Reader’s Guide

A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder

1) The theme of family duty plays a large role in the story. The oldest son will inherit wealth and property, but also the responsibility for caring for it, growing it, and passing it on to the next generation. He might also be responsible for supporting other members of the family. Younger sons must make their own way in the world. If they don’t choose a worthy, respectable profession, they will likely have to find a wealthy bride. Daughters are expected to make advantageous matches, hand everything they own to their husbands, and live a blameless life. All are expected to keep the family name respectable. If you had to choose, where would you want to be in this hierarchy?

2) Frances has a rare advantage among Victorian women, particularly of the upper class. She has a fortune of her own, albeit a small one, which allows her some independence. Do you think women of today have a more independent spirit? Or did women of that era simply lack the opportunity to express it?

3) Despite her financial independence, Frances must still live by society’s rules. She worries that living alone will cause her to be snubbed by some of the powerful society matrons. Even being seen calling on a single gentleman could ruin her reputation. How would you adapt if you had to live by such strict social codes?

4) After her mourning period, Frances is eager to start a new life but once she moves out, she still has to decide how to go forward and she gets a chance to do so vicariously through her sister, Lily. The other supporting female characters all show her a different option. Fiona married for love and has a happy marriage. Alicia Stoke-Whitney married money, but scoffs at society’s rules and is in danger of suffering the stigma of a divorce. Hetty is independent and makes her own rules. If you were Frances, which path would you choose?

5) The villains in the story aren’t just “bad guys” but people who see no other way out of a bad situation. Do you feel any sympathy for them despite their poor choices?

6) The Victorian aristocracy provide the perfect characters for a mystery as the persona they showed publicly was often different from who they were at home. Everyone in this story is hiding something from the general public. In our era of social media, we tend to put everything “out there,” yet because we’re online we can be anonymous. Is the public/private persona still prevalent today?