The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue – Mackenzi Lee
Release date: 27 June 2017
Book Depository link
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (Montague Siblings, #1) blurb:
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.
OMIGOSH I just genuinely wanted to hug everyone in this book (well, actually just Monty and Percy and Felicity and Scipio) and make them all cups of tea (mostly infused with brandy), with a biscuit and then settle them onto a ship and sail away into the night to live happily ever after.
So, all I knew about this book going in was that it was a historical fiction. And I had to read it quickly because I am seeing Mackenzi Lee next week (and seriously, I do try and read SOMETHING by an author before I ask them to sign my books). But this story is way more than just some historical fiction YA novel. It has adventure, pirates, stabbing (maybe not stabbing but there’s definitely guns and swords), evil parents, highway robbers, thievery, unrequited love, and biblical references to scientific breakthroughs that technically err on the side of fantasy. YES, FANTASY. This book may as well have dragons. (Not really, dragons wouldn’t make any sense in this novel.)
Primarily, even with all the adventure, I would say this book is character driven. Our mainest of MCs, Henry Montague (aka Monty), has a ridiculous title (Duke or Earl or Viscount) and a ridiculous father that he inherited it from. Monty is also a bit ridiculous, in that he is quite in love with his best friend, but instead of doing something about it, he convinces Percy (said best friend) to go on a Tour. (This is an 18th century version of a gap year.) Monty wants one last wild adventure across Europe with all of the debauchery (he’s bi), drinking (basically an alcoholic) and gambling (does he have any fortune left?) he can squeeze in, before coming home to be a proper son and heir. There’s just one small thing. Monty doesn’t really want to do that.
Then we have Percy Newton. Percy was raised by his aunt and uncle after “his father returned from the family estate in Barbados with a jungle fever, his French violin, and an infant son with skin the colour of sandalwood, and then expired.” Percy also has been diagnosed with epilepsy, and this being the 18th century, the doctors have advised that his treatment should be an exorcism to ‘remove his demons’. Personally, I think Monty has more demons than Percy, and he seems to be just fine. (Medicine in those days was ridiculous and it hurts my soul how poor Percy was treated.) Despite all this, Percy is sunshine and rainbows and warm towels out of the dryer. He is just a gorgeous person and I love him to bits.
Felicity is basically the secret star of the show (and no wonder, she got her own novel after this one). She is a 21st century woman trapped in an 18th century world, and I pine for her wasted intelligence and sarcasm. Felicity is no-nonsense and all brains – clearly the only one who really should have made it out alive in this novel. She’s also ace as fuck, and I respect her so much for being more interested in science and medicine than parties and boys.
Now, there is a LOT of shit going down in this novel. They get chased across Europe, attend fabulous parties (Monty leaves one of them naked), go to prison, and totally have the most random adventure across Europe compared to what Monty’s father had planned for them. But they also each grow as human beings during this time, form stronger bonds between the three of them, and realise what it is that each of them want from life.
The story was a little slow in pace in parts, but it does cover basically a whole year so you get that sometimes. But the writing was a joy to read. I read all 500+ pages over a long weekend (and I attended a wedding as well), so it was definitely a good read that captivated my attention.
As I mentioned before, there is a slight fantasy element to this whole story, but it’s more of a blink and you’ll miss it reference, so if fantasy isn’t your thing you can still read this with no problems. If fantasy is your thing, you don’t mind some contemporary queer love story, and you’re on the fence about historical fiction – I’m still recommending this to you.
Until next time, happy reading ??
That’s a great review