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Book review: 'The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue' is an entertaining road trip through historical Europe

Posted June 21

"A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE," by Mackenzi Lee, Katherine Tegen Books, $18.99, 528 pages (f) (ages 13 and up)

"A Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue," the sophomore novel for author Mackenzi Lee, is everything a reader never knew historical fiction could be, full of wit, adventure, acceptable anachronisms and characters one would gladly tag along with on a tour of Europe.

When Henry Montague, aka Monty, starts out on his obligatory tour of the European continent with his best friend Percy and annoying little sister Felicity, he imagines a year full of parties, intrigue and a dash of mischief. Mr. Lockheart, the man his father employs to keep an eye on the teens, puts an end to all of Monty's plans.

Frustrated, Monty succumbs to the same actions that got him kicked out of Eton, and sends his tour in a quick spiral back toward home. As fate would have it, a stolen magical artifact, some highwaymen and a little luck (good and bad) divert the three teens' paths on an 18th-century adventure to remember.

Lee's research was thorough and the historical facts won't be overlooked, but the refreshing voice and pleasing, well-placed anachronisms set this novel apart from its predecessors.

Right away, Lee submerges the reader into Monty's delightfully witty and vulnerable head, providing glimpses into his past and future and just the right amount of "will they/won't they" tension between him and Percy.

Monty is the character who says things that make you cringe, but one keeps reading and rooting for those moments when he can outgrow his past abuse and discover himself and how to exist in such a restricting time period.

Felicity is a secondary character who steals the show and is well-deserving of her upcoming sequel, "A Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy" that was announced Monday on Publisher's Weekly. She's a female who sneaks medical journals at the dinner table and saves the day in increasingly inventive and surprising ways.

Percy is a biracial young man hiding an (at that time) incriminating disease, but is wise, loyal, brave and self-aware.

As the trio's lives intersect with pompous dukes, threatening highwaymen, enigmatic siblings, endearing pirates and sends them from land to sea and back again, Lee keeps the reader thoroughly entertained and satisfied.

"The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue" includes some mild swearing, mild violence such as fist fights, implied sexual content and moderate make-out scenes.

Tara Creel is a Logan-native-turned-California-girl and mother of four boys. Her email is taracreel@gmail.com, and she blogs at taracreelbooks.wordpress.com.

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