It’s no secret that I’m a fan of love stories. I love the meet cutes, the swoony infatuation, and deepening attachment that all lead to an epic misunderstanding/big dark moment when hope is lost. Then comes some truly beautiful work of the main characters stepping into their own, rallying to becoming the heroes we knew they could be, and earning their happily-ever-after (HEA). I feel cozy, fluffy warm fuzzies just thinking about it.
Romance also comes with some beloved tropes: fake dating, enemies to lovers, friends to lovers, forced proximity, single dads, marriages of convenience, and hidden identities.
IMO hidden identities is one of the best tropes. Let me make my case.
With every romance there is a source of conflict—something between the happy couple and their HEA—that cannot be ignored or avoided when we reach the big dark moment. And the love stories with hidden identities often have a central conflict wrapped up in the sentiment, “If you knew the real me, you wouldn’t love me. The real me is broken. The real me is flawed. The real me is scared. The real me isn’t good enough. So, I’ll hide the scared/broken/flawed me behind this hidden identity…forever!!!” Nope. Not forever. The Big dark moment comes and our heroes have to embrace both their identities, become a whole person and take a leap of faith that their lover will accept all of them.
These stories melt my heart every time, because yes, this. I feel this. I understand this. I’m flawed. I’m scared. I don’t measure up. I’d like to hide all that behind an alter ego that is only the best, coolest, most impressive parts of me. But I’ve spent a life time reading fairy tales to the point that written across my heart is the belief that love transforms us. I believe that we’re all frogs/hideous beasts/asleep at the spindle but for love. And because of love we wake up, we find our courage to hop after our HEA, we transform, we change.
I find hidden identities a whole lot of fun (again, I know, no secret) and wanted to share some of my favorite hidden identity love stories with you. Let’s do this!
I have a soft spot for any movie with Shah Rukh Khan (SRK), but Rab Ne Bana De Jodi remains one of my very favorites. Shy, sweet, unassuming SRK gallantly marries stunning, gorgeous Preity Zinta. It’s a marriage of convenience that we all know will turn into a love match, but at the start of the marriage Preity is grieving and dancing is the only cure. SRK asks a best buddy to give him a makeover so that he can be part of the dancing too, without cramping Preity’s style (trust me there is a good and sweet reason for this). But of course SRK becomes Preity’s dance partner, and she doesn’t recognize him because of his disguise. Funny, sweet, great music, dancing, monsoons. It’s so much fun!
K. So Baroness Orczy pretty much started an entire genre when she wrote this novel. Without aristocratic Sir Percy there would be no Bruce Wayne or Don Diego de la Vega. And while the book is fantastic and fabulous, this is a rare instance where a specific screen adaptation trumps the novel for me. Jane Seymour, Anthony Andrews, and Ian McKellen are perfection in the 1982 adaptation.
I also love this one because not all of our hidden identities are brooding/serious/badasses. Some of them are foppish and silly and fun to cover up the brooding/serious real-life stuff. The reversal here is delicious.
Could there be a more perfect rom-com? Fun story: I first saw this movie on a red-eye from Rio to Miami. Have I mentioned lately how much I miss traveling? Young Amy proceeded to watch this movie two more times that flight, her heart breaking and melting each time Tom Hanks walked away from the rendezvous with Meg Ryan but rallied and joined her in the café anyhow. Hidden identity with some serious enemies to lovers here and so swoony! Huzzah for the internet and all the rom-com worthy stories that we have because of it.
Speaking of… This is a super cute Young Adult novel. My tween and I both read this one (I tend to preview her reads because YA is fantastically all over the place) and had so much fun. Much like You’ve Got Mail, the internet—by the way of an app that assigns anonymous animal names as handles—leads to some fun hidden identity goodness.
I realized I was getting much of my hidden identity fix through superhero movies and comics. While there are delicious, swoony scenes sprinkled in these superhero stories, there were never enough for my liking. So one night, when I needed an escape, I started asking myself how a real woman, would navigate a sexy alter ego IRL? Why would she need to wear a mask? Why would she want to? More importantly who would she flirt with and smooch in said mask? Then… what would happen if she met that someone IRL? You can read all about it in my debut, out now in ebook and paperback.
So what are some of your favorite hidden identity romances? Any overlap with my list? Leave a comment and tell me about it.