One of my final reads for 2018 was The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee. I had so many hang-ups about reading this book. People complained about the characters being shallow, whiny, poorly written, and the plot being generic.
I found it to be anything but that! Here is the synopsis from good old Goodreads.
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.
Okay so that is a bit to unpack. There are so many great things happening in this book. Monty starts out as this whiny, arrogant, and incredibly insecure person. He is held down by his family, dealing with his identity as a gay man in a time where it was illegal to be gay, and hardest of all coming to terms with physical trauma. It speaks volumes in a very subtle and manageable way.
All of these hard topics come together in a thorough and fun romp through history, Europe, and the lives of three would-be adults. The hard topics are managed and discussed but the story is still so enjoyable. It did not feel overly cliche even though it really should have.
I read the book in a hurry because I just could not set it down and it opened my eyes to how few LGBTQ+ books I have read. That is something that definitely needs corrected. Mackenzie Lee is a female author writing from the perspective of a gay man and that worried me, but ultimately I think she did a fine job. The book was even nominated for a Stonewall Honor Award. Here is to hoping that the sequel lives up to the first!
Five out of five stars Mackenzie Lee!