Tuesday 19 April 2016

The Trouble to Check Her by Maria Grace - Blog Tour - Guest Post

Blog Tour - The Trouble to Check Her by Maria Grace

Today I am welcoming author Maria Grace who has written a book focussing on Lydia Bennet. This book is the second in the Mistress of Rosings Park series, following 'Mistaking Her Character', which is itself a 'Pride & Prejudice' variation. Read on for a guest post from Miss Lydia Bennet herself and an excerpt from 'The Trouble to Check Her'.

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Guest post - Miss Lydia Bennet- Lydia plays games

A young woman’s guide to flirtation by the use of parlor games by Miss Lydia Bennet, prior to her attempted elopement with Mr. Wickham.

A great deal of flirtation can be undertaken in the presence of one’s chaperone with them being left none the wiser for it. A young lady need only be clever and in the company of like-minded companions to engage in a great deal of harmless fun with many young men all at one.

There is of course dancing as an obvious answer to this need, however, parlor games may be used to much the same effect. These are quite useful when there are no smart musicians about or they, as if oft the case with my sister, are unwilling to perform appropriate music for a dance.

Keep in mind, however, the proper choice of evening pastimes is critical.  Certain games lend themselves to flirtations and conversations which might never be so easily accomplished in any other way. A girl must be well versed in these pastimes and insure her friends are likewise that they may assist one another in directing the games in the most profitable way possible.

Games which are particularly amenable for this purpose I divide into two sorts, those which allow for covert communications and those which allow interactions of a more physical nature. I myself am more fond of the latter for the former demands an eloquency with words that I can be little bothered with. However, I have known girls who put them to use with great efficacy and it would not do to leave any means of flirtation untried.

Word games offer the opportunity to ask questions of someone of the opposite sex that might not be otherwise asked.  Humor may easily be a front for something more serious. One favorite for this purpose is the game of Short Answers.

SHORT ANSWERS. The players are seated in a circle, with a lady and gentleman alternately. A lady commences the game by asking her right-hand neighbor a question, to which he replies with a single syllable words. Longer words will exact a penalty, one for each additional syllable. He then turns to the next lady with a question to be answered with a single syllable. The questions may be mundane as in: Pray, Sir, permit me to ask if you love dancing? Or unique as in: Pray, Madam, what wood do you think the best for making thumb-screws? The challenge comes in that neither question NOR answer may be repeated. Any player who repeats a question or answer incurs a forfeit.

One might speak to a potential lover even more directly under cover of the game, I Love my Love with an A. The judicious use of glances or correct choice of words accommodates a great deal of flirtations.

I LOVE MY LOVE WITH AN A. Every person takes a letter in turn and completes the verse with words beginning with that letter, though the most difficult letters like X,Y, Z  may be left out. Anyone who cannot fulfill their verse or who repeats what has been said by another must pay a forfeit, which of course may be collected in a kiss on the cheek making this a most desirable outcome.

This game may be played in a short variety or a long one.   The short version the verse may be phrased as: I love my love with an A, because she is ardent: I hate her, because she is ambitious : I took her to Andover, to the sign of the Angel : I treated her with artichokes ; and her name is Anne Adair. In the longer version, much is added. The verse includes:  I love my love with an S, because she is sensible; I hate her, because she is sarcastic; by way of presents, I gave her Shenstone, a squirrel, a sea-gull, and a sensitive plant; I took her to Salisbury, to the sign of the Sun, and treated her with soup, salmon, sand-larks, shaddocks, and sherry; her name is Selina Smith, and she is dressed in sarsnet.

Word games alone can still prove dreary. It is essential that young ladies and gentlemen be able to move about. To that end, Move-all is a personal favorite of mine.

MOVE-ALL This is well suited for cold weather, and if played in a large room affords excellent exercise. Let the party separate their chairs as far from each other as possible, ranging them circularly. The player stands in the center. When he pronounces the words Move all, every person must rise and change his seat. As there is always one chair deficient, players must scramble for seats with all sorts of possible, lovely and apparently unintended consequences. There is no other opportunity so well suited for sitting on a beau’s lap, even for just a moment as this game. I heartily recommend it.

I do not mean to boast, but I have been told my rum dugs are one of my best assets and How d'ye do? How d'ye do provides as excellent means by which they may be showcased.

HOW D'YE DO? HOW D'YE DO? Let the party stand up in a circle. The first person, putting down both the hands flat, begins jumping up and down in the stiffest manner possible, holding the head up high ; going a-breast of any person of the party, crying, " How d'ye do, How d'ye do, How d'ye do, How d'ye do?" The person thus accosted jumps in the same manner, cries, "Tell me who, Tell me who, Tell me who, Tell me who," The first person then names another of the party, stops jumping, and resumes his place in the circle. ‘Tell me Who’ then jumps up to the person indicated, crying, " How d'ye do?" and the game continues with great hilarity if all are quick and good humored about it.

Lydia’s character is pretty evident in this treatise, isn’t it? But is her character truly fixed at the most determined flirt that ever made her family ridiculous? Perhaps not when Mr. Darcy takes…The Trouble to Check Her.

Excerpt from 'The Trouble to Check Her' - Are you an Artist?

A walk in the modest garden behind the house might do well. Lizzy always took walks when she was out of sorts.

Lydia tiptoed to the back door. She did not have to sneak about—it was allowed after all. But boldness did not feel natural in this place.

She slipped into the garden. A few faded autumn blooms greeted her amidst the mostly dry stems and spindly stalks. 

The cramped gazebo in the corner might be appealing in the warm months, but it looked so—undressed now. Like Juliana padding about in her stays and chemise.

She giggled.

“Oh, Miss Bennet.” Mr. Amberson sat on a painted bench in the shade, a newspaper in his lap. He tipped his hat.

What was it men found so endlessly entertaining about a newspaper? Papa was forever reading his.

“Excuse me sir. I did not mean to intrude.”

“Not at all. By all means, avail yourself of the fresh air. I am a proponent of the restorative powers of fresh air and a turn about the grounds.” He returned to his paper.

It was nice that someone in this dismal place acknowledged her. 

A narrow path at the edge of the house led into a dainty copse. She followed it. 

Gardens were so much pleasanter in the spring than in the autumn when everything was turning all crunchy and crumbly underfoot.

The gardens at Rosings often presented surprising trifles if one looked carefully. Lady Catherine had a fondness for nasty, miniature, stone dwarves that the gardeners tucked in among the plants. It was jolly fun to see polite guests shocked to discover them. They would wonder if they had seen them at all and be far too well-mannered to remark.

What a good joke! Mama encountered one once and nearly screamed.

This garden was dull and needed something equally lively. But she was no stone mason. 

A gnarled bit of fallen branch caught her eye. It had something of a face, if one looked at it right—all drawn up on one side, a bit like a sailor with one eye put out.

Lydia picked it up and brushed off the dirt. A few properly shaped pebbles would make it perfect. She strolled along the path, scuffing her toes in the gravel. 

Oh, that one would do very well for an eye—it even had a dark patch in the right spot! 

She giggled and picked it up. 

And that one resembled a tooth! Even better, that mound of heather would shelter him well enough that few would make him out clearly—just like Lady Catherine’s garden dwarves.

She skipped to the heather and gently separated the stems.

“Might I inquire as to your occupation?”

She jumped and almost dropped her creation.

“Forgive me, I did not mean to startle you.” Mr. Amberson gazed at her hands, the corners of his mouth turned up just a mite. “What is that?” He reached for it.

Her hand trembled as she surrendered it to him. Would he be cross with her meager spot of fun?

He turned it round until he had it right way up. “He is an excellent fellow indeed, but he needs a bit of something—a kerchief tied round his head.”

She tittered. “I think you are right.” 

He tucked into his pocket and pulled out a tattered rag. “It is not good for polishing instruments anymore.” He tied it around the face where it might have kept hair from its eyes, had it hair.

“How perfect!”

“Now what did you propose to do with it?”

“I know a lady who keeps such things in her garden … to make it more interesting to her guests. I thought that clump of heather quite dull.”

He pressed his lips hard, but a stifled chuckle still escaped. “A first-rate thought. Might I assist you?”

“It would be much easier with someone to hold back the heather for me.”

“I am at your service.” He parted the thick plant enough for her to tuck their creation well into the stalks. When he released the plants, one could barely see it. Perfectly situated to give polite strollers a start.

“Do your duty, Mr. Birch.” Mr. Amberson touched two fingers to his forehead in salute.

“Mr. Birch?”

“The name does suit, I think.”

“It does. I just had not thought to name such a thing.”

“All artists name their creations. They are not complete until named.”

“I have never known an artist.”

“They are unique and peculiar creatures, much like Mr. Birch. Are you an artist Miss Bennet?”

What a very odd question. 

“I do not know. I have never been taught.”

“You might be. What you did with Mr. Birch is very clever indeed. You may find Miss Honeywell’s drawing instruction quite liberating.”


“When one is an artist, there is something inside that must be released. Penned up, it can be destructive, like a caged animal searching for escape. But once expressed in one’s art, it is freed, liberated if you will, and the character changed into something generative and remarkable.”
She peered up at him, brow knotted.

“If you are an artist, it will, in time make sense to you. And if not, you will determine that I am a queer, but harmless fellow, best left to his music for he makes little sense otherwise. Good day.” He tipped his hat and sauntered back to the house.

What an extraordinarily peculiar man—all elbows and knees as he walked. A bit grasshopper-y. It was a wonder he did not fall over his own feet.

Yet, he seemed kind, certainly kinder than anyone else in this place. And he had not made fun of her over Mr. Birch. 

There was much to be said for such a person, even if he was, by his own admission, rather peculiar.

She strolled several more circuits around the shrubbery, passing by the heather each time to relish Mr. Birch’s lopsided grin. Somehow it made the dreary plot just a bit more inviting. 

Perhaps she would tell Joan and Amelia about him … perhaps not. They might not keep her secret as well as Mr. Amberson. 

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Book Cover: The Trouble to Check Her by Maria Grace
Book Blurb

Lydia Bennet faces the music…

Running off with Mr. Wickham was a great joke—until everything turned 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. She even forces them to wear mobcaps! Refusal could lead to finding 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?

Buy Links

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Author Maria Grace
Author Bio

Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing. 
She has one husband, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, six new novels in the works, attended seven period balls, sewn eight Regency era costumes, shared her life with nine cats through the years and published her tenth book last year. 

Connect with Maria Grace


  1. Has Lydia never taken a walk just for the pleasure

    1. I don't see Lydia as being the type of person who would usually walk for the pleasure of it. In P&P it says that Kitty and Lydia both enjoy walking to Meryton to get the latest gossip from their Aunt Phillips, so I've always assumed that they would see walking as a means to an end rather than enjoy it for its own sake.

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks Denise! Maria Grace kindly sent me two excerpts to choose from. This was one of my favourite scenes from the book so it had to be the one I used.

  3. How cunning of Lydia with her games.

    Oh boy, Lydia...fun excerpt, thanks! ;)

    1. Yes, it seems very well thought out, doesn't it!

  4. Carole in Canada20 April 2016 at 16:35

    Yes, she is smarter than she lets on! The one game reminded me of musical chairs! I loved the scene in the garden and Mr. Birch. Kindness seems like a rare commodity to her...such a great book!

    1. I think Lydia could well have had hidden depths, despite her silliness in canon. Her parents really did her a disservice.

  5. I love this scene. The story is one of Maria's best stories.

    1. I loved it too, Deborah Ann. I liked to see Lydia's fun-loving side peeping out despite her stricter environment.

  6. Wonderful! I have never been a fan of Lydia, but this variation may change my mind!

    1. Hi Becky, I think Lydia has the potential to be likeable, if she would get over being so self-centred. Even at the beginning, when she is at her least likeable, she wasn't portrayed too negatively. I was surprised how easy it was to like her!


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