Jul 26 2011 10:30am

Prescription for Romance: Favorite Fictional Doctors

The Cast of ERAs Megan Frampton reported in a Heroes and Heartbreakers post in May, neuroscientists Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam concluded, after analyzing 15,000 Harlequin novels, that the most popular profession for romance heroes was that of doctor.

I have my doubts that the conclusion would be the same if Ogas and Gaddam had analyzed 15,000 single title romances, just as I have doubts that Irish physician Dr. Brendan Kelly’s conclusion about doctors in romance novels, reported in The Lancet (October 2007), would hold true had he used more than a token twenty romance novels in his research. Dr. Kelly concluded that the prescription for romance was “brilliant, tall, muscular, male doctors with chiseled features” + emergency room work + personal tragedy in the doctor’s life + the introduction of another doctor or a nurse as a love interest.

I do have fond memories of heroic doctors in fiction, going all the way back to Gilbert Blythe in L. M. Montgomery’s Anne books. But not all of my favorite doctors who behave heroically are male, not all of them are twenty-first century practioners, and not all of them are surgeons or ER specialists. Only one of my favorites is paired with another medical professional.

For Now, Forever by Nora RobertsHere’s my list, in order of publication since I couldn’t stop waffling when I tried ordering them by preference.

1.   For Now, Forever (1987) by Nora Roberts: Dr. Anna Whitfield MacGregor fights against class expectations, gender prejudices—and Daniel MacGregor’s determination to make her his wife—to become a doctor.

2.   Libby’s London Merchant (1991) by Carla Kelly: Dr. Anthony Cook, a gentle bumbler and dedicated physician wins the hero stakes when Libby finally chooses him over an aristocrat disguised as a merchant.

3.   Till the Stars Fall (1994) by Kathleen Gilles Seidel: Dr. Quinn Hunter, orthopedist, also composer, writer, and former rock star, who is reunited with the cinnamon-haired girl of his most popular songs, a divorcee with four sons.

4.   Father To Be (1999) by Marilyn Pappano: Dr. J. D. Grayson, psychiatrist, alcoholic in recovery, and father to an estranged son and a foster brood, breaks all the rules by falling in love with the social worker assigned to the case of his foster children.

5.   The You I Never Knew (2001) by Susan Wiggs: Sam McPhee, small-town family practitioner, rancher, and former rodeo cowboy, is reunited with his first love and the son he never knew he had.

6.   Some Men’s Dreams (2003) by Kathleen Korbel: Dr. Genevieve Kendall, resident, and Dr. John Parker O’Neill, the new chief of pediatric critical care, whose professional relationship and disagreement about the eating disorder of O’Neill’s young daughter present them with great obstacles.

Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas7.   Not Quite a Husband (2009) by Sherry Thomas: Dr. Bryony Asquith, a doctor at a time when women doctors were rare, practices in Germany, America, and, finally, the Rumbur Valley on the Indian frontier, where she is reunited with the younger, celebrated man to whom she was once married.

8.   Moonlight Road (2010) by Robyn Carr: Dr. Aidan Riordan, a Navy ob/gyn for 14 years, is taking a break before he decides where he’s going to set up a civilian practice when he meets attorney Erin Foley and send her straight to the emergency room.

9.   When Beauty Tamed the Beast (2011), Eloisa James: Piers Yelverton, Earl of Marchant is a brilliant diagnostician who scorns the medical establishment and learns to be a better man and a better doctor when he falls in love with Linnet Thynne, a Beauty who has lost a prince and her reputation.

10.   My Favorite Countess (2011), Vanessa Kelly: Dr. John Blackmore, an accoucheur, the 19th-century version of an obstetrician, challenges established medical practices and ignores those who warn him against the house calls he makes to patients in London’s most dangerous slums, but he can’t ignore Bathsheba Compton, the widowed Countess of Randolph, a heroine in need of redemption.


Janga spent decades teaching literature and writing to groups ranging from twelve-year-olds to college students. She is currently a freelance writer, who sometimes writes about romance fiction, and an aspiring writer of contemporary romance, who sometimes thinks of writing an American historical romance. She can be found at her blog Just Janga and tweeting obscure bits about writers as @Janga724.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
1. mochabean
Probably because I come from a family of doctors (6, including sibs, parents, and sibs-in-law) my fave profession for a romance novel hero is Rake.

My fave doctor in all romance, however, is Claire Fraser
Megan Frampton
2. MFrampton
I loved the doctor in Carla Kelly's book. I remember being so surprised when she picked him!
3. Janga
Mochabean, I'm sure you have lots of company in your choice of Claire Fraser. I duck for cover when I confess that I've never read the Gabaldon books.
4. Janga
Megan, I loved that Carla Kelly stood the rake-as-hero convention on its head in Libby's London Merchant. Of course, One Good Turn with the story of Nez's redemption is also one of my favorite Carla Kelly books.
Donna Cummings
5. Donna Cummings
Janga, I thought I was the only one who hadn't read the Gabaldon books either! We can duck for cover together. :)

I love your lists. I always end up learning of books I haven't heard of, as well as books that I've wondered about. I've got the last two books in my TBR pile already, so I feel like I'm ahead of the game for a change!
6. Janga
Thanks, Donna. I love making lists, and I love adding to TBR stacks. :)
You have a double treat in store for you with the Eloisa James and Vanessa Kelly books.

And I'm glad to have company ducking for cover. Admitting you haven't read certain books seems to make some people question your romance reader credentials. Gabaldon's books fall in that all-romance-readers-should-have-read group.
7. jsmom2
Janga and Donna, you are not alone! we can duck for cover together :) The Kenyon Dark-Hunters are another series I feel like I should duck and cover for when the conversation starts - tried Fantasy Lover but it just kept making me roll my eyes... maybe it's finally time for a re-try
Post a comment