Eva Ibbotson is one of my very favorite authors. Her sweet, genuine characters, quirky settings and personalities, and satisfying plots never fail to bring a smile to my face and an added measure of joy to my heart. Ibbotson’s books—especially her six novels written for adults and young adults—are the sort of books I always turn to when I need a pick-me-up.
A Countess Below Stairs, like all of Ibbotson’s novels, has wonderful characters and settings so lifelike you’ll feel like you’ve spent time in Russia and the English countryside, instead of just reading about it. Anna’s passion for life is inspiring and uplifting, and the romance in the plot is sweet and affirming without being over-the-top or inappropriate. Although Ibbotson’s adult books are often referred to as romances, they’re also a lot more—beautiful historical novels that paint wonderful pictures of times and places gone by, as well as laugh-out-loud funny storylines with crazy plots and absurdly larger-than-life characters who can be counted on to bring a smile to your face.
A Countess Below Stairs is recommended for teen and adult readers who love terrific historical fiction with plenty of humor, endearing characters, and just enough romance.
Profanity/Language: 15 religious exclamations; 7 mild obscenities.
Violence/Gore: References are made to men being wounded in a war. A reference is made to a man dying in a war (the story is told by a man who witnessed it and is haunted by the memory; it is emotionally strong but very short). A man says he has had a dream about a friend dying in a war. A sensational story is told about an ancestor who is supposed to have committed murder. A girl is mistreated. A little girl is emotionally bullied by an adult woman.
Sex/Nudity: An elderly man makes passes at housemaids. A man accidentally comes upon a woman bathing in a lake and sees her naked (no description is given, but it’s clear that he sees her). A housemaid helps her mistress bathe. Several (about five) references are made to illegitimate pregnancies. A few subtle references are made to sexual intercourse. Men and women flirt, kiss, and hold hands/touch.
Mature Subject Matter:
War and the aftermath of war.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Adult characters drink alcohol and eat dishes made with alcohol. Adult men smoke.