The pretty nurse’s aide becomes involved in the strange life of a beautiful debutante…
It’s easy to see why nurse books were so popular amongst young, female readers of the 20th century: nurses got to actually do things: live away from home to train, solve mysteries, fight in a World War (or II), romance “groovey interns”, escape from Nightmare Islands, minister to Hootenannies… in fact, just go over to the Vintage Nurse Romance Novels website for the rest of the afternoon.
The age of the vintage Nurse Romance has mostly passed: Harlequin still publishes “medical” category romances, although I rarely see them for sale, and General Hospital is currently trudging into its 55th year on TV, but nursing seems to have lost some of its glamour for the kids these days.
I went searching to see if this was the beginning of a series, but info was difficult to turn up. “Louise Christopher” is a pen name for romance writer Arlene Hall, who has a number of “nurse” romances on her CV, but apparently Robin West only rated one follow-up: Robin West: Freshman Nurse in 1964.
The Plot: And frankly, I’m surprised Dell even bothered, since Robin West is the most fatuous heroine I’ve encountered since Polly French.
Robin is graduating from Brentwood High School, Anystate, USA as the book opens. She lives with her widowed mother, her younger brother, Slugger (!!!) and has a wholesome best friend named Peggy.
Although Robin does not narrate her own adventures, the prose style is still breathlessly annoying:
Robin grinned. She was known as the fireball of the senior class, a petite package of merry energy who could always get the sparks flying and the fun going.
Saying good-bye to Peggy, Robin went into the kitchen. Mother was stirring something madly with the electric beater. Mother was a loveable little character. In her classroom she was all brisk efficiency, but here at home she was always in a muddle.
She also has a wholesome kinda-boyfriend named Christopher (called Kit):
Christopher Thomas had appeared beside her. He was a tall, wiry boy with a close-cropped head, a broad grin, and a large pair of nimble hands. One tooth was chipped. In fact, Robin had been partly to blame for that!
Uh… are you just going to leave us in suspense, “Louise Christopher”? DID ROBIN PUNCH HIM IN THE MOUTH?
Robin also has an eccentric bachelor uncle who is a writer, and the fatherless family also looks to the crotchety family physician, Doctor Sam, for masculine advice, despite the fact that Robin mentions in passing that Doctor Sam was responsible for the late Mr. West being late.
In fact, Robin and Peggy are both waiting for the stamps of man-approval that they may enroll in the Nurse’s Aide program at Brentwood Hospital after graduation, and if they prove themselves over the summer, student nurses that fall. P.S.: They got the job.
On their first day Peggy is assigned to Pediatrics while Robin is assigned to a ward ruled over by a cranky long-time aide named Maude who sneers at her girlish dreams:
“Look around you,” Maude answered. “Most of these aides had dreams like that once and never made it!”
On Robin’s first day the ward’s office is robbed- could it be connected to the mysterious patient in room 107? (Who, despite what the cover would have you believe, is not a debutante, just an ordinary working girl who got run over by a car).
And all of the nurses are swooning over the arrival of Dr. Lee Fleming, the handsome new pediatrician (again the cover gets it wrong; Robin is a “merry brunette” while Dr. Fleming is a Kildarean blond).
Dr. Fleming is also a whiner and a jerk, and apparently has A Secret:
He raised his eyes and surprise flickered on and off in them. “You mean, you don’t know who I am?”
Robin shook her head. “Should I?”
His jaw hardened and he looked angry. “Everyone else does,” he answered. “Everyone else makes comparisons-“
“I don’t understand.”
“I’d rather not talk about it.”
This book is only 119 pages long, but it manages to cram in a LOT of plot. Robin’s Uncle Dan is trying to get an interview with a local millionaire who is returning to town, and that the president of the local electronics company (where Kit is employed) is hoping he will invest enough money to save the company.
Peggy is worried about one her patients who is pining away to nothing because his twin sister isn’t allowed to visit him (solution: WACKY HIJINKS!)
Robin finds a clue to the robbery, a tiny gold key, but just carries it around with her instead of telling her boss or the police or anything, although she tells Uncle Dan and Kit, who do not advise her to tell her boss or the police. Multiple dwellings are broken into, presumably by the robber searching for said clue. I think at one point Slugger gets kidnapped and ransomed for said clue, but it’s NBD, Kit is really good at smelting, he’ll just make a fake key.
What about the elusive millionaire? Who keeps trying to break into the not-debutante’s room? What is Dr. Fleming’s secret? HOW DID KIT GET HIS TOOTH BROKEN????
Well, the first two people turn out to be the same guy, so that solves that. He is also the not-debutante’s long lost grandfather, which is easily proven when Robin finally coughs up the actual key. Dr. Fleming’s secret is that he resents being the son of a famous surgeon, but HIJINKS begin to melt his heart, so he can steal Robin away from Kit. Maybe.
The question of Kit’s busted tooth remains somewhat murky.
Uncle Dan gets his interview with the millionaire in disguise (he actually exclaims “What a story!”)
With Uncle Dan’s seal of man-approval, Robin will start the fall semester as student nurse:
Robin screamed with delight and hugged him so hard he begged for mercy.
“Peggy, we’re going to be freshmen nurses!” Robin exclaimed. “Just think! We’ll be wearing blue-and-white stripes instead of green. I’ve got to call Maude. I’ve got to call Kit. I’ve got to call everyone! Nurse’s training, here I come!”
Sign It Was Written In 1963 Department:
Robin cranked up the bed until Mrs. Bradford seemed satisfied. Some of the rooms had new “hill” beds that were controlled electronically and could be put into any position. The patients could operate the bed themselves.