The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue was one of my favourite reads of last year. When I found out that there was going to be a companion novel following Felicity Montague I was really excited.
If you’ve read Gentleman’s Guide than you are familiar with Felicity. A young woman who wants more than anything to be a doctor. She’s spent her entire life attempting to study medicine by sneaking books, sneaking into lectures and practicing on whoever and whatever she can find. Felicity’s goal to become a doctor goes against the gender norms and societal roles given to women during the Victorian period. It doesn’t matter where she goes or how capable she proves herself of being no one of importance takes her seriously. And when we are reunited with Felicity she might have started to believe them.
And that’s the central conflict of the novel. Felicity needs to constantly remind herself that she has a right to be there. She has a right to take up space. No matter how much you want something, when everyone around you is constantly telling you that you’ll never accomplish your goals, eventually part of you is going to start believing them. Felicity constantly questions whether she should keep fighting or if she should just give up and accept the life that everyone is trying to fit her into.
I loved Felicity. I loved her drive and her ambition. As someone who has always dreamed of a career in a male dominated field I recognized her frustration at the world around her and her constant need to validate herself to everyone.
Felicity is not without her flaws. Her ambition and her disdain for gender roles have caused her to separate herself and in a sense look down upon other women. Felicity falls into the “I’m not like other girls” trap. Over the course of the novel she has to come to terms with how even though others don’t want to same things in life as she does, their choices and dreams are still valid. And, just because you love science it doesn’t mean you can’t love pretty dresses and parties as well.
The secondary characters in this novel are all well developed and lovely. Monty and Percy make a reappearance that is both adorable and heartwarming. I love how Felicity’s relationship with her brother has grown since the events of the first novel. Yet, they’re still very much siblings who can’t help but take jabs at one another.
But the central relationship in this novel is between Felicity, Sim and Johanna. Mackenzi Lee promised a girl gang and she delivered. Sim is a pirate who also happens to be the daughter of a Pirate King. She wants to prove herself a worthy heir to her father’s throne but as his daughter society believes she has no real claim. Then there is Johanna, Felicity’s childhood best friend and want to be adventurer and naturalist. Felicity has never forgiven Johanna for abandoning her after she begin to gain an interest in more traditionally feminine things. Over the course of the novel the girls form an unsteady alliance that slowly gives way to friendship. As they work together they challenge each other’s inherent biases and begin to bring out the best in one another.
The Ladies Guide to Petticoats and Piracy wears its heart on its sleeve. Lee gently reminds her readers how far we’ve come but at the same time how a lot hasn’t really changed. I loved how Lee described the audiobook on twitter.
The Gentleman’s Guide audiobook flirts with you, but the Lady’s Guide audiobook judges you and I LOVE IT.
Hear a sample of the incomparable Moira Quirk’s tenacious Felicity: https://t.co/d7ztp7QLh9 pic.twitter.com/g2rDt9eqSz
— Mackenzi Lee (@themackenzilee) October 10, 2018
There is a lot of heart in this book. If you loved Gentleman’s Guide than you’re going to love this novel. It was a great return to the world and the characters you’ve come to love. At the same time if you weren’t a fan of the first book I still suggest you give this one a read. Felicity offers a different outlook than her brother that’s a little bit more blunt than Monty’s dramatic and romantic world view.
So I suggest you check this one out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Also, did I mention… there are sea monsters.