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The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

21 Feb

518zN4ZSZiL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_Rapscallion? Rogue? Rebel Lord Henry “Monty” Montague does not accept his father’s plan for his life and only seems to muck everything up even when he tries. He’s embarked on a grand tour of Europe to be his last escapade before he’s supposed to settle down into life under his father’s thumb. Accompanying him is his sister, Felicity, who is journeying to finishing school, Percy, his best friend who has a secret, and an old nursemaid, ahem, proper chaperone. However, when they visit France, rascal Monty lands them in hot water when he makes a series of serious but hilarious blunders and causes the Duke of Bourbon to pursue them across France in search of a stolen item.

This is a delightfully fun historical adventure with brief moments of seriousness where it confronts societal norms in favor of modern ideas like feminism, anti-racism, and LGBTQ rights. It does not settle too deeply in the time period, but rests lightly on the surface and blends a few elements of fantasy into the tale. It seems to embrace a more modern teenage point of view, but that makes Monty, Percy, and Felicity stand out all the more from the typical historical behavior.

Despite Monty’s penchant for mischief, his impish personality is almost impossible not to like. He tries desperately to please his father, but since nothing does, his antics never cease and his self-loathing and depression continue. He’s long been in love with his best friend, Percy, but unable to act upon it for many reasons. Their trip and subsequent catastrophes shows Monty that his devil-may-care attitude is actually tiresome and hurtful to those around him. In being put down by his father for his homosexuality and wantonness, he relegates himself to immature responses, and never quite learns to grow up until he must for the safety of smarter, more sensible Percy and Felicity.

They are fun characters too. She and Percy are much more alike than Monty, but this is because Monty is too preoccupied with himself to notice others. Percy is the hardest to get to know, but his mild manner and thoughtful empathy give him a lot of wisdom, while Felicity is hot-headed, stubborn, and practical. Felicity hiding her reading material and sneaking around was hilarious, though I wonder how she is able to do this and not be taken advantage of for being female and alone. Don’t most girls her age have a ladies’ maid, or is it that since she’s going to the convent, she won’t need one anyway?

While I really enjoyed the romp through France, the escape with the boats, and the spat with the pirates, the bit where it went into fantasy was both enjoyable and slightly jarring from the story. Maybe I would have liked more descriptions of alchemy or just more lead in to this development rather than feeling like this part of the plot ran away with itself. Teens and adults alike will find this book appealing. It’s hard not to get very attached to the characters and want this to continue indefinitely because they’re so strongly written, but luckily the series resumes with Felicity’s book!

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