In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, Countess Anna Grazinsky and her family flee to England. Penniless and grieving her father’s recent death, Anna is nevertheless determined to support herself. The young countess gets a job as a servant at the Westerholme estate. There her enthusiasm and sweetness cause everyone to love her — perhaps even the kind and honorable Earl of Westerholme, Lord Rupert. But Rupert is already engaged to a beautiful heiress. Her money will save Westerholme from ruin, but her snobbery and spitefulness may just ruin the lives of everyone who lives there!
If you are a fan of “Downton Abbey” and Jane Austen, you’ll love this book. The story takes place both “below stairs” and “above stairs,” with all the daily dramas of the staff intertwined with the more subtle conflicts and conquests of the gentry. Anna (who everyone knows shouldn’t actually be a servant) is able to cross into both worlds. She’s a very lovable hero, and I found her subtle romance quite satisfying. I felt the solutions to Anna’s and Rupert’s problems were a little too convenient for my taste — things fell together too quickly, without much growth or struggle on the part of the characters. But it had such a feel-good romantic ending that I’m willing to make allowances!
I loved the detailed descriptions of the places and people of this book. Ibbotson pulled out all the stops in describing lavish parties, frothy ball gowns and the beautiful Westerholme manor. But it’s her characters I love the most. Even minor players are carefully described to make them realistic and distinctive, and they have the most interesting, tender and often amusing conversations. Overall, this was a delightfully entertaining reading experience!
Rated: None. I listened to this as an audiobook and heard only two or three mild swears. No sex or violence.