THE HAND OF A WOMAN by Diana Brown


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In this hard-working, lifeless, post-Civil War tale about a beset nun/doctor who finds true laic love, Brown (The Sandalwood Fan) deals in ever-so-noble heroes and oh-so-evil villains: the gap between the goodies and the stinkers is wide enough for a giant-sized yawn. Damaris Fanshawe's clergyman father has died in the war, leaving her the sole support of her hapless, selfish mother in Newport. So Damaris accepts, at a tender age, the post of assistant nursemaid in the posh Manhattan mansion of banker Templeton Caylew. Alas, Damaris is soon the family's favorite scape-goat: the attentions of her superior, severe ""Nanny"" Wicker, have a singular intensity; and Caylew, finding a sitting duck for his unsavory passions, demands that Damaris submit to his lust. . . or else her mother will go hungry and homeless. Promptly pregnant. Damaris gives birth to a stillborn infant after wandering the streets and being rescued by heart-of-gold prostitute Katie; she's talked out of suicide by kindly Mother Charlotte of the Episcopal Order of St. Catharine. Thus, Damaris will become Sister Serene, skillfully caring for ill children at the Order's clinic, then (thanks to Mother C.) going to medical school. Meanwhile, back at the Caylews, horrid and beautiful Caylew daughter Eustacia has the mighty hots (unrequited) for Colonel Harwood ""Guy"" Parrish, owner of a pilfered Tennessee plantation. And the characters all come coincidentally together in Memphis: now an M.D., Sister Serene performs heroically during a yellow fever plague, as does Katie, now proud owner of a brothel; Guy's gentle sister Livvy and evil Nanny Wicker both have joined the Order; Guy and Sister S. become friends, just friends, while she ponders the cause of yellow fever. (Only later she'll recall the dying words of a fellow physician: ""The mosquitoes, Damaris, the mos--. . . ."") But, back in N.Y., both Caylew and Eustacia are busy at blackmail. So Serene/Damaris will leave the Order to save it. . . and a good thing, too, because her feelings for Guy (and his for her) have gone far beyond nun-ly bounds. Busy melodrama/soap--formula all the way.

Pub Date: Sept. 17th, 1984
Publisher: St. Martin's