My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a hilarious romp through the 1700’s. Monty is a well-off, yet rakish gentleman who is sent off of a Grand Tour of Europe with his best friend, Percy and his sister, Felicity. Three the manage to, of course, get into trouble and a wonderfully fun journey for the reader ensues. This light, humorous, historical fiction read is a must – even if you don’t think you’re normally a historical fiction person.
Monty is quite enamored with himself and unconcerned about the responsibility that his title infers that he should possess. He doesn’t think through his actions and gets in more trouble than the pretty face of his would lead you to believe. Despite that, and despite his absolute ineptitude, you can’t help but love him as a character. His shenanigans and lack of forethought throw the trio into a situation that they might not make it out of unscathed.
Percy, his best friend, is much more responsible and adds a perspective to the history that we might not think of otherwise. Although his father is a titled man, he fathered Percy with a woman of colour which gives readers the perspective of a man of mixed-race rather than the white-privilege that we see from Monty. Felicity is well-educated because she is stubborn and refuses to bow to the whims of society. She wants to study medicine, so she finds any book she can on the subject and devours it. Felicity’s character also allows readers to see the position of a woman in those times, to realize how far we have come in the treatment of woman, or just anyone who is not a Caucasian male, their equality, and how far we still have to go on all accounts.
I have noticed that some people find the story to be slow, which is not quite how I would describe it. The first few chapters might be tough to get into as it is not immediately the energy of a swashbuckling pirate adventure or high stakes battle in space, but it does find its stride. The journey the reader is taken on is highly enjoyable and certainly worth the slower early build up. Plus the flirting is precious and I want to believe that it is a historically accurate portrayal of a person from that time period.
Mackenzie Lee does a wonderful job of taking us on a Grand Tour of Europe, despite the fact that most of us probably are not familiar with the continent in the 1700’s. She adds authentic little items into the story like cities, events or jobs that make the story feel real. It is clear that she did a lot of research and it makes her book shine.
I highly recommend this to young adult/teen readers even if they don’t feel that they are historical fiction readers. This story is fun and will give you all of the feels, although you may want to hit Monty upside the head a few times. This cute story will leave you wanting more of the trio and wondering if you are a historical fiction fan after all.