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Printed from http://www.writing.com/main/newsletters/action/archives/id/6763-Heroes-and-Heroines-with-Impairments.html
Romance/Love: January 14, 2015 Issue [#6763]

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Romance/Love


 This week: Heroes and Heroines with Impairments
  Edited by: Elle
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Table of Contents

1. About this Newsletter
2. A Word from our Sponsor
3. Letter from the Editor
4. Editor's Picks
5. A Word from Writing.Com
6. Ask & Answer
7. Removal instructions

About This Newsletter

There is an increasing demand to see disabled characters find their 'happily ever after' in romance novels, and authors appear to be listening. There are a number of romance novels released in recent years that feature disabled heroes or heroines, and it is causing a lot of debate online.

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Letter from the editor

Art of any form is subjective, and novels are the same. What I enjoy reading is not what another romance reader enjoys, so this is not about the 'right' or 'wrong' way to view these novels, just a look at what is being said.

There is a lot of discussion over whether an 'invisible' impairment, such as deafness, blindness or a mental impairment, allows the author to write of the character's physical attractiveness and have their counterpart fall in love with them despite their impairment. Others argue that physical attractiveness is common across the genre and that the character is loved as a whole package, not just for their physical looks. I would personally argue that scarred characters have been a feature of many romance novels, especially those featuring ex-military, and as a genre we have moved beyond the requirement of physical perfection, but that's a topic for another newsletter! Truth is, we're probably all right and could all give examples to back up our arguments.

I was intrigued by a discussion I read about The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley, so much so that I was inspired to reread the book and remind myself of my own opinions. One reviewer pointed out that the hero's physical appearance is not even mentioned in the first chapter, whereas his condition (Asperger's Syndrome) is - thereby ensuring that the oh-so-important first impression given to the reader is not one of perfection. I checked out whether the same could be said for Song For Sophia by Moriah Densley, which also features a hero with Asperger's Syndrome, and in that novel the hero's physical appearance is not described until after the third chapter. Of course, that's the reader's first impression, not the heroine's.

One reviewer claims that Ian Mackenzie is 'cured' by love, especially in regards to his inability to make eye contact, but another reviewer quotes the following passage which appears to verify that he is still having difficulty with it and sometimes failing in his attempts, but most importantly that his improvements are the result of dedicated practice and effort, not love:
Ian cupped her chin and turned her face up to his. Then he did what he'd been practicing since the night on the train—he looked her fully in the eyes.
He couldn't always do it. Sometimes his gaze simply refused to obey, and he'd turn away with a growl. But more and more he'd been able to focus directly on her.

In Song For Sophia, I know that the hero continues to have 'episodes' where he becomes fixated on an object of fascination and zones out for periods of time. He is not 'cured' of this during the course of the novel.

What about those impairments that are more visible? Just recently I read Andrew Grey's A Helping Of Love, featuring a hero, Peter Christopoulos, who uses a wheelchair. Peter is actually shown as the stronger, more dominant half of the couple, which I found refreshing. He is not a martyr (another common complaint of disabled characters), nor is he helpless. Rather, he is a successful businessman, and the plot of the novel follows him 'saving' the other main character from a difficult situation before they fall in love and find their requisite happy ever after. Where this novel differs from the two mentioned above is that the plot would have been unchanged whether Peter was in a wheelchair or not. His impairment was not central to the plot, he just happened to be impaired. That is something that is rarer to find.

The heroine in Catherine Anderson's Phantom Waltz is also a paraplegic. I don't think the story is as strong as the other three I've mentioned, and I do find the heroine to be a bit of a martyr. I have some other reservations about the plot too that have nothing to do with the topic at hand (like the hero deciding he wants to marry her after the first date) but it has mostly good reviews on Amazon, including 61 five star reviews when I wrote this. As I said at the beginning, art is subjective and everyone has differing opinions. This published novel that has so many five star reviews has also received one and two star reviews that absolutely vilified the author for her portrayal of the disabled heroine, which was 'insulting' and 'inaccurate'. Just goes to show, there's no right answer. In fact, all of the books I've mentioned here have received both one star reviews as well as five star reviews, so opinions are definitely divided. The only thing we can say for sure is that we are starting to see more disabled characters taking centre stage in our romance novels, and I think that's a good thing. And I think all the discussion is a good thing too - the only way the authors will know what we want from these novels is if we tell them (although preferably with an emphasis on encouraging and not vilifying!).

Editor's Picks

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#1817507 by Not Available.

A group for everyone, for support, discussion, learning and interaction.

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#1993416 by Angels in my Ear

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Matters of the Heart  (13+)
A group for all readers and writers of romance!
#2016464 by Elle

Interact with other romance readers and writers, plus earn points for merit badges by participating in Writing.com romance-themed contests and activities.

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#1945699 by ~Minja~

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#1209679 by iKïyå§ama

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Looking for contests to enter? We list them by genre and type. Find your next destination.
#1797031 by Jim Hall (the Great Pumakin)

Find contests categorised by genre, including romance, here.
 
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Ask & Answer

I have five merit badges to give out for Product Reviews of romance novels featuring main characters with impairments. The winners will be chosen by virtual dice from all of those who respond. Please submit your review in {pr:} format.


Thank you for your feedback on my last newsletter, "Romance/Love Newsletter (November 19, 2014):

"Yes, yes. A Big resounding yes. Not only the IQ part, people sometimes question my judgement to because "I'm used to reading the impossible love stories." I have been told once that my standards are so high because I read those trashy novels." - LostGhost: Seeking & Learning

"Awesome newsletter, Elle. Awesome! Go romance! Interesting thing, though, I'd rather be reading the 'book' on the train. It's not the cover I care about but those steamy moments. My Kindle's screen can be read clearly by the person next to me and those behind me; I can't hide it. With a book I can hold it a little less open and read furtively. Of course, this says more about me than about the book!" - Osirantinous

"*Laugh* I don't have an ereader, but I definitely understand the "stigma of reading romance" thing. My solution - I have a Vera Bradley paperback book cover. Bonus built in bookmark ribbon." - Mummsy

"I understand what you are pointing out in your News Letter, It fits with my feeling about Poetry. I can read 100 poems in an evening and enjoy myself more than watching TV because I make the pictures from the Author in my mind." - monty31802
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