The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. Mackenzie Lee. Young adult/Historical fiction/LGBT. 2017. 513 pages. 4 stars.
A small shift in the gravity between us and suddenly all my stars are out of alignment, planets knocked from their orbits, and I’m left stumbling, without map or heading, through the bewildering territory of being in love with your best friend.
Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.
But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.
Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.
It is simply the tale of how two people can be important to each other their whole lives, and then, one morning, quite without meaning to, one of them wakes to find that importance has been magnified into a sudden and intense desire to put his tongue in the other’s mouth.
The first thing my mind thought of when I read this book was this
Really, this book was National Treasure meets 17th (18th?) century Europe meets Pirates of the Caribbean.
It took me almost a month to finish this book. As much as I wanted to finish this in one sitting I kept putting it down to read other books and only read this right when I was about to sleep. When I finally finished it, I regretted not devoting more time to reading this book because it captured the adventure trope so well!
The setting of the story was what interested me the most because I’m a huge sucker for medieval stories. Couple that up with pirates, sinking islands, and alchemy and you’ve got a best seller. In addition to that, the culture was really appropriate for the setting given the sensitive themes present in this novel.
As for the characters, I really fell in love with each of them.
Monty was a witty, charming, and impulsive (to the point of idiotic) character! Reading from his point of view ensured that readers won’t hate his mistakes because we feel empathy for him the most. However, I still felt annoyed at him because
he was so stupid and clueless and insensitive and somewhat elitist but really we’ll ignore that because he’s a main character lol.
“I’ve never been tied up before—neckwear to a headboard hardly counts.”
Percy worked as Monty’s foil and love interest. His disposition in the setting really made him stand out and I admired how Mackenzie Lee dealt with these issues like his illness and race.
“This isn’t about us.”
“It’s always going to be about us.”
“No, you want this to be about you. You care about what happens to me because of what that would mean for you. You are the only thing that matters to you.”
Felicity. Oh my, Felicity. She brought this novel to life. A woman who’s treated unfairly in a patriarchal society finally stands up for what she wants! I loved her strong attitude and her assertive nature. She showed us that women can be strong even when they’re constantly being underestimated. She was the voice of reason and the true catalyst to the plot of this book.
“You can’t behave the way you do and then be surprised when someone tells you so.”
As for the plot, I initially thought that it was too all over the place because I was expecting a fun read about Englishmen traveling around Europe for their Grand Tour, but I had no idea it would be heist-like! In the end, I grew to love it! Their adventure was sublime because I could really feel myself traveling with the characters as opposed to merely reading it.
For that, I’m giving this book 4 stars! I really wish I devoured this book because had I done that this would no doubt be a 5-star rating. Book 1 of Guide really deserved all the hype. 😉