The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee is a hilarious and utterly amazing read from page one. Definitely a highlight book for 2017, this crazy YA adventure is fast paced, daring, and romantic all the while exploring what it’s like to be in love with your best friend (especially when said friend is probably not interested).
This review may contain mild spoilers for this book (What I consider spoilers might not be what you consider spoilers but I thought that I’d put it out there just in case). READERS YE BE WARNED!
I have never read anything like this in my life and I really want to read more (Authors!! Get on that!). Each character is hilarious in their own way (especially Monty) and has a lot more depth to them than what is seen at first glance. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a beautifully written book with lush and funny language making it a pleasure to read. This book will be staying on my favourites shelf for a long, long time.
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.
Honestly, who wouldn’t want to read about these three? This book could be described as a YA Georgian historical fiction with just enough magic thrown in to please those out there who like a little fantasy in their novels without it being a repellant to fantasy haters. What do you get if you combine romantic chemistry + internal and external conflict + crazy adventure + family drama + a little bit of magic? You get an amazingly feminist, diverse, inclusive, and fabulously queer book that will just blow your mind.
Now I know I’m going to say this more than once in this review but THIS BOOK WAS HILARIOUS! and to show you, here is a quote to prove it:
“No visitations to any dens of iniquity,” he goes on, “or sordid establishments of any kind. No caterwauling, no inappropriate relations with the opposite sex. No fornication. No slothfulness, or excessive sleeping late.”
It’s beginning to feel like he’s shuffling his way through the seven deadly sins, in ascending order of my favorites.
If you read it in a indignant British teenage boy’s voice it just gets funnier. Once you finish reading this book in its entirety you do end up with an answer to my next point but I do think that it could have been addressed a bit more front on. During the time in which this novel is set slavery is still very much present in society, with the abolitionist movement only just beginning. I would have liked to see Monty’s view on slavery addressed in a more straightforward manner and explore his views on race and racism. It was kind of unclear if Monty was choosing to overlook Percy’s colour, which at that time was considered a flaw due to his racial heritage, or if he was accepting of Percy’s racial background as a part of him instead. Like I said earlier however, I think after you finish reading the book you understand where Monty sits on the subject but it would have been nice to see it addressed regardless.
Character Appreciation/Disdain (Sometimes a rant but what can you do?)
Monty: This boy is such a unrepentant slut! It’s BRILLIANT! Not to mention that he is just so sweetly smitten with Percy you can’t help but smile. In saying this however, he really does act like a petulant child at times but I guess that is to be expected when you have been raised with a silver spoon in your mouth. One thing I definitely noticed about Monty throughout the book is that this boy really shouldn’t be left alone for any length of time. Every time he is by himself he manages to do something that inevitably makes the situation worse.
Percy: This boy gives me all the feels! I just love him so much. Percy is generally polite (definitely more so than Monty) but can be just as filthy if pressed (definitely not as much as Monty however).
Felicity: Felicity is me. She really is. We meet her when she’s reading at the breakfast table and generally ignoring everyone around her. She absolutely does not give two hoots about actually socialising. She is sarcastic, definitely exasperated by her brother (I mean, who wouldn’t be?), and possibly the most capable person out of the three of them.
This might just be one of the most hilarious books I have ever read. A testament to that fact is that I started laughing one page in and didn’t really stop much until the end of the book. Monty is the perfect narrator mostly due to his personality and his complete and utter lack of socially appropriate behaviour. I’ll be honest, I laughed so hard that I snorted at one point. Apart from the fabulous hilarity of this story, it also plays host to some of the best descriptive language I’ve come across. Two of my earliest favourites are these gems:
“Percy nods in the direction of the front steps, where the pair of them are silhouetted against the white stone like they’re fashioned from cut paper.”
“He polishes his spectacles on the tails of his coat, replaces them, and offers us what I think is meant to be a smile, but he’s so toothy the effect is a bit like that of an embarrassed shark.”
Descriptive bits like this are consistently peppered throughout the book and some are almost as funny as the antics of the characters.
Feminist, all inclusive, diverse, historical, queer books should be written more often if The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee is any indication of how they would turn out. If you are looking for a hardcore historical fiction I probably wouldn’t recommend this to you but if you want a funny, easy YA historical read or if you were a fan of Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli then I highly recommend this book. Honestly, I would consider you crazy if you didn’t pick up this book and give it a read as it has been a reading highlight for me in 2017.