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Words of a Bibliophile

"It's only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away." —Bee Gees

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue (Montague Siblings #1) by Mackenzi Lee

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue - Mackenzi Lee, Christian Coulson

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.


Our gentleman Monty is less of a true gentleman at first and more of a self-centered brat, but his heart is in the right place and he gets a chance to become a better person. Some reviews that I've seen find his selfishness and lack of sensitivity less than endearing, but even a rich lord who wants for nothing has his share of problems. Barely out of his teens, Monty has been physically and emotionally abused by his father for being gay, likely suffers from some form of alcoholism, and entertains suicidal thoughts on top of that. Aside from queer culture, other social issues are presented through the character of Percy, a mixed-race young man raised in an upper-class English household (another burden of his is that he secretly suffers from epilepsy, which is still grossly misunderstood and stigmatized during the era), and Felicity, a smart and feisty 15-year-old whose opportunities in life are limited for simply being a girl.

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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.