The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue | Mackenzi Lee
Hardcover: 528 pages
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: June 27, 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…more”
“It’s beginning to feel like he’s shuffling his way through the seven deadly sins, in ascending order of my favourites.”
This book is undoubtedly one of the most humorous and entertaining YA historical fictions I’ve read, beside My Lady Jane of course. The Gentleman’s Guide is filled to the brim with comedic moments that are balanced out by surprisingly serious topics introduced throughout the characters’ long and arduous journey
Not only does Mackenzi Lee create a fun adventure filled with witty dialogue, bouts of debauchery, and intrigue, she also does an excellent job in exploring the human experience by providing situations and character relationships that inspire deep conversation.
“Love may be a grand thing, but goddamn if it doesn’t take up more than its fair share of space inside a man.”
Her characters Monty, Felicity, and Percy are each so unique, well-developed, and multifaceted. Monty, our far-from-perfect protagonist, is self-centered, self-serving, blasé, reckless, insensitive, and cowardly. However, his heart is in a good place. Most of the time, at least. He is hyper-aware and very accepting of his sexuality; however, his confidence falters in the face of his father’s bigoted and domineering presence. Monty’s father plays a much larger role than expected as his treatment of Monty cuts very deep and affects his son’s behaviors in a seriously notable way. It was extremely heartbreaking to read in a book that I thought would be all laughs and jokes. Well, it isn’t, just so you know.
As for the other characters, Felicity was an amazing female character. Though initially insensitive to Monty’s plight, she becomes fairly sympathetic towards the end. She proves to have an open mind, and on top of that, she has agency and a great sense of independence. I was impressed with her experience in medicine and her ongoing pursuit of knowledge. Because of this, I think it would be safe to say she’s the most clever and useful member of the group.
“God bless the book people for their boundless knowledge absorbed from having words instead of friends.”
Percy is truly a sweetheart. Only he truly knew how to deal with Monty, and it was very amusing to see how the two boys interacted. I greatly appreciated how Lee didn’t shy away from race and discrimination during this time period and instead dives right into these issues. Percy’s biraciality provides another dimension to this dark comedy and not only that, Percy’s medical condition also provides another topic of discussion.
All the characters slowly evolve and become better versions of their past selves by the end. Monty and Percy’s relationship goes through rough times, but they eventually find their way. And in doing so, they’ve become one of my favorite OTPs!
“We are not broken things, neither of us. We are cracked pottery mended with laquer and flakes of gold, whole as we are, complete unto each other. Complete and worthy and so very loved.”
The story takes a surprising turn and transforms into a hectic, suspenseful journey accented with piracy and a touch of magic/alchemy. Unexpected? Yes. But still very captivating and even more romantic and dangerous than first anticipated.
A Gentlemens’ Guide is a book that expertly balances humor and charm with provocative social commentary. I was very surprised by the darker, more weighty elements. The author navigates themes centered around racism, slavery, domestic abuse, sexism, homophobia, disability and mental illness, dysfunctional familial relations, and so much more.
These heavier themes add great purpose to this romp of a good time, and I really couldn’t have imagined a better way of going about it. As a whole, this book is a perfectly blended adventure complete with fantastic characters. A total reread, if you ask me.