Book Review // The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue – A Grand Tour of Mischief and Mayhem

the gentlemans guide to vice and virtueDetails
Title: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue
Author: Mackenzi Lee
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Age: YA
Genre: Historical, Romance
Released: June 27th, 2017
Trigger Warnings: Physical & parental abuse, homophobia, racism, alcoholism, 
Representation:
Bisexual, African-British, implied asexual, m│m romance, epilepsy

Synopsis*: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—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.
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.

Cloud Separation

Okay listen, I’ve been feeling a bit all over the place as of late and I wrote half and edited this review when I was having an especially bad day so I’m sorry this review is probably a fucking mess but my brain keeps deserting me lately which is, you know, SO MUCH FUN.

Also my life, like always, is just a complete fucking mess and so it’s hard to concentrate on anything longer than 10 minutes lately. HAHAHAHA

I’ve been living in my head a lot lately and let me tell you, that place is dark and it’s very easy to get lost. Seriously, I went food shopping and went down every aisle at least twice because I kept forgetting to grab things even though I saw them and I knew I needed them, my brain just would not connect the dots. Today at work I wrote roller dollar instead of roller door in an email and security was very confused.

I also realize that I should probably start using waaaaaaay fewer quotes because it actually hinders my ability to write reviews since I feel like I can only really write in relation to the quotes… I know, I know, that’s stupid but that’s how my brain works.

I worked all of this out after writing this review and I’ve spent far too many hours on it already so I’m posting it as is. Hopefully, I’ll figure out a better way to review for the next one, or at the very least, by the time I reread this because I will be rereading this in the future! Hopefully when I’m not such a fucking mess! 

Lightning Separation

 

Doubt will knock you from the sky every time.

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I’ve decided to start including gif ratings as well as the standard star ratings since reading Sarah’s @ Written Word Worlds post asking Should Gifs Replace Star Ratings. Although I’m not prepared to gif up see what I did there? my star ratings, I do think gif ratings are a fantastic idea! Also any media used, if you click on them it will link you to the source except for my own photos.

The following review might get spoilery?? I don’t think I really spoil anything but I don’t know. If you don’t want to know anything about this book before reading it perhaps give this review a miss. 

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“Under my watch,” Lockwood says, “there will be no gambling, limited tobacco, and absolutely no cigars.”
Well, this is turning a bit not good.
“No visitations to any dens of iniquity,” he goes on, “or sordid establishments of any kind. No caterwauling, no inappropriate relations with the opposite sex. No fornication. No slothfulness, or excessive sleeping late.”
It’s beginning to feel like he’s shuffling his way through the seven deadly sins, in ascending order of my favorites.
“And,” he says, rust on the razor’s edge, “spirits in moderation only.”

Henry ‘Monty’ Montague’s father sends his son and his son’s best friend, Percy, on their last hurrah, Monty’s Grand Tour. Monty’s sister, Felicity is along for the ride until they arrive at her future finishing school.

It is expected that when Monty comes back from the tour he will have himself sorted. No more drinking or gambling, and most importantly, no more sleeping with other boys. Monty is to come back a new and more respectable man.

His father hires a bear-leader to keep his son in line, with the intent to minimize the damage Monty can cause, which also minimizes Monty’s fun. Of course, things don’t go to plan and what ensues really is best described as chaos.

That house will always be haunted for me, even if my father were gone from it. I can’t imagine living  in it for the rest of my life, throwing parties in its parlors and filling the cabinets with my papers, all the while ignoring the dark spot on the dining room floor that’s never washed away, where I tore my chin open when my father knocked me to the ground with a single well-swung fist; or the hearth that chipped my tooth when I was thrown into it. There are bodies buried beneath the flagstones of my parents’ estate, and some graves never green.
I flick a scale of tobacco off my breaches. “Lucky me. Someday I will have everything my father does. Perhaps I’ll even have a son of my own I can beat the shit out of.”

henry monty montague the gentlemans guide to vice and virtue TGGTVAVWhen we first meet Monty he’s quite self-centered. When bad things are happening to those he loves, he’s only really affected because of how it will affect him. That’s not to say that Monty doesn’t have problems of his own though.

His father beats him until he’s black and blue. He’s so used to being hit, especially by an older man, that when people move suddenly he has a tendency to flinch violently.
My heart broke for him, especially since the main reason his father beats him is because of his sexuality and if you tell me that’s not one of the saddest things you’ve ever heard you’re either lying or have no soul okay??? I won’t be persuaded to think differently, you demon. So don’t even try. 

When you’ve been beaten and abused at any point in your life, but especially at such a vulnerable age and by someone close to you like your father, that shit changes you as a person.

“If he could beat this out of me, I would have let him long ago.”

Monty likes both men and women and the way it’s handled in this book is honestly brilliant. You can tell that it’s #ownvoices representation with Mackenzie Lee being bisexual herself because it’s just handled so fucking well.

You’re never made to feel like his promiscuous because he likes both genders, and it’s never insinuated that Monty should just choose one.

“Are you going to give me the fornication without the intention of procreation is of the devil and a crime lecture? I believe I could recite it from memory by now.”
“Monty-”
“Perhaps I am trying to procreate with all these lads and I’m just very misinformed about the whole process. If only Eton hadn’t thrown me out.”

He has a conversation with his sister Felicity about it and although Felicity finds it difficult to understand, it is made very clear by the author that it isn’t Monty who is wrong or misguided, it’s the world.

It is clear that there is a part of Felicity that wishes her brother wasn’t attracted to boys because it is seen as a capital offence in 18th century England and she doesn’t want to see him hurt.

I had a similar conversation with my mum where she said she wished I wasn’t queer for the same reasons she wished I didn’t have a chronic illness because she knew how much harder it is for queer people and as my mother she always wished for things to be easier and less painful for me. So when reading Felicity try and come to terms with it all, it felt realistic to me.

“From his back, Percy points at my stomach. “You’ve something peculiar down there.”
“What?” I look down. There’s a smear of bright red rouge below my navel. “Look at that.”
“How do you suppose that got there?” Percy asks with a smirk as I spit on my hand and scrub at it.
“A gentleman doesn’t tell.”
“Was it a gentleman?”
“Swear to God, Perce, if I remembered, I’d tell you.”

Monty is hilarious to read. He was the perfect person to tell this story. He really was laugh out loud funny.
He’s incredibly dramatic, everything is a production with him and I love dramatic people so long as it’s not toxic.
He’s a great storyteller, he takes you on a journey with him.

He smiles at me, so sympathetic it makes me shrivel up. Poor Monty, it says, and I want to die when I think of him pitying me.
Poor Monty, with a father who beats you until you bleed.
Poor Monty, with a fortune to inherit and an estate to run.
Poor Monty, who’s useless and embarrassing.
“Good night,” Percy says, then rolls over, away from me.
Poor Monty, in love with your best friend.

What I loved the most about Monty though was how much growth he goes through.
His character arc is quite large. He truly grows up on his Grand Tour but he never loses his charm either.

Most importantly, Monty learns how to start loving himself and how best to show love to the people he cares about. 

“You’re very impressive you know that?”
“Who, me?” I laugh. “I’m the deadweight. It’s mostly thanks to Percy and Felicity that we’re all still alive.”
“Do you truly not see it?”
“See what?”
He drags his brush along the rail. “You’re worth far more than you seem to think. You have value.”


Love may be a grand thing, but goddamn if it doesn’t take up more than its fair share of space inside a man.

monty and percy the gentlemans guide to vice and virtue TGGTVAV.pngMonty’s feelings for his best friend Percy are there from the first page. Percy was always his best friend but somehow, at some point, it became so much more than that.
I think that’s so incredibly true for a lot of people who fall in love with their best friends. It’s very true to how I develop crushes on people. One moment everything is just purely platonic and then all of a sudden I have the “Oh, fuck” moment where out of no where I’m hit with feelings.

He gives a tug on my hair, “I have an idea of how we will survive the year. We shall pretend that we are pirates—”
“Oh, I love this.”
“— storming some sort of city fortress. Sacking it for gold. Like we used to.”
“Remind me of your pirate alias.”
“Captain Two Tooth the Terrible.”
“Threatening.”
“I was six, I only had about two teeth at the time And it’s Captain. Captain Two Tooth the Terrible”
“Pardon me, Captain.”
“So insubordinate. I should have you locked in the brig.”

Monty’s relationship with Percy is absolutely brilliant! They have fantastic banter, the kind of easy playfulness you get between people who know each other in and out. But with that also comes the ability to get on each other nerves like no one else and also the ability to hurt each other the most. Every time they fought my heart was breaking!
They’re also the most vulnerable with each other, they tell each other almost everything, so when one of them keeps something a secret from the other it can blow up in their faces.

“Did, you Know—” he says.
“Oh, are we playing the did you know game?”
“Did you know this year is not going to be a disaster?”
“I don’t believe it.”
“It is not going to be a disaster,” he repeats overtop of me, “because it is you and I and the Continent and not even Lockwood or your father can wreck it completely. promise.”
He nudges the side of my head with his nose until I consent to look up at him, then does that tipped-head smile again, and I swear to God it’s so adorable I forget my own damn name.
“France on the horizon, Captain,” I say.
“Steel thyself, mate,” he replies.

The romance side of things though… Holy shit! That is some intense slow burn!
I love it so much! They’re so cute and adorable and I just wanna protect them from all of the horrible things in the world.
Their friendship felt natural but whenever they strayed into romantic territory it felt electric.

If the whole of England were sinking into the sea and I had the only boat with a seat for a single person mores I’d save Percy. And if he’d already drowned, I probably wouldn’t save anyone. Probably there wouldn’t be much point in me-going forward either.

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“Is he truly a lord?” King George asks me one night, as he, Ebrahim, and I sit on the deck tying monkey’s fists.
“Who, Percy? Not a lord, no, but he’s from a highborn family.”
“And they raised him well?” Ebrahim asks. “Even though he’s coloured?”
“I don’t think he was allowed to take supper with them when they had company, but, some with some exceptions of that sort, they’ve been first-rate to him.”
Ebrahim tosses his monkey’s fist between his enormous hands, his mouth pulling down. “So it’s not the same at all, then, is it?”

percy newton the gentlemans guide to vice and vitue TGGTVAV.pngPercy is such an adorable character, but don’t let that fool you because he’s also incredibly strong.

He’s biracial in a time where anyone who wasn’t white was looked down upon and treated atrociously.

He’s being brought up by his white aunt and uncle and he’s learned that he can’t always stand up for himself, if at all when it comes to the racism he faces.

And yet somehow he always manages to keep his cool no matter how offensive people are being.

“I feel horrid. I’m tired and I’m sore all over and the riding is making it worse, but if I say something, Felicity will get protective and we won’t be moving for days. I’m mortified you both had to see me like that. I haven’t been sleeping well, and sometimes when I don’t sleep it brings on fits, so I’m worried it’s going to happen again and ever time I feel the least bit odd I get panicked it’s coming on and then we’ll have to hold everything on my account.”

On top of that he’s also got epilepsy in a time where no one understood what that meant, and they sure as shit didn’t know how to manage it.

His aunt thinks he’s possessed and his cousin is absolutely terrified of him.

However, Percy manages to come to terms with his illness all on his own, keeping that part of himself secret from his best friend. Percy knew that Monty couldn’t handle it but he also kept it to himself because he knew the last thing he needed was to walk his best friend through it while he was still coming to terms with it himself.

I enjoyed seeing the stark differences between how Monty handled finding out versus how Felicity reacts.

Both love and care about him, however when Monty finds out he is still quite self-centred and ignorant to anything that is outside of the privileged norm of being white, rich and able-bodied (other than his sexuality), whereas Felicity has a lot more of an empathetic view of the world.

She understands what Percy faces in regards to his race and as someone interested in medicine she’s far more understanding of his epilepsy as well.

Lee shows the readers that you don’t need to be cured of your illnesses in order to be valid and worthy. But in saying that, she doesn’t shy away from the difficulties of having an illness like epilepsy are either.

“I’ll keep it with me,” he’s saying, his arms extended.
“There’s room to stow it, sir.”
“I know. I’d rather have it with me is all.”
The proter surrenders and hands Percy his fiddle case, the only relic left him by his father, which he cuddles like he was concerned they’d never see each other again.

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She’s a fierce, stubborn creature when she wants to be, and I begrudgingly allow, it can be glorious.

felicity montague the gentlemans guide to vice and virtue TGMTVAV.pngI’m basically in love with Felicity and I’m so fucking glad we get a book all about her next!

She’s incredibly sure of herself and knows her worth. She doesn’t try to fit into the box society forces upon her, instead choosing to quietly fight against it.

“I’ve been studying medicine.”
“Medicine? Since when have you been interested in medicine?”
“Since my whole life.”
“Where do you learn about medicine?”
“I read. I’ve been stripping the covers off amatory novels and swapping them with medical textbooks for years so Father wouldn’t find out. He’d rather I read those trampy Eliza Haywoods than study almanacs on surgery and anatomy.”
I burst out laughing. “Feli, you glorious little shit. That’s the most devious thing I’ve heard.”

Felicity knows what she wants. She is adamant on getting an education regardless of how inappropriate it is for women to learn what men do, even if it means teaching herself.

If it wasn’t for Felicity having taught herself medicine, Monty, Percy and herself may not have survived the Tour.

“What’s that face for?”
“What face?”
“You look put ot.”
“Just thinking about all that blood.” I nearly shudder. “Doesn’t it make you a bit squeamish?”
“Ladies haven’t the luxury of being squeamish about blood,” she replies, and Percy and I go fantastically red in unison.

A good majority of the most iconic lines in the book are said by Felicity. She’s no-nonsense, she’ll cut you down if she feels you need it and she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty either.

“Dear God, Felicity Montague, are you sewing yourself shut?”
Felicity looks up, innocent as a schoolgirl. She’s got the bloody cravat unwrapped from her arm, sleeve pushed up, and that wicked needle buried in her own arm around the gash left by the splinter—already sewn half shut while Percy and I were distracted. “What? It needs to be done and neither of you knows how.” She dips the needle out and pulls tight so that the ripped edges of her skin meet. I slump backward against the cannon to keep from keeling over in earnest. “See if you can find Henry a couch before he’s overcome,” she says to Percy, though he’s looking nearly as horrified.
After two more neat stitches, she knots off the thread and cuts it with her teeth, then gives her embroidery an examination, looking pleased as Punch. “I’ve never actually done that on a person before.” She glances up at us—Percy looking very obviously away and me swooning against the artillery.
And rolls her eyes. “Men are such babies.”

I MEAN, HOW FUCKING BADASS IS THAT????? 

Felicity follows close behind him, her surgical kit rewrapped and clutched close to her chest the way some girls might cling to a favorite doll.

“I think I’ve been shot.”
“You have not been shot.” Felicity pulls the oars into the boat long enough to peel my fingers away from my head. Her face goes pale, then she presses my hand back where it was. “Fine you’ve been shot.”

The relationship between Monty and Felicity is a super realistic representation of sibling relationships.
They get on each others’ nerves, they kind of hate each other, they give each other shit constantly. When it comes down to it though, they’ll protect each other fiercely and at the heart of their relationship they do truly love each other. 

“That stitching of mine is rather impressive.”
“I’d say you’re quite good at this physician business as a whole.”
She looks up from packing her kit, eyes narrowing. “What are you doing? Oh no, are you trying to get along with me? Do we have to get along now?”
“What? No. Of course not.”
“Thank God.”
“Get along. Don’t be absurd.”

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Sunrise is a spilled glass of wine across the horizon, stars fading back into imaginary things.

Mackenzie Lee’s writing was brilliant for me. She balanced beautiful prose with hilarious dialogue incredibly well. Her characters were completely fleshed out, I never was left feeling like they acted out of character. She managed to have gut-wrenching scenes but it never felt heavy thanks to the comedic parts of the story as well as Monty’s internal monologue.
It just takes looking at the number of tabs I used to see how much I abso-bloody-lutely loved this book! 

I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a m/m romance, want to dip their toes into historical fiction, and are just looking for a good fucking time.

There is sky all the way to the horizon.
And what a sky it is.

5 Clouds

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7 thoughts on “Book Review // The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue – A Grand Tour of Mischief and Mayhem

  1. First of all, I NEED TO READ THIS BOOK!! You’re probably the 7th person I follow to state this… I should really start listening! It’s on my TBR! I swear!!
    Secondly, I understand COMPLETELY what you mean when you say you write for your quotes!! I always have these quotes that I’ve highlighted and loved, but then I go to write my review and I can’t think of how to get them in there! .. Maybe I should just give up trying to piece them INTO the review and just write the review and at the end say “and here are the quotes that I loved. You will read them now AND YOU WILL LIKE IT!!” 😂😂

    Liked by 1 person

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