Review: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (Montague Siblings #1)

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This is so, so far outside of what I usually read. I’m not much for romance, I mostly avoid YA. I’m not averse to historical fiction, but I still don’t read it very often. Yet I’m glad I picked it up because I have enjoyed it immensely.

The great tragic love story of Percy and me is neither great nor truly a love story, and is tragic only for its single-sidedness. It is also not an epic monolith that has plagued me since boyhood, as might be expected. Rather, it is simply the tale of how two people can be important to each other their whole lives, and then, one morning, quite without meaning to, one of them wakes to find that importance has been magnified into a sudden and intense desire to put his tongue in the other’s mouth.

I didn’t think I would, at first. It started off well enough, the first few chapters were incredibly engaging. But by the middle of the Paris part, Monty and his self-absorbed obliviousness (it’s written in first person) started to seriously grate on my nerves. Usually, this is where things start going sour and snowball until I start hating a book. Except…when the tour turns into an adventure, with each reveal about his past, each time he’s called out on his assholery, with each moment where he shows that he cares for Percy and his sister Felicity, I began to like him more and more again. And he’s quite funny, too. The characters are easily the highlight of the novel. The hot mess that is Monty, strong-willed Felicity, kind-hearted Percy. I loved them all.

The romance…there’s a lot of angst, which is expected given the ages of the characters, and it’s not the fastest or the most straightforward – I can see how it could be frustrating – but when it does happen, it’s very very sweet. And, for me, completely worth it. And while it’s rather central to the book, it’s not the only thing that’s going on.

Because what seems at the beginning to be a boring, unfun trip hindered by their chaperone quickly devolves into a fast-paced adventure when Monty, in a fit of pique, steals an item from a powerful man. An item that turns out to be more important than he thought. There’s higwaymen, pirates, secret plots, and so much more.

And despite it being a quick, easy read (which is why I started it!), it deals with some pretty heavy themes as well. Monty has an abusive father. Percy is biracial and has to deal with both racism and ableism because of his illness (also, not wanting to be cured, just accepted? Rare). Both of them are queer. Felicity has some ambitions of her own she can’t fulfill because it’s not an accepted path for women to take. Inclusive, yet in a realistic way.

Very tempted to preorder the sequel.

Enjoyment: 4/5
Execution: 4.5/5

Recommended to: those wanting historical fiction with realistic representation, romance fans
Not recommended to: people who don’t like drawn-out romance and angst, or those who dislike highborn characters

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