The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy Book Poster Image
Entertaining sequel has strong girl-power messages.

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Kids say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Some brief medical information like the anatomy of human hands, or what epilepsy does and how it was treated in the 1700s. Author's note explains historical women scientists, doctors, pirates of the era who inspired some of the characters and events.

Positive Messages

Women deserve their place in the world as much as men do; their primary value is not how much they're desired by men. Beauty is not a tax you pay to be allowed to take up space in the world. It's OK to adjust your expectations and even change your goals when you find yourself in unexpected circumstances; make a fresh start instead of trying to force your old ideas to work when they just won't. Don't wait for men's approval or try to fit into their hierarchy; do what you want and need to for yourself, and eventually you'll carve your own place.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Felicity is role model reminding girls, women that they deserve a place in the world. She can face many dangers by reminding herself who she is, what she's capable of. She wants to learn for sake of knowledge, understanding. She learns to take opportunities to do that when and how they present themselves, not forcing herself into someone else's idea of how it should be done. She accepts, supports her brother's same-sex relationship even if it doesn't make sense to her. Johanna likes wearing feminine clothes but is smart, strong, wants to be a naturalist. Sim is successful in traditionally male world of piracy but learns she won't be truly happy or win her father's approval by trying to outdo men at everything.


A few fights, scuffles with hitting, kicking, smashing against things. Blood and pain are mentioned but not described in detail. Mention that a husband can force himself on his wife, that men have done terrible things to women; the women have no recourse. A sea battle with cannon fire, shrapnel, gunfire. A chest wound is briefly described but not gory. The carcass of a fantasy creature and people harvesting from it are described. Characters frequently in peril, once from a fantasy creature.


A few kisses, mostly between same-sex couples. "Fornicating all day" mentioned. Loud mention of menstruation meant to embarrass a group of men. A same-sex kiss is described briefly. Felicity's feelings about romance, physical attraction can be categorized as asexual, though she doesn't use that term. She feels she understands romantic, sexual attraction but just isn't interested in it. Syphilis mentioned.


"S--t," "son of a bitch," "bastards," "piss," "pr--k" (name-calling), "ass," "bitch," "goddammit," "hell," and "penis."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Wine mentioned as an antiseptic and relaxant. A character pours an amber liquid. A character is addicted to what's thought to be a mixture of opium and tobacco in snuff form. The opium is eventually revealed to be a substance of a fantasy nature that has opioid characteristics. Felicity eats a narcotic-like fictional substance, describes the feelings positively, but she advocates for non-opioid forms of treatment and prevention to reduce or eliminate addiction to those types of substances. A minor character mentioned smoking a pipe.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy is a sequel to the popular historical novel The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue. Both are set in the 1700s. Reading the first book isn't needed to follow the story, but it will add depth to understanding the characters and some of their relationships. Violence includes fights with hitting, kicking, and smashing with weapons such as knives, swords, and guns. There's a large sea battle and peril from a fantasy creature. Blood and pain are mentioned without much detail or gore. Brief mention once that husbands can force themselves on their wives, that men have done terrible things to women, and that women are powerless to do anything about it. Sexy stuff includes a few kisses, and main character Felicity thinking and talking about her lack of physical attraction to anyone and lack of interest in romance. Her brother is in a long-term, same-sex relationship, which Felicity accepts as positive for them while wondering about being taught that it's wrong. She herself kisses a man and a woman and has no strong reaction to either. A bad guy is addicted to a combination of tobacco and a fictional narcotic that he takes in snuff form. There are a few brief mentions of alcohol, but no drunken behavior is shown. Felicity is a strong, girl-power role model who embodies themes about how women deserve to occupy space in the world and how their value isn't related to how desirable they are, about studying and learning for its own sake to deepen your own understanding, and about finding your own way instead of trying to shove yourself into pigeonholes others have made for you.

User Reviews

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Teen, 16 years old Written byCatLover55 September 22, 2020

Excellent book!

I enjoyed this book much more than the first book, which I also enjoyed. The feminism and character growth are well done, with many empowering messages for youn... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bykater524 February 26, 2019

Great book

This book was great and I really loved it. I read it when I was twelve and I had to problems with it at all. There was not stuff that was too mature for me but... Continue reading

What's the story?

In THE LADY'S GUIDE TO PETTICOATS AND PIRACY, Felicity and her brother, Monty, are back on home soil. Unwilling to return to their abusive and neglectful father, the siblings part ways to pursue their own lives and freedoms. Felicity decides to try her luck getting into medical school in Edinburgh, Scotland -- no easy task for a young woman in the 1700s. When every door closes in her face, and the only open door is marriage to a nice guy she doesn't love, Felicity goes to London to stay with Monty and Percy and try her luck there. One night she meets a mysterious female pirate, Sim, who offers Felicity the chance to go back to Europe and join an expedition with one of her idols, Alexander Platt. Felicity jumps at the opportunity, but when she joins Platt, she soon learns it's not for the reasons she'd hoped. Also joining the expedition is Johanna, Felicity's childhood friend, who's trying to preserve and continue her naturalist mother's legacy by following a secret map to a great scientific and natural discovery. Felicity, Johanna, and Sim will have to uncover secrets, fend off pirates, and find the dragon nesting grounds first if they're going to forge their own paths through a man's world.

Is it any good?

This entertaining sequel doesn't quite have the wit and wackiness of the first book, but its more serious tone still leads us on an exciting adventure. The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy shifts narrators so that now we follow Felicity in her quest to take her rightful place in a male-dominated world. She fights for equal access to education and against being constantly underestimated or seen as valuable only as far as she makes herself desirable to men. Teen girls especially will benefit from Felicity's frequent reminders that she deserves the space she occupies and shouldn't have to hide her skills and talents in anyone's shadow.

But after a while the reminders become so frequent and expressed in pretty much the same way each time that the repetition gets a little dull. And though the overall story moves at a good pace, with excitement and intrigue along the way, it's a bit disappointing in the end that she and Johanna have to be rescued from men by men. It's best for teens who like adventure and who are ready for nongraphic discussions of homosexuality and asexuality. Fans of the first book will enjoy catching up with Monty and Percy as they model a committed and loving same-sex relationship. And teen girls will hopefully be inspired by Felicity's models of bravery and determination to control her own life.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy portrays Felicity. What are her character strengths and weaknesses? Would you like to be like her, or like one of the other two strong women, Johanna or Sim? Why or why not?

  • Felicity thinks a lot about her right to "take up space" in the world. What does she mean by that? Have others ever made you feel like you don't deserve to do what they're doing, whether it's because of your gender, abilities, race, or anything else? What happened?

  • Did you read the first book? If so, which do you like better? Do you like it as much as other historical fiction you've read? What's your favorite historical novel?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love historical fiction and stories about strong girls

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