Excerpt from The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy

by Mackenzi Lee

The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee X
The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2018, 464 pages
    May 2020, 480 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Michelle Anya Anjirbag
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Print Excerpt

"You are?" he asks.

You are? I ask myself at the same time I hear myself saying, "Yes. I'm leaving tomorrow."


"Yes, tomorrow." Another revelation to myself—I have no plans to go to London. It sprang from me, a spontaneous and fictitious excuse crafted entirely from panic. But he's still on his knee, so I push on with it. "I have to see my brother there; he has ..." I pause too long for my next word to be anything but a lie, then say, "Syphilis." It's the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Monty.

"Oh. Oh dear." Callum, to his credit, seems to be making a true effort to understand my nonsensical ramblings.

"Well, no, not syphilis," I say. "But he's having terrible spells of ... boredom ... and asked me to come and ... read to him. And I'm going to be petitioning the hospital for admission again in the spring when they bring in new attending physicians, and that will take all my attention."

"Well, if we married, you wouldn't have to worry about that."

"Worry about what?" I ask. "Planning a wedding?"

"No." He picks himself up off his bended knee and sinks back into his chair with far more slump to his shoulders than before. "About schooling."

"I want to worry about that," I reply, the back of my neck prickling. "I'm going to get a license and become a physician."

"But that will ..." He stops, teeth pressing so hard into his bottom lip it mottles white.

I fold my arms. "That will what?"

"You're not serious about that, are you?"

"If I wasn't serious, I wouldn't have been able to sew you up just now."

"I know—"

"You'd still be bleeding out over your washbasin."

"I know that, and that was ... You did a wonderful job." He reaches out, like he might pat my hand, but I pull it off the table, for I am not a dog and therefore need no patting. "But we all have silly things that we ... we want ... dreams, you know ... and then one day you ..." He scoops at the air with a hand, like he's trying to conjure appropriate phraseology between us rather than be forced to say what he means. "For example, when I was a boy, I wanted to train tigers for the Tower menagerie in London."

"So train tigers," I reply flatly.

He laughs, a small, nervous trill. "Well, I don't want to anymore, because I have the shop, and I have a house here. What I meant is, we all have silly things we lose interest in because we want something real, like a house and a shop and a spouse and children. Not—not today," he stammers, for I must look petrified, "but someday."

A different sort of dread begins to distill inside me now, strong and bitter as whiskey. Silly little things. That's all he thought my grand ambitions ever were. All this time, all these chats over scones, all his intense listening to me explain how, if the head were to be sawed off a corpse, one could trace paths of the twelve nerves connecting to the brain all the way through the body. One of the few who had not told me to give up, even when I had nearly told myself to, when I had written to surgeon after surgeon in the city, begging for teaching and received only rejections. I hadn't even been granted a single a meeting once they discovered I was a woman. All the while we had been together he'd been wondering when it was that I'd give up on this passing fancy, like it was a fashion trend that would disappear from shop windows by the end of the summer.

"I'm not training tigers," I say. "It's medicine. I want to be a doctor."

"I know."

"They're not even comparable! There are doctors all over this city. No one would say it was silly or impossible if I was a man. You couldn't train tigers because you're just a baker from Scotland, but I have actual skills." His face falls before I register what I've said, and I try to back step. "Not that you ... sorry, I didn't mean that."

Excerpted from The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee. Copyright © 2018 by Mackenzi Lee. Excerpted by permission of Katherine Tegan Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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