Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Libby Williams, Nurse Practitioner

By Virginia Smiley, ©1975
Cover illustration by Edrien King 


Libby Williams has just completed her training as a nurse practitioner and is on vacation, en route to the Adirondacks with her four-year-old ward Merry, when the child develops strep. She stops to ask a construction worker if there’s a doctor nearby, and he tells her there is no doctor in town since Dr. Sam was debilitated by a stroke, but the doctor might still be able to give her a script. She drives to the closed clinic, “trying not to think of the construction worker. I certainly had no intention of becoming interested in any man for a long time,” after her recent entanglement with Dr Kevin Davis, who she caught holding hands with the new secretary on pediatrics. “Kevin had hurt me too much for me to want to chance being burned by that superhandsome young doctor.” Which doesn’t stop her from kissing the construction worker, Matt Franklin, that night when it turns out he lives at the doctor’s house. 

Dr. Sam asks Libby to stay on as new medico at the shuttered clinic, and it takes Libby about ten minutes to agree. The next day she goes home and packs up her apartment, and the day after that she’s seeing a full waiting room of patients drummed up by Dr. Sam. She dates Matt a few times, but then a couple weeks later Kevin turns up at the new clinic, saying, “I want to be near you, wherever it might be. I was a heel to let you go.” He starts working at the clinic and spending evenings with Libby, hinting that they should get married—and she’s swooning all over again. “Now my life is complete,” she tells him, as they snuggle on the couch after dinner.

But then the secretary turns up again, and out of the blue, “I knew for certain that what I felt for Kevin wasn’t really love.” What?!? And then there’s a woman named Andrea Franklin who tells Libby to stay away from “my man” Matt, so Libby believes Matt is married. Then Merry and Andrea’s son go missing, and Matt is in a bulldozer accident …

So obvious, so perfunctory, so dull, so unbelievable. A four-year-old says things like, “He’d be a terrific father, don’t you think?” about one of Libby’s men. While not an unusual characteristic in VNRN heroines, Libby makes some completely incomprehensible about-faces in her views about the men in her life. Medicine doesn’t fare much better; she treats an elderly woman who says she’s worried that the lumps on her hands are going to keep her from playing the piano for the queen by giving her aspirin for her arthritis while completely ignoring her delusions. I have reviewed four of author Virginia Smiley’s books, every one of them a C grade. I was really hoping the only VNRN I’ve found that stars a midlevel practitioner would be worthwhile, but unfortunately for us, Libby Williams Nurse Practitioner is not that book.

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