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Strong, successful – and in love

A nurse falling in love and into the arms of a doctor with a tortured soul and bedroom eyes may be the standard in medical romance novels.

But Dr. Amber Whitford wanted more for the heroine of her book, In Defense of the Past.

“I really wanted my medical romance novel to have the female as the physician. I really wanted my character to be independent, successful and kind of not need a man to save her. More a character who chose to have a partner in her life,” said the Red Deer obstetrician gynecologist and surgeon.

“I’ve been very fortunate in my life to work and be friends with many fabulous female physicians. It was easy to take everything I loved about them and incorporate them into a heroine.”

She even had the perfect name for her lead character — Kate.

“Out of my residency program, there was 15 of us and three were named Kate.”

Whitford, who is one of the three finalists in the Harlequin and Mills & Boon contest So You Think You Can Write!, didn’t start writing her book to enter it into the contest.

Having read romances since she was 16, Whitford imagined she would eventually send it to Harlequin, get rejected and just move on.

“My plan was just to print copies at Staples and mail them to my friends,” said the 32-year-old with a laugh.

When Whitford started writing last year, she didn’t think it would take too long.

She was familiar with the elements of the plot. She went with the adage “write what you know” and decided on a medical romance.

She said the “alpha male” was easy to create and she took what she liked most about the Harlequin heroes she’s read.

But two-thirds of the way through, on the advice of her longtime best friend and fellow romance junky, she did some major editing.

“I thought it would be much easier,” Whitford said about the process to pull together her tale.

“I had to go through it and cut a whole bunch and restart. She set me back on a better path.”

In the end, her novel had pathos and passion.

In Defense of the Past, surgeon Kate Spence is being sued for malpractice along with her colleague and former beau. The lawyer hired to defend them is the man who shattered her heart years ago and he’s out to win her back.

The top 25 contest finalists were chosen by public online voting and editors added three more to make it 28.

The second round of online voting at of the top three finalists ends on Tuesday.

The winner will be announced on Nov. 29 and will be offered a series contract and their book will be published in print and as an eBook.

Whitford said she’s received plenty of support in the form of votes from labour and delivery nurses. Patients who found out about In Defense of the Past since the media started asking questions have also offered their encouragement.

“I have gotten what I call the appropriate amount of teasing from some of my male surgical colleagues. But they have promised me they’ll vote as long as I make my next book about their various specialties.”

Whitford moved to Red Deer with her husband Dr. Kyle McKenzie, a pediatrician, in 2011.

She said it’s a great small city, easy to get around the community with all the amenities at hand.

“Red Deer is half way between Yellowknife and Calgary in my mind. I’m from Yellowknife and my husband is from Calgary. It’s either an hour-and-a-half drive to get on the plane to go home or it’s an hour-and-a-half drive to his parents.”

On the job, Whitford is busy delivering five to eight babies a week at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

She said writing a romance was as much fun as reading them. Making time to write meant juggling activities around her medical duties.

“My work and my patients come first but doing other activities outside of medicine is what makes you a better doctor because it keeps you more well-rounded and if it keeps you happier, I think you’re better in the office and better in the workplace.”

And it has been fun to see people’s reaction to “the adult moments” in her romance novel.

“It makes my mother blush.”



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