Review: The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee

Any other giant Mackenzi Lee fans in the house? If you haven’t read The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, where have you been? Get thyself to a reputable book store immediately! The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (winner of the best book title of the year award) is a companion novel that follows Monty’s sister Felicity in the aftermath of Gent’s Guide.

Spoiler warning – if you haven’t read TGGTVAV then read on at your own peril!

TL;DR Badass feminist Felicity Montague wants to study medicine, but no medical school will so much as interview her, simply because she is a woman. When she hears that an old friend is getting married to her idol, the infamous Doctor Alexander Platt, she heads off on a wild adventure in the hopes of joining him on his next expedition.

After getting into all kinds of shenanigans in book one, thanks to her brother Monty, Felicity is back to show us she’s an independent woman who doesn’t need a man to help her get into trouble – or out of it!

Everyone has heard stories of women like us, and now we will make more of them.

Felicity Montague

Since her return from Europe, Felicity has been living in Edinburgh and working at a bakery, hoping to attend the medical school there. After months of rejection, she returns to London to visit her brother and Percy, feeling completely dejected and demoralised.

As a last ditch attempt, she decides to send a letter to the London medical school suggesting she’d like to make a donation (after all, she is still a Lord’s daughter, they don’t need to know she’s been cut off by her father…). Once inside the door, she pitches her application to study at the school, demonstrating her intelligence, strength of character and proficiency in the medical sciences. Unfortunately, they still can’t see past her gender, and send her packing.

“You’re trying to play a game designed by men. You’ll never win, because the deck is stacked and marked, and also you’ve been blindfolded and set on fire.”

Simmaa Aldajah

When she hears that a childhood friend is getting married to her idol, eccentric scientist Doctor Alexander Platt, she concocts a hare-brained plan to travel to Germany and gatecrash the wedding in order to convince Platt to take her on as an apprentice on his upcoming expedition. And, in classic Felicity style, she does just that.

Almost.

With the help of a female pirate named Sim, and her oldest friend Joanna, Felicity sets out on an adventure that could lead to her discovering more than she ever imagined.

“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.”

Felicity Montague

I loved this book. Felicity might not be quite as entertaining as Monty, but she’s smart and brave and sassy as hell. I absolutely loved all the feminist elements and quotes throughout, Mackenzi Lee put exactly what I’ve been thinking and feeling into much better words than I ever could, and I found myself nodding along and saying “Yes, girl!” out loud, alone in my car…

I gave Lady’s Guide 4 stars, it was such an enjoyable read and I flew through it. Seeing Felicity grow and realise that her version of being a strong, independent woman isn’t superior to Joanna’s, or any other woman’s, was really heartening. I’m glad Felicity ended up staying true to herself as well, rather than being forced to fit some romantic ideal. The cameos from Monty and Percy were really fun, and it was great (and also heartbreaking) to see what they’ve been up to since Gent’s Guide.

It only wasn’t a 5 star read simply because I loved Gent’s Guide just that little bit more, and I felt at times that Monty swept in and saved the day rather than Felicity getting herself out of predicaments. (Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of instances where she does, it was a tiny niggle really).

Have you read Lady’s Guide yet? If you love petticoated swashbucklers and mostly accurate historical fiction, with just a pinch of the supernatural thrown in, you’ll adore this book. Go read it and let me know what you think!

Lyndsey

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Review: The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee

Review: Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco

Love historical fiction? Fan of dark fantasy? You’ve come to the right place! Today we’re talking about Kerri Maniscalco’s Stalking Jack the Ripper series, and more specifically book two, Hunting Prince Dracula.

(I just looked for my review of Stalking Jack the Ripper to see how many stars I gave it, and realised I never wrote one! Sorry about that, I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads, so it’s definitely worth a read before you dive into this one – although the way book two is written there are no spoilers for book one beyond who survives, so it’s up to you!)

Hunting Prince Dracula Kerri Maniscalco

Remember last week when we discussed ‘speculative fiction‘? This is a prime example of ‘alternate history’, taking well-known legends and giving them a completely new and fresh spin. Book three tackles the story of Harry Houdini, and I cannot wait to read it – I feel like I know the Jack the Ripper and Vlad the Impaler/Dracula stories reasonably well, and have read a few fictional takes on them, but I’m basically a newbie to Houdini. All I’ve heard is he was pretty good at disappearing.

Speaking of which, don’t you love how Maniscalco has twisted the book titles to show how the eponymous character operated in the original story, and how that’s been flipped on its head in her versions? STALKING Jack the Ripper, HUNTING Prince Dracula and ESCAPING from Houdini. I love that little hint of what’s to come from the author.

(According to Google, Houdini was born Erich Weisz in Budapest, Hungary, before moving with his family to Wisconsin, USA, so fingers crossed we see a bit of both countries in book three. I’ve always wanted to visit Budapest!)

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4.5 stars

Book two picks up a couple of weeks after book one ended, and Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell are on their way to Romania, where a school of pathology and forensic science has taken up position in the old castle where Vlad Dracula once lived.

Audrey Rose is running away from her problems, she’s having nightmares and hallucinations caused by the Ripper case, and hopes she can escape them by leaving London. Unfortunately, that’s not how life works, and her problems follow her to Romania. Not only that, but a whole crop of new problems arise on the way there, when a man is murdered on their train. His wounds look like the work of a vampire, but surely they’re the stuff of myth?

On arrival at the castle, we discover the deaths tie into the local myth of the ‘strigoi’, angry spirits of the dead that rise from the grave and drain their victims’ blood. As more victims are found, Audrey Rose and Thomas begin to question whether there’s a copycat killer on the loose, or if something more supernatural is afoot.

With the help of Thomas’s sister, the head teacher’s niece, and a castle maid, the pair hunt for clues and try to solve the puzzle before anyone else can be killed.

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I gave Hunting Prince Dracula 4.5 stars, I enjoyed it even more than book one, there’s something about the boarding school environment that speaks to me (I went to a boarding school but I didn’t board as we lived 5 minutes away, and I’ve always loved YA in that setting, i.e. Harry Potter). The romance between the two main characters starts to heat up somewhat in this instalment, so I’m excited to see where that leads, and as always Maniscalco’s writing is beautiful and descriptive, with just the right amount of Victorian vocab mixed in.

If you’re into period dramas, alternate histories, dark thrillers with just a hint of the supernatural, then you’ll definitely love this series. My pre-order of Escaping from Houdini will be available to download in 5 days time, I’ll let you know how I find it!

 

Lyndsey

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