GS vs. STA: Disabled Heroines

2017 NB: The title of this entry was changed from “Handicapped Heroines” to “Disabled Heroines” due to the fact that “handicapped” was and is an ableist term. I want to apologize for the poor choice, and apologize that I cannot change the URL to match the headline. Thank you to Brooke W. for bringing this to my attention on Twitter. – SW

It’s a little different than the “Help a Bitch Out” feature, but it’s all about looking for good things to read. Good Shit vs. Shit to Avoid is a recommendation thread devoted to books in a specific genre that feature a type of heroine, hero, plot, or locale that is often difficult to find, particularly when that feature is done right. Today, Heather, the awesome, from The Galaxy Express, is looking for disabled heroines:

When you have a chance, I’m hoping you can assist me with information about a particular type of romance heroine. I’m thinking my question might be eligible for your HaBO feature. A friend of mine and I were discussing how we’d like to read romances involving a handicapped heroine—one where the heroine gets the hero without any serious cop-outs.

By cop-outs, we mean:

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.

SF/F would be nice, but we’re basically looking for stories regardless of sub-genre.

Oh, Heather, I hear you on the cop-outs. Love my conquer all, but there are some physical ailments it can’t overrule. What romances featuring disabled heroines do you recommend?

Comments are Closed

  1. library addict says:

    In Christine Feehan’s Shadow Game, the heroine has a severe limp.  I would classify the book as contemporary with paranormal elements, so not actually very SF/F.  It’s the first book in her military GhostWalkers series.

    The heroine is Sandra Brown’s Unspeakable is deaf.  But to be honest I don’t remember enough of the story to say if SB cops out on the ending. 

    answer72.  Hmm, I can think of about 7 books where the hero has a handicap, but only 2 with the heroine.

  2. Liz says:

    It’s not SF but Raeanne Thane’s story, Dancing in The Moonlight, has a heroine who was a military nurse who lost the lower part of her leg in Afghanistan. The story focuses on her recovery and coming to terms with her loss – permanently. No magic cure. It is one of the free Silhouettes on Amazon.

  3. It’s a Regency Historical and not SF/F, but Amanda Quick’s Reckless has a heroine who walks with a limp due to a childhood accident.

    (And now I wish I had it at hand for a reread…)

  4. Marisa says:

    Heather, If you haven’t read any of Catherine Anderson’s books I highly recommend that you do.

    You can start with Annie’s Song – an historical where the heroine is deaf and her hero helps her overcome the prejudices she faces in a hearing world. After that read Phantom Waltz – the heroine is paralyzed and despite the fact that she will never walk again finds a satisfying HEA. In addition Anderson’s other handicapped heroines include a woman who is brain damaged as well as a woman who goes blind.  Yes, Anderson does deal with handicapped heroines quite a bit and their HEA never requires that they are miraculously cured. Instead they find happiness with heroes who love them and accept them as they are.

  5. Evamaria says:

    Oh, I like this question – will definitely be keeping an eye on this thread!

    Just an aside: Shouldn’t it be ‘disabled heroines’ or ‘heroines with a disability’ (although obviously both the British and the American usage destroy the handsome alliteration…)?

  6. StephB says:

    In Marjorie Liu’s The Fire King, one of the big issues of the novel is that the heroine has to learn to cope with the loss of her arm (which happened before the book began).

  7. Melissa says:

    Mouth to Mouth by Erin McCarthy has a deaf heroine who is still deaf at the end

  8. HeatherK says:

    Diana Palmer’s Fearless is a contemporary romance featuring a disabled heroine. She walks with a cane and at times has a pronounced limp. She may have one or two others, but the names escape me at the moment.

    Having disabilities myself, I’ve really been playing with the idea of writing the disabled heroine lately in a future work. I also primarily write SF, so after reading this and seeing there’s an interest, it’s moving higher up on my to do list.

  9. sweetfa says:

    How about Elizabeth Bear’s Jenny Casey series (Hammered, etc.)? More sf than romance, but there are romantic elements. Including, if I remember rightly, a sex scene on a space elevator- the biggest phallic symbol ever conceived? Although I’m not sure whether you’d call Jenny “disabled” or “enhanced”- she’s partly bionic as a result of war wounds, but her bionic parts are failing.

  10. Anne D says:

    I’ll second or third Catherine Anderson’s older books (it appears she converted or reaffirmed or something recently and newer books are heavy on the Catholic ideals which might annoy some)

    I’ve a heroine disabled via accident in Tea for Three (mmf, set in NZ) from Loose Id.

    (And ps I was told off recently for the use of handicapped… not pc these days, apparently. Disabled/differently-abled I believe is the current phrasing)

  11. Omphale says:

    Out of the Blue by Sally Mandel.  Heroine has MS which she has been previously diagnised with prior to start of the book.

    Also, the heroine of “What a Scoundrel Wants” by Carrie Lofty is blind, and an alchemist!

  12. NCKat says:

    I have a disability myself (in fact, 2) since birth and I can tell you that a limp is not a disability so that in itself is a cop-out IMHO.  Having said that I do recall Danielle Steele’s book, Palomino, which featured a paraplegic heroine.

  13. Estara says:

    A very early Christina Dodd – Candle in the Window – is I think a lovely medieval where at the end the heroine keeps on being blind (she was born blind), although the hero regains his eyesight.

    Lady Saura of Roget lived a lonely life of servitude—her fortune controlled by her unscrupulous stepfather—until she was sumoned to the castle of Sir William of Miraval. The magnificent knight had once sworn to live or perish by the sword. But that was before his world was engulfed in agonizing darkness.

    They came together in a blaze of passion—the raven-hared maiden and the golden warrior who laid siege to her heart. Yet danger awaited them just beyond the castle walls. Saura and William soon found themselves fighting for their lives, even as they surrendered to an all-consuming love.

    There are lovely side characters, like a dog and the hero’s son and father and the heroine’s older confidante (who gets together with the father) and a villain you really enjoy hating.

  14. Cat Marsters says:

    I’m trying to remember which of Katie MacAlister’s Dark Ones books has a heroine with various problems following a car crash. I do remember that when she’s made immortal, she’s annoyed that her problems aren’t cured, and she’ll have a wasted leg for eternity.

    I’m going to mention The Spymaster’s Lady by Joanna Bourne, because although the heroine’s blindness is cured, she tackles it in such an awesome way. “I’m not blind,” she snaps, “I just can’t see.”

    I’ve written a blind heroine, but confess I negated it by giving her second sight. I’m in the process of writing another, and can occasionally be found wandering around my own house with my eyes closed, bumping into things in the name of research.

  15. anais7475 says:

    Christine Feehan has another heroine in The Carpathians series (sorry, don’t remember the name). She is a blind pianiste and after bonding with her mate, discovers she is a shapeshifter who can see shapes of the objects with her animal senses.

  16. Tina says:

    I recall reading years ago a Silhoutte where the heroine was in a wheel chair.  She had some sort of condition where her legs could not support her body, but she was able to carry a child(and got pregnant in the book).  If I remember it was a cute, fun story and I did a quick Google search and found A Little Bit Pregnant

  17. One of my all time fav romances is Erin McCarthy’s Mouth to Mouth.  The heroine in this story is deaf, but has learned to adapt to the world around her.  The hero is an undercover officer. There’s a lot that goes on in the story, but I love the way they learn to communicate with each other with and without words.  It’s sexy, and emotional, and at times suspenseful.  I LOVE it, it’s one of my fav reads!

    Then there is also Beth Williamson’s newest historical romance The Stranger’s Secrets.  The heroine in this one is handicapped (something wrong with her leg).  I haven’t had the chance to read this one yet, but it’s at the top of my wish list

  18. Ros says:

    Not a heroine, but a disabled hero: India Grey’s HQ Presents. ‘Mistress: Hired for the Billionaire’s Pleasure’ features a hero becoming blind and having to come to terms with it through the book.  What I really liked was the way that there is no suggestion at any point of a possible cure – instead he has to deal with the fact that this is now who he is and stop feeling sorry for himself.  And get on and win the girl.

  19. M— says:

    The heroine in Ride a Storm by Quinn Wilder had been injured falling from a horse, which result in her having restricted movement and limited physical activity. The injury happen prior to the start of the novel and prior to when she met the hero. There isn’t a cope-out at the end, but the hero does convince the heroine that her injuries aren’t as restricting as she thinks.

  20. Barb says:

    And then there’s LaVyrle Spencer’s THE GAMBLE.  The heroine has a badly cripple leg/hip that causes her to limp badly and be in pain a lot (I can’t remember if injury is from an accident or whether she was born with the disability—must go re-read- now).  This is one of her historicals, set in Kansas, Victorian era.

    Hmmm spamword married34 (well, actually a bit longer than that)

  21. Carin says:

    @Cat Marsters – the Katie MacAlister book is Sex and the Single Vampire.  And I remember when she was annoyed she wasn’t healed as well as a scene with the Vampire along the lines of “wait, is that the only reason you wanted to be turned, you didn’t really love me?”  Which I thought was nicely done.

    Mouth to Mouth gets a thumbs up from me.  I really enjoyed it.  Plus, the fact that the heroine is deaf is dealt with, but the relationship and it’s issues are NOT about her deafness.  If I remember right, she’s pretty rich and he’s pretty working class, with a kid.  Very good book.

  22. Can severely disfigured stand in for disabled? I’ve read a few books with horribly scarred protagonists, though I can only remember one clearly—one of Kresley Cole’s Highlander series, with a hero who had his face pretty much mutilated before the story starts. Not as dramatic as a truly disabled character (loss of a sense or the ability to move around normally) I suppose, as all you really need is for the other protagonist to not be too shallow.

  23. brandi says:

    This isn’t necessarily a romance book, but did any of you ever see the heavy flirtation between Joey Lucas (deaf) and Josh Lyman (not deaf) on the West Wing Season 2?
    The writers never let it go so far, but Josh was completely smitten with Joey, and the flirty conversations between him, her and her interpreter Kenny were sweet and adorable. The fact that she couldn’t hear was never an issue.

  24. Caroline says:

    On oldie but a goodie:

    Palomino by Danielle Steele – The heroine is actually injured in the book, not before the story starts, and the resolution of the story is very HEA tied up in a big frickin’ bow, but I loved the way she didn’t end up being held back by it. No, I won’t give spoilers, you’ll just have to find out how it affects her twue wuv. *wink*

  25. gypsydani says:

    The only book I can think of has already been mentioned: Candle in the Window by Christina Dodd.  The only other I’ve read that might qualify is Infamous Army by Georgette Heyer.  The handicap doesn’t happen until the end of the book, and it’s the hero not the heroine.

  26. Jane O says:

    Among historicals, Mary Balogh’s Dancing with Clara and Eloisa James’ Fool for Love both feature heroines with a severe limp. There’s another one I can’t remember, but I think it was a Jo Beverley.

  27. Rose Lerner says:

    I definitely remember reading a Regency trad years ago in which the heroine becomes blind as a child after being hit by a carriage which the hero is driving—he doesn’t realize anything is wrong and drives off after being assured she’ll be fine.  They meet again years later.  I don’t THINK she miraculously recovers at the end.  Does anyone know what book I’m talking about?

  28. Barbara says:

    I’m not really sure this is a “disability”… yet it’s a true inability to communicate. This is SF.

    Sarah can’t speak—except in quotes. Plus?

    “Sarah can never truly assimilate, for she possesses wild talents. Walls tell her their secrets. Safes tell her their combinations. And a favorite toy dragon whispers dire warnings about those who would exploit her for their own malevolent purposes. There’s no place Sarah can hide, from her pursuers or from her past…”

    It’s called Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls
    the author is Jane Lindskold

  29. Barbara says:

    PS: I guess it is a disability—she’s a high-functioning autistic who views herself as insane.

  30. Kristina says:

    there was one just recently that Harlequin offered for free in December. I got it from the  The woman was an amputee after being hurt by a roadside bomb in Afghanastan.  She came home and a boy she grew up with is now a doctor and he’s been secretly in love with her forever.  No detail of the amputee discomfort or limitations is spared in this book.  I enjoyed it even more for that reason alone.

  31. Kalen Hughes says:

    P.C. Hodgell’s Kencyrath Series (God Stalk, Dark of the Moon, Seeker’s Mask, To Ride a Rathorn) features a heroine/protagonist who is cursed in such a way that she’s physically altered, marked, and reviled by her own. I simply ADORE this series and am really excited to see that there’s a new book due out this year!

  32. Barbara says:

    oh—and how could I forget the Jani Killian books by Kristin Smith? This is definitely SF, slightly hard of center. The five books are: Code of Conduct, Rules of Conflict, Law of Survival, Contact Imminent, Endgame

    Jani Killian is a veteran of a war that was neither lost nor won. Left for dead, and then rebuilt using both technology and alien DNA, her mechanical legs often fail her, her soldier implant interacts badly with her new physiology, and she’s constantly finding things she is now allergic to, or can suddenly be around. Her medical issues are a constant drumbeat behind her life. There’s a sort of HEA in book four. I haven’t gotten to book five yet….

  33. Amanda from Baltimore says:

    Simply Love by Mary Balogh features Sydnam Butler, the hero, who was tortured so severely in the Napoleonic Wars by the despicable French (ptui!) that he is blind in one eye, has only one arm, and has severe, disfiguring scars down one side of his face and body.

    There is no copout, he will always have these physical handicaps, plus he is psychologically frozen up, dealing with the way people react to his visible scars.

  34. Cammy says:

    All about Romance has a great listings for exactly this type of heroine and disabled heroes as well. and

    I’m on a Sarah McCarty kick right now, so I’d suggest Promises Linger by Sarah McCarty.  The heroine Jenna limps from an accident that the hero saved her from previously and she still limps at the end of the book.

  35. Mallory says:

    Not sure if it counts, but I remember the heroine of Lisa Kleypas’s Again the Magic (historical) having had her legs horribly burned in a fire.  If I recall correctly, her legs are awfully scarred and her walking/dancing ability is impaired.

  36. Kate Nepveu says:

    Suzanne Brockmann’s Into the Fire has a deaf heroine and, as best I can recall, avoids cop-outs related to her deafness.

  37. Diatryma says:

    I cannot find which Julia Quinn it is that has a heroine with a lifelong hip weakness leading to a limp and, she thinks, inability to do a lot of things—she can walk, carry things, but doesn’t dance and thinks pregnancy and childbirth will kill her.  The hero, after some book, persuades her to try things, and by the end, she’s affected by it but not disabled, if that makes sense.

    Patricia Brigg’s story in Strange Brew is about a blind witch and a werewolf.  It’s not one of her best—it relies a lot on the reader already knowing that they end up together—and she can ‘see’ with the help of the werewolf, but it’s something.

    I’m really not thrilled with the pattern I’m seeing here.  I have read so many historicals with PTSD, scarred-up, limbs chopped off heroes, and okay, it’s not like that many women were at Waterloo, but *still*.

  38. MaryK says:

    I haven’t read this book (had to look through AAR’s special title listings to find it because I couldn’t remember the title) but it’s supposed to be good. “Lord St. Claire’s Angel (1999) by Donna Simpson – Celestine Simons is plain and has disfiguring arthritis.”

    I came across this one while looking.  “Prospero’s Daughter (2003) by Nancy Butler – Miranda Runyan is scarred and confined to a wheelchair.”  I haven’t read it either, but I really like Nancy Butler.

  39. Quill says:

    I definitely remember reading a Regency trad years ago in which the heroine becomes blind as a child after being hit by a carriage which the hero is driving—he doesn’t realize anything is wrong and drives off after being assured she’ll be fine.  They meet again years later.  I don’t THINK she miraculously recovers at the end.  Does anyone know what book I’m talking about?

    Juliet Blythe’s The Parfit Knight.  Very unusual, actually, the flavor’s quite different. 

    There’s also Elisabeth Fairchild’s The Counterfeit Coachman for a hero with a stutter—not physical, but it definitely impacts his life.

  40. Sarah Morgan says:

    Home Before Dark by Susan Wiggs.  The heroine is going blind and no, there’s no cop out.  The story was gripping, despite – or perhaps because of – a tricky, often unsympathetic, complicated heroine.

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