Review of The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
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.(Summary from GoodReads)
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.
How could I not pick up a book called The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue? The title alone had me excited for this book. Not only was Lee’s book absurdly fun to read, it dives deep into privilege and is an emotional read.
Whether readers love or hate Monty, there’s no doubt that he’s a well-drawn character. There are a decent number of marginalizations represented in this story pertaining to sexuality, race, and disability. I can’t speak to how well any of these are portrayed, but I have yet to see reviews saying any of them were poorly done. In addition to having a fantastic cast of characters, I love how Lee packs the anger and frustration into the story. You can’t help but hate Monty’s father. Monty is frustrating himself but in a very different way. Lee gives us solid reasons to feel sympathetic towards him. Some people will hate Monty’s lack of responsibility, recklessness, and debauchery, but it feels like he acts his age through the course of the novel It helps that he actually grows over the course of the novel. By the way, the sexual tension in this story is amazing.
Lee’s novel isn’t the fastest read ever. There’s a ton of adventure packed into the pages, and Monty and his friends get into just about every sort of trouble imaginable. I’m sure there are some readers who wonder how they could get into so many different types of trouble. I think it worked for me because the stakes are so high. Even when the novel does start to slow down, there are incredible amounts of sexual tension between Monty and Percy. I wanted to smoosh their faces together the entire time I was reading.
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is full of depth and substance and is an overall joy to read. It never feels as though Lee is trying to tackle too much. The characters who are they are and because they don’t live in modern times, the way they recognize and handle their problems is understandable. For me the ending of this story is perfect, and I’m even more excited because we get a book all about Felicity later this year. Heck. Yes.
Disclosure: A friend gave me an ARC of this book and I purchased a hardcover once it came out.