Current read: My Lady Notorious by Jo Beverley

He had found his damsel in distress, but it wasn't sweet Verity. It was the difficult, angry, beautiful Charles.

At this point in the story, the heroine, disguised as a man, has kidnapped the hero, who has seen through her disguise but decided not to embarrass her by revealing that he knows she is a woman.

I have always enjoyed reading cross-dressing historical novels, although I am fully aware of the difficulties of successfully disguising either sex as the other. However, there are plenty of true stories about the subject, mostly about women who chose to dress and act like men and got away with it. Sometimes these real cross-dressers may have been transgendered (of both physical sexes) and in some cases they were women who chafed at the restrictions put upon them by a patriarchal society, but the most common stories are of women following their men to war and dressing as men to avoid being sent home or becoming the victims of sexual violence.

However, writers, and especially romance novelists, often take the theme to extremes, putting their cross-dressing characters into all sorts of situations where the average person would soon be discovered as a gender-impostor. As romance novel heroines (in romances it is much more often the women who cross-dress) are often beautiful, this tends to stretch the credibility even more. This is why I prefer it to be treated tongue-in-cheek, like, for example Georgette Heyer does so well (she even has a cross-dressing set of twins in one of her novels, the young man pretending to be his sister and vice versa).

Usually the disguise is kept up through a good part of the novel with no-one the wiser, which is why this story is a refreshing example of this sub-genre: the hero sees through the disguise as soon as he is able to get a good look at the heroine.

Comments

Jo B said…
Glad you liked the way I did this. I, too, have been put off by implausible cross dressing, especially when the heroine posing as a youth keeps her long hair tucked into a hat and is inevitably exposed when it tumbles down.

That's where the idea for Charity's very short hair came from.

BTW, this book is available in a UK edition called Lady Notorious from Everlyn Publishing, and from The Book Depository, which doesn't charge for mailing.

Best,

Jo
Bibliophile said…
Thanks for commenting, Jo.
You managed to make it quite believable. I also liked how you managed to make the hero's cross-dressing (which I hadn't gotten to when I posted the original blog entry) believable.

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