Stars Through the Mist and All Else Confusion


Stars Through the Mist

When distinguished surgeon Gerard van Doorninck asked staff nurse Deborah Culpeper to marry him, his reasons were practical, not romantic. As she had been secretly in love with him for some time, Deborah accepted his terms and hoped for the best. It might all have worked out very happily, had Gerard's friend Claude van Trapp not done his best to try to spoil things!

All Else Confusion


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Stars Through the Mist

When distinguished surgeon Gerard van Doorninck asked staff nurse Deborah Culpeper to marry him, his reasons were practical, not romantic. As she had been secretly in love with him for some time, Deborah accepted his terms and hoped for the best. It might all have worked out very happily, had Gerard's friend Claude van Trapp not done his best to try to spoil things!

All Else Confusion

Annis's life as daughter of the rectory was a busy and happy one, certainly not lacking in love—but she loved Jake Royle even more than she loved her family. So when he proposed to her she didn't hesitate, even though she knew he didn't love her. Jake had said from the start that he didn't think love was necessary to make a marriage work. But even if she could accept his lack of feeling for her, would Jake ever admit Annis into his life?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780373605958
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 1/21/2014
  • Series: Harlequin Themes Series
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 174,228
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.60 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Romance readers around the world were sad to note the passing of Betty Neels in June 2001.Her career spanned thirty years, and she continued to write into her ninetieth year.To her millions of fans, Betty epitomized the romance writer.Betty’s first book, Sister Peters in Amsterdam,was published in 1969, and she eventually completed 134 books.Her novels offer a reassuring warmth that was very much a part of her own personality.Her spirit and genuine talent live on in all her stories.

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Read an Excerpt

The operating theatre was a hive of industry, its usual hush giving way to sudden utterances of annoyance or impatience as the nurses went briskly to and fro about their business. Sister Deborah Culpeper, arranging her instruments with efficient speed on the trolley before her, found time to listen to the plaintive wail of her most junior nurse, who was unable to find the Langenbeck retractors she had been sent to fetch, while at the same time keeping an eye on Bob, the theatre technician, who was trying out the electrical equipment needed for the various drills which would presently be needed. She calmed the nurse, nodded approval of Bob's efforts, begged Staff Nurse Perkins to get the dressings laid out in their correct order and glanced at the clock.

One minute to nine o'clock, and as far as she could see, everything was ready. She swung the trolley round with an expert kick and then stood, relaxed and calm, behind it, knowing that in a few minutes the rest of the staff would follow suit; she never badgered them or urged them on, merely saw to it that each nurse had her fair share of the work and time enough in which to do it. She looked ahead of her now, apparently at the tiled wall opposite her, aware of every last move being made, nothing of her visible beneath the green gown which enveloped her, only her dark eyes showing above the mask. She looked the picture of calm self-assurance, and her nurses, aware of their own hurried breath and rapid pulses, envied her. A quite unwarranted feeling, as it happened, for despite her outward tranquillity, Deborah's heart had quickened its pace to an alarming rate, and her breath, despite her efforts to keep it firmly under her control, had run mad. She gave her head a tiny, vexed shake, for it annoyed her very much that she should behave so stupidly whenever Mr van Doorninck was operating; she had tried every means in her power to remain uncaring of his presence and had mastered her feelings so well that she could present a placid front to him when they met and subdue those same feelings so sternly that she could scarcely be faulted as a perfect Theatre Sister; only on his operating days did her feelings get a little out of hand, something which she thanked heaven she could conceal behind her mask. She looked up now as the patient was wheeled in, arranged with nicety upon the operating table and covered with a blanket, to be followed immediately by the opening of the swing doors at the further end of the theatre and the appearance of two men.

Deborah's lovely eyes swept over the shorter, younger man-the Registrar, Peter Jackson-and rested briefly upon Mr van Doorninck. He was a very tall man with broad shoulders shrouded, as was every one else, in green theatre garb. His eyes above the mask swept round the theatre now, missing nothing as he walked to the table. His good morning to Sister Culpeper was affable if somewhat reserved, and his glance from under heavy lids was brief. She returned his greeting in a quiet, detached voice and turned at once to her trolley, wondering for the hundredth time how it was possible for a sensible woman of twenty-seven to be so hopelessly and foolishly in love with a consultant surgeon who had never uttered more than a few brief conventional phrases to her. But in love she was, and during the two years in which she had worked for him, it had strengthened into a depth of feeling which had caused her to refuse two proposals of marriage. She sighed soundlessly and began the familiar ritual of arranging the sterile sheets and towels over the unconscious form on the table.

She worked with speed and care, knowing exactly how the silent man on the other side of the table liked them arranged; in two years she had got to know quite a lot about him-that he was even-tempered but never easy-going, that when the occasion warranted it, he could display a cold anger, that he was kind and considerate and reticent about himself-almost taciturn. But of his life outside the theatre she knew very little; he was yearned over by the student nurses to whom he gave lectures, sought after by the more senior female staff, and openly laid siege to by the prettier, younger nurses. No one knew where he lived or what he did with his spare time; from time to time he let drop the information that he was either going to Holland or had just returned. The one fact which emerged from the wealth of rumour which surrounded him was that he was not married-an interesting detail which had increased the efforts of the young women who rather fancied themselves as his wife. And once or twice he had mentioned to Deborah that he had parents in Holland, as well as brothers and a sister who had been to England to visit him. Deborah had longed to ask questions and had restrained herself, knowing that if she did he would probably never tell her anything again.

She finished the preliminaries, glanced at him, and at his 'Ready, Sister?' gave her usual placid 'Yes, sir,' and handed him the towel clips which he liked to arrange for himself. After that she kept her thoughts strictly upon her job-scalpel, artery forceps, retractors, and then as he reached the bone, the lion forceps, the Lan-genbeck retractors, the rugines, the bone levers-she handed each in turn a second or so before he put out his hand to receive them, admiring, as she always did, his smooth technique and the sureness of his work. Not for nothing had he won a place on the top rung of the orthopaedic surgeon's ladder.

The patient was a young man with a malignant tumour of the femur; his only chance of recovery was extensive excision, a proceeding which Mr van Door-ninck was undertaking now. Beyond a muttered word now and then to his registrar or a request for some special instrument, he spoke little; only when the operation was three parts completed and they were stitching up did he remark: 'There's a good chance of complete recovery here-as soon as he's fit we'll get him fitted with a leg-remind me to talk to Sister Prosser about him, Peter.'

He turned away from the table and took off his gloves to fling them into one of the bowls and walked out of the theatre, back into the scrubbing-up room, leaving Peter to supervise the removal of the patient and Deborah to organise the preparation of the theatre for the next case, reflecting as she did so that Sister Prosser, plain and plump and fifty if she was a day, was the most envied member of the nursing staff, because she saw Mr van Doorninck every day, and not only that, he took coffee with her frequently, and was known to have a great respect for her opinion of his patients' conditions.

The morning wore on; a child next with a Ewing's tumour over which the surgeon frowned and muttered to Peter, knowing that his careful surgery offered little hope of a permanent cure, then an old lady whose broken thigh was to be pinned and plated. It was like a carpenter's shop, thought Deborah, expertly changing drills and listening to the high whine of the electric equipment Bob was obediently switching on and off; what with drills and saws and mallets, it was a noisy way to spend a morning, although after five years of it she should be used to it. She had always been interested in bones and when she had finished her training and had had an opportunity of taking the post of staff nurse in the orthopaedic theatre, she had jumped at the chance, and a year later, when the Theatre Sister had retired, she had taken over her job, content with her lot-there was time enough to think about getting married in a year or two, in the meantime she would make a success of her new post, something she had done in a very short time so that there still seemed no urgency to take the idea of marriage seriously.

She was twenty-five when Mr van Doorninck walked into the theatre unit one day, to be introduced as the new orthopaedic consultant, and from that moment she had felt no desire to marry anyone at all, only him. She had realised how hopeless her wish was within a short time, and being a girl with common sense, had told herself to stop being a fool, and had accepted numerous invitations from a number of the younger doctors in the hospital. She had taken trips in fast sports cars, attended classical concerts, and visited cinemas and theatres, according to her escorts' tastes, but it hadn't helped in the least; she was left with the feeling that she had wasted her time as well as that of all the young men who had taken her out, for Mr van Doorninck's image remained clearly imprinted inside her head and refused to be budged.

She had come to realise over the last few months that there was only one way of escape from his unconscious toils; she would have to leave Clare's and start all over again somewhere else. Indeed she had already put this plan into effect, searching the Nursing Times for a suitable post, preferably situated at the furthest possible point from London.

They had a break for coffee after the old lady's fragile bones had been reinforced by Mr van Doorninck's expert carpentry. The talk was of the patients, naturally enough, but with their second cups, the two men began a discussion on the merits of the Registrar's new car and Deborah slipped away to scrub and relieve Staff for her own elevenses. They were still discussing cars when the theatre party reassembled around the table again to tackle a nasty shattered elbow, which Mr van Door-ninck patiently fitted together like a jigsaw puzzle with Peter's help, several lengths of wire, a screw or two, and the electric drill again. That done to his satisfaction, he turned his attention to the last case, added hastily to the list at the last minute, because the patient had only been admitted early that morning with a fractured pelvis after he had crashed on his motor bike. It took longer than Deborah had expected. Half way through the operation she signed to Staff and one of the nurses to go to lunch, which left her with Bob and a very junior nurse, who, though willing and eager to please, was inclined to blunder around. It was long past two o'clock when the case left the theatre, and Mr van Doorninck, with a politely worded apology for running so far over his usual time, went too. She wouldn't see him again until Thursday; he operated three times a week and today was Monday.

The afternoon was spent doing the washdown in the theatre, and Deborah, on duty until Staff should relieve her at five o'clock, retired to her office to attend to the paper work. She had discarded her theatre gown and mask and donned her muslin cap in order to go to the dining room for her late dinner; now she spent a few moments repairing the ravages of a busy morning-not that they showed overmuch; her very slightly tiptilted nose shone just a little, her hair, which she wore drawn back above a wide forehead, still retained the smooth wings above each cheek and the heavy coil in her neck was still firmly skewered. She applied lipstick to her large, well-shaped mouth, passed a wetted fingertip across her dark brows, put her cap back on, and stared at the result.

She had been told times out of number that she was a very pretty girl, indeed, one or two of her more ardent admirers had gone so far as to say that she was beautiful. She herself, while not conceited, found her face passably good-looking but nothing out of the ordinary, but she, of course, was unaware of the delight of her smile, or the way her eyes crinkled so nicely at their corners when she laughed, and those same eyes were unusually dark, the colour of pansies, fringed with long curling lashes which were the envy of her friends. She pulled a face at her reflection and turned her back on it to sit at the desk and apply herself to the miscellany upon it, but after ten minutes or so she laid down her pen and picked up the latest copy of the Nursing Times; perhaps there would be a job in it which might suit her.

There was-miles away in Scotland. The hospital was small, it was true, but busy, and they wanted an energetic working Sister, able to organise and teach student nurses the secrets of orthopaedics. She marked it with a cross and went back to her writing, telling herself that it was just exactly what she had been looking for, but as she applied herself once more to the delicate task of giving days off to her staff without disrupting the even flow of work, several doubts crept into her mind; not only was the hospital a satisfying distance from Mr van Doorninck, it was also, unfortunately, an unsatisfying distance from her own home. Holidays, not to mention days off, would be an almost impossible undertaking. She went home to Somerset several times a year now, and once a month, when she had her long weekend, she drove herself down in the Fiat 500 she had bought cheap from one of the housemen. She frowned, trying to remember her geography, wondering if Somerset was further away from the northern coasts of Scotland than was London. She could always spend a night with her Aunt Mary who lived on the edge of a hamlet rejoicing in the incredible name of Twice Brewed, hard by Hadrian's Wall, but even then she would have to spend another night on the road. And what was she going to tell her friends when they found out that she intended to leave? She had no good reason for doing so, she had never been anything but happy until Mr van Doorninck turned up and destroyed her peace of mind, and even now she was happy in a way because she was sure of seeing him three times a week at least. She frowned. Put like that, it sounded ridiculous-she would have to find some really sensible reason for giving in her notice. She picked up her pen once more; she would puzzle it out later, when she was off duty.

But there was no opportunity; she had forgotten that it was Jenny Reed's birthday and that they were all going out together to the cinema, so she spent the rest of the evening with half a dozen of the younger Sisters and shelved her problems.

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