In brief: The second in a series (which can be read as a standalone book) of a group of nurses training and working at The Nightingale Hospital, London in the 1930s.
The good: The new character, Violet, has lots of delicious secrets, making the book difficult to put down.
The not-so-good: I really want to read the next in the series and hear more about Helen, who plays less of a role in this book.
Publisher: Arrow (Random House)
My rating: 9 out of 10
You know sometimes when you just want a comfortable, enjoyable book that isn’t going to test your knowledge of the more obscure things in life and will leave you with a smile on your face…they’re hard to find? Well, look no further because Donna Douglas’ Nightingale series fits the criteria for a happy read perfectly. In this second instalment of the series (which is happily read as a standalone, although there are some spoilers for the first book), there’s drama, tension, love, betrayal, life and death – but there’s enough happy endings to cheer you up and enough plot threads not quite neatly tied to draw you into the next book. (There are currently four books in the series with the fifth released in November 2014, plus a Christmas eBook novella).
The story continues on from where The Nightingale Girls finished, although the focus has shifted from being on three trainee nurses (Helen, Millie and Dora) to Millie and Dora plus the new Night Sister, Violet. Violet is the chief nurse on the night shift, and she’s got a few secrets (actually, a bucket load – when she reveals one, another unknown emerges) that she wants to keep hidden from the other sisters. The trainee nurses could have told her that the sisters are good at digging up secrets and helping each other out of sticky situations (after all, they get plenty of practice with the students). Meanwhile, Dora’s family is struggling now that her stepfather has disappeared and the appearance of a young girl on Dora’s ward sends things into a tailspin. Millie and Helen’s brother continue their ‘will they or won’t they’ relationship, although Millie is now engaged to childhood friend Seb. The tension between the two of them is delicious!
In between all this are mentions of the Blackshirts, the death of the King, domestic violence, end of life care and various nursing mishaps. Douglas always gets the balance between the drama and the light moments just right. The finale in regards to Violet was absolutely un-put-down-able – I have proven it is possible to read with one hand and brush teeth/do hair with the other. It’s just one big reveal after the other with some wonderful Gothic undertones. Who knew that a nurse’s life could be so exciting? (Well, not particularly exciting for Violet who was going through it all).
The story is warm and engaging and I know I’ve said it before but it’s the perfect thing for those of you suffering Call the Midwife withdrawal symptoms! I’m really looking forward to the next book, The Nightingale Nurses, which brings Helen back to the forefront, along with more of Dora and Millie.