Blind characters feature prominently in Western literature from very early in its history. Tiresias, who received the gift of prophecy from Zeus, was always a favorite of my students, whether they encountered him in the plays of Sophocles, Dante’s Inferno, or Eliot’s “Wasteland.” (Of course, it was the connection with sex rather than his blindness that most of them found appealing, but I digress.) My point is that the idea of blindness being accompanied by a compensatory gift, often a kind of “second sight,” is an ancient one. The blinded war veteran who functions as a metaphor of a wounded post-war world reestablishing order from chaos, although not as old as the blind seer, is another familiar literary motif. Romance fiction lacks a Tiresias figure as far as I know, but historical romance authors have used the blind warrior hero who must come to terms with a new self and reassert his command over a reordered world with wonderful results for at least the past two decades. My top five such stories (in order of publication) includes both medieval warriors and Peninsular War veterans.
1. Miss Ware's Refusal (1990) by Marjorie Farrell
Simon Balance, Duke of Sutton, suffers a head injury at Waterloo and loses his sight as a result. Farrell does a superb job of showing the stages Simon moves through, from disbelief and denial to frustration, fear, and humiliation to an inner darkness more intense than his physical blindness, and finally to—with the heroine’s help—acceptance of his limitations and triumph over them. A bookish hero and heroine make this one a special treat. Words are inadequate to describe my delight that Simon takes his first tentative step out of his self-imposed isolation when Judith reads to him from a copy of William Blake’s engraved Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. I wanted to join their conversation.