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.

Thursday, 11 October 2012


The Devil and the Deep
The Devil and The Deep by Amy Andrews      *****

This book should come with a WARNING. Do NOT choose this book to read while sitting at the bedside of a dying relative. You will make enemies when you glare at the nursing staff for interrupting you. Because you will not want to put this book down. This book also has really sizzling love scenes, so it is not the book to read in the presence of your Mother-in-Law. Even if she is in a coma and will not notice your heavy breathing and hot flushes.

Seriously this book has some wow factor. I always loved those old musicals in which there was a story within a story. This book has a story within a story that will have you running to the fridge for an Icepack.

The heroine Stella Mills is a best selling author of a historical romance featuring a pirate so hot he would turn the seven seas into a steamy desert when he captures Lady Mary Bingham and seduces her. The funny thing is that Vasco Ramirez is based on Stella's real life childhood friend Rick Granville who would never be interested in doing any of those interesting things to Lady Mary's alter ego, the real life Stella Mills.  Or would he?

The long time friendship between Stella and Rick is sorely tested when her father leaves them a treasure map in his will, sending them on a Treasure Hunt together. Or is it a Pleasure Hunt?  Rick is a hero to die for, though early in the book when he displayed his flirty technique with OTHER women I was ready to clip him under the ear. But once he got going, he had me under his spell like the rest of those poor bemused women. I thought I knew better but apparently I'm a sucker for a gorgeous guy with a nice line in flirty charm.

Stella is a wonderful heroine. In spite of her denials, it's obvious that Rick was always the one for her from the time she was ten years old. Even her ex is so opposite to Rick you can see how hard she was running. But her book gives her away every time. So imagine what might happen if Rick should get hold of it. Lucky a macho seagoing treasure hunter isn't likely to read a romance novel.

If you've read Amy's recent books Taming the Tycoon and How to Mend a Broken Heart, you wont expect this. Just as they are entirely different, this is different again. It has the wit and humour of Taming the Tycoon but the added vibe of a rollicking sea going adventure and don't forget that sizzling hot historical pirate.  Amy's heroes and heroines are so incredibly real you have this sneaking feeling you've met them somewhere. They aren't perfect but they are likeable as well as loveable. If you are after a feel good read that still packs a punch emotionally and with nicely graded sizzle on every page, this is the book for you.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

SYTYCW : The Fireman- A Short Story

This is another short story from the Writing Challenge competition on the Harlequin Community boards. The story had to include a Firefighter and a dog.  I include it on my blog today in honour of the So You Think You Can Write Competition raging merrily at the moment.  
If you would like to read my entry you will find it under After the Funeral in the new Kiss imprint section.  There are some fantastic submissions and I recommend you go browsing. I've found quite a few that I am desperate to read so I can see them have their Happily Ever After.  
Some of my favourite recommendations can be found on some other blogs here and also here and here and here
But don't restrict yourself. There are dozens of Supernaturals, Historicals and Suspense as well as Inspired and Heartwarming.  And don't forget Medicals. Over 600 entries to browse through in 19 different categories. 
 If you like any of the stories be sure to vote.  You get to cast one vote per day until the 11th October. Use your power wisely.

The Firefighter.

The taste of smoke sits uneasily on her tongue, drying her mouth.   She can’t see it, but it lingers in her nostrils after every breath, stinging her eyes, making them water.  It must be long past midnight, that gulf of darkness when everyone is asleep. 

The silence is broken by a frighteningly insidious sound.  A crackling, a sudden gasping roar as something succumbs to the ravenous monster.  The curtains in the lounge room across the hall perhaps.  Those thick, dusty velvet drapes would cling to the heat, welcome the licking flames like a lover.

Her phone must be somewhere.  Fumbling across the bedside table, she knocks something to the floor and kneels down to scrabble on the carpet.  The mobile must be in the kitchen.  Probably on the bench beside the microwave.   Groping her way into the hallway, she dismisses the morbid thoughts that stir.  Which way to go?  The front hall tempts her with its promise of freedom only metres away. Yet if the fire has taken hold in the lounge...  The kitchen holds the best hope.  But she has to find Abby.

‘Abby.  Abby.  Here girl.’  

 Is she stuck in the laundry?  The polished timber, cool under her bare feet, comforts her as she moves along the hallway, hesitating at each doorframe.  If only she could see.
Sweat trickles down her spine under the thin cotton nightdress.  Not far now. A faint whisper of fresh air greets her at the open door of the kitchen.  From the window over the sink.  More confident now she walks around the table to the bench.  Her reaching hands find the microwave, and in moments, close over the mobile phone.

File:YellowLabradorLooking new.jpgNothing happens as she keys in the emergency services number.  A dead battery.  Dropping the phone with a clatter, she presses her hand to her racing heart.  So this is fear.  Changing direction she aims for the back door, her hands clutching at the knob, fingers reaching for the key on the deadlock.  Finding nothing.

She left it back in her room with the rest of the keys.  Dare I go back for it?  The windows, all with security bars, aren’t an option.  Back in the hallway the smoke fills her lungs with just one breath. Coughing she staggers across to the laundry.  The door is shut, but opens easily and she almost falls into the room.

‘Abby?  Please, Abby.’
Her fingers close over a coil of leather. She’ll need it, if she finds Abby. It’s becoming harder to breath.  They say to go low and crawl to escape the smoke.  The laundry is empty.  Abby must be elsewhere. Is ringing in the ears a sign of smoke inhalation?  Coughing, choking, she lies on the floor, the tiles cool under her damp cheeks.

He didn’t think they’d find anyone alive, the way the fire took hold at the front of the old Queenslander.  The slender figure, lying on the tiled floor of the laundry caught him by surprise. 
‘One adult female.’  He informs his team as he rolls her over, ready with the portable oxygen.
 She coughs as she draws clean air into her lungs.  Cornflour blue eyes stare up at his mask blankly.

‘You came.’

Recovering his voice, he nods. ‘Yes, what’s your name sweetheart?’

‘Sarrah.’ Her voice, husky from the smoke, still sounds like music.

‘Saaarrah.  That’s pretty.  Now we need to get you out of here.’

Light as a feather, she curls against his chest trustingly.  From nowhere comes a surge of protectiveness, well beyond his usual fierce determination.

Her hand clutches at his collar, bumping at the mask. ‘Wait, you must find Abby.  Have you seen her? A big golden Labrador.’

‘We’re searching the whole house Sarrah.  One of us will find her.’

She settles then, holding the mask against her face in one hand, the dog harness in the other.
Reluctantly he relinquishes her to the paramedics.  Her hand comes out wildly, snagging his gloved wrist as he moves away. ‘You will find Abby wont you?’

Enveloping her fine boned hand within his large ones he squeezes. ‘Sure we will, sweetheart.’

File:ACTAS 315 Sprinter.jpgLying back at the behest of the paramedics, Sarrah sighs, releasing her grip on the coiled leather.  If anyone could save Abby, he would. 
From the moment she heard his voice in the darkness, that hammering of her heart eased.  His strong arms and broad chest embraced her easily.  Like home.  Her fears melting away like willo-the-wisps in the dawn.
A loud crash, followed by a thunderous roar and she struggles against the restraining arm of a paramedic. ‘What happened?  That noise…’

‘The roof caved in on the house, love.  Now, just lie back and put that oxygen mask back on for just a tic.’

Fighting back the moisture building in her eyes, she slumps back on the gurney.  Abby and the fireman are still in there somewhere.  She can hear yelling and people running past the door of the ambulance. Oh please let them both be ok.
A scuffling noise and a protest from the paramedic alerts her and she wrenches off the mask. A large bundle of damp fur lands on her lap. ‘Oh Abby. You’re safe.’  Burying her face in the rough fur, she surreptitiously dries her tears.
File:NSWFB112.jpg‘There you go Sarrah. She’s safe and sound.’

Extending her hands in the direction of that deep, reassuring voice, Sarrah lifts her chin, revealing her blank stare to the man standing at the door of the ambulance. ‘Thank you.  You don’t know what this means to me.’

Warm hands return her grasp, tightening convulsively, as if he feels the same magic. ‘I think I do sweetheart.  I think I do.’

One hand pulls away, the leather harness replacing his clasp.  She grips his remaining hand tighter. ‘You do understand.’

A touch on her cheek answers her, a feather-light grazing of firm lips, a finger tilting her chin. ‘I’ll be seeing you, sweet Sarrah.’

It sounds more like a promise than a goodbye. 

The End-Maybe

Thanks for Reading.