"It's only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away." —Bee Gees
I've read some YA books as well as books with queer characters, and historical fiction is among my favorite genres. I've read a few queer YA books and at least one book which might be considered historical YA, but The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue marks my first queer YA historical novel. And what an entertaining one it is.
It starts out with the main character Henry Montague (nicknamed Monty by his nearest and dearest), an 18-year-old bisexual English nobleman in the 1700s, embarking on an extended trip to Europe with his younger sister Felicity and his childhood best friend Percy, who he's also lately been pining for. It's full of YA romance tropes (the author herself calls it a 'tropey adventure novel' in her end note), but it's done well and is precisely what one would expect coming in. What I didn't expect was that the characters' journey through Europe is not exactly a light and merry road trip but an action-filled adventure complete with highway robbery, pirates in the high seas and a central plot which steers the book towards fantasy territory. It's practically calling to be made into a movie.
All of these hot-button topics make the book seem rather anachronistic although the author based them on actual history. The language itself seems a bit uneven and sometimes I feel it slips into modern expressions. But did I mention it's fun? At times it's serious and thought-provoking yet doesn't lose its underlying charm of being delightful, hilarious and overall rather silly. Mostly it's fun—so fun I didn't really want Monty and Percy's story to end.