Wednesday, 6 June 2018

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee - A Review

 513 pages
Young Adult


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.


Now this here is one fun caper of the story. Honestly there isn’t a boring passage to be found between page 3 and page 501 as Monty, Felicity, and Percy adventure their way across the European continent. It was supposed to be an educational Grand Tour; the opportunity to expand their horizons before settling down to the serious business of life. But with Monty being exceptionally impulsive and anything but responsible (when the story starts) it isn’t long before he upsets French nobility, steals an invaluable item from Versailles and thus sets himself, his sister, and the man he loves up for not only a heart-stopping adventure but also on a course that will change the direction of all their lives.

From Paris to Barcelona and via Venice to the Cyclades, pursued by French enemies, and making friends with pirates, Monty and co are constantly in way over their head, only to, completely against the odds, find their way out of their subsequent tight-spots.

But, this book is a bit more than a marvelous adventure. This story is also the tale of Monty slowly growing up and turning from a rather spoiled and self-centered young man into a caring and generous adult. It shows us the frustrations of being an ambitious young woman long before feminism was ever thought off. The book deals with epilepsy in a time when the ‘falling disease’ was still viewed as a form of madness, as well as homosexuality in an age when acting on that attraction was still punishable by death.

Percy and Monty spend most of the story, when they’re not focused on staying alive, circling each other. While it may be clear to the reader that both men are deeply in love with each other, the two men themselves are oblivious and put each other through no end of heart-ache before revealing the truth.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue manages the (almost impossible) in that it is a thrilling page-turner filled with moments that make you think, or sigh, or teach you something you never knew before. While this is a Young-Adult title, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a book that will swallow you whole and leave you both delighted and enriched by the time you finish it.

“We are not broken things, neither of us. We are cracked pottery mended with lacquer and flakes of gold, whole as we are, complete unto each other. Complete and worthy and so very loved.”

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