November 14 is World Diabetes Awareness Day, a holiday which means a lot to me because there are a number of diabetics in my family. Managing diabetes is a difficult, lifelong task exacerbated in many parts of the world by high cost of insulin and lack of access to health care.

Although diabetes used to be classified as “juvenile” and “adult-onset,” now it’s known as Type 1 and Type 2, both of which can occur at any age. It’s good to know signs and symptoms of diabetes, especially because they are easy to confuse with viral illness:

Diabetic protagonists are unusual in romance novels. I have added a tag for it (this tag only represents a diabetic main character; there are additional novels where the h/h is a caregiver for a child or parent with diabetes), but I don’t have many, and only a couple rise out of the B range.

Our reviewers recommended two different novels with diabetic main characters in our AAR Loves: Representation of Diabetes and Chronic Illness column.

Defender by Catherine Mann

Musician and Type 1 diabetic Chloe Nelson joined a USO tour to honor the soldier whose kidney Chloe received. She was not expecting a mysterious explosion on the ship taking her to perform in Turkey, nor a rescue by Captain Jimmy Gage. This romantic suspense novel is heavier on suspense than on romance, but Jimmy and Chloe are a great couple who refuse to let their mental and physical illnesses prevent them from trying to make a difference.

Will and Patrick Wake Up Married by Leta Blake and Alice Griffiths:

This is actually a seven-part serial that details the relationship between the handsome, ridiculously sweet Will – who, despite being the son of a mob boss, runs a charitable foundation – and Patrick, a brilliant neurosurgeon, who meets Will when he’s in the middle of a massive bender after his long-term boyfriend dumps him. It’s a funny, sexy romp of a story that isn’t without its deeper, darker moments and the two leads are terrific together.  Will is a type 1 diabetic, so the fact he’s an alcoholic is even more dangerous for him than it would be for most other people, and his diabetes features throughout the story as he has to test his blood and inject insulin regularly, watch what he eats and make sure he takes care of himself – which he doesn’t always do a very good job of. The romance is really well done as the couple goes from wanting to get divorced as soon as possible (there are Reasons they can’t do it straight away) to becoming friends and then more.  Because this was originally written as a serial, it’s possible to read a chunk at a time, but good luck with rationing it, because it’s really hard not to want to jump in to the next instalment right after finishing the current one!

Additionally, our database has two B-or-higher diabetic stories:

Semi-Scripted by Amanda Heger

Marisol Gutierrez travels to the U.S. to pitch a nonprofit at a grant conference. Evan Abramson is a struggling actor who meets her on a Price Is Right-esque game show and helps her go viral. Marisol is diabetic, and our reviewer noted, “the process of checking her insulin is both central to who she is and a complete afterthought, in the way it would be for anyone who lives with diabetes.”

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth (Note: this is a thriller, not a romance)

The Good Sister is about one of those symbiotic sibling relationships that is eerie and unhealthy to everyone but those who are participating in it.  Cheery Fern and controlled, sorrowful Rose are a single, breathing unit sometimes – they have been bound together since childhood by their mother’s apparent abuse, and by a secret that may or may not have branded Fern a murderer if it got out.

One disappointment? While I was searching our database for keywords “diabetes” or “diabetic,” I kept coming across sentences like this:

“Mostly the book is a diabetic’s nightmare.”

“I found myself rolling my eyes, grumbling about how unbelievable the story was, and looking for a place to lie down when I went into a diabetic coma.”

“the ending… should come complete with a warning for diabetics”

“The final chapter was so sickeningly sweet that I nearly fell into a diabetic coma.”

“It is all so loving and supportive and homey – I was afraid I’d have diabetes before the whole thing was over.”

Let’s not, okay? It’s neither kind nor medically accurate.

Here are a few other romances featuring protagonists with diabetes – although we haven’t reviewed them, so I can’t speak to their quality!

Do you know of any other romances starring diabetic protagonists? What about good books which may be outside the romance genre? Do you or a loved one have diabetes?

~ Caroline Russomanno

Caroline Russomanno
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I'm a history geek and educator, and I've lived in five different countries in North America, Asia, and Europe. In addition to the usual subgenres, I'm partial to YA, Sci-fi/Fantasy, and graphic novels. I love to cook.