Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Spotlight & Review: The Second Footman by Jasper Barry



The Second Footman by Jasper Barry

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'?



The Second Footman is a historical gay novel. A definite change of pace and contrast to the M/M historical romances I've previously read.

Post-French Revolution, the aristocracy of nineteenth-century France are still thriving and complacent, we follow Max Fabien and Armand de Miremont...their personal and private struggles and of course their relationship.

With much emphasis on character profiles, the author weaves these amongst the narrative, painting an elaborate picture of the lives of the protagonists. It's dissimilar to what I'm used to reading and it took a while to get used to the author's literary style. I am, however, happy to have persevered and spent the time appreciating Mr Barry's eloquent style even though it is a long, wordy tome to wade through.

Evocative and thought-provoking, I was captivated and addicted to the narrative. Not knowing anything of significance about the time or place of the setting, I enjoyed the insight of life in France during this period. However, it was Max's story that intrigued me the most as we follow his journey, beginning as a footman to Catherine, duchesse de Claireville...the anecdotes of life and the goings on of the aristocracy and their servants. With flashbacks from his past and his meeting Armand, Marquis de Miremont his antics are laced with deception and are a stark contrast to the Marquis' apathetic and dull personality.

It's compelling reading despite times where an over-abundance of details and names lead to confusion and loss of my focus...something I struggle with...a personal reading flaw. Somehow though, despite my struggle to absorb every minute detail, I soldiered on and I'm so glad I did.

One thing I learned too late was the fact The Second Footman is the first book in a trilogy and it ends, leaving the reader questioning what Max will do next? Thankfully, I savoured this first novel sufficiently to continue and read the remaining instalments.

***arc generously received courtesy of the publisher***


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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.