The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee
[Montague Siblings #2]
Releases October 2nd
4 1/2 stars. This was lovely. And I want to reread the whole duology now.
Her dark eyes meet mine and I look between her and Johanna. 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. Every chink and rut and battering wind has made us tough and brave and impossible to strike down. We are made of mountains—or perhaps temples, with foundations that could outlast time itself.
So, first of all, Gentleman’s Guide To Vice and Virtue was one of my favorite books of last year, and I was really worried this would not live up to it. And it… was missing some of the best qualities of book one, but then had even more new stuff that was better.
I will say I think I also was not that scared that everything would turn out all right? like, you know from the beginning that Felicity will turn out all right with her dream just in a different way than expected. and that didn’t make the journey less fun but I guess… there was a lack of tension in the narrative.
So no, I didn’t love this on the same level as I loved Gentleman’s Guide, but they’re both very solid books in their own right, and this one does an excellent job of not being fanfiction of the previous novel, but an excellent novel in its own right. all of these new characters have solid arcs and their own personalities and it basically reads like a stand-alone with these two random side characters, not like a direct sequel, which is lovely.]
But then there’s so, so much to like about this book.
Felicity Montague really did that (found fulfillment in her own life without needing a romantic relationship but with two very close gal pals she loves very much and would die for)
Seriously, Felicity Montague’s character arc is so freaking exciting to me, on so many levels. Felicity being acearo and it not being questioned by the narrative at all!! And her having a goal and working so hard to achieve it, the whole book long, because girls can do anything. But she also gets the chance to grow and change and work through her own problematic mindsets.
So first of all, I love the entire arc around the not-like-other-girls trope. Can I just say, it is so refreshing to see a book powered by women being friends with each other. The whole arc around Felicity getting over her not like other girls shit with Johanna is so! perfect! It is so refreshing that we get this arc – as you start the book, you sort of think you know what you expect from Johanna, especially in a comedy like this. But no, this book is more concentrated around something far more interesting: the girl gang. The girl gang dynamic at the end is so! perfect! I honestly wish there was more.
In general, I really liked that Mackenzi Lee doesn’t shy away from the fact that her lead characters are of a privileged viewpoint. This comes in multiple shades. First of all, there is a lot of focus on Felicity working through her internalized homophobia, which is something that was definitely present – and highly annoying – in book one. But there’s also another shade to this: the narrative around colonialism.
So I adored how this book deals with colonialism in a historical setting. It’s great to see unveil, so I’m being vague, but I really loved all the stuff about Sim and her family. They are trying to keep the natural resources of their home safe while also trying to be a part of a global economy that wants them to fail from the start. Sim’s character, by the way? A sapphic hijabi girl? Talented. Brilliant. Incredible. Amazing. Showstopping. Spectacular.
In her ignorance, Johanna initially wants to take a role in the world of a colonizer. But the narrative is so quick to criticize those viewpoints, to depict them as wrong and awful [as they are]. And in the end, they have to realize that their white, European experience is not the only one in the world, and they don’t always have the answers. They are not always the saviors in their narrative, and that’s okay. Felicity and Johanna have a right to a role in the world as powerful women… but not in the capacity of colonization and appropriation. That’s Sim’s role, and she will kick ass within it.
Listen, it’s just… so fucking good, like so fucking good. I enjoyed reading this so much. Love that “acearo medical student goes on journey with her sapphic hijabi pirate friend and her more-feminine botanist friend” is a thing that I can enjoy in current literature. And I don’t know why you guys have to ask this so much, but yes, there are liberal Monty and Percy cameos. [Was that a question? That shouldn’t be a question. I love them and I would die for them.] Anyway, I absolutely adored this, and I can’t wait to read more by this author.