Help A Bitch Out

HaBO: Her First Husband was a Little Person

Nina is looking for a book that sounds HOLY CRAP INTERESTING.

I would like to find a book I read at least 25
years ago. It was a historical set in England, maybe in the Regency or
Victorian period. It featured a young lady who for some reason has to seek
employment. She’s not working class, but a well-educated girl whose family
has perhaps fallen on hard times. Anyway, she ends up becoming a companion
to an older woman out in the country, I think. (I’m hazy on some of the
details.)

The lady who hired her is very kind, and one afternoon this girl comes
across someone she thinks is a child up to mischief. She sees him from the
back and says something like “Oh you naughty boy!” Well, when the
“child” turns, he’s actually a man. A little person, who is the
employer’s son. The girl’s all embarrassed, but as the story progresses
she and the man fall in love. The man has lived a lonely life due to his
size and has absorbed himself in a hobby—astronomy, if I remember rightly.

They end up getting married, and it’s not an “in name only” relationship,
because they have a baby. The middle was the best part of the story because
of the unusual romance. Unfortunately, I guess according to romance tropes
that declare all romance heroes must be tall dark and handsome, her husband
dies. She’s heartbroken, but goes on to find love again with a new guy, Mr.
TDandH. He’s a lord or something.

The story was kind of blah after her first husband died, but I did enjoy it and would like to read it again to
see if I’d enjoy as much the second time around. Not sure if I could even
get hold of it after all this time, but at least I’d like to know the
author and title. Can anyone help?

I don’t think I’ve heard of a little person hero or heroine. Or Heroine’s First Husband. Anyone remember this book?

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  1. 1
    AgTigress says:

    Well, this one sounds interesting and original, at least.  I hope someone knows the details.

  2. 2
    LG says:

    I’d want to read this one just because of how unusual it is, even though the author caved to the pressure of Tall, Dark, and Handsome. Like AgTigress, I hope someone remembers this.

  3. 3

    I don’t know this one, but I hope someone comes up with the answer. 

    Other than Miles Vorkosigan, the only really short romance hero I can think of was in Pamela Morsi’s The Love Charm, but Armand wasn’t so short as to be classified a little person.

  4. 4
    bungluna says:

    “Lady Jane” by Norma Lee Clark.

    Jane is a servant in a great house in London.  The butler rapes her and she turns up pregnant.  He dismisses her without a character but some kindly person refers her to a country house.  There she meets the ‘little dude’, marries him and falls in love.  They have sex! And she likes it! He dies, she goes to London and falls in love with the son of the house she used to work at.  Her servants call her “Lady Jane” because they think she’s more of a lady than one of the born-to ones.

  5. 5
    Kelly L. says:

    That reminds me…The hero of Vonda McIntyre’s The Moon and the Sun is a little person…but he’s not swept off the stage in favor of a TD&H. It’s more historical sci-fi/fantasy than romance, but there is an HEA.

  6. 6
    Sam says:

    Oh, man, I really wanted to read that up until “then her husband dies”. I guess I’ll just have to hope something good happens to Tyrion Lannister when I get the next A Song of Ice and Fire book next month. (I honestly can’t think of another little person in any books I’ve read. But he’s AWESOME, and now he’s on tv too, so I’m not complaining too much. :D)

  7. 7
    kkw says:

    @sam – The Tin Drum is a great book about a little person. Not a romance.  Pretty sure there’s sex, though.  A role for Peter Dinklage to consider when GoT wraps up (many, many seasons from now).

  8. 8
    Cara says:

    Seconding everything Sam said. Well, except for reading Game of Thrones, which I intend to do, but am finishing the TV series first ;) Now I want to find other romances with actual HEAs featuring a little person as a hero.

  9. 9

    It’s been a long time since I’ve looked at these, and they are mysteries rather than romances (and older-school mysteries at that, with SF and paranormal elements thrown in), but the late George C. Chesbro wrote an interesting series about a little-person/dwarf detective called Mongo the Magnificent.  [Chesbro and Mongo both used the word “dwarf” in describing the character, which is why I give it here.]  Very unusual books, which are in some ways precursors to today’s paranormal genre, and for a wonder most of Chesbro’s output looks to be actually available, at least through the above-noted Web site.

  10. 10
    AgTigress says:

    The Tin Drum is a great book about a little person. Not a romance.

    Oh my god, it is most certainly not a romance!!!  One of the 20th century’s great novels;  I have only read Günter Grass’s great work in German, and I found it a very moving, but often harrowing, experience.

    Could I just ask why ‘dwarf’ is now a politically incorrect term?  It is accurate and precise (‘short’ or ‘little’ person are neither, since they can be used for anyone under average height) and is not intrinsically offensive.

  11. 11
    Marumae says:

    @ AgTigress

    Someone once explained to me the term “dwarf” has a negative connotation since it implies (at least the origins of the word imply) not-human, plus it also points towards the “dwarf or magical fairy creature” type roles little people are regaled to in films and television.

    If I’m totally wrong please someone correct me, but this was how I was told.

  12. 12
    AgTigress says:

    Marumae, thank you for your explanation. :-)

    But I am wholly unconvinced by the ‘non-human’ claim.  The etymology is as follows: ‘O.E. dweorh , from P.Gmc. *dweraz , from PIE *dhwergwhos —  “something tiny.” ’  In other words, although the word and its history includes things other than small adult humans (such as small varieties or breeds of other animals, and small varieties of plants), it certainly does not exclude humans, and more than the word ‘small’ does.

    So I don’t really buy the ‘offensive’ claim, and furthermore, the rejection of the word leaves one without a single, objective term (it is grammatically inconvenient to have to use a phrase, because one can’t form an adjective), and the alternative circumlocutions are all highly ambiguous.  Political correctness has righted many wrongs, but it can sometimes be silly and reactionary.

  13. 13
    tinyninja says:

    Now, now, Agtigress, you know perfectly well that etymological correctness never ever trumps peoples feeeeeeelings ;)

    Consider the brouhaha over “niggardly” a few years ago.

    And my eternal favorite, “womyn” to replace woman.  You know what the problem with that one is right?

    For those readers who don’t know what the issue is, the word “man” is derived from the word “manos” which means hand.  Last time I checked, both genders still had hands.  So “man” does not actually mean “person with penis.”  It really does refer to all people, like those dirty, awful, oppressive men have been saying all along.

    As far as the correct terminology for a little person goes, I’m convinced that little person will soon be politically incorrect as well for whatever reason.  And then we won’t be able to talk about little people at all, which will anger them, and they will tell us that we are trying to make them into non-entities by not having a respectful term for them.  Which will partially be true, only they will have done it to themselves.

    Myself, I will continue to use words like dwarf, little person, black, woman, Asian, that guy on crutches, fat/large/chubby, skinny, short, tall, etc.  Because how are we supposed to describe people when necessary without actual descriptors?  I laugh at the lengths that people go to when they try to describe my boss, who is Korean, with a strong accent to boot,  without using the word Asian.  I laugh at the look on their faces when I ask them if the guy who waited on them was white or Asian.  They act like I’ve called him a jap, or gook, or whatever. 

    Ain’t politcal correctness fun?

  14. 14
    Cathy B says:

    Cara,
    DON’T read Game Of Thrones. It’s an ongoing saga and nowhere near finished, and George R.R. Martin puts out about 1 book every 8 years (not an exaggeration). I very much doubt he will live to write it to its conclusion.
    Things like that seriously annoy me. I actually waited until the Harry Potters were finished so that I could read them all the way through without having to stop and wait for the next part of the story. (I did watch the movies on release though).

  15. 15
    AgTigress says:

    As far as the correct terminology for a little person goes, I’m convinced that little person will soon be politically incorrect as well for whatever reason.

    You are right.  Because changing the terminology cannot in itself change attitudes.  It cannot change ignorance and prejudice.  The new and approved terms and words can just as easily be used maliciously and offensively as the old words, and once they are, they quickly become ‘offensive’ in their turn.

    It is particularly exasperating for those of us who have lived long enough to see traditional terms rejected, replaced by something new, and sometimes even reclaimed and reinstated.  It actually becomes difficult to remember which vocabulary to use so as to be sure of not giving offence.  We all belong to some minority or other, and when it comes down to it, we would rather be treated courteously and respectfully under a ‘bad old’ name than vilified under a pc one.

  16. 16
    Shem says:

    Just popping in.

    I am a dwarf!

    While people certainly do find the word dwarf problematic there are also massive issues with “little person” “short stature” “‘migdet” etc

    I personally prefer dwarf because people tend to get the right mental image in their head – someone with a medical condition rather than someone who is just petite.

    But others may find it offensive. In Australia we changed the community organization from “little people” to “short stature” because the inplcation of little people being childlike and thus demeaning. Even though IMO short stature doesn’t give the true gist of what it is like to live with such a condition. I have many short friends who don’t have a medical condition associated with it.

    I think the rule of thumb is to use what ever term you feel comfortable with until a dwarf/little person/ short statured Person shows up and tells you what they prefer!

    I think the rule of thumb is

  17. 17
    Nemo says:

    I just HAD to chime in.  I’m reading The Minister’s Ghost by Philip Depoy and it has a romance between two dwarfs and the man is kick-butt awesome gentleman action hero.  It’s actually a mystery with casual romance thrown in everywhere, but I figured this was just too much of coincidence.

    Folks on SMTB always talk about out of the ordinary women in romance (fat, ugly, scarred, punk, cool, geek), so someone should make a list with romance containing heroes who are different. 

    Going to go look up all these titles now.

  18. 18
    kkw says:

    I think Game of Thrones is worth reading even if the series is never finished.  It is certainly frustrating waiting 11 years to find out what becomes of a cliffhanger ending.  I’m still having a hard time believing that the next installment will really arrive in July.  (knocks wood compulsively.) But that doesn’t mean I’m not grateful for what we have so far.  I wish Austin had finished Sanditon, I am embittered Gaskell never finished Wives and Daughters because I need that HEA like you wouldn’t believe, I can’t tell you what I’d give to read the end of Bouvard and Pecuchet…  I’m not saying that the Martin is in the same ballpark, his style is pretty bad but his stories are engrossing.  But just that because something is unfinished or ongoing doesn’t mean it can’t enrich your life.  I’ve heard a lot of people complain about Salinger’s miserly output, and while he’s not my guy, I certainly understand the sentiment.  I recently read something kind of cool that Stephen Colbert had to say about it:

    I (and I suspect many readers) felt that Salinger cheated me out of all the stories of Boo Boo and Waker and Walt and Zooey and Franny and Buddy and Seymour that I so desperately wanted.  But the fact that he doesn’t know (and says in the letter that he can never know) all about them, somehow blunts my resentment.  These characters had their own stories and their own lives, into which both we and Salinger had only a small window.

    @agtigress: So jealous! I’ve only read Grass in translation, and I adored Tin Drum but his others disappointed – is there anything else of his you think is particularly worth trying, or does he just have the one masterpiece and a bunch of lesser novels (call it the George Elliot syndrom)?

  19. 19
    AgTigress says:

    Shem, thank you so much for popping in!  Even while I was writing about the terminology and political correctness problems, I was thinking that really we needed the perspective of someone who was directly affected.  As a general rule, it is, as you say, obviously best to refer to people in the terms that they prefer, but of course not all of any given group will have the same preferences!  I habitually refer to myself as a ‘Brit’, but some of my compatriots object to the word, and consider it rude.  I can’t imagine why.  I also refer to myself as an ‘old woman’:  because I am.

    I feel that ‘little people’ is a poor description for dwarfs, because it has so often been used to refer to young children that it has acquired connotations of a rather simpering kind of condescension that is wholly unsuitable when speaking of responsible adult people.  And it is so imprecise:  if someone says, ‘my friend is having some adaptations made to the kitchen in her new house because she is a little person’, one doesn’t know whether to envisage a woman at the shorter end of the average height spectrum — say just under 5 feet/150 cm tall — or a dwarf, who may be a good deal shorter than that.

    I have never perceived anything discourteous in the term ‘dwarf’;  it is unambiguous, and usually evokes the mental image of achondroplasia, which I think is the most common type of dwarfism.

  20. 20
    AgTigress says:

    @kkw:  my phase of reading German novels was long ago, while I was living in Germany and for a few years after I returned.  It was also the period in which I was reading ‘literary’ as opposed to popular novels in English.  In later decades, I stopped reading fiction almost entirely till about the mid-1980s.

    I did read something else by Günter Grass, but I can’t remember which one now.  I think it was Katz und Maus, also set in Danzig.  Anyway, it was only Die Blechtrommel that made a deep impression on me.  The German novelist whose work I enjoyed most at that time, and I read a great many of his books, was Heinrich Böll.  I think I would recommend almost anything of his.  I found Thomas Mann hard going, and Kafka plain scary…

  21. 21
    JaniceG says:

    CathyB: The George RR Martin books didn’t *all* take as long as the last one to come out – the first 2 were fairly regularly spaced. It was the last 2 that took a bit longer as the series got more involved. Not sure why kkw doesn’t like his writing style, which I think is fine, and one of the best things about the books is their unpredictability: the good guys don’t always triumph and the bad guys don’t always suffer.. kind of like life!

    Those of you who are watching the TV miniseries and like Tyrion might enjoy this trailer for a proposed new TV buddy comedy: “One and a Half Men” :-> http://is.gd/tBXarU

  22. 22
    Cora says:

    Roberta Gellis wrote a book called “Rope Dancer” in which the hero’s best friend was a little person/dwarf who had a romance of his own!  (It was also somewhat unusual in that the hero/heroine were not upper class: he was a minstrel and she was a rope dancer, hence the title.). This is not related to the original HABO post, but this discussion made me think of the book.

  23. 23

    the word “man” is derived from the word “manos” which means hand.

    The first person who trotted this nonsense out at me was the kind of Australian man who embodied everything that is wrong with Australian men (their racism, sexism, arrogance, lack of intellectualism, and trotting out of nonsencse facts they ‘learned’ at school) – so I’ve always considered the use of this misinformation a pretty indicator I’m dealing with someone with, shall we say, an illiberal stance on things.

    Woman derives from ‘wifman’, not ‘manos’:
    Middle English womman, wimman, Old English w?fman,  equivalent to w?f female + man human being;

    They act like I’ve called him a jap, or gook, or whatever.

    Maybe they can hear the ‘gook’ in your tone? I mean, if this is a common reaction….

    There are a couple of reasons some people are hesitant about using ‘Asian’ – one is that it means different things in different countries. In Britain, ‘Asian’ refers to ‘South Asian’. Here in Australia (and I guess in USA) it refers to someone from South East Asia. The other reason is that ‘Asian’ is a blanket term like ‘African’, and tells us very little about the person being described. Asia is made up of dozens of countries and hundreds of cultures, just like Africa. Perhaps these people are sensitive to nuances such as this, and don’t want to label someone in a way which erases their identity, even though many people from Asia will be happy to self-describe as Asian and won’t be offended.

    I dare say you have very little interest in such nuances, but to some people, they matter a lot.

    Ain’t politcal correctness fun?

    Yes, being polite and not using hurtful terms when there’s an alternative, or being sensitive to potential offence, tends to make interactions with other people much more fun. And when we take the time to listen to those to whom potentially hurtful terms might be applied, like Shem, one actually learns stuff! And that’s even more fun.

  24. 24
    AgTigress says:

    @Ann Somerville:  I think your ire is misplaced.  Of course it is desirable to address or refer to people in the terms they themselves prefer, and I should be very surprised if anyone here thinks otherwise.

    Problems arise, however, when language evolves under the influence of special pleading, and formerly respectful terms are labelled ‘offensive’ simply because some bigoted people have used them as offensive epithets. The resultant changes do not stamp out bigotry and negative stereotyping;  they merely make even the most well-intentioned person nervous about the currently ‘acceptable’ vocabulary.  This militates against the proper purpose and use of language as a clear and precise means of communication.

    ‘Asian’ is a blanket term like ‘African’, and tells us very little about the person being described. Asia is made up of dozens of countries and hundreds of cultures, just like Africa

    Well, yes. And just like Europe.  Naturally ‘Asian’ has a multitude of meanings, but Europe is fairly extensive, too, and encompasses many different states, cultures and languages, yet I would never feel offended by being described as a European of unspecified variety, because I am one.  As in the laws of libel and slander, if the assertion is demonstrably true, it cannot be libellous.  I am also British, and Welsh, but I don’t expect or need everyone to know all the details.  Come to that, I’m not offended if they call me English.  It’s near enough, and it’s one of my multiple cultural identities.  Taking offence where none is intended is a tedious and boring thing to do.  The concept of a hierarchy of classification is a neutral one, and to use a wider description rather than a more precise one is perfectly acceptable in most contexts.

    The problems with the word ‘man’ in English are simply derived from the fact that, unlike Greek and Latin (anthropos/andros;  homo/vir) one word has to do duty for both meanings:  ‘human being’ and ‘male human being’.  Certainly the history of language reveals much about past social history and culture, but if need be, we do better to adapt the old words to new meanings (which happens all the time in language anyway) than to try impose new words that so easily get hi-jacked by old meanings.

    And talking of bigotry, stereotyping and the like, read your own strictures on Australian men, but substituting some other nationality, and see how they look.

    While I need no convincing that some, or even many, Australian men are positive pattern-cards of

    ‘racism, sexism, arrogance, lack of intellectualism, and trotting out of nonsencse facts they ‘learned’ at school’

    I also know for a fact, from personal experience, that many of them, many real, dyed-in-the-wool Aussie men, are absolutely none of those things.  Just like other nationalities, in fact.

  25. 25

    I would never feel offended by being described as a European of unspecified variety, because I am one

    And yet I’ve seen people of colour complain about white people using blanket terms like “African” and “Asian” in an unthinking manner so your lack of offense is certainly not universal. I never said that all people from Asia or the continent of Africa would object to blanket terms, merely that for some white people who have seen, as I’ve seen, objections to such usage, this might be a subject on which they tread carefully.

    The problems with the word ‘man’ in English are simply derived from the fact that, unlike Greek and Latin (anthropos/andros;  homo/vir) one word has to do duty for both meanings

    You are so missing the point of tinyninja’s misidentification of the origins of ‘woman’ . She – and the man who introducted me to – are both using a deiberately false etymology (which has nothing whatsover to do with Greek/Roman terms for humans or men) to attack feminists pushing back against sexist words and terms. They are pretending that spelling ‘woman’ as ‘womyn’ is based in ignorance, instead of a genuine attempt to draw attention to the way we unthinkingly assign men as the default – a less obvious but much less contentious example might be the refusal to use gendered terms for professions. So we just have actors, instead of actors and actresses, waitstaff, instead of waiter/waitress. I personally think ‘womyn’ is a step too far but I respect the reasons for using it.

    You believe I’m reading too much into it and yet tinyninja explicitly states her disdain for ‘political correctness’ which is only a term of denigration for people wishing to preserve hurtful and privileged language. “Political correctness” is about using terms which don’t make assumptions like white/male being a default, that being ablebodied is ‘better’ than not being, and so on. The right in your country, mine and the USA, all use ‘PC’ as a pejorative. There’s a reason for that – it challenges the basis of their power.

    I also know for a fact, from personal experience, that many of them, many real, dyed-in-the-wool Aussie men, are absolutely none of those things.

    I bow to your superior knowledge of Australian men, based I’m sure on those tremendously representative ones who choose to travel and live overseas. I’m simply born and raised and living in Australia – what would I know about my own culture?

  26. 26
    Kim says:

    It is really too bad that HEA was not with the first husband.  I would have loved to read that.

    Political correctness is a tough issue.  I don’t understand the desire to preserve all words in the English language, because that assumes that the English language never changes. 

    The English language is a product of a patriarchal culture that at some points was imperialistic.  It is a cultural construct and therefore, it not free of bias.

    For words to change spelling, change meaning, fall out of use, or be created is the story of the language.

    Therefore, the very premise of the argument is problematic and in an issue this complicated, anyone can find proof for their stance.

  27. 27
    Shem says:

    Er… Ann I’m a born and raised Australian and I know absolutely no men that fit your description.

    Maybe I’ve met some that are a little arrogant at times but I’ve met plenty of women who can be a little arrogant (myself sometimes.) But that’s the extent of it, none of your other points about “Australian Men” have been my experience.

    Of course I am not making a point about Australian “culture” as your original statement was solely about Australian “men”,

    But I would never claim that my male acquaintence represent all Australian men or Australian culture at large whatever “Australian” “culture” even is.

    Generalisations whether we make them about a minority group such as dwarfs, or an entire gender such as males is incredibly unhelpful, in my opinion, although others may disagree.

    I think people have different experiences that inform their generalisations and while your experience of Australian men is what you have stated AgTigress also has an experience, and since you dismissed her point because she is “not Australian” I’m backing her alternative experience as an Australian. 

    So you will have to find another reason to dismiss my experience if you so choose. But I shall not be responding.

    And with that I step away from this particular thread.

    To bring this back to the point of the post and a happier note: I will be checking out some of these books mentioned in this thread because they sound fascinating. And Tyrion Lannister is a hot hot hot piece of manly meat. But being GRRM I am terrifed for his life!

  28. 28
    AgTigress says:

    I bow to your superior knowledge of Australian men, based I’m sure on those tremendously representative ones who choose to travel and live overseas. I’m simply born and raised and living in Australia – what would I know about my own culture?

    I do not claim superior knowledge of Australian men, or women, for that matter.  I claim only that your sweeping generalisation is no fairer than most other sweeping generalisations, and is couched in terms that, if you were to substitute another group, might well appear even to you to be evidence of a blinkered and bigoted outlook.  Try putting in ‘Nigerian men’ rather than ‘Australian men’, and see what you think.  Of course, some Nigerian men probably are all those things, but others, I am sure, are not.  National stereotypes are dodgy, no less so if they are aimed at one’s own culture.

    No doubt the Australian men I have met, both within and outside Australia (which I have visited only once), are unrepresentative, because they tend to belong to specific professional groups, but their very existence undermines your statement.

    The right in your country, mine and the USA, all use ‘PC’ as a pejorative. There’s a reason for that – it challenges the basis of their power.

    I, for one, am not using ‘political correctness’ as a blanket pejorative term (and I can only be amused at the implicit accusation of being on the political right!) .  I perfectly understand and sympathise with the aims, and in particular with the analysis of language and its subliminal messages.  But there is a difference, as so often, between theory and practice.  Human beings of all kinds, good and bad, bend language to their purposes, rather than permitting language to dictate or change their attitudes.  Politically correct terminology often does no more than provide a temporary veil over an ugly and unchanged prejudice.  A man who despises women will not cease to do so simply because he is obliged to use gender-free terminology in a document. 

    Ot probably is an improvement to dispense with things like ‘- – ess’ suffixes in English, and to use both masculine and feminine pronouns wherever possible and appropriate, but we deceive ourselves if we think that these changes, especially when imposed rather than freely adopted, are going to do much to rout out injustice and bigotry.

  29. 29
    Lavinia Kent says:

    I gave up reading Game of Thrones (which I thought were brilliant) after the first three because when the fourth one came out I felt that I’d have to read the first three again to remember what was happening and it seemed like way too many pages to read each time a new book came out.  I am thinking about rereading them this summer on the beach.

    I have heard that the publisher has the next one ready to go after refusing to let Martin add anything else to the end.  It sounds like it’s never finished it his mind.

  30. 30
    kylie says:

    Bigotry and ignorance that use political correctness to pretend that they are neither give the whole thing a bad name- a South Australian I knew in Japan habitually referred to all black people as “Äfrican-American”even when it manifestly clear that they were not. And then she refused to believe that the (black) Canadian and the (black) Jamaican in the office were not in a relationship, because clearly two “African-americans ” in Japan clearly were made for each other (no). She also referred to a couple of Ghanains as “african-american” as well. 

    As an american living in Australia I was stunned at the level of casual verbal racism (against all peoples) but I would not say that the overall behaviour was any worse than what I have seen in the US, UK or France.
    And to return to the original subject
    I never thought of Miles Vorkosigan as a dwarf- severely handicapped, but not a dwarf. But Bujold tends to have characters with unusual physical attributes or damage as main characters.
    Bean from Ender’s Game and Ender’s shadow?  Starts out a small person, ends up a giant.  There is a romance of a sort

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