I love history. I like learning about different periods of history, about heroic stories of survival, feats of human capabilities. Which is one of the reasons I was hesitant to read The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. I was afraid, as I’ve experienced with other so-called historical books, that this book would half-bake the historical details, ignoring important aspects to focus on plot or romance or some other part of the story. I was also worried because so many people were saying this was their favorite book of the year.
Fortunately, I had no reason to worry. This book not only has great historical details, it portrays the historical details in a fun, exciting adventure full of complex characters and a compelling plot. While it’s not my favorite book of the year, mainly do to the questionable events in the story, I can see why others love it.
Henry “Monty” Montague has one last chance to turn his life around by taking his Grand Tour across Europe and purging himself of all his wild and roguish passions. But taming these so-called passions isn’t so simple, and when Monty heads across Europe with his best friend Percy and his sister Felicity, his adventures only get worse as they encounter highwaymen, pirates, and a dangerous secret that just might change the world.
The best part of The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is Felicity, Monty’s younger sister. She is fabulous. From reading at the breakfast table to being smarter than her older brother, I aspire to be Felicity when I grow up. She’s great. Percy, Month’s best friend, is a precious gem and I love how Mackenzi Lee portrayed him, both as biracial and an epileptic. I wasn’t as big of a fun as Monty (and I almost wish the story had been told from someone else’s views *cough Percy cough*), but the thing with Monty is he’s real. His narration along with his experiences make him super #relateable.
In addition, I loved the historical details of this book. The European settings, the emphasis on portraying various social issues during the historical time period (from race to gender to sexuality to health), and the intricate details of a Grand Tour were amazing. I wasn’t at all disappointed in the historical aspects. It was gorgeous.
I also enjoyed the plot. From an exciting highway robbery to being kidnapped by almost-pirates, the adventure of the story was compelling. It’s also worthy to note that while this book does lean heavily on romantic moments, sometimes there were more important things to do than Monty kissing somebody. #bless
However, like most books I read, there are some things I wasn’t so keen about. In addition to Monty’s obnoxious personality, I wasn’t a fan of the constant “questionable life choices” Monty makes. The excessive drinking, the crude language, Monty heavily kissing girls, Monty heavily kissing boys, Monty thinking about kissing boys and girls in excruciating detail. I’m just kind of tired of books with characters that throw caution to the wind and revel in every pleasure under the sun. Where is the restraint? (God bless Percy for having restraint.)
I also couldn’t really get over that sometimes it felt too modern, like abso-bloody-lutely modern. You know? I want historical books to feel historical. I get it, though, since it’s a modern audience. But it also jolted me a few times from the historical setting. (Especially Monty’s retelling of The Bible story. Complete modernized.)
Overall, though, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a good book. The writing is excellent, the story is compelling, and the characters are great. Some of the content makes me think it’s better suited for older YA readers, but it’s ultimately up to you to make that decision. I’m just here to tell you that I enjoyed a story about grand tours, a kick-butt lady (and I suppose her brother and his best friend), and an exciting romp around Europe. Oh, and I will definitely be reading The Ladies Guide to Petticoats and Piracy.
~I received The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee in my July Owlcrate subscription box purchase. I chose to write a review of the book of my own free will. All opinions are my own.~