Armed with an out-of-date book on housekeeping, Anna determines to become a housemaid, and she finds work at the Earl of Westerholme's crumbling but magnificent mansion. The staff and the family are sure there is something not quite right about their new maid - but she soon wins them over with her warmth and dedication.
Then the young Earl returns home from the war - and Anna falls hopelessly in love. But they can never be together - Rupert is engaged to the snobbish and awful Muriel. And anyway, Anna is only a servant. Or so everybody thinks.
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©2007 Eva Ibbotson; (P)2007 W F Howes
"An uplifting tale of romance - and Sian Thomas¿s Russian accent is irresistible."(The Observer)
A lovely innocent romance with a fabulous collection of secondary characters. I've listened to this 4 times now. Davina Porter's narration is, as usual, brilliant.
If you like a simple little story to be entertained, this is a good one. Don't have to think too much about this one, but that's what I like about it. How can you not like Anna?! and Muriel is soooo offensive! The whole eugenics thing brings in such a twist! Davina Porter definiatly makes this book shine! I thought this might be trashy, and i was hoping, but it wasn't and really i didn't mind! This is one of the better examples of storytelling i've come across. If you like davina porter try the outlander series!!
"Magical and Enchanting"
Davina Porter is by far my favorite narrator and listening to her narrate the poetically written The Secret Countess is a happy experience. The story itself is enchanting and you'll come to love the main character, Anna, who is a displaced Russian countess working as a housemaid in a country manor and has a true love for life. The slow building love between Anna and Rupert is believable and the descriptions of each character, the countryside, and simple things such as a dessert in the shape of a swan weave a web of magic. I could listen to Ms. Porter read this book several times over and never tire of it.
Take Marion Chesney???s Lady Rose, make her an immigrant countess and drop her "downstairs" into a Heyerite plot set post WWI rather than Georgian, Regency or Edwardian England. If this description appeals to you, you can be in for a treat.
The history detail is thin overall and the plot predictable but (lovable!) --and so well spun that I was waiting in suspense for the predicable to happen. The characters are caricatures but it's all knot together well and remixed to please those who know and enjoy the likes of Heyer, Chesney, and Elizabteh Ashton (at her best). Yeah it???s a Heyer imitation, but not a pale one. This is good clean diversion (if you don???t try to deconstruct the fairytale of the happy social class differences!)
I immediately searched for more novels by the late author. The other Audible offerings are from her children and YA fiction. The only other full length title that seemed non YA, Company of Swans, is not in the same class as the Secret Countess (both the adult titles would be suitable for YA who enjoy such fairytales).
This is 3 star stuff elevated to four stars by the divine delivery of Davina Porter and the author's playful humour.
I bought this because of Davinia Porter. She brings this story which would be 3 stars up to 5 stars. When an author chooses the right narrator they are really being very savvy. It was a sweet story and I liked it. This one I will actually enjoy listening to again.
You can forecast how this will end, but it's sweet and I still loved hearing how it unfolds. Love Davina Porter!!!
"Delightful love story, beautifully narrated"
From the moment Anna meets the Earl, we know they belong together, but the author maintains the tension of their lives and differences with highly colored, well developed characters and events. I enjoyed this sweet love story very much.
"Charming and Beautiful!"
"The Secret Countess" is a classic for both young and old.
You'll love Anna, a Russian refugee who flees to England with her mother and brother after the Revolution, and the death of her father. Although forced to take up a job as a housemaid to help support her family, her joy for life and living is contagious and touches all those around her. Anna perfects the saying, "If life hands you lemons, make lemonade".
The secondary characters are so well portrayed you'll feel as though you know each and every one of them. You'll smile at the antics of Baskaville, Rupert, the Earl of Westerholme's, English Mastiff and laugh at the humorous ruse designed by Mr. Proom near the end of the book.
"The Secret Countess" stirs a range of emotions--joy, sadness, anger, humor....credited to the great performing talent of Davina Porter.
I recommend it for anyone wanting wholesome entertainment.
"Predictable...in a good way"
I should be too old for fairy tales, but I absolutely loved this story. Well read and well written, so that you don't mind that you know what's coming. In fact, as in most fairy tales, you would be terribly disappointed if the good guys did not win in the end. Highly recommend (as long as you're not looking for anything realistic or insightful...just for effortless enjoyment.)
"Fun, lightweight romance"
I'm trying to work my way through Davina Porter's portfolio - she is far and away my favorite female narrator. This story seems exactly like what it is, a fun, easy, predictable romance. I think if you enjoyed the Disney movie Anastasia then you'll enjoy this book. Even though I 'knew' how the book would end, I stayed awake later than I should have so I could finish it and go to sleep content knowing the characters go their just deserts. The most interesting part to me was villainizing one of the character's interests in eugenics. This was also very lightweight, but an interesting aspect especially considering the story is set right at/after WWI and how eugenics was one of the crux of WWII. More English were supportive of the idea than people now like to remember, but of course our "heroes" reject it utterly.
"Light and fun"
Entertaining tale. Fun and light hearted. Very easy listen. Davina Porter's narration is always great.
This is a light hearted tale, easy to listen to, pick up and put down, enjoyable romance.
"another warm bubble bath!"
this has to be one of my favourite "Evas" - you obviously have to suspend belief when you dip into one of these stories but as a "time-out" from day to day stresses they cant be beaten. just a good old romantic fairy tale!
"Twee and predictable"
I love Downton Abbey and thought this book, being set along those lines, would be something I could enjoy. It wasn't awful, and I got a few laughs, but the characters were caricatures, either odious or saintly, the plot was predictable and overly ridiculous. I generally like books that don't take themselves seriously (my favourite authors include Sue Townsend and Graeme Simsion), but this one didn't quite strike the balance for me.
I also thought there was some discrepancy between the morals behind the story ie. that:
1.We shouldn't discriminate against the disabled or disadvantages (I agree completely) but that
2. Individuals born to higher status are immediately recognisable as being superior and can't or shouldn't work as if they were otherwise.
Maybe I am being harsh, it wasn't boring, but I would rather have listened to something with just a bit more substance.
"Davina Porter brings it to life"
The story is a tad predictable, but fun and entertaining, the only reason I picked it though was because of the narrator, she's excellent!
"Georgette Heyer meets Downton Abbey"
Delightful romance set just post World War I when an impoverished Russian aristocrat takes a job as a maid in an English stately home. The romance is fairly predictable but the sometimes saccharine aspects are offset by the sheer nastiness of the villainess and her extremely disturbing interest in eugenics. The subsidiary characters are very well done and the narrator does a good job with the quite large cast and differing accents. A very charming listen.
Oh definitely. This is perfect cheering up material.
The romance, with all the supporting characters, is adorable, and I love Anna and Rupert. They're intelligent, educated and just so kind. It's such a relief to read a book about genuinely likeable characters.
I suppose I might compare the book to a Georgette Heyer. The romance is similar, I suppose, with the supporting characters and the slow movement. However, the setting here is just after the First World War and the Russian Revolution.
This is a first. She's a very good narrator, does the voices perfectly and draws you into the story. I've certainly searched her category to see if there's anything I want to listen to.
I have no idea.
This was one of the best books I have read (or listened too) since Harry Potter. It was the ending of the story that I loved most, it was just ingenious. The one thing that could have been better was the love story, it was a bit flat for my taste. Then again, I am used to Mills and Boon romances so...
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