Felicity Montague is determined to become a doctor. However, the male-dominated world of medicine in the eighteenth century is equally determined to stop her from ever having the chance. When presented with a risky deal that may lead her to her medical idol and secure her a real position practicing medicine, Felicity throws caution to the wind and ties her fate to that of the secretive pirate Sim. But that’s not the only ill-advised relationship she has to form – because her plans necessitate meeting Johanna, the best friend she lost years previous in an ugly fight. Felicity has a lot to gain, and nothing to lose.
This started off so strong. I was grinning like an idiot from the first accidental-finger-amputation scene, ready to dive into another humorous adventure. Sadly, this sequel lacked the sparkling hilarity that was a constant in The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue and made it so fantastic.
The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy is Felicity’s dry wit rather than Percy’s outrageous humour. It is a different kind of novel, owing to a very different narrator.
There is a distinct lack of the vivid and beautiful imagery from the first novel, barring a very few rare moments. Like The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, I found it slow to get into. The villain in the story is quite predictable. The plot is unique to Lee’s way of storytelling.
While it’s hard to guess what will happen next, I still found the pacing erratic. All the real action seemed to be saved for the last chapters. Lee also has an unconventional way of dealing with her villains – and to be honest, the resolution for the antagonist left me unsatisfied.
You deserve to be here. You deserve to exist. You deserve to take up space in this world of men.
Felicity is a practical, ambitious character. I admired her love of medicine and her yearning to know and understand the world. But she’s operating with a well of self-doubt that she is striving to quell by acceptance into the very much man’s world of medicine in the eighteenth century.
In many ways I related to her, but what made me really connect with her was that vulnerability. And especially her character growth towards the end when her self-confidence grows and she’s able to be flexible to achieve her dreams.
It is undoubtedly great to have such a complex woman in a historical fiction novel. The word isn’t explicitly used, but she reads as asexual, and her acceptance and understanding of herself – including how she wants to love and let people into her life – is a significant part of the novel.
Sim was by far my favourite character in the novel. She’s charming, smart. Fierce but kind. I would run away, without a whisper of doubt, to be a pirate on the seas with her if I could.
She’s a Muslim POC and attracted to men and women, and it’s amazing to have that representation. Her character is so nuanced and authentic. I identified with her struggles to be recognised as capable and her desire to change things for people like her.
“I’d rather write my own legends. Or be the story someone else looks to someday. Build a strong foundation for those who follow us.”
Felicity and Monty’s relationship continues to be the best and most accurate representation of siblings I’ve ever read.
Monty and Percy are still a gift to read about. Monty is still terrifically rakish, but also much more mature than the first novel. Percy is still sweet and empathetic. They are so adorable together.
Feminism and Sisterhood:
Felicity has a lot of spot on things to say about the double standards of gender and the injustices that women have faced, and still face today. But where the book shines is in the sisterhood it forms between Felicity, Sim, and Johanna.
I really enjoyed what each of these women brought out in each other. Johanna and Felicity are complete opposites, and eventually Felicity learns to appreciate that a woman doesn’t have to be a certain way to be strong and valid.
By the end, there is undeniable love and unconditional acceptance between them. All three of them support each other and their dreams.
In the company of women like this – sharp-edged as raw diamonds but with soft hands and hearts, not strong in spite of anything but powerful because of everything – I feel invincible.
I was so excited for this book coming off the heels of The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, and it’s so sad that it didn’t live up to my expectations. But, in saying that, I really urge you to fight through this book. It can get unwieldy, but the payoff is high – I highly recommend you read the author’s note – and the ending will leave you with teary eyes and a glad heart. Plus, there’s something to be said for having a powerhouse sisterhood.
Good stuff: Women supporting women. Complex female characters. Dynamic between Felicity and Sim and Johanna. Diversity. Feminism. Fantastic ending full of goodness.
Bad stuff: Narrative voice very quickly becomes very dry. Erratic pacing. Lackluster villain and unsatisfying resolution for the villain.