Teen Review: A Countess below Stairs

Title: A Countess Below Stairs

Author: Eva Ibbotson

Summary: After the Russian Revolution turns her world upside down, Anna, a young Russian countess, has no choice but to flee to England. Penniless, Anna hides her aristocratic background and takes a job as a servant in the household of the esteemed Westerholme family, armed only with an outdated housekeeping manual and sheer determination.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 fiancee. . . .

I started reading it because… I saw it on the “Reading List for Downton Abbey Addicts” from the library’s adult blog Shelf Talk. As one of those aforementioned Downton Abbey fans, I thought it sounded like a good read to satisfy my craving for the drama of the English manor hierarchy.

I kept reading because… Many of the characters were quirky and charming, like people you would want to be friends with in real life. It is a lighthearted read, nothing too serious or upsetting (a nice break from my recent re-reading of the Hunger Games!), and you never get too worried because you can just tell that there will be a happy ending.

Main character(s): If they were in a yearbook, they would be voted Most Likely To:
Anna – Most Likely to Curtsy Unnecessarily

Rupert – Most Likely to Keep a Promise (even when you don’t want him to!)

Muriel – Most Likely to Retaliate if She Doesn’t Get Her Way

Six Word Recap: Everybody loves the quirky Russian girl

This book reminded me of Eva Ibbotson’s other novels for children and young adults, because she loves a traditional romance—one with an unlikely couple, a perfect love, someone who gets in the way, and a happy ending.

My Only Complaint: As mentioned before, this is a predictable book—there is never any doubt that all will end well. That wouldn’t be such a big deal except that the central love story is not very believable; while Anna is definitely an adorable, charming young woman, her love interest, Rupert, is a good guy but not nearly as likeable. I never quite understood why they were together!

— Callan, teen blogger

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