New York: Katherine Tegen Books, 2017 (501 pages)
Monty (Henry Montague), Lord Disley, is all set to go on his much-anticipated Grand Tour of Europe with his best friend and secret crush, Percy. Away from his stern and heavy-handed father, Monty imagines that he’ll be able to live it up in the year abroad (drink and dice and women/men aplenty), and may even get a chance to get in with Percy before Percy goes to Holland for law school. But Monty’s father has other plans, plans that include an undesirable bear-leader (chaperone) and Monty’s 15-year old sister Felicity, who will be dropped off at finishing school along the way. Not only will Monty and Percy’s plans of debauchery come to naught, the bear-leader has been instructed to keep Monty and Percy from vice of every kind. To make matters that much worse, they will be visiting Monty’s father’s friends in hopes that Monty’s experience will help him to take over the running of the estate in due time. There’s not much Monty can do– his father has threatened to disown him if he hears of any low behavior–and Monty knows what his father’s threats and his fists can do. So the party sets sail, and the boys endure the lack of fun with bad grace. Then, all hell breaks loose in France. Percy and Monty get out from the chaperone’s thumb for a night of drinking, and deep in their cups, they exchange a passionate kiss that ends with a seeming rejection. Later, at Versailles palace Monty meets and puts down the Duke of Bourbon, then goes off with a flirtatious French lady to spite Percy, ends up in the Duke of Bourbon’s chambers, steals a box with dials on in to spite the Duke, then plays a card game that includes the removal of clothing for the player with the losing hand. Things are getting steamy, when the Duke and his men come in. Monty’s mad dash to get away ends with a nude display in front of the party’s guests, and embarassment for his friends and his name. Unsurprisingly, the bearleader is incensed, and Monty is put on a tighter leash. The group escapes the social suicide that is Paris to head south to Marseilles, but a few days out of town, their carriage is attacked by highwaymen. Monty, Percy and Felicity run away into the woods and make it to Marseilles; there, Monty recognizes the voice of one of the highwaymen. They have been pursued to Marseilles! And the highwayman is none other than the Duke of Bourbon, who has chased them to recover his stolen box. In the stress of the situation, Felicity and Monty discover that Percy has epilepsy–he won’t be going to law school at the end of the year. Instead, he is to enter a sanatorium (asylum). His epileptic fit allows Monty and Felicity to make a friend of an apothecary, who then sets them toward Barcelona, to the house of Mateu Robles, a famous apothecary known for his efforts to find a panacea, or cure all. Of course, Monty is interested in the panacea for Percy, but they all agree that the box should be returned to Mateu, as it belongs to him. When the trio reach Barcelona, they meet Mateu’s son and daughter, Dante and Helena, who inform them that Mateu is dead, but that his panacea was created–within their mother, who did not recover from the experiment and was buried, neither dead nor alive, in a crypt. Then, to their consternation, they discover that Mateu is not dead, but imprisoned for denying support to the house of Bourbon. Dante and Helena are trying to get their father out of prison, but the only way to do that is to get the Duke the box, which holds the key to the buried panacea. The trio, with Dante, hatch a plan to infiltrate the prison in order to get the box combination from Mateu. Monty gets the combination, opens the box, and finds the key, which he stashes in Percy’s violin case. Helena comes in, sees the open box, and fights for the key, drugging Monty in the process. Percy comes to the rescue and the trio is on the run again, this time for Venice– actually, a sinking island nearby, where the panacea is buried. On the way, they are captured by pirates, who wind up rescuing the trio from the French Navy. In Venice, Percy and Monty finally get a chance to get out and enjoy themselves and their budding romance, but things cool way down when Percy realizes that Monty is tied firmly to his wealth and estate. There will be no running away together. Later that night, Monty goes out to drown his sorrows in drink, and meets up with the pirate captain, Scipio. They are captured together by the duke’s men, and brought before him. Helena accompanies the Duke in order to lead him to the crypt on the sinking island, and in order to make sure that her father is subsequently freed. Monty is held hostage for the key. The duke allows Scipio to go in order to tell Percy and Felicity to meet the group at the sinking island. Monty’s group makes it there, and must wade through the encroaching waters to get to the opening of the crypt where the panacea lies encased in the alive/dead body of Helena’s mother. The crypt is at the bottom of a deep, narrow stairwell. Percy and Felicity arrive with the key, and the tomb is opened. Helena retrieves her mother’s heart, but then throws it into the nearest lampstand. The Duke lets his gun go off right near Monty’s face in an effort to get to the panacea before it turns to ash. The gunshot undermines the already unstable crypt, and everyone rushes to the steps to escape except the Duke, who is crushed by the collapsing structure. Monty fares worse than the others; the gunshot blasted off most of his ear. Felicity is offered the position of ship’s surgeon with the pirates who hope to become privateers with Percy’s uncle’s help, and Percy and Monty decide to go their own way, devil take the estate and the position.
Tags: adventure, romance, LGBTQ, relationships, friendship, self-discovery, travel, historical fiction