Saturday, January 31, 2009

How Not to Write a Medical Romance

And Why Misbranded Novels Hurt the Franchise

I just read a bad medical romance. The story made a good tender romance but it was misbranded as a medical romance and was thus very disappointing. Since this book was issued in a specialty Medical Romance line, it could very well hurt the Medical Romance line or franchise with new readers. If this were my first Medical Romance, I would think that there was nothing special about the line and probably not buy any more of the line’s books. Fortunately, prior to reading this book, I had already read six other Medicals that were excellent examples of this subgenre.

What are the essential elements of a Medical romance?

1. The medical aspects of the story should take on the importance of a major character. If you can easily switch the hero and heroine from being doctors to being lawyers, then you do not have a medical romance. Instead, you have a general romance that features doctors.

2. The medical elements in the story should be detailed and accurate. The general reader should learn something he or she didn’t know about the medical profession or medical procedures after reading the book. This is what makes the Medical Romance a genuine subgenre.

So there you have it; just two essential requirements.

The Medical Romance I just read (and I won’t give the title as I prefer to review outstanding books and let the others be) failed on both counts. In fact, the story was even hurt by being a Medical.

The story opens with an industrial accident in which many people are hurt. The hero and heroine are with some other medical people when they get the emergency call to rush to the accident scene. However, bad gasoline has disabled the ambulances so they take their own cars. On arriving at the scene the hero and heroine, doctor and nurse, stop at the first injured person and administer first aid. This is a child with a head wound. The wound is not very serious but still they spend crucial time with the boy asking about his parents.

After this they go to the next patient they come to and start with the treatment. In the meantime there are very serious injuries going untreated. It is very possible that some victims are bleeding to death that could otherwise be saved with immediate treatment. I kept thinking “triage”! “Do your triage!” You always do “triage” when you reach an accident scene with multiple victims. Not doing triage is such a basic mistake it undermines the rest of the book. It would be like having Julius Caesar looking at his wrist watch before crossing the Rubicon.

In this novel, Medicine did not play an important part. In fact, it actually hurt the story. The heroine had given up on men because after her fiancé saw the very bad scars the heroine had on one side of her body, he was said to be disgusted though he tried to hide his feelings. He gradually backed out of her life. After this experience, the heroine never wants to let it happen again. However, she would like to have a husband and children. This then is the conflict. She is very much attracted to the hero who shows an interest in her.

The heroine keeps putting off the hero’s advances because she does not want him to see her scars. This does not compute with me. Of all the men in the world, a doctor who has seen a career of scars, is the least likely person to be disgusted by seeing her scars. I remember thinking as I read, “if I’m the hero, I would comment on the nice work the surgeon did after seeing the scars”. And do you know what? That is exactly what the hero did.

In short, the story didn’t seem creditable. Now, if this story was released as a general romance, it would have been acceptable. However, I feel that placing it in the Medical subgenre is a case of misbranding. Unfortunately, misbranding can create disappointment for the reader who bought a Medical to enjoy the subgenre’s unique medical elements.

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