Friday, 12 October 2012

The Ghettoisation of the Medical Romance

Where have all the Doctors Gone...

I used to read doctor and nurse romances all the time.  But I have hardly touched a "Medical" romance for years.  I've recently started reading them again after discovering some authors that really captured my imagination.  But I am still reluctant at times to pick up a "Medical" off the shelf.

I spent a few minutes rummaging through my vintage Harlequin Mills & Boon romances this afternoon looking for a quick read.  After the intensity of the voting section of the So You Think You Can Write competition and late nights trying to Mr Sheen my manuscript into a pristine polished condition, I needed a break.

 The selection I picked out as possibilities included books by Jean S. Macleod and Jane Arbor who were mainstream romance writers.  All of the books are standard Harlequin Romances, all of them included nurses and doctors. Of course there are authors who are known for Doctor/Nurse romances like Betty Neels, Lilian Chisholm, Marguerite Lees, Vivian Stuart and Juliet Armstrong.

I've been puzzling about this for some time for a number of reasons.  One is that the manuscript I submitted to the competition features a surgeon as the hero.  I happen to like writing romances about professional men.  Doctors, Lawyers, Architects and so on.  This particular story, and all the others I am working on with doctor's and nurses, don't fit the current "Medical" category because the guidelines stipulate that both the hero and heroine must be professionals working together in a medical environment of some kind.  My doctors have a fancy for glamorous models, and artists and my nurse is tangled up with a lawyer.

There is also a discussion on the Harlequin boards on "Medical" romance that bemoans the lack of broader distribution of the line.  Apparently they are not available in store fronts in the U.S. though they are here in Australia.  Then there is the fact that only eight people submitted a manuscript to the SYTYCW competition under the "Medical" imprint.  So is there a problem?  And does it lie in the extremely rigid guidelines about what comprises a "Medical" romance.

The difference?  Why do I relish reading these vintage authors and their doctors and nurses and yet hesitate to read the more specific "Medical" category?  Perhaps because "Medical" category romance takes itself so seriously.  If I buy one of these modern Doctor/Nurse romances, I will almost invariably be seeing my hero and heroine interact in a medical environment.  It's certainly a great way to throw them together and offers some interesting and occasionally heartbreaking story lines.  But it's all a bit intense and to a former nurse (of the very lowest, bottom of the rung kind) it's also a bit like work.  Every...single...time.

Not that I don't enjoy the occasional visit to a hospital. Though in real life I don't want to stay there!  And the writing is amazing.  The quality of the "Medical" stable is high and includes some of my mainstream favourite authors like Sarah Morgan, Kate Hardy and Olivia Gates from the Desire line.  There are exciting things happening in the "Medical" with some of the new authors really stretching the boundaries.  I mean that mostly in a good way <G>.

How to Mend a Broken HeartBut if there is an attitude to "Medical" romance that keeps it marginalised, all this will go unnoticed and unappreciated by the general populace of romance readers. While I can appreciate the Harlequin Mills & Boon dedication to the promise they make to readers to give them what they want and expect, perhaps it can be carried to extremes.  In the case of Doctor/Nurse romances, perhaps they have made their promise too narrow, too confined.

I notice that the new KISS Riva lines promise an arc from mild and sweet to hot and sexy but with an overall promise of alpha males and a flirty modern take.  Wouldn't it be nice if there could be a similar arc with Doctor/Nurse romances so that people who find too much hospital and medical jargon off-putting could ease into it gently while still enjoying the pleasures of McSteamy and McDreamy.  And maybe there could be more Tulips and Manorial homes, more cruises to exotic destinations, and maybe doctors and nurses could marry outside the profession.  Maybe they could marry artists and models and lawyers and billionaires and princes that don't coincidentally happen to be doctors as well.


  1. Great post Fiona! Recently I read a new medical romance by Kate Hardy Once A Playboy
    where the hero was not a doctor or in any medical profession. Heroine was a physiothereapist and he was a patient who came to her after an accident. Though hero's brother was a doctor and his story Dr. Cinderella's Midnight Fling


  2. Replies
    1. Thanks Nas. Looks good. Shows that Medroms are broadening.

  3. How do you feel about paramedics? Or what about a nurse and a cop or a paramedic and a cop?

    1. I understand that they would come under the guidelines of two professionals working in a medical/emergency setting. Cops are cute. It might be a way to broaden the range. In one of the recent fast tracks someone wanted to enter a veterinary story but it was discouraged. I just wonder if by taking medical stories out of the mainstream it might be doing them a disservice in the long term. People think blood and guts and shudder. Stories that aren't so intensely medical but involve Doctors, nurses and health professionals in the wider community might increase the appeal and bring people into the fold.

    2. See now I wrote a female vet in a novella, hero was a hideously rich fertility doc and it went ino an anthology with 2 others from other lines I think specifically to give people a peak at medicals.
      Man I love that story.....

  4. You might have read THE NURSE'S NOT SO SECRET SCANDAL by Wendy S Marcus. The hero was an IT professional, not a medic.

    1. I knew that actually, but I just thought I'd mention it anyway.

  5. Sharon Archer had a Medical- The Man Behind The Badge where her hero was a cop. It is a Harlequin Medical Romance!

  6. Anne Fraser has Doctor on a Red Carpet- the hero is a stuntman in Hollywood.

  7. Thanks for all the recommendations Nas. I'll be able to wallow.

  8. Oh Fiona, as a nurse I have to agree, Medicals aren't top of my list for reading. Just too much like the Day Job.

    Or maybe too UNLIKE the Day Job, which sadly isn't populated with McDreamys, and doesn't have too many heartwarming moments either!

    There are some wonderful writers doing Medicals, writing fabulous stories, but the fantasy medical environments they write about are so far from the relenetless hard slog of the reality, I can't suspend disbelief long enough to get into them.

    Yet I have very happy memories a s student nurse of reading the older style romances that may have involved doctors and nurses as characters, but in a variety of settings. I miss the tulips and cruise ships too!

    When I say I'm writing romance, anyone who knows I'm a nurse automatically assumes I'll be writing Medicals. It's good to know there are all these Medicals out there with non- medical heroes or heroines!