Title: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue
Author: Mackenzi Lee
Genre: Young Adult/Historical Fiction
Year of Publication: 2017
Number of Pages: 501
Opening Line: “On the morning we are to leave for our Grand Tour of the Continent, I wake in bed beside Percy. For a disorienting moment, it’s unclear whether we’ve slept together or simply slept together.”
Summary: From Goodreads: “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.”
Review: When I first saw this book pop up on Bookstagram, it didn’t jump onto my TBR list because it just seemed like just another YA book. After a few weeks of seeing people rave about how amazing it was, curiosity got the best of me, and I picked it up. Now that I’ve finished reading it, all I can ask myself is “wait, did I read the same book that everyone else did?”
My biggest problem with the book was Monty. Not to use too much adult language, but Monty is a dumbass who I yelled at on multiple occasions for being an idiot. My dislike for Monty was almost instant, and I almost gave up on the book entirely because I didn’t want to read 500 pages of a spoiled rich kid acting out because he doesn’t want to grow up. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I continued reading, and I was able to journey along with Monty and all his moments of “wait, did you seriously just do/say that? How stupid/dense can one person be?” I understand that Monty was dealing with personal things with his Father and Percy, but that’s not an excuse for most of his stupid behaviour. I think what annoyed me the most about Monty’s actions was that every time it seemed like he was finally starting to grow as a person, he would do something and backslide to square one and ultimately cause more problems for himself and his travel companions.
My other problem with this book is that the plot was too far-fetched and I found myself having to suspend my disbelief throughout the book. I don’t want to say too much here because I try to avoid spoilers, but in my mind, the event that started the chain reaction that caused Monty’s Grand Tour to turn into a “harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe” seems entirely improbable. I have a difficult time believing that the item that set off the chain of events would have been casually left out in the open. There are a lot of other plot points that made me stop and ask “really?! REALLY?!” but I don’t want to get into them because I’d rather not spoil the story for people who still want to read this book.
Despite all of my negative comments about this book, there are a few positive things that I can say. Even though The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue was 500 pages, it didn’t feel that long because the story didn’t drag and it moved along at a steady pace. This is a good thing because it kept me reading to the end even though I wasn’t entirely thrilled with the story.
The other kind of positive thing about this book is that it does do an okay job dealing with gender, race, and LGBTQ+ issues. While Monty was acting like an entitled asshole, he’s slowly becoming aware that not everyone has it as good as he does and that his travelling companions face discrimination on a regular basis because they aren’t white men. There were a few scenes in this book that I felt highlighted these issues well including the scene where they’re on the Eleftheria and the scene where Monty and Felicity are drinking and having their late-night talk in Spain. However, I also feel like a lot of these issues ended up being overshadowed by Monty’s idiotic actions. But maybe that’s an accurate description of how the world is, important social issues are often over shadowed by entitled white men being dense idiots.
As far as the romance in this book goes, it was alright. Percy and Monty are cute, but did Monty have to make it so damn difficult? It seemed like the romantic subplot was more about Monty being entirely self-absorbed and oblivious than any of the struggles that came with being in love with a man in Europe at the time.
One more positive thing about this book is that I did really like Felicity. She’s a strong independent woman who doesn’t let society get her down. I also really appreciated all of the times she called out Monty for being a dense idiot.
Favourite Quote: “God bless the book people for their boundless knowledge absorbed from having words instead of friends.”
Rating: 3/5 stars because despite my dislike for it, it was a memorable story.