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A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson

What wordy, frothy fun Ibbotson's books are. Perfect going on a trip books. In fact, reading them makes me wish I was going somewhere, as her heroines always seem to be off somewhere new and exciting and exotic. But since I am not going anywhere (exotic or otherwise) in the near future, getting lost in them has proved a wonderful balm for my It's mid-March and Still Snowing blues.

Anna is a Russian countess whose family is forced to flee their wealth and their home after her father is killed in the Russian Revolution. Completely displaced, living in a flat in London with her former governess, she determines to support her ailing mother and younger brother by taking a job as a maid at the country estate of the Earl of Westerholme. Rupert, the young Earl, is recently home from the war, wounded and desperately trying to save the destitute estate he didn't want to inherit in the first place. You see, he promised his older brother just before he died that he would do anything in his power to keep the old place afloat. Ah, those pesky deathbed promises. They always come back to haunt you...

To avoid selling, Rupert proposes to a beautiful, very wealthy nurse he meets while recovering in hospital. Muriel is gorgeous, rich, and oh, just by the way, a passionate believer in eugenics--the philosophy of selective breeding in order to achieve a master race. That's right. The woman is Evil Incarnate and Poor Rupert doesn't know! As Muriel sinks her claws deeper and deeper into Westerholme, attempting to dispose of all of its lovely, offbeat, misfit inhabitants, Rupert and Anna strike up a friendship. Not fooled for a second by her maid disguise, Rupert is struck by how much Anna seems to love his home and family, how different it all looks when seen through her eyes. And, indeed, everyone from the other servants to the Earl's giant hound is enamored of Anna. But the path gets thornier and thornier as the wedding draws closer and pride and honor get in the way of everyone's happiness.

Ibbotson's books remind me of a cross between Anne of Green Gables and Jane Eyre, with a dash of Mary Stewart thrown in for good measure. A Countess Below Stairs has a wedding scene that had me laughing out loud. Best of all, though, it contains a truly wonderful rant delivered by the leading lady whilst standing in front of a formal dinner party, clutching a basket of rolls to her chest. Brilliant.

It also contains the best last line of Ibbotson's books yet.

Links
Books and Other Thoughts Review
Bookshelves of Doom Review
Bookwyrm Chrysalis Review

Comments

  1. I just got chills reading the summary you gave....sounds too good to be true....Anne of Green Gables, Mary Stewart, and Jane Eyre....You just named three of my top ten of all time books/authors....must read!

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  2. Definitely give it a shot, Liz. Her books (and characters) are easy to love.

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  3. Yay, they have both of her books that you reviewed at the library! I just got the kids to sleep and I just spent an hour doing some major searching for books . I finally tracked down all of the books in the "President's Daughter" series. Between you, the library, some random book seller on the internet, and a new addition coming out in July that I just pre-ordered, I have all four books! By August I am set! I also have on hold Beastly and Song of the Sparrow at the library; plus my copies of the Lynn Kurland books arrived in the mail this week; and I got the 4th book in Mary Stewart's Merlin/Arthur Saga at the library......WHERE TO BEGIN......I guess I felt like I needed options for spring break next week!.....NOT ENOUGH TIME IN THE DAY! See you soon!

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  4. I loved this book and I enjoyed reading your review! Thanks for the link. I linked back to yours in my review, too (I wrote that one back before I started doing that). :-)

    Oh, and congratulations, by the way - I love the ultrasound picture!

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  5. Wow, Liz. That is a tough choice. I'm so glad you'll get to read the President's Daughter series straight through. Can't wait to hear about that. Hm, for now I'd say start the first Kurland. Either that or Song of the Sparrow. Man, I loved that book.

    Darla, you are welcome and thanks for linking to my review! Isn't Ibbotson great?

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  6. LOVED IT. I would have liked a little more contact between hero and heroine, but other than that, it was wonderful. You are right the characters are easy to love. I haven't laughed out loud while reading a book in a long time....some of the characters are hilarious! It isn't very often that I fall in love with so many characters in such a short time.

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  7. I'm so glad you liked it. I know what you mean, too. I rarely laugh out loud and when I do it's delightful. A Song for Summer is that way as well. So many wonderful, zany characters.

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  8. I love Eva Ibbotson's books! They're a wonderful mix of charmingly funny and touching and they always hit the spot exactly right.

    Just bored at work and flipping through some of your old posts, I stumbled upon this one and I had to gush a little :)

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