Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Book Review: "The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue" by Mackenzi Lee
In 18th century England, Henry "Monty" Montague has grown up a son of privilege. His father is a lord with a sizable estate and business concerns, all of which he expects Monty to take over sometime soon. The thing is, Monty is more than a bit of a rakea lovable one at times, but a rake nonethelessone who is far too fond of carousing, drinking, causing trouble, and finding himself in romantic situations with a large number of young men...and women. All of this and he's not quite 18 yet!
Monty and his best friend, Percy (with whom Monty is more than a little besotted) are scheduled to have one last hurraha Grand Tour of Europe, where they will see the sites and have their last gasps of fun, after which Monty will begin working alongside his father and becoming a responsible adult, while Percy will leave for law school in Holland. But Monty's father has tired of his son's escapades and sharply curtails what his son has planned, sending along a teacher/chaperone of sorts who will monitor all of their activities. And then his father makes the ultimate threatembarrass the family one more time, or get caught with another young man, and Monty will be disinherited.
"I'm too useless to make a life on my own, no matter how odious the one selected for me is. I'm well shackled to my father, no way to escape or want things for myself."
While at first his father's restrictions put a damper on the Grand Tour, it's not long before Monty and Percy begin to sneak away and enjoy themselves, under the watchful and jealous eye of Monty's younger sister, Felicity, who is supposed to be dropped off at finishing school along the way, despite her desire to pursue an educational and career path open only to men in those days.
"It occurs to me then that perhaps getting my little sister drunk and explaining why I screw boys is not the most responsible move on my part."
The more time Monty and Percy spend together, the more he wants to divulge his feelings for his best friend, despite his father's warnings. Yet one of the many things Monty is clumsy at is expressing his feelings, and more often than not, he winds up pushing Percy away, which is precisely what he doesn't want. One night, in a pique of jealousy and mischief, Monty makes a rash decision that puts the trio in danger, and sends them fleeing through France into Spain and Italy, throwing them into untenable situation after untenable situation, and forcing them to doand saythings they never thought they would.
Along the way they will reveal and uncover secrets about one another which may forever change their relationships and their futures, and Monty, in particular, will finally begin to understand what life is like for those not born into privilege. But will these discoveries be enough to free them from danger and change the course of their lives?
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue is both a rollicking adventure and an emotional book about finding what makes you happy (or whom), and accepting who you are and where your life should lead. It's also a book about coming to terms with the world around you and finally acting like an adult when you've been coddled and indulged for far too long to really understand the challenges other people face. Despite the setting and the characters' backgrounds, this is book with universal themes, and one that is just so wonderfully told that it made me laugh, smile, and, of course, get a little teary-eyed more than a few times, too.
I seriously loved this book. The characters Lee has created, from Monty, Percy, and Felicity to those they encounter along the way, are all fascinating in different ways. Monty does get annoying from time to time, and you wish he'd just do and say what he needs to, but I just couldn't get enough of him. I would love to see this as a movie, because I think these characters and their story would be as fascinating to watch unfold as it was to read. I can't wait to see what Lee comes up with next.
I really don't have any more words to express how I felt about this book. Maybe Meryl Streep can help.