Review | The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics – Olivia Waite

About the Book

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?

336 pages (kindle)
Published on June 25, 2019
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Sometimes I’m in the mood for something different. Something maybe a bit softer, less fantasy. I happened upon this book on the random, and at first I thought “Nah, that’s not really up my street” but I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and about how good it would feel to just read a book that had nothing to do with what I was writing, nor what I was editing. 

So I ended up buying it, and I read the entire thing in about two nights, which is extremely uncommon for me these days. 

The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics was nothing short of delightful, a slow-burn friends-to-lovers story, the book seemed to cover so many different aspects of life and reality in the Victorian era, all of which made the relationship between Lucy Muchelney and Catherine St. Day that much brighter. And yet, it’s steeped in realism as well, in science and learning, and the role of women in society. 

The book starts with Lucy having to watch her ex get married, and her heart is breaking. These first few pages really impressed me, and this is honestly why I bought the book. The pain Lucy feels in this moment is so sharp, so well-written, so real I couldn’t look away. I knew that any author who could nail my emotions down like that in the first few pages was an author I needed to pay attention to. I was soon delighted to learn that the rest of the book is similarly realistic. Emotional notes that were so real they felt like they were part of me seemed to be the hallmark of this tale. Not everything is sad. There are a whole lot of funny, flirty, awkward, and frustrating moments as well, but it was the emotions in all of these scenes that really made me sit up and pay attention.

Lucy and Catherine are coming at their relationship from different directions. Catherine can’t imagine that loving a woman is a thing that happens. Lucy, however, knows that it is possible, though neither of them are certain about each other. There are a lot of flirty glances, uncertain thrusts into potential romance, moments that are so subtle and yet decadent when the author takes her time revealing and even relishes the different layers of romance, ardor, and falling in love. 

Yet this isn’t just about love and desire. There’s science, art, and learning as well, and I loved how these two different threads balanced each other out. On the one hand, I was captivated by Lucy and Catherine. On the other hand, I found them both interesting on their own. Catherine, who is a widow trying to make her way into a secure, comfortable, and predictable future and Lucy, who has a passion for scholarly studies. In a world run by men, there are some definite moments where I was extremely frustrated by how they were being treated by the men in their lives, but again, that’s part of the realism of the age. 

Their lives come together over a French text that Catherine asks Lucy to translate, and while they are both connecting over this project, life keeps spinning on around them, as life does. In this patriarchal society, Catherine and Lucy find validation in each other, and the freedom to be who they are, despite society’s strictures. And yet, the weaving of this personal story through a novel replete with respect and even passion for scholarly pursuits, mathematics, science, art, gave the entire thing a sense of wonder that I found truly captivating, and helped me connect with the characters a much deeper level.

There is heartbreak here as well. A chapter near the end of the book just about gutted me, but I powered through to the ending and I am glad I did. 

So, where does that leave us? 

The Ladies Guide to Celestial Mechanics really blew my socks off. It wasn’t the kind of book I usually read, but it was an absolute delight in every sense of the word. It was a warm hug on a cold night, and the kind of book I fully intend on reading again, and again, and again… 

5/5 stars