Sunday, October 1, 2023

Nurse in Doubt

By Isabel Capeto, ©1968

Nurse Gail was used to being called to the rescue by young Dr. Richard Charron, whom she’d known since childhood. The “emergency” was always the same: how to squash his Aunt Vanessa’s latest attempt to marry him off. But this time Vanessa Newton had really outdone herself—combining her passion for match-making with her passion for meddling in town affairs. She was going to finance a new Community Center for which she had already chosen the architect: lovely, talented Natalie French. When Gail saw Richard’s reaction to Natalie, she realized that Aunt Vanessa may have scored a Cupid bull’s-eye. But what really surprised her was her own reaction … her disappointment. After all, she and Richard were just “good friends” … or was there something more …?


“Lady, do you give all your patients the bum’s rush?” 

“‘Never throw the little ones back in. Use ’em to land the big ones.’ That was my daddy’s advice. Over the years, I’ve learned to apply it to more than fishing.”

“Wonder which has the higher alcoholic content—this guy’s blood or the wine he was swilling?”

“You know what a late-movie addict the Aunt is. She’s learned, via the great, glaring eye, that only evil lurks in a full, heaving bosom.”

“The trouble with you, Gail, is that essentially you’re too honest. You always level with people. I don’t, and life is far more exciting.”

“Brawn is a very unstable commodity.”

Nurse Gail Stewart is 23, and you know what that means—if she doesn’t land a husband soon, she’ll die an old maid, just like her roommate Peg, who being two years older is having to face a few hard facts: “When one’s on the wrong side of twenty-five, one learns to lower one’s sights.” VNRNs make marriage sound like a truly horrible institution, something of a meat market in which one is forced to sell themselves to the highest bidder. But our feisty heroine has a few more years to go before she gets desperate, and in the meantime she devotes a fair amount of time to rescuing her childhood pal Richard Charron from his Aunt Vanessa’s schemes to marry him off. 

This time, though, Vanessa has done the impossible: She’s found a woman capable of snagging the perennial bachelor’s heart. Architect Natalie French is a charming, extremely talented, sophisticated and highly likable woman—and it’s a rare treat to have the romantic competition be a person the heroine actually likes. Gail, who up until now has thought she viewed Richard simply as a platonic friend, now feels “as if she had received a blow to her solar plexus.” Richard isn’t the only one enthralled with Natalie; Natalie’s contractor, Bowen Merritt, is also hoping to win her heart.

Aunt Vanessa’s scheme to bring Richard and Natalie together involves funding a community center that Natalie will design, and much of the plot of the book hinges on watching the project unfold, with all the bumps in the road a development like this would necessarily be buffeted by. Richard and Natalie meet frequently for working dates, inviting Bowen and Gail along with them for their input, as Gail is becoming increasingly involved—whether it’s to further her pursuit of Richard or for its own sake is not clear. The love square, I guess it is, of the foursome involves Gail and Bowen watching with sad eyes as Natalie and Richard fall for each other, though Natalie does seem to keep the gents guessing about whom she is most fond of.

In the meantime, there is a fair amount of nursing in this book—Isabel Capeto was a nurse her whole life—and there are even a few traumas in the book that are creditably managed in the ER, a true rarity in VNRNs; our heroine even has the sense to slap an occlusive dressing on a sucking chest wound within seconds of meeting the patient (which may not be a big selling point for some, but it does irritate me when healthcare professionals at a trauma scene run around splinting and bandaging everyone before turning their attention to the patient who is going into hemorrhagic shock from a ruptured spleen). It’s also fun, if you are interested in architecture, to watch the project unfold, and the book’s attitudes about modern architecture are surprisingly very pro! Isabel Capeto is a humorous and witty writer, and her books are enjoyable. If the prose and plot aren’t exceptional—I also never really felt any real chemistry between any of the pairings in the storyline—I can overlook that for an otherwise pleasant story, and even if Nurse Gail has doubts, I can recommend this book without many.

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