Thursday, January 14, 2010

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In Search of...Handicapped Heroines

Blade DancerEver in the pursuit of an intriguing science fiction romance, I’m always game for exploring the subgenres unique angles. Sometimes these angles are already being incorporated into stories, but occasionally they aren’t or not on a regular basis. Heroines with handicaps/disabilities is one such angle. Heroes with disabilities, whether physical or mental, seem to be much more common. But what about stories featuring heroines dealing with the same challenges? More on that later.

Given that we don’t yet know how physical and mental disabilities will be addressed in the future, both in terms of medical treatment/management and cultural attitudes toward them, I wonder about the different ways such a theme could be incorporated into SFR. I suppose there could be stories wherein our DNA is fine tuned to such an extent that biological impairments could be eliminated. Or perhaps medicine becomes so advanced that doctors can cure or regenerate any part of the human body in need of such treatment.

But would eliminating impairments make for an interesting science fiction romance? Or any speculative tale, for that matter. Never mind the fact that what science can do, nature can undo. We are bred to adapt. For example, even if science eliminated congenital blindness, might it resurface when its existence became crucial to the survival of our species?

During a recent exchange I had with TGE passenger Anne B., we were discussing how we’d both like to read a romance in which the heroine has a handicap. Our preference is for stories involving SF and/or fantasy, but we both agreed that any well-crafted story regardless of subgenre would be worth pursuing. But! As Anne astutely pointed out, the story would be more compelling if there weren’t any cop-outs. By cop outs, she clarified:

1) The heroine’s handicap is resolved/healed in some way prior to her HEA.

2) The handicap becomes a non-issue based on milieu (e.g., deafness in an environment where every non-deaf human has to wear earplugs to keep the local inhabitants from piercing human ear drums with their loud calls).

3) The couple is united by a magical, psychic, biological, etc. bond they have no control over. This bond tends to ensure the hero can’t have a satisfying relationship with the vast majority of otherwise eligible women.

4) The handicap turns out to be a side-effect of great magical or psychic power that enables the heroine to save the world or the country.

Turns out, heroines who win the hero despite their disabilities are on the rare side. Therefore, our search required assistance from an ally of epic proportions: Enter The League of Extraordinary Smart Bitches and Their Legions of Followers.

In GS: vs. STA: Handicapped Heroines, SB Sarah posed the challenge—and her army of romance fans answered the call. The thread swelled to many, many comments, and is a wealth of information on this topic. I took the liberty of culling most of the titles into a list, which I present for you below. I divided them into the broadest of broad categories, and have done my utmost to make sure each book is in the proper category. (However, I stopped short of an anal-retentive effort to place them in alphabetical order.)

So, if you’re interested in reading about romance heroines with disabilities--and why wouldn't you be--then today is your lucky day!

Paranormal/SF/F

SHADOW GAME—Christine Feehan (also has a blind pianiste in one of her Carpathian books)
BLADE DANCER—S.L.Viehl
THE FIRE KING—Marjorie Liu
MIDNIGHT RAIN—Holly Lisle
HAMMERED—Elizabeth Bear (Jenny Casey series)
SEX AND THE SINGLE VAMPIRE—Katie MacAlister
BROTHER TO DRAGONS, COMPANION TO OWLS—Jane Lindskold
GOD STALK, DARK OF THE MOON, SEEKER’S MASK, & TO RIDE A RATHORN—P.C. Hodgell
CODE OF CONDUCT, RULES OF CONFLICT, LAW OF SURVIAL, CONTACT IMMINENT, & ENDGAME—Kristin Smith
STRANGE BREW anthology (the Patricia Brigg story)
Tanya Huff’s Blood series
BEFORE THE CRADLE FALLS—James F. David
J.D. Robb’s DEATH series
Blue Champagne—John Varley
THE SHARING KNIFE series—Lois McMaster Bujold
EMBRACE THE NIGHT—Amanda Ashley
REMEMBER LOVE—Susan Plunkett
ONCE IN EVERY LIFE—Kristin Hannah
DARK LORD—Patricia Simpson
A CURIOUS AFFAIR—Melanie Jackson
THE SHIP WHO SANG—Anne McCaffrey
DREAMQUEST—Janet Miller
CAT OF A DIFFERENT COLOR—Dana Marie Bell (Halle Pumas)
Practically anything by Lois McMaster Bujold

Historical

ANNIE’S SONG, PHANTOM WALTZ—Catherine Anderson
RECKLESS—Amanda Quick
WHAT A SCOUNDREL WANTS—Carrie Lofty
CANDLE IN THE WINDOW—Christina Dodd
THE SPYMASTER’S LADY—Joanna Bourne
THE STRANGER’S SECRETS—Beth Williamson
THE GAMBLE—LaVyrle Spencer
DANCING WITH CLARA—Mary Balogh
FOOL FOR LOVE—Eloisa James
LORD ST. CLAIRE’S ANGEL—Donna Simpson
THE PARFIT KNIGHT—Juliet Blythe
RED ROSE & SILENT MELODY—Mary Balogh
HALFWAY TO HEAVEN—Susan Wiggs
SCANDAL BECOMES HER—Shirlee Busbee
To Kiss in the Shadows—Lynn Kurland(from the anthology TAPESTRY)
WINTERBOURNE—Susan Caroll
PROSPERO’S DAUGTHER—Nancy Butler
BLIND FORTUNE—Joanna Waugh
THE PERFECT BRIDE—Brenda Joyce
SWEET EVERLASTING—Patricia Gaffney
PROMISES LINGER—Sarah McCarty
HAZARD—Jo Beverly
HOMESPUN BRIDE—Jillian Hart
TO PLEASURE A PRINCE—Sabrina Jeffries
TOUCH ME—Jacquie d’Alessandro
THE EMERALD DREAM series—B.J. Hoff
THE DARKEST KNIGHT—Gayle Callen

Contemporary

MOUTH TO MOUTH—Erin McCarthy
FEARLESS—Diana Palmer
TEA FOR THREE—Anne Douglas
PALOMINO—Danielle Steele
A LITTLE BIT PREGNANT—Susan Mallery
INTO THE FIRE—Suzanne Brockmann
A MAN LIKE MAC—Fay Robinson
A PRINCE FOR JENNY—Peggy Webb
NIGHT INTO DAY & STAR SONG—Sandra Canfield
A ROSE AT MIDNIGHT—Anne Stuart
SAMANTHA’S COWBOY—Marin Thomas
STEVE’S STORY—Jess Dee
LET ME IN—Donna Kauffman
THE NEKKID TRUTH—Nicole Camden (from BIG GUNS OUT OF UNIFORM)
AN ACCIDENTAL WOMAN—Barbara Delinsky
DRAW DOWN THE MOON & SHELTERING BRIDGES—Bobby Hutchinson
LISTEN TO THE CHILD—Caroline McSparren
MAKE ME A MIRACLE—Ruth Glick
THE MARRIAGE MIRACLE—Liz Fielding
One of Dee Henderson’s O’Malley series features a blind heroine)
THE IVORY CANE—Janet Dailey
HIRED: CINDERELLA CHEF—Myrna McKenzie
SECOND CHANCE HERO—Justine Davis
NIGHTSHADES AND ORCHIDS—Kelly Walsh
SISTERS FOUND—Joan Johnston
BLACKMAILED INTO MARRIAGE—Lucy Monroe
UNSPEAKABLE & ABOVE AND BEYOND—Sandra Brown
DANCING IN THE MOONLIGHT—Raeanne Thane
OUT OF THE BLUE—Sally Mandel
RIDE A STORM—Quinn Wilder
HOME BEFORE DARK—Susan Wiggs
A SOLDIER’S HEART—Kathleen Korbel

Other

PREIOUS BANE—Mary Webb (first published in 1924)
ONLY LOVE—Susan Sallis (YA, non HEA, bittersweet ending)
CHILD OF THE PROPHECY (3rd book in the historical fantasy series Sevenwaters)—Juliet Marillier

For more titles, check out All About Romance’s listing for heroes and heroine’s with disabilities here and here.

Joyfully yours,

Heather