Nineteen year-old Max is the duchesse de Claireville's second footman, but he does not intend to endure the indignities of service for long. He has a plan-to find an aristocratic patron who will become his unwitting accomplice in an audacious fraud. It is true that in 1880s' France, despite nearly a century of revolution and social turmoil, the aristocracy is still firmly entrenched in privilege, and the gulf between the salon and the servants' hall is as wide as ever. But Max is handsome, quick to learn and confident of his abilities as a seducer of both men and women. Whether ladling soup into noble plates beneath crystal chandeliers, or reading biographies of the great generals in his squalid footman's dormitory, he is planning his strategy. He, Max, is the man of the future - ruthless, above morality and sentimental attachments. Yet, when, after a couple of false starts, he at last acquires his patron, he finds himself ambushed by instinctive longings - for friendship, for affection - that threaten his grand plan. 'Be true to yourself...' the saying goes. But to which self? And what is 'truth'?
Max, the newly appointed second footman to the duchesse de Claireville, is straightaway a character surrounded in mystery. Who was he? Where had he come from? What was this mission he hinted at, this plan he was working towards? To begin with I found it a little rambling and felt a bit lost; it’s one of those books that launches you straight in and then fills in the gaps as the chapters unfold. Just as you begin to think you are about to find out, another character’s story takes over the narrative, a trick that kept me reading, needing to know more and Max is certainly a character worth getting to know. I was torn, was there too much hidden in his past to trust him, yes, but then no! He is clever, quick to learn and a lover of books, which gave him a lot of appeal, despite the unknown and the mysteries.
As well as an observant eye for detail there is a humour to the writing style that I really enjoyed. The author gives a great insight into the houses and lifestyles of the wealthy in 19th century Paris. The rituals, the secrets, the socialising and the contrast with the servants and their lives below stairs, all came to life. He also creates a good build-up of characters and plot, perfectly set for more to come, I hope.
This book is not what I would usually read and with the gay love story, probably not what I was expecting it to be either. However, it is a well written historical romance and there was plenty in the storyline to keep my interest and intrigue.
The Second Footman is available in ebook and paperback formats and links to Amazon can be found below.
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Jasper Barry graduated from Cambridge with a degree in English and has worked in advertising, then in journalism. Jasper lives in London with too many books and three obstreperous cats.
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