The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
Published by Katherine Tegen Books
Date: June 27, 2017
Genre: Historical Fiction
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.
When I was first told about this book, all I heard was “historical lgbt road trip” and I immediately needed to buy it. It helps that the cover is super fun, and very photogenic (especially with my university’s old-looking buildings in the background). However, while the book hit the checkpoints that matter to me most, I was still a bit disappointed on some other aspects.
First, characters: Monty was hilarious, ridiculous, and so extremely dramatic that I couldn’t help but laugh at his antics. Percy was sweet, quiet, and lovely. A bit of a mismatched duo to be sure, but a wonderful one because of it. Plus, the height difference was just adorable. And Felicity! She was so, so great and she delivered some of my favourite lines in the entire book.
Speaking of favourite lines, the writing style was also very fun. Lee has a knack for playing with clichés and using them to her advantage. Gentleman’s Guide read a bit like a contemporary novel but still used language appropriate to the time period, which was somehow a really great match.
The plot is where the book loses some stars, though. I was expecting a lot of travelling through Europe and lots of different places, but we see maybe three or four countries. This wouldn’t be a problem if the book wasn’t marketed as essentially a Jane Austen road trip. Plus, the main storyline and motivation for the characters to keep moving forward seemed a bit shoddily put together. I get that it’s really all part of Monty’s character storyline that he doesn’t listen to the others, but the fact that he’s the one who insists they keep going and the others just go with it took me out of the story a little too often for my liking.
The novel also hit a certain point where it seemed like the author lost her way and wasn’t sure where to go from there. Especially where the alchemy stuff was concerned. It felt very out of place and was too out of nowhere for my suspension of disbelief to catch up (which it unfortunately didn’t). What’s more, there were at least two plot lines that weren’t tied up well enough for me at the end of the novel, and two characters whom we learn enough about to make us curious before they disappear and we never hear from them again.
All in all, I really did enjoy the book. It was fun, light, summery, and absolutely adorable. Percy and Monty had the cutest romance, Felicity was hilarious and gave the best fist-pumping-you-go-girl moments, and her relationship with Monty is one of my favourite sibling relationships I’ve read in recent years. That said, as much as I loved these things, they’re not enough to keep it at 5 stars, and 4 stars feels a little high to me (although it’s 4 on Goodreads, because 3 stars would be much too low).
Either way, it’s an enjoyable book and worth the read!
God bless the book people for their boundless knowledge absorbed from having words instead of friends.