By Jan Tempest, ©1963
Eight years ago Eunice Nevin had been rich and carefree. Now, her father dead in her money gone, she was a hard-working nurse. Her old home had become the hospital where she was now to work. With the love she had found for her new life be strong enough to overcome her nostalgia for the old?
“To be a successful beauty and heartbreaker, one has to have a certain mentality. One has to care passionately for admiration and for pleasing people. I don’t. I have to say what I think, and that doesn’t endear a girl to men.”
“If money doesn’t talk, what’s the use of it?”
Eunice Nevin is the sort of heroine it’s not hard to like. She’d been orphaned at 18 after an upper-class upbringing when her father was financially ruined making some risky investments and dropped dead from the shock. The icing on her tragic cake came when she’d been dumped by her handsome cad of a boyfriend, Eamonn Crail, so she’d moved to London and gone to nursing school. Now at 25 she has returned to her hometown and a hospital that has been established at her former home, so large and expansive were the house and grounds.
Eunice is soon drawn into the upper-crust circle of the Yaxley family, headed by social-climbing, scheming mother Shuna. Martin is the oldest child, and everyone seems to believe that Eunice is going to be the one who drags Martin to the altar, but she finds him to be a wishy-washy milquetoast who can’t stand up to his domineering mother. The younger twin girls, Tilly and Thyme, are fans of Eunice’s, as they had grown up watching her ride horses in competition—and usually win. Thyme has some sort of kidney disease and needs a transplant, while Tilly needs a transplant of her own—a spine, as she wants to pursue a career in music while her mother wants her to pursue wealthy men with royal titles, and mom is winning the battle. But behind mom’s back, Tilly has taken up with Eamonn—though he is actually in love with Thyme, who had turned him down because he is poor.
At the hospital, Eunice spars with 40-year-old urological surgeon Jupiter Janine, and it’s not hard to see where that’s headed. He appreciates her outspokenness, and kids her about the fact that she’s “known as ‘that Nice Nurse Nevin.’ Such a singularly inappropriate adjective for a personality as spicy as yours.” It’s admirable that she is such a feisty gal, but I continue to be perplexed and unsettled by the large number of Harlequin nurse novels that give the heroine away to a man more than ten years her senior—fifteen in this case.
The book is made more unique by its heavy concentration on riding, and we attend quite a few shows, ride frequently through the countryside, and admire numerous horses. As for our lead character, Eunice is also more unusual, a strong, outspoken woman, and only once declares, “it would be a real wrench to give up nursing,” but in the end plans to keep at it until she has children. The book has a good-sized cast of interesting characters (though Eunice’s girlhood best friend turns out to be a nasty, selfish witch, and it’s not at all clear why Eunice continues to interact with her), and overall the book has more than most VNRNs to make it worth reading. The writing isn’t witty or remarkable enough to push it into an A grade, but there is more than enough here to make for a nice read.