The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, by Mackenzi Lee
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (Harper Collins)
Release Date: June 27, 2017
Rating: DNF @30%
A hilarious and swashbuckling stand-alone teen historical fiction novel, named one of summer’s 20 must-read books by Entertainment Weekly!
A young bisexual British lord embarks on an unforgettable Grand Tour of Europe with his best friend/secret crush. An 18th-century romantic adventure for the modern age written by This Monstrous Thing author Mackenzi Lee—Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda meets the 1700s.
Henry “Monty” Montague doesn’t care that his roguish passions are far from suitable for the gentleman he was born to be. But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quests for pleasure and vice are 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.
So Monty 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, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.
Witty, dazzling, and intriguing at every turn, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is an irresistible romp that explores the undeniably fine lines between friendship and love.
Person of Colour
Friends to Lovers
Content Warning for:
Homophobia, Ableism, Misogyny, Alcoholism,
Violence, Child Abuse, Suicidal Thoughts
Trigger warnings for alcohol abuse, addiction, ableism, and child abuse. Review contains spoilers.
I want to preface this review by saying that The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is not a bad book at all. It is just not my book. We are not a good fit and that happens sometimes.
Let me start off with the good. The writing style and language is really lovely. So much so that I have difficulties throwing the book away and be done with it. I love the first person present tense narration and reading this book is generally fast-paced and easy-going. Sentences like this stand out to me:
I’ve always been of the mind that subtlety is a waste of time. Fortune favors the flirtatious.
Friends-to-lovers stories are usually both utterly beautiful but also painful to me. Gentleman’s Guide is kinda both, but mostly painful, actually. Although, this description here melted my heart:
It is simply the tale of how two people can be important to each other their whole lives, and then, one morning, quite without meaning to, one of them wakes to find that importance has been magnified into a sudden and intense desire to put his tongue in the other’s mouth.
Alas, if it weren’t for the content and characters…
The protagonist, Henry, is absolutely a horror to read about. I want to strangle him. Even though I know that he suffers, too. But ohmigod, he’s so entitled, selfish, and totally useless. It is unfathomable how much of a fuck up he is. He has a huge alcohol problem. Make that massive. He’s addicted and isn’t even aware of it. So if you are sensitive to such a content, please beware that it’s really, really bad.
I am not alone in my perception of Henry, as this is what his love interest, Percy, has to say about him:
“Because you’re a wreck! Complete shambles. I’ve spent years chasing you around, making certain you didn’t drink yourself to death or pass out in a gutter or slit your own wrists—
“You care about what happens to me because of what that would mean for you. You are the only thing that matters to you.”
I [Henry] can’t think of anything to say, so I settle for the second-best thing to a witty retort: a storm-out—simply a storm-out.
And this just… This scene was the last straw. Oh man, he storms out. When, just a minute ago, Percy told him that he had epilepsy and, in case you don’t know, for the time, this was really bad news:
“My aunt thinks that this is God’s way of punishing me. The family’s bastard Negro boy has convulsive fits—it’s appropriate. She still won’t be disabused of the notion that I’m possessed by the devil, and my uncle keeps telling me that I need to stop being hysterical and overcome it.”
So Percy is sick, has been for a while, and since nothing is helping, he’s planning to move to an asylum, a madhouse, where they do horrible things to “treat” people. When Henry finds out about this, he again makes everything about himself. Jeez. I do have some sympathies for him since he has faced and is still facing homophobic abuse (physical and mental) by his father, but I cannot. I cannot with this anymore.
As you could see from the quotes above, the ablism and racism is strong in this book, as well as the just mentioned homophobia. You also need to be aware of the historical accurate gender gap and misogyny. Henry’s sister is suffering under it quite a lot. The vivid alcohol abuse, I already mentioned, and there are suicidal thoughts as well.
Beneath all this ugliness there isn’t much room for nice stuff, although, I have to admit that there were some lovely and funny scenes, too. The friends-to-lovers arc is greatly influenced by the immaturity of Henry and, well, Percy has his own troubles. The Gentleman’s Guide is just too painful and maddening for me to read.
Mackenzi Lee earned a BA in history (in the middle of which she took her own Grand Tour of Europe) and an MFA from Simmons College in writing for children and young adults. She loves Diet Coke, sweater weather, and Star Wars. On a perfect day, she can be found enjoying all three. You can spot her on Twitter @themackenzilee, where she curates a weekly story time about badass women from history you probably don’t know about but should. She currently calls Boston home.
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.