Thursday, November 30, 2023

The Love Gift

By Frances J.S. Eden (pseud. Frances Chimenti), ©1970 

So young to be widowed, pretty Andrea Courbet sought refuge and solace as the nurse to Peter Moffatt’s motherless children. But in that strained home, the shadow of Peter’s lost wife seemed always present, so that after a while even Andrea came to question her own identity. Thus when Dr. Matt Anderson entered the scene as family pediatrician and contested her hand against Peter’s romantic pleas, he offered her a new out. But was his love gift just a trap into exactly the sort of romantic dilemma she had hoped to avoid?


“They come home from bossin’ and think they have t’keep on bossin’!” 

“Men should be marinated like meat: to make them tender!”

“The only way I can get you to hold hands is to have you take my pulse.”

Nurse Andrea Courbet is a “baby nurse,” accompanying new mothers home for a few weeks or months until they settle into the routine. But this time, the mother of the new baby has died in childbirth, and Andrea’s coming home with father Peter Moffett to care for baby Donel as well as the three older children, Lanier, Geordie, and Joyce. She and the children take to each other immediately, they soon calling her “Courbie” and she becoming a major rock in the house, giving helpful advice to Peter about how to be a better father. She is worried about staying too long, though, because she doesn’t want everyone to become too emotionally involved, making her inevitable departure unbearable. 

The Moffett family pediatrician, Dr. Matt Anderson, has always been a frequent guest at the house, and now that Andrea is there he sees no reason to stop, though she is not impressed with his overly informal ways; he patronizes her during the baby’s first appointment with him and telling her, “Didey on, Nursie,” and asking her to come sit next to him. “I’m dideying the baby, Dockie,” she quips in response, and when he admires her hair, she says, “I came to have Donny examined, not me.” But as usual, the initially irritating doctor grows on the nurse, and soon they’re dating. The rub is that two years ago her husband—she was married at age 20—was killed in a car crash and the baby she was carrying was stillborn. So she’s just not ready to love again.

Except the children, whom she does whole-heartedly—and when Peter suggests that they get married because they “are fond of each other and we certainly are equally concerned for the children. It would settle all this anxiety about your having to leave. It would be the best thing for the children if you stayed on as my wife.” The incurable romantic! Andrea, not sure she can ever love again—which is the same way Peter feels after his wife’s death—agrees, and tries to find affection in their mostly platonic relationship.

Matt, of course, is heartbroken, and takes no pains to hide it, “his tone was always light and friendly with Peter and Andrea, but his eyes were bleak with unhappiness.” Then Andrea overhears Peter confirming to his sister that his wife “can never be replaced in my heart,” and she finally realizes that though the attraction of remaining with the children is enormous, she asks herself, “was she willing to settle for less to have all these things?” She tells Peter, “I want more—I need more than you can give me,” and declines his ring. But now Matt is devoting himself to Peter’s sister …

The worst thing about this book is the title, which makes it embarrassing when a man you don’t know well asks what you are reading. Nothing impressive, that’s for damn sure! And though the plot of this book is obvious and without bumps, I have to say that the family in this book is incredibly warm and appealing. I really understood the draw for Andrea to want to remain a part of a world that included these children and their grandmother—I wouldn’t mind it myself. This is the first book I have read by author Frances Eden, but if her other books are as gentle and sweet—even if they are not stellar—honestly, you could do a lot worse.

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