The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
Release date: June 27, 2017
An ARC was provided by HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: 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.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Can Mackenzi Lee always write historical fiction? Please and thank you.
I've been following Mackenzi since her debut with This Monstrous Thing in 2015 - a book that was a bit too science fiction for my tastes. So I had much higher hopes for The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, a book she's been pitching as "Blank Space" meets "Chandelier" in the 1700s since 2015. (Don't believe me? Here's the tweet to prove it.) The Taylor Swift comparison had me sold instantly, plus I loved the concept of using a Grand Tour as a framing device. (Why don't we get to have Grand Tours anymore?)
I love how the trio each had something different to contribute, and especially because Monty had a lot to learn. He had to grow up in a lot of ways, but he also had his privilege checked in some marvelous ways. (Ways that may have been a tad modern, but I'll accept it.) I also loved just how much research Mackenzi put into this book. I got to explore Europe in ways other historical fiction novels I've read haven't.
One quibble I had is that pretty much every adult character wasn't a great person; they were either villains or got in the way of Monty's fun, and I feel like YA adults are like that too much. Even if teenagers think they're a pain, it isn't always true. I also thought the beginning dragged just a little too much before the big adventure started.
Obviously the level of sexual content and drinking isn't my thing, and since that's a large part of Monty's character, it did get to be a bit too much at times.
The Verdict: Pretty good. Surprisingly long.
Will I be adding this book to my library?: Maybe.