Fabia Vale explores life as a single young nurse living in a brownstone near Central Park on Manhattan's West Side.
The novel Fabia completes the Vale stories. Lisa Vale's older daughter, the twenty-something Fabia, has had terrible luck with her love-life so far. She had fallen in love with Dan Regan, a young doctor whose Irish background made it impossible for him to be welcomed into family. To escape this affair Fabia fled to New York and succeeded as a trained* nurse, following a path different from the girls in her Boston set.
This novel starts with Fabia sitting by the phone in a New York brownstone, waiting for her new love to call. Prouty puts this character through continual tortures like this. Her romance is always causing her problems, because Fabia does not clearly separate fantasy from reality, and is usually living at the "fantastic" level.
Lisa's and Fabia's friend Renée Beauchamp serves as a warning example. Renée recounts the story of her own affair with a married man, hoping he would leave his wife to join Renée. But he never did. For the man, duty to his wife and children took precedence, even though he did not love his wife.
Fabia is repeating the pattern, waiting for an older married man (Dr. Oliver Baird) to leave his wife.
Finally Fabia breaks off the affair.
Fabia feels very depressed over the failure of her affair with Oliver. Her mother Lisa sees this, as Fabia returns home to Boston. Lisa gets Dr. Jaquith involved. Dr. Jaquith is a psychiatrist whom Lisa and Charlotte Vale turn to in Now, Voyager, Home Port, and Fabia, the last three novels of the series. Dr. Jaquith comes up with a plan whereby Oliver intentionally alienates Fabia.
Gradually Fabia learns to face life head-on, clearing the way for her to re-unite with Dan Regan—the man whom she really loves and who is single and near her own age. The older married man represented only a substitute.
Throughout the five novels, Lisa Vale enables and supports the other characters, including sister-in-law Charlotte in Now, Voyager. Lisa Vale gets along with people in a sweet, intelligent way. But she is not too saintly to carry on an affair with Barry while she is still married. Lisa refuses to be a slave to convention.
Taken as a whole the Vale novels give Prouty a place to present her characters vividly as people you like to spend time with. June, the vibrant party-girl who sometimes wears red, will grab her beau's arm and stampede with him into the kitchen to hunt up some lemons, and make him feel really special. The main characters are all drawn well enough for you to get involved with them as they climb along a definite narrative arc in each novel. They belong to the upper class of a bygone era and make the story an inviting world for us to enter.
* Fabia worked in the early 1940s as a private nurse attending to patients in their homes. Her agency sent her to care for a succession of well-off patients on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.