Monday, August 7, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee


TITLE: The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue

AUTHOR: Mackenzi Lee

GENRE: historical fiction, comedy

PLOT SUMMARY: Henry "Monty" Montague is an English gentleman about to embark on his Grand Tour of Europe, his younger sister Felicity and his best friend Percy in tow. Monty sees his Tour as his last hurrah before he comes home, takes over his father's estate, and begins a boring, empty life of responsibilities. Monty has never been one for responsibility. Between his excessive drinking, his tendency to wake up with men and women alike, and his love of partying, Monty's pretty secure in his role as the family disappointment. Not helping matters is that Monty's been in love with Percy for years, but after the Tour, Percy will be off to law school in Holland. Determined to have as much fun as possible, and maybe finally tell Percy how he feels, Monty sets off on the Tour, but things go awry when Monty steals a box from someone that annoys him, and inadvertently sets off a chain of events leading to our heroes going on the run. Everyone from London to Venice seems to want that box for some reason, and will do anything to get it from Monty. And that's before the pirates show up.

FIRST THOUGHTS: Holy hell, I loved this book. I pre-ordered it as soon as I read the summary, and I'm glad I got it straight away -- I loved every single page. And this is coming from someone who normally has difficulty with historical fiction! Everything about this book was a delight, from the romance to the main character to the adventure, and I never wanted it to end. But end, it did, and now I'm here to talk about it. Onto the review!

THOUGHTS ON PLOT: This is the classic road trip plot, excepted filtered through a historical setting. Monty, Felicity, and Percy traverse all across Europe, getting into lots of trouble along the way. I was already enjoying that aspect of the book, but the "going on the run" angle was a pleasant surprise, and things got infinitely more exciting after that. Despite the book being pretty long by YA standards, it moved along very quickly -- I easily got through over 150 pages in one sitting. Be warned, though; this isn't a book you can really skim. If you blank out and miss some details, you may miss some vital plot info. Constant vigilance!

9 / 10

THOUGHTS ON CHARACTERS: I really adored all three of our leads characters -- especially Felicity, who was by far my favorite character. I loved her intelligence and her willingness to let her strength prove itself, as well as her dynamic with Monty. Monty himself was a great lead; deeply, deeply flawed, but also incredibly sympathetic and likable. His wit and snarkiness made for a great window into the world. He's just oblivious enough that we don't find out vital plot stuff right away, which makes for good reveals, but he also helps ease the reader into the historical setting. Percy was also really likable, and remarkably more well-developed than most YA love interests. He's more down-to-earth than Monty, but he's not without his own sense of humor and his own fantasies for what he wants his life to be like. The side characters also round out the novel really well; I especially loved the pirates, who I can't talk much about without going into spoilers, but trust me when I say they're great.

10 / 10

THOUGHTS ON WRITING STYLE: Really, really good first-person narration, and one of the few books I've read that makes present-tense actually work. I like how the author introduces you to the historical setting, and gives you the need-to-know stuff without it feeling like an info dump. Even if you know virtually nothing about history, there's enough exposition that you won't be confused -- without being forced. The author also clearly put a lot of research into the settings, which is much appreciated, and helps enrich the world the story takes place in. Overall, I really enjoyed Lee's prose, and I'm looking forward to reading more of her work.

9 / 10

THOUGHTS ON POLITICAL STUFF: In terms of bisexual representation, I only have one word: FINALLY. The book may never use the word "bisexual" (since it, you know, didn't exist at the time the story takes place), but Monty is far and away the best-written bisexual lead I've seen in fiction. His attraction to Percy is strongest, but his attraction to women is never cast aside or downplayed, which is much appreciated. And the queer representation isn't where the awesomeness stops; Percy is biracial, and there are a number of disabled characters, too. And what really makes it is how the book doesn't shy away from how all of these things were treated at the time, but also manages to avoid any doom-and-gloom stereotypes. It's also a refreshing change from the angst that usually plagues disabled characters in fiction. This book is proof that you can have a diverse cast in historical fiction while still being "historically accurate" -- and still have a happy ending.

10 / 10

FINAL THOUGHTS: Seriously, please read this book. It's amazing. There's a sequel about Felicity set to come out next year, and I can't wait -- The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy can't come out fast enough as far as I'm concerned. This book is the fun adventure all queer readers deserve. Even if you're not queer, even if you're not normally into YA or historical fiction, check it out. I'm sure you'll love it as much as I did.

FINAL GRADE: 9.5 / 10

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Thanks so much for reading this review! If you've read "The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue," tell me what you thought in the comments down below. If you'd like to read this book, check out THIS post, where I'm giving away a free copy of it! Enter now, folks!

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