Published by Katherine Tegen Books on June 27th 2017
Genres: Historical, Young Adult, Romance, LGBT, Diversity
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An unforgettable tale of two friends on their Grand Tour of 18th-century Europe who stumble upon a magical artifact that leads them from Paris to Venice in a dangerous manhunt, fighting pirates, highwaymen, and their feelings for each other along the way.
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.
Witty, romantic, and intriguing at every turn, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a sumptuous romp that explores the undeniably fine lines between friendship and love.
Getting attacked by highwaymen, held as hostage by pirates, and set on an alchemical journey with his best friend and snarky sister – what else would Monty want for his Grand Tour?
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a delicious blend of wit and research, showcasing how aspects such as a biracial romance, LGBTQ+, disability, feminism, and abuse appear in history – all within a Grand Tour as grand as the love story it has within it. Monty is such a refreshing and flawed character. He’s hilarious, down-to-earth, and readers will certainly connect with him as he discovers himself in this adventure. Alongside him is his all-time best friend Percy, who since the beginning of the book he’s been in love with, and his more annoying, younger sister, who aches to go to a university instead of being bounded by the constraints of females during the time.
The great tragic love story of Percy and me is neither great nor truly a love story, and is tragic only for its single-sidedness.
I have to admit, Monty took some time to like in the beginning. He’s a reprobate and rake, prone to gambling, drinking, and having relations with men and women alike. Monty comes in as a bit of a coward and whiny, but the character development is abso-bloody-lutely (I had to use this word, after all the times Monty and Percy used it) amazing. And y’all know how much I LOVE my character development. His character exploration was really three-dimensional as Lee brings him to life, placing him as not a hero driven to grandiose gestures, but just a man in the 18-th century finding himself and where he fits with the people around him. He makes a lot of silly (and seriously hilarious) mistakes and actions in the story, but each of them are not without their lessons as he shapes himself to be become a different person.
Perhaps this is what the Grand Tour is meant to do – show me the way other people live, in lives that are not like my own. It’s a strange feeling, realizing that other people you don’t know have their own full lives that don’t touch yours.
The other characters certainly take the cake in this story as well! Although written in the first person POV of Monty, the absolutely crackling dialogue between all the rest of the characters shaped them to be as refreshing as Monty. Although Percy was raised in a higher-class English household, he is biracial and is treated accordingly whenever he goes out. This is something Monty never recognizes until the adventures in the Grand Tour, and something he grows to understand as Percy confronts him about while trying to fight his best friend’s battles. To Monty, this aspect of Percy never changed the way he feels about him. And wow – this boy has got achingly romantic things to say in regards to Percy (heart, be still).
A small shift in the gravity between us and suddenly all my stars are out of alignment, planets knocked from their orbits, and I’m left stumbling, without map or heading, through the bewildering territory of being in love with your best friend.
While Monty’s vanity makes him distinct, Felicity, his younger sister, and her snarkiness really got me smiling every time. She’s a woman looking to go into medicine, if not for the limitations the time period casts on females. I also believe she’s asexual as well from the events in the book, which is a pretty awesome addition. Throughout the exhilarating events of the tour, Monty grows closer with his companions and starts to look in retrospect at his own selfish actions, such as getting kicked out of Eton when his sister would desperately appreciate that kind of education. He starts growing empathy towards the people around him, heading towards a slow but steady character development that I enjoyed every second of the way. Don’t even get me started on their adventure! So many things happen, even as the characters get a bit side-tracked on the Tour they set out for. Honestly, some of these scenes had me stop reading in order to laugh. There are some really good ones in there that are making me giggle even as I type this.
Lee writes this historical Young Adult with so much heart and wit. It really has been one of the most diverse historical books (if not most) I’ve read, and left me smiling until my mouth ached. I practically fell in love with every character, even as sometimes Monty’s reckless actions grated. By the end of the book though, my heart was practically bursting. Maybe from the hopelessly romantic gestures, maybe the satisfying conclusion to the journey, or perhaps the resolution Monty had towards his own introspection throughout the tour – maybe a combination of all of it. Either way, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a thick guide worth picking up for a witty adventure with sharp dialogue and just fun times all around.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Thank you Edelweiss and Harpercollins for the review copy!