– goodreads –
As soon as I finished The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, I knew I am reading the sequel on release. Long story short, it ended up in an impromptu book club/buddy read with a few other blogger friends and me finishing it in a day. It’s just that good.
Everyone has heard stories of women like us—cautionary tales, morality plays, warnings of what will befall you if you are a girl too wild for the world, a girl who asks too many questions or wants too much. If you set off into the world alone. Everyone has heard stories of women like us, and now we will make more of them.
Felicity Montague wants to be a doctor more than anything else. But living in a time when women weren’t allowed to study medicine, when the closest they could come was a midwife or a herbalist or a nurse, when passion and assertiveness are seen as hysteria and interest in medicine a phase that will pass when they marry…well. It certainly doesn’t make things simple. After her every attempt to get into medical school ends in disaster, she discovers a doctor she idolises is marrying her estranged childhood friend, and things get interesting.
I found Felicity to be an incredibly relatable character. She’s stubborn, smart, but also prickly, a bit of an awkward dork (gods, some moments were so painful to read as someone who hates second-hand embarrassement) with some prejudices towards femininity, and a talent to get into disasters equalling her brother’s. By no means a perfect person and great precisely because of it. Many books written in first person have trouble with either making the protagonist a bland personality-less observer or reader insert or the only interesting person in the book. Not so here. The secondary characters are just as excellent. Sim, the Muslim lady pirate. Johanna, Felicity’s more feminine friend interested in both naturalism and parties. And of course, Monty and Percy who need no introduction.
Your beauty is not a tax you are required to pay to take up space in this world, I remind myself, and my hand flits unconsciously to my pocket where my list is still tucked. You deserve to be here.
It’s a fairly “girl power” kind of book and that’s one of the things that makes it so wonderful. Yes, it’s primarily a fun, adorable, heartwarming, easy to read adventure story. And sure, some would call it message-heavy. And the themes do repeat a lot. But it’s so much more than that and it also gets so many things right. Female friendships and that femininity isn’t inherently inferior even though society makes choosing one path easier than the other. Asexuality. Historically accurate representation in general (read the author’s note!). This combined with the loveliness of the prose in general and I ended up highlighting so much.
Recommended to: historical fantasy fans, anyone looking for asexual protagonists, those desperately in need of a lighter read
Not recommended to: anyone not interested in the concept, people who hate joy, fans of magic-heavy books
P.S. The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky, the Percy and Monty short story one got with the preorder is such an adorable and fun little tale. Featuring pretty writing, lots of awkwardness, talking about feelings, and Monty’s incredible talent for screwing things up. If you can read it, please do.