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If You Like Books About Characters with Disabilities

Ridley offered to write up this list of books which she feels are a) good and b) portray people with disabilities inoffensively. You can find Ridley on Twitter (@_Ridley_), Goodreads and her tumblr blog.

As someone who uses a power wheelchair due to a neuromuscular disease, I have a personal interest in how authors use disability themes in their books. Over the past couple years I’ve read dozens of romances where one or both of the protagonists lives with some sort of disability. Unfortunately, I’ve found that most books are downright offensive in their portrayals of disability. Of all the books I’ve read, these are the only ones I’d recommend.

Heroes with Disabilities

Flowers from the StormFlowers From the Storm – Laura Kinsale
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/360259.Flowers_from_the_Storm

This is a bit of a cheap place to start, I admit. First of all, recommending this book is like recommending Nora Roberts, unless you live under a rock, chances are that you’ve read this already. Secondly, it deals with a temporary disability, although the hero never quite shakes off all the effects of his stroke. That said, I love this book’s take on dealing with a neurological disability. The parts of the book written from the hero’s POV are as clever as they are insightful, and pull the reader into his frustration and confusion with him. Where I think the book excels, though, is in how the hero never loses his dignity. He rages in frustration at others’ patronizing treatment of him, but retains his pride throughout. The heroine doesn’t save him, she provides the means for him to save himself. Few books with disabled characters manage to do this, and I appreciated it.

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Simple Jess - Pamela MorsiSimple Jess – Pamela Morsi
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/692935.Simple_Jess

Deprived of oxygen at birth when the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, the hero, Jess, lives with an intellectual disability, hence the nickname “Simple Jess.” Set in the early 20th c. Ozarks, this book manages one of my favorite portrayals of disability in romance. Jess is never used as a morality yardstick – you have no idea how many books separate the protagonists from the villains based on how they treat the disabled character – and is never the object of pity. He’s a dignified man who goes through life to the best of his ability. He sees how other people treat him, but never internalizes their patronization. For her part, the heroine never treats Jess any differently than she would treat anyone else. She doesn’t do Jess a favor by hooking up with him, she’s just drawn to the man who makes her a happy woman. It’s a great book full of wonderful characters.

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The Write Man for Her - Christie Walker BosThe Write Man for Her – Christie Walker Bos
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4315240-the-write-man-for-her

A commenter on Dear Author pointed me towards this one when I whined about how books make disability out to be a dreary, angst-ridden existence, and I really enjoyed it. While not flawless – it does feature a number of disability-theme cliches like his ex leaving him because of his injury, the presence of wheelchair sports and “normal” sex – I liked how the hero is just a man in a wheelchair. He’s an English professor, a basketball player, a good cook, and a handsome dude, leaving “wheelchair-user” and “paraplegic” refreshingly low on the character-definition totem pole. The heroine’s his student (It’s a non-degree, online course. They’re both divorcees and about the same age.) and sets out to make a move on “Professor Hottie” before she even knows he’s a wheelchair-user. It’s just a romance between two people, one of whom just so happens to sit in a chair.

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Lord Carew’s Bride - Mary BaloghLord Carew’s Bride – Mary Balogh
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/227636.Lord_Carew_s_Bride_Signet_Regency_Romance_
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6545729-dark-angel-lord-carew-s-bride

Although the author clearly uses the hero’s disability – a limp and diminished dexterity in one hand – for a blatant “seeing beneath the surface” allegory, the lack of angst over his body or sense that the heroine is doing the hero a favor by digging him saves the book for me. It’s such a cute story about two people finding the best friend they didn’t know they had that I’ll forgive Balogh the ham-fisted appropriation. Despite her best efforts, it’s not actually a story about ignoring someone’s “flaws.”

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A Man Like Mac - Fay RobinsonA Man Like Mac – Fay Robinson
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2284185.A_Man_Like_Mac

Oh I loved this one! An Olympic-level distance runner comes back to her college running coach for help rehabbing after an accident. He’s seen the medical reports and knows she has no chance of competing again, but agrees to help figuring he’s in a unique position to help someone adjust to a life changed by injury. Mac’s just a great character. He’s perfectly adjusted to his paraplegia, continues with his career in college athletics, has meaningful friendships (lord save me from sad, disabled loners in romance) and is just your typical straight man. He’s not some sad wretch the heroine deigns to love, he’s her salvation. It’s out of print and not in ebook, but Amazon has a ton of used copies for cheap. Totally worth tracking down.

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Heroines with Disabilities

These stories are the hardest to find. A heroine with a disability almost invariably is a sad, helpless martyr thrown into a story merely as fodder for the caretaker alpha sort of story. It’s not an accident that there are only three heroines with disabilities on my list and they’re books I still have reservations about.

What a Scoundrel Wants - Carrie LoftyWhat a Scoundrel Wants – Carrie Lofty
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3225515-what-a-scoundrel-wants

This is the strongest portrayal of a disabled heroine I’ve read so far. The blind heroine in the novel is not only not helpless, she’s a talented chemist with a penchant for explosives. The hero is Will Scarlet and this medieval-ish Robin Hood retelling is a fun sort of swashbuckling read. It does have the heroine rape the hero and a bit of an info dump problem, though. The book was a debut novel, and it shows.

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Out of the Blue - Sally MandelOut of the Blue – Sally Mandel
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1981887.Out_of_the_Blue

This one’s not really a romance novel so much as a novel with a romance. It’s the story of the heroine finally coming to terms with a diagnosis of MS. It’s told in the first person and follows the heroine going through life as a 28-year old private school teacher in New York five years after her diagnosis. When she meets a man who makes his interest in her known, the life she thought she was comfortable with starts to confuse her. It’s an interesting look at someone finally accepting that she needs the help loved ones offer, but the martyrish “I don’t want to be a burden” theme really grated on me. The hero and the heroine’s foul-mouthed mother calling the heroine out on her BS helped, though.

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Samantha’s Cowboy - Marin ThomasSamantha’s Cowboy – Marin Thomas
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7101554-samantha-s-cowboy

This one’s complicated to rec. The heroine deals with nightmares and memory problems after head trauma incurred as a teenager. Her wealthy family has provided for her every need, but as a 32 year-old woman she’s desperate to break out on her own and live the independent life she knows she’s capable of. She’s a great character with a wonderfully healthy outlook. She’s aware of her limits but is prepared to work around them. She’s sick of being treated like a child by well-meaning friends and family and is ready to put in the work to prove to herself and others that she can run her own life. Unfortunately, she’s a great character trapped in a mediocre book. It has a wicked case of series-itis, an overly precocious child character and a flimsy deception-based conflict that goes on a bit too long. I can recommend it for the heroine, but the book’s nothing special.

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Now, I know the next step with these has the commenters leave their recommendations. I’m just going to warn you kids, though, that if you suggest Phantom Waltz, I’m going to unfriend you on Goodreads and block you on Twitter.

Here’s (http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/2543252-ridley?format=html&shelf=disabled-h-h) my shelf of books with disabled characters if you’d like to check them out to see what I don’t like or what I plan to buy.

If you’d like to author an “If You Like” please email jane at dearauthor.com. These are very useful to the community.

Guest Reviewer

133 Comments

  1. Keishon
    May 07, 2012 @ 10:34:06

    I was just about to ask if you had ever read Sandra Canfield’s Night Into Day. I see it’s on your bookshelf to read. Thanks for the recommendations. I have the Mandel book from way back. I am off to locate the rest. Thank You.

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  2. Angela
    May 07, 2012 @ 10:37:49

    *crawls out from under rock* I’ve never read Kinsale, though I have been meaning to. I’ll definitely grab that one.

    Thanks for this list! Disabilities are not usually handled well in novels, so having a good place to start is awesome. The few I’ve read have made me gun-shy to try others because they handled it so badly it pissed me off.

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  3. MD
    May 07, 2012 @ 10:52:48

    I read “Samantha’s Cowboy” after it was recommended in the comments. I agree in general with Ridley’s assessment – great heroine, mediocre book. Though I would like to add, I thought that the hero’s reaction to her disability was handled poorly. The Samantha struck me as real: someone who dealt with trauma, who found ways to compensate for her disability and is generally well-adjusted, but who has insecurities related to it and worries about how it will affect a long-term relationship.

    But the resolution was a big cop-out, in my opinion. It tried to give the very positive message that people can adapt, and this includes both those with disability and the people who love them; and that “able-bodied” people are not perfect and can make mistakes. But in a rush to that conclusion it overlooked the real issues. The hero “accepts” the heroine after knowing her for only a week, and after they deal with a problem to which her disability contributed, but which could have equally happened to anyone, disability or not. In real life, I have relationships that adapted, but also relationships where people had the best intentions, thought they could deal with various limitations, but in the end didn’t. IMHO the book failed to make the case that the hero really knows the heroine and the challenges they would face, and is prepared to deal with them. I felt it was all dismissed under “uh, everyone forgets sometimes”, a common (and very frustrating) reaction to such disabilities which ignores the real toll of living with them, even for the most well-adjusted people.

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  4. Kate Pearce
    May 07, 2012 @ 11:01:13

    As the mum of a disabled kid I found Katherine Sutcliffe’s ‘Whitehorse’ to be a great portrayal of what it’s like to have a child with cerebral palsy-and a great angsty romance novel as well. :)

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  5. Moviemavengal
    May 07, 2012 @ 11:03:29

    I notice The Perfect Scandal (Scandal, #3) by Delilah Marvelle is on your to-be-read list. I just read it and enjoyed it very much. I met the author at RT after she gave a talk on the history of sex (including a picture of a 28,000 year old dildo).

    I had no idea going in that the heroine was an amputee, and was pleased at how it was no issue at all for the hero.

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  6. Kris Bock
    May 07, 2012 @ 11:08:18

    Thanks for this. I am writing a book with a hero who had his hand amputated, so it’s helpful to see the kinds of things that worked and didn’t for you.

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  7. harthad
    May 07, 2012 @ 11:16:53

    It’s not a romance, but Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Warrior’s Apprentice is a science fiction adventure with a disabled hero, Miles Vorkosigan. Long story short, he was born with a condition that makes his bones extremely fragile. It’s primarily a coming of age story; amidst all the adventure, Miles is still a teenager struggling with issues like meeting family expectations and having a hopeless crush on a childhood friend. I like the way Bujold portrays his attitude about his circumstances: he’s smart, funny, and sometimes bitter, but absolutely determined to make a way for himself in a society that values only the warrior ethic.

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  8. MD
    May 07, 2012 @ 11:22:28

    @harthad: I second the recommendation for Miles Vorkosigan. And when he gets to have his own romance (in “Komarr”/”A Civil Campaign”), it’s awesome, too.

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  9. Meagan
    May 07, 2012 @ 11:28:26

    Dancing in the Moonlight (first on your list, I see) is the one that first came to mind for me. I didn’t hate it, but I don’t remember adoring it either. I know the heroine was prickly about her leg (but it had just happened a few months before the start of the book, and she was coming back to a working ranch, so I can see how she would be prickly), but the hero seemed to treat her (from what I can remember) as a normal person. Just a guy trying to help a gal get back on her feet after getting out of the military. I think I was a bit annoyed with his forcefulness (alpha male, ew), but then again, she was extremely stubborn, so I suppose it’s somewhat allowable!

    The other book that comes to mind is one that I can’t remember the name or author of (a sort of HaBO, if this were SATB). It’s an inspirational romance that I read in high school when I was more into that sort of book. The hero is a blind piano player, well known. The heroine is a cop with major childhood abuse issues. It takes place in Colorado (maybe Denver, maybe a small town??? no clue about that). The heroine has lots of nightmares about a dragon (her abuser). I’m pretty sure it was second or third in a series. Anywho, the hero has absolutely no issues with being blind, and I’m pretty sure everyone treats him normally. I couldn’t tell you how good the book is. I loved it when I read it, but my tastes have changed a LOT since then!

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  10. Gwen Hayes
    May 07, 2012 @ 11:30:43

    It’s disheartening to see that while you have recs…they weren’t without reservation. What a giant hole we have in our genre…well, probably every genre.

    Sometimes, I read the news and get upset because I don’t understand how or why people can still be bigots and racists in this century, and then I feel hopeless. But after some careful consideration the last few weeks, I realize that I actually do have some power to make changes…I just haven’t been using it very well.

    As a reader, I can seek out books with people who have different skin color than I have, and different challenges than I face. As a writer, I have even more sway. The key to a successful diverse culture is to find what is the same amidst the differences without homogenizing those differences… or worse, stereotyping them.

    It’s a challenge, but one worth taking.

    Also, I loved the Kinsale book.

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  11. Meagan
    May 07, 2012 @ 11:32:14

    Also, I so third the Vorkosigan books. I actually started with A Civil Campaign and had no problems getting into the book, so if you want to go to the straight romance book, feel free to just read that one (actually, read the Komarr book first, then AAC–it is a two-book romance and super sweet)! But yes, the handicap is a major issue. On Miles’s home planet, handicaps of any sort are majorly looked down on (when he was born, many women were still killing their newborns if they were born with any disfigurements), so him even being alive is amazing . . . and he does some very amazing things just as a person (partially to prove himself and partially because that’s just his personality).

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  12. Cathy B
    May 07, 2012 @ 11:33:11

    Here’s a few of my favorites:

    Miles in Love by Lois McMaster Bujold. It’s part of a far-future science fiction series with a protagonist who is a charismatic, hyperactive, genius little person with brittle-bones. You should really start earlier in the series, but this is the core romance part of it. It’s my favorite series in general, and Miles in particular is one of my favorite characters in all of book-dom.

    Candle in the Window by Christina Dodd. Medieval romance with a blind heroine. Actually, the hero is blind, too, now that I think about it. RITA award winner.

    Seeing Eye by Patricia Briggs in the Strange Brew Anthology. Short story paranormal romance/adventure between a blind witch and scarred werewolf. Set in Seattle, it features secondary characters from her Alpha and Omega series.

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  13. Olivia Charles
    May 07, 2012 @ 11:35:49

    Mary Balogh also has a contempory story about a deaf womanm, Silent Melody. The emotions in this book are outstanding.

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  14. Bethany
    May 07, 2012 @ 11:36:05

    An Accidental Woman by Barbara Delinsky has a great romance between the main heroine, who is in a wheelchair, and a charming man who woos her. It’s techincally a sequel to Delinsky’s Lake News, but I think you could easily read it as a standalone.

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  15. Olivia Charles
    May 07, 2012 @ 11:38:50

    @Olivia Charles: Sorry, its not a contempory story, but set in the 1700s. My apologies.

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  16. Sirius
    May 07, 2012 @ 11:46:18

    @Meagan: Another voice for Miles Vorkosigan books :). I love them so very much and A Civil Campaign is one of the best hehe.

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  17. Miss_Thing
    May 07, 2012 @ 12:19:33

    I’d be curious to know if anyone’s read a romance with a protagonist who has a history of mental illness and if so, how that was handled. (By mental illness I mean bi-polar disorder, severe depression, OCD, or even the most challenging IMHO, schizophrenia).

    I also strongly, strongly recommend the Miles Vorkosigan series. Lois McMaster Bujold is awesome! I suggest starting with Shards of Honor, which tells the story of Miles’ parents and the circumstances of his birth.

    Thanks for taking the time to write this up, Ridley!

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  18. jmc
    May 07, 2012 @ 12:21:40

    Another vote here for Miles Vorkosigan. He’s one of my favorite characters across any genre.

    In terms of heroines with disabilities, Ridley, have you read the Joanna Bourne spy novel with the disabled heroine? Opinion?

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  19. Sophydc
    May 07, 2012 @ 12:30:10

    @Miss_Thing:
    Barrayar is the sequel to Shards of Honor that has Miles’ birth circs. They are both excellent.

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  20. Brie
    May 07, 2012 @ 12:30:47

    A heroine with a disability almost invariably is a sad, helpless martyr thrown into a story merely as fodder for the caretaker alpha sort of story.

    You mean like in Catherine Anderson’s Phantom Waltz? That book makes me stabby.

    All the recs sound great, Out of the Blue in particular. Unfortunately is not available as ebook, I’ll make sure to see if I can find it on the library. Great post!

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  21. Jill Myles
    May 07, 2012 @ 12:35:57

    I really loved Juliet Mariller’s HEART’S BLOOD. Like FFTS, it features a hero who has had a stroke, and even though it’s a Beauty/Beast retelling, he doesn’t get ‘magically hot’ at the end and isn’t insta-cured or anything like that.

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  22. Karen
    May 07, 2012 @ 12:36:13

    The Portrait by Megan Chance – the hero has a bipolar disorder

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  23. Jill Sorenson
    May 07, 2012 @ 12:47:51

    I was really looking forward to one of Brenda Joyce’s historicals in which the hero lost a leg in a war. Maybe it was an arm. I can’t remember how his disability was handled or anything else about the book. It just didn’t work for me. So there’s an anti-rec.

    Linda Howard and Sandra Brown have both written category romances with *temporarily* disabled heroes. I enjoyed them but wouldn’t say that the potrayals are positive. In Howard’s book, the hero is impotent–or claims to be. At the end he admits to the heroine that he could get it up the whole time. For some reason that made me mad. It undid the sympathy I felt for his struggle and undermined the whole story.

    I wish I could recommend something. The only thing I can think of is a movie, The Waterdance. I’m pretty much ignorant of disabled issues but I thought this was hilarious and well done.

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  24. Meri
    May 07, 2012 @ 12:53:57

    Ridley, I noticed you gave Balogh’s Simply Love three stars – did you have an issue with how the hero’s disability was portrayed, or was it something else?

    @Miss_Thing: The hero of Courtney Milan’s Trial By Desire has what today would be diagnosed as bipolar disorder.

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  25. Carrie
    May 07, 2012 @ 13:03:09

    I have a PTSD shelf on goodreads. Several that I thought were well done were “Snowbound” by Janice Kay Johnson, “Beau Crusoe” by Carla Kelly, “Butterfly Tattoo” by Deidre Knight, and “All Through the Night” by Connie Brockway.

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  26. Darlynne
    May 07, 2012 @ 13:03:34

    @Miss_Thing: A number of years ago, Abigail Padgett wrote a mystery series about Bo Bradley, a San Diego child abuse investigator, who is manic depressive. Someone in Padgett’s family was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and her experience informed these books with an honest and understanding reality (it’s in my family, too). She felt compelled to address misconceptions and ignorance about major psychiatric disorders.

    Bo struggles daily with the unwanted-but-necessary medication, with the worry that what she sees is real or a figment of oncoming mania, and with the impossibly hard work of protecting children. She also has a romantic relationship that, iirc, is very satisfying and supportive.

    Child of Silence, for which Ms. Padgett won numerous awards, is the first book in the series. It’s on sale at Amazon right now for $2.99, free for Prime members. Her website is http://abigailpadgett.wordpress.com/ and, interestingly, she talks about this series and mental illness in her February 2012 post.

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  27. Pallavi
    May 07, 2012 @ 13:20:51

    How about “The Morning Side of Dawn” by Justine Davis. The hero is in a wheelchair with both his legs amputated and the heroine is a supermodel. Justine Davis’s books are usually very good and this one was a tear-jerker.

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  28. Kelly
    May 07, 2012 @ 13:58:21

    @Miss_Thing:

    If you do m/m romance, try Moving in Rhythm by Dev Bentley (hero has several social anxiety disorder and panic attacks, and there’s actually discussion of a therapist and meds!) or A Private Gentleman by Heidi Cullinan (hero has severe stutter with associated crowd anxiety and panic attacks).

    For m/f – earlier this year, Jayne reviewed A Claustrophobic Christmas – she loved it and I *adored* it. It’s absolutely hilarious and spot-on with the phobia quirks.

    I also found a pretty good m/f freebie from Smashwords called Lucky in Love by Cari Hislop. Hero has OCD – he counts things, and it’s actually both funny and moving – except he’s also a crybaby. You just have to read it, I can’t explain how or why it actually works.

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  29. Kelly
    May 07, 2012 @ 14:00:38

    @Darlynne:

    Oooh, thanks for this, Darlynne – I’m downloading the sample right now!

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  30. Ridley
    May 07, 2012 @ 14:09:33

    @Pallavi: I don’t want to be a crab and shoot down every book people suggest that I hated, but I really hated The Morning Side of Dawn. It’s one small step below Phantom Waltz on the offensive scale.

    I reviewed it at length here if you want to know the why behind my hate boner for that book.

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  31. thetroubleis
    May 07, 2012 @ 14:18:46

    I also liked Candle in the Window, but I read it years ago, so I may have forgotten some problematic elements.

    Does anyone have recs of heroines with mental illnesses? Most of what I’ve seen involves the hero, in order to give him that “tortured loner,” bad boy vibe, which I find pretty annoying. I only wish mental illness made you a badass, my life would be so much cooler.

    This may be a little off topic, but I really wish more historical novels would deal with the very real threat of institutionalization for people with disabilities. Not that that isn’t an issue today, many people had the opinion that my parents should have me put away, but I digress. Still, I can only think of 3 that do and I constantly seek out books that feature PWDs, so that seems like a rather low number.

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  32. Ridley
    May 07, 2012 @ 14:40:53

    @jmc: If you refer to The Spymaster’s Lady, I don’t count that as a character with a disability since she regains her sight halfway through the book.

    I see that a lot with blind heroines in particular, and I really don’t like how it implies that blindness and a life of happiness are mutually exclusive.

    @Brie: When you said Out of the Blue wasn’t in ebook, I was surprised, since I read it in ebook a few years ago. But, you’re right, no one’s selling it in ebook and the paper book is out of print. If you want to DM me your email via Twitter or Goodreads, I can send you my copy, if your moral code allows that sort of thing.

    @Meri: I just thought Simply Love was a weak book. It was drowning in Bedwyns, the romantic conflict was flimsy as wet tissue and the ending was so neat it was sterile. I really enjoyed Syd when he was in A Summer to Remember, but his own book was painfully “meh.”

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  33. Lark
    May 07, 2012 @ 14:41:25

    I really enjoyed Mary Balogh’s “Simply Love,” though I see you gave it only three stars. Although only the hero is disabled (lacking an arm after being captured and tortured in the Peninsula), both he and the heroine are wounded in spirit, and are able to help each other heal.
    I also recommend Robyn Carr’s contemporary novel, “Paradise Valley”, part of her Virgin River series. (It helps to have read the previous books, though you can skip “A Virgin River Christmas” as it doesn’t intersect very much.) Rick Sudder is a young Marine who loses his leg in Iraq; he comes home angry at the world and fiercely determined to keep everyone at bay, even his highschool sweetheart, Liz, with whom he has a lot of history. (Hence the advice to read the previous books — especially the first two.) I’m no expert on this stuff, but it felt to me as though the author had done her research, and handled the characters and the issues sensitively and realistically.

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  34. Wahoo Suze
    May 07, 2012 @ 14:59:01

    One of my first e-book purchases was Shell Shocked by Angelia Sparrow and Naomi Brooks. It’s an m/m between an army vet with damaged legs and PTSD and a civilian who’s had both legs amputated. It seems to hit a lot of my likey buttons, because I re-read it a couple of times a year.

    They meet at their clinic and help each other out with their various difficulties. Their poverty is almost more of a disability than their disabilities are. Anyway, I really enjoyed it.

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  35. Ridley
    May 07, 2012 @ 15:02:19

    @thetroubleis: I cannot even begin to explain how afraid I’d be to read a romance featuring a heroine with a mental illness. I’ve seen the angsty, mopey mess they generally make of the fairly common and understood physical disabilities, and can’t imagine the horror show they’d make out of the far more misunderstood mental illness.

    Heroines tend to reflect how the author sees herself in the world, so I’d want to know that the author had dealt with it herself before I’d brave a book with it. I’ve had enough author projecting their own biases through their heroines to last several lifetimes.

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  36. Carrie
    May 07, 2012 @ 15:07:58

    @jmc: Do you mean the blind heroine in The Spymaster’s Lady? If so, I listened to the audio version and it was wonderful. The narrator is great. I wish all Bourne’s books were on audio.

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  37. Carrie
    May 07, 2012 @ 15:19:17

    @Ridley: A writer may not have to have struggled with mental illness herself. Dealing with it in family and loved ones can give you a lot of knowledge and insight. I sometimes think I have enough experience with OCD, depression, GAD, panic attacks and PTSD from family members dealing with those things to be able to write authenticity and compassion. If I could write, which I can’t, so I won’t even try.

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  38. Tamara Hogan
    May 07, 2012 @ 15:38:05

    Okay, confession time. Miles Vorkosigan is #2 on my all-time “Romantic Heroes To Do” list. (After Roarke, of course.)

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  39. MD
    May 07, 2012 @ 15:39:18

    I am not Ridley, but “Simply Love” is a 3 star for me as well. I think that if I didn’t have a chronic illness, it would have been a 5 star. But living with my own pain and limitations really changed my perspective.

    I struggle to put it in words precisely why, but “Simply Love” tends to leave me very depressed. The spiritual healing aspect is a good feature. But at the same time the disabled hero seems to be inhumanly perfect. Not only did he survive horrific torture, he came back, defied everyone’s expectations, and overcame impossible odds and paid to be able to do things like riding. The only thing he does not do is painting, and even that seems to be more because he thinks he won’t do it as well as he used to.

    It drives me crazy because it’s supposed to be inspirational, but it is not for me. I live with daily pain, and I cannot overcome it to return to many of my normal activities. I live a full life, but it involves constant adjustments, compromises and asking others for help and accommodation. I cannot grit my teeth every day against pain and just go on.

    I guess in comparison Samantha in Samantha’s Cowboy seems real and strong because the author shows how she works to compensate for her disabilities and live with them. And Miles Vorkosigan in Bujold’s books, too, has explicit ways to get around his problems, and none of them are perfect or easy. In “Simply Love” it’s just “work very hard until you can do the same things you could do before disability”, and I somehow feel that I should be able to do the same thing in my life, and then depressed when I realise that I cannot.

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  40. Estara
    May 07, 2012 @ 15:40:42

    If you’ve read them, Ridley, what do you think of Colleen McCullough’s Tim and Christina Dodd’s Candle in the Window (which I have a feeling might be more to your taste in it’s portrayal of the blind heroine).

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  41. Maili
    May 07, 2012 @ 15:42:00

    @thetroubleis:

    There is a English-set historical romance that featured heroine, daughter of a titled couple, who was abandoned to a poorhouse soon after she was born with a “clawlike hand” with a couple of fingers missing (author didn’t specify in the story, but there were a lot of hints that heroine had ectrodactyly) and throughout the story, various characters saw and described it as ‘the devil’s hoof’ and treated her accordingly.

    Hero, for reasons I can’t remember now, tracked her down and brought her to his place. I think he intended to dress her up and use her against her own family? But he discovered heroine was so institutionalised that she was completely out of depth. So a considerable chunk of the story was spent on him forcing himself to introduce her to the ‘normal’ way of life. As she slowly adjusted, she began to realise the significance of her hand, e.g. how the “respectable” see her hand, she had to deal with the unexpected shame and whatnot. While hero and heroine did have their HEA, there was a strong implication that the heroine’s psychological and social adjustments outside the poorhouse would last the rest of their lives.

    It was the first and last time I’d come across an earnest attempt to portray the effects of institutionalisation on a person and – as I felt at the time – historically appropriate attitudes to an unusual physical disability. Of course, I can’t remember author’s name and book title. It was written during the 1990s, though. I’m reasonable sure her first name is Susannah. Or Susan, even. In spite of that awesome portrayal, the romance department wasn’t that good, though. Mostly because the hero was a high-handed tosspot.

    There is another – a Victorian-era London-set romance, published by Zebra Lovegram – with heroine who was institutionalised against her will by her family after her emotional breakdown. But I think this was forgotten after she blackmailed hero – who was touring the place – into smuggling her out. Oh! Her hair was shorn short as part of the asylum’s policy. At least that’s something. :D

    Otherwise, yeah, it’s usually heroes who are found in asylums or similar.

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  42. Ridley
    May 07, 2012 @ 15:58:44

    @Estara: I have read neither, so I’m no use.

    @MD: That’s why I liked Syd a lot more in ASTR than in Simply Love. In ASTR, he was allowed to actually be disabled, since he wasn’t the hero. Balogh seemed to think that accepting his limitations wasn’t heroic enough, even though he could ride a damned horse single-handedly, so she waved the authorial magic wand and made everything perfect. The book was 110% fairy-tale wish fulfillment for both characters, which I thought cheapened the experience of people like them.

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  43. Maili
    May 07, 2012 @ 16:00:24

    I feel bad for not making any recs, so here goes:

    - Nicole Camden’s novella, The Nekkid Truth (part of anthology ‘Big Guns Out of Uniforms’). An accident left crime scene photographer heroine with prosopagnosia. This means she can’t recognise faces including her own and her loved ones.

    - Megan Chance’s NYC-set historical romance, The Portrait. Have no doubt, this one has some flaws but I feel it’s a decent dark, gritty tale of bipolar hero and idealistic heroine. Two readers I know who have experiences – one liked it but with mild reservations (she didn’t quite believe in their HEA as she didn’t think heroine could handle it for life) and the other didn’t like it that much as she felt Chance had glamorised hero to the point where he was merely ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’. FWIW, anyway.

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  44. meoskop
    May 07, 2012 @ 16:21:50

    Regarding Balogh’s Silent Melody – doesn’t the heroine regain some hearing? I used to know a few deaf people and they loathed that book.

    For heroines with mental illness – the first one that came to mind for me is OOP and I haven’t read it since it’s release – but Billie Green had one. Can’t remember if it was To See The Daisies… First or the one right before that. Anyone recall?

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  45. MD
    May 07, 2012 @ 16:26:10

    @Ridley: Ah, Ridley, I think you put it so much better that I did! You are right, “Simply Love” feels like the Syd is not allowed to be disabled and accept his limitations, that he has to overcome them all in order to live a good life. Like you say, cheapens the experience of people like him, and also feels depressing to someone who has accept them (and I live a good and fulfilling life, thank you very much, as I recently told someone who asked of whether I think I will ever get well enough to fulfill my dreams)

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  46. Melissa
    May 07, 2012 @ 16:34:44

    @jmc:
    @Carrie:
    Both The Spymaster’s Lady by Joanna Bourne and Yours Until Dawn by Teresa Madeiros feature a protagonist who is blind due to head trauma until (I think) a clunk on the head restores her (TSL) and his (YUD) sight. Is this a cliche or what? Yet I enjoyed both reads. Although I thought both authors were trying to do interesting things with their plots rather than “fix” a protagonist, I thought both stories would have been more interesting (to me, anyway) if the blindness had persisted.

    As far as how the authors handled the disability, the heroine of The Spymaster’s Lady adjusted to her blindness largely offstage. She had a larger-than-life, super-hero quality that made for exciting reading but was probably not representative of the experience of being blind. The hero of Yours Until Dawn was holed up in the family’s country estate resolutely not adjusting to life as a blind person until the heroine showed up to act as a nurse who couldn’t be bullied away. The hero’s struggles at coming to terms with blindness did not seem unrealistic, but it seemed like his cure came almost simultaneous with his acceptance of his condition; again, it would have been nice to spend more time with him once he learned to value himself as a blind person. I would not rec either of these books on the basis of how they dealt with a disability, but I found both of them entertaining. I should add the disclaimer that it’s been a while since I read either book, so it’s entirely possible that the mists of time have obscured details!

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  47. Amber
    May 07, 2012 @ 16:40:49

    I also loved the Kinsale book (well, there are very few people who don’t, I think). I also loved her Shadow and the Star for her dignified handling of an abuse victim. She is in a class by herself.

    You guys have verbalized some of my own reservations about Simply Love. I still think it was a good book, but not one of Balogh’s best. Carew’s Bride was great.

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  48. Susan
    May 07, 2012 @ 17:06:29

    Stolen Moments by Barbara J. Fischer has a heroine who has systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). It’s on the dark/bittersweet side, so it was never a reread for me. (But I have SLE and found that I really don’t want to read about people w/ the condition, or similar conditions. It just irritates and/or depresses me. This is why Canfield’s book is also problematic for me, even tho it’s a pretty good book/portrayal of RA.)

    Someone’s probably already mentioned Teresa Medeiros’s Yours Until Dawn. Since the hero eventually recovers his sight it probably doesn’t qualify for your list. But I liked it because of the way the hero handled his disabilty, which was not well at all (until the heroine came onto the scene and “rescued” him). I found his anger and bad behavior very believable.

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  49. Melissa
    May 07, 2012 @ 17:06:39

    I hope this is not too far off topic, but did anyone else hate Judy Blume’s Deenie? I have scoliosis and got a Milwaukee brace in 6th grade. By that time any medical info in the book was out of date. Deenie’s feelings in the book were nothing like my own feelings about wearing a brace, and the problems I did have with other people’s perceptions of me were quite different than Deenie’s problems. But I think I really hated the book because every girl in my class read it and had to talk about the book with me and tell me how she understood what I was going through. THAT irritated the hell out of me. I have never been able to bring myself to reread that book, though I wonder if it would come across more sympathetically to me now that I don’t have to explain to my peers that I am not Deenie.

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  50. Lauren
    May 07, 2012 @ 17:06:47

    England’s Perfect Hero by Suzanne Enoch featured a war veteran who suffered from PTSD, fairly badly, and When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James had a gentleman that throughout the entire book I pictured Dr. House, with the bad limp and cane. At the end of the book Eloisa wrote a little blurb saying that her character was taken from the show.

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  51. Ridley
    May 07, 2012 @ 17:23:12

    I don’t count books where the disability goes away because 1. that’s not how life works 2. they’re offensive as all get out. You can swear to me that the book makes it believable, but the only message that book sends is that disability is an inherent obstacle to happiness and said disability makes a person less than whole.

    Screw that trope and the horse it rode in on. Authors who write those stories can piss off.

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  52. Sarah
    May 07, 2012 @ 17:24:27

    Based on one of Jane’s Twitter recs, I read Mouth to Mouth by Erin McCarthy and really loved it (I don’t see it on here yet, but if it is, forgive me!). The heroine is deaf, but she doesn’t allow it to define who she is. Excellent chemistry between her and the cop hero.

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  53. Darlynne
    May 07, 2012 @ 17:24:42

    @Kelly: If you say a book is hilarious, I am all over that. Thanks!

    In general, I think crime fiction deals with everything–anything–differently and more readily than does romance. I know I’ve read other mysteries that have characters with disabilities and I’ll come back to this thread if I ever manage to remember them.

    If you were looking for the most seriously, emotionally-troubled character in a crime novel, you would look no further than Ken Bruen’s Jack Taylor. The Dublin-based former Garda, who first appears in The Guards, is so broken and wounded, and still one of the noblest souls I’ve ever encountered, fictional or otherwise. I don’t know how much of Bruen is in Taylor, but possibly both of them have devils on their back.

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  54. Moriah Jovan
    May 07, 2012 @ 17:32:46

    With regard to The Portrait (which I ADORED), he was screwed up, yes. Genuinely so. But so was she. She was an insecure codependent looking for and in need of a bipolar addict to take care of, and in this case, the bipolar addict’s immediate and total belief in the insecure codependent’s worth as a human and, by the way, beauty that only he could see but make others see through his art was exactly what the insecure codependent needed.

    It’s a psychiatrist’s nightmare coupling, but it worked. Though I had no doubt they would both face innumerable troubles for their lives, they were strong together, whereas alone, each was a wreck looking for a train to throw themselves in front of.

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  55. thetroubleis
    May 07, 2012 @ 17:32:54

    @ Ridley @Ridley:
    Eh, I figure if fanfic authors can get it right, it’s not too much for me to expect at least one person writing original romance to be able to do so. I expect a lot of people to mess it up and like you, I don’t trust most non mentally ill people to do it justice, no matter how many mentally ill people they know. I still hold out some hope of someday seeing some positive representation, and not just of the conditions that make a heroine seem “fragile.”

    @Maili: That sounds really interesting. Geez, I wish I had the title of it, becuase it sounds like something I might enjoy. I understand the urge to tidy up the past, but I honestly think it does a disservice to readers along with getting rid of things that could be really good sources of conflict.

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  56. Carrie
    May 07, 2012 @ 18:34:05

    I don’t believe that authors can’t write a disability or a mental illness with compassion and accuracy unless they’ve personally lived it. Actors have to act these parts, and many have done it extremely well (My Left Foot), and someone had to write that screen play. Books, movies, plays, they’ve all been done, and sometimes done very well, written directed and acted by people who haven’t personally experienced the conditions they portray. Writers of romance could do it, too, if they did the research needed. I’m pretty sure the author of A Man Like Mac is not in a wheelchair, but that’s a very powerful book. To totally dismiss an author’s ability to write a good story on the basis that they haven’t lived their character’s life would mean we’d have to throw out 100% of our historical romances, 100% of our PNR, and most of all the others. And should a woman really be writing m/m fiction?

    I get that it’s difficult and challenging t0 write about mental disabilities, but it’s been done (A Beautiful Mind) and can be done again. And honestly, to dismiss a person’s experience, such as my experience with family members, as “not good enough” is downright crappy. Especially when no one here knows what that experience is..

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  57. Keishon
    May 07, 2012 @ 18:49:58

    Writers can write what they want. Whether anybody reads it or not is another story. I’ve always felt that if an author tackles a serious topic dealing with a disability or health condition: they need to do it right or don’t do it at all.

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  58. Carrie
    May 07, 2012 @ 18:54:26

    @Keishon: But that’s true for any subject a writer tackles. Either get the facts right or don’t do it. Of course, one person’s experience with, say, OCD isn’t going to be exactly like anyone else. Some truths will be universal, but some will be very unique and personal.

    My point is that writers can get it right without having lived it themselves if they make the effort.

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  59. Keishon
    May 07, 2012 @ 19:03:33

    @Carrie: I agree.

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  60. Janine
    May 07, 2012 @ 19:18:23

    @Ridley: You might like Kathleen Gilles Seidel’s A Risk Worth Taking. One of the things I most appreciate in Seidel’s books is that her heroines are always competent. In this one, the heroine is a Country-Western singer with a drug addiction, but she’s still capable.

    I totally get where you’re coming from about temporary blindness, because that’s the way I feel about miraculous infertility cures. Does infertility count as a disability? If so I’ve got a few recs of books in which it is not magically cured.

    Also, have you read Kinsale’s Seize the Fire? The hero has PTSS. This being Kinsale, he’s not a shining example of mental health (and for that matter, neither is the heroine), but I’m curious what you thought of it.

    I have a review in the works for Silent Surrender, a Spice Brief by Barbara J. Hancock which I liked very mildly. That’s another one I’d be curious to know your opinion of.

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  61. Ridley
    May 07, 2012 @ 19:28:31

    @Carrie:

    My point is that writers can get it right without having lived it themselves if they make the effort.

    And my point was that they rarely do, and that leaves me wary.

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  62. Deb Kinnard
    May 07, 2012 @ 19:52:52

    Roberta Gellis’ BOND OF BLOOD had a hero with a clubfoot. It’s a medieval, so the “devil’s hoof” trope was right in there. People were afraid of what they didn’t understand. There was also a Harlequin, maybe 10-15 years ago, in which the heroine had agoraphobia (a severe enough case so that she rarely, if ever, went outdoors) and she and the hero had to figure out a crime. It seems to me she ran a catering business from her apartment? Maybe this is one for HaBO, because although I remember the cover, I can’t recall author or title. I enjoyed this one very much.

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  63. jmc
    May 07, 2012 @ 20:06:06

    @Ridley: Yes, The Spymaster’s Lady. I had forgotten that she had a miraculous recovery of her vision, just remembered all the discussion about how her blindness was revealed earlier in the book.

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  64. Elly
    May 07, 2012 @ 21:08:29

    I haven’t read a lot of books with people with disabilities – I think the only one I’ve read that’s not mentioned here is Daredevil’s Run by Kathleen Creighton (which was ok – the hero was paralyzed and it is permanent and affects their lives as he and the heroine used to run a whitewater rafting business together, but it wasn’t a keeper for me).

    But I did want to respond to @thetroubleis, because I’ve come across (and liked!) a lot more books where the people have some kind of emotional disability. Have you read Theresa Weir? She was my favorite. Bad Karma deals with a heroine with a mental health issue and Cool Shade deals with a hero agoraphobia. (I’d also recommend Some Kind of Magic, although I’m not sure either character would be clinical.) If anyone finds anyone else one there who writes like this please let me know!!

    I would also recommend Penny Jordan’s Law of Attraction, which features a depressed heroine. And Sally Wentworth actually had a heroine who tried to kill herself in Jilted. (This is a 1983 HP; there are some dated elements – emphasis on virginity, chopping down the rainforest – but I think it makes an interesting read, just for something really different.) I also want to mention Susan Napier’s The Lonely Season, which is totally over the top and therefore not for everyone, but it does feature a heroine who has relearned to speak after an accident and the emotional scars she still bears, as well as a deaf child.

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  65. Christine
    May 07, 2012 @ 21:10:48

    One of my favorite books is “The Oracle Glass” by Judith Merkle Riley which is more historical fiction than romance (but does have a wonderful romance between two intelligent book loving people). The heroine has a twisted leg and a crooked spine. It doesn’t “go away” and a large part of the book involves the “remedies” used to “correct” this- including sewing her into a metal boned corset day and night (and the repercussions of it). It’s a fabulous story set in 17th century France under the Sun King and intersecting with the “Affair Of The Poisons.” I highly recommend it.

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  66. thetroubleis
    May 07, 2012 @ 21:13:51

    @Elly: Thanks Elly, I’ll check those out. I appreciate the recs, truly.

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  67. Cat
    May 07, 2012 @ 21:30:16

    Another wheelchair user here. Not surprised to see a A Man Like Macin the list, Mac’s just am amazing character & the wheelchair stuff was real but presented in a way that didn’t put the wrong emphasis on it. Hard to describe what I mean, but it’s just “right”. He’s a darn sexy character and part of that is because he’s adapted to his disability by developing other “skills” in the bedroom ;-) He’s still all man.

    I think that book also works because the heroine is going through her own trauma with dealing with a disability and learning what can be overcome and what has to be accepted. When Mac is educating her he’s educating the reader too, but not in a preachy way. It’s just part of the story, part of them moving forward in life.

    I’m more into m/m these days and would have to second the recommendation of Shellshocked which I too have re-read a few times. It’s a bit “throw everything in including the kitchen sink” as the characters & their situations could probably be split up into individual plots for unrelated novels, but actually it works because that too is reality. People and the situations they’re in are multi-faceted.

    Now, one from my perspective, that’s not so great. While facts might be correct it’s lacking IMO. The irony is I suspect those not reading it from the real-life wheelchair user side of things will think it’s excellent in it’s portrayal of every day life with a chair (ETA and have just read a couple of reviews which prove me right). Yes, they’re no silly errors, but it’s the way it’s been done that annoys me. It could have been so much more.

    Maybe I over-reacted, and maybe it’s because I’ve only just finished it, so forgive my mini-rant :D It’s A Helping of Love by Andrew Grey. If I hadn’t read one of his other m/m’s I so would not have bought it after reading the sample chapter.

    He tries way, way, way too hard at the start to make sure we, the reader, get the wheelchair thing. Un-natural exposition pointing out stuff that was totally not relevant to the storyline, and instead is pointing a big red arrow at the hero’s disability instead of the man himself. We do not need to know his morning routine, it’s got nothing to do with the story. It could have been incorporated into the novel as background detail to a plot point, but no it’s thrown up front as a lecture. Then there were little annoying things like saying he “rolled out of the room”. It was un-natural language, it looked shoe-horned in instead of a normal description, & read as stilted to me. Why does the word “rolled” have to be there? OMG Are we the readers silly enough to think he stood up & walked out, could he not just have “left the room”? TBH we didn’t even need to know he’d left the darn room. It was like the author watched a video of someone and then described it, making sure they didn’t miss anything out for fear they’d offend us.

    Authors should show us a character (and a disability) in their writing not tell us. The telling at the start of this one was so detailed (about every day stuff, not sexual) that I could see it having a fan base amongst the devos who fetishise wheelchair users. They’d be disappointed though, because it does improve as the book goes along (in fact after the over-kill at the beginning it shys away from things when it shouldn’t) and the character himself stands out more, but regardless of that issue the book was fairly forgettable to me. Not going in my keeper collection. Sweet, but…

    Which reminds me of another m/m with a wheelchair using hero, Sweet Topping by Carole Lynne. It’s better & I have re-read it, but it’s no A Man Like Mac. However it, at least, actually addresses some of the issues regarding the mechanics of sex for someone who is paralyzed.

    I know I’ve read a couple more m/m’s featuring wheelchair users but the names escape me at the moment.

    LOL Sorry. Will shut up now!

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  68. Cat
    May 07, 2012 @ 21:47:47

    P.S. The one over-riding annoying thing about Sweet Topping is the ending. Ridley, reading your comment, you’d do bad things to the horse it rode in on ;-)

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  69. AnimeJune
    May 07, 2012 @ 21:49:07

    Ridley, if you’re into paranormals, I’d suggest “The Fire King,” by Marjorie M. Liu – the heroine’s a recent amputee. Some angst about it at the beginning, but the angst is more about *how* she lost the arm (a very *HOLY CRAP* reveal) than the fact that she has to live without one.

    I’m not sure if “The Prince of Midnight” by Laura Kinsale would count – he’s half deaf and struggles with vertigo due to an inner ear injury. Hero had good days and bad days and has to learn not to depend on his sense of balance – although, to be fair, the author heavily implies he’s found a method to keep it at bay (horseback riding?) for the foreseeable future. That being said, it’s my favourite Kinsale.

    I love that this post came out because I was asked to review an anthology called “Accessible Love Stories” which was entirely based on people in wheelchairs and I had oodles of iffy iffy feelings about the stories (a couple weren’t bad, but the first one is a DOOZY of complete writerly incompetence).

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  70. pamela
    May 07, 2012 @ 21:50:16

    One Unashamed Night by Sophia James has a hero who is experiencing the permanent loss of his vision. I think it deals with the disability aspect well, though I am not sure how good a story it is taken as a whole. It has been awhile since I read it.

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  71. Liz
    May 07, 2012 @ 21:59:51

    Shiloh Walker’s If You Hear Her features a blind heroine. Just picked it up, and only browsed through the first chapter in store, so can’t guarantee there aren’t any miracle cures involved.

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  72. Cat
    May 07, 2012 @ 22:08:53

    @AnimeJune RE Accessible Love Stories Am in hysterics that the blurb on Amazon describes the characters as wheelchair-bound while the cover shows anything but!

    Is it relevant to any of the stories? Like is some poor girl missing a dead boyfriend so talking his chair out to the park where they met, or something? :D

    Actually, I can see that happening – the whole person is their chair, chair is the person thing – but even then it’s a weird choice of cover image.

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  73. Cindy
    May 07, 2012 @ 22:22:20

    One of Sarah McCarty’s Westerns had a heroine with a bad leg, which did not miraculously go away. The hero was not only not bothered by it, but as I recall, he would actually take care of it when it was bothering her. But then her heroes are usually like that. I think it was Promises Prevail.

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  74. Louise Delamore
    May 07, 2012 @ 22:22:48

    As Pamela suggested Sophia James’s historical “One Unashamed Night” has a blind hero. Or more precisely a hero losing his sight. I really enjoyed this book. The heroine never thinks less of him, or pities him, and his struggle to come to terms with sightlessness makes his character arc a great read.

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  75. Alice Gibb
    May 07, 2012 @ 23:02:09

    Mary Balogh’s Red Rose is a historical that features a heroine with a severely injured leg that prevents her from walking normally. The hero is initially put off by it, but comes to disregard it over time. I know this might not be a ‘popular’ way for him to behave, but I think it is realistic, given the time period.

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  76. AnimeJune
    May 07, 2012 @ 23:35:14

    @Cat Not really. One of the protags is a wheelchair user in each story, but apparently the cover model is disabled (her screen name is “Misa On Wheels”). I’m also baffled by the cover. It looks so sad and depressing. I reviewed it here: http://gossamerobsessions.blogspot.ca/2012/04/accessible-love-stories-anthology.html.

    Most of the stories were decent-to-middling but the first story almost made it a DNF. Honestly, it’s interesting to rethink those stories within the context of Ridley’s post. The first story is terrible, just viscerally awful – and the heroine is all “mope mope mope nobody understands me in my chair”. The next story is a little too fairy-tale (no development for love interest who falls in love with paraplegic guy, he’s basically a Disney Prince). The other stories all have characters who are just regular people who are perfectly adjusted to being wheelchair bound – it’s their other angsts they have to deal with (such as
    the story where a disabled guy randomly inherits a baby from a long-lost dead sister).

    And the last story knocked me flat on my ass with how hot an *implied, not depicted* sex scene could be between an adorable hero with severely impaired motor skills and an intern.

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  77. Maria.Maria
    May 08, 2012 @ 00:34:17

    I too have never read Flowers from the Storm. I read Midsummer Moon a few years ago and I HATED it. It made me afraid to read FftS even though everyone says it is amazing. My main fear revolves around her portrayal of a Quaker heroine. As a member of The Society of Friends (Quaker) I get pretty used to reading little digs or unflattering references to my religion in historical romances, but I’m worried that reading this book will make me more than a little angry.

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  78. Kelly
    May 08, 2012 @ 00:37:45

    @AnimeJune:

    Oh Dear God, that first anthology story sounds absolutely atrocious. *shudder* Ridley and Cat (and the rest of us) need to stay FAR FAR AWAY from that cesspool.

    I third the rec for “One Unashamed Night” by Sophia James – some of her stuff is pretty blah, but that one really worked for me because I rooted for both the hero and the heroine the whole way through.

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  79. Anne
    May 08, 2012 @ 01:53:16

    Could someone, please, explain to me what the (various) beef is with disability in romance. I don’t get one reference or criticism here and the other half criticises things I’d consider a natural reaction to being/becoming disabled?

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  80. Jayne
    May 08, 2012 @ 03:50:05

    @Christine: Oh, I loved that book. It’s the first Merkle Riley I ever tackled and it’s well worth seeking out.

    http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/the-oracle-glass-by-judith-merkle-riley/

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  81. Alex
    May 08, 2012 @ 03:58:15

    I liked Frisco’s Kid by Suzanne Brockmann – ex-SEAL living with a career ending leg injury. He doesn’t accept it at first but by the end of the book he’s more realistic about what he can/can’t do, and the heroine loves him for who he is (grumpiness and all).

    Does chronic pain count as a disability? If so, one of the characters in Dance With Me by Heidi Cullinan lives with it following a neck injury.

    As to whether either of those are true to life depictions of the injuries, I’d have to leave it to someone more experienced to say. I enjoyed both of them though and they felt realistic to me.

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  82. thetroubleis
    May 08, 2012 @ 04:01:14

    @Anne: Basically, PWDs sick of being treated as either super crips or poor unfortunates. Truly, most of us don’t sit around going woe is me all day, but if you read some of these novels you’d think that would be the case. Hell, I’ve been dealing with being mentally ill since I was 5 and although sometimes it really sucks, it isn’t the sum of my parts. I say that as some whose disabilities are serve enough that I’m unable to work. Sometimes being Black, or queer or woman sucks as well, but I’m equally displeased when I see authors treat that as all the characterization that’s needed. It’s lazy and insulting, my least favorite two for one deal.

    May 1st was Blogging Against Disablism Day, which you may want to look up to get some varied perspectives.

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  83. Maili
    May 08, 2012 @ 04:39:11

    @Anne: Authors tend to make it all about disability, not the person. And some others make it all about the person while treating disability as a prop, or a tool of emotional manipulation.

    Basically, there aren’t many authors that have managed to make the person and disability part of each other. Of all I read, authors usually opted for ‘disability first, person second’. And that annoys me.

    Yeah, having a disability is ~terrible~ but you know, it’s not *that* terrible. It’s part of my life, part of me. My enemy, my companion and my friend, 24/7. Has been since I was this knee high.

    In a way, it’s like being a lobster in a pan while growing up. I was both aware and unaware I have a disability (if we have to be blunt, I’m brain-damaged) while growing up and along the way, I somewhat unconsciously and constantly made adjustments to fit the disability into my lifestyle in a way that I wouldn’t notice so much. Most times, even now, I even forgot I had a disability. I only remembered when it affected or bothered the others, or when it got in the way of getting what I wanted.

    Authors tend to apply the tired old OMG!NOONEWILLOVEME!*STABS SELF* angst to characters who supposedly have lived with their disabilities since birth or childhood. It doesn’t usually work that way. It can only work on a person who’s recently acquired a disability. If anything, it’s the society that ‘handicaps’ people with disabilities — via attitudes, treatment and lack of provisions. I rarely see that in the general portrayal of characters with disabilities. Most times, the burden is on those characters. As if it’s their job to better themselves, to educate people around them (and us readers), and to do all they can to ‘normalise’ their disabilities, e.g. hide better, being cured or whatnot.

    And some authors can be so crass and insensitive that they would pair – for instance – a deaf character with a musician, or a blind character with a painter. The fuck, authors? Why are you focusing on what’s ‘missing’ when it’s not even missed in the first place? I really don’t get why authors don’t realise this.

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  84. Anne
    May 08, 2012 @ 04:48:36

    @Maili:

    So – if I understand this correctly – people with a disability aren’t allowed to despair, be unable to cope, be bitter or completely dependent on others and rejected by almost everyone for their disabilities? That doesn’t exist at all?

    Because that’s what is coming over here to me somehow according to what I say and it’s not what I would consider realistic either, especially with people who are recently disabled in some way.

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  85. Charlie
    May 08, 2012 @ 05:13:00

    Thank you so much for this! It is so difficult to find a movie/book/tv show that doesn’t treat disabled people as sad about their disability all the time or always focusing on it, so to read the descriptions you’ve provided here is so refreshing. Definitely going to look for some of these!

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  86. Merrian
    May 08, 2012 @ 05:39:18

    @Anne:
    That isn’t what Maili was saying. Her point and I think the one Ridley makes in her assessment of the books she discusses above is that these negative emotions and feelings and experiences are not the sum of what it is to be a person with a disability. They may be a part of it, but for most of us (I have disabilities as well) they only matter in as much as they are part of the human condition. We all have things go wrong in our lives and it is the individual that faces them and works through them. The things that have gone wrong or broken are not the things that uniquely or solely define us.

    All of the things suggested in your comment can and do exist. In fact I think it fair to say they apply to someone who has lost their job or had their house foreclosed – they are not unique to disability and chronic illness they are about how life changes are faced.

    Most often in my experience it is as Maili says, other people’s views and perceptions that limit opportunities and potentials as much as our individual health issues and disabilities. I also think that most people with disabilities or living with chronic illness don’t sweat the small stuff, we pick our battles because we know in reality what we can and can’t do and our focus is on problem solving our lives so we live good lives in conjunction with our bodily reality.

    That isn’t what is represented in most of the genre when it comes to disability which gives a good impression that we should be like Victorian orphans, grateful for crumbs from the table of life. Suffering isn’t noble, it doesn’t make us better people; just more experienced at coping with shit. Sometimes I think the focus of others on what is lost or the difficulties that can come with disability is a deliberate distraction from acknowledging the reality of living with disability and include an unwillingness to see us as people with agency no matter our circumstances.

    Your focus is on what is lost. That isn’t my focus which is on what has changed and the question of what does this mean.

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  87. MD
    May 08, 2012 @ 06:08:12

    @Anne:
    Anne, I have acquired chronic illness as an adult. The point is, bitterness, despair, rejection and dependency exist. Dealing with them is a difficult struggle, and for some people it never ends. But if they overtake the whole person’s life, then there is no HEA. One of the books that makes me really mad is Sandra Schwab “The Castle of the Wolf”. It’s my disability anti-rec. The hero had an leg amputated, and he has been severely betrayed by his family. His reaction is to be extremely nasty to everyone around him, including the heroine. And his servants and the heroine go “oh, poor dear, he suffered so much, that’s why he is so nasty, we will ignore it and love him and take care of him”. It drives me absolutely crazy because if anyone was so nasty in real life, they will end up permanently and completely rejected, and deservedly so.

    I say this knowing that many people showed understanding, patience and compassion while I was dealing with my own pain and adjustments, and still give me a break if I am having a bad day. The difference, I think, is in what one friend said to me “Yes, you have your bad days, but I can see that you are struggling hard to adjust and mitigate the problems”. I think this is a very big part of the point for me and other disabled people I know: we struggle to live well. To find ways around our difficulties, and to cope. But we also are normal people, interested in others and in the outside life, in hobbies, in all the other things that people do.

    Books about disability that fail tend to be those that show cartoons: either a disabled character who cannot cope at all, is completely rejected, lost, abandoned and unloved until rescued by a saintly hero or heroine; or a disabled character who overcomes the disability to the point that it does not matter at all, and they can do anything a healthy person can do, possibly through feats of super-human endurance. Both extremes exist in real life, but the first is not healthy, and the other is not realistic. To a degree, yes, romance is about unusual people. But as I would not like to read about a poor passive heroine who needs the hero to rescue her and won’t even make an effort to help herself, I would really not like to read about a poor disabled hopeless character that can only be rescued by someone else. The other stereotype, a super-human disabled character, is somewhat better, but having them overcome everything is like reading an extreme fairy-tale Disney ending, where everything magically becomes perfect. I don’t much care about those with non-disabled characters, either.

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  88. Anne
    May 08, 2012 @ 06:20:51

    I can’t say I agree with you there. That – to me – seems to be but part of the cake.

    I know several people to whom disability turned out to be what they are/were in the end and the hole was/is so black that they commit/ted suicide, or get treated like shit and feel like shit. A painter who loses, over the course of a decade, his eyesight, who is without anyone caring for him but professional minimal healthcare, no family, no partners, no friends, shooting himself on the day he finally loses the last remnant of sight, apparently is someone better not be contemplated at all then. Just one example where the disabled concentrated on what was lost and decided it’s not worth to continue without. That happens.

    To me what you and Maili state invalidates this other side of disability. Here we lately had a smattering of such suicides as well as people who completely withdrew, which is as good as. Some were more, some less publicly known. Agency often is the very last people with disability have, depending on which it is. A lot live with zero agency, except perhaps to decide whether they prefer to piss into their pants or to puke. Sometimes even that lacks.

    This may not be what you may want to read about, but I bet the fantasy of someone unconditionally wanting and helping you inspite of total incapacity or bitterness just might be something such people would enjoy, rather than heartening messages of “pull yourself together and focus on the future and get over it”. I can’t help but find such a stance aggressive and negating the experience of others.

    That said, I don’t read a lot of such romances, but I guess I would just as much dislike getting shoved some shining example of blatant self-sufficiency under my eyes or some pep-talk when I’ve seen and met with non-agency-possessing people living in truly unfortunate states of disrepair and loss.

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  89. MD
    May 08, 2012 @ 08:03:02

    @Anne: I agree with you that disability has a dark side. I went through feelings of uselessness, hopelessness and bitterness. My friends tell me that there was a year when I seemed to have lost lost all my joy in life. I can believe that someone will lose their will to live (even though I was never close) And I totally hated the “pep talks”. They start coming fast and furious from doctors, and well-meaning friends and family, and they drive you completely crazy, and guilty.

    The point is, where is the HEA, since we are in romance? My take is, losing all agency is not a HEA. And, to be honest, the stories you mention are horrible, and these people needed love and support, but this is the main point: you need at least some agency. Obviously, each person experiences things differently. I was lucky that I was never completely disabled, though I thought at one point that I was going to lose my job and end up dependent on others. But even at that worst, I did not really have rescue fantasies. If anything, I had people in my family who wanted to be my rescuers, and desperately tried to convince me to stop working and just let them take care of me. I hated the idea, precisely because of the loss of agency. Other disabled people I know hated it as well – it is the loss of agency that is the greatest fear and source of stress.

    So this is mostly what I am looking for in a good romance about people with disabilities: recognition that change in life and difficulty is inevitable. They need help, they experience darkness and despair, and asking for help and admitting vulnerability is a real and powerful struggle, but the real HEA only can happen if they keep their agency. I think it’s true for romance, but also in real life as well. And in real life there is not always a happy ending, but that’s a different storey altogether.

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  90. Sarah
    May 08, 2012 @ 08:10:07

    Oh, I also forgot Annie’s Song by Catherine Anderson. Heroine is deaf and mute. There are some people who adore this book – I am not one of them, but check it out. And in Lisa Kleypas’ Again the Magic, the heroine is seriously burned in a fire. Of course, it’s not her face because then (gasp!) she wouldn’t be beautiful. Plus hiding the burns on her body is is the device to keep her from jumping the hero too soon. I don’t know if burns officially count as a disability, but it is a major part of the plot.

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  91. Merrian
    May 08, 2012 @ 08:38:41

    ”but I bet the fantasy of someone unconditionally wanting and helping you in spite of total incapacity or bitterness just might be something such people would enjoy, rather than heartening messages of “pull yourself together and focus on the future and get over it”. I can’t help but find such a stance aggressive and negating the experience of others.””””
    Actually Anne I find your stance aggressive and alienating of others. All the responses (four at last count) to your original comment have been from people with chronic illness and disabilities. We have spoken from our lived experience. You may not know us and what we have to deal with but you are doing your best to ignore our reflections on what our lives mean to us. Your latest comment seems to me to reduce the whole of disability to the extremes that some people find themselves in rather than engaging with us. I have to wonder in your comment above if you are speaking to your own need for escapism and projecting that.
    Nowhere has anyone in this comment thread, including myself suggested that ‘focus on the future and get over things’ is the way to deal with disability. Those are your words and in fact that view is one of the things we are decrying in this discussion of the representation of disability in genre stories.
    Having read the anecdotes you have shared, I feel that most of the issues are to do (as Ridley and Maili have said) with how society is structured to provide, or to fail to provide care and the impact of this in consequent isolation and depression on individuals. To me they are calls to action and examples of how disability is constructed by our broader cultural and social practices. For example our national budget has just been released tonight and includes for the first time a national disability insurance scheme that will go some way to addressing the issues of care and isolation (e.g. young people in nursing homes) here in Australia.
    Yes, all these things can be triggered by the disabling event/condition of an individual person but they don’t define either the person or the disability. Like it or not that is defined by what the individual brings to their experience of disability and whether they have access to the resources they need.
    And yes the artist who killed himself was exercising his personal agency. Agency is a complex thing, changing in form and meaning as lives and circumstances change. In this case it seems to me that being isolated and depressed are the things responsible for his final act of agency not his blindness/disability. What other choices he might have lived to make and experience and how he would have come to define himself if those things had been taken care by good services and social connections we will never know. He might have reached the same end point but that is about his personal journey.
    And yes agency can be exercised in how you puke and piss. To me, your comments suggest that quality of life and lack of agency (as it seems to you) lead to such an awful lived life that the person can have no sense of themselves, that they are nothing more than their damaged and suffering bodies.
    Sadly, I quite often find able bodied people projecting their personal fears about loss of control and boundaries onto me and others living with disabilities. We represent something that can be anathema in western society with its focus on a personal locus of control and the cultural/notional belief that there should be no limits on personal choices. I think this is especially an issue in romance because one of the key criteria for heroes is that they exercise control and have choices. For heroines, the journey they go in their relationship is supposed to be about growing their capacity to make choices and take control of their lives. I don’t find any escapism or catharsis in the way disability and chronic illness is usually tackled in the romance genre; true love won’t save or cure me. But love can give me a companion for my journey and I can be that companion for someone too.
    Ridley’s discussion of the novels she has read and the issues she raises are valid and resonate with my own experience of adjusting to chronic illness, disability and loss and living as best I can.

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  92. Christine
    May 08, 2012 @ 09:12:00

    @Jayne who said “@Christine: Oh, I loved that book. It’s the first Merkle Riley I ever tackled and it’s well worth seeking out.

    http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/the-oracle-glass-by-judith-merkle-riley/

    I really adore this book. I read it when it was first published and enjoyed it more than any of her others although all of her books are wonderful. I was so sad to hear when Judith Merkle Riley died back in 2010 as I had been waiting and hoping for another novel from her. Have you read “The Serpent Garden” by her? It’s another favorite of mine. The heroine is a 16th century paintrix. I love her combination of gritty historical accuracy and whimsy. Somehow it all works well together.

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  93. Violetta Vane
    May 08, 2012 @ 09:12:34

    “Hurt” by Varian Krylov is a ménage erotic romance in which the heroine has very invasive breast cancer, has a double mastectomy and is going through chemotherapy for a large part of the book. It’s pretty intense and handled very well, I thought, because her sexuality and gender presentation is changed afterwards but very much not erased. I have a detailed review here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/264193330

    My cowriter and I wrote a coma-recovery story into an upcoming m/m romance, and although there’s magic in the story, we decided from the beginning not to go the hand-wavey magic cure route, and tried to think through the disability issues involved.

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  94. Shiloh Walker
    May 08, 2012 @ 09:17:36

    A few years ago, I lost a friend. She was in her teens when she was paralyzed from the waist down by a medical condition that baffled the doctors for years.

    Over the next seventeen years, she was married…her husband cheated on her, they divorced, she spent more time in a hospital than some nurses I know, and not because she worked there. She was just sick a lot.

    She had her leg amputated, had other medical issues, and eventually, her body got the best of her and she passed away. If anybody I’ve ever known had a reason to be bitter, it was her.

    Life threw her such a sucker punch.

    She punched life right back in the face. She made people laugh. She made people live. Through her work, she improved the lives of people who would never know her and she made an impact that will last for years, even though she’s already gone.

    She lived every second of her life to the absolute fullest and if you dared to pity her, she’d have your head.

    Did she have days, or weeks, or years where she struggled with depression? Yes. But she didn’t give up and she lived her life. She didn’t let her disability rule her.

    She was a damn strong woman…she might have had a disability but she was far more capable than a lot of the ‘capable’ people I’ve met before or since. And the challenges she faced in life are what made her that way.

    Life basically punched my friend in the face. She punched life right back and she kept right on swinging until the very end.

    If I’m reading about a character with a disability, I don’t want a fairy tale portrayal…I want to read about somebody like her. She was real, she was strong and she was amazing. Because she inspired me, every day. She still does.

    re: Unconditional love even if they are bitter…ah…this is romance. It means strong characters and a HEA. It means people we can root for. If the character starts out bitter and angry, and overcomes it, that’s one thing. But if s/he stays angry, and bitter…no. That’s not a ‘hero’ or ‘heroine’ character.

    I bet the fantasy of someone unconditionally wanting and helping you inspite of total incapacity or bitterness just might be something such people would enjoy, rather than heartening messages of “pull yourself together and focus on the future and get over it”. I can’t help but find such a stance aggressive and negating the experience of others.

    Now hopefully this doesn’t piss anybody off and I apologize if it does, but this strikes me as the kind of mindset that actually limits and sets a person with a disability back, holds them back. It’s giving into the mindset, ‘yes, yes, you poor thing, feel sorry for yourself, it’s okay.’

    Hell, yes, a person with a disability has challenges and they are going to have times when they struggle with depression, when they are angry, etc…but having somebody who doesn’t get that and has never been there feeding into it is just adds to that spiral.

    I think the readers here who do have disabilities just want a realistic portrayal. It’s not all about the anger, the pity, the self-pity, the depression.

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  95. Shiloh Walker
    May 08, 2012 @ 09:23:44

    Sigh. I got distracted thinking about my friend… I meant to add in… this is coming from somebody who has no personal experience with disability. I’m a nurse and I’ve worked with people who have either handled their disabilities or let their disabilities rule them, but that’s not personal experience.

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  96. Jenni
    May 08, 2012 @ 09:26:16

    I just want to say thanks for this whole post and all the comments. It’s good to get an idea of where to start reading so I can read without wanting to throw things across the room and risk breaking something.

    Does anyone have any recs for books with heroines with chronic pain?

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  97. MD
    May 08, 2012 @ 10:13:43

    @Shiloh Walker:

    … this strikes me as the kind of mindset that actually limits and sets a person with a disability back, holds them back. It’s giving into the mindset, ‘yes, yes, you poor thing, feel sorry for yourself, it’s okay.’

    Hell, yes, a person with a disability has challenges and they are going to have times when they struggle with depression, when they are angry, etc…but having somebody who doesn’t get that and has never been there feeding into it is just adds to that spiral.

    Hear, hear! Shiloh, I think you do get it. I read this post and I wanted to cheer. It’s not easy to walk the line between a “pep talk” and “you poor dear”, but a person like that would be my ideal as well (though it is awfully difficult to reach).

    @Merrian

    We represent something that can be anathema in western society with its focus on a personal locus of control and the cultural/notional belief that there should be no limits on personal choices. I think this is especially an issue in romance because one of the key criteria for heroes is that they exercise control and have choices.

    That’s true, too, though I don’t necessarily think it is an issue with romance as a genre, it’s more the issue with authors not understanding it. We get lots of historical romances where, after all, the heroine’s choices are limited. Some authors handle it sensibly, and some create these frustratingly feisty heroines that defy their time and society in impossible ways. I think disability could be handled sensibly, too, if it was understood better. So, my choices are limited, but my life is still good and worthwhile, and it is about finding a way to live a good life with the constraints your circumstances put on you. And it will depend strongly on getting the right support from people around you and society in general, but it will also interact with the personal beliefs and attitudes. It’s the complexity that matters, and recognizing the total experience rather than focusing on extremes, like you said.

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  98. cleo
    May 08, 2012 @ 10:17:42

    @Amber: I have such mixed feelings about The Shadow and The Star. I’m a survivor of child abuse/incest and much of it rang emotionally true to me. But the fact that at the end of the book, he was still keeping a big secret from her (not about being abused, but about why they’d just been in this big battle for their lives) made me doubt their hea and made it not work for me as a romance.

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  99. cleo
    May 08, 2012 @ 10:26:52

    @Amber: I tried posting this earlier – I hope I don’t double post. I have such mixed feelings about The Sword and The Star. I was sex’lly abused as a child and a lot of the book rang emotionally true to me. But, the fact that at the end, he’s still keeping a big secret from her (not about being abused, but about why they’d just been in this epic battle) made me doubt their hea and kind of ruined it for me as a romance. It’s probably more realistic that Samuel isn’t ready to share every aspect of his life history with Leda, but it made me worry for them.

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  100. Anne
    May 08, 2012 @ 11:10:34

    @MD:
    You can’t have your cake and eat it too. I shouldn’t need to state that. Either you get characters who are halfway realistic or you don’t. If the goal is to treat disability as a realistic entity you will have to possibly do without HEA and maybe even without HFN. Who says that lovestories need to have them? Do I have to remind of “Lovestory” which undeniably was one of the biggest romance movies of the last century?

    But it’s not necessarily HEA/HFN which is threatened by treating readers to the dark side of disability, it’s the perception of what is the politically correct way to be disabled, it seems to me. Apparently the reaction to not having any agency left and giving oneself up means the character needs to be shunned? Or how am I to interpret this?

    @Merrian:
    Careful, please. You have no idea who or what I am and I just wouldn’t assume anything on your part if I were you. Especially not what my experiences with disabilities are. I just might belong to your rash „we who live with disability“ in a way you obviously aren’t even thinking about. So, let’s better agree to not ass-u-me.

    I haven’t denied that there may be glorious samples of self-asserted personal strength in the face of tragedy and almost entire loss of agency.

    There existed a Jean-Dominique Bauby (if you do not know him, he’s under that name on Wikipedia) who after a stroke suffered from locked-in syndrome and managed to write a book. But for every Bauby you get literally millions of people who are without anyone to care enough to work with them, who instead of getting the help of a dedicated speech therapist end up being on terminal care nursing for the rest of their days (that is not going to change by the way, it’s a fact tied to profitability).

    Which in most western countries still means, as long as they are without financial ressources, the mere taking care of nutritional in and output, bedsores if very very lucky and the more or less long wait for demise. And that’s just cases like Bauby’s even though the complete abandonment to terminal care nursing starts many stages below that already. If you are without well-meaning family you commonly would better have died instead.

    The artist in question was incapable of living on without art, his last shred of agency indeed was to kill himself. Being blind was precisely what defined him as someone without anything left to live for and that was his disability. He would be alive and working still had he never lost his sight. Just possibly he also might still be alive had he been provided with another reason to live on.

    Whether he was an acceptable human being according to your definitions of what makes up “the proper response” to disability or not I wouldn’t even dare to suggest. It was however what it was and I dare say it’s not even half rare as to insist that every disabled person be portrayed as capable of surpassing disability or living their lives despite it.

    I once more suggest to cease throwing your experience onto others as well. As I said, you don’t know me and from what position I am speaking. You also do not even begin to be any sort of “we” with regard to disabled people.

    THAT is exactly what my criticism with this whole stance was. If there are people out there to whom it is as I describe, and I can absolutely assure you that there are at least as many as there are of the manner you describe (which – I obviously have to reiterate – I never denied! I just pointed out the other variant exists), then your assertions are divesting them of their own response and negating the validity of their reaction. Just as the reaction to basic stark loneliness and absence of care (I’m not even saying love).

    Whether or not that is tackled in a well-written or competent manner is something else, but just because your experiences are what they are doesn’t invalidate different experiences of other people or make yours a singular “correct” one to go by one for all.

    I don’t know the book MD refers to as the anti-rec of disability novels, but unlike her I not only know people who became that nasty and bitter, I very much disagree with her take that they would deserve being rejected! My first thought on reading this was a mega-WTF? That’s some moral judgement to behold. Ouch.

    I might not like to read an ineptly written one as described, but well-written and with sound background psychology, why not, yes I would.

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  101. Bonnie Dee
    May 08, 2012 @ 11:11:56

    I’ve enjoyed reading these recommendations (and pans) of books with disabled protagonists, and have added several titles to my reading list. Since I’m currently working on a story with a brain-damaged hero, this post has made me very aware of pitfalls to avoid.
    If it’s not too shameful to do, I’d also like to plug my western historical with a deaf hero, A Hearing Heart, reviewed here at DA several years ago.

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  102. Maili
    May 08, 2012 @ 11:42:04

    @Anne: So, what are you saying? That I should cut my wrists for failing to act like a proper victim? But look, I have been to that dark place many times and I really don’t want to return. I’m quite certain there’s a few who feel the same way as I do. And I certainly don’t want to find it again in romance novels. Not when there are *so many* romance novels make it so damn depressing and so unrealistic. See them wanking over a disability and its emotional pain can be so obscene, too.

    Look, I think it’s a good idea to return to the topic:

    Not long ago, I watched the first three episodes of ‘Game of Thrones’ – and I felt it has managed to achieve its portrayal of a character well: Tyrion Lannister quite well.

    Every day, since birth, Tyrion dealt with people’s attitudes and reactions to his disability to the point where he’d learnt to handle it his way, usually with sarcastic or barbed comments. Every comment directed at him still stings, but he’d developed a skin so thick that he feels desensitised enough not to allow those comments to sting that much any more.

    How does Tyrion feel about being what he is? It varies with days. Some days, he doesn’t think of it. Some days, it depresses him deeply enough for him to get drunk, and some other days it doesn’t bother him a bit. Some people’s comments don’t bother him at all while some do, to the point he can’t breathe. Most times, he just gets on with it in order to survive the unforgiving world he lives in.

    That’s so true for me, even though I’m not a small person. I respect the writers – and, I suppose, George R. R. Martin and Peter Dinklage? – for making Tyrion’s disability so part of him that he’s Tyrion, not merely “that dwarf”.

    I’d like to see more of that with characters with disabilities in romance novels. As in, a variety in 3-D instead of the freakish extremes in 2-D (all doom and gloom or unnaturally cheerful with no real depths).

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  103. LG
    May 08, 2012 @ 11:44:15

    @Anne: “If the goal is to treat disability as a realistic entity you will have to possibly do without HEA and maybe even without HFN. Who says that lovestories need to have them? Do I have to remind of “Lovestory” which undeniably was one of the biggest romance movies of the last century?”

    As a romance reader, I would be incredibly angry to pick up a book billed as a romance novel (romance novel, not love story – those two are not necessarily the same thing) and not get a HEA or at least HFN. As for the rest, Maili probably said it better than I could.

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  104. Carrie
    May 08, 2012 @ 11:57:48

    @Anne: I understand your basic assertions re: this discussion, but I have to agree with LG– a “romance” novel is assumed to have an HEA or a hopeful HFN. Other fiction works, women’s lit, chic lit, mysteries, SF, general fiction, etc, can all have bittersweet or even unhappy ending. That’s been one of the criticisms of the romance genre as a whole–the guaranteed happy ending. Since most of us read romances expecting, wanting, even demanding some sort of happy resolution to the romance, books without a happy ending aren’t going to do well. I see real life every day, and while I want realism in my books, I don’t necessarily want “reality,” as in the evening news.

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  105. Moriah Jovan
    May 08, 2012 @ 12:00:46

    The problem in this discussion of “I want these diverse texts to exist” but “they must be correct representations” and “only someone who’s experienced it can tell it” is that there is a very small number of people who can actually supply the demand.

    As a writer, would I attempt to write a protagonist with a disability, who is of another race or sexual orientation, even if I have the appropriate number of friends and vicarious experiences? No. But if you get too many writers like me, there’s going to be a dearth of stories that–clearly–people want to read. I applaud any writer who attempts it because it’s a minefield. (I thought this comment on the thread about the white basketball player to be instructive in this instance: “wouldn’t it be ironic if the author made her basketball-playing hero white instead of black because she didn’t want to be accused of racially stereotyping?” What would the author be saying if she’d written a black hero who had severe dyslexia and played basketball?)

    That said, do I want someone who’s not of my faith to write a book about a character who is with the implication that This Is A True Representation Of This Faith’s Culture? Hell, no. There are enough people out there misrepresenting my culture on purpose, so I sure as hell don’t want someone doing it by accident and with the best of intentions. Something as small as an absent “the” in certain contexts is actually quite huge. (Go to California. Say “I-5.” Everybody knows you’re not From There. Go South. Say “I’m going to Piggly-Wiggly.” Everybody knows you’re not From There.) How would a person not of my faith know that unless s/he was specifically told, “We don’t say it this way; we say it THIS way.” How would a person not of my faith even know to ask? S/he wouldn’t.

    There are just some things that can’t be researched into accuracy. A writer doesn’t know what a writer doesn’t know. And the odds are that there aren’t enough readers who will know what’s accurate and not–and even then two who do will have such disparate life experiences that they will argue with each other about it.

    So the question again becomes, as it does in every discussion of diversity in literature, which would one rather have: correct-representation-or-no-representation…versus…the existence of any representation, accurate or not?

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  106. Shiloh Walker
    May 08, 2012 @ 12:00:58

    You can’t have your cake and eat it too. I shouldn’t need to state that. Either you get characters who are halfway realistic or you don’t. If the goal is to treat disability as a realistic entity you will have to possibly do without HEA and maybe even without HFN. Who says that lovestories need to have them? Do I have to remind of “Lovestory” which undeniably was one of the biggest romance movies of the last century?

    Outside of the romance genre, this is acceptable.

    But we are discussing romance books. A HEA is a must.

    And why can’t a character with a disability be given a HEA? It does happen. It happens in life. Why not in books?

    Not every person with a disability lets that disability define them. Why can’t it be realistically portrayed in a book… With a HEA?

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  107. Cat
    May 08, 2012 @ 12:07:32

    Of course we can have different takes on the respresentation. Believe me I’ve lived through the darkness of the stages of grief when I learnt that I had to give up my career, social life (for many years), and eventually had to accept that I wouldn’t have children. I know that just want to destroy the place around you, and perhaps you yourself, moment. I’m not saying it’s wrong to depict characters that need support while they go through this, but at heart it’s a journey we make alone.

    I love the John Sayles movie Passion Fish and the scene where May Alice – who is having to accept her new life in a wheelchair – trashes the kitchen because one little thing she fails at pushes her over the edge. I did that so many times. As for the whole stubbornly dragging yourself for hours after you’ve fallen & then pretending there’s nothing wrong with you scene. Yeah been there, done that too. That movie shows the journey, shows the bad and the good, what we learn to cope with what remains a hidden dagger in heart, but it’s shown through the characters and the type of people they are, not through the disability.

    That is what is lacking through many of these novels, the focus is wrong and we know it in our guts when we read them, even if superficially it seems okay. That is what some of us are railing against here.

    To give another example from a different viewpoint, to show it’s not just depiction of disabilities. The last couple of years I got back into reading m/m fanfiction, and OMG, I can tell when the writers are so not actually feeling what they’re writing, they can be extremely insulting to the GLBTQ community while thinking they’re being pro because in their hearts they’re actually Mary Sue’ing in a way by forcing stereotypical roles on their gay characters (it’s like I can’t have him so I’ll punish him for being gay even though I made him that way in the fic LOL). There’s a lot of one character being “converted” by another (so gay = manipulative, predatory), or one being cast as the “female” & portrayed as weak, submissive. They’d hate it if a female character was portrayed that way, but will write it for a gay one. I could go on, but I won’t :D. Just to say that the opposite is also true, there are writers there who let us get in their characters heads and show us that they know their own mind, if e.g. they’re submissive. I am not saying people shouldn’t write these type of stories (in certain moods I’m a sucker for gay-for-you novels), and the same goes with the disability depiction, just do it with a modicum of understanding and let us learn your understanding as we go along, don’t force it down our throats like nasty tasting medicine. “It’s good for you, but you have to be punished to be cured”. I’m sorry, but writing is where hidden prejudices can come out. We read between the lines and get the feel for the author’s voice & if we read it as “oh poor thing” in depiction of disabilities we’re going to spit fire. It’s a gut reaction. I know I keep using that phrase but it’s best one I can come up with!

    I don’t think any of us are saying avoid something, write it “our way, or else!”. Just own it and make the characters as human as any character that doesn’t have a disability. We are not our disability or illness, just like someone is not their eye colour or their height.

    Oh & if you just don’t get it from our angle (because yes, until you’ve walked in our shoes you won’t – but, in fact, you’ll never get it the same as me because we’re all different.) just think of any book where something you are innately familiar with (your home town, or your job, say) is misrepresented. It pulls you out of the story and, maybe unfairly, makes you poorly judge the rest of the novel. That is our problem. Education, enlightenment and – above all – enjoyment is all we want from authors, the good ones give it to us. We want to relate, because if we can’t relate why read?

    I have no idea if any of that makes sense. Anyone else get what I’m trying to say? LOL

    I am not my wheelchair, but me using it is part of who I am. Sometimes it can be ignored, sometimes it cannot be. By me, or anyone else. In fiction, as in life, I can tell when it’s done with prejudice and when it’s done from understanding.

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  108. MD
    May 08, 2012 @ 12:11:04

    @Anne:
    I am going to get out of this, but just say two things. First, if you don’t get a HEA, it’s not a romance. This does not mean “a bad book” – there is lots of great literature without it. But life is full of crap, people get sick, shot, die, lose their jobs, live in abject poverty and never get better. If I want a romantic story without a HEA, I will go read literary fiction. And I am sorry that your life offered you such limited view of people with disabilities. I am having it for real. I live this life, and know several others who do: not super-achievement, loss and daily struggle, but also success and fulfilment. I am really sorry that you do not see this reality as well.

    Second, I would not get into a relationship with someone who is permanently nasty and bitter. People withdrawing from such relationships is a natural consequence. It’s different, of course, for parents, children and spouses. But again this is not what we are talking about in romance – for a new relationship, I don’t care if they are disabled or able-bodied. I have to believe the HEA, and this won’t happen if the person stays nasty. You’d have to make a strong case that the change is real, and “disability made them nasty and they are now loved and that cured that” ain’t it.

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  109. Cat
    May 08, 2012 @ 12:21:55

    [Sorry if this is a duplicate, esp as I seem to have written a novel of a comment again :) but I think the web ate my previous attempt]

    Of course we can have different takes on the respresentation. Believe me I’ve lived through the darkness of the stages of grief when I learnt that I had to give up my career, social life (for many years), and eventually had to accept that I wouldn’t have children. I know that just want to destroy the place around you, and perhaps you yourself, moment. I’m not saying it’s wrong to depict characters that need support while they go through this, but at heart it’s a journey we make alone. We can’t do it for others, we can only do it for ourselves.

    I love the John Sayles movie Passion Fish and the scene where May Alice – who is having to accept her new life in a wheelchair – trashes the kitchen because one little thing she fails at pushes her over the edge. I did that so many times. As for the whole stubbornly dragging yourself for hours after you’ve fallen & then pretending there’s nothing wrong with you scene. Yeah been there, done that too. That movie shows the journey, shows the bad and the good, what we learn to cope with what remains a hidden dagger in heart, but it’s shown through the characters and the type of people they are, not through the disability.

    That is what is lacking through many of these novels, the focus is wrong and we know it in our guts when we read them, even if superficially it seems okay. That is what some of us are railing against here.

    To give another example from a different viewpoint, to show it’s not just depiction of disabilities. The last couple of years I got back into reading m/m fanfiction, and OMG, I can tell when the writers are so not actually feeling what they’re writing, they can be extremely insulting to the GLBTQ community while thinking they’re being pro because in their hearts they’re actually Mary Sue’ing in a way by forcing stereotypical roles on their gay characters (it’s like I can’t have him so I’ll punish him for being gay even though I made him that way in the fic LOL). There’s a lot of one character being “converted” by another (so gay = manipulative, predatory), or one being cast as the “female” & portrayed as weak, submissive. They’d hate it if a female character was portrayed that way, but will write it for a gay one. I could go on, but I won’t :D. Just to say that the opposite is also true, there are writers there who let us get in their characters heads and show us that they know their own mind, if e.g. they’re submissive. I am not saying people shouldn’t write these type of stories (in certain moods I’m a sucker for gay-for-you novels), and the same goes with the disability depiction, just do it with a modicum of understanding and let us learn your understanding as we go along, don’t force it down our throats like nasty tasting medicine. “It’s good for you, but you have to be punished to be cured”. I’m sorry, but writing is where hidden prejudices can come out. We read between the lines and get the feel for the author’s voice & if we read it as “oh poor thing” in depiction of disabilities we’re going to spit fire. It’s a gut reaction. I know I keep using that phrase but it’s best one I can come up with!

    I don’t think any of us are saying avoid something, write it “our way, or else!”. Just own it and make the characters as human as any character that doesn’t have a disability. We are not our disability or illness, just like someone is not their eye colour or their height.

    Oh & if you just don’t get it from our angle (because yes, until you’ve walked in our shoes you won’t – but, in fact, you’ll never get it the same as me because we’re all different.) just think of any book where something you are innately familiar with (your home town, or your job, say) is misrepresented. It pulls you out of the story and, maybe unfairly, makes you poorly judge the rest of the novel. That is our problem. Education, enlightenment and – above all – enjoyment is all we want from authors, the good ones give it to us. We want to relate, because if we can’t relate why read?

    I have no idea if any of that makes sense. Anyone else get what I’m trying to say? LOL

    I am not my wheelchair, but me using it is part of who I am. Sometimes it can be ignored, sometimes it cannot be. By me, or anyone else. In fiction, as in life, I can tell when it’s done with prejudice and when it’s done from understanding.

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  110. Tamara Hogan
    May 08, 2012 @ 12:50:27

    @Anne said:

    just because your experiences are what they are doesn’t invalidate different experiences of other people or make yours a singular “correct” one to go by one for all.

    As a person with a chronic pain condition and other health problems, this statement really resonated with me. Though I expect a level of authenticity on the author’s part when describing some of the physical realities a character with health conditions has to deal with, how each character responds or reacts emotionally to having that health condition is a highly individual thing which, in my experience, can change and evolve over time. What’s important to me when reading such a story is that the physical manifestation of the condition or disability be within shouting distance of how one person might reasonably experience it, and that the character’s unique emotional journey, at the time of the character’s life the book covers, be convincingly rendered by the author.

    Some days I feel strong and noble and awesome, but other days? I hurt, I’m tired, and I’m a complete and utter beeyotch. I’m neither wholly weak, nor am I a saintly martyr. Such black and white characterizations lack nuance, and are unrealistic, infantilizing and so, so limiting.

    Thanks for the post, Ridley. I’ve found this post and comments thread absolutely fascinating.

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  111. Jayne
    May 08, 2012 @ 13:12:47

    @Christine: Yes! Loved that book. If you put her name in the search box, the review should come up.

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  112. Maili
    May 08, 2012 @ 13:27:53

    @Cat:

    I have no idea if any of that makes sense. Anyone else get what I’m trying to say?

    Yes, definitely. You, like the others here, have explained so well. For what it’s worth, my favourite bits from yours:

    I’m not saying it’s wrong to depict characters that need support while they go through this, but at heart it’s a journey we make alone. We can’t do it for others, we can only do it for ourselves.
    and
    “That movie shows the journey, shows the bad and the good, what we learn to cope with what remains a hidden dagger in heart, but it’s shown through the characters and the type of people they are, not through the disability.

    Well put. It’s really true that it depends on each person in how they deal with a disability (or indeed any aspect of life). Hence, my dislike towards that ‘disability first, person second’ mentality.

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  113. Cat
    May 08, 2012 @ 14:44:03

    @Maili, indeed it should always be person first.

    Oh & apologies for the typo-itis, this should have read

    “That movie shows the journey, shows the bad and the good, what we learn to cope with, but also what remains as the hidden dagger in our heart

    @AnimeJune , yeah the mystery cover is just a mystery. I commend them for using a disabled model but no-one would know she was without being told. So it kinda defeats the purpose. It still fails even if they were aiming for the devotee audience.

    I couldn’t resist, I bought the anthology. Only read the first – now infamous thanks to you :D – story. Agree about the lack of editing, so many errors – & for the publishers to sound so proud of the release and not care about that is, again, baffling.

    As for the story, my over-riding feeling was “could have done better”. I find I can’t really work myself up to get annoyed at the wheelchair side of things because, IMO, it wasn’t really addressed at all. It’s like set-ups were there and not played out. Just a story cobbled together from a draft of points that wasn’t original in the first place. It might have worked as a longer fic but there was no “road to redemption” for the hero, for example. His emotions just took a hard turn for little reason than he seemed to suddenly develop a fetish for weak wet eyed girls (or whatever the heck that awful description of his first impressions on seeing her was)

    BTW I foolishly thought the opening bit in the bathroom stall (which you reference in your review) was going to be something ‘daring’ like saying there was a personal assistant (of the caregiver variety) on the other side of the door waiting to offer help if needed. But no, that scene was just the same old, same old.

    I’ll maybe get back to you on your blog when I’ve read the rest.

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  114. Ridley
    May 08, 2012 @ 16:06:44

    I once described my feelings about disability to my mother in terms of dealing with the death of a loved one. When you acquire a disability as an adult, you go through the stages of grief.

    You start at shock and denial. “I will beat the odds and walk again! I’ll show them all!” Eventually reality sets in and the pain and remorse sets in. I spent the first year after my diagnosis alternating between crying and drunk. I wished I kept playing soccer, that I’d skied more often, that I’d gone backpacking in Europe, etc. After this is the anger and bargaining stage. “Why me? What’d I do to deserve this?” “I’ll go to church every Sunday if you’ll just fix this for me.” I bit a lot of heads off during this phase. Then there’s a point of quiet, self-imposed alienation as you finally start to accept it. It’s not changing, and you get that now, and it bums you out all over again, but in a different way. This was when I started to understand disability, but I couldn’t explain it to anyone else. Eventually, you accept it and work with it and start to really believe that life will go on.

    Unfortunately, books don’t really seem to get this. Imagine substituting a widow/er for the disabled person in these books with a high angst quotient. Would we enjoy watching a character dismiss the widow/er’s grief? Would it seem healthy to drag the grieving character out of his/her comfort zone because the other character knows best? Conversely, could we accept an HEA for a character still on step 1 or 2 of the grief chart many years after the death?

    I know it can seem like I can’t accept stories about characters with disabilities who mope, but the moping is not actually my problem. What irks me is when a character mopes long after the disability manifests. That’s not healthy or common. Most people adapt. Few people have a personality transplant and go from active extrovert to passive loner as a result of disability. I wouldn’t believe in an HEA with a still actively grieving widow/er, so why would I buy an HEA for a character permanently stuck in the grieving process?

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  115. Ridley
    May 08, 2012 @ 16:23:10

    @MD:

    I was lucky that I was never completely disabled, though I thought at one point that I was going to lose my job and end up dependent on others.

    I haven’t worked since November 2008 and rely on my husband to put a roof over my head. I can’t live by myself. When he goes away for work, my mom stays with me.

    That said, I’d never say I lack agency. If he treated me like shit, I’d divorce him and live off the alimony. He’s a nice boy, so that shouldn’t come up. In the interim, I handle the finances, coordinate contractors, decide where we go on vacation, spend his money like a champ and write up “honey-do” lists like it’s my job. I’m still in charge of my life, he just pays for it or does the labor for me.

    A person just needs self-respect and a will to have agency. Relying on people doesn’t mean you’re helpless.

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  116. MD
    May 08, 2012 @ 17:01:18

    @Ridley: Ridley, I can see how my comments can be taken to mean that people who rely on others lack agency, and this is not what I intended to say. Sorry about that. Even though I have a job, and this eases my way, I am dependent on help in many ways. It’s completely true that it does not make you lose agency.

    What I was trying to get at, I think, is that when I was close to losing my job, I felt like I was going to lose a lot of my independence, which is extremely frightening, so I know what it is to despair and feel like you are losing agency. But that did not mean “rescue fantasies” that Anne mentioned in the post to which I reacting. I was very lucky and I found treatment that made me more stable and allowed me to keep my job, even though I had to accept and adjust to many other losses. But yes, if it went the other way, I probably would have adjusted as well – with a lot more grief, and a lot more difficulty. This would not have meant complete loss of agency.

    What would have meant the loss of agency, for me, is going along with my family, who essentially said “Stop struggling. Just come live with us, we will take care of your every need”. It was in part because right now I live in Europe, and my family is elsewhere. The culture in my home country tends to treat disabled people as useless, and does not support accommodation. E.g., to buy anything, book a holiday, etc., you have to walk to the travel agent and pay money in person; public transport is entirely inaccessible to wheelchair users, and very difficult for people with any mobility limitations; I have been told by an irrate person on a bus (whom I accidentally bumped) that since I have a cane, I should not travel when it’s crowded and interfere with healthy people trying to get useful work done. That society is very unsupportive of people with disabilities contributing effectively. Even there, I imagine, it would be possible to build a meaningful life and retain your sense of agency, but it is much, much harder.

    Anyway, this is going off-topic, but I wanted to give some background there, because I think that message came out the wrong way. All I was trying to address in the original is that “rescue fantasies” is not what most disabled people have, at least not those who deal with their life effectively.

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  117. Ridley
    May 08, 2012 @ 17:21:16

    @MD:

    Anyway, this is going off-topic, but I wanted to give some background there, because I think that message came out the wrong way. All I was trying to address in the original is that “rescue fantasies” is not what most disabled people have, at least not those who deal with their life effectively.

    I figured as much, but I wanted to put a finer point on what agency meant in terms of disability. A self-loathing character swept off her feet who has her affairs settled by a caretaker alpha hero and is never given the chance to say boo has less agency than one living with her mom out of necessity and who keeps up with friends and pursues what interests her.

    Anne, being patronized and treated like a child isn’t a “rescue.” Neither is being told your physical disability “isn’t a problem,” “doesn’t matter,” or “doesn’t bother [the hero/heroine.]” (all of these have been uttered reassuringly during love scenes I’ve read) Who wants to be with someone who sees your body as something that needs to be overlooked? What’s appealing about your partner essentially saying he’s doing you a favor by desiring you despite your distasteful deformities? Would someone who loves you shame you like that?

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  118. meoskop
    May 08, 2012 @ 17:33:37

    @Anne: tl:dr

    Stopped here – ” If the goal is to treat disability as a realistic entity you will have to possibly do without HEA and maybe even without HFN. ”

    Because really, there’s no where to go after that. You’ve already made the breathtaking assumption that disability precludes HEA and HFN endings. I’d go with a slow golf clap but I don’t think you’re trolling. It would be a certain shade of brilliance to walk into a thread about realistic and non insulting books with disability and drop such an open insult, but I think a smart troll would just cut themselves off there.

    Which means you meant that. Really sorry for you. It Gets Better. Best wishes.

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  119. Ros
    May 08, 2012 @ 17:39:16

    In the UK it’s ME awareness week (I’m not sure if it’s called ME in the US? Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) and a friend pointed me to this blog post. It strikes me as an excellent description of the life of someone who is severely disabled and yet still has agency. And is happy. I don’t know the writer or her life story, but I’d love to read a romance with an HEA like this.

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  120. MD
    May 08, 2012 @ 18:15:25

    @Ridley:

    Few people have a personality transplant and go from active extrovert to passive loner as a result of disability.

    Love this – so true! This also applies to “nastiness”, “bitterness”, whatever. My reasoning would be, that if the person with disability behaves badly towards others, than it is one of the two cases: (a) they are still in the anger stage of grief and are acting out or (b) they were nasty to start with, and disability just highlighted that effectively. Either way, they are not a candidate for a HEA until they get through this. They can maybe be helped on this journey, but ultimately they have to travel it for themselves. And if they are permanently stuck in this stage, then, yes, they will end up isolated and losing friends, but that again is a natural consequence. And this is what I would want from a good character with disabilities in a book: someone who makes that journey; finding a loving partner can maybe help, but cannot “fix” it.

    Another good example I just remembered, Ruth Wind “Reckless”. The heroine is a doctor, the hero has PTSD. She tells him at one point: “I can love you. But I can’t heal you. I can’t be the doctor who always comes running and patches you up. You need something but I can’t provide it”. By the end of the book he is not cured, but he gets help and gets better through getting help, and finding a combination of actual improvement and learning to cope better with what he cannot change; this is what provides the HEA.

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  121. Ann Somerville
    May 08, 2012 @ 20:44:24

    @Anne:
    “you don’t know me and from what position I am speaking.”

    Then why don’t you inform us? If you have some deep and powerful understanding of what life is like living with a disability, you have yet to display it.

    “You also do not even begin to be any sort of “we” with regard to disabled people”

    Neither do you. But I would take the word of people who acknowledge in detail their lived experiences with disability, over someone like you who thinks people with disability exist like fallen women in Victorian novels – that is to educate, to warn, to excite pity, but ultimately to be denied happiness or control over their fates because of their ‘fatal flaw’.

    In your world, people like Dame Tanni Grey Thompson don’t exist. Rep Tammy Duckworth doesn’t exist. Hell, Gabby Giffords should be lying in her bed crying into her pillow, alone and unhappy, instead of being supported by her awesome husband, loved by an awesome group of supporters, and acting as an inspiration to brain injury victims everywhere.

    Stevie Wonder would never have been married at all, let alone twice. Neither would Lou Ferrigno. Christopher Reeve would have achieved nothing in his life after his accident (and certainly that loser Franklin D Roosevelt can’t have done much from a wheelchair.)

    I’ve done a bit of research about disablity for novels, and an absolutely wonderful lady commenting on this thread, gave me a real education about deaf culture and attitudes towards disability. What I’ve taken away from that is not that people with disabilities don’t have life tough a lot of the time, but that life is much tougher for people with disabilities because of the ignorance, assumptions and sheer refusal to listen on the part of the able-bodied.

    Anne, you’re a perfect example of the kind of person who makes life suckier for anyone who doesn’t fit into your narrow, ill-informed world view. Seems like that’s 99% of the people you’re likely to encounter.

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  122. Kaetrin
    May 08, 2012 @ 21:35:59

    @Anne – what LG and Carrie said in comments 103 and 104 – romance novels must have HEA/HFN or they’re not romance novels.

    I work in the field of injury management (workers compensation). I have seen people with horrendous injuries make amazing returns to work* and at the other end of the scale, I have seen people with minor injuries bascially sit on the couch for the rest of their lives.
    (*When I refer to return to work I do not suggest that work is the be all and end all, of course it is not; “return to work” is merely a professional measure used in my field).

    I’ve described it like this (it’s visual so I hope it translates to words okay): it’s like there’s a circle which is “your life”, and another circle which is “your injury” can fit inside the “your life” circle and be a part of you but not what defines you, or, “your life” can fit inside the “your injury” circle and for those people, successful outcomes are the greatest challenge – the only way to get a good outcome is to (somehow) change that mindset so that the person sees they are more than their disability.**
    (**how that is done is often a medical issue but good claims management can contribute.)

    I have only this small context for my comments but in terms of romance novels, the stories I want to read are the characters who believe (or, at least, over the course of the book, come to believe) that the “injury/disability” fits within their “life” circle and does not consume it.

    My suggestion for a book what I felt was a positive portrayal of living with disablity was Paper Planes by M. Jules Aedin (m/m romance) – one of the MC’s had a leg amputated after a car accident. I don’t know much about it IRL, but it seemed realistically portrayed to me; the disability was acknowledged as having real life consequences but it wasn’t an issue in the romance between the characters, etc, at least so far as I recall.

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  123. L.C. Giroux
    May 08, 2012 @ 21:50:59

    Okay, I was going blind reading all the comments so I apologize if someone suggested this disabled Heroine novel: Shattered Dreams by Laura Landon

    Short synopsis: Regency era Hero wants to use a prize horse for stud that is owned by brother of the Heroine. Brother says he’ll give the H the horse if H squires sister during the upcoming house party. H meets sister on the road and is taken by her ability to ride her horse. She beats him in a race. Only after seeing her again does he realize that she has a deformed spine and uses crutches to walk. Too late, he’s already in love. Wonderful characters and semi-realistic handling of the h’s infirmities, it is after all Regency and I think of these as fairy tales under the best of circumstances.

    I have written 2 books that feature wheelchair bound heroes. His Lady Godiva and Pay Back Both in my Lovers and Other Strangers series. In HLG the hero is an orthopedic surgeon and before anyone slays me, yes, I knew a real wheelchair bound surgeon. My day job is doing MS research so I wanted the characters to be true to the variety of disability that is out there. Michael (the surgeon) is pretty impaired and ends up becoming a little obsessed with the heroine’s pleasure. He also realizes he is a whole lot more dominant that he would have thought. It was a lot of fun to write. Pay Back is completely different Cam is fairly mildly impaired and was a lady killer before he was shot (how he ended up in his chair) Mostly he uses his chair as a way to convince women to sit on his lap! He was fun to write but because of the way he deals with the heroine that knew him before the accident.

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  124. Susan
    May 08, 2012 @ 23:04:47

    @Bonnie Dee: Just FYI–Mary Margaret Daughtridge has a brain-damaged hero in SEALed with a Ring (I believe that’s the right one). I’ll check out your book with the deaf hero, and be on the lookout for the new one once it’s out.

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  125. mo
    May 09, 2012 @ 05:16:04

    Linda Gillard’s Emotional Geology is a book featuring a middle-age heroine who is an artist with bipolar disorder. For me, this book felt very real and raw. It didn’t gloss over the issues.

    It is my understanding that Gillard herself suffers from bipolar.

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  126. Karen
    May 09, 2012 @ 09:48:31

    Earlier in the discussion, a couple of people asked for books that feature heroes or heroines with a history of mental illness. I enjoyed The Keeper by Margot Early, which is an HSR from 1995 (HSR 668). Unfortunately not available as an ebook. I thought the author was a little vague when it came to the actual illness he had, but it wasn’t something that just went away – the hero and heroine had to deal with it.

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  127. A Trans Romance Heroine and the Problems of Representation - Olivia Waite
    May 10, 2012 @ 17:16:38

    [...] able-bodied, thin, wealthy people. (On which note: Dear Author recently had a thread recommending good romances that feature protagonists with disabilities, so let’s take a moment to cheer for [...]

  128. Gidge
    Nov 14, 2012 @ 19:28:39

    I feel a little guilty reccing this since I haven’t read it in its entirety, but I skimmed through “Pinned” by Sharon G. Flake at the bookstore the other day, and what I read was rather intriguing.

    It’s a high school-set YA in which both the hero and heroine are disabled. The guy is wheel-chair bound, but far from angsty. In fact, he’s pretty much at the top of the hierarchy. He’s the head of his class, and never lets anyone forget it. Intelligent and ambitious, but judgmental.

    The girl is the only female on the wrestling team. Incredibly strong, and athletic, with dreams of opening her own cafe one day, but her undiagnosed dyslexia is making her school life more and more hellish as her grades become critical.

    She’s had a crush on the boy for years, and he has been purposefully avoiding her, “wheeling in the other direction” for just as long. But when our heroine asks her dreamboy for help with homework in a way he can’t refuse, he’s forced to face his own prejudices about what makes a person smart-dumb-disabled-capable.

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  129. Tom Denny
    Dec 05, 2012 @ 10:54:22

    The Walking Stick is a good story featuring a girl with a lame leg who needs a built-up shoe and a walking stick. She has a thin leg as a result of polio. She believes that no man will love her because of her lame leg. She meets a man who persuades her that love is for all girls no matter if they are disabled or not. The man sees her walking to the sea to swim without her built-up shoe or stick and teels her that she can walk without these aids.The twist in the tale is that he has ulterior motives!

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  130. Trippinoutmysoul
    Jan 26, 2013 @ 02:39:54

    Has anyone mentioned The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley? The hero is Autistic, and the book touches on his past in an institution. He is very high-functioning, and has the added support of a ducal brother, but I think the author did a great job of depicting realistically how his condition effected him and those close to him. I loved this book, although if I look at it a little more objectively, I suppose it could be said that there’s a bit of a “true love heals all” at the end. But on the other hand, I can see similarites between Ian’s symptoms being more mild due to his intense focus on his wife and my autistic nephew’s fixation with his Ipad.

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  131. Tyeshia Rodgers
    Nov 08, 2013 @ 02:27:07

    Hello all. I’m a 26 y/o woman, living with Sickle Cell Disease. I’ve been looking online for romance novels with characters in them with my disease. So far, I’ve had absolutely no luck….I specifically am looking for one where the heroine is living with the disease, Sickle Cell. If any of you know of any books like this, please, feel free to email me and let me know. Thank you!!

    ReplyReply

  132. The Firebirds :: 2012 Golden Heart ® Finalists » Why that character?
    Feb 20, 2014 @ 10:07:11

    […] preparing this post, I discovered a really interesting 2012 blog on Dear Author: http://dearauthor.com/need-a-rec/if-you-like-misc/if-you-like-books-about-characters-with-disabiliti…. Ridley’s blog post starts with recommendations for books she liked that feature disabled […]

  133. đại lý vé máy bay giá rẻ tại nha trang
    Mar 06, 2014 @ 10:34:24

    I think the admin of this web site is genuinely
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