Lou Marchetti 

For eighteen months Nurse Beth Martin was stalked wherever she went by the nightmare of her past. At last, in a remote New England hospital she found safety and love. With Dr. Chad Dennison she began to forget her tragedy. Then a little man arrived—asking questions and looking for Nurse Beth Martin. If she ran again, she’d have to run forever …


The abducted-baby plot is a bonus because it offers our accused nurse-heroine an oversized scandal, followed by an equally righteous triumph in the end—and an opportunity to sneer at the mother at the same time. Here Nurse Beth Martin has agreed to care for boarding school chum Harriet Sawyer’s infant son—not that she deserves a baby, and we are allowed to ask if she even wants one: “the beautiful spoiled” Harriet had “complained constantly” during her pregnancy and, when the child was born, “didn’t want any of the burden of its care,” to the point that she’s never seen him undressed and “had held him only when he was dressed in his expensive, handmade little garments. Even then, she had been only too glad to hand him back shortly, had seemed to see the baby only as proof of her own accomplishment, a new possession to be shown off to admiring friends and relatives.” Then one afternoon, Beth is alone with Baby Bunky—“Harriet had gone off on a shopping expedition”—when the phone rings and rings until Beth goes inside to answer it, leaving Bunky on the terrace, and when asked to hold, she does, apparently for quite some time, as when she gets back, Bunky is gone! 

The police can’t convict her, though “the tabloids had had a field day,” and she’d fled to Europe until her apparently substantial inheritance (she’s an orphan, of course) has run out, and now, 18 months after her graduation, she has returned to America, somewhere in New England far from the Californian scene of the crime, for a job as a charge nurse of the surgical floor. It’s a tough assignment, as the patients are demanding and the hospital is short-staffed, and Beth, in her first hospital job, “could not have got off to a worse start if she had been trying deliberately.”  She flaunts her college degree before a top student nurse, who, rightfully offended, tells Beth she shouldn’t “ride the girls who know what they’re doing because they’ve learned it by actual experience”—a valid point—and then sets out to ruin Beth’s life. Beth does not learn from this incident, unfortunately, and continues to prove herself to be a snob.

She’s not helped by the ridiculously coincidental appearance of Dr. John Chadwick Dennison, known as Chad, whom she’d known as a child and of course been crushing madly: “She had always felt that the reason she had never fallen in love again was because no one had ever measured up to the ideal she had met, and lost, when she was 16.” Now we watch Beth make an even bigger ass of herself as, having unburdened herself about the Bunky mishap to Chad, she decides that she’s still in love with him and literally thrusts herself between him and Nurse Elinor Chase, who anyone can see he actually cares for. Now she has her obsession to “give new meaning to her life,” and she spends every evening alone in her room waiting for Chad to call, remembering all the words he’s spoken to her and “reading into them what she wanted to be there.” She snubs good-hearted Dr. Bill Holloway, who is the only person to stand up for her when she snatches a tin of salted nuts away from a hospital trustee three days after an open cholecystectomy. She decides on their disastrous date that “she wanted to repay him” and so “if he wanted to kiss her tonight, she would not resist. There would be no disloyalty to Chad. It would be merely a friendly gesture, her way of saying ‘Thank you.’” Um, thanks, lady! Of course, she’s insulted when he doesn’t.

And then a mysterious man shows up at the hospital asking for Beth, and, combined with Chad’s engagement—not to Beth!—she decides “she would have to leave the hospital and the city,” because she cannot face “what a fool she had been.” It seems to me that a little facing up would be good for Beth, but it’s not strength of character but of Mother Nature in the form of a weak blizzard (only 12 to 14 inches of snow, kids’ stuff!) that keeps her in town, trapped on duty as the nurses who live farther afield are unable to show up for work for 36 hours—these can’t be real New Englanders! The stranger is brought in with a heart attack, triggered by standing outside Beth’s rooming house waiting for her, and soon it’s revealed that he’s not out to harm her, but to tell her his mentally ill daughter was the one responsible for kidnapping Bunky, and that the baby is alive and well as one can be when they’re living in Florida.

If nurses can’t get to work, at least planes are running, so Beth is off to the airport, but not before she hears “the voice in her own heart telling her that she was in love with Bill Holloway,” which is especially tragic because she still has to leave town forever, as “she could not drag him or his fine family” into “the publicity, the gossip which would spread, like a flame in a high wind, throughout the city where Bill was building up a reputation as a successful young doctor.” She’s assuming he wants anything to do with her, a bit of a stretch in my opinion, but these VNRN docs aren’t always the smartest of guys.

Of course, Bunky’s mother Harriet couldn’t pick her own child out of a lineup, and only Beth knows about the birthmark she had never revealed to Harriet, knowing that Harriet “had always had a passion for perfection. She had wanted everything she possessed to be flawless.” Summoned by Beth to collect their newfound child, Harriet and husband Ben arrive and so too does Bill, insisting, “I’m taking over!” After he and Beth are married, he suggests, “your past will be nobody’s business,” and besides, it wasn’t her fault! Initially I was hopeful: “No one can be completely free from human errors,” Bill scolds her—everyone, that is, except Bunky’s mother. “If she had been home that day, never letting the baby out of her sight the way most mothers are happy to do, the whole thing might not have happened,” he explains. “It’s rottenly unfair that she slid out of taking any of the blame!”

And so it’s a happy end for everyone except Harriet, who now has to take care of her own child, at least on the plane ride home and until she finds a new nurse. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to be satisfied with Beth Martin, who has been narrow-minded, jealous, and immature from the beginning, only to be transformed with the turn of a page into someone who recognizes all her past mistakes and is held accountable for none of them. There are some enjoyments to be had from this book, and not just from the fabulous Lou Marchetti cover (but who is the blonde? Surely not Nurse Elinor!)—it is fun to be exasperated with horrid Beth—but not many. The dilemma about Nurse Martin is why anyone would care about her, but it needn’t be yours if you just decline to open the book.  

Monday, December 6, 2021

Special Nurse

By Jean S. MacLeod, ©1944
Cover illustration by Paul Anna Soik 

When a woman believes herself indebted to a man, should she offer her heart as a sacrifice? Nurse Lindsey Hamilton knew that she owed to Richard Stewart Harvey, surgeon, the almost miraculous recovery of her dearly-loved brother. She knew too that she could—that she did—love Richard himself. But when, by coincidence, Richard’s own brother Douglas came to the same hospital as a patient, it seemed that she could best repay her debt to Richard by marrying Douglas. In a world where daily sacrifices were asked and made, she had this much to give. What would be her decision?


“A man never likes to think he’s been helped on to his feet. He likes to believe he’s struggled there of his own accord!” 

Dr. Richard Stewart Harvey is everything a young woman would want in a man. “He’s got that look about him—remote, yet assured,” says Nurse Lindsey Hamilton’s best friend. Guess who Lindsey’s going to tumble for! And he’s at least a decade older than her too, which makes it even better. And when for unknown reasons she’s transferred to a rehab hospital on the other side of Scotland—surprise!—he’s working there too. His brother Douglas is a patient there, as he’s a pilot who was shot down in the war. It’s not clear what exactly his injury is, as he’s able to walk for miles without even a cane, but his depression is keeping him from agreeing to the final surgery that will make him even more whole. Interestingly, Lindsey also has a brother, Norman, also trained as a surgeon, who also sustained some unnamed psychological damage during the war. “I can’t go back into surgery, I’ve lost my nerve. I’ll never operate again,” he tells Lindsey, but somehow he ends up as an assistant to the great Dr Stewart Harvey and slowly begins to bloom.

Douglas, too, starts to unbend under Lindsey’s expert care, but unfortunately this means that he decides he’s in love with her. She tries to be cool and professional, but he’s insistent in a way that is uncomfortable at best: “You’re going to get used to the idea of loving me one day,” he tells her, even throwing in that it’s what Rick wants, though it’s clear that it’s not at all what Rick wants. “I told you you belonged to me,” he adds, ratcheting things up an awkward notch. Brother Norman sees what’s going on—her feelings for Rick and Douglas’ for her—and tries hard, even if only obliquely, to keep Lindsey from doing something stupid. “You’ve never let anyone down in your life, Lindy, and I believe you would even go to the length of sacrificing your own happiness if you believed the cause justified it,” he tells her, on several occasions. The cause, in this instance, is her gratitude to Rick for his help with Norman, as Rick is increasingly giving the shell-shocked doctor more responsibility and gradually luring him back to the OR.

Lindsey and Norman become increasingly entwined with the Stewart Harveys and their home life, staying with their dad at the family home in the country and meeting the neighbors, including a young woman who is clearly in love with Douglas but is nonetheless completely gracious to Lindsey. Interestingly, pretty much every man in the book, including Douglas’ father and Norman on at least five occasions, hints to Lindsey that she should not marry Douglas, though no one comes out and actually says it, and Lindsey doesn’t seem to hear what they are telling her. Eventually Douglas is persuaded to undergo the final surgery, and Rick is in a car crash on his way to perform the op, so Norman is obliged to step in and do the job, in a scene that I, as a surgical PA, found the most thrilling of the book. Underplayed was the role that Lindsey served as Douglas’ nurse in keeping the fact that Norman was to do the surgery from Douglas (unethical as that may be), as she was as cool and professional as they were in preparing him for the operation.

Then we push through another particularly frustrating 50 pages, watching the push-pull of Douglas and Rick on Lindsey’s left fourth finger, and her crushing feeling of obligation to Rick, her bizarre belief that he is interested in another woman, and that she must marry Douglas. It’s a long time to hold your breath, and it’s frankly a bit exhausting, even if eventually it all pulls together well. Overall there’s a lovely camaraderie amongst the three families—it happens that the six young people all pair up evenly—which include three parents and a child. The writing is easy and pleasant, with rare drops of humor, so even if the book is too long and drags at a bit at the end, if you can just sit back and have faith, it’s an enjoyable outing in the Scottish countryside, without too much awkward attempt to write the accent to distract you. Author Jean MacLeod, a Scottish author who cranked out romances for more than 60 years, may not have here delivered a particularly special book, but it’s good enough for an afternoon.