Audiobooks are a relatively new thing for me; I have a condition called Auditory Processing Disorder, which makes following the thread of an audiobook difficult (or jokes, for that matter- a legitimate listed symptom is not getting jokes at the same time as everyone else). However my local library service has recently launched Borrow Box, which allows you to download ebooks to your phone. As I walk six miles to and from work, I have got into the habit of listening to podcasts and thought I might have a go at an audiobook and see if I could cope. I chose this book as I follow the author on Twitter and have enjoyed her #BygoneBadassBroads threads in the past (btw- there will be a review of her book of the same name soon.)
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a YA novel that follows the irresistible and irrepressible Monty as he goes on his Grand Tour around Europe with his best friend (and secret crush) Percy and his no-nonsense, quite frankly badass fifteen-year-old sister, Felicity. The Grand Tour was meant to be improving for boys in the 1800s, and in the eyes of his father, Monty needs a LOT of improvement, thanks to some scandalous behaviour. At the end of the Tour, he is expected to go home and learn how to manage the estate, Percy is going to law school in the Netherlands and Felicity is to be deposited at a finishing school for aristocratic ladies.
Except none of this actually happens.
After a particularly interesting visit to Versailles sets a whirlwind of adventure in motion, one that takes in highwaymen, Catalonian fortune tellers, pirates and awkward first love, the idea of a Grand Tour comes crashing down and is replaced with a story of survival against the odds.
This makes it sound like a very dour, serious book- it’s anything but. I found myself loving each of the main characters, their stories slowly unfolding. It’s clear that these characters have found a fandom amongst teens on the internet and it’s easy to see why- they’re flawed, but they’re likeable. I would have loved this book when I was about 15. I also love that Monty’s bisexuality is treated as matter-of-fact, it’s who he is. I don’t ever really remember reading this in the books I read as a teenager.
As an audiobook, it’s really fun. The narrator, Christian Coulson (who’s most well known for being in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) sounded exactly as Monty should: posh, droll and witty. I laughed out loud more than once on my commute, and probably enjoyed myself a lot more than I normally would have done. I’m very glad that this was my first audiobook. I’m also very pleased that Felicity, probably my favourite bluestocking in fiction ever, has her own novel, A Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Pirates coming out in November. Of course I’ll be pre-ordering.