Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

What is Romance?

By Susan Carlisle


Having tea in London with me

I recently received a questionnaire from Harlequin requesting I answer some questions for media proposes. I’m not a good questionnaire ‘filler outer.‘ I mess up on almost all medical forms in doctors’ offices. They always end up with big black marked out places on them. I’m not much better with IRS forms. Anyway, I wanted to do a good job this time.I filled in the pertinent info of who, what, when , where and why with no problem but the questions that stumped me were the personal ones about romance. I told my husband he was going to have to help me answer them. Now, before your mind goes to the gutter, that’s not what I was talking about. The question I was having the most difficulty with was this one: What is the most romantic thing ever done for you?

When I asked my husband what he thought was the most romantic thing he’d ever done for me, he just looked at me. The question hung in the air between us. Neither of us could remember anything. I finally came up with the time he cooked pheasant in wine sauce and dressing for me while we were dating. Not bad, but that was over thirty years ago!

Now, before you think how sad is that? I need to clarify. I’ve been married almost thirty years. We have four children. We’ve lived through some hair rising events together. We’ve traveled all over US and Europe together and still enjoy each other’s company. My husband still makes me laugh and I actually like him better now than when I married him. We understand each other. He lets me be me. I find that particularly romantic.

My book The Nurse He Shouldn’t Notice which is coming out in August is dedicated to my husband.  It reads:  To Andy, the Mr. Romance in my life. After what you’ve just learn you can understand why is a running joke in our house and between our friends.

After trying to remember the most romantic time in my life, I decide that I just have a different definition than the traditional one of roses, candlelight and fancy dinners. Romance to me is being supported and loved even when it is hard to do. It’s long term. Years and years worth. Romance is give and take, compromising and caring about the other person more than yourself. Romance is a man that will clean the baths because he knows you hate to do it.

Do you have a nontraditional definition of romance?  What do you find romantic?


16 thoughts on “What is Romance?”

  1. Great post, Susan…got me thinking. In our romance novels we tend to show the grand gestures and the process of two people falling in love with each other- but not how that love endures for the next twenty or thirty years. I guess I’ve always thought of romance as the beginning, but the way you describe it it is the middle and sharing the end too. I had to laugh when I came across that question in the survey, I always said I had the world’s least romantic husband- he never proposed, he rarely does flowers, he’s not a great emotional demonstrator- but 20 something years later he’s stuck with me through thick and thin (literally), we’re still happy and I couldn’t imagine my life without him. My answer to that question- what’s the most romantic thing anyone’s ever done for you? My husband facilitated and supported me to chase my dream. (Didn’t complain when I gave up the day job, or when he had to pick up more chores, or when I lived through four sets of revisions on the edge of my nerves- and a million other things that mean I can do what I do, be who I want to be). Can’t ask for more than that.

    1. Louisa,
      Our husbands must be in the same club. If my husband brings me flowers I have to wonder what he did wrong. I couldn’t ask for a more supportive one where my writing is concerned. The long haul does look romantic to me.

  2. FF here. My husband is NOT a Mr. Romance. For example, I have to tell him to buy flowers for my birthday. I could not do without him.

  3. Funnily enough I just read a short by Kate Hewitt called Comfort which is about a woman who has been married for years. He gives her back rubs. Romance doesn’t have to be flowers and grand gestures. It just has to remind you that the love is there.

  4. Great post, Susan! I think romance really does mean different thing to different people. After three dates, my hubby proposed to me in the parking lot of McDonalds, while we were in college. No big romantic scene or down-on-one-knee declarations of love. He’s ADHD so he tends to be impulsive like that. But you know, that’s what makes him special. When he blurts something out or impulsively does something sweet, I know it’s truly from the heart–that he just can’t hold it in. He’s not a roses and candlelight kind of guy, but that’s okay, because he gives me what I need most and supports my hopes and dreams. After 28 years of marriage, I think we might just make it.

    1. Tina,
      I love that a long marriage can start at a McDonalds. Your right, the way they are is what makes them special. If I want moonlight and wine I have to plan it. My husband will go along happily. That works too.

  5. I like your definition, Susan!
    You also made me think back to the time my husband and I were in Victoria, BC, Canada the weekend before the Queen was coming for a special 50th (something or other) celebration. We found out where she was having her tea the very next weekend, and I begged my hubby to go there and have high tea with me the Friday before she was due in on Sunday. He wasn’t thrilled about having high tea (I don’t think he knew what it was) but he agreed. He turned out to love it as much, if not more, than I did. We had a great afternoon at The Empress on the lovely island of Victoria in British Columbia, CA.

    Come to think of it – that was pretty romantic of him.

    P.S. I hate filling out questionnaires too, and got a gentle reminder notice just this morning. sigh

  6. Lynne.
    I love Afternoon Tea. I’ve not been to the Victoria but I plan to go the next time I’m nearby. My husband went to tea in London as the one concession in a two week WWII tour. That was the one thing I plan to do on the trip.

  7. Lovely post, Susan! I’ve been scratching my head over that questionnaire too (and so also have a gentle reminder…).

    I’m struggling to think of a ‘hearts and flowers’ moment, I don’t get flowers unless I buy them for myself either, but my Mr Romantic is pretty good at back rubs (and shoulder rubs – after a long stint at the keyboard). He takes me to see films that he hates (and even stays awake through some of them), leaves the last maple and pecan cookie behind in the tin for me (very important for domestic bliss in our household) and most of all, he believes in me, at times when I can’t believe in myself. Think I’ll keep him! 🙂

  8. My husband is neither the grand gestures kind of guy, nor is he the back rub, foot rub, cuddle kind of guy. But he has stuck by me through thick and thin and when you have a child with a disability that is saying a lot.

  9. Lol. I got stumped on that question too! My hubby is no Mr Romance. But yeh, I think romance is in the little things too rather than the grand gestures. Letting you lie in, getting up to the baby in th middle of the night. I think a lot of men are incapable of grand gestures and know it which is why they do what they can with the every day.

  10. This is great, Susan!!! I think this is the best kind of romance. I’m not a flowers and chocolates kind of girl and my husband knows that. Which makes it hard for him to buy me gifts. But I look back at the things he’s DONE for me and I LOVE those things a whole lot more than any candy that would have already been eater or flower that would have already died. Boy, that sounded terrible, didn’t it… Anyway, I love how you view romance. 🙂


  11. Great post, Susan! My DH and I have been married for 26 years and were together for 5 before that. And he’s not a great Mr Romance either! But I wouldn’t have him any other way because he’s the “safe place” in my life. We laugh together and I know I can depend on him in a tough situation. I love those things, they mean so much more than regular bunches of flowers and boxes of chocolates.

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