The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics
by Olivia Waite
Historical Romance / LGBT
Published June 2019
This was one of two sweet, lighthearted romances I read to prepare myself for Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments – and it definitely helped. HEAs always lift my mood.
I was a little afraid, with the title, that we were going to be talking about astrology, but nope. Astronomy. Just from a Victorian point of view. Well. Slightly earlier, actually, as the book opens in 1816. It’s a true Regency romance, set twenty years before Victoria becomes Queen.
Lucy Muchelney, one of our two main characters, is left somewhat at loose ends after her father dies and her lover marries a man. She had been serving as her father’s assistant in astronomy calculations, but her brother, now in control of their finances, tells her she should get married and leave silly thoughts of science behind her. Then she finds a letter from one of her father’s patrons, the Countess of Moth, and runs off to London, hoping to convince the Countess she’s as good as her father.
The Countess, recently widowed, is intrigued by Lucy, and takes her on. Together they face the sexism of the exclusively male Polite Science Society, and privately struggle with a romance that can never be publicly acknowledged.
I really enjoyed this romance. I think it was actually less explicit than most of the adult romances I read, but I know LGBT romances in particular have to walk a fine line because people are all-too-ready to call them bad names as it is. It absolutely had sex scenes, just…not as dirty and detailed and prevalent as many romances I’ve read.
I liked that it dealt with issues surrounding the need to keep the relationship a secret. In that era, being gay was a crime, though usually only prosecuted against men. But it meant it couldn’t be publicly acknowledged; they couldn’t marry. So there’s a worry that there’s nothing legally binding them together, and if, say, the Countess were to get tired of Lucy, Lucy could be out on the street. The imbalance of power with no safety net puts Lucy on shaky ground, and that’s something the two women have to work out.
The bulk of the plotline outside of the romance deals with the sexism of the scientific society at the time; my Friday 56 this week quoted a particularly damning scene. Lucy gets her revenge eventually, and it’s a delight.
Fun little regency romance. There are a few authors writing diverse historical romance, and I’d love to see more!
From the cover of The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics:
As Lucy Muchelney watches her ex-lover’s sham of a wedding, she wishes herself anywhere else. It isn’t until she finds a letter from the Countess of Moth, looking for someone to translate a groundbreaking French astronomy text, that she knows where to go. Showing up at the Countess’ London home, she hoped to find a challenge, not a woman who takes her breath away.
Catherine St. Day looks forward to a quiet widowhood once her late husband’s scientific legacy is fulfilled. She expected to hand off the translation and wash her hands of the project—instead, she is intrigued by the young woman who turns up at her door, begging to be allowed to do the work, and she agrees to let Lucy stay. But as Catherine finds herself longing for Lucy, everything she believes about herself and her life is tested.
While Lucy spends her days interpreting the complicated French text, she spends her nights falling in love with the alluring Catherine. But sabotage and old wounds threaten to sever the threads that bind them. Can Lucy and Catherine find the strength to stay together or are they doomed to be star-crossed lovers?