On occasion a reader will insist that the main premise of this story is not credible (a young woman chooses to dress in men’s clothes and declare herself to be a young man). Their reasoning being that surely people would realize she was a woman.
Evidently, Victorians were not terribly observant people, In real life, quite a few women dressed and pretended to be men. Not surprising, given how limited life was for Victorian women.
Here is a very fine example: Margaret Bulkley took her uncle’s name: James Barry and dressed as a man so she could attend medical school and become a doctor:
Picture of James Barry (AKA Margaret Bulkley)
She not only became a doctor, but she also became the highest ranked doctor in the British army. She was also the first doctor to perform a successful Cesarean in which both mother and child lived. It was not until she died, that the charwoman hired to clean Barry for burial discovered ‘she’ was not a man, but a woman. Barry’s regular doctor suggested he was a hermaphrodite. The charwoman strongly disagreed, pointing out the evidence (stretch marks) that Margaret/James had born a child. (Given Margaret’s age at the time, it was more likely from sexual assault than consensual. Historians now believe the child was raised as her younger ‘sister’ with only her older siblings and, of course, her mother knowing the truth.
When the charwoman took her story to the press, all information about Margaret/James Barry was quickly sealed with plans to keep it so for a hundred years. A researcher gained access to the documents in 1950.
Margaret/James became a man when she went to medical school. Spent her entire life as a surgeon in the British Army, and reached the highest rank possible for a surgeon. It was not until she retired from the Army and died of dysentery that her gender was discovered. So clearly, women could pass themselves off as men in the Victorian era.
As for my character, Vic, I chose a model for my cover that visually could pass for either sex.
I attributed her with a low voice and provided her with chest compressor so she doesn’t appear to have breast. She even pins a filled sock to her pants’ crotch.
Also, Vic is tall for a woman with a boyish lanky body. In fact, her hips refused to spread during the birth of their child, Cannon. (Xavier & Vic secretly marry in book 4.) Dr. Connors had to perform a Cesarean to save both her and her baby’s life. Fortunately, he had read up on Dr. Barry’s Cesarean and knew what to do.
So, my premise is not only reasonable but has been proven so by Margaret/James’ real life, not to mention a great many wives who chose to dress as men and go to war with their husbands. (That’s a documented fact as well.)
Determining whom to trust is getting very hard, indeed. This may be the most trying cases imaginable. Director Stone has gone missing and it appears Ministers of Parliament are involved. Xavier is arrested and placed in a jail meant to kill him, while Vic, disguised as a woman, attempts to locate the Minister of External Affairs and ask for his help.
Everyone is called in to assist: Jacko, his wife Alice, their son Pete, Samson the Crime Lord, David and Claire, Tubs and his wife Sara, the boys: Cannon and Ham, plus the bloodhound Arroo.
The Wasp, who escaped punishment for her attempts to murder her bigamist husband’s first wife last year, is back. Vic discovers love letters between Ben, their terrible male secretary, and the Wasp. Worse yet, he shared Xavier’s financial advice with the Wasp, making her and her husband very wealthy.
With Stone missing, and Barns and Meyers stretched to their limits, Vic decides it’s time to train more of the Scotland Yard officers in intuitive and deductive reasoning. While only half the class makes it through her two-day course, everyone is pleased with her results.
Finally, be warned: Vic’s sister, Claire, is becoming more difficult than ever. Gregory thinks she is going mad.
Two in the morning, Vic and Xavier were surreptitiously following a drunken spy. Not an easy task, given Xavier had not been allowed to have Davy, his carriage driver, accompany them. This meant he and Vic had to take turns following the young man while the other one drove the carriage up side roads to keep pace with the drunken fool. Even a fool, deep in his cups, would catch on that something was afoot if the same carriage either lurked behind him or constantly passed him and then pulled to the side of the road.
Finally, the boy stopped and stared at a warehouse by the docks. Before the young man could enter, a young girl stepped out of the shadows. Had Barringbarn sent him on a fool’s errand? Was the boy only looking for female company?
Then Xavier heard what sounded like a muted explosion and the young man collapsed to the ground.
Xavier pulled his gun and looked around for trouble, but the dock appeared empty. Even the young girl had run off when she heard the gunshot. Women in the docks would risk their lives for a coin, but otherwise, they looked out for themselves.
Just then Vic pulled up with the carriage and jumped down. “Why did you shoot him?”
“I didn’t,” Xavier snapped, “I’m not sure what happened. There was a young woman who stepped out of the darkness, blonde, I think, but I couldn’t tell you more. An odd explosion came from somewhere close to her location, then the boy collapsed. Any chance you saw where the girl went.”
Vic snorted. “Dock women know to run when trouble starts. I didn’t even see her, so there’s no way we’ll catch her. Let’s just grab the body and drop it off at the Minster’s house. The man’s so stupid, he will probably bellow at the corpse for an hour before he even realizes the fellow is dead.”
“No, he’ll, no doubt, demand I find the girl.” Xavier sighed heavily. This was supposed to be a simple grab and interrogate. In fact, they were not even the ones who were supposed to interrogate. The minister of Internal Affairs made it very clear they were to gag the fellow and bring him directly to his house.
Need to catch up?
Liza O’Connor was raised badly by feral cats, left the South/Midwest and wandered off to find nicer people on the east coast. There she worked for the meanest man on Wall Street, while her psychotic husband tried to kill her three times. (So much for finding nicer people.) Then one day she declared enough, got a better job, divorced her husband, and fell in love with her new life where people behaved nicely. But all those bad behaviors has given her lots of fodder for her humorous books. Please buy these books, because otherwise, she’ll become grumpy and write troubled novels instead. They will likely traumatize you.
You have been warned.
The Adventures of Xavier & Vic Sleuth series: (Late Victorian/Mystery/Romance)
The Troublesome Apprentice — The greatest sleuth in Victorian England hires a young man who turns out to be a young woman.
The Missing Partner — Opps! The greatest sleuth in Victorian England goes missing, leaving Vic to rescue him, a suffragette, and about 100 servants. Not to mention an eviscerating cat. Yes, let’s not mention the cat.
A Right to Love — A romantic detour for Jacko. Want to see how amply rewarded Jacko was when he & Vic save an old woman from Bedlam?
The Mesmerist — The Mesmerist can control people from afar and make them murder for her. Worse yet, Xavier Thorn has fallen under her spell.
Well Kept Secrets — The problems with secrets is that they always come to light, no matter how you wish to silence them.
Pack of Trouble — Changes are a part of life, but these changes almost kill Vic.
The Darkest Days — Muddled cases make Vic very grumpy.
The CrimeLords’ War — Vic is almost killed twice as she tries to prevent a CrimeLords’ War, stop a female Russian spy, and locate Xavier.
Toxic Diamonds — The Queen’s Diamonds have been stolen, Director Stone of Scotland Yard is missing, and there is a toxic gas that may kill hundreds of Londoners.
A Despicable Crime — Just when you think Crime Lords cannot behave worse, they step up their game, and I’m sorry to report that Xavier’s father caused this debacle.
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