AAR Loves… Representation of Disability and Chronic Illness in Romance (Part Two)

Here, as promised, is Part Two of our latest AAR Loves… list, this time of romances  featuring characters living with disabilities and/or chronic illnesses (Part One can be found HERE.) It’s by no means an exhaustive list (nor is it meant to be), but as AAR’s Disabilities in Romance Special Titles List was last updated in 2013, we decided it was time for an update and for us to draw your attention to some of our favourite romances in this category that have been published since then.

Please do drop by and tell us what you think of our list – have you read any of these and if so, what did you think?  And do tell us of any books you think we’d love that we’ve missed!

The Survivors’ Club series by Mary Balogh

This seven-book series by one of the doyennes of historical romance features a group of characters – six men and one woman – who were all severely wounded in one way or another during the Napoleonic Wars, and who met during their convalescence at the Cornish estate of the Duke of Stanbrook.  Some of the characters are dealing with physical injury (Benedict in The Escape almost lost the use of his legs, Vincent in The Arrangement lost his sight) while others carry scars that aren’t visible to the naked eye (Imogen in Only a Kiss was forced to watch her husband’s death, and Flavian in Only Enchanting was so traumatised that he suffered severe memory loss and was subject to violent outbursts) but in each case the author has approached her characters’ injuries and disabilities sensitively and un-sentimentally, showing how difficult it has been for each of them to regain anything resembling a normal life following their terrible experiences, and has matched each of them so far with a heroine who has her own, though different, dragons to slay.

Buy Book 1 – The Proposal at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Will and Patrick Wake Up Married by Leta Blake and Alice Griffiths

This is actually a seven-part serial that details the relationship between the handsome, ridiculously sweet Will – who, despite being the son of a mob boss, runs a charitable foundation – and Patrick, a brilliant neurosurgeon, who meets Will when he’s in the middle of a massive bender after his long-term boyfriend dumps him.  It’s a funny, sexy romp of a story that isn’t without its deeper, darker moments and the two leads are terrific together.  Will is a type 1 diabetic, so the fact he’s an alcoholic is even more dangerous for him than it would be for most other people, and his diabetes features throughout the story as he has to test his blood and inject insulin regularly, watch what he eats and make sure he takes care of himself – which he doesn’t always do a very good job of.  The romance is really well done as the couple goes from wanting to get divorced as soon as possible (there are Reasons they can’t do it straight away) to becoming friends and then more.  Because this was originally written as a serial, it’s possible to read a chunk at a time, but good luck with rationing it, because it’s really hard not to want to jump in to the next instalment right after finishing the current one!

Buy it at: Amazon

Glitterland by Alexis Hall

Ash is financially successful as a writer, upper-class, Cambridge educated – and mentally ill. He’s attempted suicide, has destroyed almost every relationship, and struggles every day, with the help of medication, to not sink into despair. Life is different for Darian, a determinedly happy guy who sees life through a serotonin-filled gaze. Glitterland, though, is not a happily ever after story where Darian’s care for Ash cures Ash. By the novel’s end, Ash and Darian have found a place where, together, they’re going to try to make a go at a love. In acknowledging their relationship’s limitations, Hall gives them – and the reader – something that feels real and true.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Digging Deep by Jay Hogan

Set in a small town in the north of New Zealand, Digging Deep tells the story of the romance between a playboy cop and a male midwife who lives with Chron’s Disease.  Drake (the midwife) has pretty much given up on love and relationships; his last serious boyfriend left after Drake had a nasty Chron’s flare up and he has no wish to experience that level of hurt again.  Caleb is a cop who has never given a thought to settling down – until he meets Drake and realises that he wants more than a hook-up or short-lived fling.  But Drake’s Chron’s is almost like a third in the relationship; his lifestyle has to be very carefully regimented if he’s to stay healthy, and he’s not sure if Caleb is the sort of guy to be able to cope when confronted with the full impact of the disease. Jay Hogan has clearly done her research into the condition and how severely it can impact not only on those affected by it, but on those around them; nothing is sugar-coated, but at the same time she skilfilly develops a tender, sensual love story between two men who have a lot to learn about how to maintain a relationship under difficult and often debilitating circumstances.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Dearest Rogue by Elizabeth Hoyt

After a combat leg injury, Captain James Trevillion is offered a job as bodyguard to Lady Phoebe Batten, who has been gradually losing her sight over the last decade. Something about this pairing of an older, world-weary, dour ex-officer with a young, vital, and blind sister of a duke is intriguing and completely irresistible. James saves her from multiple kidnapping attempts, but it’s the elegant and richly detailed writing, and the earthy romanticism in the luscious and sensual love scenes, that are real highlights. This is the eighth book in a series, and the characters are introduced earlier, so for full impact, you might want to read the series in order.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Relationship Goals by Christina C. Jones

A steamy kiss at an airport launches a long-distance relationship between wellness guru Norah and indie filmmaker Nick. Their new romance is complicated by Noah’s ex-boyfriend and Nick’s battle with sickle cell disease. Relationship Goals is a passionate story that explores connecting in the digital age and risking all for love.

Buy it at: Amazon

Mr. Hotshot CEO by Jackie Lau

Impressed by her vibrancy and cheerful attitude, workaholic Julian Fong hires scientist Courtney Kwan to teach him to enjoy life the way she does. What he doesn’t realize is that Courtney has severe depression, which for her arrives in recurring treatment-resistant bouts. Her positivity and enthusiasm is a product of, and part of, a meticulous self-care plan she follows to help her manage her depression. To Courtney’s surprise, opening up about her illness to Julian brings them closer. All in all, the author does an excellent job of combining laughter and romance and sex with the reality of depression, creating an uplifting and hopeful story.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Winning Ruby Heart by Jennifer Lohmann

Ruby Heart, distance runner, torpedoed her own career by doping, and Micah Blackwell, football player turned reporter after an injury left him paralyzed, broke the story. Now, Ruby is running again, and Micah wants to cover her comeback. This is a great read if you want a flawed heroine who is competitive, aggressive, self-centered, but damn good at what she does. The depiction of Micah’s life in a wheelchair is thorough and includes practical and sexual details, but he’s also an interesting internal human being, with his career goals and conflicted feelings about Ruby.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Defender by Catherine Mann

Musician and Type 1 diabetic Chloe Nelson joined a USO tour to honor the soldier whose kidney Chloe received. She was not expecting a mysterious explosion on the ship taking her to perform in Turkey, nor a rescue by Captain Jimmy Gage. This romantic suspense novel is heavier on suspense than on romance, but Jimmy and Chloe are a great couple who refuse to let their mental and physical illnesses prevent them from trying to make a difference.

Note: This title is currently available in paperback format only.

Buy it at: Amazon

One Night with Her Bachelor by Kat Latham

Gabriel, a former soldier, is wounded (in body and spirit) and hides himself away from the rest of the world. But Molly, who meets him after he rescues her son, gets to him – her courage, her laughter, her smile – and he realizes that hiding is not what he wants for his future. Molly is a strong female character, a single mom trying to do the best for her son. She is embarrassed that she can’t do it all on her own and needs financial assistance, but is learning that asking for help and receiving it is okay. And when Gabriel looks at her, she knows he sees the real woman inside. This novel will leave you smiling.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Still by Ann Mayburn

A beautifully captivating femdom erotic romance. After serving together in Afghanistan, Dr. Michelle Sapphire and Sergeant Wyatt Callahan must readjust to civilian life. A mortar attack has scarred Wyatt both physically and emotionally. He suffers from PTSD and suicidal tendencies. When Michelle learns of Wyatt’s emotional pain, she offers her experience as a dominatrix to help heal his broken soul.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Invitation to the Blues by Roan Parrish

Gifted pianist Jude Lucens flees his manipulative boyfriend and his life and career in Boston following a suicide attempt and goes back home to Philadelphia, where he meets the gorgeous Faron, an artist working at a local tattoo shop.  The two men are drawn to each other and the author does a wonderful job of developing their slow-burn romance while also presenting a very realistic portrayal of Jude’s depression. Faron’s understanding, acceptance and support go a long way towards helping Jude to shed the burdens of guilt he’s carried for so long and by the end of the book, readers are left hopeful for the couple’s future.  It’s a beautifully written, beautifully romantic story that manages to be fairly upbeat, in spite of the subject matter, and while not always an easy read, is well worth the time spent reading it.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Damaged Goods by Ainslie Paton

Despite addressing chronic pain due to injury, PTSD, and addiction, this story still manages to have humorous and sexy moments on the way to a happy ever after. Cara and Owen have both had serious back injuries – Cara from Olympic training and Owen from a car accident. Owen has tried pain drugs, which added addiction to his troubles. Sexual dysfunction has also become part of Owen’s psychological reality, along with PTSD from his car accident, so maintaining any kind of relationship with a woman will only be possible with someone who is willing to share in the good times, and the not so good. Luckily for Owen, that woman is Cara. It’s a unique and compelling romance.

Buy it at: Amazon

The Parfit Knight by Stella Riley

This charming Georgian romance is the first in the author’s Rockliffe series, and is a beautifully written and tender character-driven romance. Blinded by a childhood accident, twenty-two-year-old Rosalind Vernon lives a secluded life, surrounded by familiar things and looked after by a devoted staff. Her life of seclusion is interrupted one day when a gentleman arrives at her door asking for help for his injured coachman and soon (thanks to a snowstorm) Rosalind and her guest, the Marquess of Amberley, are falling deeply in love.  What makes this such a terrific romance is the way that the central relationship is presented as a true meeting of minds. There is a lovely moment when Rosalind realises that she has at last found someone she can really talk to and laugh with which is really touching; and the moment when Amberley realises he is completely and irrevocably in love is brilliantly done.  The Parfit Knight is  is sure to appeal to anyone looking to enjoy a well-told and intelligently written love story.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Gays of our Lives by Kris Ripper

Since his diagnosis with multiple sclerosis, Emerson Robinett struggles to pursue his dominant sexuality. He doesn’t think anyone could see him as a strong, forceful sexual partner. A chance meeting with happy, open-hearted Obie – who gets his kicks being physically dominated, spanked, and teased until he’s begging – changes Emerson’s life. Despite the premise, there isn’t a lot of on page sex; the passion is revealed through words and moods. This is a romance, but it is also a down to earth tale of how someone learns to accept that a life with limitations is also one that can be, and deserves to be, equally full of love, happiness and respect.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Afraid to Fly by L.A. Witt

Two military men in their forties with enough baggage between them to fill a fleet of trucks are the focus in this, the second book in the author’s Anchor Point series of military romances.  Travis, a former pilot, lives with chronic back pain thanks to a crash some eight years earlier and Clint is a former RAP (drone) pilot who has PTSD as the result of a mission that went badly wrong.  The book explores what it means to live with both these conditions and how they affect pretty much every aspect of the men’s lives.  Travis’ chronic pain has caused the end of more than one relationship as his partners grew frustrated, bored or irritated (or all three) with the way his life had to revolve around his pain management  and with the limitations imposed upon him by his condition when it came to sex.  Clint’s PTSD still gives him violent nightmares regularly, which makes him nervous of spending the night with anyone. Both men are cautious about revealing the true extent of their issues for fear of scaring each other off, but as they spend more time together, they start to open up and to realise that they may just have found the one person in the world who can understand what they are each going through and how they can support each other through it.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

What about you, readers? Have you read any of the books we listed here, and what did you think of them? What other books can you recommend for their representation of characters living with disabilities or chronic illness?

Interested in finding more books AAR Loves..?

Check out these posts:

Yes We Can! Our Favourite Activist Heroines

Romances featuring Refugee Heroines

Romancing it Royally – Some of our favourite royal romances

AAR Loves… Historical Romances featuring scientist heroines

AAR Loves… Romances featuring music and musicians

AAR Loves… Romances featuring realistic parent/child relationships

AAR Loves… Partners to Lovers romances – Part One (Military, law enforcement etc.)

AAR Loves… Partners to Lovers romances – Part Two

AAR Loves… Seasoned Romance

Five Baseball Romances Worth Your Time

AAR Loves… Modern Historicals

AAR Loves… Representation of Disability and Chronic Illness in Romance (Part One)

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