June 6, 2008

A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson

Countess Below StairsWhen the revolution hits Russia, Anna’s family doesn’t fare well: her father dies in battle, her mother is torn by grief and yet tries to do the best she can, and they are all in danger. Soon Anna and her family find themselves making the long journey to England – with the help of Anna’s governess – determined to make a new home for themselves.

There is only one problem: money, and the lack thereof. Anna’s family lost almost everything in the revolution and the few jewels they had left were lost. For Anna, the solution is pretty simple: She’ll get a job and support her family. Everyone tells Anna she can’t, she’s a countess! But Anna reasons that no money means no food and she’s willing to do anything – honest of course – to secure her family’s well being.

That’s how Anna finds a job as a maid at Westerholme, home of the new earl of Westerholme, Rupert, who’s just being released from the hospital after being wounded in the war (The WW1) and he's about to marry a rich heiress – partially because he truly thinks he loves her and partially because he does need her money.

Anna and Rupert like each other immediately, of course, everyone likes Anna and everyone likes Rupert, yet this time is different…

I won’t say much or I’ll spoil it for you guys, I’ll just say that I really liked this book, it’s the first by Eva Ibbotson I’ve ever read so I can’t compare to her other works but, as for this one, I can say that it’s a warm, enchanting romance; light and sweet.

I liked both lead characters a lot, Anna has that quality some heroines have, you know the ones, they are so sweet, so full of virtues, such paragons of everything good that you think it’s going to be impossible to actually like them – let alone believe them – but Anna’s optimism and good sense (even in her naïveté) shine through and you actually do like her and do root for her and her family. Rupert on the other hand is a very honorable and kind man, he’s trying desperately to do the right thing for himself and for his family, he just happens to realize he isn’t in love with her fiancé and that it might very well be too late.

I found the antagonistic characters well done in a way that, though silly to my thinking they made sense to themselves and as a reader I appreciate that. Friends and family add depth to the story, they all had stories to tell, some of which were glimpsed at in an unobtrusive way that added to the story without feeling like it was dragging on and on.

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