Saturday, December 31, 2011
by Elizabeth Glenn
This is a very old Harlequin Superromance (1983), by the same secret dev author who wrote Taste for Love, one of Devo Girl's favorite romances. All of Elizabeth Glenn/Marcy Gray's books are set in small towns in Texas, and all feature heroes with various disabilities. In this one, psychiatrist Mark Bradford is an amputee, having lost his right arm at the shoulder when a psychotic patient shot him. Now a year later, he's returned to the small town where he spent his teen years, working in a mental health clinic alongside JC, who had a huge crush on him as a girl. Now that she's all grown up, can she finally get him to notice her?
The story seems to have such promise, but no, it's an ugly story of a nasty, abusive relationship passed off as romance. Mark is an asshole, the kind of guy who even in the 80s would have been labeled a male chauvinist pig. He says outright that he hates women, and even when he's sweet talking JC, he manages to insult her, calling her "little witch." He's dark and brooding, while she's tiny, waif-like, and the whole childhood crush thing gets played up to a creepy degree, including the oft-mentioned fact that even as an adult she still looks like a child. A lot of romances feature this kind of bitter, angry hero, with the idea that the right woman makes him open up about his feelings and show her his tender side. But in this story, Mark just gets more angry and controlling toward JC as the story goes along.
Early in the story, before they can admit their love for each other, Mark talks JC into a marriage of convenience, he says to keep his many admirers from bothering him. His one condition is that JC never ask him any questions about his family, his past, anything at all. He's also extremely paranoid that the unnamed person who shot him will return. None of this makes any sense, but JC just goes along with it, even as Mark stops speaking to her, and flies into a rage whenever she tries to ask what the hell is going on. Eventually she does try to leave, but he brings her back by force and makes her a prisoner in his house. This is not love, it's abuse. Mark's behavior is excused and condoned, while JC is the one at fault for daring to ask, who is this crazy person I married. Ugh. No "love" should have to endure this kind of behavior.
This was so disappointing, because Glenn is a good writer--she really knows how to linger over the devvy details-- and there are so few romances with amputee heroes. It's really an opportunity missed.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
by Ann Ruth Nordin
review by Aubrey
Circumstances leave Lucy all alone in a strange town in the 18th Century. Keen not to have to return home to her evil twin sister the towns folks marry her off to Brian, who is blind and therefore they recon doesn't have too many options. He turns out to be incredibly sweet and loving and is far from second best. All the characters are very likeable. Brian copes very well with his blindness and the Dev factor isn't too bad, in fact great in some places. There is a thriller edge to the book towards the end. It is ok, not one to read and re read like I do with Taste of Love.
review by Aubrey
I really enjoyed this book but the ending let me down. It is the sort that you cannot wait to bedtime to read it. All the characters are very distinctive from each other, their backstories slipped in so smoothly a real lesson to any authors in learning. The dialogue is natural and not cheesy. The male lead is very sexy and complete, the female lead is easy to identify with. They both are set up by his sister (her best friend). We get straight to the punch, no messing around. The leads are meeting each other in a pivotal moment in their lives where the following day everything will change for them forever. That in itself is a very interesting angle. Their emotions so split between the happiness of finding a soul mate but then the grief that it is too late. What I really hated was the ending. From a Dev point of view the guy gains his sight which didn't need to happen for the story and there is a really annoying twist. The sex scene, although really steamy and originally written was about 20 pages too long for me (or 20% as I read it on my kindle). This probably is just me as it is for the erotic market so it is part and parcel for that genre for the characters to take to their bed of months (or it just feels like that for me.)
But ultimately this book held a fantastic promise that included absolutely everything I would want in a gripping romance story. If I reread it I will just stop at about 80%.
Friday, November 11, 2011
by Gail R. Delaney
Benjamin Prescott is a highly successful banker, despite being totally deaf from birth. Jewell Kincaid applies for a job at his company, and he hires her on the spot, not only because she's highly qualified, but because she's also fluent in ASL. But from that moment on, it's a struggle for them to suppress their attraction at work. Every romance needs some way to keep the hero and heroine apart, and I found this one more convincing than most. Workplace romance is a serious problem, especially since Benjamin is Jewell's boss. Once another guy in the office starts harassing her, things get even more complicated for Jewell, trying to draw the line for appropriate behavior at work.
But then the office storyline disappears, and the second half of the book is all about Benjamin's abusive father, and him trying to rescue his sister, and get over a lifetime of abuse and neglect. Oh and his family is also fabulously wealthy, such a romance cliche. I found the second half much less realistic and convincing than the first half, as if the author didn't trust that the original conflict was compelling enough.
On the other hand, the writing is really solid, much better than average for a romance. And the portrayal of deafness is good. Benjamin is angry, bitter, and emotionally closed off (another romance cliche) but it's not because of his disability, but because he was abused by his father. He's very well adjusted, uses speech/lipreading and ASL. Jewell is fluent in ASL because she has deaf family members (she didn't just pick it up in an afternoon--I hate books like that!). The descriptions of ASL, how they communicate, and scenes from Benjamin's point of view are all satisfyingly realistic.
The one thing that bothered me slightly is the book makes a big deal over how perfect Benjamin's speech is. Ok, it's good that he's well-adjusted and competent and all, but it kind of felt like a "superman" moment to me--it's not enough that he's well-adjusted, he has to be PERFECT, even to the point of beggaring belief. It feels like a kind of overcompensation for a disabled hero that seems to happen often in romance novels. But at least he never tries to hide his disability or pretend he can hear (so tedious), and the book is good about portraying the limits of lipreading. The author mentions in the afterword that her mother was hard of hearing, so she knows her stuff.
She also mentions that she couldn't convince a major publisher to take a romance with a deaf hero. Still?! Seriously, publishers, get on the ball! There are a ton of romances coming out now in e-book self-published format, so clearly people want to read it!
Sunday, October 30, 2011
by Emlyn Chand
Young adult romance/supernatural featuring a blind teen by a new, self-published author. Alex Kosmitoras, who was born blind, is having a hard time. He's bullied and picked on by the other kids at his high school, and doesn't have any friends. His father is unemployed, and seems unhappy with his blind son. His mother dotes on him, but for a teenage boy, that's almost worse. But at the start of his sophomore year in high school, he makes friends with two new girls in his class, Simmi and Shapri. At the same time, though, he starts having visions of terrible things happening to his friends. Shapri's mother, a professional psychic who runs a fortunetelling shop, tells him he has a gift he needs to learn to use. But will he master his visions in time to save his friends?
This is an unusual book, in part because Alex is the first-person narrator. I have read dozens of books about blind people, but except for autobiography, I can't think of a single one that is narrated from the blind person's point of view. That alone makes it a devo-friendly read. It's a brave and original choice by the author, and she mostly pulls it off, but there are some slips. In several places Alex describes things going on around him that he could not know about, just little things like a gesture someone makes, but it was enough to be distracting. There are also some details that felt off to me. Instead of nodding yes, Alex snaps his fingers. Ok, I'm sure that's possible, but I have met many blind people and no one I have met does anything like that. There are a few discrepancies with Braille too. In one scene, Alex shows Simmi one of his Braille textbooks, and says the first word is "the" but anyone good enough at Braille to use it for schoolwork would be using level 3, which has abbreviations for common words like "the." It isn't spelled out the way it's described in the book. Also a single school textbook would run for many volumes in a Braille edition--it's very big and bulky. You can't just carry Braille books around in a backpack. But those are minor details.
On the other hand, I really liked the way Alex's "visions" were described. When I first read the plot description, I was afraid he would regain his sight in some fake magical way, or that he would just be used as a symbolic character. The blind seer, how trite. But it isn't like that at all. Alex "sees" the future the same way he encounters the rest of his world, that is, with his other senses. It's particularly confusing for him, and he often can't tell if what he's hearing is the present or the future. I found this quite original and interesting. And he's clearly a fully rounded character, not just a symbolic stand-in.
Overall I found this a fun read. Alex is an appealing and unusual character, and his growing feelings for both Simmi and Shapri are depicted in a very sweet way. I found the supernatural elements less satisfying than the romance, though. It takes a long time for that part of the story to get developed, and by the time it does, I found myself wishing we could just get back to the high school romance parts, since they were more nuanced and intriguing. The change in tone from romance to action is rather abrupt, as is the change in Alex's relationship with his father, which was not that convincing.
Also be warned, this is the first book in a series, so while the ending concludes some things, not everything is wrapped up. Also note that the next book will not be narrated from Alex's point of view, which is too bad, although presumably he will be in it.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Short TV series starring Clive Owen about a police detective, Ross Tanner, who is gradually losing his sight. Devo Girl was reluctant to watch this one for a long time because 1) he's not totally blind and 2) the premise of hiding his condition and trying to "pass" is inherently silly and annoying.
However, I am glad I finally put aside my misgivings, because this is a well-done and engaging show, with some good devo moments. There are only 4 episodes, each just under 2 hours. The cases are all complex and interesting, if a bit overly convoluted at times. Tanner's condition is somewhat poorly defined (and I'm not convinced they didn't just make it up), but he seems to suffer from a combination of blind spots, distorted vision, occasional hallucinations and vertigo. The first few episodes do a good job of showing his point of view, and showing him feeling around, but by the end the directors seem to put less effort into that part of the story, which is strange, since the ongoing tension is about him keeping his worsening condition a secret. It seems to end very abruptly, but it's still fun while it lasts. There's even some romance in the first two episodes, and hey, Clive Owen is a handsome man, even if he only acts blind about a quarter of the time.
The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn
by Colin Dexter
This is an Inspector Morse mystery, better known for the BBC TV adaptation. The setting is the Foreign Examination Board at Oxford University. In a tiny corner of academia, a select few scholars toil away to create the A level and O level exams to be taken by foreign students seeking admission to British universities. It's a rarified, secretive little world, somewhat disrupted by the recent, controversial hiring of Nicholas Quinn, who is partially deaf. When he is discovered dead, poisoned at home, it's up to Inspector Morse and his assistant Lewis to solve the crime.
Now knowing that the deaf character is the one murdered, one can tell from the outset this isn't going to be a great piece of dev-friendly fiction. But in fact it takes quite a while for the murder to happen; he does get some interesting scenes and character development. My bigger problem with this book (written in 1977) is the dated attitudes towards disability, and toward women. The opening scene where they discuss whom to hire is just painful, and what's worse, the narrator seems to share the prejudiced attitudes of the characters. They worry that Quinn won't be able to function effectively in the office, and in fact, he doesn't. It's never explained how or when he lost his hearing, although it seems to be recent and getting worse. He is a genius at lipreading (of course) but lacks any other coping skills. Women are treated even worse, dismissed immediately as frumpy, clueless matrons or shameless tarts undeserving of consideration.
The mystery is of a very old fashioned sort, basically it boils down to solving the puzzle of who was where at what time. And of course Quinn's lipreading figures into all of it, so once again his disability is really more of a plot device than any sort of character development.
This story was adapted for TV, although Devo Girl has not watched it yet.
UPDATE: Devo Girl has now watched the BBC adaptation. In some ways, it's better than the book because it leaves out the nasty sexism etc. But Quinn is killed right at the beginning, he's only in the opening scene, so devo appeal is pretty much zero.
It also seems that the author based this book partially on his real life. He was forced to quit teaching because he started losing his hearing, then took up a job writing exams for Oxford, like in the book. I'm sure he experienced the kind of blatant discrimination Quinn suffers in the book, but it's a bit disappointing Quinn isn't portrayed more positively or given more character development.
by Carla Damron
This is a very different kind of mystery, one that hinges on human relationships rather than puzzle-solving. The main character, Caleb Knowles, is a social worker, a sensitive guy, not the usual hard-bitten professional detective.
Caleb's older brother Sam has been deaf since a motorcycle accident at age sixteen. He's also an accomplished sculptor. The story begins when Sam's fiancee Anne, also deaf, is found bludgeoned to death at their home with one of Sam's sculptures. Since he was home at the time, Sam is the prime suspect. In shock, Sam shuts down emotionally and won't cooperate with the investigation, so it's up to Caleb to try to solve the mystery and clear his brother, while still maintaining his caseload and keep his clients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression from sinking into drug addiction or suicide.
The depiction of deafness in this book is much more realistic. Sam can read lips and speak, but he prefers to use ASL, which Caleb also knows. He does get some interesting character development, as does Anne, who was congenitally deaf and did not speak. The one thing that really bothered me is that part of the mystery supposedly hinges on the fact that Anne is found with her hands making the ASL sign for NO. How is that even possible? Wouldn't the hands instantly relax at the moment of death? The depiction of mental illness in Caleb's clients, though, is very keenly observed and realistic.
Still, dev appeal for me was only moderate. Sam is very handsome and appealing, but because he remains so emotionally closed off, he remains a secondary character. There are several more novels by the same author, in which Caleb and Sam team up to solve more murders, that might be worth checking out.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
I started reading this series simply because they were on the “you should read it” shelf at the library, and I was between books. These books are award-winning, international best-sellers, so I wasn't surprised to find the writing good and the stories engaging. Sansom spends a lot of time on description, and while some people get sidetracked by too much detail, I found myself completely immersed in Tudor England. I wasn't looking for a dev-read, so imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered the main character has a disability.
From Wikipedia: "This series set in the reign of Henry VIII in the 16th century, whose main character is the hunchbacked lawyer Matthew Shardlake, who is assisted in his adventures by Mark Poer and then Jack Barak. Shardlake works on commission initially from Thomas Cromwell in Dissolution and Dark Fire, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer in Sovereign and Revelation and Queen Catherine Parr in Heartstone. "
I'm a huge fan of historical fiction and mystery novels, and this series is the best of both genres.
I enjoyed the first book so much, I immediately went back and scooped up the other four (there are five of them so far). Matthew is a tremendously sympathetic character. He's smart, he's attractive, he's the good guy... AND... he's disabled. It's too much to ask for a realistic historical novel to feature a guy with SCI, so Kyphosis is a reasonable mobility impairment- but surprisingly, it absolutely tweaked my dev-o-meter.
My only problem with this series, and it's a big problem, is Matthew never gets the girl. I'm hoping for more in future books (I'm hoping for future books, period); but even without sex- or even a romantic relationship for Matthew, the series is definitely on my "most recommended" list.
Friday, October 7, 2011
Japan, 1938, by Shimizu Hiroshi, one of Japan's top directors. Set in a hot spring resort in the mountains, among a group of blind masseurs. One of them, Toku, falls in love with a beautiful young woman from Tokyo who comes to visit the hot springs. But can she return his love? This is a beautiful, charming film, and the actor who plays Toku gives one of the best, and most convincing portrayals of blindness in film. And it's available on DVD with English subtitles.
My Darling of the Mountains:
A 2008 remake of the Masseurs and a Woman. Shot for shot, it's almost identical to the original, except in color. Maybe not quite as outstanding as the original, but still a beautiful, touching film. It hasn't been released on DVD in the US, but it's worth searching out a subtitled copy.
Both the original and the remake are highly recommended!
This is an older film, but worth searching out. Martin is an insecure blind man, who so distrusts the world around him that he takes photos of everything around him as proof. He enlists Andy, a young waiter, to describe the photos to him. But when Andy falls for Celia, Martin's housekeeper, he finds he can't always be truthful to Martin. And Celia seems bent on seducing Martin, in her own strange way. This is a dark, cynical movie, not really a romance, but still very intriguing.
Some people have complained that this was a negative portrayal of disability. It's true that Martin is seriously dysfunctional, but so are the other characters. They're not meant to be role models. Devo Girl got a big devo thrill from this, especially the scenes where Celia comes on to Martin.
Starring very young Hugo Weaving and Russell Crowe!
This is a historical drama TV miniseries from the UK. There are 5 episodes total. Set in 18th century London, the story is based on the real life of Henry Fielding (author of Tom Jones) and his efforts to form London's first police force, the Bow Street Runners. His partner in this endeavor is his half-brother John, who is blind. In real life, Henry died soon after founding the Runners, and John took over as magistrate at Bow Street, but the TV show doesn't get that far.
Now Devo Girl is a sucker for all British costume dramas, so this one is of course a big favorite. But she can't help nit-picking. Henry Fielding is played by Ian McDiarmid (the Emperor from Star Wars), who although he attacks the role with great vigor and a dirty mouth, is far too old. Henry was only in his 40s, although he was quite sick. There is quite a lot of swearing, and they really play up the squalor and rampant crime of the 1740s, which is fine, but by the last few episodes it's so over the top, it's a bit hard to take. The directors tried to make it like CSI: Georgian London, which is a shame, since the material is already so juicy it hardly needs embellishment.
On the other hand, Iain Glen, who plays John Fielding, is fantastic. It's so nice to see him portrayed as young and handsome, rather than old and fat (like in the books Blind Justice and Death in the Dark Walk). He even gets a bit of romance in episode two. And Glen wears opaque contacts, oh be still my heart. Highly recommended, it's a shame they didn't make more episodes.
dir. Yamada Yoji
Japanese superstar Kimura Tatsuya plays a low-ranking samurai Shinnojo, employed as a food-taster for his feudal lord. One day, he suffers food poisoning from some bad shellfish, which leaves him blind. Fearing that Shinnojo will lose his salary, his wife Kayo agrees to a dubious offer from a higher ranking official. Is she being unfaithful or trying to help Shinnojo? How can Shinnojo defend her honor? Can he maintain his honor as a samurai, and fight a duel, even blind? Less action than the Zatoichi series, but a far more realistic portrayal of blindness. Highly recommended!
A documentary about blind mountain climbers in Tibet. In 2001, Erik Weihenmayer became the first blind person to summit Mt. Everest. Inspired by his climb, students at a school for the blind in Tibet ask him to visit them. In 2004, Erik decided not only to visit, but to take an expedition of six student on a hike to Lhakpa-Ri, near Everest. This film documents their climb, from Erik's first visit. Also joining them on the hike is the school's founder Sabriye Tenberken, who is blind herself. The film covers not only the physical demands of the climb, but attitudes in Tibet towards blind people, who are considered cursed. We also find out a lot about Erik, Sabriye, and each of the kids. As the hike becomes increasingly difficult, tempers flare in the group--are they doing this hike for the kids, or for themselves? It's very gripping and exciting, and a sensitive exploration of blindness, far more nuanced than in any fiction film.
There was also a fiction film made in 2006 about Erik's climb up Everest, called Touch the Top of the World, with Peter Facinelli as Erik, but it's really cheezy, and not a good film. Facinelli is not convincing as a blind person.
Both Erik and Sabriye have written autobiographies too--look them up!
dir. Steven Sawalich
Biopic based on the true story of Richard Pimentel, who lost much of his hearing as a soldier in Vietnam, then became an activist for the disabled, and helped to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act. As a movie, it's really good, and shows an interesting aspect of disabled advocacy in the US in the 1970s and 80s.
Dev level is moderate. Pimentel is hard of hearing, not totally deaf, and he never uses sign language. He becomes close friends with a guy named Art who has severe cerebral palsy. Because Art speaks so low and slowly, Pimentel can hear him perfectly, and they become a kind of odd couple. Art is the one who pushes him to become an activist, and they scenes with them causing trouble in public are great.
There's also an extra on the DVD of the real Pimentel giving a speech, which is actually more interesting and hilarious than the movie. As usual, truth is more entertaining than fiction, but it's still a good movie.
dir. Kitano Takeshi
A deaf guy who lives near the ocean finds a surf board and teaches himself to surf, while his deaf girlfriend sits on the beach and watches him. That's it, that's pretty much all that happens, until the last scene which indulges ridiculously in sudden tragedy.
Art-house darling director Kitano is obsessed with still, silent compositions where nothing much happens, and with elliptical cuts that leave out the key moments of the action. He does this in all his films, but this one is by far the most egregious example. But what bothered me the most was the portrayal of deaf characters. Kitano is not interested in dialog, as can be seen by the improvised, inconsequential dialog of the few characters who talk, and also the way he favors shooting from very far away. You get the feeling he really wanted to shoot a completely silent film. Ok, that might have been interesting as an artistic experiment. But using deaf characters as a shorthand for a world of silence is dishonest. The characters come across as completely one-dimensional and boring: they don't communicate at all, even with each other, and never show any facial expression. The film uses the deaf characters symbolically, rather than showing their lives realistically. The story itself is understated to the point of irrelevance. There are interminable scenes of guys surfing, all shot from the shore in the most unimaginative way, and lots and lots of scenes of people walking. Other, better Japanese directors know how to create pathos with these long takes, but here there's literally nothing going on. And the ending--huh? It's hard to feel anything when all the characters are kept at such a distance.
by Kristin Cashore
Young Adult fantasy novel. In the quasi-medieval Seven Kingdoms, Gracelings are people born with one special talent which gives them supernatural abilities. They are marked with mismatched eyes, of different colors. Katsa is Graced with killing, and forced to work as an assassin, executioner, and thug for her king, which she hates. Until one day she meets her match, a handsome young prince named Po, who is Graced with fighting. As they team up to investigate the kidnapping of Po's grandfather, they begin to unravel a larger mystery in the Seven Kingdoms, and also to fall in love....
Ok, so WTF Devo Girl, you are asking, where is the disabled character? Well, I can't tell you, that would ruin the surprise. There is a blind character at the very very end of the book, just be patient. I enjoyed this book a lot. It's a fun read, and those last few pages packed a big devo punch for me.
ETA: There are two more books in the Graceling universe: Fire takes place about 50 years before, in a different kingdom, with different characters. Bitterblue is the sequel to Graceling, with the events and characters picking up eight years later. Although they are secondary characters in the sequel, Po and Katsa are in it a lot, along with a lot of other characters from the first book. Slightly higher devo content than the first book, and still a really satisfying read.
Saturday, October 1, 2011
by Mathilde Madden
Hot erotica about a devotee and the para she falls for. Have I mentioned this is hot? Hot Hot Hot.
Mary is a devotee, and she's also into SM in a big way. When she literally crosses paths with David, a recently injured paraplegic, she can't pass up the chance to flirt with him. Thus begins an epic journey of sexual discovery for both of them. For David, not only to learn to be confident about his sexuality despite his disability, but also accepting his masochistic tendencies. For Mary, learning to accept her deviant desires, and manage emotional as well as physical intimacy. Although the author takes some liberties with the realities of spinal cord injury and sex (ie, that David can get an erection and have an orgasm), but other than that, this is a very realistic and satisfying story. Mary and David are both original and well-drawn characters. The description of the devotee mentality is pretty accurate, and refreshingly sex-positive. The SM is also spot-on in the depiction of how and why the characters do it. The writing style is snappy and breezy, fun to read. Highly recommended!
This was a book club selection, and lots of us enjoyed it, even those who are not into SM:
by Judith Pella
I bought this book without looking at the description too closely, only to discover that it is a Christian romance. I am not a Christian. D'oh! Despite the fact that I have no interest in reading about people finding God, this book still was not bad, and an enjoyable read.
Here's the plot: Joel Costain, blind since birth, is a successful San Francisco lawyer. One day, a sleazy ex-con named Greg Mitchell shows up in Joel's office, claiming to be his long-lost brother. Greg wants to introduce Joel to their father, Charlie, just released from prison, so they can go in together on a get-rich-quick blackmail scheme. Joel is suspicious, but he knows he was adopted, and he's curious to meet his birth father. But the next day Greg turns up dead under dubious circumstances. Joel contacts Greg's ex-wife, Irene, to help solve the mystery of who killed Greg and what happened to Charlie. Irene, who was badly burned by her relationship with Greg, is reluctant to get involved with this unexpected brother, but she finds herself falling for him.
This book is much better written than the average romance novel. The San Francisco setting is particularly detailed and well done. Joel and Irene are appealing characters. Irene is wary and shy, reluctant to do more than take care of her two young boys. Joel is confident but also very sensitive and religious. He's so perfect it's a bit unbelievable--I doubt there is an attorney as successful as this who is also so in touch with his feelings and willing to talk about them at great length, even more than Irene. On the other hand, the portrayal of blindness is very realistic. This is just about the only romance novel I have read so far in which the cause of blindness is actually realistic and common (in this case, oxygen overdose at premature birth). Joel is well-adjusted and not bitter, but his abilities are not superhuman. Even better, the other characters treat him like a normal adult, no one gets too worked up over his blindness.
On the down side, the dialog is pretty stilted and unrealistic. And the romance part is better written than the mystery/suspense, which is rather obvious and not very thrilling. Also, because this is a Christian book, there is of course no sex, only some hand-holding and chaste kissing.
by Courtney Henke
Although this book featured a fairly believable blind hero, I just couldn't get into it. The writing is amateurish, the plot is silly and slight, and the heroine is extremely annoying. Max runs a multi-million-dollar perfume company. Emma has a secret recipe for the best perfume in the world, but she needs to sell him on the idea immediately to raise cash for reasons that turn out to be fairly boring. Her antics to get his attention are completely psycho and borderline criminal. In the real world, Max would call the police and have her tossed in jail. But in the fantasy world of rom-coms, this is considered "meet cute." Like in a lot of bad romances, the author spends a lot of time building up a suspenseful plot that is utterly ridiculous and improbably, only to drop it completely once the romance heats up. Max is mildly appealing, but overall the book is eminently forgettable.
Monday, September 26, 2011
by Josie Metcalfe
The writing itself is good and solid. I like her voice and her style. So it's too bad that her take on the long lost husband shows up and interrupts his wife's new wedding involves descriptions of wheelchair use that make me think Gregor is in some clunky old hospital chair.
"The stark contrast of the trousers that only seemed to exaggerate the extreme thinness of his thighs as he sat there passively in the chair." Passively? This is the guy who just rolled into a wedding ceremony and is about to call out that the marriage can't take place. How is that passive?
"He hadn't wanted Livvy to see him in such a pathetic state; to see him having to laboriously heave himself out of the chair when all he could rely on was his upper-body strength." If he's been in that chair longer than two months, he should not be having that much trouble transferring into a car. When I think of the complaints the Avatar movie got that Jake seemed to be struggling with transfers more than was realistic, this is just ridiculously over the top.
I couldn't keep reading. I skipped to the end to see if what I feared was true and it was. There's a surgery and cure at the end of this book. I don't hate cure endings because I'm a bad person who wants the character to be unhappy. I hate the cure ending because 1) it makes people think that SCI is fixable and those who are still paralyzed must just be lazy, 2) it supports the belief that cure is the only path to happiness.
The guys in books like this are always miserable, whiny brats who obsesses about how they are "pathetic" or "ruined" and they shouldn't ruin their woman's life by being with her. This is such crap and makes me furiously angry. Books like this support negative stereotypes about life with disability and I think that's a terrible thing.
Friday, September 23, 2011
by Lilly LaRue
This is a short story, which I think is quite reasonable for the price. It tries to cover an awful lot of ground for a short piece, though.
It would have been a fine, sexy fantasy sort-of story if not for a couple of things. First, the characters were very thin. We didn't get a chance to get inside their minds and understand them, which made their behavior difficult to understand.
My liking for both of them fell fast based on comments like:
Bari: "She was bothered by Cooper's confinement to a wheelchair because he was so young. If she were honest with herself, she was also disappointed. Bari had been attracted to him from the moment she met him...perhaps it was for the best that he couldn't make love." Really? Because he uses a wheelchair he is A) "confined" and B) definitely unable to make love? This sort of thinking drips with pity, and yet later they get together and she tells him that his wheelchair doesn't bother her.
Bari: "At least he'd been able to walk at one point in his life. That was something to be thankful for." What kind of terrible statement is that? A person who has never walked is a sad, pitiable person?
Cooper: "I regained my sexual function. It made me realize that I was still a person." So if you don't have sexual function, you're not a person? I am nearly speechless with offense at that comment.
Cooper: "I'm stuck in this g*dd*mn wheelchair for the rest of my life and I won't be a liability to some helpless kid." Luckily he comes to feel otherwise. For my friends who are wheelchair users and fathers...I don't even have the words.
The thing that gets to me the most is that Cooper uses a power chair, supposedly. Never mind that he transfers out of it and folds it to put it in the passenger seat of his car (I've never known of a power chair that could do that), but he is paralyzed from the thighs down (conveniently, so of course sex is no problem). I am completely unable to believe that he would use a power chair.
I wanted to like this story and I really would have, but ignorant and hurtful statements about disability ruined it for me. It's one thing to have the bad guy refer to Cooper as a "cripple half-man," but I can't get past the ways Bari and Cooper themselves think of disability.
by Ann Jacobs
This is the usual, expected story of the bitter man who is sure that he is completely unappealing and the woman who is constantly throwing herself at him for extremely explicit sex couldn't possibly really want him. Gag.
The hero was really irritating to me. He was so insecure and whiny that I didn't find him sexy at all. The book is pretty much sex scenes plus the hero thinking "she deserves better than me, she must not really want me" followed by the heroine telling him (and definitely showing him) that she did. This pattern repeated over and over and over and over with no sense of rising tension. His use of the phrase "helpless cripple" really grated on me. At one point Gray "wondered--not for the first time--if it was worth the torture he suffered, using braces and crutches to create an illusion of mobility." And I'm right there with him wondering the same thing. Apparently he would do everything possible to avoid using a wheelchair, a medical device that is specifically designed to help with that mobility issue and that would be a much safer and easier way for him to navigate the world.
The story is that these two had an extended one-night stand before Gray went off on a dangerous mission during which he was, supposedly, killed. He left Andi pregnant, though. Eight years later he's back in town. He had been captured and tortured, but not killed. He has some sort of spinal cyst that's inhibited his ability to use his legs and he is missing one eye.
The child serves as a catalyst to get them back together and they get married after meeting again maybe two or three times. The kid himself doesn't feel real, but just a plot device (overly cute and precious). He is easy to get rid of while they have lots and lots of sex.
There was sort-of an excuse for all the hero's whining. He likes to be dominant. I would have loved to see the heroine find creative ways to show him that he can be. But he doesn't feel better about himself until he has an operation that, while it doesn't cure him, takes away a lot of the disability. Leaving me feeling upset that he can't get a happy ending with his injuries as they are.
This book may be for you, even though I disliked it. If you like very explicit sex, this might be a book you'd enjoy. If you like a guy who spends every waking minute brooding and feeling not good enough for the heroine, you may enjoy this book. If you like a heroine who never tires of being the perfect partner, the person to constantly reassure her insecure man, you may enjoy this book.
Friday, September 16, 2011
This is, to date, the best romance genre novel that I have read.
The action was believable, but exciting. It was paced well and the entire book took place over just a few days. I loved the way the author described each moment and movement of the characters. It drew me right into the story. There was a subtle suspense plot running under the surface and it provided just enough extra tension to really enhance the love story.
It is the story of former partners and lovers who have not seen each other for five years, not since Matt was paralyzed in a freak climbing accident. Alex (the girl, most of the girls in this book have boy names) tried to stick by him at the time, but he wasn't able to deal. His brother convinces him to go back and try to make up for it, but someone else has another agenda.
Impressively, this is the most believable portrayal of paraplegia I have ever seen in a romance novel. I found Matt very real and thought the descriptions of how he moved were accurate and well written. I also completely bought it when he performed some amazing, daring rescues!
My complaints are minor. This, as seems to be a tradition with romance novels, is part of a series of related stories. It's clear there was a previous book about Matt's brother Cory and his wife. I haven't read that one and it was not necessary to enjoy this book, but there were a lot of references to things that must have happened in the other.
Two minor points about the SCI. It was strange to me that Matt was driving a van with a wheelchair lift. I've never known a t-10 para to waste time with a slow lift, not to mention the expense, all the guys I know drive a regular car. Second, there's a line: "flexed his hands in the leather gloves all people in wheelchairs wore to protect..." I don't know of a single thing that ALL people in wheelchairs do. Certainly not gloves. Some do and some don't wear them.
The devo factor was high for me. Matt's movement was described, he was an appealing man and not a jerk, and the love-making scene at the end was not glossed over with a simple "he's a low level injury, so everything is okay."
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Sunday, September 4, 2011
Very engaging at first. The sexual tension is high and drawn out in enjoyable detail. It's a really promising start.
It's a bit difficult to believe that this gorgeous man is as insecure as he is due to such mild Cerebral Palsy that it's hardly even noticeable (the main character thinks he might have a sprained ankle, that's how subtle his limp is). The number of bad things that have happened to Jayden stretches credulity.
The beginning is very solid, but it loses focus half way through. Typos start cropping up, though I didn't find those too distracting. The arc of the plot gets lost, and it's very hard to figure out what we are rooting for, as it goes on and on after it seems the initial conflict is resolved.
There are strange moments of telling things that are huge plot points that I would expect to be shown in a scene, but I don't want to go into detail of that because of spoilers.
In devo terms, I was disappointed by how very subtle his disability was. He was hugely insecure and upset about his disability, but it seemed way out of proportion. There were some good opportunities to talk about how he walked, but there was only maybe one description of it.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
There was a lot of head-hopping, switching point-of-view frequently and without warning.
The plot was thin and any conflict that came up was resolved within a paragraph or two, there was no sense of over-arching story. The book had no structure, the story meandering all over the place without coming to a real point.
The dialogue was very stiff and not believable, a trap that historic fiction can easily fall into.
The hero was difficult to take seriously, since he peppered his speech with affectionate terms in just about every single sentence he spoke. He also was used as the vehicle to describe the heroine, which meant that he was observing how in fashion her dress was and the hem line and style of ribbons, which made him seem like he couldn't possibly be a straight male.
In devo terms, the hero is paralyzed in an accident where a horse drawing a carriage got startled by some hooligans. Leaving aside the historical unlikeliness of him surviving with such an injury, the book glosses over too much. There are too-easy solutions for any difficulty that might arise. I didn't find any dev thrill at all, but that might be because I was already too frustrated by the writing and not able to get immersed in the story.
Friday, August 19, 2011
****** Top Marks
This is a fantastic book. It is Stephen Kuusisto's autobiography, it is wonderfully written with really interesting comparisons. It is called Planet of the Blind because he feels that he doesn't fit in anywhere. His blindness was caused by being born prematurely and the incubator was too oxygenised. Although he can see something; colours and movement, his mother and father refused to accept that he was more blind than not and thus Stephen Kuusisto found himself not belonging to either the sighted world or the blind world.
He is so positive and through his writing you completely immerse yourself in his life and see the world as he sees/saw it. The enthusiasm to make things work for him, and as he states, he tried to pass as a sighted person and ran ahead with confidence; mercilessly bullied by students and teachers; there is plenty to relate too. I would recommend this very highly, not only for its incredible dev factor but also because he writes so beautifully.
This is a great story. We join Dan as another operation to try and restore his sight fails. He lives in isolation in a magnificent house on a beach. His life is forcibly changed when he crosses paths with Bella, a young child with downs syndrome. He is imediately struck by the child and her mother. Slowly a friendship between the three develops. There is great exposition subtly inlayed within the narrative. Dan is a great strong character and Trish, the mother, is great as she is 'normal' in that she isn't a femme fetal but an ordinary woman with insecurities over the way see looks.
The story takes off but I wouldn't want to spoil it by giving anything away.
The Devo factor is ever present and Dan, although very resentful at the start of the book, learns to live positivly with his disability. He doesn't regain his sight and by the end it is clear that there will never be a chance to correct his eyes.
There aren't really any sex scenes but this fits into the story quite well concidering the bagage the characters are carrying around. Wold give this book 9/10.
The only story in this anthology I was interested in was the first one, "Love's Light" by Linda Jones. Set in colonial New Hampshire around the time of the revolution. Alexander Stark is blinded in the fighting, and returns home to the family inn to recover. This sounded so promising, right? I was excited, and the reviews on Amazon were so positive. WRONG. There is a miracle cure about halfway through. ARG! I usually can tell when this is coming, it's not often I'm taken by surprise like this. SO disappointing.
Oh yeah, and the plot is almost exactly the same as Blind Obsession reviewed above this: girl who he thinks jilted him comes back under an assumed name, thinks she won't recognize her because he's blind, blah blah blah what a ridiculous plot device.
Modern-day romance, set in England
As a teenager, Autumn fell in love with her fabulously wealthy older neighbor Saul, but things went badly. He crashed his car after an argument with her, and the accident left him blind, seemingly forever. Autumn flees to the US to escape her guilt, and Saul becomes a famous novelist or something. At the start of the novel, Autumn, now 22, returns to London and interviews for a job as Saul's secretary with a fake name, as part of some half-baked plan to be near him and see if he still hates her. Before she realizes what's happened, he gives her the job and whisks her off to a remote cottage in the Yorkshire moors, supposedly to help him finish his next novel. Alone together for weeks, how long will it be before Saul figures out Autumn's true identity? And is he still angry at her for causing his accident?
Spoilers: not long, and yes. This is one of the most sexist romance novels I have ever read. Even though it was written in the 1990s, it reads like it's set in the early 1960s. Saul basically tortures, abuses, and rapes Autumn into submission (ok technically not rape because the narrator keeps telling us how much she wants him, but she's still telling him no). There's no question for either Autumn or Saul that she really is responsible for his accident because she made him angry, and that she now deserves all the psychological abuse he heaps on her. Her response is to love him even more in hopes that he will remember her good qualities too. Wow, classic battered wife syndrome: "He only hits me because I deserve it, and it's a sign of how much he cares." This really made me sick.
Saul is spiteful and mean. The description of his blindness is utterly fake and unconvincing. Then about halfway through, it turns out he got his sight back already. He was just faking it to make Autumn feel even worse. I suffered through this crappy, horrible book and he wasn't even blind!! I feel totally cheated.
Wow, this was a terrible book. I was really disappointed, because it had so much potential. Handsome young inventor, blind since birth, and a book that is a romance/sci fi/suspense hybrid, sounds intriguing. But no, it fails on every level.
First, as believable fiction. All the characters are completely flat, and act and speak like no human ever would. The story seems to take place in some alternate world where orphanages dot the landscape as if it were 19th century England, but the abandoned children there grow into genius multi-millionaire inventors who live in houses with armies of servants and supermodel social workers (our hero and heroine). Alyssa quits her modeling career to become the caretaker/head cook of the orphanage Conor funds. Seriously, what is up with the orphanages? Note to author: for the past 50 years, orphanages have been replaced with foster care and group homes in the United States. Oh and realism in the representation of blindness? Zero. Several times Conor even "looks" at people, what lazy writing. There's no miracle cure, but still the devo factor is low.
Second, as romance. Not only were the characters totally flat, they were weirdly obsessed with pregnancy and children. The big conflict is that Conor feels he will be "donating flawed genetic material" (he actually uses that phrase several times) and believes he should never reproduce, which he assumes Alyssa not only wants but deserves as an attractive woman. Ok, marriage (and eventually children) is the main goal of most romance fiction, but even in the rarified world of romance novels, the characters don't usually start discussing their reproductive plans on the first date, and then obsessively thereafter every time they even think about having sex. It's creepy and weird. Even creepier: what begins to change Conor's mind is sitting next to a heavily pregnant woman on an airplane who talks loudly to her fetus during the flight. WTF?!? I also couldn't take the extreme sexism inherent in the story. Conor is contacted by his genius family to help find the genius bad guys, placing him in extreme danger and under unbearable stress for some reason. To help him, Alyssa leaves the orphanage to move in with Conor in order to service him sexually and see that he eats and sleeps regularly, in other words, to take care of the female stuff while he does his manly man work, even though he does have a house full of servants (again with the 19th century lingo). And it's not just that, she's so passive around him, even "tilting her head up to be kissed" rather than kissing him herself. It's actually quite rare to find romances from the past 15 years this blatantly sexist, I was surprised.
Finally, as suspense. Like a lot of poorly-written romances, NOTHING HAPPENS (except some awkward sex scenes shoved into the plot at the requisite 1/3 and 2/3 marks). The backstory of the genius family is barely fleshed out; the main bad guy's crime is something called the World Bank Heist (seriously, that was the best you could come up with?). For all the talk of the EXTREME DANGER Conor and by extension everyone else is in, nothing ever happens, not even the slightest hint of a real threat. Once the romance part of the plot is resolved, the suspense part disappears completely. I thought there were pages missing at the end. Maybe the next installment takes up the gripping mystery of the WBH (they seriously call it that) but I can't be bothered to check.
This book is part of a series called Family Secrets, which seems like a genius marketing move: come up with an overarching suspense/romance story, and have a bunch of different authors write each installment, meaning that there is one installment published every month. It's much faster than any single author could write. But the quality of the writing is so amateurish, and it's clear this author didn't have any connection to the larger narrative. Even the cover is half-assed--why is there a picture of Conor playing a piano? He never does in the novel. It's like they got blind-guy clipart for the cover. Just one more indication that nobody cared about the quality of this book.
This is a sweet, endearing teen romance. Amy is a senior in high school, in need of money to attend her college of choice. So she takes a babysitting job for the summer, but she's shocked to find that her charge is not a little kid but a boy her own age who was recently blinded after falling off a horse. Tristan hasn't adjusted well to blindness, and his mother hopes that Amy can help bring him out of his shell. This should have been a great book, but for me the devo factor was only middling.
The story is engaging, but not as good as it could be. Note that this book is self-published, so the writing quality will be different from that of a professionally published book. Judging by the brief bio at the end, the author seems to be quite young, maybe even a teen herself when she wrote this.
With that in mind, it's flawed but not terrible. The writing style is lively and fun, and the narrator Amy comes across as a likeable and original character. Unfortunately, all the other characters are flat stereotypes: the preppie rich kids, the hippy mom, and especially the evil ex-girlfriend, who seems to have stepped straight out of Gossip Girl. The slobs vs. snobs conflict between the public and private high schools also seems cliched--sure it happens in real life, but the way it's described here is more like an '80s movie. It's a bit disappointing that a young author so close in age to her subject doesn't offer a more authentic or original view of high school.
The depiction of blindness didn't feel very realistic to me either. I can't believe that a fabulously wealthy mom would not have her recently blinded son go through real rehab, no matter how reluctant he was, and that instead of hiring a trained therapist or tutor, she would hire a teenage babysitter. Rather than a realistic depiction of adjusting to blindness, the book hinges on the idea that Tristan used to only care about surface appearances--now that he's blind will he learn to see the inner beauty of a girl he would never have considered before?
by Leslie Burton Blades
This novel was first written in 1918. Lawrence, a blind artist, is shipwrecked off the coast of Chile. The only other survivor is a young woman named Claire, a wealthy socialite, and married. They help each other survive by hiking inland, where they come upon a remote mountain hut, inhabited by Philip, an intellectual recluse. Philip takes them in, but they are all three snowbound through the winter. With all three cooped up together, a love triangle is inevitable, but will Claire choose the blind man or the sighted man? Or will she choose her husband back home?
Although it is a love story with some elements of adventure, the author is most interested in the psychology of the main characters: in a primitive environment, will they resort to primitive behavior? What makes people fall in love? What is worth sacrificing for love? The characters spend most of the novel having long philosophical conversations with each other. Some readers might find it slow, but if you care about the characters, it's quite gripping. The language is rather old-fashioned (it was written in 1918 after all) but I didn't find it hard to read at all.
As the title indicates, the author himself was blind, and for this reason he creates a very realistic and sympathetic portrait of a blind man. Lawrence is capable and well-adjusted, passionate and handsome, but also painfully aware of how most of the world perceives him. In many ways, his character is far more nuanced than most of the blind characters that appear in romantic fiction, even now. Dev factor is high.
This book is terrific--highly recommended! You can buy used copies online, or download it for free here:
The first in a series of murder mysteries set in 18th century London, also featuring John Fielding. Very similar in many ways to the Blind Justice series, also featuring a young assistant helping Sir John Fielding solve murders. In this case, Fielding is very much a secondary character, only appearing in a few scenes, so the devo factor us quite low. On the other hand, the quality of the writing is much better than in the other series. The historical details are vivid and lively, clearly well researched. The main characters seem a bit naive and prudish for living in such bawdy times. It bothers me when historical novels conflate the morality of the 19th and 18th centuries, which were quite different. But overall, it's an enjoyable read.
Regency Romance. Also self-published, available only as a download through Amazon or HerStory Books. Another big disappointment. Sarah Deveril is the spinster sister of the local curate, taking care of his house while he's on his honeymoon. One dark and stormy night, a blind man, a wounded veteran of the Peninsular War, shows up on the doorstep, suffering from amnesia, but claiming to know Sarah's brother. Sarah takes him in, and of course they fall in love.
The author has done some research on the Regency period, but the quality of the writing overall is not very good. The dialog is painfully stilted and flat, alternating between archaic and modern speech. The word "helpmeet" comes up like 50 times, but most of the dialog uses the speech patterns of modern Americans. The historical details, like background on the city of Bath or on parts of the Napoleonic Wars read like they were lifted directly from Wikipedia. All the characters are impossibly handsome/beautiful, even the secondary characters. No one is average, everyone is perfect.
This read less like a wounded hero romance novel and more like hurt/comfort fanfic. There is a ton of sex, but for most of the novel, nothing happens. Then suddenly there's a lot of awkwardly written action right at the end. The characters are not believable: Sarah, the spinster sister of the vicar, has sex right away, and her lack of shame or reserve is thoroughly modern, not at all true to the time. Then suddenly at the end she transforms into a breeches-wearing, sword-wielding tomboy. Also, it's made clear from the beginning that Alexander's blindness is psychosomatic, not physical, so of course he gets his sight back in the end--UGH!! The way his blindness is treated is totally unrealistic--he even fools people in the town into thinking he can see. Huh? Both characters left me totally cold.
As with (some) fanfic, none of the details of the time, or of plot or character really matter, it's all just a framework to hang a whole lot of sex scenes on. By the way, the people who run HerStory books left some whiny comments on my bad review over at Amazon. But all the good reviews of the book were written by them, and it's the same for their other titles. They write a bunch of great reviews themselves and try to undermine the bad reviews in the comments. So unprofessional!
Modern-day romance. This is actually the same author as Taste of Love, Elizabeth Glenn, writing under a different name, so I had high hopes for this one, but sadly, it's not nearly as good. Like her other books, it's set in small towns around the Great Plains. The characters are a weird mix of ordinary and glamorous. Lily Ann is the adult daughter of an alcoholic, working as a data entry clerk but with no ambition in life, and afraid to love anyone. Josh was an internationally renowned, bestselling mystery author until he was blinded in a car accident 5 years ago. Now he's also struggling to raise his niece and nephew, after their parents were killed in a plane crash.
Part of the problem is that this whole situation feels completely forced, and the characters behave like no real humans ever would. Lily Ann finds after her father's death that he had been paying Josh money. Thinking Josh had been blackmailing him, she immediately drives from Kansas to Oklahoma to confront Josh, whom she has never met before. She discovers that he's blind, and in desperate need of a housekeeper, not only to cook and clean, but to keep a mean social worker from taking away custody of the kids. Lily Ann decides on the spot to give up her old job and move in with Josh permanently, but she lies about who she is. The rest of the plot continues in this unlikely fashion, with characters doing things seemingly at random to keep the story moving forward. Also it's clear from the very beginning that Lily Ann's father caused Josh's accident, but it's treated like some big revelation.
The characters just didn't grab me. Lily Ann seems to find her life's calling in doing housework for Josh. The kids are perfect little angels, who spout precious lines from Sunday school. Josh is handsome and appealing, but the author can't seem to decide if he's adjusted to his blindness or not. One minute he's perfectly in control, and the next he's freaking out because he tripped over something. Also he's decided he can't go back to writing novels because he's blind. Seriously? That's one of the few occupations you could go back to easily. In five years, he's never turned on his computer, but even in 1993, when this book was written, speech software was widely available.
The writing is also not great. There's too much telling and not enough showing: all the major psychological developments happen in the exposition, rather than in what the characters do or say. And it's very chaste, there's hardly any sex, unlike in some of her other books. Maybe it was the imprint. Read Taste of Love instead.
Regency romance. I really wanted to like this book. It has a lot going for it: a heroine who is fairly intelligent and spirited, independent and not whiny, also without a history of abuse (thank god for that). Simon, the hero, is also a nice guy, not an aloof jerk, rather accepting of his blindness, not enraged like in many of these kinds of novels. And there is no "miracle cure" at the 11th hour. Simon's blindness is handled more or less realistically. A lot of the story revolves around Louisa helping Simon to adapt and regain his confidence in society.
And yet the book failed to move me. Part of the problem is that Simon and Louisa are both so nice, and so very very earnest, they end up being rather dull. And it's not clear exactly what is keeping them apart. They realize they both love each other fairly early on. So why can't they be together? There's some nonsense about Louisa having a "fast" reputation, and Simon thinking no woman would want to marry a blind man, but both issues get resolved so easily it's unclear why the novel isn't over sooner. The sparks just don't fly between these two perfectly considerate, self-effacing characters.
The other problem is that the writing is not great. The narrative is bald and pedestrian. The characters speak in a jarringly modern way, especially the servants. The tone of all the dialog is totally modern American, not convincing at all. In spite of the over-emphasis on propriety and worrying about one's reputation, the way the characters act also feels anachronistic. Romance novels don't have to be this amateurish! There are a lot of much better written historical romances out there.
A romance novel set in Regency England. Lord Renwick was blinded in a hunting accident in India, and retires to his country estate, where Eustacia signs on as his secretary to help him write his memoirs, of course they fall in love, etc. It's really silly and cheezy, there is some awkward humor, especially with his pet tiger which acts like a seeing-eye dog. Not great, but not terrible, and there is no magical cure, always a bonus.
A Regency romance novel. Gabriel, the Earl of Sheffield, is blinded in the Battle of Trafalgar, and retreats to his estate. Samantha is hired to help take care of him, although she is in fact his fiancée whom he thought had abandoned him. The first half is devo-riffic, but about halfway through his sight miraculously returns. Fearing that he will recognize her, Samantha flees, but of course all is resolved in the end. Seriously, even when he’s blind, we’re supposed to believe that he really wouldn’t recognize her?
A fantasy-romance anthology hybrid. Three short stories in the romance genre, set in made-up lands with magic and all. The last story, “Moonglow,” by Catherine Asaro, is set in some poorly-defined vaguely Scottish land where people practice magic based on colors and shapes. Yes, it’s just about that lame. The hero is the long-lost prince of the realm who is the victim of a curse that has left him blind and deaf, and of course the heroine is his arranged bride who must free him from the curse. With something like this you know there will be by definition a magical cure, and there is, pretty early on. A few of the early scenes have pretty good devo value, but as a whole the story is poorly written and very very silly.
A romance novel set in medieval England. Gillian of Warewick is forced by her abusive father to marry Lord Christopher of Blackmour, but she doesn’t know that he had lost his sight a year previously. Yes, this has all the romance clichés: forced marriage, abused heroine, keeping the disability secret, but in spite of all that, this is one of the very best romances Devo Girl has ever read. The author seems to get the devo mindset, because she lingers in all the right places. The quality of the writing is good, the characters are engaging, and the devo factor is high. If you’re looking for a satisfying romance with a blind hero, this is by far one of the best.
A Regency romance novel. Nathan, the Marquess of Oriel, is an English spy in the Napoleonic Wars, who is partially blinded by a would-be assassin. As is usual in this kind of novel, he retires to his estate to live out his days in angry solitude, until our heroine turns up to rescue him from himself. However, in this case, the heroine is not a timid, high-class beauty, but the daughter of the town drunk, and Scottish as well, Isobel MacLeod. The awkward Scottishisms seem a bit contrived, but Isobel is a feisty, likeable heroine. Nathan is not completely blind, but there is no miracle cure either. The writing is better than average for a romance, and the story is exciting and enjoyable.
A modern-day romance, published 1983, featuring a blind hero. Not great writing, but remarkably satisfying. Briony has been in love all her life with her older brother’s best friend, Patrick, who was blinded in an accident when he was ten. He moved away to become a history professor, but now he’s back in town and Briony is determined to prove to him that she’s not a kid anymore. But a few things stand in their way, such as the fact that Briony is already engaged to someone else, and Patrick’s reputation as a player. The quality of the writing is not great, and there are a few unrealistic details, such as that Briony, the daughter of two college professors, would grow up to be Miss Texas (seriously), then give up the life of a beauty queen to become a professor herself, or that at 26 she would still be living with her parents. However, this is one of the best, most swoon-worthy blind heroes in all of romance fiction. Unlike most books where the hero is recently blinded, Patrick lost his sight as a child, and seems very confident and well-adjusted. The plot does not revolve around him regaining confidence or feeling emasculated. He’s already successful and clearly popular with the ladies, which is refreshing. Even better, he’s depicted as attractive not “in spite of” or “even though” but BECAUSE he’s blind. And he’s not angry or emotionally repressed, like so many romance heroes; he’s good-natured and charming. Briony does come off as rather childish, but she has a lot more spark than most romantic heroines, and I really like how aggressive she is in coming onto him. And the sex scenes are super hot. Even though it’s quite old, the writing does not seem dated. The author must surely be a devotee herself: the descriptions of Patrick, and the way Briony sees him, are exactly right. She even describes Briony feeling a “sweet ache” in the pit of her stomach when she looks at him. It’s almost uncanny. The author wrote several romances under the names Elizabeth Glenn and Marcy Gray, all featuring disabled heroes. Yes, definitely a devotee.
A Regency romance, and one of the best in terms of quality writing. Simon, the Duke of Sutton, is blinded in the Napoleonic Wars, and shuts himself up in his London home. Judith Ware is a poor relation to gentry, forced to become a governess. Mutual friends arrange for Judith to work as a reader for Simon, and of course they fall in love. Although this is an older book (published 1990) and the setup sounds trite, it plays out in a very realistic way that feels far more historically accurate than most romances. The author is clearly influenced by Jane Austen. Although she mentions Judith reading Emma, the real influence here is Pride and Prejudice. Imagine a blind version of Mr. Darcy. Yes, it’s that good. No purple prose, no miracle cure, no embarrassingly awful sex scenes, just good solid writing.
A modern-day romance featuring a blind hero. But he miraculously regains his sight about halfway through, so Devo Girl didn’t even bother to read this one. With these kinds of books, it’s a good idea to peek at the ending before you begin.
Sadly, this book seems to be out of print, but it’s worth searching out. The book is based loosely on the legend of King Arthur, and set during the reign of Henry Plantagenet (1154-1189). The idea is that Merlin has become an old hermit, living in secrecy in an ancient forest. A cruel and abusive lord murders his wife, and in revenge Merlin curses the lord’s wife to give birth to a blind albino boy. The plot follows this boy, Mallory, from his tortured childhood until he grows to manhood, learns to fight and reclaim his estate. Oh yes, and he falls in love with Merlin’s daughter. All this may sound hopelessly corny, but trust me, it’s good. Van Austen describes Mallory in wonderfully sensitive detail, plus there are actual sex scenes--you can’t ask for much more. Devo Girl has read this book at least a dozen times.
You’ve got to hand it to Tom Sullivan for making a career as a blind celebrity (sort of). Devo Girl remembers seeing him on TV occasionally in the 80s, but that singing career he is so optimistic about in this book never did pan out. In spite of the terrible cliches, the hack writing, the Christian moralizing and the tacky 1970s setting, this book is a devo classic. Devo Girl finds herself drawn to read it over and over again. His description of blindness in childhood is perhaps unequalled for its candor and fascinating detail. This book was made into a movie in 1982 in Canada, which you can find on Youtube.
Nice cover art, but what was between the pages was pretty disappointing. This is pure sci fi/fantasy genre writing, and not very imaginative at that. The author would have us believe this is some made-up world, but anyone with even a passing knowledge of European history will recognize that the book is based pretty closely on political intrigues in Europe just after Napoleon, except people have magical powers. Names of places, people and religions are disguised so thinly as to be laughable. Add to that a huge cast of characters who all seem to have 10 names each, and a nearly incomprehensible plot. The character with eyes of silver is Malachy Kidd, an English, excuse me, “Ilbeorian” warrior priest blinded in the line of duty. There are a few good scenes with him, and there is another disabled character who appears at the very end, but these were two paltry rewards in an otherwise dreadful book.
Not only is this not a great devo book, it’s only mediocre as literature. The premise, that John Milton, the blind English poet, fled to the Puritan colonies of New England after Charles II returned to the throne in 1660, is interesting and plausible, but this British author’s descriptions of colonial New England ring false. Also, this is an intellectual novel, which means plenty of experimentation with narration and point of view. In the end, it all wears rather thin and Milton, who began as a sympathetic character, becomes a homocidal maniac. Oh yeah, and his sight is magically restored, because obviously Ackroyd does not know how to write a blind character. In spite of a few good scenes, Devo Girl really can’t recommend this book.
This is a romance series for teenage girls. That said, these are still some pretty entertaining books. The plot revolves around a group of eight young adults who live on a tiny island off the coast of Maine, through their senior year of high school and freshman year of college. One of the characters, Ben, is blind. Each of the characters gets equal time in the story, so Ben is not always in the spotlight, but Applegate’s characterization of him is excellent, and she’s not afraid to make him an object of desire. Ben’s character really rings true. One of the major plot points involves Ben’s undergoing surgery to cure his blindness, but the whole thing is handled in a smart and non-cheezy way. Also Applegate uses some interesting devices, such as printing sections from each character’s diary in his or her own handwriting. Ben’s diary is typed, of course. Devo Girl recommends these books to those of you who like teen romances (you know who you are). Be sure to start with the first book, Zoey Fools Around, and read them in order. Each book contains a character’s name in the title, but it doesn’t really determine which character gets the most focus, so be sure to read them all.
This is the first in a series of murder mysteries starring Sir John Fielding, a blind magistrate in 18th century London. Although these books are fiction, Sir John was a real person; his portrait hangs in the National Gallery in London. Together with his brother, the novelist Henry Fielding, he formed London’s first police force, called the Bow Street Runners, and served as a judge to the lower classes from his court in Covent Garden. The series is set in the 1770s, and is narrated by a teenaged boy named Jeremy who becomes Sir John’s assistant. While Sir John, being middle-aged and fat, is not exactly an object of lust, Devo Girl still recommends these books highly. The descriptions of London are lively and fascinating, with many vividly drawn secondary characters.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Jewell starts a new job and falls for the boss. A simple story, simply written. The forward is interesting as the author stated at the beginning that when she originally went to show the story to publishers they didn't think anyone would buy a romance novel where the lead character was deaf. And that is pretty much the only reason I purchased this book.
The dev factor appears in spades. The deaf character, Benjamin, is a highly successful trust fund manager. He is ambitious, fiery, gives not quarter to his deafness but as Jewell slips into his life, you get a feel that he has been isolated and having someone who can sign proficiently and connect with him on several levels, he realises just how isolated he was.
I love that there is references to how he has to direct her to look up so he can lip read and that during passionate episodes the writer states his eyes relucantly have to focus on her mouth. Also is several places they use sign language to comunicate confidentially or he will sign very subtly to her with his hand down by his side so the other person in the room doesn't realise.
This is a mildly entertaining, if flawed, romance. The setting, on Martinique amid displaced French aristocracy is interesting. Sylvie's family clings to its title but has no money, so they arrange for her to marry wealthy but dissolute Etienne. At first she prefers the dashing pirate hunter Jervais, but when captive pirate Jacques kidnaps her as part of his plan to escape, she falls for him instantly. Soon Sylvie finds herself pursued by all three men. Although it's clear she loves only Jacques, how can the two of them escape, and even if they can escape, how can they have a future together?
It's not a bad premise, however, this is 100% fantasy, and the utter lack of any kind of realism bothered me. The author's historical research seems to have been comprised of multiple viewings of "Pirates of the Caribbean." The characters all speak and behave in ways that are not only anachronistic but often surprisingly out of character, simply to move the plot along. And the prose turns to purple on occasion, there are a lot of descriptions of his "cushiony lips" and "tight thighs" etc.
But what really bothered me the most is the totally unrealistic depiction of deafness. Jacques supposedly was born completely deaf, yet somehow he taught himself to speak French, English and Spanish perfectly, and to read lips. This is simply not possible. Even the best lip readers will not catch every word, even under ideal conditions. But here he has long, complicated conversations, with only the occasional slightest difficulty. He also has a sign language, but it's not mentioned or used very much. So his deafness is only sort of decorative, and the author pushes it aside when it suits her. Just because it's a romance novel doesn't mean we have to throw all realism out the window. The Highland Wife is a much more realistic depiction of deafness that is still a satisfying romance, and a better book overall.
In spite of these problems, however, I found the characters rather charming. Sylvie is clever and spunky as a sort of proto-femninist. And Jacques is appealingly boyish. He's not the typical alpha male romance hero. Although he is physically strong, he's sensitive and tender-hearted. Fans of the "wounded hero" type will not be disappointed.
It's fairly well-known that the Plains Indians used a universal sign language to communicate among tribes that spoke different languages. Have you ever wondered if that sign language could have also been used to talk to deaf people? This is that book.
Set in an imaginary Great Plains tribe after the introduction of the horse but before the great western migration of white people, this book is part of a much longer series, but you don't have to read the others. This one stands on its own just fine. Coldsmith uses an odd sort of prose style to imitate the way their language works, at first I found it a bit annoying but eventually I got used to it, and even found it beautiful, if excessively plain.
The book is divided into three chapters. The first, Speaks-not, is about how the main character loses his hearing as an infant, and covers his childhood. The second, Hunts-Alone, is about his adolescence, and courtship with his childhood sweetheart, Far Dove. I liked this middle chapter the best--their romance is quite sweet. The last, South Wind, is really about his grand-daughter, whom he is forced to raise alone (for reasons I won't reveal), and it's all told from her perspective. Speaks-not is not shunned by his tribe because of his deafness, quite the opposite, he has a very successful life as a fully-functioning member of the tribe. The main conflict in the third chapter is how South Wind, having been raised alone, can re-integrate with her tribe.
Overall, I found this an enjoyable read, very well-researched and detailed, and a positive, realistic portrayal of deafness. It even inspired me to do some research online about the Plains Indians sign language, and all the signs Coldsmith describes in detail are authentic, as far as I can tell. This is an original and imaginative novel, recommended.
This novel was first published in 1978, shortly after the sudden death of the author at age 42. It's his only novel, although his SF/Fantasy short stories had also gained him some attention.
Haverstock's Traveling Curiosus and Tent Show arrives in a small Depression-era town in Kansas. The people are amused at what seem to be extraordinary, supernatural beings, but because they are mixed in with obvious fakes, most people shrug the whole thing off as a trick. But the circus really does contain supernatural beings, who are enslaved by the villainous Haverstock. The book follows three local girls whose fascination with the circus leads to sexual awakening fraught with danger. Rose falls for one of the roustabouts, Francine for the monstrous Minotaur, and Evelyn for Angel, a mute albino boy with powers to control the elements. The story is thrilling and evocative, but it's the love story between Evelyn and Angel that I liked the best. It's sweet, tender, and heartbreaking. I have reread this book many times and it always holds up.
Lee Ann Chung is a Chinese-American librarian working in a small Texas town. At obedience school for her dog she meet Keller Hunt, a police detective on leave from work after an injury on the job causes him to lose the ability to speak. They fall for each other immediately, but Keller isn't ready to commit until he finds out if he will recover his voice. The unusual characters add interest to what would otherwise be a fairly pedestrian romance. Although she's called "exotic" a few times, it's refreshing to have an Asian American heroine who is not stereotypical--Lee Ann is feisty and assertive. Keller is a bit more battered than the standard romance hero. When they first meet, he's wearing an eyepatch. He communicates by writing notes. But I didn't like that the outcome of the relationship hinges on whether or not he regains his voice.
A murder mystery set in ancient Ireland, this is part of a series featuring super sleuth Sister Fidelma, an advocate of the courts. As a trained lawyer of sorts, she travels the countryside solving crimes, with her sidekick Brother Eadulf, who plays Watson to her Sherlock Holmes. In this outing, she sets out to investigate the murder of a village chieftain. The primary suspect is a young man named Moen, who is blind and deaf. It’s clear from the beginning that he has been framed, and much of the tension lies in Sister Fidelma’s effort to exonerate him, but how can a person who can’t speak testify in a court of law? It’s an interesting premise, and the author has clearly done a lot of research on the time period, but unfortunately, the book is weighed down by an excruciatingly dull prose style. Every character speaks as if he or she is reading from a textbook, and the whole thing is about as lively as a diorama in a history museum. Moen, who emerges as a kind of Helen Keller of the Middle Ages, is a fascinating character (and handsome!) but he’s only in a few scenes.
A romance novel set in Medieval Scotland, the hero is deaf. Robert MacBain travels to the Highlands for an arranged marriage with Mairi MacInness. He thinks that as part of the negotiations, she has been told about his deafness, but she hasn't, then they are attacked and one calamity follows another and he can't find a good way to tell her. The plot revolves around him trying to find a way to tell her, and her trying to figure him out. The whole miscommunication plot threatens to get frustrating, but I found the arranged marriage plotline both more realistic and more interesting than the average romance. The question isn't will they ever get married (they already are), but will they learn to understand each other. What sets this one apart is that unlike every other "wounded hero" romance, Robert is not some aloof, cold-hearted asshole--he's really sweet and generous. And Mairi is not some sheltered bimbo, she actually shows some intelligence. Also the story is not entirely from Mairi's point of view; about half the narration is from Robert's POV, and we find out a lot about how he lost his hearing as a small child, and how his mother invented a sign language and taught him to speak and lip-read. The descriptions of his deafness are very realistic; the author indicates in the dedication that her son is deaf, which explains the realism. Devo Girl highly recommends this one, very high dev factor.
The Bride of Trouville by Lyn Stone **
The prequel, of sorts, to The Highland Wife, taking place when Rob is a child. Rob’s widowed mother, Anne, is forced to marry the French Comte de Trouville. She resists him, not only because she has been traumatized by her abusive first husband, but because she is afraid that if Trouville discovers Rob is deaf, he will be disinherited. So she tries to hide Rob’s deafness from him. Unlike most “big misunderstanding” plots, this is a legitimate fear: Trouville really does not intend to allow Rob to inherit the estate, and it’s up to Anne to prove to him that her son could be a competent lord. The descriptions of Anne raising Rob and teaching him to speak and use a made-up sign language are compelling, and clearly based on the author’s own experiences. Even though the devo factor is low, the writing is engaging, and the characters are interesting.
The Quest by Lyn Stone *
A sequel to The Highland Wife, although as in most romances, the focus is on a different couple. Rob’s stepbrother, Henri de Trouville, returns to Scotland from a disastrous campaign in France. On his way to Rob’s estate, he meets up with Iana Duncan, a young widow fleeing a forced second marriage. The two seek shelter with Rob, and most of the action takes place at his estate, but he’s barely a secondary character. This one is not nearly as good as the other two. Henri and Iana are potentially interesting characters, but the writing falls down in the second half. Even worse, Rob is reduced a cartoony parody of himself, relegated to little more than a human lie-detector. Disappointing.
A modern-day romance written in 1986. Wow, this has to be one of the worst books ever written. Seriously, it’s on a level of the worst online fan fiction. Even though the hero is deaf, and there is no miracle cure, and there are a lot of sex scenes, Devo Girl still can’t give this more than one star. A girl has to have some standards, right? So why is it so bad? For one thing, it's horribly dated. For another, the authors ask us to believe that Kansas City is home to the privileged, elite, jetsetters, and that Kevin, who owns and manages a cookie factory, has a glamorous, desirable career. The heroine, Suzy, is somehow going to launch her own brilliant career by becoming the spokesmodel for Kevin’s Kookies, and … yeah, I could not keep reading. A book, unlike a movie, can be set anywhere. If you want to tell a story about impossibly beautiful and wealthy people, why not set it in New York or LA, with lawyers or something? Don’t try to convince me that the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce annual reception is the social event of the season. Later on they appear on the Today Show to be interviewed by Jane Pauley. Wow, that’s some cookie factory! The idiocy continues: Kevin somehow lost his hearing in a car accident. A car accident? Is that at all likely? Wouldn’t he be more likely to have an SCI or TBI? Kevin’s factory workers are all deaf, but the management (except him) are all hearing. It’s taken for granted that deaf people ought to work on the factory floor because the noise doesn’t bother them. Suzy reveals that she knows ASL because she had a deaf friend in high school, and somehow, after a few false starts, she’s instantly completely fluent. The authors spend a little bit of time at the beginning explaining how ASL works, but otherwise their depiction is not realistic. For instance, they make it seem like ASL is exactly like spoken English, which is not true. The frequent sex scenes are equally unrealistic and laughable, even for a romance. Within the first few pages, when Suzy auditions for her spokesmodel job, she decides that rather than her own clothes, she would look best in a Kevin’s Kookies t-shirt, so she changes in his office, and whoops! he sees her naked. Not long after, as they go for a drive together in his cookie van, they pull a blanket out of the back, and go have sex in a public park. In the middle of the city. In the middle of the day. Now you know why romance novels have a reason, however contrived, of keeping the hero and heroine apart as long as possible. Without that, there’s really no story, and no reason to keep reading.