Exclusive Interview with Mackenzi Lee, Author of A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue + giveaway!

Binge on Books is joined today by guest reviewer and writer, Moog. She chat with Mackenzi Lee about all things queer historicals and also her stellar new release, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue.

When I first learned about The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, I honestly thought I’d misheard. A queer YA historical road trip book? Surely I had just made that up out of my head and it couldn’t really exist. But it did! And does! And is out June 27th!

Blurb: 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.

Witty, romantic, and intriguing at every turn, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a sumptuous romp that explores the undeniably fine lines between friendship and love.

We were lucky enough to catch up with the lovely Mackenzi Lee before the release of Gentleman’s Guide to talk about YA historical fiction, weird research facts, and what she’s working on next.

Moog for Binge on Books: Hi Mackenzi! Thanks for being here. I loved The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue from page one (especially Monty, disaster of my heart). I read a lot of YA and a lot of historical romance, but there’s not much historical fiction in YA. Your first book, This Monstrous Thing, and Gentleman’s Guide are both YA historicals with fantasy elements. What draws you to this genre in particular?

Mackenzi: Historical fiction is a hard category in YA–I feel like I’m constantly fighting against the idea that historical fiction is boring, and so many of my readers start their positive reviews of my books with the caveat “I generally don’t like or read historical fiction but…” And as delighted I am that they read and enjoyed mine in spite of that, I wish everyone loved historicals because they’re so magical! I love that historical fiction feels like fantasy, because the world is so foreign to modern readers, but it’s all real (which makes the fantasy such a natural addition, though I do tend to favor historicals that are lighter on the fantasy, or whose fantasy is rooted in the real history of the time it’s set in). But on the flip side of that, I love how, when you read historical accounts, you realize people don’t really change. We’re the same through centuries and across time and space. I was also a history major in college, and very close to becoming an academic writer, until a professor told me my papers read like historical fiction novels and I realized I might be writing in the wrong genre.

Moog: That’s so cool! What sort of things were you writing in your papers?

Mackenzi: Basically I would write things like “Henry VI was hurt and angry over this” and write dialogue for Richard III (my history degree emphasis was Wars of the Roses in England :). Which apparently you are not supposed to do. And in general I think my writing style skewed a little too narrative driven for my professors.

Moog: Le gasp! Not narrative! And writing historical fiction, like writing academic papers, comes with a bunch of research (I say, staring down my shelf full of Victorian social history books that I claim are for “research” and not just for my own heart). Was there any particular fact you found out while writing/researching for Gentleman’s Guide that you couldn’t find a way to include?

Mackenzi: Oh gosh, so much research. The trick to being a historical fiction writer is both knowing how to research (and loving it) and also knowing when to put down the research and start writing–it’s so easy to use it as an excuse to not get words on the page. My favorite fact, which didn’t end up in the book but is in the author’s note, is that there were more gay bars and clubs in London in the 1700s than there were in the 1940s. There was a thriving subculture for queer people in 18th century Europe!

My other favorite fact that didn’t make it in anywhere was that in the 1700s, the British were exporting prostitutes to pirate islands like Tortuga to discourage the pirates from just getting it on with each other. (But beyond random sex with each other, pirates also had a sort of civil marriage that bound two male pirates and their booty together, and often they shared living space and provisions on the ship. Pirates were pioneers of gay marriage 🙂

Moog: *hoards queer history facts like a tiny dragon* Speaking of, I also really loved that Gentleman’s Guide includes a PoC love interest, a bisexual hero, and a character with a chronic health condition, all of which have also been underrepresented in mainstream publishing. Are there similar themes in your future books?

Mackenzi: Thank you! I’ve been generally frustrated with the lack of diversity in historical fiction, and non-fiction narratives. We use “historical accuracy” as an excuse for not including characters with marginalized identities in historical fiction, or we often make them tortured side characters (especially the queer ones). And it’s not that the narratives don’t exist–I read a lot of primary sources from black, chronically ill, and queer people in England in the 1700s. They were there! We just erase them and instead keep telling the story of the straight white guys.

And I’ve been trying really hard to not be part of that problem! I don’t feel like a lot of these narratives are mine to tell, since I’m a white lady, but I try to do what I can to include minority characters in my historical fiction and nonfiction that are more than being tortured outsiders.  

As far as future books, I have an anthology of my Bygone Badass Broads essays coming out next year [Editor’s note: #BygoneBadassBroads is Mackenzi’s Twitter series about forgotten badass ladies from history], and I made an effort (which my publisher was hugely supportive of) to make sure we were including marginalized women and their stories. And my next book is about sexuality and gender identity and set in the 1600s in Holland.

Moog: It’s wonderful to hear that your publisher was so supportive! Your upcoming books both sound amazing. Felicity from Gentleman’s Guide  is 100% a Bygone Badass Broad, right? Which of the Bygone Broads do you think would get on best with her and/or best form a terrifying alliance with her to change the face of medicine forever?

Mackenzi: Thank you! Bygone Badass Broads was a true passion project for me, and to see it take off the way it has has been both surprising and incredibly rewarding. Of the Bygone Badass Broads I’ve featured, I think Felicity would pair best with Mary Anning, the paleontologist in 1700s England, or Clelia Duel Mosher, the American physician in the turn of the century who helped dispel myths about female fragility. They’re all three science minded and independent (neither Mary nor Clelia ever married). I think the three of them would make a kick ass science girl squad.  

Moog: I would 100% read that book! If you were suddenly confined to a desert island and, for some archaic island reason, you could only take queer historical books (of any sub-genre) with you, which would be the first three books you packed?

Mackenzi: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, and Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (not on-page queerness, but you can definitely do a really solid queer reading of it, and it’s my favorite book in the world so I’m bending the rules for it)

Moog: Your desert island would have the best tiny library! Thanks again for being here, Mackenzi <3 Chatting queer historical has been glorious. As a last note: three random quick-fire questions! Weirdest home decoration you own?

Mackenzi: My dad made me a to-scale mechanical arm for the This Monstrous Thing trailer, which now functions as a charming table ornament in my apartment.

Moog: How do you take your tea (or hot beverage of your choice)?

Mackenzi: Fruity. I’m generally disinclined to tea, but I love fruit teas, which are not as commonly available in most places as I want them to be. But I was just on a research trip in Holland and they serve fruit tea at almost every restaurant! I’ve never been so delighted.

Moog: What are you reading right now?

Mackenzi: Oh gosh too many things–I’ve been picking up and putting down a dozen books a day lately. At this moment, I’m deep in Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor and Undercover Girl: The Lesbian Informant who Helped Bring Down the Communist Party by Lisa E. Davis.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee is published by HarperCollins and is released on June 27 2017.


Mackenzi Lee holds a BA in history and an MFA from Simmons College in writing for children and young adults, and her short fiction and nonfiction has appeared in Atlas Obscura, Crixeo, The Friend, and The Newport Review, among others.  Her debut novel, THIS MONSTROUS THING, which won the PEN-New England Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award, is out now from HarperCollins. Her second book, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, a queer spin on the classic adventure novel, will be released in June of 2017.

She loves Diet Coke, sweater weather, and Star Wars. On a perfect day, she can be found enjoying all three. She currently calls Boston home, where she works as an independent bookstore manager.

Moog Florin is a writer, blogger, and lacker of balance. She lives in London with her wife (lovely) and an octopus (stuffed), and can be found blogging into the void about books, stickers, and queer romance at MM Florin Writes. You can also find Moog on Twitter: @MM_Florin


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Spotlight and Giveaway: Two Roads by L.M. Augustine

Today, we’re very happy to be a part of the blog tour for L.M. Augustine’s new release, Two Roads. If you don’t know anything about this NA read about coming to terms with who you are and who you love, you are in for a wild ride! Plus a giveaway!

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YA Giveaway: Render (Recompense, Volume I) by Stephanie Fleshman

Have you heard of Render, the recently published debut novel by Stephanie Fleshman? Me neither but I’m thinking that’s a big mistake since this book is hooking readers left and right! lus the author is a doll: Stephanie has graciously offered an autographed paperback open to anyone anywhere!

So here’s what’s up for grabs: an autographed copy of Render (Recompense, Volume I) by Stephanie Fleshman

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YA/NA Giveaway: Complete Signed Paperback Set of Between the Lines series by Tammara Webber!

Hello, you. Any idea what time is is?

Giveaway time!

Sweet! YES! It’s been a loooong time since you heard from us, right!? So this contest will be extra special to make up for the 2+ weeks since we last posted.

In addition to this being a 4 book giveaway (FOUR!!), this week’s awesome prize is none other than a complete SIGNED set of Tammara Webber’s Between the Lines series including Here Without You which releases in paperback on 8/27.

Let’s get straight to it, shall we?

The prize:  a complete SIGNED 4 book paperback set of Tammara Webber’s Between the Lines series, including Between the Lines, Where You are, Good for You, and Here Without You

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Who can win it: anyone 18+ (or with parental permission), open internationally

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Contest: Countdown to Here Without You by Tammara Webber

It’s no secret that I am an unabashed Tammara Webber fan. I devoured Between

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the Lines and Where You Are but refused to read Good For You. REFUSED flat out. Why? Cause I hated Reid. When both Tammara and Ellen finally convinced me to read about the Hollywood Bad Boy, I kicked myself for waiting so long. Good For You ranks up there with my favorite YA books of all time. A hard spot to reach, you can rest assured.

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Sadly this series is about to end: on August 6th, the final installment will come out. Here Without You is sure to be monumental (at least around here) and in honor of that I’m gonna give away two sets of the series to two lucky winners. That should tide you all over until Here Without You is out!

What’s up for grabs: two sets of Between the Lines, Where You, and Good For You (e-copy)

Who can win it: anyone (though if you’re under 18 it requires parental permission)

How to enter: Rafflecopter below


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Giveaway: Signed Copy of Walking Disaster by Jamie McGuire

Let me cut to the chase: I got this at BEA and it was signed by the lovely Jamie McGuire herself. I started it and finished it in one day! And now I want to share so I’ve got that Signed Paperback copy of Walking Disaster with YOUR name on it. That’s right! Yours. All you have to do is enter the rafflecopter entry form below and you can win! So let’s have at it.

What’s Up for Grabs:

Who Can Enter: Anyone in the continental USA (I will not ship internationally so if you enter to win and are NOT in the continental USA, your entry will be void unless you are willing to pay postage; so please enter at your own risk if you are international)

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Giveaway: it’s Book Expo 2013, baby!

This giveaway might be kind of lame, and if it is, I am sorry but…let me preface this whole thing with this: last year Ellen and I had a blast at Book Expo 2012. If you haven’t heard of Book Expo, it’s basically this huge publishing/book professional event at the Javitz Center in NYC where authors, readers, bloggers, reviewers, publishers, etc all get together to love on books. We got a TON of ARCs, met a TON of amazing people, and generally enjoyed meeting a whole convention center full of kindred spirits. In a word, amazing. I can’t begin to describe how wide-eyed and overwhelmed I was by the number of free books all around me. Books everywhere! All for me! And you! Plus writers at every turn: Jillian Dodd! JL Armentrout!

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This year, we’re headed back on May 31st (and btw, welcome anyone who’ll be there to meet up with us! We’re lots of fun, honest, especially when we head out for drinks afterward.) One thing we do need to do though is clean out the bookshelves to make room for even more books. So I’m having a giveaway! 6 paperback ARCs from BEA 2012 are up for grabs and while they may be autographed in my name (hey-funny!), who cares! Free books! Free GREAT books! Enter now!

Here’s what’s up for grabs:

Insignia by SJ Kincaid

Entice by Jessica Shirvington

Elemental by Emily White

Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

Sanctum by Sarah Fine

The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney

If you win, you get all the books! A box full!

Who can win: anyone in the continental (48 contiguous) United States

How to enter: Rafflecopter entry below


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Release Day Giveaway: Date Me by Jillian Dodd

Guess what’s coming out Tuesday, April 9th? Should I give you a really big hint?! Okay: It starts with D, ends with E, and looks just like this:

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Birthday Giveaway #5: Priscilla Glenn

Birthday Giveaway #5: Priscilla Glenn

Priscilla, Priscilla: you had me from the moment we met Michael from Back to You! I swear, I’ve never reviewed a romance novel on the blog because, let’s face it, this blog is geared more toward the Y than the A. But I made a BIG EXCEPTION for Back to You because it was so wrought with emotion and so very beautiful that I wanted to share it with all of you; plus, it had some heavy YA crossover bits I could use if anyone questioned it being on the site (bases covered! YES!).

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Birthday Giveaway #4: Cathy Zaragoza

Ever meet one of those sweet, self-effacing authors who has a razor sharp wit and the ability to be gracious while also snarky…oh, and you know, has already written 3 books at the ripe old age of 22?! Gotta admit: when I first met Cathy Zaragoza, she intimidated the hell outta me! Girlfriend wrote her first book on a lark and doesn’t even care about promoting it. She just writes to write and is very good at what she does. She now has three published works under her belt and her first book, The Complex, earned high praise from yours truly. I love the fact that there’s practically NO romance in her books. She tells a story and that’s it. It’s not a romance, it’s not a thriller, it’s not some post-apocalyptic knock off that only has one way of presenting something. Her books remind me of old school YA: there’s a little bit of something for everyone and you are gonna love it no

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Get a load of what her prize is for my birthday!

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