Published by Katherine Tegen Books on June 27, 2017
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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.
Wow, where to even begin? My expectations for The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue were super high. All of my Goodreads pals who have read this loved it. Talk about pressure! Even with that exceptionally high bar, Guide smashed my expectations. I thought I was going to be in for a fun romp across Europe with two sweet lil gaybies. Instead what I got was a rich tapestry of diverse characters, with emotional growth to boot, and a plot unlike anything I could have imagined. It was like part Raiders of the Lost Ark, part Stardust, and part Love, Simon. (Yes, I know two of the three are books, but I’m specifically talking about the movies here.) And now that I’ve finished, I hear this is being optioned for a movie – I can totally see why, and I sure has heck will be seeing it!
“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.”
What has two thumbs and is a complete sucker for friends to lovers tropes. This gal! From the offset, Monty leaves a lot to be desired as a leading man. He’s a playboy who has been kicked out of school and seems to flirt with anything that has a pulse. And then there is Percy, who seems almost saintly compared to his best friend. A little too good in the good-two-shoes department. At the very beginning, these strongly opposed character profiles had me worried, but the tension between them was so delicious. With time and an ever-twisting tour across the continent, Monty grows into someone I found myself rooting for…and still sometimes yelling at. Remove head from ass Monty, then go get the guy! Even at his worst man-whore-iness, Monty’s struggle to figure out who he is, who he wants to be rings true to being a teenager: the world in front of you, but no map to figure out where the hell to go.
“And what would you want even if you could? says a small voice in my head. I’ve no answer, which sets off a flare of panic inside me. I suddenly feel myself to be drifting, out of even my own control. What do you want?”
On the whole there are gems scattered throughout this work like we’re up in a Gringotts vault. I had more quotes and highlights than I knew what to do with come review time. My only critique – the thing I shaved a half-star off for – is bits of the writing style (and warning, it’s really nitpicky). Mackenzie Lee does a good job of mixing some phraseology from today with British and time-period-appropriate slang, but at times it felt a bit like the characters had catchphrases. Whenever Monty was in hot water, I expected him to call Percy “darling.” Whenever he was about to do something risky, it was “abso-bloody-lutely,” and so on. Now, I’m all for shtick, but occasionally some of the timing plot-wise of these catchphrases nagged at me a bit. Sense the room Monty! FFS.
“We are not broken things, neither of us. We are cracked pottery, mended with lacquer and flakes of gold, whole as we are, complete unto each other. Complete and worthy and so very loved.”
I have already added the next book, The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, to my TBR and I’m stoked for more of Felicity. She was above and beyond my favorite character, so I’m excited to see what trouble she gets up to on the high seas.