The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (Mackenzi Lee)

As Henry “Monty” Montague prepares to set out on his Grand Tour with his best friend (and secret crush) Percy, he fears his days of pleasure are fast approaching an end. He is expected to return from the trip more mature and ready to learn how to take over the family estate. On his trip Monty’s father expects him to be on his best behavior or disinheritance looms. Monty has different ideas and plans to drink, party and flirt with Percy the whole way across Europe. When their trip takes a sudden dangerous turn, Monty will find himself calling everything about his life into question.

I first discovered The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue a few months ago. One of the many bookish sites I follow on Facebook was advertising the first four chapters of a new YA novel. Why not? I thought to myself. I was in love before I finished the first chapter and the next several months of waiting were absolute torture.

Completely worth it. Mackenzi Lee certainly did not disappoint. This book was fresh, fun, fabulous and full of heart. It’s not often that I can say a book genuinely had me laughing out loud at points, tense with anticipation at others and in tears at the end. When it first arrived I was surprised at it’s length and was a little worried about finishing it within the deadline I set for myself. Turns out, there was no need to be concerned. I finished it in just slightly over 24 hours. It would have been faster, but I still have to go to work.

If there is anything I like in a historical fiction book, it’s a rakehell, and I was not left wanting. Monty is the lovable kind of rake that warms my heart. Percy is dreamy and sweet while Monty’s sister Felicity is sharp and sarcastic. All in all, a group that suits each other and the story well.

The 18th century has long held my interest (I have a BA in art history with a focus in 18th century painting, super useful, but that’s another story…). Art related to the Grand Tour was definitely something I studied, but it was honestly a little dry. This brought it to full, dramatic life. While Monty, Percy and Felicity’s Tour was certainly out of the ordinary and full of danger, it was still a fun romp through 18th century Europe.

I can’t recommend this book enough. I finished it less than an hour before writing this and I already am looking forward to reading it again. Read it. Read it now. It’s witty and fast-paced, certainly a book to devour.

 

The Devil’s Bible Saga (Michael Bolan)

I received free copies of The Devil’s Bible saga from the author in exchange for an honest review. This did not change my opinion of the books.

The story opens as the Duke of Brabant lay dying. The succession is supposed to be split between the three sons of the Duke, giving them all a chance to be leaders. After he slips away, the eldest brother Reinald reveals that their father changed his will on his deathbed and he is now the sole heir to the duchy.  He makes it quite clear that he will brook no defiance from his siblings. Willem and Leo, along with their headstrong sister Isabella choose to leave their home and pursue their own destinies rather than submit to their brother’s will. The form a war party for hire and proceed to be very successful throughout the Thirty Years War. Reinald, meanwhile follows a much more sinister path: he joins forces with a group intent on bringing about the apocalypse by killing as many people as possible.

What a thoroughly enjoyable series! A little history, a little fantasy and totally binge-able! The series consists of three books, The Sons of Brabant, Hidden Elements and The Stone Bridge.  My little summary above? Barely scratching the surface. There is a great deal going on, but it’s all told fairly compactly, which is something I really liked. I read the whole series in under a week, partially because they are not super long, partially because I couldn’t put them down. He doesn’t waste a lot of time dragging out pointless conversations or endless, overdone descriptions. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that.

While The Sons of Brabant was a great book, my favorite was definitely Hidden Elements. Within the first two pages my jaw was on the floor and I could barely stop to sleep, eat and go to my day job. And The Stone Bridge can certainly hold it’s own with the other two: happy, sad, spectacular.

The characters are also pretty fantastic. The bad guys range from sinister to absolutely deplorable, some make your skin crawl. The heroes are just as fleshed out. Isabella was my particular favorite. She’s totally ass-kicking and I thought an amazingly well written female character.

One thing is for certain, Michael Bolan tells one hell of a story. And I cannot wait to read more.

 

Victoria (Daisy Goodwin)

I received a copy of Victoria free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This didn’t change my opinion of the book.

51e3y0cfeyl

Many of you know I have a passionate fascination with the British monarchy. For the most part though, I have mostly focused on the Tudors, with a few forays into Eleanor of Aquitane and then the more recent royals (The King’s Speech started that… what can I say?). For some reason, I never really got into Queen Victoria. Lately, though, for some reason, I’ve felt like maybe I should. When I found this book, it seemed like a good place for me to start.

Victoria begins very shortly before the death of William IV, with the teenage Victoria just breaths away from the throne. She has spent her life closely guarded and isolated by her mother, the Duchess of Kent and the domineering Lord John Conroy. She’s not even able to walked down the stairs unattended. When the king dies, she immediately begins to come into her own, shedding the name she hates, Alexandrina- or Drina to her mother-, and becomes Victoria. She causes further rift with her mother when she demands a room of her own and insists that she will meet with her ministers alone.

Victoria becomes particularly close to the prime minister, Lord Melbourne, who would eventually become her private secretary. As their relationship grows closer, it also grows rather more controversial. Lord Melbourne, like many others, pushes her to marry her cousin, Prince Albert of Coburg, but she insists she is not interested.

I really love this book as a dramatic introduction to Queen Victoria. It made an intimating woman seem much more accessible. While she was every inch a queen, she was also an inexperienced teenager. It made her feel more real to me, just the idea of her being a real teenager, pretty much like anyone else.

Everything I’ve read since this doesn’t indicate to me that there was anything romantic between the young queen and her prime minister. I have to assume this was a little dramatic license to help spice up a work of fiction. Still, I can’t be too irritable about it, the whole thing was well done. I can give up a little accuracy for some entertainment, in this case.

Daisy Goodwin has also written a series for TV as well. It’s out on the other side of the pond, but we here in America have to wait until January to see it. It does have Jenna Coleman as Victoria, though, so as an enormous Doctor Who fan, I of course want to check it out. The pictures I’ve found online look fantastic.