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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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Book Reviewed by:
Michelle Anya Anjirbag
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I have never aspired to impressive stature, based primarily on Monty's example—we are both of a solid, hard-to-knock-over stock that sacrifices height for shoulder width—but I've had to let the hem of my skirt out since summer, and in my heeled shoes and him in stocking feet, I could put my nose to his forehead. Pettiness must die a very slow death indeed because, in spite of that momentary pinch of fondness, I'm delighted to be officially taller.

His hug prevented me from getting a good look at him until he stepped backward to assess my height, and I examine him in return. He's gotten thinner—that's the first thing I notice. Thin in a way that can no longer be described as willowy, but rather the sort that comes from not having enough to eat. He's paler as well, though that's less alarming—the last time we saw each other we'd just finished a stretch in the Cyclades islands so we were both of us brown as nuts. The short, bleak days that populate London in the winter have made it impossible not to notice the scars on his face, far more livid than I expected. They run raised and red, like a splatter of paint across his forehead and in patches down to his neck, made more visible because he's cut his hair short, though it somehow still has that effortless tousle to it, like someone's sculpted it to look rumpled just so.

"Here, come inside." Monty ushers me into the flat, floorboards protesting more loudly than I feel they should while still maintaining structural stability. I haul myself and my knapsack over the threshold.

The flat is crowded as a party. There's a washbasin balanced atop a set of trunks stacked on each other that seem to be functioning as both storage and a dining table, bumping knees with a sooty stove that looks like it's pushing down the floor. I consider taking off my boots but decide I'd rather not risk trodding these boards sock-footed for fear of a splinter impaling me.

Monty steps into the middle of what can be generously termed the front room, though there's only a thin partition to designate its edges. "I know it's shit," he says before I have to come up with a compliment that is actually a lie. "But it's our shit. So long as we pay the rent. Which we have. Mostly. Only one close call so far. And we have a stove, which is grand. And there are significantly fewer cockroaches than there were in the summer. More mice now, but fewer cockroaches." He does a little victorious gesture with his hands clasped above his head. "Here, Percy's in bed. Come say your hallos. I think he's still awake."

"Why's Percy abed?" I follow Monty around the partition as Percy raises his head from where he's burrowed into their mattress. He hasn't become as dramatically waifish as Monty, though his dark skin hides any pallor. That, and Percy has been a stretched-out creature since youth, every suit a bit too short in the sleeves and his limbs thin with lean muscles jutting out like tangerines wrapped in burlap.

It occurs to me suddenly why the pair of them may be lounging in the middle of the day, and I freeze, blushing before I have confirmation of my suspicions. "Oh no. Am I interrupting something marital and romantic?"

"Felicity, please, it's six in the evening," Monty says with great indignance, then adds, "We've been fornicating all day."

I resist using up my first eye roll of the visit this early. "Really, Percy, why are you in bed?"

"Because it has not been a very good week." Monty sinks down at Percy's side and nestles into his shoulder, his deaf side away from me.

Percy gives me a weak smile, his head listing against Monty's. "Just a fit yesterday," he says, and Monty wrinkles his nose at the word.

"Oh." It comes out more relieved than I meant it to—I'm far more comfortable discussing epilepsy than fornication. Percy is an epileptic, temporarily incapacitated at periodic intervals by convulsions that physicians since Hippocrates have been attempting—and largely failing—to both understand and treat. After several years of his guardian aunt and uncle bringing a parade of so-called experts in to cup and bleed and dose him in attempt to lessen the severity, they finally decided upon permanent imprisonment in the sort of barbaric asylum that people with untreatable ills are confined to. It would have happened, too, had he not absconded with my brother—so dedicated were they to keeping his illness a secret for fear of the social embarrassment that neither Monty nor I knew of it until we were abroad.

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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