Author: Olivia Waite
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Publication Date: July 23, 2019
Shelves: Female-fronted, Female-authored
As much book about science and art as love and a woman’s heart, The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics was, in a word, exquisite. Olivia Waite weaves a take that’s as feminist as it is feminine, exploring the contrast between women’s roles or expectations and their passions and aspirations.
This is the very definition of a slow-burn romance, full of friendship and flirting, questioning and queerness. Lucy is a woman of science who appreciates art, her heart broken by the betrothal of the woman she thought she loved, who is chasing a dream as much as she’s fleeing from a nightmare. Catherine is a woman of art who appreciates science, her passions dismissed by the men who laid claim to her, who only opened her home as a patron but finds herself opening her heart as a lover. Lucy is attracted to her patron, wishing there could be something intimate between them, while Catherine finds herself attracted the younger woman, never imagining that such intimacy with another woman could be possible. It’s a sweet friends-to-lovers romance, full of awkward moments and humorous misunderstandings, but also wondrously passionate.
Lucy and Catherine are both such wonderful characters, so real that I went looking online to see if they were actual historical figures. They have such personality, such carefully defined mannerisms and quirks of speech, such warmth and tenderness, that I found myself wholly invested in their relationship. Waite imbues such passionate intensity in small glances and gentle touches, it’s all too easy to feel that joyous thrill of newfound love. And when they finally do become intimate, I found myself marveling at the interplay of sensual eroticism and wanton passion, with the laborious act of undressing as exhilarating as the first kiss upon a creamy thigh.
Alongside the romance, I loved how deeply this was a story about art and science, and how significant Waite made those issues. Astronomy, mathematics, botany, and natural history are explored alongside poetry, painting, dressmaking, and embroidery. Pushed back and pressed down but a patriarchal society, Lucy and Catherine find both purpose and validation in one another, coming to understand and explore their passions through their interactions. It’s a story that made me angry so many times, wanting to reach into the pages and strangle men like Wilby and Hawley, but there are some twists and surprise revelations in the final pages that are immensely satisfying and full of promise.
There are, of course, moments of darkness and doubt to be overcome, acts of sabotage and feelings of betrayal that threatens to upset their entire lives. I freely admit, I closed the book at the end of chapter 13, entirely too broken to continue reading that night, but I found a quiet corner the next day and happily lost myself in the final 50 pages. In a sense, I’m glad I waited so long to give The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics a read, because with The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows pre-ordered and due to be delivered before the end of the month, I do not have to wait for Olivia Waite’s second Feminine Pursuits romance.
Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀