REVIEW: District Nurse On Call by Donna Douglas

In brief: The second in the Steeple Street series. Agnes becomes the first nurse in the coal mining village of Bowden, but the locals don’t want a nurse.

The good: Really picked up as the strike hit and the drama increased.

The not-so-good: First part wasn’t terribly interesting, as Agnes doesn’t show too much character.

Why I chose it: Thought I should give the series another go.

Year: 2017

Pages: 435

Publisher: Arrow (Penguin Random House)

Setting: Yorkshire, England

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

I can’t say that I was a huge fan of the first book in the Steeple Street series, but as I really enjoy Donna Douglas’s Nightingales series I thought I should give Steeple Street another go. It’s historical fiction following nurses too, but a little earlier than the Nightingales (1920s). This story focuses on Agnes, who we met as she started her training at Steeple Street. Now she has a new challenge – become the first district nurse for the coal mining village of Bowden. The locals aren’t keen on having a nurse, and the doctor is old and set in his ways so Agnes has a big challenge ahead of her.

I found Agnes to be a bit of a cold fish in the first book (despite her secret) and for the first half of the book, my opinion didn’t change. Agnes toes the line, always doing what is best for her patient and speaking her mind. Yet I still couldn’t warm to her, despite the townspeople obviously preferring the local healer or no treatment. I was much more invested in the story of Carrie, a coal miner’s daughter who married the pit manager. While James wasn’t Carrie’s first love, she loves him even though she doesn’t really fit in with her old friends. Then her first love reappears on the scene, wanting her back…it was much more juicy than Agnes’ stoic working on and on.

But then the General Strike occurs and the story became much more interesting for me. The coal miners’ strike makes everything that more difficult and the plot really sped along at that point. As Agnes becomes more accepted into the village and a number of crises occur, I began to warm to her much more. Perhaps it was also because she showed more warmth in her personal life and the ending had her more than a little conflicted…

The ending made me think that I’ll give the Steeple Street series another go for the third book, if only to see if Agnes’ heart melts further and she makes several difficult decisions. I found the setting of Bowden much more interesting than Steeple Street – perhaps it was fewer characters, and more time to get to know them. It was an easy read, and as the book went on, an enjoyable one.

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