Princes in Disguise

Masks
Susanna here, just back from a whirlwind weekend down at the American Library Association Annual Conference and Exhibition down in New Orleans, so I’m still a bit jetlagged, lightly dusted with beignet sugar, and unlikely to write anything particularly clever…but a recent Twitter conversation with a writer friend about the latest television version of Little Womenβ€”and more particularly whether the actor they chose to play Professor Bhaer was well cast (he was)β€”started me thinking about this old post I wrote back in September 2010 for The Heroine Addicts, which I thought I might share with you here:

Over at All About Romance, a thread started up about happier endings and tragic ones, and the discussion digressed, as it sometimes will do, to a lively debate about Jo in the book Little Women — specifically, whether Jo's choosing Professor Bhaer over the younger, more passionate Laurie was really a true happy ending. I argued it was. And not only because he was played in the movie by Gabriel Byrne, so that now I imagine him looking like this..

Gabriel byrne as professor bhaer

No, it's because the professor is one of those heroes I love best: a prince in disguise.

I coin the phrase from Carly Simon's lyrics to The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of, in which she claims the 'slow and steady fire' can outshine 'shooting stars', and asks straight out, 'What if the Prince on the horse in your fairytale/Is right here in disguise?'

 

Those lyrics impressed me so much, by the way, when I first heard that song, that I hid my next hero in plain sight in front of the reader (and heroine), just to see whether they'd notice. Most didn't. The heroine nearly walked past him herself.

She was looking, as we all so often are, for what the fairy tales have promised us: a dashing, handsome, charming prince, with style and status, money and a white horse (or at least a flashy car).

And while we're looking for him, often we don't see the prince in front of us: the one without the flashy car. The one whose charms are quieter. The one who doesn't need to call attention to himself because he's self-assured and solid and dependable.

Colonel brandonI've loved these men so often now in fiction, from Colonel Brandon in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility to Jake Waring in Lucilla Andrews's The First Year to "the guy who gets the girl" (can't spoil it) in Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart, that I nearly always spot them when I see them, standing patiently and waiting.

And I always love the moment when the heroine turns round and sees them, too.

Do you have a favourite prince in disguise from a story to add to my list (or my reading pile?)

60 thoughts on “Princes in Disguise”

  1. My mom married a handsome, flashy guy and stuck with him all her life. I wish for her sake she hadn’t, or that she’d left him when she found out the truth. Thanks to her strength, we all survived and more or less prospered, but he could have made her life so much better than it was. You can’t always take people at face value, and that’s a very hard lesson for a young woman to learn. I certainly found it so.
    Prince in disguise? Major Julian Stretton in Sheila Simonson’s A Cousinly Connexion.
    http://hibiscus-sinensis.com/regency/retroread02.htm#76

    Reply
  2. My mom married a handsome, flashy guy and stuck with him all her life. I wish for her sake she hadn’t, or that she’d left him when she found out the truth. Thanks to her strength, we all survived and more or less prospered, but he could have made her life so much better than it was. You can’t always take people at face value, and that’s a very hard lesson for a young woman to learn. I certainly found it so.
    Prince in disguise? Major Julian Stretton in Sheila Simonson’s A Cousinly Connexion.
    http://hibiscus-sinensis.com/regency/retroread02.htm#76

    Reply
  3. My mom married a handsome, flashy guy and stuck with him all her life. I wish for her sake she hadn’t, or that she’d left him when she found out the truth. Thanks to her strength, we all survived and more or less prospered, but he could have made her life so much better than it was. You can’t always take people at face value, and that’s a very hard lesson for a young woman to learn. I certainly found it so.
    Prince in disguise? Major Julian Stretton in Sheila Simonson’s A Cousinly Connexion.
    http://hibiscus-sinensis.com/regency/retroread02.htm#76

    Reply
  4. My mom married a handsome, flashy guy and stuck with him all her life. I wish for her sake she hadn’t, or that she’d left him when she found out the truth. Thanks to her strength, we all survived and more or less prospered, but he could have made her life so much better than it was. You can’t always take people at face value, and that’s a very hard lesson for a young woman to learn. I certainly found it so.
    Prince in disguise? Major Julian Stretton in Sheila Simonson’s A Cousinly Connexion.
    http://hibiscus-sinensis.com/regency/retroread02.htm#76

    Reply
  5. My mom married a handsome, flashy guy and stuck with him all her life. I wish for her sake she hadn’t, or that she’d left him when she found out the truth. Thanks to her strength, we all survived and more or less prospered, but he could have made her life so much better than it was. You can’t always take people at face value, and that’s a very hard lesson for a young woman to learn. I certainly found it so.
    Prince in disguise? Major Julian Stretton in Sheila Simonson’s A Cousinly Connexion.
    http://hibiscus-sinensis.com/regency/retroread02.htm#76

    Reply
  6. How about Pierre in War and Peace? He isn’t as glamorous as Prince Andrei, and Natasha isn’t exactly perfection herself, but when they end up together, you have the feeling it will work.

    Reply
  7. How about Pierre in War and Peace? He isn’t as glamorous as Prince Andrei, and Natasha isn’t exactly perfection herself, but when they end up together, you have the feeling it will work.

    Reply
  8. How about Pierre in War and Peace? He isn’t as glamorous as Prince Andrei, and Natasha isn’t exactly perfection herself, but when they end up together, you have the feeling it will work.

    Reply
  9. How about Pierre in War and Peace? He isn’t as glamorous as Prince Andrei, and Natasha isn’t exactly perfection herself, but when they end up together, you have the feeling it will work.

    Reply
  10. How about Pierre in War and Peace? He isn’t as glamorous as Prince Andrei, and Natasha isn’t exactly perfection herself, but when they end up together, you have the feeling it will work.

    Reply
  11. Though I don’t recall the title and author (but I bet someone else will), one of my all-time favorite Regency reads featured the heroine’s choice between a solid but stolid country doctor and a reprobate duke disguised as a traveling salesman. Perfect example for this topic! Spoiler : the loser was redeemed in a subsequent book.

    Reply
  12. Though I don’t recall the title and author (but I bet someone else will), one of my all-time favorite Regency reads featured the heroine’s choice between a solid but stolid country doctor and a reprobate duke disguised as a traveling salesman. Perfect example for this topic! Spoiler : the loser was redeemed in a subsequent book.

    Reply
  13. Though I don’t recall the title and author (but I bet someone else will), one of my all-time favorite Regency reads featured the heroine’s choice between a solid but stolid country doctor and a reprobate duke disguised as a traveling salesman. Perfect example for this topic! Spoiler : the loser was redeemed in a subsequent book.

    Reply
  14. Though I don’t recall the title and author (but I bet someone else will), one of my all-time favorite Regency reads featured the heroine’s choice between a solid but stolid country doctor and a reprobate duke disguised as a traveling salesman. Perfect example for this topic! Spoiler : the loser was redeemed in a subsequent book.

    Reply
  15. Though I don’t recall the title and author (but I bet someone else will), one of my all-time favorite Regency reads featured the heroine’s choice between a solid but stolid country doctor and a reprobate duke disguised as a traveling salesman. Perfect example for this topic! Spoiler : the loser was redeemed in a subsequent book.

    Reply
  16. Sounds like Libby’s London Merchant by Carla Kelly. The duke was selling boxed chocolates, which didn’t exist in that era πŸ™‚
    The sequel was called One Good Turn.

    Reply
  17. Sounds like Libby’s London Merchant by Carla Kelly. The duke was selling boxed chocolates, which didn’t exist in that era πŸ™‚
    The sequel was called One Good Turn.

    Reply
  18. Sounds like Libby’s London Merchant by Carla Kelly. The duke was selling boxed chocolates, which didn’t exist in that era πŸ™‚
    The sequel was called One Good Turn.

    Reply
  19. Sounds like Libby’s London Merchant by Carla Kelly. The duke was selling boxed chocolates, which didn’t exist in that era πŸ™‚
    The sequel was called One Good Turn.

    Reply
  20. Sounds like Libby’s London Merchant by Carla Kelly. The duke was selling boxed chocolates, which didn’t exist in that era πŸ™‚
    The sequel was called One Good Turn.

    Reply
  21. I remember the character, Dobbin, from Thackeray’s “Vanity Fair” who never stopped loving Amelia. He’s not handsome or stylish. He’s a practical, reliable man, and a strong soldier as a captain during the war with Napoleon.
    After her memories of her late husband are shown to be false, (he was after Becky), she relents and accepts the better man. She realizes his worth and marries him. He’s a sad but persevering man who waits years for the woman he loves.
    There was a non-fiction book years ago, “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough” by Lori Gottlieb in which she strongly believes in this type of man for greater happiness and stability in life.

    Reply
  22. I remember the character, Dobbin, from Thackeray’s “Vanity Fair” who never stopped loving Amelia. He’s not handsome or stylish. He’s a practical, reliable man, and a strong soldier as a captain during the war with Napoleon.
    After her memories of her late husband are shown to be false, (he was after Becky), she relents and accepts the better man. She realizes his worth and marries him. He’s a sad but persevering man who waits years for the woman he loves.
    There was a non-fiction book years ago, “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough” by Lori Gottlieb in which she strongly believes in this type of man for greater happiness and stability in life.

    Reply
  23. I remember the character, Dobbin, from Thackeray’s “Vanity Fair” who never stopped loving Amelia. He’s not handsome or stylish. He’s a practical, reliable man, and a strong soldier as a captain during the war with Napoleon.
    After her memories of her late husband are shown to be false, (he was after Becky), she relents and accepts the better man. She realizes his worth and marries him. He’s a sad but persevering man who waits years for the woman he loves.
    There was a non-fiction book years ago, “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough” by Lori Gottlieb in which she strongly believes in this type of man for greater happiness and stability in life.

    Reply
  24. I remember the character, Dobbin, from Thackeray’s “Vanity Fair” who never stopped loving Amelia. He’s not handsome or stylish. He’s a practical, reliable man, and a strong soldier as a captain during the war with Napoleon.
    After her memories of her late husband are shown to be false, (he was after Becky), she relents and accepts the better man. She realizes his worth and marries him. He’s a sad but persevering man who waits years for the woman he loves.
    There was a non-fiction book years ago, “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough” by Lori Gottlieb in which she strongly believes in this type of man for greater happiness and stability in life.

    Reply
  25. I remember the character, Dobbin, from Thackeray’s “Vanity Fair” who never stopped loving Amelia. He’s not handsome or stylish. He’s a practical, reliable man, and a strong soldier as a captain during the war with Napoleon.
    After her memories of her late husband are shown to be false, (he was after Becky), she relents and accepts the better man. She realizes his worth and marries him. He’s a sad but persevering man who waits years for the woman he loves.
    There was a non-fiction book years ago, “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough” by Lori Gottlieb in which she strongly believes in this type of man for greater happiness and stability in life.

    Reply
  26. There’s nothing flashy about my husband of 45 years β€” just pure helpfulness, and getting ti done. It’s a good marriage.
    I’m unable to call up any names beyond the ones already mentioned above. But I do indeed approve of this type of hero when I meet him.

    Reply
  27. There’s nothing flashy about my husband of 45 years β€” just pure helpfulness, and getting ti done. It’s a good marriage.
    I’m unable to call up any names beyond the ones already mentioned above. But I do indeed approve of this type of hero when I meet him.

    Reply
  28. There’s nothing flashy about my husband of 45 years β€” just pure helpfulness, and getting ti done. It’s a good marriage.
    I’m unable to call up any names beyond the ones already mentioned above. But I do indeed approve of this type of hero when I meet him.

    Reply
  29. There’s nothing flashy about my husband of 45 years β€” just pure helpfulness, and getting ti done. It’s a good marriage.
    I’m unable to call up any names beyond the ones already mentioned above. But I do indeed approve of this type of hero when I meet him.

    Reply
  30. There’s nothing flashy about my husband of 45 years β€” just pure helpfulness, and getting ti done. It’s a good marriage.
    I’m unable to call up any names beyond the ones already mentioned above. But I do indeed approve of this type of hero when I meet him.

    Reply
  31. Besides one you already mentioned, Colonel Brandon, the one that immediately comes to my mind is this guy. Freddy from Georgette Heyer’s Cotillion. You don’t even really think of him as a hero until maybe three quarters of the way through the book. But Cotillion was one of the first Heyers I read. I’m getting better at spotting them now if they aren’t revealed right away.

    Reply
  32. Besides one you already mentioned, Colonel Brandon, the one that immediately comes to my mind is this guy. Freddy from Georgette Heyer’s Cotillion. You don’t even really think of him as a hero until maybe three quarters of the way through the book. But Cotillion was one of the first Heyers I read. I’m getting better at spotting them now if they aren’t revealed right away.

    Reply
  33. Besides one you already mentioned, Colonel Brandon, the one that immediately comes to my mind is this guy. Freddy from Georgette Heyer’s Cotillion. You don’t even really think of him as a hero until maybe three quarters of the way through the book. But Cotillion was one of the first Heyers I read. I’m getting better at spotting them now if they aren’t revealed right away.

    Reply
  34. Besides one you already mentioned, Colonel Brandon, the one that immediately comes to my mind is this guy. Freddy from Georgette Heyer’s Cotillion. You don’t even really think of him as a hero until maybe three quarters of the way through the book. But Cotillion was one of the first Heyers I read. I’m getting better at spotting them now if they aren’t revealed right away.

    Reply
  35. Besides one you already mentioned, Colonel Brandon, the one that immediately comes to my mind is this guy. Freddy from Georgette Heyer’s Cotillion. You don’t even really think of him as a hero until maybe three quarters of the way through the book. But Cotillion was one of the first Heyers I read. I’m getting better at spotting them now if they aren’t revealed right away.

    Reply

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