Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Trouble to Check Her Blog Tour! ~ Guest Post & Excerpt!

Hello, Friends! I'm delighted to be part of The Trouble to Check Her Blog Tour! Maria Grace is here with a guest post and an excerpt! I hope you enjoy! 

Thanks so much for hosting me, Candy! It’s great to be with you.

I confess I’m a bit of a research nerd. One of my favorite parts of writing is the research I get to do along the way. I love getting into the nitty-gritty of people’s lives in the Regency era. The whole working of society was so very different, especially when considering the lives and education of young women. This played a big part to play in my latest book, The Trouble to Check Her, in which Lydia Bennet finds herself in a girls’ school following an elopement attempt aborted by Mr. Darcy.

During the Regency era, marriage was the only acceptable occupation for the gently bred females, and all aspects of her life reflected that fact. Her childhood would be spent quietly at home, sheltered from most social interactions, keeping her pure and untainted. At about the age of sixteen though, everything changed. The schoolroom was set aside, and she would be come-out into the world of the marriage market.

Prior to coming out, a young woman was not to call attention to herself. She dressed demurely, often with a deep-brimmed bonnet that hid her face. Young men, in particular, were not to pay her any notice. She would not speak to adults unless asked a question. Effectively she did not exist in society. 

Instead, her focus would be directed toward learning those accomplishments that would make her a marriageable woman: a social asset to a man and able to effectively run a household. She might be sent to school for a few years, after the age of ten, but often a governess or the girl’s mother handled her education from home. 

The number of accomplishments a young lady acquired reflected the financial state of her family and the level of sacrifice they were willing to make to improve her chances of marrying well. Her accomplishments enabled her to display cultural distinction and set herself apart from other women who were merely ‘notable’—those who could only manage a household but not cultivate elegant socializing. 

To run a household, a girl needed to be able to read and write; elegant penmanship was, of course, a plus as her letters could be widely read. She would need to sew, with decorative needlework an added bonus. As the keeper of the household accounts, she needed sufficient understanding of mathematics to manage household ledgers. Gardening, food preservation, the work of servants and household remedies could also prove quite useful.

To be a social asset and considered ‘accomplished’, a girl needed much more. 

Singing and playing an instrument would allow her to entertain her husband’s guests. Only a few instruments were considered appropriate for young ladies, though.  Anything which needed to be blown into was a risk for causing a reddened face and heaving bosom, neither of which would be attractive, much less alluring, so they were out of the question. The violin, which required raised arms, was also inappropriate.  The short bodied dresses of the era presented too many possibilities for embarrassing mishaps.  Moreover, the violin required a higher level of expertise to perform and the potential for embarrassing oneself with a mediocre was greater. The harp was the most desirable instrument, but most had to make do with the piano which had replaced the harpsichord in popularity. Some young ladies also learned the guitar.

A young woman’s drawings and paintings would decorate her husband’s homes. By speaking French and possibly Italian, she could converse elegantly on the history, geography, literature and poetry with which she had been made familiar. However, a "social asset" was never to be an intellectual threat to her husband, but able to follow the conversation, and perhaps, more importantly, keep a conversation away from unpleasantries and steered toward good humor for all. Girls were warned, though, to “be ever cautious in displaying your good sense. It will be thought you assume superiority over the rest of the company. But if you happen to have any learning, keep it a profound secret, especially from the men, who generally look with a jealous and malignant eye on a woman of great parts, and a cultivated understanding.” (Gregory, 1774)

So what are Lydia’s chances of becoming an accomplished woman? I’d say they’ve gotten much better since her brother-in-law has taken The Trouble to Check Her.

Book Blurb: 

Lydia Bennet faces the music… 

Running off with Mr. Wickham was a great joke -- until everything went arsey-varsey.  That spoilsport Mr. Darcy caught them and packed Lydia off to a hideous boarding school for girls who had lost their virtue. It would improve her character, he said. Ridiculous, she said.   

Mrs. Drummond, the school’s headmistress, has shocking expectations for the girls. They must share rooms, do chores, attend lessons, and engage in charitable work, no matter how well born they might be. They were even forced to wear mobcaps! Refusal means they might find themselves at the receiving end of Mrs. Drummond's cane—if they were lucky. The unlucky ones could be dismissed and found a position… as a menial servant.   

Everything and everyone at the school is uniformly horrid. Lydia hates them all, except possibly the music master, Mr. Amberson, who seems to have the oddest ideas about her. He might just understand her better than she understands herself.   Can she find a way to live up to his strange expectations, or will she spend the rest of her life as a scullery maid?

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FTC Disclaimer: Link to Amazon. I am an Amazon Associate. Should you purchase a copy of the book through the link provided, I will receive a small commission. Thanks!

Meet Mrs. Drummond

The carriage turned down a short drive leading to a large quaint house set off the road. The sign in front read: Summerseat Abbey, and in smaller letters, Girl’s Seminary

So this was Mrs. Drummond’s school for girls.

Covered in dark vines, it might have been cheerful in the spring when everything was green and blooming. But with autumn’s approach, everything was drying brown and crunchy. Messy looking and imposing. 

Who would want to enter such a grumpy sort of building, much less live there? Was everyone there as disagreeable as the edifice? If Miss Fitzgilbert was any indication, they were.

If only she might go home.

Miss Fitzgilbert jumped down from the chaise, smiling as though this were the most wonderful house she knew. Proof indeed she was a fool.

Lydia stepped down lest the bossy girl pull her out by force.

“Do not dawdle! Miss Drummond waits for you.” She beckoned and led Lydia inside.

The vestibule was unremarkable, giving way quickly to a short corridor and a closed oak door upon which Miss Fitzgilbert knocked, thrice.

“You may enter.” The voice was old—not old and frail, but old and overbearing like Lady Catherine’s. 

The room was polished and tidy and so proper it might scream out in pain if one breathed wrong. 

Had the temperature suddenly dropped? Lydia ran her hands over her arms. 

The woman behind the desk matched the room, starched and stiff. The curls peeking beneath her mobcap might have been lacquered in place and her tiny eyes flashed like jet beads. 

Was there anyone more formed by nature to be a harsh school mistress? 

“Miss Lydia Bennet?”

“Yes, madam.” She curtsied, knees quaking. 

Compared to this harridan, Aunt Gardiner was positively gracious.

“You may sit.” She pointed at a hard chair. “Miss Fitzgilbert, pray see her things are taken to Juliana’s room.”

“Yes, madam.” She curtsied and left, closing the door behind her.

The room was so quiet. Was it possible to hear someone blink?

Mrs. Drummond blinked very loudly. “I suppose you think you have been sent to me because your benefactors are heartless and wish to spoil your fun.”

Why did it sound so awful when she said it? 

Lydia stammered sounds that refused to shape into words.

“I thought as much.” She drummed her fingers upon her brightly polished desk. Not a paper out of place, nor a bit of dust marring the surface. “So we may add ungrateful to your list of sins.”

“My … my ... list of what?” Lydia’s eyes grew wide. 

“I am hardly surprised that you would be completely insensible to your blessings.” She pushed her glasses up higher on her nose.

“My blessings?” 

“You are sitting there, feeling sorry for yourself, missing your home, family and friends, and I suppose, your paramour as well.”

“I … I … I suppose.” 

What was so wrong with missing the things and people she wanted?

“Have you forgotten your father cast you out? You have no home.”

“That is not true.” She slammed her hands on the arms of her chair.

“I am afraid it is. You may see it in his own hand.”

“But … but …” 

Mrs. Drummond shoved a piece of paper at her lined with Papa’s thin, spidery letters.

In all matters regarding her future, refer to Mr. Darcy. We wash our hands of her.

“He cannot mean that!”

“I cannot judge what he does or does not mean, only what he has written.”

“I am his daughter. He cannot turn me out.”

“Again, I can only follow the instructions I am sent.”

Papa allowed Lady Catherine to carry Lizzy off without protest. Her face turned cold and tingly.

“My sisters! They surely will not abandon me. Jane and Mary are to be married …”

“It will be their husbands who decide if you are received in their homes or not.”

Mr. Bingley was willing to invite Lizzy into his home. Surely he would accept her, would he not? 

“Jane will, surely she will.” She gripped the unyielding edge of the desk.

“Perhaps that is true, but unless you have means to travel, you shall stay here until you are sent for.”

“There must be some way for me to leave if … if …” 

“You may see the letter your benefactor, Mr. Darcy, sent me.”

“Stop calling him that! It is his fault—”

“That you are not married?”

“Yes, exactly. I should be mistress of my own home right now, not in some horrid school for girls.”

“Then you are free to go.” Mrs. Drummond gestured to the door, her voice as calm and level as when Lydia first walked in.

“I have no money.”

“That is your concern, not mine.”

“Mr. Darcy paid you—”

“To accept you as a student. If you leave my establishment now, I will return that money to him. That sum is not yours, nor has it ever been.” She met Lydia’s gaze with a steely, Lady Catherine glare.

Cruel woman, she had no feelings! Lydia rose and paced around the room. 

“So, Miss Bennet, will you be staying?”

She wrapped her arms tightly around her waist. “I have no choice.”

“Yes you do—you always have a choice. You may not prefer the alternatives, but you are making a choice.”

Lydia harrumphed. “I will stay—for now.”

“Do not make the mistake of thinking your presence is any boon to me. If you leave, I have sufficient applications that it would not be a week before I would have another girl in your place. Your family knows what a difficult, disagreeable child you are. It will be no reflection on my school. Realize, though, if you run away, no one will go after you. I will, of course, send a letter to your benefactor and he may mount efforts for your recovery. But you will not be permitted within these walls again.”

“I cannot believe—”

“That is what happened to the girl whose place you are taking.”

“No, surely, you—”

“Yes, and she was the daughter of a viscount.”

Lydia clutched the back of the nearest chair.

“If you intend to stay, sit down. Otherwise, you know the way out.”

Knees trembling, Lydia perched on the hard chair. 

“You have made a wise choice, Miss Bennet. The first in what I hope will be a long series of wise choices. Now, let me acquaint you with our ways.”

Why did she look like a cat about to deliver the death bite to a mouse in her claws?

“All of your fellow students are like you, gently bred females who do not deserve the title of lady. Every one of you has given her virtue and her good reputation away. You are also blessed with someone who cares enough to attempt to restore you to some level of decency and thereby offer you a future you are unworthy of.”

“But … but I am—”

“I do not care, Miss Bennet. No one here does. Most of the girls here come from positions much higher than yours. By your actions, you treated your status as meaningless, so we shall do likewise.”

“My actions?”

“Need I remind you?”

Lydia looked down and pressed the back of her hand to her mouth.
If only she had been allowed to marry! She would be the guest of honor at balls and parties and would be serving tea in her own parlor right now. Some day she would pay Mr. Darcy back for sending her here.  

“Our first rule is that students neither refer to their rank nor their family’s status. Special privilege here exists only to those who earn it. Do I make myself clear?”

“Y … yes madam.”

“I do not enforce many rules with my cane, Miss Bennet, but this one I do. I offer no warnings, no second chances on this point. If you are in violation of this directive, you will be punished.”

“But I have never—”

Mrs. Drummond flashed a brief, strained smile that might have cracked her face had she held it any longer. “Shame that, it might have kept you from your current dilemma. Nonetheless, you would not be the only girl who received her first licks of the cane by my hand.”

Lydia blinked rapidly, eyes burning. What a horrid woman. 

“Do not look so distressed, Miss Bennet. You merely need obey the rule to avoid punishment.”

“Yes, madam.”

“Now for the rest. While we intend to provide you with the necessary accomplishments for a young lady, due to your circumstances, we find it necessary to add additional components to your education. As it is quite possible you will fail to improve, we must prepare you for the options that will be open to you.”


“A life of service, and possibly poverty—but hopefully not crime.”

Those were options? 

“What are you saying?”

“Every morning, you shall rise and see your room properly tended to. Afterwards, you shall report downstairs. We keep only a minimal staff, so you shall be assigned to one of them to assist in her chores.”

“I am to be a maid?”

“Perhaps when you leave here, you will. I do not know. Regardless, you should have household skills, either to use for gainful employment or in preparation for managing your own home.”

“I have not—that is I do not know how—”

“I expected as much. My staff has trained many ignorant girls, and they shall train you. Following chores, you will report for breakfast, then lessons. We teach reading, writing, drawing, arithmetic, geography and French. I have just employed a new music master, so music lessons will be scheduled as well. I expect diligent application to your work. You might not be a scholar, but all my girls can and will work hard.”

Driven like farm mules was more like it.

“After a brief respite for luncheon, afternoons are assigned to our charitable efforts.”

“Charitable efforts?”

“On Mondays, we visit the foundling home. Tuesdays, we bring succor to the women in gaol. Thursdays, we provide lessons for the children in the work house. Fridays, we visit the parish alms houses to assist the unfortunates living there. Wednesdays and Saturdays, we sew and mend garments for those in need as well as anything that needs mending in the house.”

“Is there no free time?” 

“Since you have made very poor choices during idle time, Miss Bennet, I see little need for it. Still, the time after dinner and half a day Sunday, after holy services, is allowed for rest.”

How could she possibly survive such demands? Mama had not even required she be awake to attend breakfast at ten o’clock.

“Do you still desire to stay? You may leave at any time; just remember, my door will not be open to you again.” Mrs. Drummond gestured toward the door, the same indifferent expression on her weathered face. 

“I … I will stay.”

Mrs. Drummond rose, but barely stood as high as Lydia’s shoulder. It was probably a good thing, for had she been any taller, she would have been unbearable. 

“Follow me then. I will show you to your room.”


About the Author:

Maria Grace has her PhD in Educational Psychology and is a 16 year veteran of the university classroom where she taught courses in human growth and development, learning, test development and counseling. None of which have anything to do with her undergraduate studies in economics/sociology/managerial studies/behavior sciences. 

She blogs at Random Bits of Fascination, mainly about her fascination with Regency era history and its role in her fiction. Her newest novel, The Trouble to Check Her, was released in March, 2016. Both Science Fiction and Fantasy projects are currently in the works. Her books, fiction and nonfiction, are available at all major online booksellers. 

* * Giveaway! * *

Maria Grace is giving away some prizes during this blog tour! 
For details of the giveaway and prizes click here.

Thanks for posting here today, Maria Grace! It was lovely to have you as a guest. Wow! Great excerpt! Sounds like Lydia is in for some brutal lessons in how to be a proper lady! Haha! I wonder if she'll take any to heart and become a better person. I sure hope so! 

How about you? What do think of Lydia's plight? Do you think she'll learn anything or leave just as ungrateful as ever?


  1. I loved this book. Maia took a character I did not like and believably turned her into one I loved. This is one of Maria's best stories.

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Deborah Ann! That's good to know!

  2. Will have to read to see if Lydia is redeemed

    1. Hi Susan! Lol, yes, we'll have to read it to find out if Lydia is redeemed! ;)

  3. This story is 100% precious and I agree with Deborah, it's Grace's best. I love the information on this post. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi, Joy! From you and Deborah, it sounds like this is a good one! And I definitely enjoy the bit of history Maria Grace shared with us. Boy, it took a lot to become 'accomplished'! I think I would fail! ;) Lol!

  4. Each excerpt just makes me all the more eager to read it. I love getting all the research snippets, too.

    1. Me too, Sophia Rose! I'm looking forward to reading it! :)


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