The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite was the first romance novel I have ever read. And well, I might now be a sapphic historical romance reader. At least when it comes to Olivia Waite, we’ll have to see if I ever end up reading any other authors.
Lucy is an astronomer and ran the calculations for her late father’s work. When her secret lover decides to get married without talking to her, Lucy can’t help but feel the need to run away. So, it’s only logical that when she receives a letter from the Countess of Moth regarding the translation of an important piece of astronomical work that she runs off to London to put her hat into the ring.
There’s just one small problem. The letter was addressed to Lucy’s father and no one knows that Lucy was the brains behind his work. And, well, the 1800s aren’t known for recognizing a woman’s contributions to science.
This is a well plotted story with well rounded characters. The setting is well-developed with details that keep it firmly settled in reality and a strong historical context. It is clear that Waite did her research when crafting this book. I appreciate the fact that we didn’t gloss over the implications of being queer in regency period England. The novel addresses the fact that queer women are both better off in some ways and worse off in other way than queer men in this era. While most wouldn’t assume a queer relationship between women and they wouldn’t be thrown in jail or killed if their secret came out, women had fewer rights and stronger societal expectations.
Waite bridges some of these problems by having the Countess of Moth’s title passed down matrilineally. She doesn’t need to rely on a man for her position in society or her wealth. This allows her and Lucy to function more easily in a male-dominated society.
The developing romance between the characters moves swiftly, while still allowing us to see the sense of yearning between the characters. I enjoyed the emotional arcs and the conflicts within their relationship. They felt realistic, and didn’t have the sense of being irreparable differences. I loved seeing the characters interact and work out their differences. I thought the Countess’s character growth was lovely. She is able to work through her past trauma through her relationship with Lucy.
The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics was a quick and engaging read with a lot of fantastic detail. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to try out sapphic romance, especially if you enjoy historical fiction.