The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee arrived in my OwlCrate, a gift from friends who know I love reading Young Adult (YA) novels.

A charming illustrated note from the author accompanied the book:

…I wrote this book about a queer English lord (who makes bad choices), his biracial bff (who he is low-key in love with), and his bookish sister (who is a boss) because I am obsessed with tropey adventure stories…

Who doesn’t want an 18th century gay European roadtrip novel? (c’mon.); Why aren’t more historical books funny?! (I hope you think this book is funny); I love Europe (and travel) (and took my own Grand Tour in college); History is bae (and not boring); I wanted to write about pirates and highwaymen and alchemy and Venice and opera and tombs full of skulls…

Combine that message with the months of buzz surrounding this novel before publication, and you can understand why I was hooked from page one.

The story begins, “On the morning we are to leave for our Grant 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.”

Mackenzi’s novel has everything you could hope for in a multicultural adventure-romance: complex characters, a fast-paced plot, humor, dastardly antagonists, sibling rivalry, and a mystery. Don’t let the humor fool you. Although the protagonist, Henry “Monty” Montague comes across as shallow in the initial chapters, the author masterfully reveals the reasons for his rakish behavior throughout the 500-page adventure, and you realize there’s more to Monty than you thought.

Other reasons to love this book: (1) Monty’s sister, Felicity, is witty, intelligent, resourceful, calm in the face of chaos, and will make a brilliant physician if anyone is willing to look past her gender and give her a chance. (2) Percy is a fascinating character, whose obvious affection and admiration for Monty makes readers think, at least initially, “why?” You’ll have fun finding out.

The Author’s Note at the end of the book offers historical tidbits about the Grand Tour tradition (1660s to 1840s), politics in the 1720s, epilepsy, race relations in 18th century Europe, and queer culture. Don’t skip it.

The verdict: Buy it today! This book is a keeper. Especially if you’re an aspiring YA novelist.

And stay tuned for book #2, coming in October (a companion novel starring Felicity!): The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy.

Katherine Valdez loves to read and write about books, authors, and the writing journey. Read her no-spoilers movie and book reviews by following Type your email address in the Follow box and watch for the confirmation email to complete the process.

Say howdy to Katherine on Instagram and Twitter @KatValdezWriter, and on Facebook, Goodreads, and Medium.

OwlCrate note from author Mackenzi Lee

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