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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  • Published:
    Oct 2018, 464 pages

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Michelle Anya Anjirbag
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Print Excerpt

Edinburgh
17—

1


I have just taken an overly large bite of iced bun when Callum slices his finger off.

We are in the middle of our usual nightly routine, after the bakery is shut and the lamps along the Cowgate are lit, their syrupy glow creating halos against the twilight. I wash the day's dishes and Callum dries. Since I am always finished first, I get to dip into whatever baked goods are left over from the day while I wait for him to count the till. Still on the counter are the three iced buns I have been eyeing all day, the sort Callum piles with sticky, translucent frosting to make up for all the years his father, who had the shop before him, skimped on it. Their domes are beginning to collapse from a long day unpurchased, the cherries that top them slipping down the sides. Fortunately, I have never been a girl overbothered with aesthetics. I would have happily tucked in to buns far uglier than these.

Callum is always a bit of a hand wringer who doesn't enjoy eye contact, but he's jumpier than usual tonight. He stepped on a butter mold this morning, cracking it in half, and burned two trays of brioche. He fumbles every dish I pass him and stares up at the ceiling as I prod the conversation along, his already ruddy cheeks going even redder.

I do not particularly mind being the foremost conversationalist out of the pair of us. Even on his chattiest days, I usually am. Or he lets me be. As he finishes drying the cutlery, I am telling him about the time that has elapsed since the last letter I sent to the Royal Infirmary about my admission to their teaching hospital and the private physician who last week responded to my request to sit in on one of his dissections with a three-word missive—no, thank you.

"Maybe I need a different approach," I say, pinching the top off an iced bun and bringing it up to my lips, though I know full well it's too large for a single bite.

Callum looks up from the knife he's wiping and cries, "Wait, don't eat that!" with such vehemence that I startle, and he startles, and the knife pops through the towel and straight through the tip of his finger. There's a small plop as the severed tip lands in the dishwater.

The blood starts at once, dripping from his hand and into the soapy water, where it blossoms through the suds like poppies bursting from their buds. All the color leaves his face as he stares down at his hand, then says, "Oh dear."

It is, I must confess, the most excited I have ever been in Callum's presence. I can't remember the last time I was so excited. Here I am with an actual medical emergency and no male physicians to push me out of the way to handle it. With a chunk of his finger missing, Callum is the most interesting he has ever been to me.

I leaf through the mental compendium of medical knowledge I have compiled over years of study, and I land, as I almost always do, on Dr. Alexander Platt's Treaties on Human Blood and Its Movement through the Body. In it, he writes that hands are complex instruments: each contains twenty-seven bones, four tendons, three main nerves, two arteries, two major muscle groups, and a complex network of veins that I am still trying to memorize, all wrapped up in tissue and skin and capped with fingernails. There are sensory components and motor functions—affecting everything from the ability to take a pinch of salt to bending at the elbow—that begin in the hand and run all the way into the arm, any of which can be mucked up by a misplaced knife.

Callum is staring wide-eyed at his finger, still as a rabbit dazed by the snap of a snare and making no attempt to staunch the blood. I snatch the towel from his hand and swaddle the tip of his finger in it, for the priority when dealing with a wound spouting excessive blood is to remind that blood that it will do far more good inside the body than out. It soaks through the cloth almost immediately, leaving my palms red and sticky.

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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