The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (review)
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Reviewed by
Lee, Mackenzi The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. Tegen/HarperCollins, 2017[528p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-06-238280-1 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-06-238282-5 $9.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 9–12

Charming, flirtatious Henry Montague disdains propriety and drinks too much, but his worst sin, according to his father, is that he favors boys for his romantic trysts. In keeping with the traditions of the early eighteenth-century setting, his father sends him on a Grand Tour of Europe with a dour chaperone and a stern warning to get all of his bad habits out of his system. Henry has other ideas; accompanied by his sister, Felicity, and Percy, a family friend, Henry hopes the trip will end with his relationship with Percy, with whom he’s been hopelessly in love for years, finally consummated. There’s quite a bit of mooning and swooning on Henry’s part here, as well as the usual frustrating misreads and near misses that avid romance fans will recognize as the necessary obstacles to an overly quick coupling, but this also features familiar tropes of a young adult road-trip novel as well as a smattering of magic (framed in the medical belief in an alchemical panacea). Barbados-born Percy’s dark skin and epilepsy present problems, solutions, and new goals as the teens escape highwaymen and their chaperone, run from French nobles who wish to kill them for an item Henry has stolen, and are aided by Mediterranean pirates. In each instance, Henry’s bumbling mistakes lend excitement before the proceedings turn out for the good, and of course, a happy ending to this over-the-top adventure means lots of quivering passion as boy finally gets boy. An author’s note gives historical background on the Grand Tour, politics, epilepsy, race relations, and queer culture, lending an air of “why not?” to this energetic, endearingly romantic historical fantasy.

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