Book Review: The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics

Olivia Waite

Rating: 2 out of 5.

published: 25th June 2019
spoilers? no


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?

I am tired of twisting myself into painful shapes for mere scraps of respect or consideration. Tired of bending this way and that in search of approval that will only ever be half granted.

Galley provided by publisher

It feels like all the romance books I’m reading at the moment are “it’s not you, it’s me” books, because I can tell for the right person they’ll be great. But I’m not that person.

The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics follows Lucy Muchelney, an astrologer, and Catherine St. Day, a widow who is funding the translation of an astrology text from French. When Lucy’s lover gets abruptly married and she finds a letter asking for help on a translation on the same day, she travels to London, to try convince the Countess of Moth, Catherine, to let her do what she always dreamed of doing. But when the men of the Polite Society harshly rebuff her appeal, she resolves, with Catherine’s help, to publish a translation of her own.

I like my romances, historical ones in particular, to be slowburning. And I mean excrutiatingly unbearably tensely slowburning. Where they don’t even do so much as almost kiss until the last third of the book. Because it’s historical fiction, think of the social norms! And yet, in this book, they’re kissing at 28%, declaring they can’t live without each other at 50%. I wouldn’t have minded so much if I’d had some reason to actually want them to be together at this point. There wasn’t nearly enough development on that front for me. I loved Lucy and I guess I liked Catherine (though, again, didn’t get much of a chance to develop an opinion of her), but they got together before I could see anything in their relationship. Okay, so there was some instant attraction, but it wasn’t enough. I needed pining and growing feelings. Because once a couple gets together in a romance, I get bored, to put it bluntly. I need that development, that promise of tension and endgame to keep me going. It helps me grow to love the characters and their relationship. And that wasn’t here.

Instead, I just spent the majority of the book bored. It’s not a bad book. It really isn’t. The writing is good, but writing alone is usually not enough to sustain my interest.

And then, because of the lack of time spent developing a relationship, the angst just felt stupid. It was all because of a misunderstanding but if they’d just spent time talking to one another and getting to know each other before falling into bed, it wouldn’t have happened. Which is the worst and most tedious kind of angst. It’s also angst that’s over within about a chapter, even though they never actually talk things out. So yeah. Stupid.

Ultimately, all that meant that I honestly didn’t care enough about the characters to give a monkey’s about what happened to them. It’s women doing science! It’s women destroying men who say they can’t! I should have loved it! But I didn’t.

3 thoughts on “Book Review: The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics

  1. Ok SAME! The only valid romances for me are slow burn ones and I feel like if I ever wrote a review of The Bride Test by Helen Hoang, I would just be reiterating whatever you said about this book. For me, what makes a romance is the pining and the realizing that they can’t live without each other, so when that doesn’t happen until the very end, then I’m immediately bored. And I agree that this is especially true for historical romances because of the social norms!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. yes yes yes!!! like i need to want them together and the best way to do that is to develop their relationship slowly before the sex starts so that i’m desperate to see them happy together (unless it’s friends w benefits to lovers, but that’s a whole other trope, and you still have the pining).

      Liked by 1 person

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