Racing Pulses: Gender, Professionalism and Health Care in Medical Romance Fiction

Publication year
History Workshop Journal

Here's the abstract:

Following the foundation of the NHS in 1948, a new sub-genre of romantic fiction emerged: ‘Doctor–Nurse’ romances, usually involving romance between a male doctor and a female nurse, were set in NHS hospitals. Drawing on the Mills & Boon archive and the novels themselves, this article explores representations of the health service and notions of gendered healthcare professionalism in postwar Britain. I argue that rather than presenting ‘retrograde’ and ‘limited’ views of women’s lives, medical Mills & Boon novels frequently put forward nuanced versions of womanhood, professional identity, clinical labour, and the effective functioning of the welfare state.

A minor point re one of the tags: although it's not mentioned in the article, the author named as Betty Meijer is presumably the author who was published as Betty Neels. I believe her views about family size are also mentioned in McAleer's book about the history of Mills & Boon.

To accompany this article Arnold-Forster wrote a blog post titled "Falling in Love with the Past", explaining:

The history of work and how we feel about it is a key interest of mine and it is clear that many of the challenges people are currently facing are products not just of the pandemic, but of longstanding flaws in the way paid and unpaid labour is distributed between the genders and the ways in which women’s work is systematically devalued. Mid-century romance novels might, at first glance, seem like a strange place to look for the lineage of these flaws, but they and their authors offer intriguing insight into the world of women’s work and the effort that female workers – from all sorts of professions – must exert to maintain their positions and advance their careers.

It also contains more details about Elizabeth Gilzean. It is archived here: