Review by: Paige
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance, LGBT
Synopsis: Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.
But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.
Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.
Review: As soon as I picked up this novel, I knew I was going to regret having put it off for so long. It was such a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and I found upon completion that when it came right down to it, this book was just pure fun. I think there’s a lot of merit to works which don’t try to be much more than entertaining. And while this book broached some very serious topics, its lighthearted, humorous, and heartfelt narrative made for an engrossing and incredible story. I adored it.
Monty and Percy’s relationship was by far my favorite part. I’m a sucker for slowburn romance, and I was thrilled to see them acting on their affections so early into the story, because they were perfectly set up for all the tension to come. Monty, for all his selfishness, falls into a small category of my favorite male characters that I like to call “Privileged and Stupid, but Trying Their Best,” within which he stands with none other than Richard Campbell Gansey III. He was a wonderful narrator, and is really what made this book such a pleasure to read. I’m a big believer in the idea that characters do not have to be likeable to be interesting or effective, and Monty fits that bill perfectly. He was frustrating, yet simultaneously endearing, even at his absolute worst. This book shone its brightest during the more heartfelt and affectionate moments between the two men, and I had my breath taken away in a couple of spots by the dense and vivid imagery.
And despite all the fun I was having reading this, it tackled some serious issues – epilepsy, homophobia/biphobia, racism, abuse, female expectations, etc. Seriously, I could go on. And while some were more fleshed out than others, and I would have liked to see more development for all of them, I think they were important to bring up and landed as they were intended to. In this case, I think Lee tackled so many that had she focused on just a couple, they would have come off better. But the interconnection led to the need for shallow exploration of all, and honestly, I would prefer good representation that could be better than absolutely none at all. Seeing Monty unabashedly engage with both men and women was very important to me, and even though a lot of the negative consequences of that were hard to read at times, it was a good discomfort, a challenging one.
Overall, this was an incredible and refreshing take on a road trip story. I was genuinely surprised by the plot more times than not, and I was absolutely unable to put it down. If you have put this off for a while like I had, it’s time to solve that issue and pick it up. If nothing else, it is a good, simple, human story, and I’m so excited to see what more is to come for Felicity in the sequel.