Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Nurse Audrey’s Mission

By Isabel Cabot
(pseud. Isabel Capeto), ©1969

When lovely young Audrey Rush came to Leyfield Hall to be private nurse to youthful tycoon Dean Leyfield, she little suspected the mystery awaiting her in this mansion by the sea. Audrey was thrown into turmoil by the eerie resemblance between her handsome patient and Ward DeWitt, Audrey’s former lover, who supposedly had died in a car crash. Was it possible her heart was playing a cruel trick? Or was she being made the victim of a sinister impersonation? As danger and violence stalked Leyfield Hall, Audrey’s happiness and very life depended on her learning the strange truth about a man who held her suspended between passionate love and icy fear.


“It appears I’m doomed to be plagued by nurses with a strong sense of duty.” 

“When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a nurse. I outgrew the desire once I started to develop my mind. It’s far more rewarding to be noticed for one’s mind than for one’s ability to ‘mother.’”

“Rosemary’s been coming to the beach for the past two weeks. Upton and I were immediately drawn to her superior mind.”

“What happened to you? You look like the tail end of a misspent youth.”

“I’m really a peach of a gal. If you don’t believe it, just ask me.”

“Rule One of ‘How to Keep a Man Enchanted’: never let him see you in hair rollers.”

I felt so sorry for Nurse Audrey Rush in the three weeks she spent on the beach at Leyfield Hall, the 18-room “cottage” on the ocean cliffs, mostly because the cast of characters she is surrounded by is the biggest bunch of dopes, liars, and crooks—none of whom seem especially bright, because so many lies and tricks come to light on virtually every page that by the time I reached page 50 I was rolling my eyes and flipping to the back and groaning to find I had another hundred pages to go. Even worse, though Audrey starts the book demonstrating spine and authority, after her patient kisses her out of the blue on page 43 she melts into a little jellyfish, blown here and there by the winds with little to offer in the way of opinions, ideas or action. 

The family tree is a little complicated, but Audrey’s patient Dean Leyfield was in a car crash that killed his cousin Ward. Dean’s step-brother Jacob is a friend of Audrey’s, and he has hired her to care for Dean. Further complicated things is the fact that Audrey used to date the deceased Ward, that she stole Ward from a nursing school friend who then died in a dubious medical experiment (we learn essentially nothing more about this aspect of the story, so it is perplexing that it is introduced at all), and that Ward and Dean are identical in appearance. Dean has chronic pain from the crash but also an odd amnesia that only affects certain bits of his memory related to work—and a new allergy to lobster just like the one Ward had—and his psychologist, Upton Hibbett, lives at the house to round out the cast. The men hang out a lot with Rosemary Midd, a “voluptuous brunette in a floppy straw hat and a bikini that covered less per square inch than did the hat perched on her head.” (In a fabulous stereotype reversal, Rosemary turns out to be a brilliant chemist who is teaching a class at the nearby university for the summer.) Dean and Jacob worked at the family plastics factory, and Dean’s father had been working on a new formula that would revolutionize the industry—and of course make them all millions. But just before the crash, Dean had taken the folder on the project, and now it can’t be located—and Dean, of course, can’t remember where it is.

Nobody in this book is who they seem to be—which is not at all a spoiler. Audrey is the dopiest of the lot, missing clue after clue after clue until a “traumatic bombshell” is dropped on page 144 that the reader has seen coming since page 22. I will divulge that the ending is not exactly what you think it will be, but the problem is that you have been beaten so relentlessly by plot twists that hammer one obvious conclusion into your mind that even if the ending holds some surprises, I was not mollified. More plot twists just confuse further, but Audrey’s stupidity and jelly-like placidity are unforgiveable. It’s not even clear why Audrey falls for Dean, why he falls for her, or even if either one of them has any feelings at all, because apart from a few kisses, no emotion is described between the pair, and the romance aspect of the story takes such a back seat to the “mystery” that if you were to miss the three sentences that describe them kissing, you won’t know there is a relationship here at all.

The book does have a real sense of humor, and a few of the characters are actually memorable (Audrey, sadly, not being one of them; she is essentially a passive witness to her own story), so the book is not a complete waste, especially if you like mysteries. You might even enjoy the book more if you know that things are not what you are being led to believe, so I give you my full permission to read this book, and hope my mild spoiler makes it more fun for you than it was for me.

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