Wednesday, October 7, 2020

BOOK REVIEW: The Footman and I by Valerie Bowman

 I received this book for free from Netgalley. That did not influence this review.

I’ve been bingeing on historical romance. The latest is The Footman and I by Valerie Bowman (the first book in The Footmen’s Club Trilogy.)

The premise is that four gentlemen friends getting drunk together one evening make a pact to help one of them, Lucas Drake, the Earl of Kendall, find a bride. Lucas had previously been engaged, but the woman threw him over for a man with what she thought would be a greater title.  Then Lucas’s elder brother died and he became an earl. Now he needs a wife but wants someone who loves him for himself, not for his wealth and title.

In order to find such a lady, his three friends decide that one (who is married) will host a house party, invite a number of young debutantes, and let the others attend disguised as footmen. That will give Lucas a chance to observe the ladies to see how they treat servants. (It’s unclear how that will show Lucas that they aren’t interested in his title if they ever do meet him as earl, but at least he’ll see if they are nice people.) His friends make side bets on who can maintain their disguises the longest.

Miss Frances Wharton, the daughter of a baron who has gambled away the family fortune, will be attending the house party against her will. Frances finds members of the ton to be dull and arrogant. Moreover, her mother is determined to see her matched with an old bachelor who is among the dullest and most arrogant of all the gentlemen she has met. However, he’s willing to take her (buy her) because she’s young and pretty.

Frances is not interested in the things most debutantes care about. Her interest is politics, particularly an Employment Bill sponsored by the odious Earl of Kendall, whom she has never met but despises by reputation.

On the first day of the house party, Frances and Lucas (the footman) meet while she is trying to evade her middle-aged suitor. It is love at first sight. They engage in rather more conversation than ladies and servants are likely to do, and then start meeting in secret in the library over the next few days. Conversation focuses on politics, but they engage in more than conversation. 

The premise is a bit silly. The protagonists behave in ways that seem very farfetched from the get-go. Some of the conversations are strained. Nevertheless, it’s an entertaining romp and I find myself curious to know what romances are in store for the other two false footmen.

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