Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy, LGBTQ+
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.
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue has been so hyped on book blogs, and without those reviews I would never have picked it up! The cover does not appeal to me at all, the incongruity between the “fun” mint green font and the serious painting on the background annoys me for some reason. So thanks to reviewers for convincing me to read this unique book!
I decided for the audiobook after reading this review from Read at Midnight and finding out it’s narrated by the actor who played Tom Riddle in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I hadn’t heard an audiobook since my childhood, so I didn’t quite know what to expect. Honestly I think I still prefer reading instead of listening to books, but I will have to try a few more to make a final opinion on it. As a first impression, I think the audiobook made me not enjoy the book as much as I would have otherwise.
It took me a while to really get into the story, but when I did, I quite enjoyed it. There is something quite classic-adventure feeling to the story, and it reminded me at times Jules Verne’s works if it was YA and led by a Dorian Gray-inspired character.
I liked the writing very much, especially the narration – it’s witty, funny and charming. Mackenzie Lee surely knows how to write and how to captivate the reader. The dialogue lacked sometimes, mostly because there was a modern feeling to it I couldn’t quite ignore. Also, the plot’s pace was somewhat inconsistent, with parts where lots happened and then nothing at all.
I didn’t particularly love Monty, although he is a hilarious narrator, as a friend and companion in adventures he was rather annoying: too selfish and far too obtuse. He does develop a lot throughout the book, though, but still isn’t among my favorite characters. I loved both Felicity and Percy – they were awesome, complex and interesting. I cannot stress enough how excited I was to read a black character with epilepsy in a historical fiction – far too many historical fiction books completely ignore characters like that. Felicity was also very unique, intelligent and sympathetic. I am excited to read Guide #2 through her point of view.
I enjoyed very much the nonchalant but respectful way that homosexuality, bisexuality, racial issues, gender issues and more are discussed throughout the book.
All in all, I think I loved the idea of the book more than its execution, but it was a fun read nonetheless and I was pretty excited with its representation. The historical fantasy setting is also very interesting – alchemy is a rather popular theme, but I still enjoy reading it and don’t think it’s yet overused.
Verdict: This is a fun historical fantasy novel full of adventure and romance with a unique plot and great representation. I recommend it if you’re into YA! There is mention of child abuse, sexual language (although nothing explicit), homophobia, mistreatment of people with illnesses, racism, sexism, slavery. If you are sensitive of those themes, maybe skip this one. However, none of those themes make the reading too heavy at any point. The tone of the book is most of the time very light.
YA: young adult