Holy shit on a stick.
So, confession, I have been wanting to read A Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue ever since it was released. This was mainly because of two reasons: one; lgbtqia historical romance which HELLO YES THANK YOU HELP QUENCH MY THIRST; and second, an ACTUAL HAPPY ENDING ! We have been blessed by the gods, because this book snatched my wig, shooketh me to the bones and had me preaching to the choir. I adored it so so much. SO SO MUCH.
Ok, I just needed to get that out of the way. I will stop with the dramatic flailing. Promise.
This won’t be a super long review, because we’ll end up being here for literally years. So I’m going to condense my thoughts as well as I can and hopefully they are coherent enough for you to get the picture! So, The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee centres on the story of Henry ‘Monty’ Montague, a true rogue by nature and one that cannot be tamed. Born a gentlemen, Monty is set to go off on the true Tour experience before he is saddled with the responsibilities that comes with being the heir to an estate. Monty, the bisexual king he is (I think bisexual, but he could also be pan/demi sexual, but it’s not explicit as such terminology was not created at the time this novel is set), only wants the booze, the sex and the company of his best friend, Percy. Who Monty is also in love with.
Cue all the pining.
And miscommunication of feelings.
Oh, my heart.
Because I’m not all that great at summaries, the Goodreads synopsis is below:
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.
I don’t know what I was expecting going in on this novel, but I didn’t expect 1st person narrative. I went through this stage in high school where I only read books that was 1st person narrative, and now, all it does is set me aback. Sometimes I enjoy 1st person and other times it doesn’t really do much for me to connect with the characters and with the story. In this case, though, it really worked for me! It may be because I started reading this book as an audiobook and the 1st person narration was like the Monty was running a consant running commentary on his life directly to me. It was fabulous – so when I had to switch over from audiobook to physical book (because my library loan ran out), the 1st person narration was not a problem at all.
The premise itself was fantastic. I adored reading Monty’s character and watching him as he grew into himself and realised what he wanted in life. Monty’s character was one who very much presented a fascade to people, which I found extremely interesting. He hid parts of himself because of is deep-seated insecurity and, what I would say, fear of both himself and his father. Henry is such a wonderfully complex character – I would not describe him as a ‘nice’ person; he is incredibly flawed but he is also incredibly likable. He is kind and compassionate – but only a select few can see this side of him. Percy is the one person where Monty can be truly himself – and it is beautiful. Also, Henry is bloody hilarious. I don’t want to be too spoilery, but he runs bare ass naked through a garden with a stolen object because of reasons that I won’t say, because why not? I LOVE HIM.
The friendship between Percy and Monty is truly a beautiful incadescent bond. They are literal soulmates. It is a slow burn romance with a lot of pining and miscommunication – but it doesn’t drag the novel or make it disengaging. It instead makes you fall in love with the characters and engage you emotionally with their story. Percy Newton was adorable and I do wish that we could have gotten both of their perspectives throughout the narrative, because I would have really loved to read what Percy was thinking. Not only because of his feelings for Monty, but Percy is confronted with the everyday racism and microaggressions that came with being a man of colour in Britain in the 1800s. He is a precious ray of sunshine who is the epitome of everything beautiful in this world. I adore him with everything in me!!!!!!!
Felicity Montague was a character that I wanted to adore but I just didn’t like her. She began as a kick ass female character – my favourite line of hers being this, “ladies haven’t the luxury of being squeamish about blood” – but I found her kind of too antagonistic. Even though Henry tried as much as he could in his own way to connect with her, Felicity made no attempt to really understand him. When she and Henry kind of discussed his sexuality, she shuts him down with the comment that what he does with men is a sin and he’ll burn in hell and that she doesn’t understand. She doesn’t say it in a way that says that she’ll support him, she just wants to voice her standing on the topic. She is very head-strong and outspoken and wants to get what she wants, which I appreciate being represented in YA becaues we need more fierce females in literature. But I just didn’t like her.
Seriously, this novel has everything you could ever ask for. Not only is it about two young men falling in love so wonderfully and hilariously, it is a YA historical fiction novel – there is an epic European Tour that somehow ends up being a ‘oh shit we need to f*cking run to Marseilles and then to Venice and try not to be KILLED’ with PIRATES! Who! Become! Friends! With! Them! I LOVE BONDING MOMENTS LIKE THIS! Seriosuly, if you haven’t already, read The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue ASAP either as an audiobook (because it’s seriously amazing) or paperback, because it will not dissappoint. I rate this novel 5 out of 5 glorious rainbow stars.
That’s it for today, friends! Let me know if you’ve read Gentlemen’s Guide, let me know your thoughts! Until next time, happy reading!
Lots of love,