The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics (Feminine Pursuits #1) by Olivia Waite
Catherine, the Countess of Moth, is a widow who isn't at all upset that her husband is dead. He was a bad-tempered, controlling man. He read her mail, so she wrote letters to her aunt in which she used illustrations of flowers to say what she didn't dare say in words. Speaking of flowers, she's a very talented embroiderer who perhaps would have been a botanist had she been a man. She doesn't take her gorgeous designs seriously until Lucy points out that what she does is art. After a time, Catherine begins thinking of her own potential, wondering if she is too old to start something new, and deciding to forge ahead regardless.
Much of the plot of this book surrounds this scientific translation and
the politics surrounding the organization supporting it. It's a very
exclusive organization that doesn't allow women, or believe that women
can grasp science. The romance isn't fraught with angst, just a little
doubt about their level of commitment since they can't get married, and of course there was a certain amount of secrecy required. But
to be honest it was nice to see a relationship not steeped in drama.
There was enough else going on the book that I didn't feel like I was
missing anything, yet the romance remained the central focus.
I like that this book acknowledges things about the world that many people don't realize, like that there were times in history that gay people maybe weren't super ostracized, and that black people existed in history other than in American slavery. There's an older character in the story who reveals her love affair with a woman in her past, and she points out to Lucy and Catherine that society wasn't always so restrictive about same-sex relationships as is in their time. There were also a couple of black characters who were part of the scientific community. For some reason many historicals are very white and, of course, heterosexual and it has led to the idea that that's all there was. That's just not the case, and I like how this book acknowledges that without making a big deal out of it.
I found this story quite enjoyable, both the plot about Lucy's work and the related plot about her relationship with Catherine, and I liked how both characters grew and changed over the course of the story. I'd definitely check out this author again, and I'm happy to see that this is the first in a series.