Despite the fact that he has no flowery title to call his own, Lord Vaughn has proved one of the most elusive of my heroes– at least in the looks department.
Ironically, I’ve probably described him in more detail than any of my other heroes (when you’ve hung around for three books, you tend to get more than your fair share of physical descriptions), so we know that he’s of average height but seems taller, that his build is wiry, that his hair is dark and suspiciously frosted with silver (to match his black and silver clothes), that his lips are thin and quick to quirk, and that he has deep shadows beneath his eyes. And so on and so on.
Despite all these individual details, many have commented to me that they have trouble picturing Vaughn. You’re not alone. While I was writing Crimson Rose, the image I had in mind was Sean Bean as Lovelace in the BBC adaptation of Clarissa— although, as I was quick to point out to anyone who asked, Vaughn doesn’t actually look all that much like Bean. I know, I know. It doesn’t make much sense. What I had in mind was more a similarity of soul, as it were (although, since Vaughn would object to that term, let’s call it a similarity of motivation, instead). Bean’s Lovelace is a practiced rake, the sort who views seduction as a sport, somewhat akin to shooting grouse. The more wary the quarry, the greater the challenge. But, um, yes, Lovelace was blond and Vaughn most certainly isn’t.
As I was writing, other comparisons that came to mind were Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes (he has the long, thin features down and something of Vaughn’s air of herculean self-control), the guy who plays Lynley in the dramatizations of the Elizabeth George novels (aspects of his appearance are right, but the character is all wrong), and Clark Gable as Rhett Butler (without the little mustache), but none really hit the spot.
I think this inability to pin Vaughn down visually says something deeper about Vaughn as a character. First, Vaughn is a creature of deception for whom every appearance is a performance, every item of clothing a costume (I have serious doubts as to the veracity of that silver in his hair). He creates a shifting show in which the object– for Vaughn, at least– is to prevent us from pinning down anything concrete about him. Second, and in direct contrast to Mary, Vaughn has always operated entirely on strength of character rather than looks. To be frank, his looks aren’t much to write home about. It’s the personality that animates them that makes him so entirely riveting. In that, he has more than a little bit in common with Charles II, who was famously ugly and yet still gets my vote for Monarch With Whom I Would Most Like to Have Drinks.
Even so, it would still be rather nice to have a concrete physical image of Vaughn. Please help me out here! As you can tell, my cinematic lexicon is limited. When you read about Vaughn, who do you picture?