Book Review: The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue

5 out of 5 stars!

Format: Kindle - YA historical fiction - Goodreads Summary:

"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."

*** SPOILERS AHEAD ***

Gah, I don't know WHY it's taken me so long to get to review. It was absolutely my favorite read this year. I have a major crush on Mackenzi Lee now, and I want to emulate everything she does on paper. Monty was a well-developed, believable character whose lifestyle (bisexual, affluent teen male living in 1700s Europe) was the perfect set up for juicy conflict.

He's crushing on his best friend, dealing with an abusive father, and trying to navigate his heart as well as the world. On a Grand Tour, things always go wrong as good road trip stories do, but the frustrating turn of events made sense because of who Monty is. It totally worked for his character, and the time period, even though I'd love for the things to work out for an MC just ONCE!

The writing style was the best I've seen in YA in a while (still drooling over it). The book was an easy read but still thought-provoking. It flowed smoothly, and Lee expertly avoided the repetitive phrases and over-formatting which usually drives me nuts. The characters were all fantastic and real, and the conflict wasn't just about Monty running amok (though that was lots of it). It was also about the characters interacting with their environment. Which for YA, goes a lot farther than bickering conflict between two characters. 

My one critique would be about the stakes. The entire kickoff of the last two acts is to do with saving Percy. I get that Monty loved him and didn't want to see him institutionalized, but it almost didn't seem enough. We're reminded of these stakes throughout the book, and each time, I kept waiting for a bigger, better WHY. Nothing against Percy, he's a charming lad, but I wanted more. He's epileptic, so I guess I've been spoiled by the 21st century, where the nature Percy's diagnosis isn't a life or death situation. In the book, cost of not going on this crazy adventure wasn't death for Percy, but separation from Percy. And that kind of fell flat for me.

Overall, I'd recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It's got laughs, cries, heartache, super creepy alchemists, and PIRATES! As Lee once put it, "it's the big gay European road trip novel you never knew you needed."