Saturday, February 3, 2024

Dedication Jones

By Kate Norway
(pseud. Olive Norton), ©1969

Staff Nurse Didi Jones was torn between enthusiasm for her interesting new job and the feeling that she ought to be “settling down” as her fiancé wanted. But would there have been any problem, if she had really cared about him?


“I don’t know how you dare to argue with that woman. She terrifies me. I go all hemiplegic at the sight of her.” 

“The way to a man’s heart isn’t through his stomach anymore. It’s through his twin carburetors or his new putter, old dear. You’re not with it.”

“Depression in a young woman of under twenty-five is either a psychosis or it’s reactive to the boy-friend situation.”

“In competent people are always terribly bossy, just to try to prove that they can control things.”

“Gossip can be psychotherapy. So can cigarettes, love affairs, fast driving, a good boo-hoo or a nice cup of tea.”

“You’ve had too much vitamin B. You’re getting aggressive.”

As we meet “dedicated” nurse Delia Jones (she also goes by Didi, unfortunately), she is working at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital in England and has fallen victim to the classic romance trope in which her fiancé is not an especially charming individual who is always pestering her to quit her job and get married even though she really loves her work. “Geoff didn’t approve of wives who worked. He didn’t understand, I told myself. Teddy’s wasn’t like a shop, or an office. It was a life.” So you know there’s going to be a lot of tedious back-and-forth about that, when the answer is obvious. Her best friend, Rose—a delightful, flirtatious, sassy type—tells her, “If you marry him, dear girl, you’ll just be a—a chattel.” And worst of all, for you literary folks, “Geoff didn’t approve of Muriel Spark. He had found Miss Brodie unsavoury.” Just leave the bum! 

In the meantime Didi has started working in the Isolation Ward, which for some reason includes a lot of psychiatry cases. This means she is seeing a lot of a certain Dr. Dwyryd Ffestin-Jones (he’s Welsh). He’s kind, firm, but a little distant—in short, the quintessential British nurse novel love interest.

Next comes trope #3, in which Didi has mailed her engagement ring back to Geoff, but he’s been injured and may never walk again, so it’s not clear if she feels free to keep walking out the door. Then suddenly Dr. F-J is not speaking to Didi, and she’s not sure what has happened—so naturally she comes down with flu and is in a coma for a week, but fails to recover because she’s so upset about Dr. F-J’s behavior that she is shipped home to recover for a month or two. Only a chat with a psychiatrist—just not that psychiatrist—helps her get caught up with hospital gossip and figure out what the problem is. She promptly takes action and saves her own day …

Overall the book is very formulaic, but it has pleasant characters—again, per usual, the best are the strong, independent heroine and her feisty roommate, as well as a few other nurses who come across well, while the men are mostly limpid and uninteresting, including Dr. F-J, I’m sorry to report. There is a subtle humor throughout, such as when Didi tells a friend, “If I don’t spill to some neutral observer, I shall burst,” and he replies, “And I’m no surgeon, so we can’t have that. Spill away.” Once again Olive Norton, here writing as Kate Norway, lives up to her solid reputation as a gem of an author, and I can again recommend the tenth book I have read by this excellent writer, and hope that she’s written a lot more nurse romance novels that I can look forward to.

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