With Pride Month just around the corner, I started to look for books that are a little bit (or in some cases, a lot) queer to read and review. I started at my public library, checking what they had listed. There are actually quite a few that I decided to check out. Some are classics (Annie on My Mind), while others are newer (this week’s entry). Either way, there are a lot of books that I want to get to before the end of June. So I am starting Pride Month a bit early here at All is Fair in Love and Writing.
“If you have ever mentally shouted “NOW KISS” at a pair of fictional male best friends, this is the book for you.” – NPR
The moment that I read the title, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, I was intrigued. I immediately wanted to know more about the juxtaposition of virtue and vice, and how a gentleman would guide the reader through. Once I picked it up from the library, I basically inhaled the book. I read the full 500 page book in one day, flipping from page to page, hardly willing to put it down when my work breaks ended. I was so excited to see where the adventure was headed next that I actually read it on my way home from work. I even managed to stay on my feet the entire way.
Now that I have basically given a glowing review already, I will start at the beginning.
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee follows 18 year old Henry “Monty” Montague as he starts off on a Grand Tour with his best friend, Percy and his sister, Felicity. Monty, who is slightly in love with Percy, is excited to spend a year with him as they gamble and drink their way through Europe. Of course, that is not to be when Monty meets Lockwood, his bear-leader (basically a chaperone), and realizes that he has a strict agenda to follow if he wants his father to let him inherit his estate.
Eventually, Monty is fed up with the constant barrage of fine arts and museum trips. He goes a bit off the rails and the best laid plans fall apart. What seems like a small gesture of vengeance has Monty, Percy and Felicity going on a long detour as they face off against highwaymen and pirates. That, plus a forbidden crush, creates a tale of adventure and longing for these three interesting and very different characters.
As I previously said, this book is exciting to read. It is also easy to follow as the book is sectioned off by the city or area that they are in. A map at the front of the book helps with that as well. There were no issues keeping up with their journey across Europe as the action moves along with them, keeping the reader engaged and entertained throughout.
The exchanges between Monty and Percy are wonderful to read. Their banter is quick and flows well. It is clear that they are close from the first chapter between their mannerisms around each other and the way they communicate. Like the review from NPR says, I was screaming at them to kiss before the end of the first chapter. Lee truly captures their essence in her writing of the characters.
Like all good characters, they have flaws. Monty’s main flaw is particularly frustrating; he does not seem to know how to keep his mouth shut. His unflappable attitude tied with a mouth that won’t quit is enough to make you want to tear your hair out in some scenes. Despite that, he is an incredibly loyal person, especially when it comes to Percy. Throughout the book, Monty has excellent character development as he begins to realize that there is more to life that what he wants.
Part of what I love about this book is that it takes place in the 18th century, yet Lee does not shy away from difficult topics. Monty is a rich, white man travelling with his biracial best friend, Percy, and his sister. Despite the status that Monty has in this society, they are sometimes refused lodgings because they have a person of colour or a woman with their group. Lee actually provides notes at the end that touch on politics, queer culture and race relations in Europe at the time. These brief notes help the reader understand the historical landscape better.
For me, there was a huge emotional appeal to this book as I read through it. The treatment of some of the characters is heartbreaking, especially people of colour and those who are suspected of being queer. The things that they experience may not be real for them, but they would have likely been a reality at the time. Partially, it is frustrating to see that these groups are still fighting for equal rights. It has been centuries, yet the fight continues to wage on. Progress is slow, but it is progress.
The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is an excellent book, that fits well within the Young Adult fiction genre. It is filled with engaging characters and exciting adventures. The main trio all have a journey ahead of them to self-discovery and it is wonderful to read along with their tales.
“We’ve had an adventure novel instead of a Tour.” – Monty, pp 491
For fun, I am rating this book 4 and 1/2 queer kisses out of 5. Stars just won’t do this book justice.
Click here to purchase the book from various sources on her website, including an audio book format narrated by Christian Coulson. Christian played Tom Riddle in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, if that has any influence on you. Her list of other books can be found here.
The sequel to this book, The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, is set to be released on October 2, 2018. You can pre-order here from Indigo.
What’s to come:
- More Pride Month book adventures
- Some queer recommendations (web series, etc.)