Title: The Butler
Author: Danielle Steel
Published: September 28th 2021
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 3 stars
Joachim von Hartmann is born into a wealthy Argentine banking family and spends his early years in Buenos Aires. Blonde-haired and blue-eyed, he has inherited the looks of his German ancestors, while his twin brother Javier could not be more different. Following the death of their father, and when details emerge about Joachim’s maternal grandfather’s wartime activity, both boys and their mother, Liese, are cast out from the family. After the years of glamour and luxury, she must raise them alone with no financial support.
Eventually Liese meets and falls in love with a French art expert, and she and Joachim move to Paris without Javier, who refuses to leave his beloved Argentina. Rumours soon start to circulate that he’s involved in the drugs trade.
Following a whim, Joachim moves to England to train as a butler but on the death of his last employer, Joachim decides to move back to France to spend some time with his mother. He finds a job putting his skills to good use acting as assistant and confidant to Olivia, an American who needed to escape her life in New York.
Both Joachim and Olivia hold secrets about their past, and as reports come through that Javier’s life in the Columbian underworld is spiralling out of control, they must, as brave and honourable people, make some difficult decisions.
“I don’t mind a life of service. I kind of like the idea of keeping people’s lives in good order.”
American author Danielle Steel is loved around the world for her romance novels. The Butler is Steel’s most recent contemporary romance release. A story of family, wealth, secrets, betrayal, loss, trauma, estrangement, employment, friendship and love, The Butler is an engaging read, ideal for fans of the bestselling author.
Joachim von Hartmann leads the events of Danielle Steel’s latest novel. Joachim and his twin brother Javier come from a very rich family, but when their grandfather is charged with serious war crimes, this family takes a big fall from grace. Joachim and Javier’s mother Liese is forced to bring up the boys alone, on a small income. Over time things improve for Liese. Liese falls into a satisfying position as a French art expert. However, Liese leaves behind one son in Argentina, who goes off the rails when he becomes involved in the dark drug underworld. Joachim follows his mother to France, but he eventually moves on and takes up a lucrative position as a butler. After sixteen years of loyal service to his employer, Joachim returns to France to be with his ageing mother. While trying to secure a new long-term position as a butler in France, Joachim takes up interim role with an American businesswoman who is starting afresh in France. Joachim’s new employer Olivia never thought she would need a butler, but Joachim proves his worth in gold. But as this employer and employee grow closer, threats from the past will impact this couple.
The Butler offers a slight departure from Danielle Steel’s usual fodder. This time around Steel chooses the narrate events from mainly a male perspective through the central voice of Joachim von Hartmann, the butler figure of this tale. Steel also integrates the perspective of Olivia, a successful American woman looking to restart her life in France. It was refreshing to read a Danielle Steel book from the eyes of a male lead. Joachim was quite a charming figure!
The initial premise of The Butler was intriguing and I was interested to see where this novel would go direction wise. Those who are fans of Danielle Steel will know that the author loves the cult television series Downton Abbey and France. Steel combines both these elements in her novel and she includes a focus on the wealthy, which is another of the author’s common narrative threads. The Butler looks at a family who take a tumble from the upper class due to an unexpected revelation. I enjoyed the way in which the war crime element involving the lead’s grandfather played out in this book. I actually would have loved more air time on this component of the novel as I found it fascinating. Likewise, I found Liese to be a very absorbing character with a compelling profession. I devoured the sections involving Liese’s art work and her dedication to recovering stolen paintings from the war. Steel presents a very intriguing subject area in minimal form only. I would have liked a stronger exploration of this highly engaging subject line.
Joachim von Hartman leads proceedings in Danielle Steel’s most recent publication. Joachim is an appealing and likeable protagonist. Joachim’s family background, education, further studies, training and eventual employment as a butler proved to be enjoyable points in this story. I did feel some areas around Joachim and his family were repetitive, which was unfortunate. The female lead of this tale was inserted into the novel without much warning or build up, which was a bit odd, but I did appreciate the relationship progression between these two leads. What I found most surprising was the changing position of a butler in modern times as opposed to the past, this aspect of the tale held my interest. Olivia and Joachim’s relationship took some time to develop and the happy ever after came just a bit too fast for me, more build up was definitely required in this area of The Butler.
With some predictable elements and plot turns, The Butler takes an additional focus on Joachim’s twin brother Javier. Javier’s disappearance and possible death contributes to a valued level of suspense in this contemporary romance tale. Steel uses this aspect of her novel to explore the drugs trade and Argentina’s dark underworld. This was another alternative storyline focus for Danielle Steel. It was good to see Danielle Steel branch further afield with some elements of her new novel.
The Butler by Danielle Steel was published on 28th September 2021 by Pan Macmillan. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Butler, Danielle Steel, visit here.
*Thanks extended to Pan Macmillan for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.