Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue 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.

RATING: ★★☆☆☆

Welcome to another episode of, “Mila Doesn’t Get Why This Book Has Such a Fricking High Rating!” today it comes in the buddy read version with the lovelies Victoria and BookishBoy!


So, I have to admit I don’t think I heard about this book before Victoria told me to buddy read it (thanks to college I have no clue on what’s been going on for the last three months in the bookish world) but I understand it’s become quite hyped and popular, and so far all the reviews I’ve seen are mostly four/five stars with very few negative ones. However, despite this promising approval from the Goodreads community, my experience with The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue was not so… let’s say, pleasant. 

The best way I can describe this book is like this:

You know those movies in which you have like, a cool assassins organization or spies or whatever. And there are super cool and capable people who have basically trained all of their lives to get to where they are, but for some God-forsaken twist of Hollywood magic they are not the main characters of the story, but rather a pasty, inconsequential average dude with no particular set of skills or ambition, maybe with some daddy issues (like, his father abandoned him when he was six but then turns out his father was a really famous spy and now the organization is after him because they want his super-awesome genes or shit) and the story is told from his boring, ignorant and rather annoying point of view. And even though the story is not so bad, you wonder why the hell was this bland-oatmeal of a man the main character and not one of the super fucking awesome secondary ones that could totally kick the guy’s ass.

Throw in some historical fiction stuff and you’ll have The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue.

Henry is our main character, he’s a young man with an abusive father who is going on a grand Tour throughout the continent with his best friend and secret crush, Percy a biracial that is going away for Law School at the end of the Tour and Felicity, Henry’s sister (who mutually hate each other).

Basically my main issue with this book was that the narration came from Henry, and he was just an unlikeable and boring character to read about. I was conflicted about this, because he does have a horrible relationship with his father, he beats him, calls him useless and Henry has endured this kind of abuse since he was a child. I felt bad for him, I really did and it’s not like I found his characterization to be unrealistic; it’s just that for all he’s been through it didn’t change the fact that he was also horrible, self-centered, selfish and incapable of caring about anyone without worrying about himself first and thisdoesn’t change at the end of the novel; if at least a bit toned down, he’s still the same unsavory fellow that started the novel.

”Oh, how tragic, you have to run an estate and be lord and have a good, rich, cozy life on your own terms.” 

All the time I was reading, I couldn’t stop being frustrated at him. It was fuck up after fuck up, and what bothered me the most was that he didn’t even care that the horrible things he did would affect the people around him most, and after he did all of those things he then had the nerve to be mad at them for HIM ruining things.

”You can behave the way you do and then be surprised when someone tells you so.”


His love for Percy was sweet, although he hurt him so SO much I honestly believe Percy could do better. I’m also saddened that what we know of him is all through Henry’s eyes, and he mostly focuses on how hot he is, but now that I’ve finished reading I realize that I know little of him other than a few anecdotes of them together and Percy’s illness.

He folds his arms. “So which is it-do you want me to be well to keep me from an asylum, or so you don’t have to deal with me being ill?”
“Does it matter?”

Who is Percy? What does he want other than to be free and happy with Percy? Now that I think about it, as cute as their chemistry was, we don’t really see Percy beyond how Henry sees him, and that is based on his attraction to him and how his illness affects Monty in how he views their relationship and how it serves him for his character development. Percy is hardly seen beyond his role as a token character for this story and Monty… and that sucks.

”This isn’t about us.”
“It’s always going to be about us.”
“No, you want this to be about you. You care about what happens to me because of what that would mean for you. You are the only thing that matters to you.


Felicity is a bit more well-rounded character, with her passion for medicine and strong personality but since the story is narrated by Monty and he can hardly think of anyone but himself, I really can’t say that I know her that much. That’s a shame because they were the most interesting characters and would have been much more fun as narrators.

”Do you know how horrid it feels to watch my brother get tossed out of the best boarding school in England, then get to travel the Continent as a reward, while I’m stuck behind, not permitted to study the same things or read the same books or even visit the same places while we’re abroad, just because I had the bad luck to be born a girl?”

The story is a bit of a mess, to be honest. It’s like nothing happens up until eighty percent of the story, and by that time I honestly couldn’t give a fuck. I mean sure, it had potential, but it was just Monty screwing things up, usually almost getting everybody killed, then he getting mad at them because they are not happy about almost dying because of him. Then a cure-all appears that could help Percy from his epilepsy even though he says over and over how he doesn’t want it, and Monty then gets mad because… Percy should have said no harder before he decided to ignore him and look for a cure because he couldn’t deal with Percy’s illness?

I don’t know. Monty does have a bit of character development at the end but not much and it’s the kind of development in which some things are either ignored or forgotten and it’s not so much development as it is convenient writing.

As for diversity, the book does have some interesting aspects, Monty is bisexual, his sister might be asexual and Percy is a black gay man with epilepsy. But… I don’t know, I love when a book is not a SJM and doesn’t write heteronormative whiteness, but I wouldn’t say the diversity in the book is an argument to read this book, especially considering how Monty is dangerously close to the “promiscuous bisexual” trope, and by trope I mean he freaking is. What the Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue will teach is some very obvious things about sexism, ableism and racism that you can’t possibly not know, unless you are Monty himself. Other than that? Not much, really. I see people recommending it because it’s such a diverse read but I don’t think this is something you can use to cover up the fact of having a boring story.

I really don’t know what to say, minus Victoria all of my Goodreads friends (and it seems all of goodreads!) have enjoyed the story, I guess we were just the odd ones out? Give it try! I hope you guys enjoy it better than we did.

No comments:

Post a Comment