Olivia Waite is an author I’ve been following on Twitter for a little while – she’s just the right kind of outspoken feminist romance author that I like to follow (they are a fun crowd, seriously, get into Romance Twitter it’s a good place to be even when things aren’t burning down). Her vocal and staunch support of #IStandWithCourtney and the ensuing fallout with the RWA meant that I bumped her novel that much further up my to read list because I will support the author’s doing good in the world in the small ways I can, and in this case it meant Library requests and Cannonball reviews.
The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics (a title shared with the book within the book) is a f/f Regency historical telling the story of Lucy Muchelney and Catherine St. Day, Countess of Moth. The book begins as Lucy watches her ex-lover’s sham of a wedding and fears that her brother is going to sell her telescope now that their father is dead – removing her primary tool in her occupation as an astronomer. She finds a letter from the Countess of Moth, looking for someone to translate a groundbreaking French astronomy text and decides her best option is to travel to London and present herself as the best option for translator based on her previous work with her father. Catherine St Day expected to hand off the translation and wash her hands of the project—instead, she is pissed off at the way Lucy is dismissed out of hand by the Society and withdraws her funding and promises to support Lucy in her endeavor to translate the work. Along the way the pair fall for each other.
Much of the book is spent as Catherine shows Lucy the type of support and care she desperately desires while Lucy helps Catherine discover what a happy and fulfilling romantic and sexual life can be. They overcome their fears and face the misogyny of early 1800s England together. That’s probably my favorite part of Waite’s work – she populates the book with a variety of characters who are being limited by and fighting against the power being wielded by cis white hetero men. The big bad of the book is motivated by paternalism, that’s all, but its aftereffects are devastating to generations of people whom he thinks he is protecting.
The book isn’t perfect, there’s about 40 pages of durm und strang that just makes no sense placed where it is in the narrative – the characters have grown past it and it feels out of place both in the timeline and in the book at all. But Waite is an accomplished writer and I’ve already put her next book in this series The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows on my to read list (its due to be published July 2020).