Kate's Reviews > The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics

The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite
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really liked it
bookshelves: historical-romance, lgbtq


Update: Yes, yes it was.

When I saw a synopsis of this book, I knew I had to read it. F/F romance set in a regency era? Between a rich widowed countess and a girl astronomer? My instant reaction was HOW FUN - COUNT ME IN.

This story turned out to be so much more than that. I love reading books - I have fun doing it, whether it's a delighted pleasure taken in discovery of something amazing or twisted satisfaction in finishing a book that makes me want to fling my e-reader across the room. However, the type of...kinship and emotional fulfillment I felt while reading "The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics" is extremely rare and precious.

This is certainly a love story, between Lucy Muchelney, an astronomer who has recently had her heart broken, and Catherine St. Day, widowed countess whose marriage was a constant streak of personal unfulfillment and emotional abuse. After her father’s death and her lover taking a husband, Lucy sets out to London with an ambitious goal of translating work of esteemed French astronomer. Catherine, aka Lady Moth, agrees to take her in as a guest, and, after members of Polite Science Society turn out to be anything but polite, offers to sponsor and publish her translation on her own.

And thus, begins a bisexual awakening of Lady Moth and a blooming romance between the two.
Now, let me count the ways I loved this romance.

First of all, the apparent respect and support between Lucy and Catherine. While Lucy is ten years younger than Catherine, she’s the one more experienced in having a relationship with a woman. That’s not to say Lady Moth is an innocent miss straight out of schoolroom. No, she’s been married for fifteen years and even had an affair after her husband’s death (HUGE kudos for including that!) and she has a baggage of her own. They both do. Which is why I absolutely loved how they took things slow. And when they finally got together, I could feel how they cherished each other and their closeness.

Secondly, this is not just about the romance. The outstanding theme, actually, at least to me, is women supporting and loving women. Women helping each other achieve their dreams and goals and realize that there is more to life than living in the shadow of men.

“She ought to have paid more attention to her own self before now. She ought to have allowed herself to want things.”

When Lucy and Catherine take a leap and begin a relationship, they don’t only embark on a journey towards love. No, they embark on a path of self-discovery and self-acceptance. And it’s beautiful and oh-so-heart-warming to read about them uplifting each other and being there for each other.
Apart from this, I really have to applaud the author for the way she handled the issue of homophobia in XIX century. Personally, at least, I found it to be the perfect balance between so-called historical accuracy and respect for queer readers. Do I want to read about two ladies getting it on in Regency era? HELL YES.

Do I want to be brought down by “historically-accurate” mentions of how they are scorned and ostracized because of their love?


In this book, we do have mentions of homophobia – it would be impossible not to include it when writing about a time when it was systematic (sex between two men was criminalized). But just because a society you write about is homophobic as a rule, doesn’t mean your characters need to be as well! And I’m glad the author understands that. Not only are there mentions of other F/F and M/M relationships throughout the book, the characters that find out about Lucy and Catherine don’t react with scorn – they turn into allies.

“They don’t let you have anything whole, you know. If you don’t follow the pattern. You have to find your happiness in bits and pieces instead. But it can still add up to something beautiful.”

Lucy and Catherine? In the end, they don’t need to satisfy themselves with scraps of happiness, no matter how beautiful. In the end, they take it all – love, science, art, permanence, sense of security.

To a large extent, this book also deals with sexism and misogyny. But again, the way it’s done leaves you feeling uplifted, not discouraged (and I don't want to spoil but there's a plot twist at the end that makes it even more amazing). Lucy ends up making a place for herself in a field that is almost entirely ruled by men. Catherine decides to follow her dreams in a field that has been discounted as a trivial female pursuit. Both of them team up to help other women have their voices heard. And just like with their relationship, they have allies here too.

“But there is no brilliance of thought, no leap of logic that can take place without the power of imagination. Our learning requires intuition and instinct as much as pure intelligence. We are not simply minds, trained like lamps on the world around us, producing light but taking nothing in: we are bodies, and hearts, and hopes, and dreams. We are men, and we are women. We are poetry and prose in equal measure. We are earth and clay, but we are all - no matter our shape - lit with a spark of something divine.”

I think there is only one thing in this book that made me recoil as I read it:

“First, I would have to count myself in very good company: many of our greatest thinkers through history have been as famous for their mistakes as for their insights. Didn’t Copernicus believe the sun revolved around the earth?

NO. No, he did not. That is, in fact, factually incorrect statement. Mikołaj Kopernik aka Nicolaus Copernicus was XV/XVI Polish astronomer who was one of the very first to introduce heliocentric system, so a system in which it’s the Earth that revolves around the Sun while at the same time turning daily on its axis.

It’s just one sentence but I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t point this out and given the focus this story has on astronomy, it’s a factual error that shouldn’t have been made.

Going back to the good things though – I absolutely recommend this book. It was beautiful and emotional and simply a delight to read.

Trigger warnings: mentions of emotional abuse, sexism, misogyny
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Reading Progress

May 11, 2019 – Shelved
May 11, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
May 11, 2019 – Shelved as: historical-romance
May 11, 2019 – Shelved as: lgbtq
May 27, 2019 – Started Reading
May 28, 2019 –
page 55
June 1, 2019 –
page 125
37.2% "Me @ Catherine and Lucy:

JUST KISS ALREADY *bangs fist on the table*"
June 1, 2019 –
page 205
June 2, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-7 of 7 (7 new)

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message 1: by Jovana (new)

Jovana oooh!

Kate I found it on Edelweiss, I'm cautiously hoping for an arc

message 3: by Ashlee Bree (new)

Ashlee Bree YASSS! I’m gonna be like 👀 until I read your review.

message 4: by Robazizo (new)

Robazizo If you're looking for f/f historical romance, KJ Charles' new book Proper English is supposed to be really good. I loved some of her m/m historical romances

Kate Robazizo wrote: "If you're looking for f/f historical romance, KJ Charles' new book Proper English is supposed to be really good. I loved some of her m/m historical romances" thank you! I checked out the description and I will be reading this one soon for sure!

message 6: by eleventeen (new)

eleventeen Yay! I was hoping htis one would be good for you. I understand what you mean about handling historical accuracy while still being light-hearted and glad that the author chose to avoid "gritty realism" whie still being believable. Hopefully this becomes a success and we see more F/F historicals for you to read!

Kate eleventeen wrote: "Yay! I was hoping htis one would be good for you. I understand what you mean about handling historical accuracy while still being light-hearted and glad that the author chose to avoid "gritty reali..." I hope so too xD And really, this book was the perfect example of how to provide some realism while also not beat anyone down with it.

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