The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee
Publication date: 15 November 2018
Genre: Young adult historical fiction
Page count: 464 pages
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This review may contain minor spoilers for the first book — you can read my review of The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue here.
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue was a smash hit last year, and the sequel has been getting so much attention and hype. I really enjoyed the first book, although the fantasy elements threw me off a bit. Rather than following our beloved Monty and Percy, The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy follows Monty’s younger sister Felicity. Felicity was my favourite character in the first book and I was so thrilled to hear she was getting her own book. Lady’s Guide was so hyped for me and I have to say that it more than lived up to my expectations.
A year after an accidentally whirlwind grand tour with her brother Monty, Felicity Montague has returned to England with two goals in mind—avoid the marriage proposal of a lovestruck suitor from Edinburgh and enroll in medical school. However, her intellect and passion will never be enough in the eyes of the administrators, who see men as the sole guardians of science.
But then a window of opportunity opens—a doctor she idolizes is marrying an old friend of hers in Germany. Felicity believes if she could meet this man he could change her future, but she has no money of her own to make the trip. Luckily, a mysterious young woman is willing to pay Felicity’s way, so long as she’s allowed to travel with Felicity disguised as her maid.
In spite of her suspicions, Felicity agrees, but once the girl’s true motives are revealed, Felicity becomes part of a perilous quest that leads them from the German countryside to the promenades of Zurich to secrets lurking beneath the Atlantic.
This book is a strong contender for ‘best book of the year’ for a number of reasons, but namely for the fact that it contains all of my favourite things. A fierce feminist novel about women supporting women and women saving themselves, The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy is a book I wish I had when I was a teenager. Felicity’s struggles to be taken seriously as a candidate for medical school and in society in general are both infuriating and heartbreaking. I thought that the way Lee tackled misogyny in the time period was perfectly executed — the absolute frustration and fury the reader feels on Felicity’s behalf is so strong. It didn’t feel ‘in your face’ to me at all, an issue I’ve had in some books and films, but it is the main theme throughout the novel. I also felt that the fantasy elements were very well done, although this could have just been the fact that I was expecting them this time.
The fantastic characters really drive this book –Felicity, Johanna, and Sim are a masterclass in well-written women. Felicity is our narrator and she’s the perfect example of a character that is able to identify her prejudices, some of which are quite upsetting, and change them. She’s flawed and therefore has the capacity to grow and change as a character. I don’t want to say too much about Felicity or anyone else, but I will say that this book is the perfect, vicious takedown of the ‘not like other girls’ trope — other authors should absolutely take note.
Basically, The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy is perfect, and this is a terrible review because I cannot possibly put into words how much I loved it. This is the sort of book that not only improves upon its delightful prequel, it is a book I desperately wish I had when I was a teen. Lee has such an incredible talent for creating characters and mayhem, and I cannot wait to get my hands on whatever she writes next.
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