So what is this all about? Why vintage nurse romance novels? Why are you doing this? Are you feeling all right? Excellent questions, all. The easiest one to answer is the first: This is a blog about romance novels written before 1970 about women doctors and nurses. I know, the title is Vintage Nurse Romance Novels, but I quickly realized that Vintage Romance Novels about Women Health Care Workers was just too much of a mouthful.
Why vintage nurse romances? Well, vintage because ever since college I have loved the styles of earlier decades. Perhaps it was a reaction to the '80s, but I found that those earlier decades seemed to have more interest in design and style. And the style of these books certainly tends toward camp, of which I am a huge fan. How can you not love fabulous titles like Surf Safari Nurse and Nurse in Yucatan? How can you not appreciate the art that adorns their covers? The situations the books contain are also frequently hilarious, though perhaps not intentionally. When the young doctor's fiancee flies into the Congo with an iron lung that saves the village chief's daughter from polio, how can you help but laugh with delight?
Nurse because I am in medicine, though I am a physician assistant--but since PAs didn't come into existence until after the Vietnam War, there are not many early novels about them. Because I am in the profession, I am interested in how medicine was practiced in earlier times and how it is depicted in fiction. The surgeon shouts, "We haven't got all day, nurse! Pack off those small bleeders!" A nurse tells the surgeon, "A woman was brought in with her foot crushed to a jelly. I think it's to be an amputation." It's completely unrealistic--and it's magnificent.
Romance is probably the least essential adjective in the mix, but since there was a huge surge in the popularity of nurse romance novels in the '60s, there are a lot of these books to be found. And the romance in them is pretty tepid, which is just fine with me. Not that I'm a prude, but since that's the least interesting aspect about these books for me, I'm just as happy to keep that part of it in the background.
Why am I doing this? This is harder to answer. I started collecting vintage nurse romance novels by accident a couple of summers ago, when my family visited an antique store in Andover, Maine, and found a small stash there. My daughter and I had a good laugh at their bizarre titles, and then over the course of the summer bought them all. Then I found The Maine Bookhouse in Oxford, Maine, a fantastic used book shop whose owners are obligingly keeping me supplied with new purchases. Like any aficionado, I want to share my new hobby. And as I was a writer before I was a PA, it seems like a natural step to blog about my finds. Apparently I'm not alone in appreciating this genre, since you can regularly bid for large quantities of these books on eBay. (I'm more of a purist, preferring to acquire them in smaller quantities, but you do what you want.)
So here we are. I hope that after reading a few entries you come to believe that my mental health is not in question (well, any more than usual). And that if you are ever perusing a yard sale and come across a book entitled something like Cruise Ship Nurse, you will actually plunk down the quarters and take a chance. Even if it's a complete disaster, you might still find some promise, or at least a few laughs.