Genre: Historical Fiction, YA, Romance
Queer Rep: Bi and Gay (I think)
Warnings: Memories of abuse and trauma, homophobia, racism, sexism (all from outside characters and not condoned by the MCs. Still sucks), some violence
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 Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue took me by surprise. Where I was expecting a mostly romcom slice of life during the 1700s, I was instead given a breathless adventure with humor and heart. This book made my heart soar, squeeze, and shriek (or maybe that was just me), and I would recommend it to anyone interested in the many subgenres it encompasses.
We begin working under the assumption that Monty is going on his grand tour of Europe with his best friend (and object of adoration, of course) and that is where the fun and romance will unfold. This is… partially correct. But mostly, it is just the beginning to a series of cascading dominoes that fall to create Monty’s epic adventure.
It is fast paced—almost too fast for me at times, as I wanted some more character bonding/or intimate moments—but even with that minor gripe, I couldn’t really complain. I desperately wanted to know more at all times: What is this person up to, how will Monty evade his chaperone, WHEN WILL THEY KISS. By the time the mysteries behind it all really start to ramp up, I was too invested to look away.
(Literally—I couldn’t put down my Kindle)
Mackenzi Lee knows Europe, and she knows how to make you feel like you do, too. Every city lives and breathes on the page, with flourishing details sewing lavish settings around you. It wasn’t something that made the pages or prose drag, but boy could you get lost in them. I loved her attention to minute beauty and how every description felt like it was done with love.
The characters are what make this book feel so incredibly potent. They are real, from the hairs on their heads all the way to their toes. And boy are they flawed.
Monty is the true center of the novel (everything is told from his POV), and he is an absolute disaster. He has flaws that run so deep I wondered if he realized they were there at all. He also has trauma, and heart, and a desire to make the person he loves happy.
The growth Monty experiences throughout the novel is massive, and its beautiful and cathartic to see this journey from the outside. We’ve all been dumb kids (or dumb adults), and we’ve all had to undergo our own crucible. Monty’s is extreme, but its gorgeous and satisfying to read.
Monty’s love interest is pure and wonderful, one of those handsome cinnamon roll characters who deserve everything good in the world. I also adore Felicity, and I look forward to reading the novel centered around her once I finally have time.
I’m recommending this novel to pretty much everyone I know. You are now included.
Please! Read this book! Just sit down, strap in, and prepare yourself for white-knuckle adventure and characters so real it hurts.
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