We’re so pleased to welcome author J.S. Cook to The Novel Approach to introduce her newest novel, My Man Walter.
When I was merely a young thing, many years ago, I had a job as a housekeeper-cum-babysitter to a businesswoman and her husband, and their small girl of five. Lest you think working as a domestic servant is a glamorous life, let me disabuse you of that notion: it’s not. In fact, it’s about as far from glamorous as you can get.
“A household employs domestic staff for three main reasons: 1. To clean the toilets; 2. To make the beds; 3. To serve dinner on time.” (Macpherson, 25)¹ It was this first one that gave me the most difficulty. Nobody likes cleaning up another person’s excrement; the disgusting nature of the enterprise is compounded when the area around the toilet is similarly dirty. Don’t care to mop up piss after the master of the house drains his bladder? Don’t go into domestic service. Trust me: it looks nothing like Downton Abbey. Expect long days filled with the most exquisite drudgery, which is made worse if you ‘live in’, as I did. You’re never really off duty but are to be on call at all times to any members of the household that might need you.
The hero of my book My Man Walter finds himself in a similar dilemma. In danger of being killed because of his newspaper exposés about local crime family the Masettis, he finds temporary shelter at the sumptuous mansion of billionaire inventor Chase Gordon—as the household under-butler:
His printed accusations of money laundering and crooked politicians had caused such a fuss at city hall that he was banned from the premises for life. Eleanor [Walter’s editor] had practically taken him apart. What the fucking hell are you trying to do to me, Walter? You named names, for chrissakes, without any real proof.
What Walter knows about butlering, you can fit into a very small thimble. Yet, his employer—and the phlegmatic head butler, fearsome Englishwoman Juliet Lavish—expect him to master a variety of skills, from cooking to mopping to setting a proper table. Walter’s a big boy; he can handle being ordered around and having to cook free range chickens under the broiler.
What he can’t handle is his immediate and overwhelming attraction to Chase Gordon. Walter’s partner died in the 9-11 attacks, and Walter himself has no intention of submitting to Chase’s considerable charms. For Walter, love means pain, and he doesn’t think he can go through that again without losing a significant part of himself. The road to Hell, as someone once said, is paved with good intentions, and the longer Walter spends in Chase’s presence, the less able he is to resist:
He was about Walter’s own age, dark-haired and dark-eyed, handsome…. God, he was handsome. He wore his hair combed straight back over his head, the better to showcase his large brown eyes with their thick lashes. His chin was faintly stubbled with perhaps a day’s worth of beard, but it didn’t look messy, not on him. His face was lean, with high cheekbones and a certain suppleness around the mouth; Walter had seen his face in so many photographs, splashed on the front pages of newspapers and all over social media, but no photograph did him justice. He was beautiful. He was more beautiful in person than any man had a right to be.
Eventually, Chase wins him over, but not before Walter’s own near-death at the hands of hired assassins, while Chase is being held by armed kidnappers in the depths of the Honduran jungle. Faced with the loss of the man he’s come to love deeply, Walter swiftly reconsiders his own unwillingness to let anyone in. When Chase comes home, Walter is waiting for him and the two finally get their happily-ever-after.
References: 1.) MacPherson, Charles. The Butler Speaks: A Guide to Stylish Entertaining, Etiquette, and the Art of Housekeeping. New York: 2013. Appetite Books.
About the Book: Billionaire inventor Chase Gordon has just turned forty—and everything in his ordered little world is going to hell in an Hermès bag. His acerbic English butler Juliet Lavish has decided to retire. The humanitarian church founded by his late parents has suddenly gone broke—in the middle of the jungle—in Honduras. Lastly, NYPD detective Brian Schrade wants to use Chase’s palatial mansion to hide Walter Godfrey, a newspaper reporter who might know something about a recent rash of mob-related business deals. Part of the deal is the conniving, misanthropic Alec Pratt, son of a local newspaper mogul and unapologetic police informant who just might have a teensy weensy crush on Brian Schrade.
But Walter isn’t safe, not at Chase’s residence or anywhere else. His too-frequent forays into the city—against Brian Schrade’s advice—make him a target, and his strong attraction to Chase Gordon is setting him up for some serious heartbreak. When Chase goes to Honduras to investigate the state of his family’s failing fortunes, he adds another trouble to the long list: he’s been set up for kidnapping.
About the Author: J.S. Cook was born in a tiny fishing village on the seacoast of Newfoundland. Her love of writing manifested itself early when her mother, impressed with the quality of a school assignment she’d written, sent it to the editor of the local paper – who published it. Since then she has written novels, short stories, novellas, plays, radio scripts and some really, really bad poetry. She has worked as a housekeeper, nanny, secretary, publisher, parliamentary editor and a university lecturer, although this last convinced her never to step foot inside a classroom again. She holds a B.A. (Honors) and an M.A. in English Language and Literature, and a B.Ed in post-secondary education. She loves walking and once spent six hours walking the streets of Dublin, Ireland. She maintains she wasn’t lost, just “looking around”. She makes her home in St. John’s, Newfoundland, with her husband of 27 years and her spoiled rotten ‘dogter’, Lola, who always gets her own way.