Author Tracey Richardson on the allure of medical romances and her new novel, “Thursday Afternoons”

What is it about medical romances that are a magnet to many readers, including me? Could it be because hospitals are a beehive of high drama? Places of death, healing, survival and revival, of beginnings and endings? A microcosm of all that humanity has to offer? Absolutely. You can’t get up close to any more “drama” than seeing a patient collapse with vital signs absent right in the emergency room waiting area (yes this happened to me this past summer while I was seeing about a shoulder injury). It truly was like an episode out of ER or Grey’s Anatomy.

Hospitals and doctors, not to mention CEOs and administrators, are a mysterious lot. They work in an insular world that’s hard to crack, but once you do, it’s incredibly fascinating. For several years I worked as a daily newspaper reporter covering the health beat. Which really meant sitting through a lot of board meetings, regularly combing through minutes of meetings and reports that were three inches thick (mostly boring!), and interviewing staff and the power brokers in government and at hospitals (not so boring!). Many times I got to wander the halls, got to see the newest diagnostic equipment, even nosed around an operating room once. Another time I stumbled across a surgeon telling a family their loved one had died on the table (shockingly exactly like what you see on TV).

And do you want to know a secret? About ninety percent of the truly fascinating stuff that happens in hospitals never gets out to the public. And do you know what else? Doctors and CEOs are people like the rest of us. They have bad days, they have good days, they work hard, they have failures and successes, they have home lives that are sometimes good and sometimes not good, they have interests outside of medicine (a radiologist I interviewed is an incredible painter of wildlife). They work in an environment under constant siege by governments and insurance companies that resist paying the burgeoning cost of the health care system, which is growing considerably thanks to an aging population and advances in treatments and diagnostics.

I hope readers, while enjoying a fun romance, will also enjoy a little inside peek at our health care system here in Canada, and that they find my main characters in Thursday Afternoons, Dr. Amy Spencer and Ellis Hall, come alive on the pages. What I really want is for Amy and Ellis to feel like real people. Real people with flaws and vulnerabilities and lots of humanity and humility.

I remember years ago interviewing a heart surgeon who had to interrupt our session to take a call from his son or daughter — a call in which he reminded them to take out the garbage and do the dishes. An interview with a hospital CEO sticks in my mind too, because she confessed that all she really wanted was for her parents to be proud of her. These are the people who run our hospitals and operate on patients, and these are exactly the kind of people I hope I’ve brought to the pages through Amy and Ellis!

Oh, and one last secret to unveil. Readers who enjoyed last year’s I’m Gonna Make You Love Me will be thrilled that a couple of characters from that novel have come back to life in Thursday Afternoons.


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