Anyone who has read my books over the years has probably noticed that I have an indecent fondness for twin stories. It’s right up there with amnesia as an ancient, creaky, and endearing, plot device.
When I thought about it, both twin stories and amnesia are questions of identity. For amnesia, who is this person really? And what is he or she like when memory has stripped away the expectations of others so the unmodified essence of personality can shine through?
With identical twins, the interest lies on how two people can look so much alike that they might appear interchangeable, but in reality they are distinct individuals. There will be similarities, so it’s the differences that are so intriguing.
When the marketing people at Kensington asked me if my new release, Sometimes a Rogue, was any kind of anniversary book, I realized "Fifth Twin Story!" I seem to give myself permission to do one set of twins per series. <G>
One thing all the twins said is do NOT have a good twin/evil twin dichotomy, which they really disliked. I hadn't planned that, which is just as well. <G>
My best research subjects were a pair of sisters who lived in Colorado. Not only had they thought a lot about being twins and done their own research, but they were both highly intuitive. (One could say psychic.) As with most twin pairs, one was a little more outgoing, the other a little more reserved. I'll call them A and B.
They weren't telepathic, but they were so attuned to each other that one could enter a store and know that her sister had been there earlier in the same day. They could lend energy to each other. They both had families of their own, but they were a lot happier living in the same city.
Talking with A and B was fascinating, and that research showed up in DOTW, when the more reserved Kit takes the place of her actress sister, Kiri, who has disappeared, and Kit needs to find out as much as possible about her sister's life to figure out what happened to her. They are best friends and vital to each other's happiness. Also, while the world tended to categorize them as the outgoing one and the quiet one, they were more alike than they let others see.
An interesting thing I deduced from my research is that while female twins were often very close friends, male twins often went through a period of estrangement in adolescence as they began defining themselves as individuals. Sometimes they become close again later, but I found cases where they were permanently estranged.
Naturally, I had to write about that. <G> I needed a situation where one estranged twin must go to the other for help that only the twin can supply: in other words, trading places. So in my Bride trilogy, the hero of The Wild Child, Dominic Renbourne, is the ten minutes younger son of an earl who yearns not for his father's title, but for the land itself. He also resents his barely older brother's bossiness, though there is still an unwanted connection between them.
The reason why Kyle asks Dominic to essentially court Kyle's fiancée had better be a doozy, and it is. By the end of the book, they've become friends again, and Kyle takes off to find himself The China Bride. In that book, being a twin isn't much of a factor, but I had to give Kyle a happy ending. (These were twin books 2 and 3.)
In the first of my Lost Lords book, Loving a Lost Lord, the heroine, Mariah, lived an unpredictable life
with her loving but impecunious gambler father. Living on the edges of society, she learned to be charming and adaptable, easy to have around. Very aware of her own shortcomings, she had an imaginary twin sister she called Sarah, who was always available, always loyal, and always a perfect young lady, unlike Mariah.
Naturally, I was unable to resist giving her a real twin sister named Sarah. <G> Because they'd been separated as toddlers, Mariah didn't consciously remember her twin, but she held a distant memory of Sarah in her heart.
I found Mariah and Sarah particularly interesting because, unlike my other twin pairs, they hadn't been raised together, so they were freer to be themselves rather than always being measured against their sister. But living a more uncertain life, Mariah yearned for stability, a man who was utterly reliable. She found him in Adam, despite the rather irregular shape of their courtship.
Sarah is quieter, but in most ways more confident. Her mother became hostess to her widowed brother, so Sarah was raised by two loving adults and had a pack of four older male cousins who were like her brothers. So her upbringing was very proper, though she had a tomboy streak. And–she knew that somewhere out there was a missing twin sister, and that knowledge was a loss in her heart.
When they come together again, they're free to be friends, without the competition of growing up together, but they want different things in a man. While Mariah wanted stability, Sarah wanted adventure and a man with more dangerous edges. She found him. Be careful what you wish for! And this is how Sometimes a Rogue became my fifth twin book.
Of course one can have a trading places dynamic without having the characters be twins. A classic of the genre is The Prisoner of Zenda, where an English gentleman who is a distant cousin of the heir to the throne of Ruritania must stand in at the heir's coronation when the real prince is drugged and kidnapped.
George McDonald Fraser did a lovely riff on this in Royal Flash, part of his hilarious Flashman series. A Robert Heinlein novel, Double Star, is basically a science fiction riff on Zenda, with a down and out actor being drafted to substitute for a kidnapped statesman to attend an utterly crucial ceremony on Mars.
Another favorite of mine is Jane Aiken Hodge's Savannah Purchase, where the heroine is conned into taking the place of her identical cousin–and falls in love with her cousin's husband. Being younger then, I had no idea how this could be resolved, but JAH came through brilliantly.
So at least I'm not alone in my fondness for the Twin Trope. <G> Do you like such stories? Do you have a favorite, either of twins or trading places? Tell me what you think! A commenter between now and midnight Friday will receive a copy of one of my twin stories.
Mary Jo, who had identical twin first cousins