There's a good, tight little slice of medico-suspense somewhere inside this erratic love-story/mystery/melodrama--but first-novelist Welt hasn't focused in on it. The central predicament is certainly promising: heroine Joanna has brought long-ill, eleven-year-old son Tony to University Hospital for possible treatment of his dreadful nephrosis--a kidney disease controlled with cortisone, which Joanna fears may seriously stunt Tony's growth. And indeed lecherous growth-specialist Dr. Brewster (bitter about losing a Nobel Prize to a ""fat Jap"" colleague) recommends the use of a supposedly top-secret new drug, and he's terrifically helpful when Tony nearly dies of hospital neglect--so all these efforts break down Joanna's resistance to Brewster's advances. She's in love, however, with Tony's Prince Charming anesthesiologist: ""devas tatingly handsome"" Dr. Carlos Borbon, a wise, gentle, numbingly elegant descendant of Spanish royalty. And this love affair (Joanna's selfish husband has stayed back home) occupies too much space here, draining away suspense and inspiring some very bad writing that suggests a recent reading of Lady Chatterly's Lover: Carlos calls his penis ""Espana,"" and ""They lay sweaty, dripping their juices, deliriously asleep and awake."" Plus: there's a distracting (though quite, quite funny) subplot involving Joanna's attendance at feminist consciousness-raising sessions; and when villain Brewster is killed after his malpractice on Tony is revealed, there's a tedious mini-murder-mystery to wade through before the lovers must (temporarily anyway) part. A very uneven mishmash indeed--but the doctoring is thoroughly convincing, precocious Tony's medical situation is properly heart-rending, and hospital-minded readers may be willing to overlook the messy, multi-toned assortment of subplots.