I have to confess something: I have a weakness for secret identities. I’m not kidding – any book featuring the Scarlet Pimpernel, any Batman movie (even the Val Kilmer one) any TV show about CIA agents that can’t tell their families what they do for a living, and I will consume it with total rapt adoration. Is it any wonder that my affinity for secret identities has led me to put one into my books?
The Blue Raven in the mysterious British spy known for his exploits for King and Country during the Peninsular War. He first popped up in Revealed, hell bent on taking down a French rival that survived Napoleon’s defeat. But he’s been pretty quiet since then. That is of, course until If I Fall.
In If I Fall, the Blue Raven is an object of fascination to the heroine, and has been since she was a child. He was her crush, her idol, the stories in the papers of his acts of derring-do fueled her young imagination. Is it any wonder that when she meets with him in a darkened cupboard, she accepts his kisses without hesitation?
Sarah’s complete and total worship of the Blue Raven got me thinking about secret identities, and why they hold such appeal, such sway over me… er, I mean us? And I think I’ve nailed it down to two material points.
1. They are SECRET.
Who doesn’t like to be in on a secret? To know what no one else knows, to have this morsel of information that can change the course of history? We all want to be singled out as special enough to have this knowledge. To be trusted with it, be in the know. To be in on the secret gives you a intimacy with the one with the secret… even if you have never met them before.
When Sarah Forrester meets the Blue Raven, it is in a darkened cupboard. She knows instantly it is him by his signature black feather. Even though she does not know who he is under the mask, just that bush with him, his existence, sets her off on a quest to find out everything about him
2. They are IDENTITIES.
Identities are the very essence of ourselves. They are the core of our being. So, this isn’t some little secret, about how you forgot to lock the car, or how you sometimes sneak into movie theaters. (not that I’ve ever done either of these things). This secret is for all the marbles. It is the making and undoing of the one who holds it. If Gotham found out that Bruce Wayne was Batman, he could never be Bruce Wayne again, if not worse. If the Scarlet Pimpernel was ever found out, well… it would have been much worse.
It the Blue Raven is ever found out by Sarah Forrester, he could lose he most important thing of all – he could lose her. For you see, the Blue Raven that met with Sarah in a crowded cupboard, is actually not the Blue Raven at all – instead, it is her lifelong friend, Lieutenant Jackson Fletcher, recently returned from sea. If she ever found out he was posing as the Blue Raven – and if she ever found out why – it would be the end of their friendship. And lord knows, Jack feels more than friendship for Sarah. But Sarah… she feels more than friendship for only the Blue Raven.
Perhaps these reasons seem like an over-simplification as to why Secret Identities are such a lure in our literature and culture. But maybe it really is that simple. Maybe we all wish we were in on the secret, the biggest secret of all. Heck, maybe sometimes, we wish the secret was ours, and that we had this whole other side to ourselves, a side filled with mystery and adventure, and walking the tightrope between the ordinary and the extraordinary. But for whatever reason, the Secret Identity is here to stay.
So, you tell me! Do you love a good secret identity story, and if so, why?