Book: THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE
Author: Mackenzi Lee
Release Date: June 27, 2017
TW: Physical abuse, mental abuse, substance abuse, PTSD, blood.
Rep: Bisexual, asexual, biracial, epilepsy, HoH, anxiety.
I’m going to be completely honest: I never actually intended to read THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE. The ARC was offered to me twice and both times I passed them up. Of course, I’m kicking myself for that now, but after hearing friends rave about it in a group chat, I caught the fever to read it and Mason was kind enough to loan me their copy.
Listen, I don’t like historical YA. I just don’t. Mostly because it’s never done very well and it’s, well, very straight and white. However, Lee does a fantastic job at creating a story that is both true to the time and also super Queer. This story made me scream “I’m living!” several times.
Monty is our protagonist and you will spend half the book wanting to strangle him and the other half wanting to coddle him while telling him he’s a good boy. Seriously, Monty feels like your best friend that you love with everything in your being but makes you feel exhausted after just an hour of being with them. Monty is not perfect which makes him so relatable- he has terrible flaws, a very privileged attitude, but once you understand his character you understand that most of his main issues are his idea of coping mechanisms to deal with a society and a father who will not let him love who he wants.
Then there is Percy who is an actual cinnamon role. When his illness is first introduced, I was worried about how Lee was going to handle it especially when we get into the plot of the book. But Percy is adamant that even though he is sick, he isn’t broken. His life isn’t less because of his sickness and I was so happy to see that in this book. He’s also the perfect person to stand up to Monty, to give him a little shake and show him what privilege he has.
Felicity is Monty’s sister and my newly adopted child. She is the actual “get shit done” character in this book and while the word “asexual” isn’t used, it’s very, very clear that she is. She’s also extremely smart and manipulative, using her place in society as a woman to thwart men who mistake her for someone weak.
Percy, Monty, and Felicity just fit together. In a lot of stories, the third character feels very much like a third wheel that’s only there to help the other two along and disappears when not needed, but Lee took care in showing the relationship between Felicity and Monty and the friendship between Percy and Felicity.
This is also the sweetest slow burn I’ve ever read. While we know right from the start that Monty is in love with Percy, Lee takes the time to really build the relationship between Monty and Percy so that the ending is just that much sweeter. So many books are tell us that the two best friends are in love but Lee shows us that they are.
I also loved that Lee didn’t shy away from talking about the racial issues Percy and the pirates faced as PoC. This wasn’t a barely touched topic- there are scenes on scenes on scenes where this is addressed. The one that stuck with me most was when Monty “saves” the pirates and then is baffled when they aren’t more thankful. I loved that Scipio told Monty exactly how he felt and that it wasn’t right or fair that someone else should get to claim his ship because he was African. Monty is also continuously called out on his privilege which was amazing to see on page.
Without giving too much away, I cried at the end. It takes a lot to make me cry over a book. And they were happy tears.
If you have been hesitant about pre-ordering this book… why? Just do it. You won’t regret it.