All of us have been the odd man out at some point in time. Whether it is the memory of our first day of kindergarten, or the first day at a new job, we can all relate to that weird mix of exhilaration and fear that marks starting something that is, to us at least, brand new. When it comes to literature, that emotion is often best communicated through the fish out of water trope. By placing the character in a situation that is completely alien to them, the author can use the character as a reference point through which they can introduce us to a strange new world, whether that is on an alien planet, in a time long ago or even just some place a bit off the beaten path for the average reader. As Leigh Davis alluded to in her article on the fish out of water trope, this is a writing device that is prevalent in romance novels. In her blog she covered the contemporary and comedy genres. For this piece I will be looking at how the trope works in historical romance, paranormal romance and futuristic romance novels.
The first book that comes to mind whenever this trope is mentioned to me is The Famous Heroine by Mary Balogh. In this novel Cora Downes, daughter of a wealthy merchant, finds herself being taken into society by a duchess. She finds herself in this unusual situation as a result of an even more unusual event:
The truth was—at least, it was not quite the truth but what was perceived to be the truth—that Cora had saved little Henry from drowning in the shadow of the Pulteney Bridge in Bath and that out of gratitude the duchess, little Henry’s grandmamma, had taken Cora into her own home to mingle with her daughters and to be elevated to the ranks of gentlewomanhood long enough to find an eligible gentleman.