Jul 27 2013 10:00am

Trope of the Month: Heroines in Disguise (aka Chick-in-Pants)

Academically put, tropes are “common or overused theme[s] or device[s]," which makes them sound like cliches, which makes them seem like a bad thing.

But they’re totally not! Romance novel fans all have their favorite—not to mention least favorite—tropes, from friends to lovers, chick in pants, secret baby, marriage of convenience, opposites attract, May-December, boss-assistant...the list goes on.

Each month, we’ll be picking a romance novel trope and ask you to offer recommendations falling under the trope rubric (again with the academic talk!).

This month, we're featuring romances where the heroines disguises herself as a man, also known as the chick-in-pants trope!

  • Victoria Morgan's For the Love of a Soldier
  • Joanna Chambers's The Lady's Secret
  • Susan Elizabeth Phillips's Just Imagine
  • Elizabeth Essex's Almost a Scandal
  • Laura Kinsale's The Prince of Midnight
  • Eloisa James's Duchess by Night
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Lady A.
1. Lady A.
Anne Stuart Shadow Dance :)
Amy Schaffer
2. AtG
One of my favorites, These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer.
Lady A.
3. Barb in Maryland
Another Heyer oldie, The Masqueraders, featured a gal in pants and her brother in skirts! 2 for 1!!
Amy Schaffer
4. AtG

I can't believe I forgot to mention The Masqueraders! It's another favorite. Sigh....I do so love the "large gentleman".
Lady A.
5. laura kinsale
Oh, I have another one, too! The Dream Hunter. Just out last week as an ebook after being out of print for like, 10 years. And the audiobook available next week!

From the hero's pov:

"...a Bedouin boy stood straight and still, his wild elf-locks falling down on his shoulders, his dirty feet bare, a dagger at his waist and an ancient wheel-lock musket resting over his shoulder as if he had just come in like a young panther from the desert. Lord Winter's searching gaze paused on him a moment, took in the girlish kohl-lined lashes, full lips and delicate chin peculiar to nomad Arab youth, and passed on. Familiar with the Bedu, he did not doubt this superficial frailty was a complete illusion, and the boy capable of the most arduous exertion and cold-blooded banditry."

That's the heroine, not a boy. ;)
Carmen Pinzon
6. bungluna
Fool's Masquerade by Joan Wolf was a great chick-in-pants Regency.
Darlene Marshall
7. DarleneMarshall
Michelle Martin's The Adventurers is one of my favorites, as is These Old Shades by Heyer.
Lady A.
8. ~ames~
One of my favorite books of all time is Darlene Marshall's Sea Change. The heroine is passing herself off as a male doctor on a ship. So good!
Lady A.
9. Vol Fan
Two of my favorites are very oldies: Ashes in the Wind by Kathleen Woodiwiss and The Raging Winds of Heaven by June Lund Shiplett. Raging Winds of Heaven is also one of my all-around favorite books. It is set in Early Americana. Has about 8 sequels, but the first is a DIK for me.
Myretta Robens
10. Myretta
I thought Pam Rosenthal did this beautifully in Almost a Gentleman.
Jennifer Proffitt
12. JenniferProffitt
I'm a big fan of 9 Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean in which the previously wallflower heroine decides to toss aside all her boring ways and be more exciting--most of those things apparently require her to wear pants.

The other one that I love is The Switch by Lynsay Sands. It has two heroines who are escaping their evil uncle (as one does). They decide it's safer if one of them dresses as a young man to throw off whoever follows them and add at least a little bit of protection for them as they travel to London. Hilarity ensues.
14. Kareni
My understanding is that DIK stands for Desert Island Keeper.
Lady A.
15. Puce
Georgette Heyer's The Corynthian, the ending scene with Richard who's seen kissing a "boy" is really funny.
Beth Mitcham
16. bethmitcham
Jackaroo, by Cynthia Voigt. It's not really a romance, but it's a great book with a chick-in-pants plot.
Lady A.
17. AlexH
I have a thing for for heroines dressed as men if they are competent (like Prudence in The Masqueraders). I like the hero to admire her for her competence, and it's quite okay if he doesn't figure it out immediately.

Lucia St. Clair Robson: The Tokaido Road. The daughter of a murdered lord in 18th century Japan travels from Edo to Kyoto dressed as a man, pursued by the murderer's hirelings as well as an enigmatic ronin samurai.

Mary Brown: Playing the Jack. A vivid adventure and romance story about a girl in male disguise who joins a band of travelling players in 19th century Britain.

Gillian Bradshaw: The Beacon at Alexandria. Young Charis flees to Alexandria from the Byzantine Empire and dresses herself as a eunuch in order to study medicine. This book is amazingly good - excellent plot, lovely romance (although it is not the main focus of the book), and a very competent grasp of history.

Judith Tarr: A Wind in Cairo. Not technichally a romance romance, but an excellent Arabian Nights fantasy with a chicks-in-pants heroine who is competent, and a spoiled hero who learns to love her.

Marsha Canham: The Wind and The Sea. Swashbuckling pirate romance with a really competent heroine who is famous for her maps (navigation was one of the most desirable skills you could have on a ship). The Iron Rose, about her pirate daughter, features pants but no disguise.

Susanne Enoch: Lady Rogue. Historical romance. The heroine is masquerading as a boy to spy on the hero.
Lady A.
18. AlexH
And I almost forgot:
Elisabeth Essex: Almost a Scandal. Nautical romance, with a very competent young woman belonging to an old naval family that takes her youngest brother's place on a British ship. Since she grew up on a ship and is sharp as a whip, she quickly becomes the most competent midshipman they have. The hero, who feels it is is duty to win the war with the most competent people available, does not give away her secret even though he has recognized her.
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