A Countess Below Stairs

( 145 )

Overview

A delicious historical romance perfect for fans of Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs

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background and takes a job as servant in the household of the esteemed Westerholme family, armed only with an outdated housekeeping manual and sheer determination.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 ...

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Overview

A delicious historical romance perfect for fans of Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs

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background and takes a job as servant in the household of the esteemed Westerholme family, armed only with an outdated housekeeping manual and sheer determination.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 fiancee. . . .
 

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Jamaica Johnson Conner
Anna, the beautiful, new maid at the Westerholme estate, keeps two very important secrets from those who work below stairs with her and from those for whom she works. The first secret is she is a Russian Countess who fled Russia following the Russian Revolution. Her family's resulting, financial ruin prompted her to seek employment as a servant at this English estate. The second secret is that she has fallen in love with her employer, Rupert, Earl of Westerholme. To complicate matters further, Rupert is engaged to be married to a rich American, Muriel Hardwick, who intends to use her finances to resurrect his weakening estate. As Muriel begins to interfere with the inner workings of Westerholme, as her prejudices towards handicapped and Jewish people emerge, and as Anna befriends Rupert, he begins to question his decision to marry Muriel after all. Filled with the dramatic intricacies required of a romance, this book has well-developed characters and enthralling plot twists and is sure to please young ladies who enjoy period pieces about falling in love. Reviewer: Jamaica Johnson Conner
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142408650
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/10/2007
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 165,542
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Eva Ibbotson, born Maria Charlotte Michelle Wiesner (21 January 1925 – 20 October 2010), was an Austrian-born British novelist, known for her children's books. Some of her novels for adults have been successfully reissued for the young adult market in recent years. For the historical novel Journey to the River Sea (Macmillan, 2001), she won the Smarties Prize in category 9–11 years, garnered unusual commendation as runner up for the Guardian Prize, and made the Carnegie, Whitbread, and Blue Peter shortlists. She was a finalist for the 2010 Guardian Prize at the time of her death. Her last book, The Abominables, was one of eight books on the longlist for the same award in 2012.

The following interview appeared in the Fall 2001 Preview Magazine

Do you have any rituals?

I can write anywhere if I have to because I still use a pen and paper -, but when I am at home I go to the old carved desk I inherited from my mother who was a writer too, and told some fantastic stories. The morning is best for ideas, and I have to be wearing warm clothes because when I am thinking hard I get cold. And I have to have a waste paper basket handy for all the pages that have gone wrong.

Whom do your share your writing with first?

I don't really share my work until it is published, I feel too uncomfortable about unfinished work.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I don't think I ever knew, it just happened. One day I wrote author' in my passport and that was that..

What were you doing when you found out that your first book was going to be published?

Cooking supper for my husband and children. My agent phoned and I shouted and we all danced about, except my husband who saw to it that the sauce did not burn.

What did you treat yourself to when you found out that your first book was accepted for publication?

My first money as a writer came from a short story in a magazine. It was a very small sum, and I bought Mars Bars for everybody in the family.

What was the first book you remember reading as a child? Did you have a favorite book as a child?

I don't remember the name of my first book, but I know it had a picture of very bright berries, green and red in a forest- and people lived inside the berries... Perhaps that's where my passion for forests comes from!

Do you read reviews of your own work?

Yes, when I am sent them, but I don't go out and look.

What’s the best question a teen has asked about your writing?

I don't know what the best question is, but by far the most common is Where do you get your ideas from?' - and the answer to that is very difficult (and therefore interesting).

What are you reading right now?

The Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula Le Guin.

Susan, your editor, tells me Journey to the River Sea is a book you've wanted to write for years. How did the idea first come to you?

Journey to the River Sea was written quite quickly but it spent years and years inside my head. It started with my hearing about this fabled opera house a thousand miles from the mouth of the Amazon and I thought it was one of the strangest things I had ever heard - I meant to go there and see for myself but then I realised it would mean going back into the past because everything is quite different there now. So I went on reading and dreaming and researching and then one day, I picked up my pen to start a new book about witches and ghosts and found I had started to write an adventure story set in the jungle.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 145 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(82)

4 Star

(28)

3 Star

(20)

2 Star

(9)

1 Star

(6)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 145 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 27, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Amber Gibson for TeensReadToo.com

    Anna Grazinsky is a member of the Russian aristocracy, or White Russians, during the Russian Revolution. Her family is forced to flee from their comfortable life in Russia to England, where they are safe from the revolutionaries. But in England, the Grazinskys are left with nothing. Anna has a very resilient spirit, and instead of moping around and wishing for her old life, she is grateful for the safety of her family and secretly takes a job as a maid so that her little brother can still attend school. With her take-charge attitude, Anna proves that not all rich girls are snobby brats, like modern heiresses lead us to believe. <BR/><BR/>While many of the servants at the Westerholme residence are skeptical of the new foreign girl, Anna quickly charms her way into their hearts. With her deep curtsies, bright smile, and cheerful demeanor, Anna is beloved by all. She does each task assigned to her as best she can, never slacking on the job. <BR/><BR/>When the young and handsome Earl of Westerholme returns home from World War I, Anna is immediately drawn to him. And it seems that he feels a similar attraction to her. But Anna's identity as a countess is still a secret, and she does not have the social standing that she once held in Russia. Plus, the Earl is already engaged to the beautiful but vicious Muriel Hardwicke. Muriel nursed Earl Rupert back to health when he was wounded in the war, and he proposed to her. But that was before he met Anna. <BR/><BR/>In the weeks leading up to the wedding, Muriel begins to take over the Westerholme household, arbitrarily firing servants that do not fit in with her vision for Westerholme. None of the servants or neighbors are fond of Muriel, and as the wedding date approaches, all of Rupert's friends and family are leery of the impending marriage. <BR/><BR/>At the costume ball thrown prior to the wedding, Anna's true identity as a countess is revealed, and Anna and Rupert dance the night away. Everyone can see that they are a perfect couple, but can Rupert and Anna come to terms with their feelings for each other before his marriage to Muriel? <BR/><BR/>Although A COUNTESS BELOW STAIRS has a very fairytale-like romantic plot, Anna is far from the typical princess. She has a feisty spirit and genuinely fun personality that immediately draws you in. Eva Ibbotson does a great job in breathing life into the generic fairytale plot. Anna's story is very similar to what much of the Russian aristocracy experienced during the communist revolution, and Ibbotson shows that even though life is unpredictable and rarely kind, if you embrace all opportunities and make the most of your situation, you will find happiness.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2008

    Overly Glorified

    When I saw this book and read the back, I immediately thought I would love it. It had different identities, history, intrigue, romance, and so much more. But when I read the book, I was sorely disappointed. First of all, the editor should have handed the book back to the author after reading the first chapter, and said, 'Get a copy of Strunken White!' This book was a grammar nightmare. It was also laughably cliched. Anna, the heroine, was all together too perfect. She was kind, understanding, skilled, smart, and brave, without a single flaw. Then, of course, there's Rupert, the handsome romantic interest who can be described in only two words- stereotypically conflicted. His conflict with himself seemed to be the only thing that defined him. Then there's also his fiancé, who is beautiful, vindictive, spiteful, and the typical evil witch of bad literature. The third problem this book had was how dull it was. I found myself skimming the end because I was so bored. I'm not sure how one can make such an intriguing topic so boring, but Ms. Ibbotson certainly achieved it. I do not recommend this book.

    4 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 20, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Great Read on a Rainy Day

    This book was a fabulous read that I finished in one day. I could not put it down. Eva Ibbotson does a fantastic job of recreating the Cinderella theme in this book. I fell in love with the characters and was rooting for them the whole time. She captures their personalities and it comes through in the book, and you really feel as if those characters are your friends or enemies. She also places the characters in an appropriate historical setting that does not seem to stunt the book's appeal at all. Even though it is set in the past, the characters and situations are still relatable to the present and girls of all ages who enjoy a good love story about a girl who goes for what she wants and does not sit around waiting for it all to come to her.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2008

    Nice Idea

    The book looked promising, and the summary was excellent, so I said 'Why not?' It could have gone so many places. Unfortunately, it did. To uneccessary ones. There were sooo many sub characters that did not contribute to the story and it was confusing to keep up with their silly stories. There was not much characterization we do not get a real good view on the personalities of the main characters. The romance was rather dry and 'cheesy' and I just kept turning pages in hopes it would take off, but it lacked the umph power to be a great book. Okay, but I would not read it again.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2008

    Ok, but too many characters

    I picked up this book at school because I was bored and such. I thought the plot was good, but there were way too many subplots and unnecessary characters. Although I do like the author's style, simplifying the book somewhat would have made it a bit more enjoyable.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 28, 2011

    Once again, a favorite.

    This is a book that should be a classic. It's easy to fall in love with the characters, and hate the others just as quick. I must say, if you wanted too lose yourself in a book, I'd recommend this story, as well as all the Historical Fiction this author has written! Amazing, and a well rereadable novel!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 11, 2010

    You Have To Read This Book!

    I loved it. A Countess Below Stairs is about a Russian countess named Anna. Due to war, Anna and her family are forced to go to England. They have lost everything and are living in a tiny house fit for only about one or two people. When her little brother goes off to school, Anna decideds to get a job. So, she moves to the house of Westerholme family to become a maid. There Anna learns what it's like to work and finds love. I loved all of the characters in this book. They were so interesting and I could relate to a lot of them. The plot of the story was great, I loved how it ended. I loved this book so, I've decided to read more books by Eva Ibbotson.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 19, 2010

    Had to get a second copy to reread, it was so good

    I love Eva Ibbotson's books. I have read every one available. The Countess Below Stairs was the first I read and I loved it then. I started reading all her other books and kept getting more and more entrenched in the history, realism and amusement of her unique characters and love stories.

    I lost my copy (I think I gave it away) of this book. When I saw my parents last I gave my mom all my books by Ibbotson but realized that the Countess was missing. I started to remember how much I loved this book and ended up re-purchasing it to read again. I read it on the plane and I got so immersed in the story I didn't even hear the pilot telling us about the coming turbulence - instead I was somewhere in England working below stairs :)

    I completeley recommend this book and all the other books by Ibbotson as wonderful reads for teens and adults alike.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2008

    Charming...

    This is a good book to read if youre in need of a happy story. At times the Russian terms and the dozens of characters and subplots were confusing, so I had to really focus. I was somewhat disappointed in the lack of romance, I know it was a romance novel, but only towards the end.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 23, 2014

    I love this book so much!!

    This is such a sweet book! I fell in love with all of the characters and get more attached every time I read it. Each of the storylines is touching and funny and I have read this book so many times but I haven't gotten enough of it yet! The only caution I have is that she uses a lot of large words and her descriptions can be a little hard to follow. But I can't recommend it enough.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2013

    Ibbotson's writing is like a breath of fresh air.

    Ibbotson's writing is like a breath of fresh air.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2012

    A Countess below stairs was a wonderful book. I loved the charac

    A Countess below stairs was a wonderful book. I loved the characters and the details were amazing, and so was the setting. I liked how this book was written, and how Anna was so resilient, cheerful. determined, and kind. Rupert was also wonderful, and what every girl would wish for. Muriel Hardwicke, the nasty and cruel fiancee was terribe, and I felt so bad for the people she hurt. This book was really good, and I reccomend it to anyone.

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  • Posted February 26, 2012

    A Lovely "First Romance" Novel for Junior High Girls

    This is a very sweet Cinderella-type story, without any fairy godmothers or magic though -- it's ideal for junior high girls. I love almost every book I've ever read by Eva Ibbotson. She has her ghost story genre, her books on friendship and family that are ideal for middle schoolers, and this title is part of her teen romance collection. What I appreciate is that this is a romance novel for young girls without any premarital sex thrown in. (Ibbotson devotees beware though -- not all of her young romance novels can fit that previous description, as I found with Company of Swans.)

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  • Posted February 4, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    AMAZING!!!!!!!!!

    I LOVED THIS BOOK SOOOOOOOOOOO MCUH!! I ended up reading it in one night just because it was imposible to put down!!! HIGHLY recomended!!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2010

    HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: LOVELY STORY!

    i think this is a very lovely story..i wish theres another story like this ..good end...any ages can read this book. At first, I dont like it ...but as im reading especially when they meet...i feel i dont want to put it down anymore..i wanna finish the whole book right away! its really good and lovely....oh how i love thee..... :)

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2010

    Boring

    While reading the back of this book in the bookstore, I was excited. The romance sounded good and revolutionary Russia had been a recent interest of mine. So I thought the book would be great. But it was a definite struggle for me to finish this book. I kept telling myself that it would speed up but near the end I began to come to the conclusion that it was just boring. I was so disappointed. It was like blah, blah, blah, between overly complicated filler that could have easily been left out. The main character was frustratingly perfect. And it was not all that romantic. I didn't even notice any romantic feelings between Anna and Rupert until the end. And it was so abrupt. Love takes time. When they revealed their feelings, I was like "where did that come from?" If anything there were a few interesting parts, and I found the Russian phrases really charming.

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  • Posted July 8, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Couldn't Put It Down!

    When I was at the library I discovered this book. I had seen it at different bookstores before, but hadn't been sure I would like it. Well, I didn't just like it I absolutely loved it. The characters were so real I laughed and cried along with them. I finished the book in a day it was so good! Since then I have read any of Eva Ibbotson's books I could find. These stories are so incredibly good you want to be selfish and keep them all to yourself!

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  • Posted May 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Good!

    This book started out a little slow for me and I almost put it down, but as I continued to read the story picked up and got interesting. At times I wanted somewhat to put it down, but it did captivate my interest. What I really liked about this book was the writing. It was a challenging book with very diverse word choice (I had to look a lot up :)) I am looking forward to reading other books by this author because this was an enjoyable read that I recommend.

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  • Posted February 21, 2010

    Read in ONE day!

    A few of my girl friends and I started a book club with the new year, "A Countess Below Stairs" is what we chose for our February book and I am incredibly glad we did. I'm normally a fast reader to begin with, but with this book I HAD to know what was going to happen next at every moment, so I started and finished this in ONE day. I could not bring myself to put the book down.

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  • Posted February 11, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Great read

    This book was fun to read and I enjoyed it very much. I felt like this book had a hidden message in it which was to look at a persons inner beauty instead of what the outside looks like. It's a good value to teach someone to have. I thought that Ibbotson went into a little too much detail and found myself starting to skim through some chapters in the book so I could get to the good stuff. In the end, I love a good clean romance and don't regret picking it up!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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