As my holiday book present this year, I received both the Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (fantasy 501 pages) and the Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (fantasy 442 pages) by Mackenzi Lee.
“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.”
This book is absolutely gay from the very first paragraph on the very first page, which is exactly why it was sent to me. I’ve been complaining rather vocally to some of my chat buddies that I am exhausted with the lack of happy gay stories for me to read or watch. This book is definitely gay and definitely happy.
The book addresses a variety of topics, including queer culture and racism, which was an interesting and modern look at our current world. We still have issues with sexism, racism, and inequality in a variety of ways. Women are still treated as less knowledgeable and less useful than men; people of different skin colors are still treated as “lesser”, and people with power and money still take full advantage of those without anything for their own personal gain. The book could be classified as historical fantasy but we’re still having the same problems today that were discussed hundreds of years ago. How is it that basic human decency is so hard for us to learn?
The main character, Monty, is a very bisexual man who enjoys the sexual portion of his vices. The book focuses a lot on his sexual attractions and sprinkles in healthy doses of his romantic attraction for Percy, but most of it is very sexual. In one of my chats concerning my reading of the book, I first described him by saying, “He’s a horny, drunk, college frat boy. I dislike him hugely.” He learns a lot and grows a lot during the course of this book.
I like Percy a lot better as a character because he’s calm, cool, loyal, smart, and tactful. I liked his portions of the story, where we get to see him through Monty’s eyes. The story is so well-written that it’s quite easy to see everything beautiful about Percy through Monty’s eyes. It frustrates me that people then and now will judge people based on the color of their skin and Percy’s darker skin color changes a lot about the story and the handling of each crisis by the three touring English youths.
I’m not quite sure how I feel about Felicity yet. It’s fairly clear that she’s probably asexual, especially given her distaste from the one intimate engagement she has during the story. But the way she deals with cutting people open and doing medical procedures leaves me feeling slightly uncomfortable. I’m not really sure that her emotions clearly translated through the text and her surgical interactions gave the feeling of her being very cold and callous. She obviously cares about Monty and Percy but her surgeon skills and encounters definitely made me unsettled and felt very emotionless. I suspect that will be a lot better during the second book, to which I believe she is the title character.
Overall, I’d probably rate this book a low three on my rating scale. It’s a good book with interesting characters and very well-written. I’m happy I own it, as it’s definitely a happy and super gay story, but there was a lot of sex and sexual interest in it, which really isn’t my thing. I am likely to reread this book in the future but probably not as frequently as some of the other books in my library.
Lee, Mackenzie. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. New York: Katherine Tegen Books, 2017.
Lee, Mackenzie. The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy. New York: Katherine Tegen Books, 2018.