Help A Bitch Out

HaBO: Illiterate Heroine, Buttmunch Hero

Victoria writes in looking for a book that she admits sounds like it’s awful:

I was wondering if the bitchery could help me find a book I tried to read
when I was younger, maybe fourteenish, so about 2004/2005. It was quite
possibly the worst book ever, but it has stuck in my memory and I want to
find it again out of some twisted sense of nostalgia.

First things first, my name is Victoria. I got really excited about this
book because the heroine’s name is Victoria. I had high hopes in my young,
idealistic heart. Within the first chapter, though, we learn that Victoria
is completely illiterate (ACTUALLY, as in, SHE CANNOT READ). This is an
historical, Regency era I think, so it’s semi-possibly-maybe
understandable, but COME ON! She was of the [gentry], they all learned how
to at least read back then.

Anyway, I think maybe the hero was a friend of
her father’s, who was trying to teach her to read (?), or something, and
had the dad’s permission to discipline Victoria as he saw fit. Also in the
first chapter, I think, he takes her over his knee as punishment for being
stupid. At this point, I threw the book down in disgust. I know it’s not
much to go on, seeing how I only read about twenty pages of the thing. If
anyone has any clue about author or title or anything, I’d be much obliged.

I don’t know that much about literacy rates in the back then days of yore (better known as The Regency) but I do know that physical assault is a crapful way to motivate education. Anyone remember this book?


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  1. 1
    AgTigress says:

    Literacy was very much a class-based matter in the 18th/19th centuries when access to education required money;  I think it would have been very unusual for any member of the nobility, gentry and more moneyed middle classes to be fully illiterate, though it would have been quite common amongst the peasantry and urban working classes, especially women.

    …physical assault is a crapful way to motivate education

    Certainly is, but it has been done for millennia.  There are still people who try to train animals mainly by hitting them.  And I would not regard a propensity to hit animals, let alone women, as an acceptable character trait in a hero!  But maybe this book developed as a tale of flagellation and related specialised tastes?  Just musing…

  2. 2
    FD says:

    Learning / processing disorders like dyslexia and dyscalculia aren’t something that suddenly developed in the 20th century, so I could buy it. And the response to them was no better than it is now – so I could certainly see the tutor attempting to physically punish the sufferer into learning – it was an accepted response at the time to ‘stupid’, ‘lazy’ or ‘wilful’ children… and grown women too for that matter.  Whether that would add up to a book I could bear to read is different of course, but it’s plausible.

  3. 3
    AgTigress says:

    Learning / processing disorders like dyslexia and dyscalculia aren’t something that suddenly developed in the 20th century, so I could buy it.

    Yes, that’s a good point that I hadn’t thought of.  Conditions like dyslexia, where sufferers are clearly of normal or superior intelligence and have no difficulty in acquiring most everyday skills other than reading and writing, would certainly have been interpreted as laziness or perversity.

  4. 4
    Lorelie says:

    Certainly is, but it has been done for millennia.  There are still people who try to train animals mainly by hitting them.

    And the possibility that this was a thinly veiled spank wank? If it was published in 2004 or ‘5, I find it doubtful that the author truly thought a corporal punishment scene was about teaching the character to read.

  5. 5
    AgTigress says:

    And the possibility that this was a thinly veiled spank wank?

    Yes, that most certainly crossed my mind, too.  But while few people today would imagine that reading skills could be promoted or improved by walloping the learner, it is quite likely that many people did think so in 1815. 

    Without knowing more about how the story evolved, we can’t tell whether the purpose of the scene was to set the ‘hero’ up as a ruthless arrogant male, later converted by the Love of a Good Woman, or merely to supply some covert (or even overt) spanking erotica.

  6. 6
    elanath says:

    I think I’ve read this…Heroine is dyslexic. Hero & heroine marry, get along well (tho hero treats heroine as a slightly stupid but adorable puppy that he can screw). Ex-mistresses keep showing up on his doorstep to drop of their (his progeny that they can’t care for anymore. W/in the 1st third of the book, hero & heroine are housing three ~ 6 year old girls—one brunette, one blond, one red head (collect them all!). And of course heroine (after being briefly offended) turns into glowing uber-stepmom—she loves the girls, they love her, etc.

    Heroine is deeply ashamed of her inability to read, and seeks out tutoring (because of course she can’t be a good wife/person while bearing this Secret Shame). Through some ridiculous, stretching-suspension-of-disbelief plot twist, heroine is betrayed by her secret reading tutors: hero finds her, mostly naked and insensate, in another house and publicly brand her an Evil Sexxoring Whore.

    They separate (she runs off in shame to her family home), her presses publicly for divorce. Hero cuts heroine off from all contact with her step-daughters, and wastes no time getting together with Scheming Society Woman (stock character 14?). Heroine finds out & is shattered. At the divorce trial, heroine is excoriated and humiliated, but Must Guard Her Secret At All Costs. Critical Moment Alert! She is asked (while on the stand) to read a letter! She can’t! She finally admits she can’t read & was seeking out tutoring (not sexxoring) so she could be Worthy of Hero’s Love. Hero realizes he was wrong (and an ass) feels bad for maybe five minutes and they tearfully reconcile. The end.

    Assuming, you know, that I’ve got the right book. Ad no, I don’t remember the title either.

  7. 7

    I would have thought in the Regency era you could have gotten in SO much trouble for spanking a female student (even if you’re like her hot private tutor). I mean…that’s like major major physical contact that will ruin your daughter if it ever gets out, so like her father seriously was like “and if you must, spanketh away at my child, for she must learn submission!”…seriously? I don’t care if corporal punishment was okay for instructors back then, I don’t think it would have been okay for a male tutor to put a female student (over the age of like five) over his knee and wallop away. This was TOTALLY a “spanking is HAWT!” kind of deal. So unless her father and some gossipy old battle ax from next door walk in in the middle of it and they’re forced to get married then…like…I’m not thinking accuracy was very important. Of course, I would so totally go for a book with a heroine with dyslexia, if that was really what was wrong with her, because I heart me a good kindred spirit!
    …except when she’s getting spanked by her tutor.

    Ah-HAH my thing is church23…I just played “between the sheets” with my hymnal in church…

  8. 8
    AgTigress says:

    Assuming, you know, that I’ve got the right book. Ad no, I don’t remember the title either.

    Well, crumbs, there can’t be many books like that!  Thank you for describing it in such detail!

  9. 9
    Isobel Carr says:

    There’s another one too, where the hero gives her a harp with a special inscription and is all butthurt when she doesn’t respond. She doesn’t understand why he’s upset, cause she has no idea that he’s basically poured out his heart on the harp. Wish I could remember the title or author.

  10. 10
    Jan says:

    If it’s the book elanath described, I kinda want to read it I think. A lot of tropes, but the blend of them seems fairly original.

  11. 11
    Jessica says:

    Could it be “To Catch a Countess” by Patricia Grasso?

    “Beautiful though she is, Victoria Douglas’s reputation for reckless behavior has put her marriage prospects at risk. Only those closest to her know that the young woman’s outrageous behavior is designed to mask a secret shame. Infuriated to discover that her family has betrothed her to a stranger, Victoria nevertheless finds herself deeply attracted to her future groom… Alexander Emerson is on a quest to find his real father, and to right the wrongs brought about by his stepfather against the Douglas family. A match to wed the youngest daughter, Victoria, and restore the family fortune seems a suitable arrangement. Even more so when he finds himself enchanted by his irrepressible bride-to-be. But their pursuit of a future together is threatened when Alexander’s enemies conspire to bring ruin to the couple—as scandal and surprises collide in a game of desire and deceit that can only be won by true love itself. “

  12. 12
    Susana says:

    I believe the book you are looking for is entitled To Catch a Countess by Patricia Grasso.  It came out in 2004 and is about a dyslexic girl named Victoria, who believes herself stupid because she can not read.  She has been betrothed for the last year and no one told her, when her fiancee shows up she doesn’t know they are to be married and is defiant and willful towards him. In a bid to reprimand her he hauls her out of the room to spank her and gain her compliance.  It is actually a very good book, about Victoria hiding the fact that she can’t read from her new husband while taking lessons from her niece’s and nephew’s tutors.  She grows into a formidable, confident person that finds her place as a Countess who can match wits with her husband.


  13. 13
    Lindlee says:

    The book Isobel Carr is describing is To Pleasure a Prince by Sabrina Jeffries. Very good. One of my faves.

  14. 14
    Jen says:

    I know the one with the harp was “To Pleasure a Prince” by Sabrina Jeffries.  IMO, the dyslexia/illiteracy of the heroine was pretty well done, where they explained how it went undetected for so long and that a huge chunk of the heroine’s life had been shaped around functioning in society while keeping her secret.  It was definitely spanking-free, although there were some rough moments.

  15. 15
    cleo says:

    Closing tags here.

    boy76 – well now, maybe I have taught 76 boys html

  16. 16

    Just going with the problems-with-reading-theme – Connie Brockway’s AS YOU DESIRE. I won’t say more so as not to be spoilerific, but if you haven’t read it, do. Gentle mocking of the romance genre in the beginning! Egypt! Hot hero! Great book!!

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