shortlisted for Book of the Month
"Philip Devalle is an unusual – and enjoyable – creation. At first, he seems to have few redeeming features, being extremely vain[but] he does not lack courage or skill."
17th C – Charles II
England and France
Designs of a Gentleman is a prequel to a series of books based on the adventures of Philip Devalle in a time when relations with France and Holland are in a precarious state.
Philip had a miserable childhood, beaten heavily and often by his older – and slightly insane – brother, Henry. His father, Earl Southwick, was not much help either, always deferring to his heir's excuses. Seeing no great future for himself, Philip, saw no other recourse than to try and find himself a patron at court. He also finds that his good looks – inherited from his French mother - attract a great number of ladies, especially Barbara Palmer, Countess of Castlemaine.
We watch Philip thrive at court, following all the trends set by the rich – fashion, gambling and, of course, women. He survives both fire and plague and even keeps his rash promise of introducing Nell to King Charles. With Buckingham, he finds himself in France, adored by the Duc d'Orleans – Monsieur – and also a confidant of King Louis. He is also made a major in the French army due to his French mother.
Philip Devalle is an unusual – and enjoyable – creation. At first, he seems to have few redeeming features, being extremely vain; he is handsome, he knows it and uses his looks unashamedly to advance in both courts. Yet he does have a kind streak for those less fortunate than himself and he does not lack courage or skill. He makes friends and enemies just as easily.
As a prequel, this can easily be read as a stand-alone novel, though I hope, like me, the reader will be wanting more.
© Richard Tearle
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