I’m delighted to be taking part in the book tour for this truly fascinating novel.
The Second Footman of the title is a man of many names, but Max is the one he settles on for himself. In his footman role he is Jean, the name of his predecessor. It won’t do for his mistress, the Duchess de Claireville, to have to learn a new name.
Max is nineteen. He has a somewhat mysterious past that we gradually learn more about as the story proceeds. We quickly learn that he’s ambitious and has a plan to further and improve himself up his sleeve. This book, the first in a trilogy, sets the scene for his future machinations which will involve Armand de Miremont.
The setting is nineteenth-century France and the author evokes this superbly. If we thought life then was all elegance then we’re soon disabused. The wealthy citizens might appear to be lucky with their big houses and indulgent lifestyles, but there are many constraints, social, moral and religious. Servants live in squalor, with sweat-stiffened uniforms and stuffed into tiny, shared, stifling rooms. Our eyes are really opened to such details.
The language and style of writing sets this book firmly in its time too. You can easily believe you’re reading something by an author of the period that the book is set in. Aptly, the book is quite slow-moving but never becomes bogged down. The author gives back story and detailed character portrayals where appropriate alongside the action. So occasionally it’s two steps forward, one step back but we need to cover our bases so that this book and the rest of the trilogy can be firmly established.
Despite the rigid class structure and outward appearances, it is still possible although not easy to indulge passions. Same-sex love has to be expressed in private.
This is a story of dark secrets, opportunism, selfishness but also self-truth and slightly menacing romance. It’s captivating.
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’?
Purchase Link – https://amzn.to/2J2ry2e
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
Social Media Links –