H. Lewis-Foster is here to talk about her new short story, A Valet’s Duty. As a huge fan of Regency romance, I am excited to read this novella. Thank you for being here today!
Thanks very much for having me on your blog today, Lane—it’s lovely to be here.
Well, it’s certainly been a busy few weeks. I’ve had a Regency novella Northern Relations and my debut novel Burning Ashes published, and now my short story A Valet’s Duty has just been released. It’s a little surreal that after months, if not years of writing, all three have come out at the same time. Not that I’m complaining, of course, but it will be nice to hide away in my study with a pot of peppermint tea and actually do some writing!
A Valet’s Duty is an Edwardian romance – think along the lines of what the servants in Downton Abbey might really have gotten up to. It’s set in an English stately home, and if you’ve ever visited one of these grand houses, you’ll know it’s not difficult to imagine clandestine goings-on both above and below stairs. There are so many small rooms and corridors, and even hidden doors, which are surely custom-made for night-time assignations.
Some houses are truly sumptuous, with each room more jaw-droppingly extravagant than the last, but often the more interesting places are the kitchens, laundry rooms and servants’ quarters. I guess it’s easier for us ordinary folk to picture life as a member of staff rather than the pampered aristocracy. While some staff were treated well by their employers, they must have worked incredibly hard, so I decided to let my main character, Henry, have a little bit of fun.
As a London valet, Henry has a very healthy sex life with domestic staff from other houses. Then when he moves to Taverslow, his employer’s younger brother, Rafe, asks him to go way beyond his valet’s duty. Henry thoroughly enjoys relieving Rafe’s sexual tensions, as Rafe is the most friendly, good-natured gentleman Henry has ever served.
Henry’s problems begin when he realises that he feels more for Rafe than mere sexual attraction. Secretly providing for a gentleman’s needs is one thing, but Henry knows that falling in love with Rafe could signal the end of his career at Taverslow.
I hope you enjoy meeting Henry and Rafe on your trip back in time to Edwardian England. And now I’m off to my study with my pot of peppermint tea…
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 Burning Ashes.
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!)