the gentlemans guide to vice and virtue

Synopsis:

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.

I had so, so much fun reading this book.
It’s the sort of tropey story that makes you giggle and groan and gasp and just plain out have a really good time. It’s the 18th century, there are snobby politicians, debauchery, scandals, pirates and the most lovable characters you could ever meet.
The main trio—Monty, Percy and Felicity—are dorks and I wish I could carry them around in my pocket. I really enjoyed their wits and banter and I am positively in love with all of them.
Monty does everything wrong; from finding himself sans clothes in a strange place to disclosing very important information at a very wrong time, you’d expect him to be the most annoying person in existence. But nope. He is so realistic, complex and an adorable lost puppy. Percy is another pupper, but with a little more sense than Monty (not much more, though), and through Monty’s eyes he pretty much became an effigy bathed in golden light in my mind. And dear Lord, Felicity is who I strive to be in all aspects of my life. I just want to gather them up into a giant group hug.
I’ve always wanted to go backpacking, but I must confess that my desire to do so multiplied tenfold after reading this book. There was always something happening, never a dull moment. I, too, want to go on unplanned and spontaneous adventures across Europe (although… I could go without the whole thing with the Duke…and being shot at…and almost dying…BUT STILL). Bring forth all the daring escapades and thrilling experiences!
I’ve also acquired this very pressing desire to dress as a pirate and walk around dragging a cannon or something behind me.
But aaaaanyway, I also appreciated that the author didn’t forget the social-political aspects of the time. I’m tired of reading historical fiction where the difficulties women, people of color and any other non-cishet person dealt with are just overlooked for the purpose of making the story “more enjoyable.” No! Show us the struggles! The revolts! Give me realistic people dealing with real, complicated issues.

Basically, this book is a queer, multiracial 18th century adventure story, with aro/ace representation,  tough women, pirates, highwaymen, in depth character development and a whole lotta FUN.
 Thank you, Mackenzie Lee, for showing us how it’s done. Five stars!

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