Author: Mackenzi Lee
Publication Date: June 27, 2017
Page Length: 513 pages
My Rating: 5 / 5 stars
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.
This was unexpected. I was convinced that this was going to be a fun, lighthearted story and boy was I wrong. It’s still a fun story, but lighthearted? Not so much. I don’t know if it’s just ignorance on my part and misinterpreting the marketing for this book, but this is pretty dark stuff. Admittedly, it’s been a while since I’ve read YA, but in romance, you can usually tell when a story is going to be full of angst, or the tone of the story from the blurb. But, I think in this case, I really didn’t. GGTVAV is an adventure and a coming-of-age tale set in Europe during the 1700s.
On the morning we are to leave for our Grand Tour of the Continent, I wake in bed beside Percy. For a disorienting moment, it’s unclear whether we’ve slept together or simply slept together.
Monty is 18-years-old and is ready to embark on a Grand Tour across the Continent with his best friend, Percy. Monty has been kicked out of Eton and his father hopes that by sponsoring his tour, Monty will grow up and be deemed mature enough to learn how to run the family estate. Monty is reckless and passionate about having fun and doing whatever he wants. The one thing Monty has wanted and never voiced is that he is in love with Percy. Percy isn’t what one would expect from high society England. Percy is black. No matter than he’s English and grew up in a wealthy household with all he’s ever needed, most people during that time are less than kind towards him. Accompanying Monty and Percy on their tour is Monty’s younger sister, Felicity, and their chaperone of sorts, Mr. Lockwood.
This story takes many wild turns, none of which I was expected. It’s not simply a story of Monty, Percy, and Felicity traveling the cities and seeing the tourist sites. Perhaps at the beginning, but misfortune seems to hit the traveling crew quite fast after Monty does a very Monty thing, and the group is soon escaping one harrowing trial after another.
I do very much like the sense of adventure and a set goal the trio embark on (Mr. Lockwood is conveniently misplaced along the way). GGTVAV gives a lot of insight to how life might have been light for traveling companions, one being a disreputable son of a lord, one a black man, and one a girl.
Before starting this book, I think it would have been nice to have had some trigger warnings listed with the blurb? I did look afterward and couldn’t find mention of anything on the official listings of the book, so I was taken by surprise. Honestly, I just was not expecting this book to be what it was at all. Just for everyone’s awareness, trigger warnings for this book includes ableism, domestic abuse, homophobia, and racism. In turn, this book is much darker than I anticipated? But, I did appreciate that everything was challenged along the way by other characters and addressed almost immediately when something came up. I did like how PTSD and chronic illness were addressed and presented in this book. There is a moment where it seemed like chronic illness would have a magical cure-all, but the author manages to address this appropriately, I think.
Everything will always be second to Percy.
The journey truly is fun. It never gets dull, because we get taken from scene to scene pretty quickly. The book, judging by the page length, seems daunting at first, but it’s easy to get sucked into the story. We only ever see the story from Monty’s point-of-view, so some aspects can be skewed. However, we do see Monty grow as person, and mature throughout this book. His love for Percy is so adorable and seemingly unrequited, but it melts my heart. Percy, bless his heart, puts up with a lot of Monty’s immaturity and his spoiled, privileged, lifestyle. Monty drinks and says whatever he likes, and Percy knows that he does not have the same privilege to do so as Monty does. Percy is a kind, and very, very patient soul. I love Monty and Percy together. They are small cinnamon rolls made up of pent-up sexual frustration and miscommunication. They are adorable and must be protected at all costs.
Felicity, on the other hand, needs no protection. This girl has got everything under control. I only wish to be half as knowledgable and as fierce as Felicity. She even sews her own wound back together, in a very what, like it’s hard? moment. I absolutely cannot wait to read her story in the next book! There’s also suggestion that Felicity is somewhere on the ace spectrum, so I’ll be very glad to see it confirmed in book two as well. Also, pirates!
Sidenote, but I do find the GGTVAV title quite unfortunate. The full title is, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, and it’s something I cannot ever get correct without looking at the title while I type or say it. I keep getting it confused with the musical, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, otherwise known as GGLAM, which officially opened on Broadway in 2013. They are nothing alike in nature, except for the similar titles and the fact that the lead character is also called Monty. Hence, why every time Monty is mentioned in this book, I get this song playing in my head. Maybe that’s why I was initially under the impression that GGTVAV was going to be more lighthearted than it turned out to be.
Overall, I really did love this book and the characters. It really did feel like traveling through Europe on an epic journey. I really don’t read historical fiction all that much, and to have a LGBT YA historical fic? This has been perfect. This book doesn’t shy away from perhaps what some may find uncomfortable topics in 1700s Europe since the story isn’t centered simply around white, straight high society boys. Instead, the author has managed to write a brilliant book with diversity and a sense of what life might have been like for two boys simply in love, what it means to be a black boy in the upper echelons of English society, and what it means to be a girl who doesn’t want to go to finishing school and wants to study medicine. GGTVAV is a wonderful book and I highly recommend checking this book out!!
***I received a copy of this ARC at TLA from HarperCollins***