Saturday, August 12, 2023

Leave It to Nurse Kathy

By Arlene Hale, ©1963 

Kathy Dugan, lovely nurse at Benton General Hospital, was very much in love with Dr. Jerry Whitfield, handsome young surgeon. Not only were they a marvelous team whose combined efforts had saved many a life, but rumor had it that they were soon to be married. But one day Kathy saw an announcement in the society pages of the local newspaper that was like a physical blow. Jerry was to be married—to someone else! The next few months were like a nightmare to Kathy. She quit her job at Benton and became the assistant to another doctor—whose past was shrouded in mystery. Then she met the handsome Dave: athlete, scholar and principal of the high school. Kathy’s mind was in a whirl, and all three men were constantly in her thoughts. Then, out of the clearest blue, disaster struck. And Death reached out its fingers for one of the three. It was then Kathy realized whom she really loved—and whose life meant more to her than anything in the world.


“So I know a tibia from a fibula and can handle a hypodermic syringe with the best of them! But when it comes to love—” 

“You’d give anyone a fever!”

“You know, I’m a healthy guy. But if I thought you’d be my nurse, I’d go out and try to catch a virus of some kind.”

Nurse Kathy Dugan is held up to us as the very best scrub nurse in the whole world. But it’s hard to reconcile that assertion with the fact that, when she discovers that her casual boyfriend, surgeon Jerry Whitfield, is engaged to another woman, she quits on the spot. I mean, wow. It’s hard to get much more unprofessional than that.

Fortunately, the very skinny Dr. Nile Mason has come home from Africa. His father had been the beloved town general practitioner, and had hoped that Nile would take over his practice, but Nile had been lured by the bright lights and big paychecks of the big city. There, it is suggested, he fell in love with a woman named Maria, but it didn’t work out. Africa didn’t work out, either, so he’s back and darned grumpy about it. The town isn’t too impressed with his surly ways, but he gradually accumulates patients anyway, particularly since he has Kathy to run his front office and smooth over the irritated townsfolk.

Soon Kathy starts dating Dave Garst, who is the new football coach and principal of the high school. Dave is a super nice guy, “cheerful, determined, eager to build a satisfactory world of his own.” Naturally, all she thinks about is Jerry. Rumors start to fly about her and Nile, though, after her nosy landlady can’t help but see Nile kiss Kathy one evening after he’d become nauseous eating the dinner she’d made for him. This naturally made him decide he should have more love in his life, and he was “alone in a room with a pretty girl who seemed at least to care a little about him.” True love sparks! Rumors are also circulating about Nile and his ex hometown girlfriend, who, crushed by his sudden departure for New York, had married a guy she didn’t love who is now driven to homicidal lunacy by his jealousy. There’s a skinny kid shadowing Nile, too, but Nile promptly catches the boy and beats him up, so if we had any doubts, it becomes clear he isn’t the most stable of characters. Come to think of it, there aren’t many decent characters in this book at all.

Anyway, the inevitable breakup of Jerry and his society girlfriend that you saw coming from the moment it was announced in the paper (apparently the only one who took it seriously was Kathy) occurs, and now Jerry is back on Kathy’s front porch, asking her to come back to his OR and to his arms. But, as forewarned by the back-cover blurb, disaster strikes! And Death reached out its fingers for one of the three! Because nothing makes a gal swoon more than a man bleeding out! Anyway, the book ends with the bleeding man’s life saved and his dignity intact, too, as he tells Kathy that once they’re married she won’t be able to boss him around anymore. Awww. My heart melted.

The story here is a little all over the place, with many loose threads and characters all trying to find an empty lap, but very little reason for the reader to care about any of them except poor Dave, who is the most deserving and least respected man in Kathy’s life. The ending doesn’t make you feel any better about any of it, because you do feel that the guy who landed Kathy could have done better for himself, as she’s not particularly thoughtful, strong, or even likable. I’m not sure what author Arlene Hale wanted us to leave to Nurse Kathy, as directed by the title, when Kathy really doesn’t seem capable of managing much. A better exhortation would be for us to just leave Nurse Kathy, period, as you probably won’t value any time spent with her.

Saturday, August 5, 2023

The Dilemma of Geraldine Addams

By Diane Frazer, ©1965
(pseud. Dorothy Fletcher)
Cover illustration by Harry Bennett 

“Let’s have it,” Dr. Brownlee said to Henry Franklin, a very influential member of the Board of Trustees of Cranston Hill Hospital, with a wife who was an important member of the Women’s Auxiliary.
“Well, this newspaper fellow came to see Clara, and it seems you have someone on the staff here who shouldn’t be on the staff of any self-respecting hospital.”
“You mean one of our doctors?” Brownlee asked, suddenly alert.
“Not a doctor. A nurse. Geraldine Addams.”
Dr. Brownlee sat up straight. “Geraldine Addams? What about her?”
“I gather that she was a pretty notorious playgirl, that she posed for some rather startling photographs, that she was even involved in a hit-and-run accident. You wouldn’t want to retain someone like that on your nursing staff I’m sure, Lyman. Seems she’s in the children’s ward. It’s not the best of situations is it?”


“Everybody has to fight, Gerry. Life is struggle. Life, as the saying goes, is total war. We all find that out as time goes by.” 

Dorothy Fletcher is one of my favorite authors. If she has penned a few duds that bring down her overall average (she didn’t even make it onto the Best Authors list of the 2022 VNRN Awards), she is a smart, smooth and witty author who can really deliver a solid book. As she has here. 

Geraldine Addams is a nurse on the pediatric ward, and when we meet her, she is delivering medications to her young charges but calling them cocktails—OK, so maybe not so politically correct these days, but still funny!—little Pete gets a gin fizz, Linda gulps her bloody Mary, Susan quaffs a martini. She’s called out by the mean and stodgy spinster nurse Polly Sauerwein, who deserves her name, but Gerry hotly retorts that the kids already knew the drink names, and it makes medications so much easier to take!

We soon learn that Gerry is “not only a competent nurse, and adored by the children, with whom she ‘had a way,’ she was as well a strikingly attractive girl, an extremely well-bred young lady, educated, posed, with faultless manners.” She hails from a wealthy background, schooled in Europe’s finest finishing schools, but when a scandal forced her to re-evaluate her life, and finding “that she was thoroughly fed up with an idle, careless life,” she took up nursing “to prove something to herself.”

She’s been assigned to a very delicate case, that of young Marsha Marston, who has a congenital heart defect and is to undergo major open-heart surgery with talented, tortured Dr. Paul Massey, but Marsha needs to rebuild her strength before she can tolerate the surgery. Gerry instantly wins over young Marsha—and Dr. Massey as well, who calls her one night to come to his house urgently. What could he want!?!

Turns out his wife, Gladys, has come home from New York early and is badly inebriated. He has to leave for a conference in Washington immediately, and he asks Gerry to stay with his wife overnight. But Nurse Polly calls the doctor’s house and recognizes Gerry’s voice on the phone—and immediately runs to the nursing supervisor with salacious stories about Gerry and Paul. Gerry, called on the carpet, refuses to spill the beans about Paul’s alcoholic wife, in part because she recognizes her own guilt. “Between them there was something very strong, only that was not what Mrs. Cranston meant. Mrs. Cranston meant that had they gone to bed together, and that, perhaps, was the lesser sin.” Her case isnt helped by a new patient who turns out to be a paparazzo, with photos of Gerry from her old days and access to the old newspaper stories. He’s ready to blackmail her, but she refuses, so his stories are added to the gossip, and Gerrys joband little Marshas health, possibly her life, are on the line!

It must be confessed that the book plays out pretty much as you know it will, but the fun is getting there. And I did appreciate that despite the rather scandalous cover, the illustration really reveals more than the story does about Gerry’s past sins. Here again Dorothy Fletcher has created a sweet, enjoyable story with delightful characters—even if they’re not all nice people. Dorothy doesn’t always deliver a great book, but she does know how to build one—and if Geraldine Addams is having a dilemma, I am not when it comes to recommending this book.