Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie

I read a book recently that really got me thinking. It's by Jennifer Ashley and titled The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie. In it, the hero, Lord Ian Mackenzie, has a disease of the mind. This is set in the 1880's, when medicine was still pretty archaic. Treatments were often worse than the original affliction. Lord Ian spent many years in an insane asylum, where they tried to beat the madness out of him. I won't get into too much detail, because you should check out the book.

His affliction was Asperger's Syndrome, which I believe is on the same level as autism, just not usually as severe. According to Wikipedia, people with Asperger's lack nonverbal communication skills, demonstrate limited empathy with their peers, and are physically clumsy. Ms. Ashley did a wonderful job portraying this in her book, especially the limited empathy.

'I can play this piece note for note' Ian said, his breath warm in her ear. 'But I can not capture its soul.'

Mmmm, yummy.

My question is- how much illness or injury can a hero have and still remain a hero? I know we generally like to read about stong, handsome, extremely masculine men sweeping the heroine off her feet. But what if, like a very large part of the rest of the population, he has glasses, or is overweight, or diabetic? Or what if he's been molested? Or, oh my gosh, maybe he's losing his hair! We have a large influx of wounded veterans returning home right now. The very fact that they fought valliantly for their country makes them heroes, right? Yet I've only seen one or two books deal with the subject.

I never thought Asperger's could be portrayed in a hero, and have the story work. I've seen the occasional case of OCD, but nothing more serious than that. I admire Ms. Ashley for what she has put out for the public. I think this was a well thought out portrayal of a not quite perfect hunk.

Check out her website here. You can read the first chapter of her book.

My question to you is- at what point does a hero physically, and mentally, stop being a hero? Or, what aspects/characteristics/flaws would you NOT give a hero? Or heroine, for that matter? Would the public be interested in these flawed heroes?

Let me know your thoughts...


  1. Jennifer. Looks like you're having problems with the new banner--love the pic of your horse children, btw. Try opening the picture in paint and resizing until you get it to fit with your blog template.

    Wow. You've asked a really tough question. I love Beauty and the Beast stories where the hero is physically flawed in some way. But I've never thought about mental disabilites. That would be hard. I don't know. Did you ever see the movie "Tim" with a very young and yummy Mel Gibson and a much older Piper Laurie? It was one of his very early movies and he played the part of a young man who was mentally retarded. The older woman ends up having an affair with him. I had mixed feelings about it. First of all, I knew there was really nothing wrong with Mel, so I was able to watch it. But if it had been a real-life scenario, I'm not sure.

    As far as balding and overweight, etc. men, not sure again. I read romance for escapism. I want a hero who is drool-worthy. If I want bald guys with beer bellies, all I have to do is drive to town and walk through a store. Even the Beast heroes who've been physically scarred still retain some physical aspect of their former handsome selves, if you'll notice. Example--With the scarred side of his face hidden in shadow, she could see the devastatingly handsome man he'd been before the accident, etc. etc.

    I saw a review of the Ian Mackenzie book over at Dear Author, I think it was. The review said it was very well done, but also alluded to walking a very fine line with this type of story because it could very easily turn off a lot of readers.

    Teresa Reasor is writing a series of books about military men. She's just finished one with a hero who has some kind of mental affliction because of the war--it has a name but I don't remember what it was. Maybe she could give you some input. I'll send her a link to your post and ask her to come over and comment. ;o)

  2. Devon. Thanks for commenting. I know what you mean about escapism. People don't generally want to read about what they see every day (beer bellies and baldies) but at what point does the cute hot guy get boring? It just seems like there is a lot of potential material out there that may not get written because the author doesn't feel that it will appeal to the average romance reader. I would like to go places others have not, but am I doomed to a not-so-successful career if I do?
    Just hypothesizing.

  3. Nope, this isn't the historical I'm reading. I thought, after reading your post at Devon's blog, perhaps we were blogging about the same novel. And nope again, I'm not much into reality when I read romance. Much prefer to leave reality somewhere else when I'm in a novel.

  4. Hi Magdalena. Wouldn't that have been funny?