An 18th-century Grand Tour goes exquisitely wrong.
Eighteen-year-old white viscount Henry “Monty” Montague is as known for his dashing looks as his penchant for booze—and boys. Before his abusive father grooms him to run the estate, he and his mixed-race best friend, Percy, orphan son of a British colonist and a Barbadian woman, are sent on a yearlong Grand Tour—after which he and Percy will likely be separated forever. Adding insult, their Tour begins under the proviso that, after Monty’s sister is delivered to school in Marseille, Monty will remain on the sober straight and narrow or else risk loss of title and fortune. Monty wastes no time in demolishing this agreement in Paris when he gets hammered, offends Percy, insults a duke, ends up naked at Versailles, and steals an objet from the palace in a fit of childish rage. The theft ignites an adventure that illuminates a side of life the trio wouldn’t have otherwise seen. Issues of same-sex romance walk in stride with those of race as Monty and Percy find their footing amorously, sexually, and socially. Their realized attraction could mean imprisonment or death, and their relationship is often misconstrued as lord and valet due to Percy’s brown skin. The book’s exquisite, bygone meter and vernacular sit comfortably on a contemporary shelf. And the friction of racism, tyrannical entitled politicians, and misguided disapproval of homosexuality also have a relevance rooted in current culture’s xeno- and homophobia.
Austen, Wilde, and Indiana Jones converge in this deliciously anachronistic bonbon. (Historical fiction. 12-18)