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.