August 2, 2014

Liza O'Connor's Troublesome Apprentice

True story of a woman who lived her life as a man in the Victorian era.
I realize for some, it is hard to believe a woman could successfully pretend to be a man in the 19th century, but I give you a well-documented case of one woman who became a physician, (making her England’s first woman surgeon and doctor, although no one realized it at the time.)

Standing less than 5’ with a high pierced voice, Mary Ann Bulkly, took the name of a dead relative, James Barry, dressed as a man to enter medical school, and became a physician. She then JOINED THE ARMY, where she remained for 44 years of service. She acquired a black servant who remained with her throughout her long career. Each morning he would lay out six towels in which she would use to disguise her curves and broaden her shoulders.  She had a reputation as a lady’s man, no doubt to disguise the truth. During her time in Africa, she performed, on a kitchen table, the first ever successful caesarian in which both mother and child survived. She rose in the ranks to become the HIGHEST RANKED DOCTOR of the army.

But that doesn’t mean she was liked by all. In fact, she was thrown out of great many islands the army sent her to. She was prone to dressing down anyone who did not snap to her wishes, or God forbid, outright disagree with her. She would have made a terrible woman. Thank God, she chose to be a man where her bad behavior could be overlooked due to her excellence as a doctor.

Eventually she/he was forced to retire from the army. Upon returning to England, Dr. Barry soon after died during an epidemic of cholera. She attempted to hide her gender even upon death, by asking no post mortem be done and to bury her in the clothes she wore. However the charwoman paid to prepare the body, ignored the request and discovered the truth, which the British government kept hidden until recently. The high-minded Victorians would have been most upset to know their finest doctor had been a woman.

Clearly to be a man in the Victorian era, you only needed to
1)    Dress up as a man
2)    Be horribly rude and obnoxious when people do not behave as you wish.
3)    Be highly skilled in your profession

                     -End of Discussion
actually I have more to share on this topic in the matter, so stay tuned.
Right now, let me share a bit about my own Victorian young woman who has decided to live a more interesting life as a man.

The Adventures of
Xavier & Vic
Book 1
The Troublesome Apprentice
By Liza O’Connor

The Key to Aunt Maddy’s Death
The Missing Husband of Mrs. Wimple
The Disappearing Scarlet Nun
The Clever Butcher’s Wife
The Rescue of Lady Anne

While investigating the death of a friend and client, Maddy Hamilton, Xavier Thorn (reputed to be the greatest sleuth in England) is greatly impressed with Maddy’s nephew, Victor, and offers him a job as his secretary. Aware of Xavier’s history of firing secretaries, Victor garners a promise that for three months he cannot be fired. Vic then proceeds, in Xavier’s view, to be cheeky and impertinent at every turn. Xavier endures the impudent pup because Victor is most skilled in extracting the truth from clients and intuiting facts with little evidence to assist.
As they solve a string of cases, Xavier discovers a few more important details about his troublesome apprentice, such as her true gender, and the realization that she has awakened his long dormant heart.

Vic remained huddled in her closet, consumed with grief beyond anything imaginable. It was one thing to lose her aunt, but for her to die over a pair of shoes was unbearable. She had thought the truth of Aunt Maddy’s death would help her come to terms with the loss, but not this truth. It was a thousand times worse than not knowing.
Xavier gently extracted her from the closet and provided a shoulder to cry upon.
“It is not your fault, Victor,” Xavier said. “It was simply a cruel chance of fate. I can provide you one comfort. Maddy’s death was not a meaningless sacrifice. Many people would have died, had she not bought those shoes and obtained the key. I know it is hard to discover she died for no other reason than fate, but even in death she changed the world for the better. Mark my words, whatever the key opens is of vital importance. She is a hero who died in service to her country. I am certain she will derive great pleasure in heaven knowing she stopped the sale of government secrets, but only if you can accept the randomness of fate. She cannot enjoy her achievements until you are whole again.”
Xavier’s words comforted her a great deal. Still, she made no effort to pull away from his embrace. His arms surrounded her with strength and security. She did not wish to give either up quite yet.


Xavier had embraced Victor to give him support but, to his surprise, he found the act provided him comfort as well. He took pleasure in the young man’s head resting on his shoulder and this enjoyment disturbed him.
His unsettling self-discovery did not cause him to pull away and abandon his employee. He would hold the boy until he stiffened his spine and showed his magnificent Hamilton courage once more. He would see Victor safely to solid ground before he left. If he had to embrace him for the few remaining hours of darkness, so be it.
As for his own pleasure taken from this physical contacthe would evaluate the matter later. Right now, the country had bigger problems. The worst crime lord of London, Seth Sojourn, had turned his clever mind and substantial resources to the sale of state secrets to foreign spies.

The Troublesome Apprentice

I’m tired of telling my proper bio. So you get the improper bio.

Liza O’Connor was raised by feral cats, which explains a great deal, such as why she has no manners, is always getting in trouble, and doesn’t behave like a proper author and give you a proper bio.

She is highly unpredictable, both in real life and her stories, and presently is writing humorous romances. Please buy these books, because otherwise, she’ll become grumpy and write troubled novels instead. They will likely traumatize you.

Mostly humorous books by Liza:

Saving Casey – Old woman reincarnates into troubled teen’s body. (Half funny/half traumatizing)

Ghost LoverTwo British brothers fall in love with the same young woman. Ancestral ghost is called in to fix the situation. There’s a ghost cat too. (Humorous Contemporary Romance)

A Long Road to Love Series: (Humorous Contemporary odd Romance)

Worst Week Ever — Laugh out loud week of disasters of Epic proportions.

Oh Stupid Heart — The heart wants what it wants, even if it’s impossible.

Coming to Reason — There is a breaking point when even a saint comes to reason.

Climbing out of Hell — The reconstruction of a terrible man into a great one.

Don’t Forget to enter to win one of the two $25 Amazon Gift Cards.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Thanks for having me over today, Sheri. I'm glad for the opportunity to prove that women really did what my character does. Being a man in the Late Victorian era was actually pretty easy to do if you wanted it.

  2. Very interesting about Mary Ann Bulkly, I have never heard of her.

    I'm looking forward to reading your book. Sounds like a fun read.


    1. Florence Nightingale knew of and disliked the doctor immensely. In the next blog I'll provide a letter from her. The English government did a fabulous job squelching the truth even though a great deal of people knew the truth. They kept silent and Mary was buried as the honorable army physician James Barry.

  3. I will definitely be checking this one out! Thanks so much! Love the 3 things it takes to be a man. :) LOL

    1. If I got time-warped back to the Victorian era, I would absolutely become a man. In many ways, Vic is much like a modern woman, which is why you don't need to love historicals to love this series.

  4. I also know of a woman who pretended to be a man and became a part of the Pony Express. She was a remarkable woman. I could imagine that being a woman in Victorian times was a challenge at best.

    Thanks for sharing! Best of luck with your book!

    1. Yes, Vic has some personal reasons why being no longer a woman was preferred, but Jacko the pirate thinks whoever let her become a man was very smart, for in his opinion, she would have made a terrible woman. Way too bossy.

  5. Amazing! What a lot of work for her to be a man!

  6. What work? She's doing exactly what she wants, yells at anyone who annoys her, and is the best in her field of medicine. She should have been happy, but I have to admit, her picture doesn't look happy.

  7. Very interesting. It's amazing what someone can pull off when motivated to do so.


  8. That's very interesting about Mary Ann Bulkly making herself over as Dr. James Barry for her whole life.
    Thanks for the contest/giveaway!

    Lea Ellen {night owl in IL}


Welcome to my romantic world - I look forward to your comment!