Book Title: The Valet
Author: Mel Gough
Cover Artist: Black Jazz Design
Release Date: December 1, 2020
Genre/s: Historical M/M Romance
Trope/s: Forbidden love
Themes: Restoring trust
Heat Rating: 3 flames
When love does not dare speak its name, trusting is the hardest thing to learn.
England, 1910 – Ted has a good situation as first footman at Montague Hall, the splendid Gloucestershire manor of the 6th Earl of Carran. But he has just made a mistake so serious it could cost him his position, and even land him in prison if the authorities found out.
As valet to the 9th Duke of Argyll, Richard’s London life is glamorous. But when he has his heart broken, he longs to get as far away from the city as possible. The pace at Montague Hall might be sedate, but its tranquillity is like a salve to his shattered soul. And unforeseen diversions are to be found even here. Like handsome, despondent first footmen.
The last thing Ted needs is a new temptation. But his Lordship’s new valet isn’t just gorgeous. Richard is also brave and kind – and he wants to make Ted happy, something Ted never dreamt would come to pass.
Trusting again is hard, and in a world that reviles their love happiness is hard-won. Can they hope to carve out a contented life against all odds?
Dorcas was just coming through the baize door, carrying a tray stacked high with serving bowls. Ted hurried to hold the door for her.
“Thank you.” She gave him a smile and quickly but gently deposited her load on a sideboard.
Ted was fond of the head housemaid. They got on well, and unlike many of the other servants, Ted trusted her. Dorcas was plain-spoken and a hard worker, and she didn’t tolerate the mean kind of teasing that some of the younger servants engaged in with impunity.
He went to open one of the tall cabinets where a couple of shelves were bare. “Here, I’ll do it.” He started stacking the bowls on the shelves, which were too high for Dorcas to reach without a footstool.
“Thank you.” Dorcas rubbed her arms. “Golly, those were heavy. Good thing Mrs Stokes didn’t see me. That would’ve been quite the hiding.”
“She would’ve had good reason.” Ted hefted the bowls. “Imagine if you had tripped with these!”
“Yes, but the stairs are steep and narrow, and it’s bad enough coming up once with that huge tray.” She watched as Ted opened a different cupboard and started counting bread plates. “Aren’t you done yet? You’ve been up here an age!”
Ted made a face. “You know what Mr Wymer is like. He won’t stand for a single spoon out of alignment. And Jimmy’s managed to wriggle out from under him, so I’m doing the dogsbody work.”
Dorcas clicked her tongue impatiently. “You have to stop letting him walk all over you, Ted.” She stood with her hands pressed into her sides, shaking her head. “Who’s the first footman, hmm? You or him?”
Ted kept his eyes on the plates. He might have confided many things in Dorcas, but the reason why he didn’t dare vex Jimmy was too shameful to share even with her. “You’re right, of course. But…you know what he’s like.”
“Oh Ted.” Dorcas sighed. “What are we to do with you?” She turned back towards the door to the back stairs, but then wheeled back around. “I nearly forgot! You were up here, and you wouldn’t have heard yet.” With a glance at the door to the dining room, which was half-open, she lowered her voice. “You won’t believe what happened. Mr Brown has handed in his notice. He just told us.”
Ted stared at her. “What do you mean?” He nodded towards the dining room. “But Mr Wymer didn’t say anything. He must be aware.”
“You know what Mr Wymer is like. Discreet to a fault.” Dorcas put on a serious face and lowered her voice. “An upstanding servant does not gossip, Theodore.”
Despite himself, Ted grinned. The imitation was spot on. Then he remembered the news and grew sombre again. “So Mr Brown’s gone.” After Dorcas, the Earl’s valet was Ted’s second favourite amongst the servants. They weren’t bosom friends – clearly, or Mr Brown would’ve confided his plans in him – but Ted valued the man’s support against Jimmy and Mrs Dankworth, who was the Countess’s lady’s maid and who liked to team up with Jimmy to make Ted’s life hell. Losing the valet would bring change to the balance downstairs, and that would not bode well for Ted. An unease settled in his gut.
Dorcas seemed not to notice. “He’s not gone yet, but he will be by the end of the week. The Earl agreed to let him go on short notice. You know he’s courting the daughter of that Cheltenham pub. Her father died a few days ago, and they need to move quickly so that the pub can stay open.”
“Mr Brown is going to be a pub landlord.” Ted was bemused by the idea. “You’d think that being valet for an Earl would beat that life any day.” He couldn’t imagine leaving service. The work at Montague Hall wasn’t exactly a walk in the park, but the house was comfortable and the Peytons were fair employers. After what he’d left behind at home in Yorkshire, this house was paradise. But then he remembered the impossible situation he’d gotten himself into with Jimmy. Maybe starting over new somewhere wouldn’t be so bad.
Dorcas shrugged. “I guess love trumps all in the end.”
Ted didn’t know what to say to that. He knew that people like Dorcas believed this, but he also knew that for people like him, this was not likely to ever happen. He picked up the stack of plates. “I better take these through, before Mr Wymer sends out a search party.”
“Right you are.” Dorcas gave him a smile and a wave, and vanished through the baize door.