The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (Guide #1)
By: Mackenzie Lee
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: June 27th, 2017
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.
From the moment I heard about this book, I wanted it in my hands. Bi protagonist, on a Grand Tour, with his best friend who he’s secretly in love with? YES PLEASE. It took a few months on the hold list, but I finally got this in my hands. And yes, it was everything I hoped for.
Monty was a character that, from the moment he appeared (drunk, with only one shoe, and rouge on his stomach), I couldn’t help but enjoy. But it wasn’t just his crazy antics and love of a good party that I enjoyed–what I loved in him was the contradiction of him, his carefree attitude and reckless behavior contrasting with his steadfast, adoring, all-consuming love of his friend Percy. It was that which I really felt redeemed him, despite all of the other mess he willingly pranced into. And I loved the character development that went on as the story progressed, how he learned to be more selfless, to not hide from his emotions, and to make the best of his wilder qualities.
Without doubt, the characters drove this book–not just Monty, but Percy and Felicity were also great. Percy started out as the steadfast friend, the one willing to accompany Monty on every one of his crazed adventures. But in light of how Percy was half-black (in 1700s England), his closeness to Monty was a source of contention. And Felicity started as a crusty bluestocking, but I liked how her character expanded as the book went on, and how she and Monty worked to understand each other. But the character development was also seriously important, and I loved seeing how Monty, Percy and Felicity interacted with each other in ways that forced each other to change.
But that being said, the first few chapters of the book were difficult to get into. From that first hook of Monty’s and Percy’s night of debauchery before their Grand Tour, the first leg of their tour was fairly boring–mostly Monty complaining about how scholarly his trip was turning out to be, with a little bit of sexual tension between him and Percy. The action seriously ramps up, however, with a visit to Versailles that ends with Monty sans pants and having stolen a keepsake box. This keepsake box leads Monty, Percy and Felicity off of the intended path of their Grand Tour, and onto a romp involving highwaymen, pirates, alchemical secrets, and French politics. This part of the book was the meat of the plot, adventure and character development and generally Monty being a bit crazy. I loved every minute of it.
But, like I hinted at earlier, the wild rumpus of a plot is intertwined with a lot of character development. Highlights were Monty and Felicity’s honest discussion of Monty’s sexuality, Monty’s coming to terms with the abuse he’d dealt with, rethinking his interactions with Percy and having to become more sincere and face his emotions, and Felicity blossoming once freed of the yolk of upperclass aristocratic expectations. There were issues of race that were touched on, sexuality–Monty, Percy, and Felicity’s likely ace standing–morals and what price people could be bought for, and more. It was a nice balance, not just a rumpus, but enough of one to still be light-hearted while addressing various subjects.
All in all, this is a book that I really did adore, one that combined a wild, almost improbable romp across Europe with lots of thoughtful questioning and good characters. And I loved where it ended up–Monty’s commitment to Percy, and his rejection of his father’s strict standards and iron expectations. And although the bulk of this story seems to have been concluded, I am unbelievably excited for the sequel/companion coming out this year featuring Felicity as the MC, titled The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy. Mark your calendars, folks!
Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.