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Busman’s Holiday by Lucilla Andrews: 70s Nursing Novel From The Mistress Of Medical Romance!
Do you love the rustle of a crisp starched apron? Does the thought of quivering in terror before a grim martinet of a Matron send a delicious frisson of terror down your spine? Or perhaps it’s the thought of being crushed against a pristine white lab coat by a brooding senior consultant that tickles your fancy. (Is that a stethoscope in your pocket or…?)
One of the greatest (and now sadly late) exponents of the art of the hospital doctor-nurse romance was the novelist Lucilla Andrews. Of Spanish extraction, she trained as a nurse in the Second World War and made the fullest use of her insider knowledge in the continuous stream of medical romances she had published in the decades that followed. Prolific and much-loved, Andrews continued to churn out romances until well into the 1990s.
'Busman's Holiday' is one of the mid-period Lucilla Andrews novels of the late 60s and early 70s. At this point she had clearly begun to experience doubts about the continued viability of her sweet and virginal 50s heroines, all starched petticoats and arch sweetness, and begun to make them over. Not that her new range of medical minxes were any the less virginal. But their external appearances were foxing: dressed up as mini-skirted dolly birds, they aped the lingo of the far-out newly liberated hippy chick, attended rock festivals and were often educated at least as far as 'A' level. Once on the ward, however, they were still pristine and efficient (at least once they'd got past the klutzy stage of nursing training). And they still lived in fear of nursing sisters and in awe of chisel-chinned medical consultants!
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Jo (short for Josephine), the heroine of 'Busman's Holiday', is externally one of these pseudo-liberated Lucilla Andrews romantic heroines to a tee. However, she is rather shyer than the usual Andrews girl, and her self-esteem has taken a battering. She compares herself to her more extroverted and outgoing cousin a great deal, and her romantic life is a disaster.
Jo takes a break from her job as a staff nurse in a large teaching hospital, in order to visit her elderly aunt Josephine. Her auntie has hurt her leg in a fall, and Jo seizes the chance to help her out and take a break from her London life. She is seeking to get away from the stress of her broken relationship with a married man: a relationship that was over the minute she realised he was married.
Down in the country at her auntie's house, she settles in and helps her auntie cope – and meets all her friends and neighbours. One of these is a consultant at the local hospital, David Loftus. He seems like a thoroughly nice chap – but meeting him is still a huge shock to the system for Jo. That's because he is the spitting image of her lying, cheating ex – and Jo can hardly bear to look at him because of it. Could there be any future for her with a man who looks just like someone she quite reasonably hates the thought of? And even if she can get over that, can she fight off the competition in the shape of his bitchily attractive female friend at work? Hey, there's one way to find out – you could read the book!
Photo credit: Waldo Jaquith