Review: “The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue” by Mackenzie Lee

Mm the mimoa after this was fabulous

Now wasn’t THIS book a fun little surprise! I’ll admit, going into it, I knew that the book was an LGBT+ mini-darling of both Bookstagram and Tumblr. However, I don’t think I was expecting it to be quite so mature.

The book: 

Henry Montague is a bonafide trainwreck; he’s a party boy who loves to drink, gamble, and have copious amounts to trysts with the lords and ladies of England. He’s also very in love with his best friend, Percy, who has his own stuff to deal with, including being a mixed race noble in a very racist time period. Well in a last ditch effort of freedom, Monty and Percy scamper off on a tour around the world; the only problem is that Monty’s sticky fingers and generally petty disposition leads to essentially the kingdom of France being after them. So off the boys (+1 very annoyed sister) race to fix Monty’s mistakes. 

What I really enjoyed most about this book, aside from the riotous good time our charming trio has in banter, is Monty’s character. He is not perfect; and I’m not talking about the alcohol and promiscuity that you can laugh off as a character vice. Monty is flawed in that, as much as he loves people, he truly doesn’t always know what to say. In fact, he is very ignorant many of the times and allows his privilege to cloud his viewpoints. And it’s not okay; people react badly to it, and you can see him constantly trying to relate and figure out why what he’s saying is wrong, but much of the novel is the discovery that, as many hardships as he has had in life, he has been very blessed. And he continues to be blessed for having people around him willing to check his bad comments and explain to him.

Monty’s relationship with his sister is complex. They resent each other– Felicity because she is a woman with no opportunity and Monty squanders everything he’s given, and Monty because Felicity doesn’t have to deal with the pressures of their father breathing down his neck– but they also have a fierce love that’s apparent on the page, even as they spend most of their time squabbling. 

And Monty and Percy. Percy has the patience of a saint for dealing with Monty as he does. And Monty adores Percy, clear as day, even when he’s sticking his foot in his mouth. But they don’t always understand each other and much of the book is focused on their fraught relationship with each other and the world at large.

The book does take a minute to really get going. But once it does, you are on adventure after adventure. I think it was very ambitious of Mackenzie Lee to try and fit so much; pirates, country conflicts, women’s rights, magic, and medicine in one book. And yet it works. 

Percy’s condition gives him more of a story than just as the Love Interest. Felicity’s deep internal struggles about ehr gender grounds the book in the time period. 

Many young adult books set in past time periods tend to shy away from race relations in the 18th century; they forget that things such as disability and discrimiation and hardship exist.

Not this book. This book makes the characters feel real. This book is about Monty, yes, but it also gives its due to the people surrounding hill people who are struggling with things he will never understand.

I really liked this one.

4.5/5

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