Thursday, February 14, 2013

Fictional Crushes

(This is a reprint of a post I originally wrote in December 2008. Happy Valentine's Day--at least the last 52 minutes of it!)

My friend, Amy, gave me a wonderful idea for a post--list my fictional crushes. (So my husband can blame her for what follows--I'm just doing what she suggested.)

Where do I begin . . .With Frank and Joe Hardy solving crimes? Gilbert Blyth holding fast to his love for Anne? Austen's Mr. Darcy or Bronte's Mr. Rochester or du Maurier's Maxim de Winter?

In ascending order, here are my Top Five Entirely Fictional Crushes, loved from words alone and the stories they live in.

5. This was the hardest spot to fill, but after long and careful thought I had to go with Faramir, Captain of Gondor (THE LORD OF THE RINGS/J.R.R. Tolkien)

In the film versions of Lord of the Rings, Aragorn is far and away my man, but before the films were the books and in the books, first read when I was 17, Faramir has my heart. What to make of a man who can resist the One Ring? Who fights for a father who torments him? Who falls in love with Eowyn . . . (I'll get to her in another post--Fictional Women I Wish I Could Be). So Faramir it is.

4. Francis Crawford of Lymond, once Master of Culter, later Comte de Sevigny (THE LYMOND CHRONICLES/Dorothy Dunnett)

I think I'd love him for his titles alone--there aren't a lot of great titles in today's world. The first time I read the six books in the Lymond Chronicles, it took me to the end of the third book to fall for Francis Crawford. He's the epitome of a riddle wrapped in an enigma, something the author perpetuates by only very rarely using his point of view. He's a Renaissance man in the Tudor era, who can fight and love and deceive in multiple languages and across continents. He's charming, clever, athletic, cruel, loyal, dangerous, and vulnerable. And he recognizes a good woman when he meets one--even though Philippa is only ten years old the first time she crosses his path. 

3. Peter Wimsey (The Wimsey Novels/Dorothy L. Sayers)

Younger son of a Duke, army captain in WWI who "had a bad war", collector of rare books and solver of mysteries in 1920s and 30s England. He babbles about anything and everything, sings like a professional, and has beautiful hands. He also has the good taste to fall head over heels for a mystery novelist the first time he sees her, as she's standing trial for her life. It's Harriet Vane who makes Peter human and crushable--I re-read the Peter/Harriet stories more often than the Peter stand-alones, just to imagine what it would be like to have a rich, titled man in love with me.

2. John Tregarth (The Vicky Bliss Novels/Elizabeth Peters)

I fell in love with John the first time he ran away from a gun in THE STREET OF THE FIVE MOONS. Art thief and avowed coward, John is bound to break into bad jokes at the most inopportune moments. He also has a bad habit of leaving Vicky to pay the bills and, although she never knows when he'll show up, she does know that he'll bring trouble with him. But she can't resist his insane sense of humor and his esoteric knowledge of English poetry--until he shows up with a pretty little wife and in the company of dangerous men in NIGHT TRAIN TO MEMPHIS. I defy anyone (okay, any woman) to read that book and not fall for John.

1. Ramses Emerson (The Amelia Peabody Novels/Elizabeth Peters--what can I say? Clearly Elizabeth Peters and I have the same ideas of what makes an irresistible man)

Although I generally love seeing books made into films, just to see the beautiful settings brought to life, I hope I never see Ramses Emerson caught in flesh. That way, I can continue to worship him through the pages of books alone. Ramses is the son of Egyptologist parents in the early 20th century and is himself a brilliant scholar and linguist. But it's his actions that make him crushable--from disguising himself as an Egyptian nationalist to working undercover as a spy during WWI to scaling the sheer wall of a cliff-side dwelling to get to the woman he loves . . . Sigh. Ramses Rules. End of story.

So what can you learn about my psyche from this list?

First, that I'm an Anglophile. Barring Faramir, each of this men is British (and I think a point can be made for Faramir--at least his author is British.) True, Francis Crawford is loyal Scots through and through, but British is British, whether he wants to admit that or not.

Second, that I'm a sucker for other times and other worlds. Except for John Tregarth, none of these books or men are contemporary. What can I say? I like swords and battles and chivalry.

Third, that each of these men has something in common besides the British accent: principles. As a character says of Peter Wimsey in GAUDY NIGHT: "That is a man able to subdue himself to his own ends. I feel sorry for anyone who comes up against his principles, whatever they may be."

The principles of an art thief may not seem to have anything in common with those of a Tudor soldier or an Egyptologist. But each of these men, in their own stories and their own circumstances and their own ways, comes up against a choice to break those principles. And they don't.

Peter Wimsey lays out the facts of an Oxford poison pen even when he believes it will destroy any chance he has with Harriet. John walks away from Vicky, allowing her and even pushing her to think the worst of him, in order to save her life. Francis Crawford sacrifices every single personal love to protect his country and his family's honor. Faramir sends Frodo away with the One Ring even though he knows his father will never forgive him for not taking it.

And Ramses? He will do anything to ensure Nefret's happiness, even when it appears to take her away from him. And he will endure any pain, mental or physical, to save others. And he will drive himself to the point of illness in order to do his duty to his family and country.
And the women they love? Eowyn, Philippa, Harriet, Vicky, and Nefret are independent and stubborn. They go their own way and they make their own choices, some of them stupid.

And the men wouldn't have it any other way.

In GAUDY NIGHT (it's the one I've most recently re-read), Harriet says that she almost wishes Peter would interfere instead of leaving her to make up her own mind about their relationship. And someone tells her: "He will never do that. That's his weakness. He'll never make up your mind for you. You'll have to make your own decisions. You needn't be afraid of losing your independence; he will always force it back on you."

Here's where I make up to my husband for this post: he doesn't have a sword, or a long list of hereditary titles, or a desert cliff to climb.

But he has principles. He has never broken them.

And he has always, since we were 17 years old, forced my independence back on me.

That's not a crush.

That's love.

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