posted on September 11, 2018 by Bronwen Evans

Eye surgery in the early 1800’s – Drawn To the Marquess, Bronwen Evans

Destined to go blind, a rake sets his sights on the toast of society, lighting a fire of passion that scorches the night, in this captivating Regency novel from USA Today bestselling author Bronwen Evans.

WOW- a blind hero…Drawn To The Marquess is book #2 in my Imperfect Lords series and my hero, Stephen Hornsby, the Marquess of Clevedon has Retinitis Pigmentosa. Sounds like an Italian wine, doesn’t it, but it’s not nearly as nice.

When Stephen popped into my head (as my characters usually do) and told me about the problem with his eyes, I raced off to do research. It’s one of the most fun parts about writing historical romance. I began to research hereditary eye conditions from the early 1800’s i.e. the Regency era.

Thanks must go to Professor Steven Vernon of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, England, who led me to base Stephen Hornsby’s affliction on retinitis pigmentosa, which is a name for a number of inherited conditions that cause a progressive loss of visual function starting with night blindness and continuing through tunnel vision to sometimes, but not always, blindness.

Eye surgery in the early 1800’s was practiced. They did a great deal of cataract surgery. Post-operative complications could include blindness (including a complete loss of light perception…in other words the patient is left worse off than before – this is the condition known as endophthalmitis…although I’ve been unable to establish when that word was first coined, probably much later), but failures only rarely went beyond a bit of inflammation and purulent discharge. In fact cataract surgery was one of the more common operations of any type.

The image shows the correct seated position that occurred for all cataract surgery.

There was no antisepsis at this time, but the risk of infection was mitigated to some extent by the speed of the procedure and by the eye’s ability to cleanse itself with the tear fluid.

Unlike today, of course, the surgery either pushed aside or fragmented the clouded lens (the cataract) but did nothing to replace the said lens in the eye, so the patient might be left more reliant on powerful spectacles.

They also tried to treat glucoma, however the modern definition of glucoma did not arise until mid to late 1800’s. Any treatment for glucoma around 1816 would have been surgical, but only a small number of surgeons in metropolitan centres were attempting it (not really understanding what they were tackling) and quite likely most physicians would be unaware of such attempts. Cataract surgery on the other hand was relatively routine, if often unsuccessful.

Unfortunately, my hero, Stephen Hornsby’s condition, retinitis pigmentosa, which is a hereditary condition, still to this day is incurable.  The condition causes loss of vision. Symptoms include trouble seeing at night and decreased peripheral vision (side vision). Onset of symptoms is generally gradual. As peripheral vision worsens, people may experience “tunnel vision” Complete blindness is uncommon—usually.

Imagine as head of a successful estate, a peer who has a seat in the House of Lords, how frightening his condition must have been. His father killed himself because of the condition and Stephen wondered if his father had done the right thing—who wants to be a burdon for those you love.

Here is snippet that gives an insight into what Stephen is feeling…

“I make no secret that as a man in his prime I enjoy sex, consensual sex. I won’t apologize for that, but I won’t disgrace a wife by marrying and behaving dishonorably. Hence, when I meet the woman who makes me want only her, I shall marry.” A small lie. No woman would ever make him want only her because he would not allow himself to fall in love. Knowing the Clevedon title would die with him hurt almost as much as the idea of any son of his having to face his decision—become a burden on those you love, or kill yourself.

His words seemed to take all the fight from her. “I wish you’d talk to my brother. My parents had a love match but I think he feels he won’t ever meet a woman he could fall in love with, so he will do what many men of his standing do. Marry for good breeding, for alliances, and keep mistresses.”

Stephen pondered on his parents’ marriage. They certainly held each other in high regard and were often affectionate with each other but were they in love? When his father killed himself, he was too young to really understand the truth of his parents’ marriage. His mother certainly mourned his father but . . . had his father killed himself to save his mother from watching him deteriorate because he loved her, or was it his pride?

His body shook and his hands started to tremble. He’d never considered why exactly his father had blown his brains out. He naturally assumed his father hated being a burden, but was there more? Besides his mother and sisters, who would really care if Stephen threw himself off a cliff?

He would leave nothing of himself behind. At least his father had his children.

Cold waves of fear embraced him. Would he be brave enough and selfless enough to let go of this life if he fell in love?

For a moment the woman sitting before him made him doubt his plan. Made him doubt the sacrifice he must make. The tough decisions that only he could make. He was waiting to ensure his youngest sister was married before bowing out. Once his family was safe he could disappear knowing that financially they would all be provided for and all taken care of. He would sail away on one of his ships and never return. The middle of the vast Atlantic would be an interesting resting place.

“You’ve gone quite pale. It’s almost as if the idea of marriage is as abhorrent to you as it is to me,” Penelope said.

She had no idea.

Never had he wanted to distract himself with a woman’s touch as he did right now. Soft curves to chase away the bleakness of his future. He clutched at the one thing he knew calmed him and fed his conviction to live until he could no longer see.

You shall have to read the book to see how it all ends up….you an read a longer excerpt on my website. Here’s the blurb…

Stephen Hornsby, the Marquess of Clevedon, has one goal: to see every exquisite thing he can before he goes blind. His greatest joy, watching a woman shuddering in the throes of passion, will be gone. But before the darkness descends, he is determined to seduce a magnificent widow, Lady Penelope Fisherton. Unfortunately, his rakish reputation has preceded him; Lady Penelope spurns his advances. Being a man who relishes a challenge, however, her reluctance adds only luster to his desire for the last beautiful sight he’ll ever see.

Considered the belle of London society, Lady Penelope was married to a scoundrel who cared for no one but himself. Now that she’s free, she wants nothing to do with love, passion, or desire—emotions that abandoned her with a cruel husband. So why does her body react when Stephen smiles? As much as she’d like to avoid the rogue, her brother-in-law wants her fortune, and he’ll kill to get it. Stephen is willing to help, but he’ll take only one thing in return: Her. In his bed.

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Buy Links:
Drawn to the Marquess


Bronwen Evans

Bronwen Evans

USA Today bestselling author, Bronwen Evans grew up loving books. She writes both historical and contemporary sexy romances for the modern woman who likes intelligent, spirited heroines, and compassionate alpha heroes. Evans is a three-time winner of the RomCon Readers' Crown and has been nominated for an RT Reviewers' Choice Award. She lives in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand with her dogs Brandy and Duke. You can keep up with Bronwen's news by visiting her website

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