Morning Side of Dawn

Morning Side Of Dawn - Justine Davis So, I think I've learned my lesson: any disability-themed romance novel readers gush over as "heartwarming" or a "tear-jerker" invariably plays up a number of insulting stereotypes of disabled people that insult me as they generate cheap angst. This book is no exception. The book opens with supermodel Cassandra Cameron walking out of her agent's office after declaring she's taking an impromptu sabbatical. Worn out from reconciling her public image with her private life, she takes off to housesit for her vacationing brother. Unfortunately for her, she's attracted the unwelcome attention of a creepy dude who's determined to make contact with her. Unwillingly, family friend Dar Cordell finds himself drawn into her predicament. Though he'd rather hole up and make racing wheelchairs in solitude, he eventually agrees to help Cassie out by letting her hide out in his remote home.The story Davis wanted to tell and the book she actually wrote do not match up. She clearly wanted to tell a story of love transcending superficial appearances and overcoming differences. What she actually wrote, however, was a pitying tale of a sad cripple and the condescending woman determined to show him how he should live his life instead. It wasn't a story about a disabled man finding the love he deserves. It was a story about readers being able to imagine themselves a charitable good girl who magnanimously befriends the downtrodden. The hero's disability is merely a means to an end.The problem lies in the stark morality of the novel. There's little nuance or grey area to the novel. The good people unquestionably accept disability as charmingly normal and the bad people callously shun and dehumanize the disabled. It takes something complex and amoral and turns it into a simplistic moral play. This makes me think of a line from Tim O'Brien's "How To Tell a True War Story." Like war, disability is never moral. "It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things they have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie." Being disabled doesn't make a person stronger, wiser or more heroic and befriending, accepting or loving a disabled person doesn't make the able person kinder, nobler or better than anyone else. Unfortunately, Ms. Davis didn't get the memo on this. Throughout the book, Dar's ability is trotted out to define his father's and fiancee's perfidy and Cassie and her family's goodness. No one ever puzzles through any conflicted feelings, Dar never gets to talk about what disability means to his life, acceptance and rejection are just two stark, binary options. Dar is sad, and Cassie just yells her "acceptance" at him until he adopts an outlook she approves of.And yet, the novel perpetuates patronizing attitudes towards disability, even as it's trying to be the benevolent champion of the poor cripples of the world. The first thing to really throw me was the scene where Cassie watches Dar playing NCAA baseball before his injury. Dar walks in as she's crying at the video and they get into an argument. She goes through amazing mental gymnastics about how they aren't tears of pity then yells at him for being selfish - because he doesn't want to talk about his feelings with people. To begin with, crying at what she terms a tragedy is pity, full stop. You can't spin that. Tears equal an assumption that disability is a negative. Secondly, why does she get to lecture this guy she's known for a week about how he should live his life? Because he's not a happy, grateful, "inspirational" cripple, he's doing it wrong?Later on, when they finally fall into bed, we get this exchange"Dar?" She was looking at him, that hint of doubt back in her eyes, as if she sensed him withdrawing. "Dar, please, don't. I… It doesn't… I don't mind.""My fiancée thought she didn't, either," he said, unable to stop himself, "until one of my stumps touched her.""Dar, stop." She bit her lip, and shook her head as if in pain. "Oh, please, I don't know what to say. How to tell you … not that it doesn't matter, of course it does, but … Dar, I don't care! Can't you see that?"Oh, she "doesn't mind." How gracious of her. Imagine if this was a hero saying this to an overweight heroine about her curves she's self-conscious of. Would this seem so romantic with the roles reversed?In addition to appropriating disability to tell a story about an able bodied character, the book's just not written very well. The narrative is repetitive, rewording and restating simple concepts ad nauseam as if she didn't trust the reader to draw her own conclusions. The dialog is laughably unnatural. The story rests on a cast of characters endlessly psychoanalyzing the hell out of each other using their best daytime TV pop psychology terminology. They didn't talk to each other so much as try to outdo each other's metaphors. Dialog read more like a chain of overwrought monologues than the give and take of conversation. Way too melodramatic for my taste.In the end, I just resented the novel. It's just another novel that defines the disabled character by what he's lost then uses the angst not to tell his story of acceptance and adjustment but to illustrate the able heroine's generosity and heroism. It does the disabled no favors with how it treats the theme. It's dripping with ableism.I can't recommend this to anyone looking for disabled characters in romance. It perpetuates the negative attitudes it purportedly rejects.