Since this is Throwback Thursday, I thought I’d review and share one of my favorite YA books, A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson.
The novel centers around Anna, a young Russian countess who fled to England during the Russian Revolution. Anna is still adjusting to her new life in England living with her former governess, who took her and her younger brother in when they arrived. She lost her family and her fortune, but she is determined to take care of her younger brother. In order to keep paying for his boarding school education, Anna decides to take a job as a house maid. With only an outdated housekeeping manual and her stubborn determination, Anna sets out to work for the esteemed Westerholme household. There Anna’s personality shines as she works hard trying to complete her duties–ones so foreign to her. Then Rupert, Earl of Westerholme returns home and Anna faces another obstacle–her attraction to him. Anna struggles to keep her secret identity hidden while trying to become a great servant and trying to stay away from her feelings for Rupert. The novel is a cute historical romance that will have you coming back!
The thing I love most about this novel is Anna. Ibbotson wrote Anna’s character splendidly; her whole personality jumps off the page. I loved watching Anna’s determination to complete every task she was assigned. Her ability to make everyone around her love her and respect her. Anna’s quirkiness was a joy to read–especially her interactions with the family’s dog. I loved her passion for music and ballet; the way she connected with Uncle Sebastien and Mr. Proom’s mother; and her great humility. She might have been a countess, but she never acted privileged or entitled. Anna made this book. Her story is a really sweet one and her character is one of my favorites.
The romance was also a gem of this book. Both Anna and Rupert were struggling against other obligations while simultaneously falling in love. It was a slow progression, but an instant connection. The setting really helped moved this relationship along. Setting the novel in a historical period made the romance (one considered improper) to spring nicely and progress smoothly throughout the book. All the natural obstacles arose and were nicely tied up in the end. Plus, the added factor that Anna was a Russian countess allowed her station to be almost aligned with Rupert–making the relationship plausible. I think what I really enjoyed was the reasons and way Rupert fell in love with Anna. It’s like he fell in love with her the way I did–you just couldn’t help it. This is just another sign of how well written Anna was.
The secondary characters were also a delight. Each one had their own personalities and quirks. Some had secondary stories throughout the main storyline that kept the story interesting. The novel was written in third person, following multiple characters actions. This really allow the plot to move.
Overall, this novel is a really sweet read. It’s not just about Anna finding love, but also finding her place in England after a tragedy. It’s about adjustment, change, and moving on in a different phase of your life. Anna’s character is very likable and I really connected with her. I felt with her during her struggles and was happy to see her final outcome. If you’re looking for a nice YA romance or a historical fiction novel, I’d really recommend this book. As I’ve already mentioned, I’ve reread it multiple times. It’s definitely a keeper! I’d also suggest Ibbotson’s other three novels as well.
The Blurb via GoodReads
After the Russian revolution turns her world topsy-turvy, Anna, a young Russian Countess, has no choice but to flee to England. Penniless, Anna hides her aristocratic background and takes a job as servant in the household of the esteemed Westerholme family, armed only with an outdated housekeeping manual and sheer determination.
Desperate to keep her past a secret, Anna is nearly overwhelmed by her new duties—not to mention her instant attraction to Rupert, the handsome Earl of Westerholme. To make matters worse, Rupert appears to be falling for her as well. As their attraction grows stronger, Anna finds it more and more difficult to keep her most dearly held secrets from unraveling. And then there’s the small matter of Rupert’s beautiful and nasty fiancée…
My Grade: A
Amazon Rating: 4.3/5 stars (100 Reviews)
Did you read A Countess Below Stairs? What are your thoughts? Are you a fan of Eva Ibbotson? Leave your comments below!