Preshea Buss (later Villentia) is a character in the Finishing School series. She attended Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality alongside Sophronia and company, and rooms with Monique de Pelouse. She is the main character in Poison or Protect: A Delightfully Deadly Novella as Lady Preshea Villentia, which takes place roughly ten years after the close of the Finishing School series.
Preshea has tightly curled glossy black hair and a heart-shaped face, which is often set in a morose expression, as if she intends to kill someone. She is diminutive, with white skin, and is quite beautiful. Sophronia says she has a "low nose". She speaks in a clipped voice that makes it sound like her words are being assassinated. Although never described in the Finishing School books, her eyes are revealed to be a dark, intense blue in Poison or Protect.
Even as an adult, she is described as being quite beautiful, with dark hair and porcelain skin.
Preshea tends to think she is smarter than everyone, but Sophronia notes that she is really just meaner. After Monique's departure from the school, Preshea takes her place in being nasty, and has her own clique made up of new debuts.
Later in life, Preshea makes a name for herself as the "Mourning Star", an assassin that marries and then kills her targets, making her ruthless dream in school of killing her first husband come true.
Preshea has a severe dislike of most men and women and sees ulterior motives in most interactions with people. She particularly "loathed nice people" and has trouble making genuine friends, rather than frenemies she kept to maintain her image and prove that she could.
Her father dabbles with the East India Company, a fact that enforces her sense of self-importance.
In Poison or Protect, it is revealed that her father was very manipulative and verbally abusive. He sent her off to finishing school to become a weapon for him, but she returned and threatened him with what she had learned. She left him two options: have her committed to an asylum or marry her off. He chose to marry her off.
Her first husband was cruel, but was careful never to hurt her beauty. She killed him with poison.
Her second husband liked to yell a lot and gave away his secrets, but didn't harm her physically. He had other inclinations: children.
Her third husband, Richard, left her alone and they lived their lives mostly separate. He passed away in a carriage accident with his mistress (possibly arranged, but not by Preshea).
Her fourth husband was much older than she and it is not mentioned how he passed. He was 67 and she was in her 20's.
In the books Edit
During assessment, Preshea is warned that if she does not improve she'll only be good for marriage without covert orders. She continues to antagonize Sophronia and her friends throughout the novel. Including paying special attention to Lord Dingleproops to aggravate Dimity.
With Monique gone from school. Preshea has moved up to take her place as the resident mean girl. During fan training, Preshea gets paired with Sophronia. She goes as far as to remove the safety from the blades and attack Sophronia - who promptly dumps the girl in the river.
Preshea is hired by the Duke of Snodgrove to attend a house party and ensure that his daughter, Lady Violet Bicker-Harrow, does not carry on her engagement with a Mr. Jackson. Little does he know, Preshea has also been hired (through her old patron: Lord Akeldama) to also prevent the Duke's assassination in exchange for documents that will ruin her father. While on assignment, she meets the handsome Captain Gavin Ruthven and discovers that he, too, has been tasked with protecting the Duke of Snodgrove. The two protect the Duke from his attempted assassination, and Preshea manages (with very little effort) to divorce Lady Violet of her affection for Mr. Jackson. The meanwhile, she and Gavin have a steamy and somewhat rocky affair which is cut short with Gavin's abrupt departure when Mr. Jackson is dismissed from the house party. By the end, Preshea seeks out Gavin and is able to find her own happy ending.
- Preshea's preferred weapon is poison and it's likely she uses a poison ring once she leaves finishing school.
- Gail has said that Preshea Buss's name is an ode to Frances Mary Buss, the founder of the North London Collegiate School for girls. Started in 1850, this was one of the first girls' schools to focus on academic achievement.
- Preshea Villentia has been married four times by the beginning of Poison or Protect and as a result has been given the name Mourning Star.
- Lord Akeldama became her patron after finishing school and she served her indentured years with him by the time of Poison or Protect.
- On more than one occasion Preshea indicates that she would enjoy poisoning her first husband. For example:
Mademoiselle Geraldine was fanning herself. "Oh, dear, oh, dear, Miss Buss. Let us hope it is widowhood and not" - she whispered the next word - "divorce that leads to your multiple marriages."
Preshea sat and sipped from a china cup. "I shouldn't worry, Headmistress. I am tolerably certain it will be widowhood.”.
- "That is Preshea Buss. She thinks she's smarter than everyone, when really she's just meaner. As to ranking, forgive me, Preshea, but don't your parents engage in trade?' Preshea made a face like a fish with a digestive complaint. 'Daddy dabbles in the East India Company, thank you very much. That's hardly trade." (Etiquette & Espionage, Lesson 6)
- "Preshea can't wait until she gets to poison her first husband. She's a great admirer of Mary Bland's work." (Etiquette & Espionage, Lesson 6)
- "Oh, dear, Sophronia, your glove is dirty! Let me help you with that.' Preshea looked more distressed by the black on Sophronia's white glove than she had been by the explosion." (Etiquette & Espionage, Lesson 6)
- "Preshea knew by heart all the different flavors of sherry and what ought to be stocked for gentlemen to imbibe..." (Etiquette & Espionage, Lesson 8)
- “It's no good choosing your first husband from a school for evil geniuses. Much too difficult to kill.” (Etiquette & Espionage, Lesson 9)
- "I'm certain you are, but there is no point in arguing with Preshea. She always wins, even when she doesn't." (Etiquette & Espionage, Lesson 10)
- "Preshea came over and stood before them, hands on hips, in nothing but her stays and drawers. So immodest!" (Etiquette & Espionage, Lesson 13)
- "Preshea - small, dark, and unreasonably lovely - looked like she intended to kill someone. But then, Preshea always looked that way." (Curtsies & Conspiracies, The 2nd Test)
- "Preshea Buss.' Preshea's dark eyes were wide, and her normally crafty face was carefully blank. 'You are adept at social manipulation but too apt to trade on your looks for assistance. You underestimate intelligence, even your own. Improve your execution, or you will be good only for marriage without covert orders.' Preshea protested, 'But I've only been here less than a year!' She spoke precisely and sharply, as though each word were being murdered by her mouth." (Curtsies & Conspiracies, The 2nd Test)
- "Bet she thinks the sun rises out of her tea in the morning,' added Preshea in her sharp, clipped voice." (Curtsies & Conspiracies, The 2nd Test)
- "Preshea chose the dark-haired boy. They made a fetching pair, of a kind in coloring, pleasing proportions, and sulky temperament. Yet, despite Preshea's uncontested loveliness, the dark-haired boy kept glancing at Sophronia." (Curtsies & Conspiracies, The 4th Test)
- "I wonder if I should warn him about Preshea. She does so desperately want to murder her first husband." (Curtsies & Conspiracies, The 4th Test)
- "Oh, would you look at Preshea, flashing that diamond necklace around? One shouldn't wear diamonds to breakfast, so gauche. As if she came from real wealth!' 'Doesn't she have money?' Pillover looked up. 'She acts like she has money.' 'Which is the most certain indication that she does not." (Curtsies & Conspiracies, The 7th Test)
- "Preshea's tinkling laugh rippled down the table. The pretty brunette pressed a hand to Lord Dingleproops's arm and looked up at him adoringly. Her diamonds sparkled almost as much as the avarice in her eyes." (Curtsies & Conspiracies, The 7th Test)
- "You, my child, will marry well. More than once. A charmed life, so long as you weave a tight net, little spider.' The lady retrieved the cards and shuffled them back together into one stack in an attitude of dismissal. Taking this as a sign her fortune was complete, Preshea stood. Looking particularly pleased with life, she passed over a few coins and gave Madame Spetuna a nice curtsy." (Curtsies & Conspiracies, The 10th Test)
- "Preshea who, like some evil monster of Greek mythology, had sprung fully formed into Monique's shoes. Literally, as she'd been gifted with the older girl's peach kid boots." (Curtsies & Conspiracies, Test Results)
- "Since the Dratted Monique had matriculated on to a new life as drone to Westminster vampire hive, Miss Preshea Buss had taken over all residual nastiness. She netted herself a group of stylish associates from among the new debuts, too young to know better." (Waistcoats & Weaponry, Session 1)
- "Are you four going to sit there gossiping all night?' Preshea was standing above them, looking down her nose. A rare opportunity for the girl, as she was quite short." (Waistcoats & Weaponry, Session 2)
- "Captain Niall cried halt, but Preshea was out for blood. A look came into her beautiful eyes that was more common during poison class." (Waistcoats & Weaponry, Session 2)
- "It's only Bunson's,' Preshea Buss said to Dimity. 'We know all the boys there, and most of the best prospects have gone on to university.' 'Oh, buck up, Preshea, do. That means fresh meat. You should be thrilled, since you prefer your young men innocent and ripe for the plucking,' shot back Sophronia. Preshea couldn't refute that - in a way, it was quite the compliment." (Manners & Mutiny, Crisis One)
- "Who needs real friends?" (Manners & Mutiny, Crisis Two)
- "Preshea's personality is quite putrid. Poor thing." (Manners & Mutiny, Crisis Two)
- "If I'm going to kill someone, I should be more elegant about it. Guns seem sadly crass." (Manners & Mutiny, Crisis Four)
- "Preshea had found herself a tall moon-faced lad who looking nothing short of stunned at his good fortune. Poor chap." (Manners & Mutiny, Crisis Eleven)
- “Widowed too many times under suspicious circumstances, too smart to be caught, and too beautiful to be ostracized. She was like opiates – expensive, intoxicating, and deadly in large doses.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter One)
- “The lady was a porcelain doll, perfect in every detail, delicate as fine china and no doubt more costly. ” (Poison or Protect, Chapter One)
- “Every part of Lady Villentia was covered but for her heart-shaped face – white and emotionless. A ceramic doll in truth and likely just as cold. Except there… For one unguarded moment beneath all that beauty, her eyes flashed a depth of misery he’d seen only in the worst slums.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter One)
- “That one looks more wax than human. Were it not daylight, I’d think her vampire.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter One)
- “This is ridiculous. I don’t like people. I certainly don’t like men!” (Poison or Protect, Chapter One)
- “She slid into the vampire’s main hallway. The gas was turned down, making sinister shadows out of dancing cherub statuary. Preshea became one with their devilish waltz.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter Two)
- “That brightest of jewels is no longer under my indenture. I have requested that she attend us, not ordered it. She will come because she is bored.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter Two)
- “Lady Villentia values her freedom. She has certainly earned it.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter Two)
- “Monsters came in all shapes and sizes, and very few of them were actually supernatural.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter Two)
- “His Grace forgets, information is my trade and I’m a merchant of renown.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter Two)
- “After four marriages, and four deaths, she had everything in life a woman might desire: titled position, swollen coffers, the freedom to travel, and a world that accepted her because it was afraid of her.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter Two)
- “I do love a house party – all those ill-contained sentiments and simmering resentments. Not to mention a restricted timeframe. It makes for a lovely challenge.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter Two)
- “I find it is not the things a gentleman notices that are important to a lady of my accomplishments.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter Two)
- “Lord save us all from married women with consequence to protect.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter Two)
- “A sadness, that, for Preshea would dearly love supernatural elegance, but she was not willing to suffer immortality to get it. One lifetime is unpleasant enough, thank you.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter Two)
- “Always inspire ardor or terror – it matters not which, for in society, they share the same sauce.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter Three)
- “She was not prepared for gentleness.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter Three)
- “She never used a poison ring for actually poisoning anyone – too obvious. ” (Poison or Protect, Chapter Four)
- “As a rule, Preshea loathed nice people." (Poison or Protect, Chapter Four)
- “Strong stuff in this wee warrior.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter Five)
- "I have always preferred isolation. Less chance of betrayal. Occasionally, as I get older, I wonder if perhaps it might once have been worth the risk.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter Six)
- “Yet she hadn’t the courage to overcome what other men had done to her. They were dead and gone, leaving no ghosts to haunt her. She’d given each his two years in widow’s weeds, black to mauve, for a death without unbirth. And they’d left her alone and drained, picked over, rotted to the bone exactly like them. She honored their memory by making an altar out of her inability to trust.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter Six)
- “No pretty pistol with gilt metalwork and mother-of-pearl handle for Preshea. She favored a six-shot revolver, no frills, no decoration.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter Seven)
- “She’d complimented Lady Blingchester on her riding and insulted her weight in the same breath.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter Seven)
- “Preshea was never one to let another lady win, no matter what the prize.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter Seven)
- “Always, there was a tiny part of her that wanted to kill any man she knew. On principle.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter Eight)
- “Control is something I am good at.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter Eight)
- “My life is what I wanted, don’t you see? I used to brag about it in school. How wonderful to be a widow. Widows have autonomy. Widows with money and a title have lots of autonomy. I got scandal and fear alongside. So, I am free. Well, free enough.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter Nine)
- “She had always known she was bad at female friendships. She seemed unable to stop herself from sabotaging them.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter Nine)
- “Lord save me from innocent girls with no professional training!” (Poison or Protect, Chapter Nine)
- “She would not run if he offered her his body; she would if he offered his heart.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter Nine)
- “Preshea admired strength, not empathy.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter Nine)
- “How close the sounds of pleasure are to those of pain.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter Ten)
- “No, I’m considered too dangerous for dalliance.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter Ten)
- “Preshea Villentia refused to lie to herself. To others, all the time. To herself, never.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter Ten)
- “And he would never see her again unless she chose, because disappearing was also one of her skills.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter Ten)
- “But she was ruthless with internal truth. One had to be if one’s outer life was all lies.” (Poison or Protect, Chapter Ten)