Title: The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy
Author: Mackenzi Lee
Series: Montague Siblings #2
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
Published: October 2nd, 2018 (Katherine Tegen Books)
Synopsis: In this highly anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestselling The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, Felicity Montague must use all her womanly wits and wiles to achieve her dreams of becoming a doctor—even if she has to scheme her way across Europe to do it. A must-have for fans of Mackenzi Lee’s extraordinary and Stonewall Honor-winning novel.
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.
“You’re so determined to become a lady doctor then,” he says.
“No, sir,” I reply, “I’m determined to become a doctor. The matter of my sex I would prefer to be incidental rather than an amendment.”
In this fast paced sequel to The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, it is Felicity’s turn to chase her dreams. One year after the Grand Tour gone wrong, none of the trio have bothered returning home. We find Felicity in Edinburgh, applying to hospitals and universities, hoping to find some place that will let a woman pursue medicine – something unheard of at the time. Felicity returns to London (where Monty and Percy make a reappearance!) in hopes of enrolling in medical school, only to be met with refusal once more. But of course, things rarely go as planned and soon she is on her way across Europe under the guise of attending her former best friend’s wedding, to meet a doctor she idolizes, accompanied by the mysterious pirate Sim.
This book is so well researched – right from life in the 1700s, to the nature of the medical profession at the time, and often circling back to the perceived role of and expectations imposed upon women. I must point out one scene that I particularly liked, and that drove home a very important realization for Felicity – the conversation between Felicity and Johanna on what makes a woman strong and intelligent, that liking pretty dresses and shoes doesn’t make you less smart, nor is it a sign of weakness. This is a major takeaway from this novel, and Johanna calling out Felicity on her attitude at last was incredibly satisfying.
So why the lower rating? Last year, the first book in this series, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue was one of my random picks, and I liked it so much that it made it to my best of year shelf. I was quite disappointed however, when this sequel, which I had so eagerly anticipated simply did not live up to my expectations. I really liked Felicity as a side/supporting character, but as a heroine, there just wasn’t enough depth – she was her ambition, but little else beyond that.
The other thing that didn’t really work for me was the fantasy element. It felt very out of place in a novel that is otherwise so well researched and historically appropriate. The major strength of these books are the characters Mackenzi Lee has created, and these additional factors take away from them. It was a chaotic and hilarious adventure, yes, but it didn’t feel like Felicity’s adventure. There were some genuinely laugh out loud moments, but at the end of the day, the magic of the first book was simply not there. Overall, it was still a fun, well narrated read, and if you’re interested in a book that’s all about girl power, this is definitely for you!
Other reviews in this series: