Saturday, February 4, 2023

Private Hospital

By Arlene Hale, ©1969 

Lovely, vibrant Lesley Allen, R.N., had always enjoyed her work at Seton Memorial Hospital—that is, until young Eric Seton took over. Almost unwillingly she was attracted to the startlingly handsome doctor—yet every time they met, they would end up fighting. He disturbed her. His romance with wealthy Coleen Snyder disturbed her. Most disturbing of all was that he seemed to be running the hospital into financial trouble from which it might never recover. Did she love this man? Did she hate him? She wasn’t sure. Confused by the logic of her mind and the longings of her hearts, it wasn’t until the hospital situation reached crisis proportions and a human life was at stake that Lesley was forced to make the decision … the one decision she knew would change her life forever …


“Right when I’m supposed to take my break, everything happens.” 

“It gives a doctor pause when it comes to cutting out a man’s heart.”

Lesley Allen is a small-town girl from Hillsdale, where the old Seton Memorial Hospital has been a local institution for half a century. But now the facility, where she’s been working as a nurse for years, is starting to crumble financially along with its brickwork. Old Dr. Sam Seton, who founded the hospital, has turned over the reins to his handsome grandson Eric, who word has it has condescended to put his plans to join a fancy city hospital on hold for a short time to come prop up the old institution, though it seems only a few short months before Eric pulls the plug on the hospital, which is hemorrhaging money. 

Eric’s a handsome blond on the move, apparently away from Seton as soon as he can shutter the old place, or so the rumor goes. In the interim, he’s snippy, aloof, and smug. Naturally, Lesley has been in love with him from the moment she first clapped eyes on him. “Even when he found fault over nothing, when he greeted her coolly and pointedly would not engage her in a conversation, she had been attracted to the man. How could it be?” Good question! They only argue when they meet—he’s telling her that “a good nurse stays unemotional” when she expresses concern about a patient, and she retorts, “a good doctor has compassion and warmth!”—so Lesley is convinced that Eric will never see her as more than an efficient machine in white oxfords.

One of their patients, Julia Garrett, has a bad heart and two young children, and is permanently installed on Lesley’s floor with a fatal case of the dwindles, as one of the doctors I work with calls it. But Eric has a gleam in his eye and a burning ambition in his belly, and after he’s heard that a heart transplant has successfully performed in South Africa (this is actually true, occurring in 1967), it’s not difficult to guess what is going on in his feverish brain. He persuades Lesley’s brother Bob, a local veterinarian, to perform a heart transplant on a canine patient of Bob’s. Then there are pages of speculation about why Eric is so interested in assisting in veterinary surgery, when a kindergartener could guess what’s about to happen.

And it’s no surprise what’s going to happen between Eric and Lesley, although after Eric kisses Lesley and she tells him she loves him, he pitches a fit because he thinks that his grandfather has picked out Lesley for him. “Forget me, Lesley. Forget this happened! Because I’m not going to be bent into Grandfather’s mold!” he shouts before stomping off. Um, sure, buddy. Overall it’s not the worst book Arlene Hale has written, but she’s given us the classic love interest who’s an ass, and the “mystery” that’s anything but, and the book drags along for 156 pages before all the plot threads are nicely tied up as they so obviously would be. The only actual surprise is who the human heart donor turns out to be, but that’s not enough to bother reading this book.

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