I grew up reading Eva Ibbotson’s stories, my particular favourites being Which Witch and The Secret of Platform Thirteen.
I did not know until I was a ripe old age, that she had also written romance stories for older readers – my only experience being of her magical and fantasy writing.
I have just finished reading a romance called The Secret Countess – and I have to tell you that I loved it.
Usually, when I am writing for this blog, and not my personal blog, I tend to try and keep my reviews reasonably impersonal, but I have to cross the line here and tell you that I ate this book up. I wanted to finish it, and yet I didn’t want it to end, I enjoyed it so much.
It tells the story of the young Russian Countess, Anna, who, along with her family has had to flee from the terrors of the Russian Revolution. Arriving in London, penniless, she and her family end up staying with her old English governess, Pinny. Knowing how hard it is for Pinny to help them all, Anna resolves on getting a job, and is sent by an agency to a fading manor house in the country as a house maid.
Anna likes to do every job perfectly, and sets off, with three, massive volumes on household management, determined to become the best housemaid they have ever seen.
The servants are getting the house ready for the young master, who has returned from the war as not only a hero, but the unexpected heir of Mersham, after the death of his brother. The Earl of Westerholme is all set to marry a wealthy young woman who nursed him back to health, and whose fortunes will revive those of his family seat and allow him to restore it to its former glory.
Except that Anna rather gets in the way.
This is a ridiculously silly romantic tale, full of improbable events and magical happenings that tug at your heart strings and make you long for everything to turn out right in the end.
I would recommend it to teenagers aged from 13 upwards. It is not a book for boys at all. I cannot imagine a single boy I know going near it with a ten foot pole, but if you are a dreamy, romantic girl, longing for perfect love stories then I urge you to put down Twilight and try this. It’s much more satisfying.
The story needs an older, more confident reader, not because anything terrible happens in it, but because it does not pander to readers who aren’t willing to work at the text a little. It needs someone with the patience to work on the language and the ideas in the book to get full enjoyment out of it.