Eva Ibbotson was an award winning author of many children's fantasy books. She also wrote a few romances. A Countess Below Stairs is one of her romances and is the first book of hers I've read. The book is marketed as a YA novel now but I read somewhere that originally it was just romantic fiction. It is a delightfully fun book to assist in escaping from thinking too hard for a couple of hours. I was in need of one of those this week so this book came to the top of my TBR pile at the perfect time.
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background and takes a job as servant in the household of the esteemed Westerholme family, armed only with an outdated housekeeping manual and sheer determination.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...
The plot is predictable and the characters typical to the romance genre. Anna is all goodness and light. Everyone who meets her instantly adores her. She is an especial friend to the elderly, small animals and children. Rupert is strong, solid, dependable and takes the honor of his word very seriously. His fiancee, Muriel, is vain and despicable. No one likes her much at all. She is a great believer in eugenics and is on a crusade to rid her world of the less than fit. Beware all elderly people and simple or crippled children. Too bad Rupert met her before Anna. And too bad his overdeveloped sense of honor won't allow him to do anything about it. Thank goodness Rupert has a very inventive butler set on securing his master's happiness. None of it is terribly deep but it is all great fun.
Reading this book is like watching a good romantic movie. I enjoyed it and it gave me a break from thinking too hard. Like in many good romances, the strength of the story actually lies in the wonderful cast of supporting characters. I think I would have enjoyed the book a lot less if it wasn't for how much it focused on people that weren't Anna and Rupert. The historical aspect was handled accurately too. For any out there who enjoy reading well written romance novels. And there is nothing in it, romantic content wise, anyone would find objectionable.