Book Review: The Manservant by Michael Harwood

Title: The Manservant
Author:  Michael Harwood
Published: 24 February 2015
Publisher:  Kensington

Twitter: @Manservant69


In this bitingly witty, saucy, acutely observed debut novel, Michael Harwood pulls back the damask drapes to reveal life among the modern aristocracy–upstairs, downstairs, and occasionally, behind stairs…

Anthony Gowers assists guests at a high-end London hotel with the kind of requests that can’t be filled from a room-service menu. His reward: lavish tips and a closet full of cashmere. Then a client’s after-hours entertainment ends in a tabloid scandal, and Anthony quickly becomes the city’s best-dressed unemployed person. . .

In desperation, Anthony takes a position in the countryside as personal butler to Lord Shanderson. As a former Royal footman, Anthony is well versed in the peerage’s peculiar ways. But Castle Beadale conceals an abundance of intrigue behind its stately doors. On the surface, Lord Shanderson is a model English gentleman–with a few personal interests that Anthony is sure the absent Lady Shanderson knows nothing about. But when the horrendously high-maintenance Lady Shanderson returns, tempers will flare, secrets will be exposed, and Anthony must decide whether the perks of privilege he’s enjoyed are worth the price he’s compelled to pay. . .


Thanks to Kensington
and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of The Manservant in return for an honest review.

This is the debut novel from the author, Michael Harwood.

I should first point out that this book was not what I was expecting having seen the cover and having read the blurb. I was expecting something similar to Downtown Abbey, however I think this book is better described as a combination between Hotel Babylon and 50 Shades of Grey.

However, despite being somewhat surprised with the content, I have to say that the book was well-written. I enjoyed the narrator’s wit and found the book to be very easy reading and great fun.

The main character, Anthony Gowers, was flawed but likeable. He displays an odd combination of vulnerability whilst also taking full advantage of each situation and the people he runs into. There was virtually no character development with the supporting characters, however I think that this actually worked well as we are not supposed to get to know or sympathise with those other characters. This book is all about Anthony Gowers.

The plot moves quickly. It is a story of a butler, first at a swanky hotel and then for a titled gentleman, who sees and experiences the unusual underbelly of the lives of the privileged, wealthy and powerful. As he moves into his position of manservant at the country home of the titled gentleman we see the play for power between Gowers and his employer. Is Gowers taking advantage of his employer or is it actually the other way round?

The story itself is quite raunchy with an emphasis on homosexual sex with mild sadomasochism. I have to admit that this is not a subject matter that I would knowingly have chosen, not because of any objection to homosexuality, but rather due to the fact that I am not a big fan of erotica. However, whilst I often find such books to be overly tacky, The Manservantmanaged to avoid that pitfall thanks to the author’s writing skills.

Overall, even though not what I anticipated, I found The Manservant to be a witty and entertaining read.

Rating: 3 out of 5

About the Author

Michael Harwood is one of the UK’s most sought after private chefs, with clients on both sides of the Atlantic as well as a twice-published cookbook author.

After twenty years of cooking for the rich and famous, his first novel will be published by Kensington in 2015.
‘The Manservant’ is a contemporary tale full of scandal and romance, exploring the perennially popular subject of the master and servant relationship.

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