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How I Got Into Medical School

In order to become a doctor in 18th century, a woman must be willing to study more, try harder, read more books, fight more museum guards, kiss more pirates, and patch up more battle injuries than any man.

How I Got Into Medical School

BOOK REPORT for The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee

Cover Story: It's Not Dirty
Drinking Buddy: And a Bottle of Rum
Testosterone Estrogen Level: Shiver Me Timbers!
Talky Talk: Straight On Until Morning
Bonus Factors: Pirates, 18th century
Bromance Status: Avast, Me Hearties!

Cover Story: It's Not Dirty

Despite the title, there are no naughty bits (though you'd be surprised the number of books that have 'petticoats' and 'pirates' in the title). And this is another example of why I hate real models on the cover. In the book, Felicity describes herself as awkward, broad-shouldered, squinty-eyed, and uncomfortable in formal wear. Plus, she wears glasses. The girl on this book looks like she's starring in a period romance. For a girl who performs emergency surgery with a corkscrew on the deck of a flaming pirate ship, this is not capturing her best moment.

The Deal:

In the previous book, young Lord Henry Montague, his partner Percy, and his hard-headed younger sister escape from the Grand Tour and go on a rampaging adventure across Europe and Africa. Now that Henry and Percy have settled down together, Felicity is determined to make it on her own as well. Rather than go off to finishing school, she wants to get into medical school--something unheard of for a woman in the 18th century. But Felicity is smart, tenacious, and willing to do whatever it takes. They have to let her into college, right?

The book opens with Felicity working in a bakery in Scotland. When the owner unexpectedly proposes, Felicity realizes she doesn't want to settle down as a baker's wife. She heads to London, determined to argue her way into the university. When the interview does not go well ("She talked about menstruation!"), she realizes that no matter how smart and studious she is, she'll never be taken seriously. But there is another option.

There's a doctor out there, Alexander Platt. He has some radical ideas about women in the medical field. Too bad he's in Austria now, about to get married. And, as fate would have it, to one of Felicity's old pals, Johanna. True, she and Johanna didn't part on the best of terms. But hey, if Felicity were to show up at the wedding, all giggles and petticoats, and then speak to the doctor alone about her education, well, don't the ends justify the means?

Accompanied by a young African pirate woman named Sim, Felicity makes her way across Europe. But of course, things do not go as planned. And it turns out Johanna has a secret agenda as well. So does Sim. As before, we follow three mismatched adventurers, from London to Stuttgart to Zurich to Algiers to Gibraltar, each determined to reach the treasure in time. Because of course there's a treasure map.

Drinking Buddy: And a Bottle of Rum

Felicity is the first to admit she's socially awkward. She'd rather discuss the bones of the hand than current events, and has no interest in society manners, clothes, or gossip. While she's not immune to the charms of men (she did kiss her baker friend and found it not unpleasant), she's simply not interested in becoming someone's wife. And while she appreciates that Percy is taking care of her obnoxious brother, she's still not 100% on board with the two men in love thing.

But this is an intelligent woman, self-taught, determined to make history, just like the bumper sticker says. Recent events have shown us how women are frequently not taken seriously. It was worse in the 1700s. And of course Felicity learns that just because Johanna likes dresses and puppies, it does not make her weak. And just because Sim enjoys pillaging and swordplay, she does have a softer side.

Testosterone Estrogen Level: Shiver Me Timbers!

In a time period where people honestly believed that too much reading could harm a woman's delicate mind, you can't blame Felicity for wanting to shatter a few glass ceilings. When the admissions board to the medical school dismisses her out of hand because of her gender, I wanted to grab them by their powdered wigs and...well, anyway, it had to have been frustrating.

Sometimes Felicity seemed slightly naive, especially compared to her worldly brother. She agrees to let Sim pay for the trip to Stuttgart in exchange for sneaking Sim into Johanna's uncle's house. Then she's surprised when Sim tries to steal something. She works for a baker who clearly doesn't need extra help, then is shocked when she realizes he has romantic plans. And she's scandalized when her pirate friends commit piracy.

But she's a no nonsense badass who will travel the world in search of opportunity. She won't admit it, but she becomes fond of Sim and Johanna and even her brother. And when the cannonballs start flying and people are catching bullets in the gut, it's Felicity they all turn to.

That all being said--Johanna--if you kick and guy in the crotch, even due to mistaken identity, he's not going to get up quickly and he's not going to laugh it off. I can't count the number of times I've had to call female authors on this. Just as it's never funny to slap a woman, it's also not funny to kick a non-violent man between the legs. Rant over.

Talky Talk: Straight On Until Morning

This book, as well as the previous one, are those dangerous 'just one more chapter' novels. I just want to find out where the map leads to. I just want to see how the battle turns out. I just want to see if they escape the kidnappers. Boom. Four-hundred pages down.

Like the previous book, I didn't appreciate the author's need to include supernatural occurrences as part of the plot.. Felicity is the type of level-headed woman who mocks superstition and ignorance. So when they finally make it to the mysterious island and discover...something very unusual, it kind of made all Felicity's studying seem pointless. I think there were other ways to resolve the plot.

But I'm with this family to the end. Felicity, despite her gruff nature, cares about her friends. Even her no-good brother. And when she dumps the baker, it's with regret. I have to say I preferred her brother's narration, but I'd certainly read another book about her. Or Percy. Or Sim.

Bonus Factor: Pirates

Like it says on the cover, and there are a lot more of the latter. Of course, these are nice pirates. They have a letter of marque from England, so everything they do is perfectly legal. Says so right here. God save the queen and all that. These guys are more tattoos and cannons and less raping and burning.

Bonus Factor: The 18th Century

Thanks to the recent congressional hearings, I've felt like I was living in the 1700s, but bear with me. Things actually were worse for women back then. No vote, no birth control, husbands controlling every aspect of your life. Johanna's mother was a naturalist, and when she died on an expedition, a museum collected her personal effects. And they won't turn them over to Johanna, her only surviving relative. Instead, they'll give them to her husband. And since she'd not married yet, she can't claim her inheritance.

And of course Felicity can't become a doctor because she's a woman. She's too delicate to deal with cadavers and blood and such. Perhaps she could be a midwife or a nurse or...a baker's wife.

Bromance Status: Avast, Me Hearties!

I hope I get to travel with the Montegue siblings again. Who knows where they'll end up next. The Mid East? China? America? Stay tuned.

Literary Matchmaking:

 

  

• Well, you have to read the first book.

• For a more modern journey with another compelling feminist, try The Porcupine of Truth, by Bill Konigsberg.

• For another historical fiction book about a girl battling bandits, pick up Megan Batten's The Bird and the Blade.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free copy from the publisher, but no ocho reales or grog.

Brian Katcher's photo About the Author: Brian Katcher wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.