4.5 out of 5 stars
British accents! Alchemy! Pirates! Part heist story, part treasure hunt, and all treatise on equal rights, The Gentlemen’s Guide is an insane champagne cocktail of peril and perfection.
Henry Montague, our dear Monty, is an absolute prat of privileged 1700’s English nobility. He’s tousle-headed and magnificently dimpled; a drunken, lascivious wastrel. He likes boys and girls in equal measure – not okay in English society, and definitely not allowed by English law. To top off Monty’s list of rogue qualities, his lifelong best friend Percy Newton is (gasp!) half-African.
From the first page, The Gentleman’s Guide is fun. Monty’s a lout, and Percy is well-meaning, but committed to being along for the ride. Author Mackenzi Lee pulls of a real feat in making Monty completely lovable. Her action opens just before Monty is set to leave England on tour; that is, touring “the Continent” in stylish fashion, impressing people, making acquaintances and a name for himself before settling down to take over his father’s earldom. Percy is going too, and Monty’s younger sister Felicity will join them as far as her boarding school. Their chaperone, Mr. Lockwood, has no idea what he’s in for.
The ensuing antics are too good to spoil: There’s a naked dash from Versailles, an ambush on the road, a pirate battle, alchemy, and so much glorious women’s liberation. Twist and turns! All the while, The Gentleman’s Guide tackles some real issues – LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, entitlement, mortality – in a way that made me both grateful it’s not 1700-something and realize we haven’t actually come that far. Learning while having fun? Be still my beating (or not [?] if it’s alchemical) heart.
Go and enjoy The Gentelman’s Guide posthaste. Please listen to this on audiobook – I’ve had the narrator’s voice, in character as Percy, doing my inner monologue for weeks, and it’s a joy.
And do it before the movie comes on on HBOMax! There’s no date or start of production yet, and I don’t understand if I’ll have to pay extra for HBOMax when I already pay for HBO, but who cares?! Monty & Percy 4EVA. (Also, HBOMax will have all 11 seasons of Doctor Who.)