Book: The Nobleman’s Guide To Scandal and Shipwrecks (Montague Siblings #3)
Author: Mackenzi Lee
Narrator: Christian Coulson
BECHDEL TEST: FAIL-Fails simply by merit of having a male MC who is present for all conversations.
Content Warnings: Anxiety, OCD, alcoholism, panic attacks, grief, suicidal thoughts, death of a parent, blood, self-harm, violence, medical content, mentions of suicide, disordered eating, emotional abuse, misogyny, homophobia, mentions of slavery and colonisation, self-harm
I really enjoyed both of the previous Montague siblings books, so naturally when I saw that Mackenzi Lee was doing a third Montague book about Monty and Felicity’s little brother Adrian (just a baby in the initial book) as a teenager. I was really excited to see how she would wrap up the series, and what Adrian would be like, as he was a very minor character in Gentleman’s Guide and we didn’t really know him yet. This was also the first book of the series I listened to as an audiobook so I was excited to find out what the narration was like. Happily, I really enjoyed this book, it’s a lot heavier than either Monty’s or Felicity’s due to Adrian’s severe mental illness, but I loved Adrian as a main character, and it was so lovely to finally see all three Montague siblings together. Here is a short synopsis of the book:
Adrian Montague has a bright future. The sole heir to his father’s estate, he is an up and coming political writer and engaged to an activist who challenges and inspires him. But most young Lords aren’t battling the debilitating anxiety Adrian secretly lives with, or the growing fear that it might consume him and all he hopes to accomplish. In the wake of his mother’s unexpected death, Adrian is also concerned people will find out that he has the mental illness she struggled with for years.
When a newly found keepsake of hers-a piece of a broken spyglass-comes into Adrian’s possession, he’s thrust into the past and finds himself face to face with an older brother he never knew he had. Henry “Monty” Montague has been living quietly in London for years, and his sudden appearance sends Adrian on a quest to unravel family secrets that only the spyglass can answer.
In pursuit of answers about the relic, the brothers chart a course to locate their sister Felicity. But as they travel between the pirate courts of Rabat, Portuguese islands, the canals of Amsterdam, and into unknown Artic waters, the Montague siblings are thrown into one final adventure as they face a ghostly legend that threatens their whole family.
I really didn’t know what to expect of Adrian, because when we saw him in the first book, he was merely a baby, not so affectionately nicknamed “The Goblin”, so I didn’t have any preconceived expectations of him like I did with Felicity going into Lady’s Guide because we had already seen her before in Gentleman’s Guide. Thankfully I really did love him, yes being in his head was difficult at times because of his very severe intrusive thoughts, but I did find certain aspects of his character very relatable, like his awkwardness in social situations and dislike of being touched, though I don’t share either of his mental illnesses. He’s such a lovely, sweet and sensitive person and I just found myself desperately wanting the best for him. His character development throughout the book as well was stunning, it was great to see him grow on his journey to learning to manage his mental illness.
Though it could be incredibly difficult being in Adrian’s head at times because his anxiety was very overwhelming and his intrusive thoughts were very severe, I thought the portrayal of his mental illness was very well done and sensitively handled. Lee mentioned in the author’s note that she also struggles with the same mental illnesses as Adrian (generalized anxiety disorder and OCD) and you could definitely feel that in the way Adrian was written. I will say though, if you do suffer from anxiety and OCD, then this book could potentially be triggering so do go in with some caution. I was also very glad that Lee didn’t end up going down the magical fantasy cure route for Adrian’s mental illness.
It was so great to finally see all three Montague siblings together finally! They are all very different people, so it was interesting to see their different dynamics with each other, especially the different ways that Monty and Felicity reacted to Adrian finding them after so many years. I loved seeing their relationship as siblings develop, and the scenes with just the three of them together were my favourites of the book, I think Lee did such a great job with that and I loved that the focus of this book was sibling relationships rather than romantic ones. Monty’s initial reaction to Adrian was quite frustrating, but I did love the way their connection grew throughout the book.
One of my biggest quibbles with the book was that Felicity and Monty, who are meant to be a good decade and a bit older than Adrian, don’t read as much older than they did in their own books. I do get that the author probably wanted to make sure that their older versions were still recognizable as the people we knew and loved, but it kind of felt like they’d been frozen in time. Even if they’d only felt like they were in their twenties rather than late thirties, it would have been better than the pair of them still reading like teenagers!
Christian Coulson was a really fabulous narrator, very engaging and animated and really pulled you into the story. My one complaint would be that his female voices particularly Johanna’s, tended to be a little too high and slightly grating, but other than that, I really enjoyed listening to him.
I’d have liked to have seen more of Adrian’s fiancé Lou, as she was kind of sidelined after the first few chapters and I really liked her. I get that the focus of the book was more Adrian’s relationship with his siblings than his romantic relationship, so Lou’s part was always going to be fairly small, but it just would have been nice for her to have been a bit more included. I’d also have liked to have seen more of Percy, because I really love him.
This is probably the heaviest of the three books in the series because of the severity of Adrian’s mental illness, so it’s not as funny as either Monty or Felicity’s books, but it was still funny in places, like the awkward first meeting between Felicity and Adrian, and the humour provided some much needed levity. A lot of humour probably wouldn’t have fitted the tone of the book, or Adrian’s character anyway, and what the book lacked in humour, it made up for in emotional connection.
If I’m being honest, I wasn’t massively keen on the Flying Dutchman aspect of the story. I never feel like the fantasy elements really fit the stories that well & I just didn’t feel like it was resolved that satisfactorily. I suppose they needed something to engineer the adventure and reunite Monty, Felicity and Adrian, but I just wasn’t that bothered by it.
Much like the previous book, it was quite slow paced, things only really seemed to pick up when they met up with Felicity, which is around halfway through the book. It also had quite long chapters, especially in the beginning, which didn’t help matters. The Iceland section at the end also felt quite rushed, and I reckon that was partly down to the beginning sections of the book being longer than they needed to be.
It was great to see that Felicity did manage to achieve her goal of being a doctor, but I would have liked to know a little more about what both Felicity and Monty got up to in the intervening years between Felicity’s book and this one, we got little snippets but I would have liked to have known a bit more.
One thing that Lee definitely does very well is adapting her writing style to fit the voice of her POV character, Monty’s was heavy on the humour, Felicity’s style was more dry and witty and Adrian is definitely her most descriptive book yet, which given that he is the writer of the three siblings, fits very well.
I’ve been impressed with Lee’s dialogue throughout the series, and I was here too.
The epilogue was really lovely, without wanting to spoil how the book ends, I thought it was a really lovely way to end the series and found Adrian’s letter at the end (as with the previous two books, this book also ends with a letter) really touching.
Overall I really enjoyed this book, whilst it did have its pacing issues, it was an ultimately satisfying conclusion to the Montague Siblings trilogy and I loved following Adrian and his mental health journey and getting to see all three siblings reunited. I’m sad that this series has come to an end as it was a really fun one, and I’m sure I’d definitely read more historical adventures by Lee in the future if she wrote them.
My Rating: 4/5
This is my last review of 2021, my next review, of Trevor Noah’s memoir Born A Crime, will be my first of 2022. Thanks for sticking with me over my slightly irregular posting schedule for my reviews this year, hopefully next year I will be able to stick to a more regular schedule!