Rating: 2.75 stars
Buy Link:
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Length: Novel

 

All Arden wants out of life is to serve. He comes from a long line of butlers and is determined to be a paragon of the profession. There’s just one small caveat: his new billionaire boss is so hot, Arden can barely keep his eyes or hands to himself. However, while the wealthy Jamie Montgomery may not use his words, the nonverbal cues are as clear as day to Arden: Jamie is there for the taking. So what starts off as simple dressing, a massage here and there, and a few nights attending galas together turns into endless sexcapades. However, the longer the men share their most intimate body parts, the more clearly Arden realizes that Jamie wants more from him that he can give as a butler and as a man. Suddenly, a relationship that seemed crystal clear and all about tacit trysts under cover of darkness gets snarled up with complicated emotions.

But Arden hasn’t worked his whole life in service to throw it all away for a man, not even the one man he covets above everything else. Working extra hard to keep the walls around himself sturdy and insurmountable, Arden redoubles his efforts to keep things strictly physical. All his hard work is dashed, however, when Jamie gets swooped up in a “bid on a bachelor” night that reveals to Arden just how unsatisfactory this arrangement is to him after all. Now, he is not sure at all how to cope with losing the attention of the man he refuses to admit he loves.

Good Housekeeping is a contemporary get-together novel by Dove Spalding. It’s set in England and features a mind-bogglingly wealthy love interest with a deeply guarded past and his young, career-minded butler who can’t stop fantasizing about him. I was drawn to this book because the idea of Arden having the reckoning of a lifetime appealed to me. Insofar as that goes, I suppose that much is true. Arden is constantly battling with himself over his profession and his personal desires. For me, that was the one success in this story. However, from the characters, to the plot, to the storytelling, I found the rest of story to be a big (offensive, even) disappointment.

I took a strong and immediate dislike to Arden for his stalkery ways. He sneaks into Jamie’s room to watch him sleep for hours. Apparently, Jamie saying he somehow became aware of Arden’s voyeuristic tendencies and the fact that Jamie doesn’t let an audience stop him from masturbating in his own bed means everything is hunky dory with this. The liberties Arden takes with Jamie without actually asking for or receiving consent continue to grow, up to and including intercourse. By the time we get to the last chapter, we discover some significant trauma in Jamie’s past and Arden’s skeevy “tacit consent” plausible deniability got wholly and irrevocably ruined in light of Jamie likely suffering all kinds of PTSD.

This set-up just cast the whole “romance” more like Arden abusing Jamie and Jamie being too insecure to do anything about it. Buckle up, because it becomes blatantly clear that Jamie is falling hook-line-and-sinker for Arden, which only makes Arden redouble his efforts to keep Jamie at arm’s length (but within dick’s reach). The kicker for me was an early scene where Arden catches Jamie and a maid in a compromising position and immediately assumes the worst of Jamie, without asking any questions whatsoever, and basically accuses Jamie of abusing staff. As if Arden doesn’t spend the entire book justifying all the groping, passive-aggressive lashing out during daily tasks, petulant silent treatment, emotional distance, and everything as nothing but offering excellent butlering services.

Overall, I found an intense dislike for this story. The eleventh-hour change of heart Arden undergoes was way too little, way too late and came on the heels of discovering Jamie’s past trauma. It’s not a good look as far as I’m concerned. There is no momentum in this story and being stuck with Arden as our sole narrator left little escape from his contemptible behavior. I couldn’t see him as a tragic or conflicted character, just a one-dimensional abuser who’s so self-absorbed, he doesn’t even seem to know he’s such a colossal dick. If any of that sounds appealing to you, sally forth, but this is a hard pass for me.