Is Max Fabien the loyal secretary and faithful lover of the marquis de Miremont? Or a handsome trickster who regards lying as an accomplishment and any sexual quarry as fair game?
Miremont’s heart tells him one thing, his jealousy another. But his obsessive passion for Max must remain a dark secret. And, when his estranged wife brings their eighteen- year-old daughter to Paris to make her debut, the strain begins to tell.
The once-calm atmosphere of the Hôtel de Miremont swirls with gossip, mistrust and danger and Miremont is faced with an impossible choice.
Meanwhile the secrets of Max’ past continue to haunt him. Has the time has come for him to claim his not-so-rightful destiny?
That Deplorable Boy is the second part the Miremont series, charting the course of a gay love affair between an aristocrat and a former servant in Belle Époque France. Rich in period detail and set in the grand châteaux of Paris and Burgundy, the novels explore the suffocating social codes of the time and the conflicts and perils they bring for those who must live outside them.
If you’ve read the first book in this series, The Second Footman, you’ll know what to expect: complex characters, rich imagery and a tale that’s intriguing as well as full of intrigue. And if you haven’t, you’ll soon work out for yourself that Jasper Barry is a fabulous novelist who drags you through many different emotions as you read. This novel works as a standalone since you soon pick up who’s who and what’s what, but it’s a richer read if you’ve read the first novel.
Max and Arnaud enjoy a rather one-sided relationship, but Max never promised loyalty or exclusivity. He puts Arnaud through torture as the older man wants to believe that Max wouldn’t cheat on him, although he knows deep down that he would. He’s on an emotional rollercoaster, exploding with rage at Max, and then full of remorse for acting that way. He’s quite justified, as he’s being given the runaround. But, is the last laugh on Arnaud because for all that Max tells himself he can take the older man or leave him, it’s not actually that simple whenever he tries to leave.
Max isn’t the only one giving Arnaud a hard time. His estranged wife Aline swoops so that their youngest daughter Juliette can have her season in Paris. She proceeds to trample all over Arnaud, gradually getting her way in almost everything. She fills the house with her awful friends, fires faithful servants regularly and spends her husband’s money like water. She begins to monopolise Max too.
Then new troubles surface for Max too that preoccupy him and then take him away from the Miremont home, and shadows from his dark past loom tall over him. He faces some difficult choices.
Max is as absorbing as ever. He’s our hero but he’s a very heroic one. He’s self-centred, self-promoting and will always put his own best interests first. That deplorable boy. But, aptly in his case, deplorable rhymes with adorable. He’s flawed but empathetic, exasperating but fascinating, and the reader will love him one moment but be quite shocked the next. However, for every weakness he shows he has a redeeming feature. He’s a truly wonderful, challenging character.
This novel is very much about jealousy and choices. Arnaud is jealous of Max, who in turn is jealous of Aline’s power over Arnaud, and also Juliette’s. Aline is jealous of her husband’s prestige, and so challenges him when she can. Arnaud is jealous of Max’s friends, and some of them are jealous of each other, and it becomes quite a web. Past and present choices are seen to have long-lasting and drastic consequences for several of the characters we meet.
This novel is another rich tapestry of high society life in France. It appears so elegant and fine on the surface but that’s only a thin veneer over ugliness, hypocrisy and sordidness.
I could go on forever about this totally enthralling novel but I won’t. Far better you start reading it for yourselves than read any more from me!
Author Bio –
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
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