The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy

Mackenzi Lee

The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy
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The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy

Mackenzi Lee

Felicity Montague is through with pretending she prefers society parties to books about bonesetting-or that she’s not smarter than most people she knows, or that she cares about anything more than her dream of becoming a doctor.

A year after an accidentally whirlwind tour of Europe, which she spent evading highwaymen and pirates with her brother Monty, Felicity has returned to England with two goals in mind-avoid the marriage proposal of Callum Doyle, 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 small window of hope opens. Dr. Alexander Platt, an eccentric physician who Felicity idolizes, is looking for research assistants, and Felicity is sure that someone as forward-thinking as her hero would be willing to take her on. However, Platt is in Germany, preparing to wed Felicity’s estranged childhood friend, Johanna. Not only is Felicity reluctant to open old wounds, but she also has no money 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.

Review

Felicity Montague is determined to study medicine. Unfortunately, eighteenth-century society has other ideas about what a woman is supposed to do with her life (i.e. marry the kind baker and bear children), and despite her obvious talent, Felicity faces constant rejection in her efforts to achieve her ambition. When she learns that her estranged childhood friend, Johanna, is engaged to a renowned and eccentric physician, she sees it as a unique opportunity and accepts the aid of a mysterious female pirate, Sim, in travelling uninvited to the wedding. Soon, all three young women are ensnared in a far riskier, and more thrilling, quest than any could have predicted.

Felicity, Sim and Johanna form the heart of this book and I loved how distinctive all three were from one another. Through them and their relationships, Mackenzi Lee demonstrates that there is no ‘right’ way to be a woman, and challenges popular notions that romantic love is the only truly fulfilling form of love. Felicity is recognisably asexual and aromantic, while both Sim and Johanna have strong passions and attachments outside of the romantic sphere that give their lives meaning.

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy is a companion novel to Lee’s award-winning The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue and fans of the former will be delighted to learn that Felicity’s brother Monty and the lovely Percy play a part in her story too. However, newcomers will not miss anything by diving straight into this novel. Just as practical, pithy Felicity is a different creature to the roguish, reckless Monty, so is a story with her at the centre. Felicity’s story is one of resilience, feminism, friendship, claiming your identity, and yes, sea monsters too.

A tribute to bold women in history, The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy is a funny, swashbuckling historical adventure for ages 12+.


Bronte Coates is the digital content coordinator and the Readings Prizes manager.

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