I’ve been looking forward to this ever since Gentleman’s Guide. Felicity was the character of my heart in Gentleman’s and Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy does not disappoint. I need a Felicity Montague mantra card!
Felicity Montague is through with pretending she prefers society parties to books about bone setting—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. Doctor Alexander Platt, an eccentric physician that 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 opening old wounds, 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 will lead her from the German countryside to the promenades of Zurich to secrets lurking beneath the Atlantic.
Oh Felicity. You are the character of my heart. I feel the ambition in your veins fighting to get free. I can empathize with the ways you feel limited, caged, unable to read all the books. Your struggle to exist, to feel like you have the right to take up space both breaks and warms my heart. I rage with you at the ways society seeks to oppress you. All while also feeling like you and I could be great friends.
Who wouldn’t empathize with Felicity? She is a fantastic character in so many ways, but the way she first hooked me is how damn relatable her ambition is. My heart goes out to her. At every point where she speaks about her passion, about how much she wants to learn, I teared up. Because it’s so damn relatable. I can’t even imagine how much my heart would hurt if our situations were reversed. If I couldn’t do what I love. If I couldn’t study, or read, or feel free to love (or not love).
There’s all the things I loved about Gentleman’s – the humor, the sibling banter, and the adventure – but mixed up with Felicity. The arguments against why she cannot be a female surgeon make my blood boil because of how real I know them to be. But even more so, how they’ve been filtered down and taught to us even today. That’s the kicker isn’t it? Is that we have female doctors today, but we’re still taught about how we can be and the ways in which society won’t accept powerful women.
Throughout the book, Felicity often has these little mantras – I am Felicity Montague and I’m awesome because I did all this amazing stuff and I can do this. I need those mantra in my life. Little cards all over my house. Because they just hit the mark. And the one line where she says (mind you I only have an arc of this so the quote may have changed, but if it did, I’ll be heart broken), “You deserve to take up space in this world”. There were so many quotable passages here. I need to basically just pull passages from here and make up little quote cards.
Not only is Felicity asexual (so many relatable scenes here – I have also wondered time and time again about the allure of kissing – maybe also aromantic?), but she travels with Sim who is a muslim bisexual(?) pirate princess who wears a head scarf and her friend Johanna who is brilliant and loves putting bows on dogs. Um hello? That is amazing. And what’s even more fantastic about that, is that Sim calls Felicity out on a lot of things she says – mainly, one of the themes I loved, which is about the costs of colonialism and science. Also Sim is a beautiful person because of how talented she is with weapons, unapologetically into women, and amazingly sarcastic.
In this book, Lee asks us if science can be pure. And what are the costs of science? In a world where we want to explore and learn more and bring those innovative discoveries to the rest of the world, who pays the cost? And how can we mitigate this price? This is a huge theme throughout the book as we figure out just exactly how far people are willing to go to protect and to pursue.
Another topic I loved, that needs to be talk about more, is the character of Johanna, Felicity’s friend, who is dashingly clever and wants to embrace her femininity. In fact, there are more than a few arguments about how we treat people who want to embrace both. Not to mention that Johanna is a character who loves parties and fancy dresses, and who will wade in the ocean in the name of science. Excuse me, can all of these amazing women steal my heart now?
At the same time, all of our female heroines confined by their sex in various ways, unable to study, unable to be independent, and unable to inherit. Not only do I love these leading ladies, who all deserve everything in the world I can give them, but they all look at different situations and choices. Suffice it to say, I adored Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy. It’s a book that features diversity, fierce women, and intelligent science, but it’s also about letting people in. You sometimes realize you need to find your tribe, to embrace that you don’t have to play by their rules, you can make your own. Check out Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy on Goodreads.
Without further ado….
Fight a dragon with: Felicity
Sleepover with: Percy and Monty
Pine over but never have: Sim
Character of my heart: Johanna