Mackenzi Lee

Books: Historical | Queer| Fantasy

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue (2017), The Gentleman's Guide to Getting Lucky (2019), The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (2018), The Nobleman's Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks (2021)

Montague Siblings

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue (2017)

Set in Europe in the 1700s

Henry "Monty" Montague is a rake. He was kicked out of Eton, is constantly in drunk, and is the despair of his parents.

He is also in love with his best friend, Percy.

In a last ditch attempt at reform, Henry is being sent on a Grand Tour with Percy, and Henry's younger sister, Felicity is going along for the first part, before being sent to finishing school.

"Under my watch," Lockwood says, "there will be no gambling, limited tobacco, and absolutely no cigars."

Well, this is turning a bit not good.

"No visitations to any dens of iniquity," he goes on, "or sordid establishments of any kind. No caterwauling, no inappropriate relations with the opposite sex. No fornication. No slothfulness, or excessive sleeping late."

It's beginning to feel like he's shuffling his way through the seven deadly sins, in ascending order of my favorites.

"And," he says, rust on the razor's edge, "spirits in moderation only."

It took several tries for me to get started on this book. Mostly because Monty is so dissolute, I had a hard time caring what happened to him.

But I quite liked Percy, and I really liked Felicity.

"They're going to throw you out of school if you behave this way."

"Well, it took Eton years to catch on to your larks, and I'm a fair amount cleverer, so I'm not concerned."

"I've been stripping the covers off amatory novels and swapping them with medical textbooks for years so Father wouldn't find out. He'd rather I read those trampy Eliza Haywoods than study almanacs on surgery and anatomy."

But slowly we discover more about Monty, and learn why Percy puts up with him. And that he isn't quite as much of an ass as he seems.

I want to run away right then but there's just Percy in the cabin and water on either side, and the person I most want to run away from is me.

He really does turn out to be far better than he seems at first, and you do end up rooting for him, if only to get his life in order.

But mostly it's a fun romp, and quite enjoyable.

I am better than the worst things I've done.

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

October 2018 | Rating: 8/10

The Gentleman's Guide to Getting Lucky (2019)

The Gentlemans Guide to Getting LuckyThis is not a boinking book, although it is a book about boinking.

Henry "Monty" Montague and Percy Newton are mostly over the events of The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, and are beginning their lives together, except that they haven't yet done it yet, because after Monty started to recover, he discovered that Percy was still a virgin.

This story is told entirely from Monty's POV, and Monty is still a bit of a mess. He's trying to stay sober, but he really doesn't know how to be anything other than what's he's been for years.

My primary contribution to our circles back home had been making everyone else feel grounded and well-behaved in comparison.

So Monty is freaked out about taking Percy's virginity and being terrible and Percy realizing he can do so much better than Monty…

He raises an eyebrow, an unmistakable tread carefully, and so of course I put on my heaviest boots and start clomping through the flower gardens. "Yes, but . . . it's not like it's anything . . . remarkable . . . sex is actually . . . it's a part of nature, so it's really not . . . worms do it, you know."

This story is about Monty and Percy learning to talk to each other, which includes figuring out what they're going to do with the rest of their lives.

We do get a teeny bit of Felicity, who is perfectly delightful.

"Dear Lord, you haven't been a virgin all this while, have you?"

"No, but I'm a bit concerned my virginity is starting to grow back."

"That is not how any of this works."

However, my caveat is that this is barely a novella–just over 100 pages. The ebook price is 9.99 which, as much as I love this series, is insanely expensive.

Luckily, the library had it, because–that is a really steep price, so the story needed to be longer or the price smaller.

Otherwise, it was sweet and adorable and a lovely interlude between Monty's story and Felicity's.

"You deserve a reward for all I put you through."

"You're my reward."

"What a rotten reward I am."

"Not to me. Why do you think everyone needs some sort of recompense for being around you?"

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

January 2020 | Rating: 8/10

The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (2018)

Set in Europe and other locales in the 1700s.

Oh this was FUN!

The sequel to The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue follows Felicity Montague, a young woman who does not want to be a proper lady but instead wants more than anything to be a doctor. She's spent the past year trying to get into medical colleges and been denied at every turn. So she returns to London and her brother Monty, to regroup.

Felicity is a nerd who has no interest in society or marriage or anything else that is to be expected to young women of her time.

It is, I must confess, the most excited I have ever been in Callum's presence. I can't remember the last time I was so excited. Here I am with an actual medical emergency and no male physicians to push me out of the way to handle it. With a chunk of his finger missing, Callum is the most interesting he has ever been to me.

I'm far more comfortable discussing epilepsy than fornication.

"I'm talking about menstruation, sir!" I shout in return.

It's like I set the hall on fire, manifested a venomous snake from thin air, also set that snake on fire, and then threw it at the board. The men all erupt into protestations and a fair number of horrified gasps. I swear one of them actually swoons at the mention of womanly bleeding.

We do get to see Monty and Percy in this book, and although he's much better (for one, he's sober) Monty remains indomitable.

My brother, always one for histrionics, has made his fall into poverty as dramatic as possible.

What makes this book awesome:

1. Felicity is probably ace  2. Things do not work out for Felicity in any way she might have hoped. But it's ok (the same is true for Monty and Precy).  3. Felicity discovers that perhaps she has some blame for the failure of her friendship with Johanna.

Also: there are three strong, independent female characters, all different and opinionated, and eventually they learn to accept themselves (and each other) for who they are.

Your beauty is not a tax you are required to pay to take up space in this world.

(Y)ou should not be frightened of the darkness, but instead be sure that the most frightening thing in it is you.

It's lovely, and unlike the first book, it took me no time at all to dive in, since I'd already met and liked Felicity.

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

November 2018 | Rating: 9/10

The Nobleman's Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks (2021)

The Noblemans Guide to Scandal and ShipwrecksNearly 20 years have passed since Monty (and then Felicity) fled England and their father. In the mean time, their younger brother has grown into an adult–but one with his own problems.

Adrian has struggled with his mind his entire life, but after the death of his mother, things have only gotten worse.

After my mother died, I almost stopped entirely, gripped with a fear that whatever I ate would make me sick and I too would meet a sudden end like she had. That fear would quickly tumble into its most refined form, panic, and that panic would have me gagging up anything I tried to swallow.

Although we spend a fair amount of time with Monty and Felicity, this is Adrian's story. And it's a hard one–far harder than Felicity's. Because Adrian is struggling with anxiety and OCD (as we would now name them) and grief, convinced he is insane, and doesn't believe he has any worth.

Though I've devoted many sleepless nights since youth to anxiously concocting scenarios in which the people I love died and I was left alone, it's only now she's gone that I realize I was afraid of the wrong thing. It's not the moment the world splits in two, it's all the days after, trying to live a cleaved life and pretend you never knew it whole and don't feel the space of that missing piece that can never be repaired or replaced. Even the best facsimiles fall short.

I mean, as someone who continues to struggle with these things, it's rough.

I keep having uninvited thoughts about unfamiliar food, and although I know there is nothing wrong with what I'm offered, my brain refuses to be argued with.

I sometimes fret that anyone who likes me simply doesn't know me well enough.

I have no right to feel this underwater. Nothing bad has ever happened to me. I am a river without a source. Pain without a wound.

So, rough.

But also lovely, as we are not offered easy words and magical solutions.

"God, is this going to take years?"

"It's going to take your whole life," Felicity says. "But it doesn't have to be the defining element of it.

If you haven't read the first two books, you should be fine jumping in here as the story focuses on Adrian, and both Monty and Felicity have changed in the intervening time.

Well, mostly.

I also devoured the story, not wanting to put it down.

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

December 2021 | Rating: 8/10