Date Published: 12-12-2022
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
In 1944, a German artillery shell destroyed Milt Greenlee’s future in professional baseball. His hideously scarred face and useless arm require him to relearn and recondition. But no amount of rehab will restore his looks or his self-confidence. There’s no chance a “cripple” like him could catch the eye of the stunning Nurse McEwen.
Army Nurse, Annie McEwen dreams her voice will take her far away from her hateful, overbearing father. She hopes Milt, a patient who fought in Sicily, might be the one who can help her find closure with the death of her cousin.
As their attraction grows, how can their relationship survive Annie's fears and Milt's secret?
Milt stirred from half-sleep when he heard a commotion near the door. A starched-white nurse murmured instructions to an orderly who juggled a metal tray loaded with supplies. A second orderly, also holding a tray, managed the door. Once inside, both men obediently followed the nurse to the first bed in the ward, just to Milt’s right.
When the nurse flashed the patient a smile, Milt’s breath caught. With those red lips curving up, her cheek dimpled and, even across the few feet between them, he saw the twinkle in her eye.
When she turned to take something from one of the trays, he studied her face: pale skin, perfectly shaped, delicate nose, and auburn hair pulled back and tucked underneath her white nurse’s cap.
The singer! Could it be her? In his ward?
She hadn’t been here yesterday. She must have been off duty for the show.
She plunged a needle into the soldier’s exposed buttock. Her face winced as if she was on the receiving end of the stabbing pain. When she withdrew the needle, she vigorously rubbed the site of the injection and gave the patient an apologetic smile. He grinned back at her like a guilty schoolboy who’d taken his just punishment.
“We missed you, Nurse McEwen,” the patient said.
“Thank you,” she replied.
Returning the hypodermic to one of the trays, the beauty dressed in white moved away from the first bed and approached Milt.
“Good morning, soldier.” She met his gaze and for an instant he saw recognition before she shut it down as if she’d never seen him before. “Time for your penicillin shot,” she said. Her melodious speaking voice almost matched her singing voice.
“Sure,” Milt replied, making an effort to smile despite his pounding head. If she didn’t want to acknowledge their brief encounter the previous day, why should he care? It didn’t mean he couldn’t enjoy having a beautiful singer as his nurse.
“Which side?” she asked.
“Huh?” Had that sound come from him?
“Which side do you want the shot in? Right or left?”
He watched her lips form the words. Soft, expressive lips. He blinked, knowing he had to reply. “Uh, left is okay.” The cast on his left arm stuck out so much it made it near impossible to roll onto his left side to expose his right cheek. Which made the left as his only choice. In the last few weeks, he’d gotten so many shots in his left butt cheek it probably looked like a purple pin cushion.
“All right. Just roll over and push down your pajama bottoms.” She turned to retrieve a hypo from one of the trays.
Embarrassment bloomed at the thought of this beautiful woman perusing his exposed bottom. Shots in the butt were routine, he told himself. But they weren’t usually administered by a lovely red head who sang like an angel. And who had a shapely figure hidden underneath that white uniform. He had to distract her and himself.
“Are those your backup singers?” he asked, finally grasping a coherent thought.
“What?” She turned back to face him. “What did you say?”
Determined to make an impression on her, he turned on the charm. “Your backup singers. Aren’t you gonna sing for us?”
Her eyes crinkled up into a shy smile and pink spread across her face. “Not today, I’m afraid.”
“That’s a shame. I really enjoyed your singing.”
She inserted the hypodermic needle into a vial of medicine. “Thanks.” Her reply sounded a little distant as she concentrated on getting the exact amount of medicine into the syringe.
Milton lay there watching the vision in white and remembering the sexy blue dress she had worn on stage.
Her gaze returned to his but this time a frown marred her features. “I said to roll over, soldier.”
“Oh, yeah.” Milton pulled the cover aside with his right hand and rolled his body while keeping his gaze fixed on her face.
“And push down your pajamas,” she instructed.
Milton glanced at his casted arm jutting out toward the ceiling and bent at the elbow. His fingers protruded from beneath the hard stuff but remained useless.
Her face flushed crimson as she realized the futility of her request.
“I’m so sorry. Here, let me help you.” Her gentle voice conveyed understanding.
He felt the heat rising and looked away before she saw the tell-tale color.
Her cool fingers brushed his skin as she pulled the waistband of his pajamas down to expose his rear end for all to see, including her.
He closed his eye tight and waited for the pierce of the needle. Instead, he felt her gentle touch.
“Just relax.” She spoke so softly it felt like her words were just for him. Then he heard her humming the same tune she had sung on stage. His mind drifted back to that vision of loveliness, only this time she sang just for him. He barely felt the needle prick.
“There. All done.” She gave the site a gentle massage then pulled his pajamas back into place.
When he rolled back over to face her, a smile lit up her face, not to make fun of him, but to convey her understanding of his awkwardness.
He managed a nod when she patted his leg. Then she and her accomplices moved on to the next bed.
“Come back any time.” Milt flashed his most winning smile. She rewarded his effort with a deeper blush. Their gazes locked for a fraction of a second. He wished he could extend that connection indefinitely. Already her attention had shifted to her next patient.
This historical military romance clearly showcases not only the author's talents as a storyteller but her careful attention to detail as a researcher. I felt as if I was reading a biography rather than a fictional story. The slow-burn romance between Lieutenant Annie McEwen and Sergeant Milt Greenlee is realistic. Fearing potential rejection, the characters take their time getting to know one another in a mature, adult manner rather than panting after each other like hormone-addled adolescents.
Speaking of hormone-addled adolescents, it is appalling how women were expected to put up with sexual harassment during the time period when the story was written. Not only did the churlish behavior Annie faced from certain of her superiors and colleagues happen, but such behavior was also normalized. Boys will be boys, and girls were expected to behave like ladies even when the boys were behaving like cads.
I appreciated that the author did not focus only on romantic interactions. The gritty reality was a necessary component in making this book a complete story. Annie McEwen and Milt Greenlee may be fictional characters, but the way their story is told, they could have been a real nurse and a real soldier who found a way to make the world a better place for both of them by supporting each other.
About the Author
Barbara Whitaker was born in the wrong decade. She loves everything about the 1940’s and WWII, so she decided to write about it. Her historical romances embody that fascinating era in history. Visit Barbara's website www.barbarawhitaker.com
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