The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
“It’s beginning to feel like he’s shuffling his way through the seven deadly sins, in ascending order of my favourites.“
I have returned after my month long hiatus! Between NaNo (which I failed), the holidays, and working on my printing press, I spaced off doing reviews for…quite a while. I am finally back though, and will try to keep up with at least biweekly reviews. Despite my not finding time to write reviews, my reading hasn’t slowed much so I have a fair number of books to do reviews on in the coming weeks. Now without further ado, I should get on with this week’s actual review.
Let me just start by acknowledging what a mouthful this title is. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a short book in comparison with its lengthy title, though perhaps it makes sense to have a long, grandiloquent title for a 1700s historical fiction novel. Although speaking of genres, while most of this book was very much within the realm of mostly realistic historical fiction, by the end it had ventured across genres into the realm of historical fantasy. I was surprised by this change of pace, but as a fantasy lover I can’t say I was disappointed.
I suspect this book is what one would call “character driven,” since to me it seemed that the plot careened wildly about, from a real-world travel friendship story to a fantasy adventure involving alchemical cure-alls and undead hearts. Perhaps because of this, this was one of the least predictable stories I’ve read in a long time. Just when I thought I’d figured out one twist, the plot would veer off in a new direction I hadn’t anticipated. Tying it all together were the three main characters, their various motives, fears, and secrets.
While not the main character of this book, by far my favorite of the bunch was Felicity, long suffering younger sister to our troubled narrator. I quite liked Monty (especially after he’d had some character growth) and could feel sympathy for his various plights during the book. I also quite liked Percy, who was a much needed voice of reason next to Monty. But Felicity…she’s a girl after my own heart. I am certainly no 1700s high borne lady, but I related to her more than almost any other character I’ve read. She’s a girl who has no time for the expectations of society, least of all marriage and house wifery, and is not afraid to tell you so.
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue was not what I expected going in, though to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what I did expect. In any case, I can’t complain about how the book turned out–in fact, I like it more for being a genre crossing adventure tale. It took a few chapters for me to get hooked, but once I was it was a fantastic roller coaster ride. The ending tied up nicely, nice enough to be a stand alone, but I’ve heard tell there’s a sequel featuring my favorite Lady Felicity as the narrator. I’ll be reading that, oh, immediately. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️