A Nightingale Christmas Wish by Donna Douglas

In brief: Fifth in the Nightingales series, the girls are facing danger in late 1938 as war looms. Helen moves to work in Casualty, and the reader learns more about Matron and Ward Sister Frannie Wallace. Lovable student nurse Effie makes a light-hearted return.

The good: I adore reading about the nurses of the Nightingale Hospital. It was great to return to some old favourites.

The not-so-good: Trying not to read book 6 straightaway!

Why I chose it: I love the series. Thanks to Random House for sustaining my addiction with an eARC.

Year: 2014

Pages: 416 (eARC)

Publisher: Arrow (Random House)

Setting: Predominantly London

My rating: 9 out of 10

The Nightingale nurses series are one of my favourite comfort reads. When you open the book, you know that you will be thoroughly entertained with drama and ultimately a happy ending. Another great thing about the series is that we get to revisit certain characters (each book focuses on three or four main characters, with other former main characters taking a supportive role). I felt a bit dubious about reading a Christmas story in March, but ultimately it wasn’t a problem. The whole book isn’t centred on Christmas, but unfortunately for the characters, the Christmas of 1938 is likely to be the least pleasant one for some time. The book follows through into 1939 when war is declared and some difficult decisions are being made for both the Nightingale Hospital and its staff.

In this book, we return to Helen Dawson, a registered nurse who has suffered quite a lot in the previous books. This time her overbearing mother decides she should be ward sister in Casualty and what her mother wants, she gets. (Fortunately Helen is as good at nursing as her mother is at persuasion). Despite a rocky start, Helen becomes admired by the staff and she also falls in love again. But is it with the right man? (I’ll give you a hint – for quite a lot of Helen’s scenes, I was telling her not to be an idiot!) Helen’s friends, Millie and Dora take a backseat as married ladies. Dora makes an appearance (and she’s as headstrong as ever) but Millie is only mentioned.

We still keep up with the student nurses through Effie O’Hara, a lovable thing who continually tries to do the right thing by going the wrong way about it. She’s a bit immature, but I think she grew up a little in this book. Her friend Jess who we met in a previous book does make some short appearances.

Two older and wiser characters also come to the fore in this book – Matron Kathleen Fox, has some time to reflect and show she is very definitely human. Her good friend Frannie, sister of the male orthopaedic ward, also has her history revealed. But it’s when that history comes back to her in the present that she has to face the true meaning of what it all meant. I enjoyed being able to see the non-work side of these senior nurses; that they too have loves and stories to tell.

Reading a good series is like slipping on your favourite shoes or dress. It just works and you feel good. Donna Douglas has that power with the Nightingales series to comfort the reader, all while telling some history amongst some fascinating characters. I notice that she has a new book coming out this May, The Nurses of Steeple Street, which is about district nursing in Yorkshire. I can’t wait to read this – hopefully it will be more of the goodness that the Nightingales series has brought us.

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