The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue - Mackenzie Lee

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. 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.
Who knew that an 18th century road trip across continental europe, complete with gay romance and the search for a cure-all, was the YA book that I didn't know I needed? I mean, there's pirates, and alchemy, and sexy times, and chases, and heists, and... and... well, a lot of really great stuff!

Perhaps one of the things I loved the most about this book, aside from the characters (though I will admit that Monty often made me want to reach into the pages to smack him upside the head... thankfully others in the book did that for me) is the discussions of race, disability, and gender/sexuality. Though one would not expect a lot of frank discussion about these concepts outside of contemporary debates on intersectionality, Lee incorporates these concepts quite smoothly throughout. She includes a really awesome author's note as well, which describes race relations, queer culture, and the place of women in 18th century Europe. It's refreshing to see this stuff treated head-on rather than passed off as "well, that's just how it was in those days."

The development of Monty and Percy's relationship is delicate and tumultuous, but I loved seeing the back-and-forth nature of their feelings for each other. One minute they're thick as thieves and the next they're ready to wring each other's necks! Felicity is the other main character who often outshines the ridiculousness of Monty's personality. While he is getting into trouble, she is risking a lot studying and working to escape her place in society. As a woman her opinions are often looked down upon and her desires are given no attention, at least until the pirates come along and then all bets are off.

Now, for those who desire pages and pages of descriptions of each of the cities that the characters visit, you will likely not find as much as you are hoping for. There is a lot of action and adventure, and even character development, but the build-up of each setting is quite minimal, and I know there are many out there who expect a lot of flowery language and scene-setting when it comes to historical fiction. I didn't find this to be terribly problematic myself, but others may be expecting it and will thus be disappointed.

All that being said, this is a fantastic book that I Highly Recommend for lovers of gay love stories, action and adventure, and fabulous dialogue!


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