The Second Footman

Written by Jasper Barry
Review by Jo Barton

Set against the glamorous background of nineteenth century France, and with the capriciousness of the Parisian elite opened up to scrutiny, the story of The Second Footman flutters between the grand salons of the aristocracy, and the squalid intimacy of shared servant accommodation.

Nineteen year old Max, is the second footman of Catherine, Duchesse de Claireville whose predilection for handsome male servants is widely acknowledged. With no assets other than his charismatic personality, Max devises a plan to help him escape his life of servitude. When he encounters the naive and wealthy Armand de Miremont at the Duchesse de Claireville’s summer retreat, Max realises that he has a talent to seduce, and as the first quiver of desire strikes, Armand is powerless to resist.

Whilst The Second Footman is a substantial read, the plot never falters or loses focus. The writing is good, and the overall professional quality of the story is reminiscent at times of classic nineteenth century literature. I found that I was beguiled by both Max and Armand; their story of burgeoning homosexuality, with the hint of dark secrets, is expertly controlled within the boundaries of nineteenth century class structure. There is no doubt that the beautiful youth on the cover of the book is quite striking; his enigmatic gaze and grave composure captures not just the beauty of the man, but also highlights the captivating pull of the narrative.

This story of classic ambition, combined with the hedonistic arrogance of youth, and the frailty of hidden desire is perfectly presented. I have no hesitation in recommending The Second Footman as a fascinating and captivating read.