Hiding in Plain Sight: Maggie Robinson on the Allure of the Disguise

Tomorrow begins one of our favorite months — October! We're plotting our costumes and getting ready to recieve all the little trick-or-treating ghosts and goblins (and Ironmen and princesses), which has us in the mood to hear more about Maggie Robinson's In the Heart of the Highlander. Robinson's latest has her heroine donning not one but two disguises, the first that of an old lady. We at RT love a good caper, and sometimes we watch Tootsie over and over again. So we wanted to know Robinson's thoughts on costumes and disguise — just in time for Halloween shopping. Here's what Maggie had to say:

It’s always fun to pretend to be something or someone you’re not, except when the masquerade goes bad, and that’s exactly what happens to Mary Arden Evensong, the heroine of my October book, In the Heart of the Highlander. She’s been pretending to be her elderly aunt so that the family employment agency can stay afloat. What was supposed to be perhaps a few weeks of impersonation has lasted four long years, and Mary’s tired of the gray wig and granny glasses. When the opportunity arises to act her age, she seizes it, putting her heart — and her life! — at risk with her triple-identity. 

Hidden identities and disguises are some of my favorite tropes. I grew up on ancient black-and-white episodes of the Lone Ranger, so “Who was that masked man?” is ingrained into my psyche. I loved it when Jeannie, finally let out of the bottle, pretended to be an ordinary housewife, and Samantha wiggled her nose to drive Darren crazy. Oh, to have secret magic powers, or at least mad skillz to make a difference in the world.

Take Sir Percy Blakeney, that useless, fancy fop who fools society as he rescues French aristocrats as the Scarlet Pimpernel. Bruce Wayne. Clark Kent. Peter Parker. Don Diego de la Vega (better known as Zorro). I tuned in regularly to see what cool clothes Charlie’s Angels would get to wear as they bested the bad guys (someone always got a skimpy bikini). Jennifer Garner in Alias got to wig up every week.

Though I am not an Arnold Schwartzenegger fan at all (Team Maria), one of my favorite movies is True Lies. Arnold poses as a nerdy computer salesman, when he really works for a government anti-terrorism squad. His wife Helen, kind of nerdy herself, (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) is beyond bored with him, as his cover is all too good. Almost everyone in the movie gets to act against type. Although recent historical events have clouded some of the humor in the movie, it still has one of my favorite scenes, when Helen adjusts herself and pours vase water on her head to look edgier to trick a “terrorist,” who just happens to be her husband.

For pastel fluff and a kiss toward the romcoms of the 60s, there’s Down with Love, with Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor. Watching playboy Catcher Block (McGregor) pretend to be a syrupy-southern astronaut and keep his facts straight and hands to himself is pretty amusing.

- Maggie Robinson

What do you think, could you lead a double life? Or are you going to pretend on Halloween? Sound off in the comments! And for more beloved fiction tropes, be sure to visit our Everything Romance page.