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
    Paperback:
    May 2020, 480 pages

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"I know," he says. "But someday, you'll want something real. And I'd like to be that something for you."

He looks very intently at me, and I think he wants me to say something to assure him I take his meaning, and yes, he's right, I'm just a flighty thing with a passing interest in medicine that can be siphoned off once a ring is placed upon my finger. But all I can think to say is a snappish And maybe someday the stars will fall from the sky. So I offer nothing in return but a frosty stare, the sort of look my brother once told me could put out a cigar.

Callum tucks his chin into his chest, then blows out a long, hard breath that ruffles his fringey hair. "And if you don't want that too, then I don't want to do this anymore."

"Do what?"

"I don't want you working here whenever you need money and showing up at any hour you please and eating all the buns and taking advantage of me because you know I've an affection for you. I either want to marry you, or I don't want to see you anymore."

I can't argue with any of that, though the fact that my heart sinks far further at the thought of losing this job than of losing Callum speaks volumes about the ill-advised nature of a union between us. I'm sure I could find something else to sustain me in this bleak, punishing city, but it would likely be even more menial and tedious than counting coins in a bakery and would most certainly not include free desserts. I'd ruin my eyes making buttons in a smoggy factory or wear myself ragged as a domestic, be blind and bent and consumptive by twenty-five, and medical school would be soundly put to bed before I'd had a proper shot.

We stare at each other—I'm not sure if he wants me to apologize, or agree, or admit that yes, that's what I've been doing, and yes, I've known I was using him badly, and yes, I will agree to his proposal in penance and it will all have been worth it. But I stay quiet.

"We should finish cleaning up," he says at last, standing up and wiping his hands off on his apron with a wince. "You can eat the cream puff. Even if you can't say yes right now."

I wish I could believe that yes was inevitable, the same way he seems to. It would be so much easier to want to say yes, to want a house on the Cowgate and a whole brood of round Doyle children with stubby Montague legs and a solid life with this kind, solid man. A small part of me—the part that traces my finger in the sifted sugar dusted around the edges of the choux and almost calls him back—knows that there are far worse things for a woman to be than a kind man's wife. It would be so much easier than being a single-minded woman with a chalk drawing on the floor of her boardinghouse bedroom mapping out every vein and nerve and artery and organ she reads about, adding notations about the size and properties of each. It would be so much easier if I did not want to know everything so badly. If I did not want so badly to be reliant upon no soul but myself.

When Monty, Percy, and I returned to England after what can be generously called a Tour, the idea of a life in Edinburgh as an independent woman was thrilling. The university had a newly minted medical school; the Royal Infirmary allowed student observation; an anatomy theater was being built in College Garden. It was the city where Alexander Platt had arrived after his dishonorable navy discharge with no references and no prospects and had made a name for himself simply by refusing to stop talking about the radical notions that had gotten him booted from the service. Edinburgh had given Alexander Platt a leg up from nothing because it had seen in him a brilliant mind, no matter that it came from a working-class lad with no experience and a stripped title. I was certain that it would do the same for me.

Instead I was here, in a bakeshop with a proposal pastry.

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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