Title: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue
Author: Mackenzi Lee
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: June 20th 2017
An unforgettable tale of two friends on their Grand Tour of 18th-century Europe who stumble upon a magical artefact that leads them from Paris to Venice in a dangerous manhunt, fighting pirates, highwaymen, and their feelings for each other along the way.
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 travelling 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.
Witty, romantic, and intriguing at every turn, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a sumptuous romp that explores the undeniably fine lines between friendship and love.
– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com
My Thoughts On…
Henry “Monty” Montague is about to go on tour, travelling around Europe with his best friend Percy. However the wild tour Monty has planned – full of gambling, drinking and the pleasurable company of women and men – is immediately brought to a halt by his father. This tour is Monty’s last chance to prove himself responsible; if his father hears even a hint of scandal Monty will lose everything and the estate will go to his new baby brother.
So instead of vice and pleasure Monty’s tour begins with learning and lectures he has no interest in, and the company of his younger sister Felicity who they are escorting to her finished school in Marseilles. Monty refuses to let this be his and Percy’s send off, and a party in Versailles that starts with Monty being introduced to his father’s influential peers ends with him running naked through the palace gardens, something that definitely doesn’t belong to him hidden in his coat pocket.
Believing this to be the last straw Mr Lockwood, Monty and Percy’s bear-leader, prepares to take Felicity to her school before taking Monty home again, but when they’re stopped by highway men searching for the box Monty stole their tour drastically changes course.
Monty, Percy and Felicity flee; but what starts out as a simple desire to be reunited with Lockwood and to commence their tour, after all a harrowing escape from highway men has to be worth more than Monty’s actions in Versailles, ends with a journey across Europe. Monty, Percy and Felicity travel through Barcelona and Venice to try and reunite the box with its owners, facing down French soldiers and pirates as they struggle to stay one step ahead of the Duke of Bourbon.
There was plenty of hype surrounding The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue in the run up to its release, everyone seemed to be eagerly anticipating this book, but it was only once it was released that I saw some of the amazing reviews that I took an interest in this book. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is an incredible book, reminding me in ways of My Lady Jane as it retells history in an attention grabbing story full of amazing characters, a dash of magic, and plenty of humour.
Monty has always been a disappointment to his father; but in his father’s eyes being expelled from the finest boarding schools and always finding his way into trouble pales in comparison to Monty being bisexual. Monty has lived with years of abuse at his father’s hands, and while you wouldn’t know it to look at him you can see the scars his father’s words and actions have left in Monty’s interactions with people who have power over him.
He may seem a vain character, all too aware of his good looks, slightly ignorant, unaware of the hardships Percy faces as a black man or Felicity faces as a woman, and impulsive with a tendency to put his foot in his mouth more often than not but Monty is trying his best. Everything he does is for Percy, for someone he loves, and he is good at thinking quickly on his feet which gets them out of scraps a fair few times. Although they’re always scraped Monty has gotten them into.
Percy had been Monty’s best friend for years. He is aware of everything there is to know about Monty, including the abuse he suffers at his father’s hands which is something Monty has kept carefully hidden from the rest of the world, but Percy has his own secrets. As a black man in a time when slavery is still occurring Percy is looked down on by Monty’s peers. He’s almost accepted it’s just the way the world works, and he knows there is little he can do to change people’s opinions of him. As soon as they see the colour of his skin they’ve already formed their bigoted opinions.
Even though Monty says the wrong thing more often than not around Percy, even though he doesn’t understand anything Percy is going through, the two are still always there for each other. The danger they find themselves in that threatens their lives is more than the petty troubles they have. For years now Monty has been in love with Percy, but he pines from afar unwilling to lose his best friend, thinking Percy couldn’t ever feel the same way. When it comes down to it Percy and Monty are always going to be on each other’s sides, and while Monty doesn’t understand some of the oppression Percy faces he starts to see it during this trip, starts to learn more about it. I loved reading the relationship between the two boys because it was such a close one, even before their feeling got in the middle they were best friends, and Percy makes Monty want more when his father’s makes him want to give up.
Felicity is Monty’s little sister and before the tour he never took much notice of her, quiet but stubborn with her head constantly buried in a book, but as their adventure unfolds he sees a different side to Felicity even his parents aren’t aware of. For years Felicity has wanted to go to school, she wants to learn more of the world and maybe become a doctor, but instead her parents are sending her to finishing school, and she hates the idea. Felicity is the brains, on their extended, off-the-map tour. She comes up with the plans and is the common sense against Monty’s impulse, trying to hold him back from doing anything else too stupid.
I loved all three of our main characters, all of them were incredibly developed and made you feel for them in different ways. All of them seemed to have two sides to their personalities; there’s the side they present to the world and the real them, which they reveal more and more as the tour commences and they come even further off the map.
One of my favourite things to see in books, any book from any genre, is travel and The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue was full of it. We follow Monty, Percy and Felicity on their tour and beyond; from Paris, to Versailles, to Barcelona, to Venice and to the island of Maria e Marta. It’s not an easy journey but everything about the setting of this book was well researched; from the travel itself to the period typical attitudes to LGBT+ sexualities, epilepsy, and how they treat women and people of colour. The idea of the tour was an interesting one, an eighteenth century take on a gap year, and while Monty, Percy and Felicity had to deal with sinking islands, highway men and pirates along the way there was also plenty of fun to be had.
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is part of the historical comedy genre, and it’s a genre I love. Between this book and My Lady Jane I don’t think I’ve laughed so much reading a story. Monty, Percy and Felicity are easy characters to love and I found myself rooting for them, rooting for Monty and Percy especially as they danced around their feelings, very quickly. Honestly I don’t think I can recommend this book enough, but if you loved My Lady Jane you need to pick up The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue next.
What did you think of The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.