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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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Callum is kind, I tell myself as I stare at the cream puff. Callum is sweet. Callum loves bread and wakes early and cleans up after himself. He doesn't mind that I don't wear cosmetics and make very little attempt to dress my hair. He listens to me, and he doesn't make me feel unsafe.

I could do much worse than a kind man.

The scent of sugar and wood smoke starts to return to the room as Callum smothers the ovens, drowning out the faint hint of blood that still lingers, sharp and metallic as a new sewing needle. I do not want to spend the rest of my life smelling sugar. I don't want pastry beneath my fingernails and a man content with the hand life has dealt him and my heart a hungry, wild creature savaging me from the inside out.

Fleeing to London had truly been a fiction, but suddenly it begins to unspool in my head. London isn't a medical hub like Edinburgh, but there are hospitals and plenty of physicians who offer private classes. There's a guild. None of the hospitals or private offices or even barbaric barber surgeons on the Grassmarket have allowed me to get a toe in their door. But the hospitals in London don't know my name. I'm smarter now, after a year of rejection—I've learned not to walk in with pistols drawn, but rather to keep them hidden in my petticoats with a hand surreptitiously upon the heel. This time, I will approach stealthily. Find a way to make them let me in before I ever have to show my hand.

And what is the point of having a fallen gentleman in the city for a brother if I don't take advantage of his gentlemanly hospitality?

London
2

Moorfields is a stinking, rotting neighborhood that greets me like a fist to the teeth. The noise is fantastic—sermons of preachers damning the poor from street corners argue with screams from the brothels. Cattle bellow as they're herded through the road to market. Tinkers call for pots to mend. Vendors sell oysters, nuts, apples, fish, turnips—new wares every few steps, all of them oily and all of them shouted about. I'm ankle-deep in mud all the way from the stagecoach stop, the thick, greasy sort that traps carts and steals shoes. Dead cats and rotten fruit bob up from the quagmire, and the thick haze of smoke and gin makes the air feel gauzy. It's miraculous that I do not have my pockets picked on the walk and will be equally miraculous if I ever manage to scrape all the mud and offal off the soles of my boots.

My brother, always one for histrionics, has made his fall into poverty as dramatic as possible.

Even as I mount the stairs of his building, I'm not certain what emotion is most strongly associated with the impending reunion with Monty. We parted on good terms—or if not good, at least good-adjacent—but only after a lifetime of sniping at each other like feral foxes. And fencing for soft underbellies is a hard habit to break. We've both said enough unkind things to each other that would justify a reluctance on his part to greet me with warmth.

So it is unexpected that my first reaction upon seeing his face when he opens the door is perhaps closest cousin to fondness. This miserable year apart has made me terribly soft.

What he offers back is shock. "Felicity."

"Surprise!" I say weakly. Then I throw my hands in the air like it's some sort of celebration and try not to regret coming here at all. "Sorry, I can go."

"No, don't ... Dear Lord, Felicity!" He grabs my arm as I turn, pulling me back to him and then into an embrace, which I don't know what to do with. I consider trying to pry myself free, but it will likely be over faster if I don't resist, so I stand, stiff-armed and chewing the inside of my cheek.

"What are you doing here?" He pushes me back to arm's length for a better look. "And you're so tall! When did you get so tall?"

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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