In addition to the usualÂ Nancy Drew andÂ Little Women books (yes, there is more than one of the latter in the series) that Mom had on her bookshelf when I was growing up, she also had a handful of theÂ Cherry Ames books–a series that followed the training and career of a a nurse and amateur sleuth. The books never made me want to be a nurse (both the sight of blood and needles gets me a bit shaky) but I loved the series nonetheless.
So when I heard about the Nightingale Girls series, set in the 1930s at the famed Nightingale hospital, that was just recently released in the US, I jumped at the chance to review the first three books in the series.
Book 1, the The Nightingale Girls, follows the Dora, Millie, and Helen. Dora is applying to the prestigious nursing academy to escape a harsh home situation, Millie is trying to pass her preliminary testing, putting her a set behind, and Helen is the school’s social outcast owing to her overbearing mother’s position on the Board of Trustees.
In Book 2, The Nightingale Sisters, we keep up with Dora and Millie but also meet the new Night Sister, Violet, who has a history that could oust her from the nursing world if she trusts the wrong person with it. Neither Helen nor any of the other nurses we met in Book 1 have been forgotten, but each book seems to focus on no more than three strong personalities.
Then, in Book 3, The Nightingale Nurses,Â we focus again on Helen, in her last year as a student nurse and facing exams and a dark-horse bid for independence. Dora and Millie, constants so far in the series, are nursing patients as well as broken hearts and they each deal with troubles in the romance department.
Aside from the fact that I just enjoyÂ series–the ability to follow along with characters for multiple stories is a treat, like catching up with old friends–I appreciate the fact that the author, Donna DouglasÂ doesn’t keep the character’s home lives peachy keen, even-keel and reserve the mysteries and challenges only for the hospital floors. Douglas may have gone a little too far in the real life problems for my taste, in the case of Dora’s abusive father, but she handled it well to keep it from being salacious. And it’s not just the girls from the East End that have their troubles, Millie is trying to do prove her worth before settling down and producing an heir so the family’s home and title don’t pass on to some distant relation–very Downton Abbey whereas Womans Own magazine likes the series more to Call the Midwife.
Of course, once I’d devoured the three books I’d been supplied for the review, I had to see if there were more available. So far they’ve only been released digitally in the US, but there is a fourth book, Nightingales on Call, as well as a short story, A Child is Born: A Nightingale Christmas Story, that seems to take place between ‘Nurses’ and ‘On Call.’ Both were excellent (even if the short was a bit predictable, it was still a fun read) and I’m so glad I didn’t stop at ‘Nurses’ becauseÂ Nightingales on Call brings us to the end of Mille & Dora’s journey as students, while introducing some new characters as well as shedding some light on one of the less-likable characters from the first three books.
The next book in the series,Â A Nightingale Christmas Wish, is due out in early November and focuses onÂ Helen and two other nurses–including the Matron of the Hospital, Kathleen Fox. I know I’m looking forward to the next book and would definitely recommend the Nightingale series to anyone who enjoys Downton Abbey, Call the Midwife, or similar entertainments.