Sunday, May 12, 2024

Nurse Madeline of Eden Grove

By Marjorie Norrell, ©1965

When her old friend Miss Emily Eden left Staff Nurse Madeline her large house, Madeline decided to turn it into a much-needed nursing home. It meant, among other things, that she would be able to see a lot more of the attractive surgeon Michael Foyle—but would it make him any more interested in her?


“People find their happiness in the most unexpected places.” 

Madeline Frazer is a very nice young nurse who works in a small British hospital. I’m not a person who flings the word nice around with abandon, but I have to admit that Nurse Madeline is nice: polite, kind, pleasing, agreeable and respectable, as Merriam and Webster suggest the word should connote. But that, unfortunately, is about all she is. She is not witty or spunky or tenacious or quirky or interesting. And neither is her book. 

Madeline frequently visits wealthy 83-year-old Emily Eden, who lives in the stately eponymous manor house, because the old lady was also a victim in the train crash that killed her parents though Madeline survived, and the lady bizarrely took Madeline in after that. Now Madeline visits weekly on her days off, if the young swain who has captured her eye, up-and-coming plastic surgeon Dr. Michael Foyle, has other plans. But Michael is not a lover who is going to last long, as we soon know this even if Madeline isn’t, because he is one of those young doctors who has “an aura of ruthlessness” and “whose main ambition is to have an outsize bank balance.”

We take a while to get around to Miss Emily’s sad demise, and learn that she has left the house to Madeline—and perfect timing, too, because a group of doctors including Dr. Foyle is trying to open a nursing home but lack a suitable building—and Eden Grove is perfect!

Madeline feels obliged to reach out to Richard Eden, Miss Emily’s only living relative, a nephew who is mildly successful writer—but Miss Emily has unfairly refused to admit him into her presence, much less her affection, because she disapproved of his mother (for no good reason, of course). In the course of discussing Miss Emily’s estate, Madeline and Richard Eden have several telephone conversations, during which he assures her that he is quite happy for her to have the house. He sends her a copy of his latest book, written under the name Richard Prentiss (his mother’s maiden name), so she starts dreaming a little about this mystery man.

Then she meets with Richard Grey, a man at the attorney’s office, to discuss the bequest, and tells him with passionate fervor about her hopes for the nursing home, and the attorneys arrange the lease of the house for her—but she keeps thinking of Richard Grey, and soon he’s ringing her up and asking her out. But isn’t it funny how much Richard Grey and Richard Eden sound alike, and how they share the same first name!

She spends a week’s vacation with Richard Grey—Richard Eden is away assisting with the filming of one of his books—and soon finds that thoughts of him are driving any lingering regrets about Michael Foyle away, even if that fickle lad, now finding Madeline less interested, doubles down on his pursuit of her, much to the chagrin of snippy Dr. Irene Stapleton! But Richard Grey also has to leave town for weeks or months on end for reasons he never explains—Madeline assumes it’s confidential business for the law firm. He also refrains from mentioning his undying love for her, leaving her feeling a bit uncertain—though we savvy VNRN readers have no doubts, do we, folks?

The usual tempest in a teapot occurs—Michael kisses Madeline, wouldn’t you know it, just as Dr. Irene is walking into the room, and when Richard Grey shows up the next day to tell Madeline a Big Secret, will this not-what-it-seemed kiss, or Richard’s mystery, destroy Madeline’s happiness forever?

This book is perfectly pleasant. There are a few quietly enjoyable moments, such as the relationship between Madeline and Margaret Barret, the new Matron of Eden Grove Nursing Home, and I really cannot find much fault with the book, but it just does not rise above nice. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad, I leave for you to decide.

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