Nightingales Under the Mistletoe by Donna Douglas

In brief: It’s the middle of WWII and many of the Nightingales nurses are working in their sister hospital in the country. That doesn’t really mean things are any quieter…

The good: The return of Millie, who left several books ago.

The not-so-good: I missed some of the characters from the London hospital.

Why I chose it: LOVING the series.

Year: 2015

Pages: 414

Publisher: Arrow (Random House)

Setting: England

My rating: 8 out of 10

Nightingales Under the Mistletoe is the latest book in the Nightingale series, about the nurses of the Nightingale hospital from the late 1930s. This book starts in Christmas 1941 and is a bit of a departure from the previous six books as it’s not set at the Nightingale Hospital. Confused? Well, at the start of the war the Nightingale moved a lot of patients and staff to its sister hospital in the countryside. This is the story of the country hospital, which just happens to be very close the estate of series favourite, Millie. We also catch up with young nurses Jess and Effie who starred in previous books. Jess is a devoted nurse, while surely Effie can’t make as much trouble in the country…

I was delighted to see the return of Millie. Unfortunately she’s now a widow and the RAF are about to take over her house. This brings back into her life Dr William Tremayne (brother of Helen) – I’d always wondered why their earlier romance went nowhere. With the changing times, Millie wonders if she can make herself useful at the hospital again…

Jess works hard to cover a secret, but she’s not a favourite of the hospital’s matron and gets stuck with the worst shifts. This makes Jess speak her mind a little too often but it does get her patients noticed by the medical staff when they need it most. Meanwhile, Effie escapes Ireland to return to nursing life, but it’s not long before she has a new boyfriend. Kit is a little bit more dangerous than the others, but that’s what makes it exciting…right? But then childhood friend Connor comes to take Effie home and life gets very messy.

We also meet some of the locals in this story, such as Grace and Daisy. Their stories are interesting, but I was really interested in seeing what my old favourites were up to! It was odd not having the setting as the Nightingale (although after the previous book there’s not too much of it left). I felt the story was not quite as exciting – maybe because of the change in setting. A country hospital will never match the bustle of a city one in terms of specialties and excitement! Having less characters too meant it was tightly focused on the five girls above. Will this be the end of the Nightingales series? I really hope not, because I’d like to see how the hospital recovers after the war. On the other hand, all my favourite characters are going to be off doing other things! Still, it would be exciting to read about the rebuild and the beginnings of the NHS.

While delightful, I don’t think this was my favourite book in the series. It lacked the sense of urgency and drama of the previous story. However, this would be the easiest book to read as a standalone novel. It’s still a great read though and Nightingales fans will rejoice in meeting some of their favourite characters again.

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