Dreadful, awful, terrible place! She kicked the cap. How could Mrs. Drummond demand she wear such a thing — to dress as a servant, or worse, as though she were on the shelf? She was only seventeen — she was not a spinster, and she would not be one either. But how could she find a husband when she was confined to this…this asylum?
Two years, Mr. Darcy said, two years — that was nearly forever.
(from The Trouble to Check Her)
The Trouble to Check Her is the second book in Maria Grace’s The Queen of Rosings Park series, following the fantastic first installment, Mistaking Her Character. (To truly understand the goings-on in this book, I recommend that you read them in order. You won’t be sorry!) Book two in this variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice focuses on Lydia Bennet. Ruined by Mr. Wickham and cast aside by her father, Lydia has no choice but to go where Mr. Darcy sends her: to Mrs. Drummond’s school for girls in situations similar to her own. Mrs. Drummond aims to give these girls with sullied reputations a second chance; some may be lucky enough to re-enter society and marry, but they also must be prepared to accept a position as a maid, governess, or companion.
When Lydia arrives, she is angry at the Darcys for sending her away and bemoans her perceived mistreatment by her family. She is a silly, selfish girl who cannot comprehend the seriousness of her actions and cannot believe she is expected to wear a mobcap and scrub floors. She is befriended by Joan and Amelia, two girls who are just as ignorant as she is. But with the guidance of Miss Annabelle Fitzgilbert, the friendship of her roommate Juliana, and the insight and tenderness of her music master Mr. Amberson, Lydia begins to see the error of her ways and the gravity of her situation, and she wonders whether she is deserving of a second chance at love.
I never thought I could love and appreciate Lydia Bennet, but in The Trouble to Check Her, Grace deftly imagines a Lydia who isn’t forced to marry Wickham and is given the chance to grow up. This Lydia has a father who is stern, cold, angry, and unforgiving — not merely inattentive — and this Lydia has seen Wickham’s lack of feeling firsthand. Grace handles Lydia’s evolution into a worthy heroine in a believable way while making a statement about the importance of a woman’s virtue and social class in the Regency era, even showing how men were not unaffected by scandal.
Grace’s original characters are given plenty of opportunity to shine, given that Lydia is placed into an entirely new setting. I absolutely loved Annabelle, Juliana, and Mr. Amberson, and I especially enjoyed not being able to predict the outcome of the novel.
The Trouble to Check Her exemplifies why Grace is one of my favorite authors of Austen-inspired fiction. Her attention to detail in terms of character development and the history of the era is fantastic, and I hope there is another book in the series (mainly because I want to find out what happened to Jane Bingley after her falling out with Elizabeth Darcy). Definitely one of my favorite books of this year!
Disclosure: I received The Trouble to Check Her from the author for review.
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