The gentleman's guide to vice and virtue
Lord Henry “Monty” Montague, young, handsome, and charming, has one last year of fun and freedom, before his father expects him to settle down and help run the family estate. Monty along with his best friend and secret crush Percy, are to have a Grand Tour of Europe. They are to drop Monty’s sister, Felicity, off at a finishing school along the way. Though bred to be a gentleman, Monty escapes these strictures by flinging himself into hedonistic pleasure, excessive drinking, bedding women and men, and flouting social expectations where he can. A small act of vengeance, stealing a trinket with no-seeming value, turns their journey from self-indulgent fun into a harrowing pursuit by the menacing Duke of Bourbon.
The reasons behind Monty and Percy’s actions and their characters are gradually revealed. While Monty has a good heart, he is shallow, self-centered, with little understanding of the privilege he possesses. All three characters grow in empathy for each other as they learn about the challenges each faces. But Monty especially experiences remarkable character growth over the course of the book.
Felicity is a strong and enjoyable character. Though her brother underestimates her, she continually exhibits agency (ability to act independently and make her own choices), and surprises him with her intelligence. For a deeper understanding of Felicity’s character you will need to read the sequel, A Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, which focuses on Felicity.
Increasingly, I have come to value intelligent, witty dialogue, and this book certainly delivers. This is in fact what I loved most about the book, its perceptive and extremely clever dialogue by the three protagonists, generating consistent chuckles.
I also liked the fact that this book explored sensitive topics, while still being a fun and exciting read. These issues included racism, domestic abuse, ableism, sexism, heterosexism and more.
This book set in the 1700’s delivers action, madcap adventure, along with an informed treatment of deeper issues. This title was a Stonewall Honor book award winner and Kirkus Prize Nominee. If you enjoy coming of age novels with depth and adventure – check this out.