By Jack Pearl
First Published in December 1970
Published by Pyramid Books
When I published my article about Nancy almost exactly a year ago I mentioned that one tie-in novel based on the series was published and expressed interest in reading it. I bought a copy a few months ago and finally got around to reading it. The NBC sitcom, which was created by Sidney Sheldon, ran for 17 episodes during the 1970-1971 season. It starred Renne Jarrett as Nancy, the daughter of the United States president and John Fink as Adam, a veterinarian. The two meet, fall in love and during the course of the series get married.
Jack Pearl’s novel was set after the marriage; Adam and Nancy are living at Adam’s farm/animal hospital in Iowa with Adam’s uncle Everett and Nancy’s social secretary Abby. Nancy’s Secret Service agents, Turner and Rodriguez, also live at the farm where they can keep an eye on the First Daughter. According to a small note on the first page, this was intended as “the first in a sequence of NANCY novels” but by the time it was published in December 1970 the series had already been canceled. The final episode aired on January 7th, 1971.
The novel opens with Nancy, Adam, Everett and Abby waiting for the Kentucky Derby to begin. The President and one of his college friends, John Q. Peckinbaugh, have a horse in the race named Black Star. Unfortunately, the President can’t attend the Derby in person due to a conference with the Canadian Prime Minster over renewing the lease on an Arctic oil pipeline. Just when it looks like Black Star is going to win the race, the horse stumbles and goes down, his jockey flying into the mud. Everyone is horrified and Nancy, knowing what she knows about her husband’s occupation, worries that Black Star will have to be put down.
Before long, the President has called Adam and asked him to take a look at Black Star at Peckinbaugh’s residence in Washington, D.C. Nancy goes along. After examining the horse Adam decides he can perform surgery and eventually Black Star will be able to race again. Following some confusion over where Adam will be taking care of the horse, everyone flies back to Iowa. Black Star will be along shortly via a special plane. In the meantime, Adam is called to look at a mule, Katti-O, who has hurt her leg kicking a tractor. Danny, Kattie-O’s owner, is worried sick. Adam has him bring Katti-O to the hospital.
Black Star arrives with Peckinbaugh’s twin teenage daughters, Janie and Julie, in tow. Much to Nancy’s annoyance, Janie takes an interest in Adam right off the bat, despite their age difference and the fact that he’s married. The sisters, who are on summer break, want to stay to watch over Black Star. It’s going to be a long summer…
The remainder of the novel consists primarily of Nancy becoming increasingly frustrated with Janie fawning over Adam and Adam, in turn, not realizing what is going on. Adam is forced to perform surgery on Katti-O, who has fallen ill, and that same night has to then perform surgery on Black Star. Both the mule and the horse pull through, though, and begin their recovery. Julie falls for Danny, which Nancy encourages, but Janie continues trying to get close to Adam. She also refuses to do any work but volunteers for plenty, only to then force Julie to take care of everything.
During an evening hayride, Adam finally confronts Janie about her infatuation and she stalks off to sulk. Nancy’s relief turns to dismay when Janie takes Black Star out riding, despite the fact that the horse isn’t ready. Everyone heads out to search for the two. They find Black Star stuck in muddy terrain, Janie standing over him, and scramble to save the horse. Thanks to Katti-O, who has apparently fallen for the horse, they are able to pull Black Star out of the mud. Janie, though, doesn’t think she’s done anything wrong.
That all changes after a canoe race that Danny wins. Janie’s date, a boy named Jim, comes in third. Janie, convinced he could have won had he traveled into rougher water, has Jim take her out in the canoe. Before long, they’re in trouble. The canoe is capsized after being sucked into a spillway. Adam and Nancy are able to get a small boat and try to help. Turner and Rodrigeuz, worried about Nancy, pitch in as well. Adam and Nancy pull Janie from the water and rather than worrying about herself she’s only concerned about Jim. Thankfully, the boy is also pulled from the water. He’s swallowed a lot of water but he’ll be fine.
Later, at the Preakness Stakes (the second part of the Triple Crown racing), Black Star wins. Everyone is overjoyed. Even better news comes from Canada: the Prime Minister agrees to return to the conference after earlier pulling out. It’s a happy ending all around. Minor subplots involved Nancy dealing with a nasty reporter and the President embroiled in controversy over the oil pipeline. Like the one episode of the series that I’ve seen, the novel is incredibly sappy. It doesn’t paint Nancy in a very good light; she spends the bulk of her time worrying about her husband falling for another woman. Still, the story was solid and the novel overall was enjoyable.