The Secret Countess
Anna, once the daughter of a Russian Count, finds her life flipped upside down. Her father’s dead, and her family, along with the rest of the Russian royal family, have had to flee the country. Anna, her mother, her younger brother, and her old governess end up in London, a part of the working class. This sweet book by Eva Ibbotson features a cast of cute characters and interesting history tidbits.
To support her family, and to send her brother to a nice school, Anna takes on a job as a housemaid for an Earl in the country. Westerholme has been abandoned by its owner for awhile, ever since the war began and money became tight. But the Earl is coming home, with a new heiress bride-to-be in tow. He wants the house back to it’s former glory, a glory that befits his seemingly perfect bride, Muriel. Anna takes her new job very seriously, and doesn’t want anything to get in the way of being a perfect maid and employee, not even the caring Earl and his family. But are Muriel’s standards too high for the crumbling Westerholme? And how will the middle-class heiress feel about being served by a Russian Countess?
Anna lights up the story with her dedication to her job and her family, as well as her positive attitude and continual laughter. The other servants range from proud and prim to loud and crass. Their minor roles make this novel fun to read, and more than just a typical historical fiction romance novel. Rupert, the Earl of Westerholme, is easy to love. The reader roots for him from the first moment he’s introduced. Muriel, the snooty bride-to-be, is just as easy to hate. The reader hopes she breaks her perfect face, preferably on Anna’s fist. And Olive…I’ll let you find out about little Olive on your own.
A few lovely lines emphasize Ibbotson’s skill with writing as well: “Slowly, Anna put up a hand to his muzzle and began to scratch that spot behind the ear where large dogs keep their souls,” or “It was only when the light in her eyes was extinguished, at the mention of her father, that Rupert realized how brightly it had burned.”
The mix of history and romance in The Secret Countess by Eva Ibbotson creates a light but engaging read from start to finish.