(Goodreads summary here.)
As I write this, I’m in an airport Starbucks (a true liminal space) running on very little sleep, so please forgive me if it’s a little all over the place, that’s just where I’m at right now. Also, I apologize for the fact that this is (very) late and that I missed last week. Life happens, y’all and it stinks.
ANYWAY, I stayed up much later than I meant to the other night finishing the last 40 pages or so of Lady’s Guide, and I regret NOTHING (okay maybe just a little bit). Anyway, I was so happy with Lady’s Guide and how well it extended the Montague universe. And let’s face it, the Montagues deserve their own universe (Monty would be thrilled.)
When I heard Mackenzi Lee was writing a book about Felicity, I was so pumped. As much as I loved Monty and Percy in Gentleman’s Guide, I thought Felicity was really underutilized as a character, as well as a bit unexplored. Well, Lady’s Guide is nothing if not chock full of exploration.
I’ll admit, it took me a bit longer to get into the book than I expected it to. It starts off a bit slow with Felicity in Scotland and she isn’t really doing that much. It is, however, a very pivotal moment in her character arc, so I definitely understand and appreciate that it started where it did. I guess I just expected to be thrown into the action a little bit faster than I was.
That being said, I did think that Gentleman’s Guide had a bit more action than Lady’s Guide. This is so not to say that there isn’t action in this one; on the contrary, once it picks up, it doesn’t stop. It just felt like Lady’s Guide had to take a longer time to explain Felicity’s situation, which is understandable, and I am so not complaining. I loved (hated?) hearing about Felicity’s determination to enter the medical field as a woman. For as frustrating as the actual patriarchy part of it is, it was just as refreshing to see how Felicity refuses to accept it. Even if she comes off as a bit single-minded, it just shows her dedication to her dreams, and I don’t think she should be faulted for that. She’s a woman who knows what she wants in a world that doesn’t want to give it to her, but she won’t take no for an answer, and if that’s not inspiring and admirable and wonderful, I don’t know what is.
I think the biggest thing with the action is that Lee sacrificed some of the action that there was in Gentleman’s Guide for character growth in Lady’s Guide. I’m not saying there wasn’t growth in Gentleman’s, just that I felt more of it in Lady’s. And I will accept character development over action almost any day, especially when it’s as quality as it is here.
Felicity is far from perfect, and that makes her a phenomenal lead. Even with her development, she stays imperfect, but a more enlightened imperfect, which I always like to see. She loses some of her most problematic prejudices towards other people, women in particular, and I think it’s so important to see characters as headstrong as Felicity learn to overcome what society tells her. I loved seeing her realize that the society she fights against is the same one telling her to believe things about other women, things that makes her believe herself to be superior, and realizing she’s wrong. Yes, she’s different from other women, but really isn’t that different, and that certainly doesn’t make her better than them. The fact that Felicity learns to see this is so essential.
One of the reasons I was most excited for this book was because I knew it was going to explore Felicity’s ace/aro coding that was established in Gentleman’s Guide. And I’m not going to lie, I started off a little wary. At first, I thought it was going to focus solely on her lack of relationships, which is okay, except for the fact that there is so much more to her than just that she doesn’t want a significant other. Then I did a complete 180 and thought that it wasn’t going to focus on it enough, that it was just going to say, “she doesn’t want a relationship, let’s move on.” Luckily, they met in the middle, and, by the end, I was perfectly content with the balance between the two. It focused more on her desire to study medicine with just enough snippets of her ace/aro development that I loved the way the two worked together, and I really couldn’t have asked for more.
On that note, Sim is absolutely AMAZING, complex, intriguing character, and I loved every second of her page time. I would read an entire book about just her adventures (@Mackenzi Lee?) She was a stellar introduction that I loved from the moment she showed up. Like Felicity, Sim isn’t perfect, but she’s willing to learn. I also got serious Inej Ghafa vibes, which is always a plus (not that all badass, rogue, non-white characters are the same. I just really did think they have very similar vibes.) She has such a strong, dynamic relationship with Felicity, and I loved how they forced each other to grow as characters, especially when you throw Johanna into the mix.
Despite all my love for both Felicity and Sim, Johanna may have emerged as my favorite character. She’s such a determined, pure soul, and I want to protect her at all costs, even though she doesn’t need it and is perfectly capable of taking care of herself. I guess I was really swayed when she was introduced alongside Max, and I just really identified with her love for her dog. What can I say, I’m easy to please.
I will admit I wanted more of Monty and Percy, but that may also just be because they’re the characters you’re more familiar with if you’ve read Gentleman’s Guide. You’re used to seeing so much of them and rooting for them that you want more of them even when it’s not their story. That’s kind of the risk of spin-offs/continuations in general. None of this is to say that I wish we had gotten another Monty novel in place of Felicity’s – I am 110% here for Felicity’s story – but I do think it’s hard to shift focal characters when the reader has already become so invested in characters who don’t appear as often. My friend actually let me borrow her copy of Lady’s Guide (which I credit myself for having her get since I made her read Gentleman’s Guide), and she told me that she wished there was more Monty and Percy in it. I think there was a bit of an imbalance in their inclusion in Felicity’s story. I’m glad that they were included, but I think perhaps it would have been easier to invest in Felicity if Monty and Percy had been featured less, if that makes sense? Don’t get me wrong, I was so happy to see them again, but I think maybe they minorly overshadowed Felicity, only because I know people left saying they wanted more of them.
All that being said, I absolutely adored Felicity’s story. I think her growth as a character is so important, and I really appreciate the fact that Lee decided that her story needed to be told. I was so excited to see more of my ace-aro badass queen, and Lady’s Guide did not disappoint. I’m hesitant to say it, but I think I might have liked this more than Gentleman’s Guide. It’s a close call, though. Each one definitely had its moments, but I think the actual storyline spoke to me more in this one. Regardless, I definitely want more of the Montague siblings and sincerely hope we get more of their adventures.
What did you think of Lady’s Guide? Did you prefer it to Gentleman’s Guide? Are there any other spinoffs you think were better than the original?