Posted On November 17, 2011 by Print This Post

Medical Romance: Still a Hard Sell? Author Julie Rowe Weighs In

Happy Thursday, RU Crew! I’m excited to welcome author Julie Rowe to Romance University. Julie’s been a wonderful, supportive friend to the university, and we’re ecstatic to be one of her blog tour stops for ICE BOUND.

Please help me give Julie a warm, RU welcome!

Romance is a big genre with a large audience. A long list of subgenres have sprung up to satisfy the many millions of romance readers and their demand for more and more stories, but medical romance is a hard sell…to some.

Harlequin Mills & Boon has been publishing medical romances for over 60 years. Yep, that’s no typo – 60 years. In the late 1950’s, Harlequin Romance began publishing Mills & Boon titles, Doctor-Nurse romances. But while popular in Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, medical romances are difficult to market in North America. The North American audience is used to fast-paced medical thrillers. I decided to target those readers with my medical romance ICEBOUND. I set ICEBOUND in Antarctica to give my characters a huge physical challenge in addition to their emotional conflicts.

I queried agents for months. The most common response I received was, “I don’t know how to sell this.” The setting was too exotic. The story was a romance first with medical elements in a supporting role, and not a thriller. In an effort to write a romance targeting the thriller audience, I wrote a book no one knew what to do with, with no clearly defined market.

When Carina Press opened its doors, my friend and mentor Dianne Drake suggested I submit it there. I received a revise and resubmit letter from one of their editors, urging me to take the story in a new direction, one I hadn’t thought of. I was intrigued and went to work. The result was a story I truly enjoyed and believed in, and sent it off to Carina Press. Three months later Executive Editor Angela James called with an offer to publish.

Medical romance is a hard sell. Authors must walk a fine line between too much information and not enough. The medicine should never overshadow the romance. It should be a stage used to showcase your characters, their emotions, conflicts and goals.

Examples of authors who write really good medical romance are: Dianne Drake, Lynn Marshall, Laura Iding, Wendy S. Marcus and Jessica Mathews. Check them out, you won’t be disappointed.

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RU Readers, have you ever read a medical romance? Have you read any of the authors Julie mentioned? If so, what did you love about them?

Please stop back tomorrow for Christine Hollis’s 5 Smooth Steps to Publication.

Buy ICEBOUND on Kindle or EPUB for Nook or Kobo.

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Julie Rowe’s first career as a medical lab technologist in Canada took her to the North West Territories and northern Alberta, where she still resides. She loves to include medical details in her romance novels, but admits she’ll never be able to write about all her medical experiences because, “No one would believe them!” A double Golden Heart finalist 2006, Julie’s writing has appeared in several magazines such as Today’s Parent, Reader’s Digest (Canada), and Canadian Living. She currently facilitates communication workshops for her local city college. Julie enjoys hearing from her readers. You can reach her at or on Twitter @julieroweauthor.

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21 Responses to “Medical Romance: Still a Hard Sell? Author Julie Rowe Weighs In”

  1. Hi Julie,

    Welcome to RU and congrats on your new release ICE BOUND!!! How are you surviving release week?

    Can you tell us what first sparked the idea for this story? Also, what are you working on now?


    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | November 17, 2011, 5:47 am
  2. I’ve never read a medical romance before, nor a romance set in Antarctica. This, I’d read. Thanks for stopping by to talk about your book.

    Posted by Mercy | November 17, 2011, 6:27 am
  3. Hi Julie,

    I remember the story of the doctor having to perform her own biopsy in Antarctica. I think a cook was her assistant. Very original setting for a romance. In my WIP my hero is an ER doctor. There is something about a guy who saves lives.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | November 17, 2011, 6:57 am
  4. Hi Julie! Welcome to RU. I’ve downloaded ICEBOUND and it’s ready to go. I loved your tweets about Antartica!

    The only medical romance I’ve read (so far!) is by Wendy S. Marcus and I loved it.

    And, just so the entire RU audience knows, Julie can cut quite a rug! She was one of my dance partners at the Harlequin RWA party last summer and we tore that place up! We also share the same editor so we had our editor out there too. LOL.

    Thanks for hanging out with us today.

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | November 17, 2011, 7:28 am
  5. Morning Julie…

    My mome used to be a big fan of medical romance, but they were so hard to find around here. I’ve honestly not read one yet, but have one lurking in the back of my mind. I do have Wendy’s on my TBR pile though!

    Thanks for posting with us today – enjoy your release week!


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | November 17, 2011, 8:05 am
  6. Hi Julie! Thanks for joining us today!

    Some of the first Mills & Boon/Harlequin books I read were medical romances. Back in the day, it seemed like every other book they published was a medical romance.

    While I don’t seek out that sub-genre, I do enjoy reading them.

    Wishing you much success with your books!

    Posted by Becke Davis (Becke Martin) | November 17, 2011, 9:22 am
  7. Thanks for having me Tracey!

    I lived and worked in the North West Territories a few years back, and while it’s not as isolated as Antarctica, people still did some strange stuff to cope with the near constant darkness and extreme cold.

    I really wanted to take people to a place they’d likely never have the opportunity to visit. A place that pulls the best and worst of us out for all to see.

    I have another medical romance coming out in April from Carina Press, set in Alaska, called North Of Heartbreak. Currently I’m working on a WW1 medical romance I hope to submit to Carina in a couple of weeks.

    Posted by Julie Rowe | November 17, 2011, 12:36 pm
  8. Thanks Mercy! Check out some of the other authors I mentioned. They write fantastic stories!

    Posted by Julie Rowe | November 17, 2011, 12:40 pm
  9. I’m with you Mary Jo, there’s something sexy about a man who uses his hands to comfort and heal. 🙂 The hero in ICEBOUND is a paramedic. He’s as tough as they come, but he also doesn’t try to hide his concern for his people.

    Your ER doc sounds like another man who wouldn’t hesitate to jump to the rescue!

    Posted by Julie Rowe | November 17, 2011, 12:47 pm
  10. Thanks Adrienne! I seem to recall you strutting your stuff on the dance floor as well. I have fond memories of dancing to Thriller. 🙂

    I’ve got Risking Trust ready to read as well. I hope to finally get a chance to dig into it on the weekend!

    Posted by Julie Rowe | November 17, 2011, 12:51 pm
  11. Thanks Carrie!

    If you read ebooks, head on over to click on the ebooks tab, then choose the medical romance series. There’s always the latest med romance books available!

    Posted by Julie Rowe | November 17, 2011, 12:57 pm
  12. Thanks so much Becke! I used to read them years ago (snuck them out of my mom’s colletion) and I still love them.

    Posted by Julie Rowe | November 17, 2011, 12:58 pm
  13. Medical romance might be a hard sell to publishers, but I’m betting not to readers, not with the success of TV shows like ER and Grey’s Anatomy. Those shows are so much less about the medicine and more about the relationships. In a medical romance, rather than an ensemble of stories, the writer would have to focus on one guy and one girl.

    But I’m betting a series with recurring characters a la one of those TV shows would work. I never understood why M&B didn’t sell it’s medical romances in the U.S. Glad they now are doing so.

    Posted by PatriciaW | November 17, 2011, 1:38 pm
  14. Julie –

    I’m assuming your own medical background impacted your decision to write medical romance. Do you think it’s possible for non-medically trained folks to write this type of romance?

    Best of luck on Icebound. I don’t have my copy, but will soon!


    Posted by Kelsey Browning | November 17, 2011, 2:46 pm
  15. Patricia I agree, I think there’s something inherently appealing about medial romances. They’re stories of hope, love and people working together to make life better for others. The success of medical shows on TV prove that people want to read these kinds of stories. I think with the popularity of ereading, we’re going to see more and more medical romances in the marketplace. 🙂

    Posted by Julie Rowe | November 17, 2011, 3:15 pm
  16. Hi Kelsey,

    Yes, I do think anyone can write a medical romance. You don’t have to have a medical background, just someone you can ask questions and bounce ideas off of. The medical details don’t, and in fact shouldn’t, take over the story. Here’s an example of what I mean from ICEBOUND:

    “Do me a favor? Check Stan’s vitals.”

    “Handling me again, Em?”

    She picked up the thermometer and held it out. “Would you expect any less?”

    He stood and took it. “Nope.” He turned to Stan, then turned back and enveloped her in a hug. “Thanks.”

    “Talk to him,” she whispered, hugging him back. “About anything, just talk. Let him hear your voice and know he’s safe.”

    “Okay, I can do that.” Tom let her go, but not before kissing her temple. A soft, lingering press of lips that made her breathing speed up ridiculously fast.

    He backed up a step then said to Stan, “Okay, big guy, time to check your temperature.”

    She watched Tom talk to Stan quietly, checking his vitals, telling him about the merry search he’d led the crew on, how even Emilie tried to go look for him.

    I don’t actually give the details on how Tom checks Stan’s vitals. I don’t need to. Readers are smart and have been watching medical shows for a long time. They know what checking someones vitals means.

    I’m VP of a special interest chapter of RWA called Heartbeat. We’re a bunch of writers who like to include medical details in our books. We’re a small chapter, but we’re active and several of our members don’t have medical backgrounds. Check us out at

    Posted by Julie Rowe | November 17, 2011, 3:24 pm
  17. Hi Julie!

    The first medical romance I read was “Candy Striper”, about a candy striper and a handsome young doctor. 🙂 I’ve read a lot of medical thrillers, which I enjoyed. My mom was a lab technologist. My first job was in a lab as a gopher and phlebotomist. I agree with Patricia…medical settings, are without a doubt, a perfect backdrop for romance. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. 🙂

    Thanks for being with us today!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | November 17, 2011, 4:25 pm
  18. Hi Julie!
    Thanks for the shout out! Medical romance is difficult to write – no matter which publisher you write for – for the exact reason you mentioned. There’s a fine line between too much medical info and not enough. You must also avoid too much medical speak and gore, or you’ll pull your reader out of the story.

    I enjoy writing medical romance because there is just so much to write about.

    Congrats on your new release. I can’t wait to read it! (After my current deadline!)

    Posted by Wendy S. Marcus | November 17, 2011, 5:00 pm
  19. A big thank you to Julie and everyone who stopped by to comment!!

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | November 17, 2011, 8:38 pm
  20. It’s been a pleasure Jennifer and Tracey! Thanks for having me. 🙂

    Thanks for popping in Wendy! I love your books. 🙂

    Posted by Julie Rowe | November 17, 2011, 10:38 pm
  21. Congrats on your new release, Julie.

    I’ve been reading Medical romances since they were Doctor/Nurse series, or even before that, when Betty Neels just had a doctor for her hero and nurse as heroine.

    And I’ve read all of Lynn Marshall titles to Wendy’s debut When One Night Isn’t Enough!

    So being new at RT Book Reviews, when I saw Medicals were not nominated for the RT Reviewers Choice Award, I asked…and was told to nominate!!!

    So this will be the first year HM&B Medicals are nominated for RT Reviewer’s Choice Awards! Groundbreaking for HM&B Medical Romances.

    Posted by Nas | November 18, 2011, 8:41 pm

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