Hi friends! First of all, I have to say this is a really powerful post. It’s definitely one of my favorites this year. I really hope you’ll discuss with us and share your thoughts at the end. As you see, we’ve got Manda Collins visiting with us today. Really there’s nothing better I can say other than – read on!
Because April is Limb Loss Awareness month, I thought I’d talk a bit about my book, How to Romance a Rake, which is to date my only book to feature an amputee protagonist.
First, a little bit about me. I was diagnosed with bone cancer in my left femur over Christmas break from my Junior year of high school in December of 1990. They were able to save my leg temporarily, but four years later a series of bad breaks (pun intended) healthwise meant that amputation of my leg above the knee was the most sensible option. And in the fall of 1995, I returned to my senior year of undergrad without my leg.
At that point, I’d been a romance reader for about eight years, and I’d learned to use romance almost like an infusion of positivity when I felt myself in danger of becoming overwhelmed by life’s darkness. But one thing that bothered me despite my love of the genre was the fact that there were no heroines like me. Though there were plenty of heroines who had “damaged” legs or limps, none were actually amputees. And even the “damaged” heroines were often miraculously cured by the end of the book.
I can remember vividly reading a book by a well-loved author (one of my all-time favorites) who had a heroine who had a mysterious problem with one of her legs. The heroine was deeply ashamed of her problem, how ugly it made her and how she could never imagine a man finding her attractive because of it. And I turned the pages with bated breath, eager to learn what had happened to her, until finally it was revealed that she had…a burn scar.
You all know those “throw the book against the wall” moments? That was mine. I can still remember my disappointment in the fact that what to the heroine was such a horrific thing to suffer through was, to me, no big deal. It’s not that I don’t think that burns aren’t horrible or that people who have scars can’t feel shame about them. I have always been one who appreciates that suffering is relative. But when a heroine thinks that a scarred leg—in an age in which a lady’s legs weren’t even shown in public—is the worst thing that could possibly happen to her, it makes those of us without legs feel like chopped liver.
So, I knew when I got my first publishing contract that I had to write a book with a heroine that I could relate to. And so Juliet, the heroine of How to Romance a Rake was born. I know now from reviews that the big reveal of the reason for her disability was just as disappointing for some readers as my beloved-author’s heroine with the burned leg was for me. But, within the context of the story, and what I was trying to explore—what it would be like for a heroine to “pass” as able-bodied in a world where the disabled were often treated as defective and hidden away—I thought she worked.
I’m positive that Juliet wasn’t the perfect disabled heroine for every reader—one of my first reviews was by someone who said “This? This is her big secret?” Talk about irony! But I wrote her with my own experience as an amputee in mind. Especially the disbelief I often encountered from total strangers who refused to believe me when I told them I lost my leg to bone cancer. (Remind me one day to tell you about the total stranger who reached down and grabbed my prosthesis with her hand to make sure I was telling the truth!) And she was authentic to my own experience at least.
Then why, you might ask, haven’t I written all amputee heroines? Because for me, at least, that’s not what the world looks like. And from what I’ve read and studied about the Regency era, that’s not what their society looked like either. Certainly not the ballrooms of the ton at any rate.
Though I’ve been pleased to note that more and more disabled heroes and heroines have begun to appear in romances, I will continue to add my own into the mix. Because according to the Amputee Coalition of America, around 180,000 amputations occur in the United States alone each year—and if I can give even one reader an example of a heroine who looks like her in the pages of a sexy historical romance I’m going to do it.
Will my version of historical romance heroine amputee work for everybody? Of course not. But, the same could be said for my non-amputee characters. It’s the nature of writing fiction to be read by other people.
And I am perfectly okay with that.
A DANGEROUS GAME
Heartbroken by the loss of her brother, Miss Leonora Craven vows to uncover the truth about his “accident,” which seems to have been anything but. Jonathan Craven was involved with the Lords of Anarchy, a notorious driving club, and Leonora can’t help but suspect foul play. But the only way she can infiltrate their reckless inner circle is to enlist the help of Jonny’s closest ally, Lord Frederick Lisle. If only he didn’t also happen to be the man who broke Leonora’s heart…
AN UNDENIABLE DESIRE
Frederick isn’t surprised to find gorgeous, headstrong Leonora playing detective, but he knows that the Lords of Anarchy mean business-and he has no choice but to protect her. A sham engagement to Leonora will allow Frederick to bring her into the club and along for the ride. But it isn’t long before pretending to be lovers leads to very real passion. With everything to lose, is their tempestuous affair worth the risk?
Gentle readers, have you ever encountered a book where the author just “got” some aspect of you—be it a personality trait, or a disability, or some other special aspect of “people like you”? Tell us about it! Or tell us of an example of a romance that you think represents disability really well. I’ll give one commenter a copy of my latest book A Good Rake is Hard to Find and Juliet’s story, How to Romance a Rake.