The German writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said, "In every man's writings, the character of the writer must lie recorded." That’s certainly true of romance authors. We write from experience and model our characters on ourselves and the people we know. Especially our heroines.
I wrote my Regency-set historical based on experiences with my late husband’s loss of sight to Diabetes. He often misunderstood conversations because he couldn’t see the speaker’s face or body language.
In BLIND FORTUNE, independent and outspoken Lady Fortuna Morley has been blind since birth. She’s convinced the only reason a gentleman will wed her is for her dowry. Fortuna understands that men have complete authority over their wives. She fears a husband will use her blindness as an excuse to lock her away like the heroine in Mary Wollstonecraft’s book, Maria: The Wrongs of Woman.
“How very curious,” Charles retorted dryly. “I’ve never spoken with a female who actually shares that woman’s views.”
“That doesn’t surprise me, my lord.”
Charles ignored her sarcastic remark. “And I certainly never expected a lady in your situation to expound such notions.”
Fortuna bristled. “And just what is that supposed to mean?”
Carefully choosing his words, Charles said, “I believe Miss Wollstonecraft views dependency on males as something akin to slavery.”
Fortuna nodded. “And marriage, as currently practiced in England, a form of prostitution for most women.”
“Forgive my bluntness but I hardly think it possible that a sightless woman can enjoy the kind of self-reliance Miss Wollstonecraft advocates.”
He watched with satisfaction as her green cat’s eyes widened with shock. And something else. Hurt? Inwardly, Charles cursed his sharp tongue.
“Come now, my lady,” he offered in a more conciliatory tone. “You must concede every woman has shortcomings of one form or another that render her incapable of living by her own resources. It’s nature, not man, which dooms a female to depend on my sex for sustenance and protection.”
For several moments, Fortuna gaped as if he’d sprouted horns. Finally she said through thinned lips, “My eyes may not function, sir but the most important organ in my body remains unimpaired. With it, I’m quite capable of ordering my own life.”
Fortuna is at odds with the arrogant marquess over more than their differing philosophies on life. He wishes to marry her young cousin. Fortuna is convinced he’s unsuitable and is determined to thwart the match. In their ensuing battle of wills, however, Charles comes to admire and even foster Fortuna’s independent spirit.
“Don’t you find it irksome, having to rely on the whim of others just to walk about? Balor can provide at least a modicum of independence.”
The idea temporarily robbed Fortuna of breath. Until now, the concept of moving under her own volition seemed an impossible dream. If the wolfhound could be trained to guide her, she’d be foolish not to accept his help.
Fighting her rising excitement, Fortuna said, “Very well, my lord.”
“Take hold of his collar and let’s see what he can do.”
She slid the fingers of her right hand beneath the wide leather band that encircled Balor’s neck. As Fortuna did so, the hound rubbed his muzzle against her hip, knocking her off balance. Granville grasped her elbow, providing support until she had her feet solidly beneath her again. Then he dropped his hold.
“To the house, Balor,” he commanded.
Fortuna stumbled as the dog obediently moved forward. Once the hound’s gait steadied, she straightened and threw back her shoulders.
They skirted the fountain with Lord Granville pacing alongside, snapping occasional instructions to Balor in a low voice. The three of them then climbed the stairs to the Hall’s front door. Only when they stepped into the foyer did the dog’s nails cease clicking beside her.
Fortuna released Balor’s collar. The brute dropped to his rump and leaned against her leg.
“A resounding success, I’d say,” Lord Granville enthused.
“I never conceived of such a thing.” Her mind raced over the possibilities—solitary walks in the garden and down to the lake. She wanted to express her gratitude but was suddenly tongue-tied with shyness.
“For the duration of your visit, Balor is at your service,” the marquess declared. The gruffness in his voice didn’t fool her. He was as excited as she by their modest success. “I’ll have a pallet made up for him in your room.”
Gradually, Fortuna discovers something important.
A deep yearning welled up. Until that instant, Fortuna hadn’t realized how much she longed for a home and children of her own. She’d spent a lifetime suppressing that need, arguing to herself that no man could love her. Now she faced the truth.
She wanted what every woman craved—hearth, babies and a husband to give them to her. Unfortunately, the man her heart had chosen for that position belonged to someone else.
Dare she hope Charles returns that regard?
“You must be mistaken, my lord,” she babbled, slowly putting distance between herself and Charles. “You can’t be seriously interested in me. I’m a poor risk. No gentleman of intelligence would saddle himself with a blind woman.”
“He would if he loved her,” Charles said quietly.
Fortuna shook her head and continued to retreat. “I have no housekeeping skills, or social graces. The best the ton thinks of me, if it deigns to consider me at all, is with scorn. As far as London society is concerned, I am beneath you.”
“The opinion of the ton, one way or the other, is of no consequence.”
She felt him prowl closer and stretched out one hand to ward him off. Abruptly, her hips fetched up against a cast-iron fence.
“Damn it, Forti!” Charles cried. “Do you care for me? Or has all this been an invention of my fevered brain?” He sounded tentative and unsure, nothing like the arrogant nobleman she’d met two months before.
Fortuna lifted her chin and prayed he didn’t detect the tremor in it. “I thought my feelings were apparent.”
“As did I, about my own,” he shot back.
“But you’ve never actually spoken the words before.”
“Neither do I comment about the beating of my heart,” Charles said with exasperation, “yet it’s indispensable to my existence.”
BLIND FORTUNE is about misinterpretation and things left unsaid. When what a lady hears isn’t always the truth. She must learn to see with her heart and trust the rest to fate.
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