Lady Norbert is a troper, a Fan Fic author, and an unrepentant fangirl. One of her fandoms is Sherlock Holmes. She first experienced many of the stories not by reading them with her eyes, but by listening to audiobooks read by David Timson.
Because the Holmes stories are (almost all) told from the point of view of Dr. Watson, the narrative contains the word "I" a lot. But because Lady Norbert is female, in her mind that turned the narrative character into a woman. Thus was born A Study in Charlotte, the working title of a pastiche in which it turned out that Dr. Watson was really a woman.
The title character of Charlotte was a young woman in Victorian London, the daughter of an Army doctor (lately deceased) and, by marriage, a second cousin to the famous Mrs. Hudson. Through this connection she became acquainted with Sherlock Holmes, and through an unexpected circumstance, ended up assisting him on one of his adventures ("The Adventure of the Speckled Band"). Her acceptable performance in this capacity led him to grudgingly acknowledge that maybe not all women are completely useless, and from there they developed a comical friendship.
The friendship took a swerve when a man started paying court to Charlotte. He identified himself as Reginald Jarvis, and claimed to have been one of her father's patients in the military. Suspecting that his motives weren't as pure as he was presenting them to be, she enlisted her famous friend's aid in uncovering the truth.
The story only got as far as the resolution of the Jarvis plot, and the very awkward decision that Charlotte would marry Holmes in order to not be a target for other men of his ilk, when a Creator Breakdown disrupted the writing process. Lady Norbert was unable to continue the story in the wake of her grandfather's death, for reasons even she is at a loss to fully explain but have much to do with the fact that he was also a Sherlock Holmes fan. A side volume was completed, however, inserting Charlotte into the events of The Hound of the Baskervilles; additional chapters were also completed which were rewrites of canonical Holmes stories, intended to be used in the later portion of the novel that was never reached. There were also plans for a sequel, since the original ASiC was intended to end with Holmes's death; the sequel would, like the canon, have jumped three years to where he came back from being less dead than advertised.
The characters did get to see the light of day — they appear in the final installment of Lady Norbert's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen fanfic The Private Diary of Elizabeth Quatermain, thus establishing that the two stories existed in the same Fan Verse — but the Holmes story has yet to be resolved and possibly never will.
Tropes which exist, or were intended to exist, in this pastiche include:
- Adorkable: Holmes is presented as being this in private moments. His marriage proposal is possibly the best example; he insists that Charlotte needs to get married so that she won't be available for fortune hunters or other ill-natured men.Charlotte: (annoyed, and being facetious) Was that a proposal?Holmes: (after a few moments of silence, sounding surprised with himself) Do you know, I believe it was.
- Affectionate Nickname: Charlotte has two for Holmes. The first is Sher, simply a shortened form of Sherlock, which happened as a result of their First Kiss (below). The second happens by accident; he hears her once sardonically refer to him as "my Sherlock," and finds it so amusing that whenever he writes to her from a case that requires him to travel, he mockingly signs his letters "Your Sherlock." This has an echo in the Tear Jerker below.
- Wiggins assigns one to Lucy after she's born, referring to her as "the Princess of Baker Street." It borders on Insistent Terminology.
- Aloof Big Brother: Mycroft, to a considerably lesser degree than in the canon. Charlotte, who is an only child, becomes particularly fond of her brother-in-law. (Lady Norbert admits that this because Mycroft is her favorite character.)
- Ascended Extra: Col. Hayter, a minor character from "The Adventure of the Reigate Squires," is elevated to a larger supporting cast member as Charlotte's godfather. Helen Stoner (the client from "The Adventure of the Speckled Band") and a character identified in the canon only as Archie (from "The Adventure of the Red-Headed League") are similarly promoted.
- Brainy Brunette: Charlotte's not on par with Holmes's genius by a long shot, but she holds her own as a general rule, largely thanks to the tutelage of her late father.
- Busman's Holiday: A bit of a Running Gag; Charlotte (as Watson did in the canon) gets very exasperated by the fact that she and Holmes can't even visit her godfather without running across some local case that requires his expertise to solve.
- Concert Kiss: Averted. Holmes escorts Charlotte and her mother to a musical performance, primarily as part of the investigation into the Jarvis matter, and at one point he and Charlotte have their faces very close together. It doesn't happen, what with them being the terribly proper Victorians they both are.
- Dances and Balls: Just one, as part of the Jarvis investigation. Jarvis stands Charlotte up, but she's not exactly crushed because she meanwhile gets to dance with Holmes (so they can converse privately about the case). A Dance of Romance it is not, but she doesn't mind.
- Dead to Begin With: The death of Charlotte's father starts the story by introducing Mrs. Hudson, whom Charlotte hasn't seen since she was a child.
- Doting Parent: Holmes, of all people, becomes this to his daughter Lucy. Of course, being Holmes, he isn't the stereotypical Doting Parent...
- Evil Redhead: Jarvis, although he's more cranky and resentful than evil.
- First Kiss: Not until after the engagement, and Holmes — being Holmes — essentially treats the whole experience as a scientific experiment. Leads to something of a Line-of-Sight Name, since Charlotte, surprised, lapses into a bit of French and calls him cher, which later becomes her pet name for him, Sher.
- Fridge Brilliance: Changing Watson's gender causes certain moments in the canon to take on this appearance. For instance, Watson's tendency to exalt Holmes's skills to almost ridiculous lengths (noted on the Sherlock Holmes page under Most Triumphant Example) becomes forgiveable, even kind of sweet, if taken with the idea that the writer is Holmes's admiring spouse.
- Gem-Encrusted: The "white elephant" which is what Jarvis is really after.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Charlotte is genuinely surprised, in the chapter which is a rewrite of "A Scandal in Bohemia," to find that she's seething with jealousy over Irene Adler. Made even funnier by the fact that she actually has...
- Green Eyes: Charlotte's only physical feature worthy of note.
- I Should Write a Book About This: Charlotte "becomes" Watson partly out of personal amusement and, later, as a way to keep her husband 'alive' following his supposed death.
- Literary Agent Hypothesis: Played with, since the canon on which the pastiche was based is the Trope Namer. Charlotte writes the original Holmes story as a Christmas gift to her husband and wants to have it professionally printed. She engages the services of a young medical student and typist, who makes several useful suggestions and even offers to submit it for publication on her behalf. Out of respect for his anonymity, she only ever refers to him as "my Agent," but the obvious implication is that it's Arthur Conan Doyle.
- Master of Disguise: Holmes, as in the original stories, who on two occasions is so well disguised that Charlotte herself doesn't recognize him.
- Meaningful Name: Their baby girl is named Lucy because it means "light-bringer," and Charlotte reasons that the daughter of Sherlock Holmes could never be anything but a luminary. This is referenced during their appearance in the LXG fanfic, when he comments that he thinks nothing would do him as much good as "the light in Baker Street," meaning to see his child.
- Meet Cute: The first meeting between Holmes and Charlotte is almost identical to the canonical first meeting between Holmes and Watson, but done with a twist. Holmes decides that Charlotte is worth bothering to talk to because she's perfectly aware of what hemoglobin is and, unlike most women he's met, is not ashamed to display her knowledge.
- Memento MacGuffin: Holmes sends Charlotte a locket from France, which was to have had more significance in the sequel; for the three years she believed him dead, she wore it on a black velvet ribbon (perpetual mourning) and carried his photograph inside it.
- Noodle Incident: A few of the Noodle Incidents mentioned in canon became fleshed-out adventures for Holmes and Charlotte, but at the same time, Charlotte mentions a few other Noodle Incidents made up for the purposes of the novel.There was the incident of the shrinking man, the peculiar matter of the broken bell, and the singular event of the robbery at Doctors' Commons, in which it may be remembered that seven apparently unrelated documents were stolen, and it was Sherlock who deduced their common bond.
- The Piano Player: Charlotte plays the piano, while Holmes plays the violin; their mutual love of music is one of the things that lets them forge a friendship.
- Pun-Based Title: A Study in Charlotte is based on the title of the original Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet.
- Relationship Upgrade: Not the way you think. The Holmeses don't really upgrade their relationship until some time after they get married.
- Samus Is a Girl: It's only the readership that believes John Watson is really John Watson. Those who actually meet Holmes and his assistant in person know the truth, but Charlotte gets away with writing as she does because she tells the stories long after they happen and changes certain details. It Makes Sense in Context, and for those moments when it doesn't, she more or less pulls a Victorian version of A Wizard Did It.
- Sherlock Scan: Charlotte is subjected to one on their first meeting, and finds the process fascinating (if somewhat disturbing).
- The Stoner: No and yes. Holmes's canonical use of cocaine is present, but he gives it up after his marriage. Charlotte, being a doctor's daughter, is naturally concerned (as the canonical Watson was) by Holmes's use, so he charges her with his care — if she can make sure he doesn't grow bored enough to succumb to the need to use cocaine, he won't do it anymore.
- Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Holmes, to his wife's occasional exasperation. But the moments where he lets down his guard and actually behaves like a husband are, in her opinion, worth it.
- Teach Me How To Fight: Holmes teaches Charlotte to shoot her father's gun, the Ealey's No. 5 referenced in the original canon. She doesn't do so well at first, but over time improves to such an extent that in the Hound rewrite, he praises her by saying that "there are few women in England who are better marks with a pistol."
- Tear Jerker: The final chapter, a rewrite of "The Final Problem," ends — like the canonical story — with Holmes's farewell letter to Charlotte, written before his fight with Moriarty on Reichenbach Falls. It's the only time in the entire book he uses the word love to describe his feelings toward her. He concludes the message with a Call-Back to the Affectionate Nickname mentioned above, by saying, "...remember that no matter what is about to happen, I will have remained until the very last moment of my life...Your Sherlock.
- Train-Station Goodbye: In the Hound side story, an adapted version of the identical scene from the original novel. Played with in that their goodbye is not remotely romantic, although the image of Holmes watching the train until it's out of sight (which is also found in the original) gives the scene a romantic air.
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee: On their first outing, Holmes makes Charlotte promise to obey whatever directions he gives her without question, an agreement she maintains throughout their lives. She admits she finds it somewhat irritating at times, but that he's usually pretty good about explaining everything to her later.
- The Watson: Of course!
- Wedding Day: There is a throwaway line in "The Adventure of the Empty House" where Holmes mentions that a garotter (strangler) knocked out one of his teeth in a confrontation at Charing Cross. As a nod to the readers who might have noticed that kind of thing, Holmes is late to his own wedding because he was having that very confrontation.
- Whole Episode Flashback: The entire novel is set up to be this, since Charlotte is supposed to be writing it in the future following Holmes's alleged death.
- Write Who You Know: An interesting variation. Lady Norbert is a member of a Sherlock Holmes fan club in real life, some of the members of which do periodic professional re-enactments. The Sherlock, Mycroft, and Mrs. Hudson of ASiC were heavily based on the ones she knows (or in the case of Mycroft, knew — the gentleman has passed away and the novel was intended to be dedicated to his memory).
- In-universe, Charlotte creates the "character" of John Watson to accompany her husband on his adventures, and bases him heavily on her late father. When she marries off Watson at the end of The Sign of Four, she bases Mary Morstan (his wife) on her mother.