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The Valet and the Stable Groom: M/M Regency Romance Kindle Edition
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Right from the start we have two major players thrown before us. Clement Adair, a young man of light color who is valet to Hildebert Devereaux, whom along with his wife, Jane, have been basically banished to the family estate near Wales after his brother has sired an heir. Hildebert is the quintessential British twit--spoiled, not that bright, lazy and determined to become famous doing something he cannot possibly hope to achieve. He is the Harpo Marx of this book in which he comes to use Hugo Ogden, the handsome and shy stable groom who is also a handyman, to further Clement's (and Hugo's) frustrations of romantic entanglement.
These three men are ably attended by Devereaux's wife, Jane, an unfortunately barren but very smart and subtly ambitious lady whose lady in waiting, Letty, also Clement's pal, is just a spark of pugnacity and mirth when it comes to setting the Devereaux's inherited country staff on their collective ears.
The adventures of this society climbing bunch are eyebrow-arching all the time and sometimes downright guffaw inducing, but through all the fun and games is an almost heartbreakingly building romance between Clement and Hugo, desperately lonely men who because of their station, and perhaps Clement's coloring, are always one step and one kiss away from discovering what they both need.
When that kiss finally comes, somewhat late in the book, it sets off a series of sometimes slapstick but also lovingly entwined incidents in which one sneaky character (who has been unnamed in this review) gets the household in such a tizzy that three of the major players come up with a scheme to settle all matters, love included, in a single, imaginative, far-reaching blow. Very tidy with a bow on top. In the end we have a romance culminated which is unusual in its coupling, inception and progression, but stunningly beautiful in the end.
I was provided an advance copy of this book and I found it to be well within, if not above, Ms. Marlowe's lofty standards. She leaves a very slight door open for a sequel involving two characters who are not identified nor introduced in this book but referred to as coming to the estate in the future. But sequel or not, this one is such a languid surprise that it stands quite well on its own, thank you very much.
The relationship has a very natural progression- no forced smut in this one, but scenes that get worked in where it makes sense. One definitely cares about where it's going, but the household as a whole is the focus here. We get to know the staff, as well as the lord and lady of the house. The group has a great dynamic that really works for the story. You'll have a hard time choosing a favorite!
In this novel the main character is loved and needed by his employers and co workers so his veiled revelation of his "friendship" with the groom is accepted. Understood by some and not questioned by others.
The book however would I think be successful as an amusing tale even if the main character was in love with his female friend from London because there are comedy scenes throughout not related to his romantic preferences. Perhaps not laugh out loud but certainly the many set scenes made me smile.
I suppose there is a Jeeves and Wooster feel to this book as it brings out the well known competent servant and bumbling aristocrat story. It's quietly told and nowhere near as uproarious as Wodehouse but I enjoyed it a lot.
The writing could have been a little sharper in the comedy or there could have been a little more darkness in the single bumbling antagonist but as it is this novel is sweet, funny and relaxed romance.
I found myself rooting harder for Clement with every chapter, feeling his pain, his loneliness, his exhaustion, waiting and praying for his circumstances to improve. That said, my favorite character was Hildebert, the eccentric lord of the estate, whose incessant antics provided comic relief to Clement’s troubles—while simultaneously creating more troubles for Clement.
The mischievous Letty—Lady in waiting to Jane, the Lady of the estate—adds to the mayhem and perks interest in every scene in which she appears.
The Valet and the Stable Groom is driven by a wonderful cast of characters with real problems and by a love in danger of winking out before it has a chance to be actualized. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for an uplifting love story, full of entertaining characters that will keep you laughing and invested from start to finish.