A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbottsen

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background and takes a job as servant in the household of the esteemed Westerholme family, armed only with an outdated housekeeping manual and sheer determination.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

My Review: This is one of those stories that you know how it will end, but the fun is in the journey. Thoroughly researched, richly plotted, and full of memorable characters (even though there are a lot of them, most are three-dimensional enough to remember forever), Ibbottsen has crafted a wonderful riches to rags tale. I love stories where people are good -- even in a Horatio Alger sense -- and I love worlds where the characters, while not completely perfect, strive for goodness, intelligence, and compassion. This is one of those stories, but even with "straight" characters, it doesn't lack in conflict. Gripes? There were a many asides and obscure (for current readers) references, and the point of view changed extremely quickly, without warning. The story was strong enough to keep me in, however, so the gripes are minor ones. I loved this, and I'll definitely be reading more Ibbottsen in the future!