I have been looking forward to The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue for several months. I had it preordered on Amazon, and I was very excited to finally read it. I read the whole book yesterday, alternating between the Kindle version and the Audible version- thank you, Whispersync for allowing me to “read” and fold laundry at the same time.
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a YA novel written by Mackenzi Lee. Its protagonist is Henry Montague, a young 18th century aristocrat who is generally perceived to be a rake and a wastrel. As the story begins, Monty is about to embark on his Grand Tour, accompanied by his best friend Percy and his annoying younger sister Felicity. Monty is looking forward to a year of debauchery, but his hopes are dashed when he finds out that this is strictly an educational experience. Monty’s father also issues a clear warning that Monty will be cut off if he doesn’t stop cavorting with other boys. The biggest problem with this sword of Damocles is that Monty is desperately and unequivocally in love with Percy.
The Grand Tour starts out well enough, but things quickly go awry, and Monty, Percy, and Felicity finds themselves on the run from bandits who are intent on recovering a stolen treasure. Suddenly, the boring educational trip becomes a Grand Adventure as the trio attempts to discover the truth about the mysterious item in their possession.
Monty is such a fascinating narrator; at first, he appears to be very superficial and not concerned about much more than his own pleasure. He is cavalier by nature, but the trip provides him with an opportunity for introspection and growth; he shows a more vulnerable side when he is forced to confront his own fears and insecurities. The story unfolds via Monty’s first person narration, but Percy and Felicity are thoughtfully rendered characters with fears of their own. I think that all three of these main characters had preconceived notions about each other, and they all realize that perception is different from reality.
I would absolutely recommend The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. At first glance, this is a fun book with a rollicking adventure. However, Lee presents a rather frank look at 18th century culture, tackling topics such as race, sexuality, and health and these elements give the book an element of depth. I am looking forward to reading more from Mackenzi Lee in the future!