REVIEW: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

REVIEW: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

Title: Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue 

Author: Mackenzie Lee

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books on June 27, 2017

Hardcover, 513 pages

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, LGBT, Fantasy

Publisher’s 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.”

Did you think the Grand Tour of Europe was all visiting museums and attending lectures?  Or did you think that it’s just an elaborate excuse to party yourself across the continent? What if I told you it could involve pirates, alchemy, and best friends who JUST MIGHT HAVE FEELINGS FOR EACH OTHER? Do you want a queer YA historical fiction filled with hijinks, angst, and friendship?  Mackenzie Lee delivers!  That book, my friends, is The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue.


“We’re not courting trouble,” I say. “Flirting with it, at most.” 


I don’t want to give away much of the plot, so I’m going to focus more on the characters and why I liked them so much.

Monty is the main character. The book is written using a first person POV, so the reader experiences everything through his humorous and somewhat angsty story-telling.  Monty’s voice for the book was perfect.  He wasn’t the most likable guy to be stuck with, but I honestly don’t think I would have enjoyed the story from anyone else’s perspective. 


“I understand less than half the words in that sentence, but God bless the book people for their boundless knowledge absorbed from having words instead of friends.” 


He begins as a rather useless rake.  Monty is the guy that every society mamma warns their daughters (and maybe sons) about. He’s good looking, charming, rich and worst of all, he knows it. He lives to bed beautiful people and drink his young face off. He’s impulsive and seems to only care about himself.  His father has had enough of his self-absorption and general worthlessness, and so ships him off on the tour under strict supervision.


But, he’s not without hope.  Here’s a guy who falls down (many, many, many times) and keeps getting back up again.  He learns from mistakes, learns some introspection and self-awareness, and actually starts to take hold of his future. He’s there for his sister and best friend when they confront him for his lack of perspective.


 Percy, on the other hand, is a steady, smart guy. He heads off on the tour as his last hurrah before going off to study law in Stupid Holland.  How he was friends with Monty, sure beats me, but I still loved the closeness they shared.  Even if Monty wasn’t madly in love with him, I’d still adore the close friendship they have together.  The romance was just icing on the relationship cake: the longing and tension of the constant will-they-won’t-they was delightful.


OMG, let me gush about how much I adored Felicity. Monty’s sister was his opposite in so many ways.  She’s spunky, full of ideas and dreams, annoying, prissy, and just wonderful. 


“Just thinking about all that blood.” I nearly shudder. “Doesn’t it make you a bit squeamish?”

“Ladies haven’t the luxury of being squeamish about blood,” she replies, and Percy and I go fantastically red in unison.


She wasn’t simply the pestilential younger sister sent to plague Monty, she was also a young woman trying to figure out herself on this trip. From her humongous brain to her sensibly clad toes, I loved her.   (IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: just in case you adore her as much as I did, her sequel The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy comes out in 2018.  Be on the lookout — I’ll let you know when it’s due!)


I enjoyed Mackenzie’s writing so much. This wasn’t a modern book set in the past.  She did a great job describing modern topics in historical confines.  It was a well-researched novel and not nearly as anachronistic as you might think. The setting and the people made sense in the actual historical period. They abided by the rules that existed during that time. Obviously, there were little elements (e.g. the occult, hence the fantasy element) that didn’t belong in Georgian/Regency England, but this was a solid piece of historical fiction.


Overall, this was great fun.  But it was also more than a light-hearted romp around Europe.  It was engaging, humorous, and thought-provoking. I never knew an adventurous travelogue could be so full of hot button topics such as queerness, feminism, and race.  I’ve also never had such a good time reading about them.


Grade: 5 Stars/ A

Just go buy this book.  You won’t regret it.  If you won’t buy it for yourself, buy it for your kid, your friend, your sad officemate who always looks bored during their lunch break.  Heck, I think even my dog would like this book.

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