Title: The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue
Author: Mackenzi Lee
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Published: June 27th, 2017
Rating: 5 stars
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.
The hype for this book is real.
I was enthralled like everyone else by the blurb and by the sparkling reviews. I was expecting something light and cute.
I got so, so much more.
Henry Montague, or Monty, is a really interesting, deeply flawed character to read about. The consistency in how Lee wrote him was especially fantastic. He actually has a lot of issues that are definitely not shied away from: his self-centeredness, his couldn’t-care-less attitude, and his alcoholism. I do wish the last one had been explored just a tad bit deeper, but overall he was extremely fleshed-out. And he does learn.
“Perhaps this is what the Grand Tour is meant to do – show me the way other people live, in lives that are not like my own. It’s a strange feeling, realizing that other people you don’t know have their own full lives that don’t touch yours. “
He also totally owned his bisexuality (although this term isn’t used in the book because it didn’t exist in the 1700s, unfortunately). Reading about his past and the way his father treated him… it made me want to sink through the pages and give him a hug. But overall, he was unashamed with himself and who he was attracted to. I loved him.
Felicity was also delightful, and totally not what I was expecting. I don’t want to give away too much, but she is definitely a new favorite female character. She’s fierce, confident, and unabashedly honest. (Plus! There’s a spinoff companion planned with her as the main character!)
“‘Ladies haven’t the luxury of being squeamish about blood,’ she [Felicity] replies, and Percy and I go fantastically red in unison.”
Now, let’s talk about Percy and how much I adore him. He is biracial as well as gay (so hoorah for intersectionality) and this is also explored. There are moments when he gave Monty a good tongue-lashing (because the guy seriously deserved it) and I wanted to give him a high-five. He did not coddle Monty at all – instead spitting on-point truths that had be tabbing page after page.
And their chemistry! This romance had me swooning left and right, no question about it.
“It is impossible to explain how you can love someone so much that it’s difficult to be around him. And with Percy sitting there, half in shadow, his hair loose and his long legs and those eyes I could have lived and died in, it feels like there’s a space inside me that is so bright it burns.”
The writing is fantastic. This is my first Mackenzi Lee novel and I can pretty much guarantee that it will not be my last. Like I said, I filled this book with sticky tabs because there were so many rich descriptions, metaphors, and honest truths that had me sucked right in.
The plot was interesting and the pacing done quite well, always twisting and twirling and taking the trio somewhere else. There is rarely a dull moment and if you do get to a few slow pages, there’s sure to be an action-packed scene to follow it up. This book was also laugh out-loud funny, which directly stems from Monty’s easygoing demeanor.
All the diversity and intersectionality in this book just solidifies the fact that you can write a historical fiction with characters that aren’t white, straight, and able-bodied. This book includes race, features an m/m romance, disability, PTSD… it’s beautiful. Not only can you write a book like this, it makes it more fresh, unique, and interesting.
In case you couldn’t tell from all of my gushing, this one is a total 5/5 stars from me! If you love historical fiction, romance, a great adventure filled with creative situations and altercations or fantastic characters that will stay in your heart, you should definitely pick up The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue.
“We are not broken things, neither of us. We are cracked pottery mended with lacquer and flakes of gold, whole as we are, complete unto each other.”
Content warnings: homophobia, abuse, suicidal thoughts, racism.
Do you guys plan on reading The Gentlemen’s Guide? Have I convinced you? If you’ve read it, are you as in love with Percy and Monty as I am?? Tell me in the comments! 🙂