Monday, June 26, 2017

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

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An unforgettable tale of two friends on their Grand Tour of 18th-century Europe who stumble upon a magical artifact that leads them from Paris to Venice in a dangerous manhunt, fighting pirates, highwaymen, and their feelings for each other along the way.

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.

Witty, romantic, and intriguing at every turn, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a sumptuous romp that explores the undeniably fine lines between friendship and love.

Source: advance e-galley provided in exchange for an honest review

I'd seen several people commenting about The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue. There was something infectious about their enthusiasm for it that made me want to be in on it, too. 

Folks, I started laughing right away. Monty, who's a rake through and through has two things I love in any hero: dry humour and quick wit. He's been kicked out of school because he was caught messing around with another boy in an unbecoming way. Since he's always getting into trouble you deduce rather quickly that he's kind of a hot mess. But a hot mess that you can't help but love and he knows it. All he has to do is employ his looks, charm and those freaking dimples to worm his way out of (or into) a situation. Unfortunately, that charm doesn't work on his stern father who has found him to be so utterly exasperating and embarrassing. He arranges for him to go on a tour of Europe hoping that it will instill some culture and responsibility in him before he fully immerses himself in the family business upon his return home. Joining him on this journey is his best friend and as it turns out, unrequited love, Percy. They've known each other since they were kids and are thick as thieves, except that Percy's the level-headed one while Monty constantly needs to be reigned in. It's a friendship that has provided both of them the stability they need. Going on tour together is their bittersweet last hurrah before becoming serious adults. It's also important to Monty to have these final few months with Percy before they go their separate ways. 

I was a chapter in when I declared my undying love for this book. Monty won my heart immediately and Percy is so sweet and patient that he deserves a medal. The action takes place almost instantly because Monty can't help but get himself in hot water. This latest debacle though brings tension between him and Percy. Lee effectively shows us Monty's anguish over his love for Percy and him not wanting to ruin what he has with his best friend. I also like how she gradually has Monty opening up about the ugly bits in his life, particularly his hostile relationship with his father which deepens your perspective of him. His character arc and development from one of self-indulgence to maturity is my favourite aspect of this story. Close to that are the various "almost" moments between him and Percy which are written so well, giving you the sense of deep longing, lust and affection. Little things like him touching his ring finger to Percy's lips are so tender and secretive - I felt myself blush at that brief moment of contact. There's also a spectacular scene that takes place at the opera. I mean it, it's a beautiful, hold-your-breath scene! A lovely surprise that comes to light is his sister, Felicity who is forced to accompany them on their tour. Always underestimated or ignored by her family, she's the one who keeps things real. 

Sometimes the characters behaved so convincingly that I forgot that they're just teenagers.Yet they prove their mettle. Lee throws them into various situations from scandalous to perilous, and also introduces other themes relevant to this time period like prejudice, slavery, higher education and sexism, all of which play significant roles in their exploits. It's history come alive as she takes us on a jaunt through 18th century Europe, through the eyes of three different individuals whose personal stories colour their world views. 

I think I've made it clear that I can gush about GGVV all day. There's so much more I want to discuss but that would mean spoilery and I don't want to do that. Just know that an adventure awaits and you don't want to miss it! And you guys, Lee is working on a companion spin-off, The Ladies Guide to Petticoats and Piracy. I'm ridiculously over the moon about this news!

~ Bel

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