Janna G. Noelle's Reviews > The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
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really liked it
bookshelves: read-in-2018

Henry "Monty" Montague is a rakish, 18th century, bisexual English gentleman on a Grand Tour on the Continent with his biracial best friend Percy, and his sister Felicity, who longs to go to medical school rather than the finishing school she will be forced to attend. To Monty, the tour will an opportunity to have adventures with Percy, with whom he is secretly in love, and also to briefly escape his abusive, homophobic father before being forced to work at his father's side managing their family estate. However, when Monty recklessly steals a puzzle box from a French duke, Monty, Percy, and Felicity end up separated by their chaperone, impoverished, subjected to a violent cross-Europe manhunt, and embroiled in a plot to recover an object of immense and dangerous value.

This book was a highly engaging, amusing, and socially-aware YA historical novel. As a character, Monty is an immature, spoiled, and hedonistic brat, yet with deeper layers of self-doubt, self-loathing, and PTSD on account of his father’s physical abuse. Monty's voice is utterly hilarious and most of his decisions are impulsive and ill-advised. Of the trio of adventurers, he definitely requires far more rescuing as they carried on their increasingly madcap misadventures. The plot did drag a bit in the middle when the trio arrive in Barcelona, but I loved it when the pirates came on the scene. I also loved the diversity of the cast and how many social issues the story dealt with, including racism, sexism, homophobia (both external and internalized), and classism.

This is nearly a five-star book. However, I disliked how fantastical the main object of value wound up being (view spoiler). The fact that (view spoiler) detracted from an otherwise purely historical plot.

In addition, Monty benefited from a number of POC characters (a Romani trader, a North African pirate, and Percy himself, who had a black, Caribbean mother) who were quick to reassure him that he's not all bad, that there was more to him than he realized, and that he should believe in and defend himself against those who try to harm him. These characters played a large role in Monty's self-actualization. Yet despite having the realities of discrimination and microagressions explained to him a number of times, Monty remained frustratingly unwilling and unable to understand. As a result, he showed no real growth in understanding this area, which makes me question how truly equal his love and inevitable HEA with Percy can really be.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
August 4, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
August 4, 2017 – Shelved
December 18, 2018 – Shelved as: read-in-2018

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