Title: The Secret Countess
Author: Eva Ibbotson
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Easy reading, History, Romance
Publisher: Young Picador
5th sentence, 74th page: ‘She’s new,’ he said.
Anna, a young countess, has lived in the glittering city of St Petersburg all her life in an ice-blue palace overlooking the River Neva. But when revolution tears Russia apart, her now-penniless family is forced to flee to England. Armed with an out-of-date book on housekeeping, Anna determines to become a housemaid and she finds work at the Earl of Westerholme’s crumbling but magnificent mansion. The staff and the family are sure there is something not quite right about their new maid – but she soon wins them over with her warmth and dedication.
Then the young Earl returns home from the war – and Anna falls hopelessly in love. But they can never be together: Rupert is engaged to the snobbish and awful Muriel – and anyway, Anna is only a servant. Or so everybody thinks . . .
It doesn’t matter how many times I read this novel, I fall in love every single time. After all, it’s the most beautiful love story set in picturesque England. Kind of Downton Abbey-ish, but with one of the best love stories I’ve ever read. It is simple, subtle and sneaks up on both you and Anna as you read. Honestly, you can’t help but smile as you turn the last page of the book. And, sometimes all you want to do is go back to the beginning all over again.
I’ve always struggled with reading historical fiction – I’m not really all that knowledgeable about it, and quite often, I get so bogged down in the details that I lose the story. Maybe I should really just do some research into the periods I’m reading about, but that would just take away from my time spent in the story… but I digress. Ibbotson’s work doesn’t get so bogged down about the details (in this case the years surrounding World War I) that you can’t find the story anymore. Instead, the history around World War I is just a great back drop to a story that expands the ages – like all good love stories.
So far this makes it sound like I love romances. But, mostly, I find them kind of tedious and frustrating to read. Boy meets girl, girl meets boy, love, sappy, bleugh… and, although this novel does mostly follow that pattern, there’s just that something extra that makes it interesting enough to read. Interesting enough that I have read this at least once a year since I got given it for Christmas.
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