H Lewis-Foster has a passion for period drama. She’s offering a copy of her story, A Valet’s Duty if you leave a comment with your favourite period drama – book, film or TV?’ The giveaway closes on 3rd December at midday GMT.
As some of you may know, I’m a bit of a fan of Downton Abbey, so it was pretty much inevitable that I would write a story set at that time. I’ve always enjoyed books and dramas set at the start of the twentieth century. I loved Anthony Andrews as Sebastian Flyte in the television adaptation of Brideshead Revisited. The wistful, rose-tinted picture of Oxford’s dreaming spires melted my sulky teenage heart, and the unspoken love between the two main characters no doubt ignited my passion for gay romance.
I adored the similarly idyllic Merchant Ivory films, too, with Maurice being a particular favourite. I also have a soft spot for the slightly darker, more melancholy Another Country, starring the fabulous Rupert Everett (and a young Colin Firth, of course).
I loved the wonderfully lyrical books these dramas were based on, too. I recently read Wendy Moffat’s fascinating biography of Maurice author, EM Forster. While he led an active, if secretive, life as a gay man, I found it unbearably sad that he apparently gave up writing fiction at an early age because he dared not write openly about love between men. I count myself so lucky that I grew up at a time when I could read and watch beautiful stories of gay love, and am now able to write them too.
So I wanted to bring both the elegance of the Edwardian era and the hidden nature of gay love at that time to A Valet’s Duty. The main character of the story is Henry, the eponymous valet, who moves to Taverslow, the Earl of Wayshaw’s Somerset home. He leaves behind a life in London, where he has an enjoyable if clandestine sex life with domestic staff from other grand houses. Out in the countryside, Henry finds himself in the midst of a sexual drought, as does Rafe, his employer’s younger brother, who is visiting from his villa in Italy.
Their relationship quickly progresses from professional to sexual, but right from the start, Henry finds Rafe to be far more than simply his social superior. There’s a warmth and sincerity to Rafe which Henry hasn’t seen in other gentlemen, and that is where his problems begin. When the line between employer and servant blurs, emotional drama is bound to ensue.
I hope you enjoy meeting Henry and Rafe, and maybe it might just fill the gap if you’re missing Downton Abbey!
A Valet’s Duty by H. Lewis-Foster
At the turn of the twentieth century, Henry Simpkins is a valet at Taverslow, the Earl of Wayshaw’s Somerset home. When the Earl’s younger brother, Rafe, arrives from his villa in Italy, Henry is given the task of caring for his mischievous dogs, Pepe and Paolo. As part of his valet’s duties, he also goes to Rafe’s room each night to tidy away his clothes.
One night, Rafe tentatively asks Henry if he would go beyond his valet’s duty to relieve his sexual tensions. Henry enjoys their increasingly intimate encounters, but he’s soon disturbed to find he feels more for Rafe than mere physical attraction. Henry faces a difficult decision. Can he bear to remain in the same house as Rafe if his affections are not returned?
Henry followed Fenton through the house, its walls festooned with paintings and gilt-framed mirrors. He recalled his previous place of employment, which couldn’t have been more different. Wareham Mews had been the London abode of the Berringtons, whose family wealth had been acquired in the publishing industry. They were pleasant enough and terribly modern—they’d installed electricity in every room—but Henry didn’t share their taste in interior design. They’d taken a liking for a Mr Mackintosh from Glasgow, and while his finely carved chairs were undoubtedly stylish, they looked bloody uncomfortable.
Even so, Henry couldn’t deny he’d had some fun at Wareham Mews. The Berringtons threw fabulous parties, where women dared to bare their ankles and sometimes a lot more, as they danced to the latest American music. They even hired a ragtime band one night. When Henry had finally been dismissed, he found some entertainment of his own with the valet of one of the visiting guests. He’d thanked heaven for the relatively small staff of a London residence, as it meant he had a room of his own tucked away in a tiny roof turret. As the music continued several
floors below—the party lasted into the early hours—Henry took full advantage. The bed springs had squeaked like they were about to give way and his companion cried out in such ecstasy when he came, Henry was afraid there would soon be a knock on the door to find out what was he was up to.
It had been one hell of a night, but shortly after Henry heard the Earl of Wayshaw required a new valet for his Somerset home. Henry loved living in London with all
its madness and bustle, and his friends working in houses only a stone’s throw away, but Henry was rapidly approaching the age of thirty. He needed to move to a larger, more established house if he wanted to advance his career.
And so Henry found himself standing in Taverslow’s drawing room, with its ornate ceiling and sumptuous crimson furniture. Noticing a low rumbling sound, he looked around to trace its source. Two pairs of glimmering brown eyes stared up at him.
“These are your wards, Mr Simpkins.” There was no doubting the smirk on Fenton’s face this time. “Pepe and Paolo.”
“Pepe and Paolo?” Henry tried, in vain, not to laugh. “But they’re Yorkshire Terriers.”
“That they may be, but Mr Rafe spends a lot of time in Italy, hence the rather exotic names.” Fenton dropped two leather dog leads into Henry’s hand. “Just walk them,
feed them, and don’t let them run off, and everyone will be happy.”
A Valet’s Duty is available to buy at: https://spsilverpublishing.com/a-valets-duty-ebook-p-60427.html
H. Lewis-Foster has worked with books, in one form or another, since leaving university. As a keen reader of gay fiction, she decided to try writing herself, and is now the proud author of several short stories and a debut novel.
H. has lived in various parts of the UK and has recently moved to the north of England, where she’s enjoying city life, especially the theatres and cinemas. She tries not to watch too much television, but is a big fan of Downton Abbey, and while she’s writing, she loves listening to Test Match Special (where they spend far more time talking about cakes than cricket!)