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Literature / Misfortune

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The tale of Miss Fortune.
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Misfortune is a novel written by Wesley Stace, also known as John Wesley Harding. The story follows the life of a baby found abandoned in the road by the wealthiest man in England, Geoffroy Loveall, who then takes the child home to raise as his own. The baby, named Rose Loveall, lives a privileged and happy life with her mother and father and two best friends, until a dramatic reveal is made to her and her family that changes her life forever. The novels deals with issues of womanhood, the nature of gender and sexuality, and the experiences of the rich and the impoverished, all while making homage to Greek and Roman mythology along the way.


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Misfortune contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: From a certain viewpoint, every parent in the story is this. Geoffroy spends much of his time cooped up in his playroom, rarely spending time with Rose. Anonyma was the mastermind behind raising Rose as a cisgender girl, partially to satiate the depressed Geoffroy, but mainly to enact a social experiment of sorts on her own child. The Osberns harass and bully their children at every turn. Even Lady Loveall, who dies early in the story, is depicted yelling at Geoffroy, expressing disgust at his need to mourn his younger sister, and, after discovering the truth of Rose's sex, laughs Geoffroy out of the room, yelling after him that nothing he does works, before dying.
  • Ambiguous Gender Identity: Rose. Although she spends the majority of the novel struggling to understand her own gender identity and coming to terms with it, the reader is never really made privy to how she identifies, likely due to a lack of terminology for different genders at the time. The only clue we are given is that she openly expresses her difficulty with posing as a man while speaking to Prudence, and continues to use the name Rose and she/her pronouns even on her death bed.
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  • Ambiguously Bi: Rose, who at one point has a wet dream about Stephen and Sarah.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Sarah, who experiments sexually with Rose as a teenager, and later marries her.
  • Ascended Extra: Pharaoh, the young boy that first finds Rose as a baby, becomes one of the keys to uncovering the truth of her parentage years later.
  • Asleep for Days: After washing ashore in Turkey, Rose is unconscious for several days, only coming to intermittently.
  • Big Fancy House: Love Hall.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Lovealls and Osberns.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Esmond and Prudence. Neither of them knew they were related.
  • Coming-Out Story: Sort of. Because Rose is forcibly outed in the beginning of the book by the housekeeper, Crouch, the book becomes more of Rose's journey to explore the meaning of gender and to accept herself as she is.
  • Cure Your Gays: Rose tries to enact this on herself. It doesn't work.
  • Death by Despair: Happens to Geoffroy after Rose discovers the truth of her biological sex and about Dolores.
  • Die Laughing: Lady Loveall, who dies laughing when she reveals to the unaware Geoffroy that Rose is AMAB.
  • Everybody Wants the Trans Girl: Rose is frequently hit on by people of all genders.
  • Everyone Is Related: As Anonyma discovers, "Mary Day" was actually the pseudonym for Marguerite d'Eustache, the secret third wife of the Bad Lord Loveall. Bryony McRae, who was Rose's biological mother, was actually Bryony Day, the great-granddaughter of Marguerite. This makes Rose the great-great-grandchild of Mary Day, and therefore rightful heir to Love Hall.
  • Forced Out of the Closet: Rose, and not very long after discovering the truth herself.
  • Foreshadowing: Anonyma's favorite poet is Mary Day, and her work is mentioned often throughout the story. This comes up much later, when Anonyma's love for Mary Day leads to her discovering that she is Rose's great-great-grandmother.
  • Freudian Excuse: Geoffroy was traumatized by the death of his beloved little sister, Dolores, and never recovered from it. He saves Rose only to use her as a Replacement Goldfish for Dolores, and could not accept her being AMAB, thus part of the reason why Rose was raised to believe she was a cisgender girl.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The organization of Hamilton, Anonyma, Hood, and Angelica/Anstance - the HAHA.
  • Guinea Pig Family: Rose is this for Anonyma, who was very interested in the dynamics of gender and womanhood and used Rose to test out the results of raising an assigned-male-at-birth child to believe they were a cisgender girl.
  • Happily Married: Stephen and Franny, and Rose and Sarah in the epilogue.
  • Hikikomori: Geoffroy became this following the death of his beloved sister, keeping himself locked up in their old playroom most of the day and only going outside when forced by his mother.
  • Hot Librarian: Anonyma is supposedly this; one character even refers to her as a "saucy little bluestocking," an old, somewhat derogatory term for a librarian.
  • I Have Many Names: Rose goes by many names throughout the story - Rose Loveall, Rose Old, Lord Ose, Leslie Ose, Lord Leslie de l'Orso, and more still.
  • Incest Is Relative: Esmond and Nora, his aunt, and then again with Prudence, his sister.
  • Jumping the Gender Barrier: Interestingly enough, this is inverted - Sarah and Franny show little to no interest in Rose when she is presenting as a man. However, both are extremely attracted to her when she presents as a woman, and these are the only times where Rose has sexual experiences with either of them. In addition to this, Rose has married Sarah by the end of the novel, and still dresses in women's clothes and refers to herself with she/her pronouns.
  • Karma Houdini: Anonyma, who is the reason Rose goes through her Loss of Identity, is depicted sympathetically by the book and receives no punishment by any character, not even anger from Rose for using her as a social experiment. Also, Crouch, who writes "BOY" all over the house and in Rose's room to reveal the truth of her sex, is given the position of housekeeper she so desperately wanted.
  • Masculine Lines, Feminine Curves: When Rose and Sarah are in adolescence, she notices that Sarah has begun to grow breasts and wide hips, while she has still remained fairly thin.
  • Matriarchy: Love Hall was one until the passing of Lady Loveall.
  • Meaningful Name: Dolores's name could be a reference to Nuestra Señora de los Dolores, or Our Lady of Sorrows.
    • Rose's nickname, Miss Fortune, which is pronounced in the same manner as the book's title.
  • Mustache Vandalism: A rare example of this trope being Played for Drama - the portraits of Rose within Love Hall are vandalized by Crouch in this way, in addition to having the word "BOY" written all over them.
  • Out with a Bang: Edwig Osbern dies this way.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: "Leslie Ose", who is simply Rose in men's clothing. Justified in that Rose creates the persona to keep the truth from Prudence, who had not seen Rose in many years.
  • Switching P.O.V.: After Rose flees Love Hall and ends up in Turkey, the story switches to the point of view of Franny Cooper, whose family took her in.
  • Proper Lady: Rose, who has been raised in the decorum of an upper class young lady.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Rose is one for Dolores.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Love Hall is full of paintings depicting scenes from Greek mythology. One story that Rose is particularly attracted to is the story of Hermaphroditus and Salmacis.
  • Running Away to Cry: Rose does it after Edwig sexually assaults her and then dies in her arms.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Rose poses as this while in Turkey, though not necessarily of her own volition. It comes apart fairly quickly as Franny presses her for information.
  • Spanner in the Works: Crouch, one of Geoffroy's mother's closest confidants, is the one who reveals the secret of Rose's sex to her.
  • Surprise Incest: Esmond is shocked to discover that Prudence, who he has been sleeping with for quite some time, is actually his sister.
  • Trans Tribulations: The plot's core conflict. Subverted by the end in that Rose learns to accept herself, gets married and has children, and survives until the very end of the story, where she dies after a long and happy life.
  • Twelfth Night Adventure: Rose spends a good chunk of the story posing as a man, both by the compulsion of the Osberns and for her own safety when she flees Love Hall. Very much Played for Drama.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Averted. Despite being shown in a first-person perspective, the story is actually being told by a dying Rose to her son.
  • Values Dissonance: Invoked, due to the book having been written in the early 2000s. When the fully-grown Geoffroy brings the newly-born Rose back to Love Hall, his bedridden mother believes that he seeks to marry the baby, and disdainfully comments that he cannot marry a baby. She states that all of the girls she attempted to set him up with were of marrying age - the youngest being twelve.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: After the truth of Rose's sex is revealed, Stephen and Sarah return home from school and treat her as a stranger. Rose doesn't take well to this and decides to leave Love Hall immediately.
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