Thursday, 29 October 2015

Eva Ibbotson: Queen of YA Historical Romance

Title: The Morning Gift
Author: Eva Ibbotson
Publisher: Macmillan's Children's Books
Buy This Book: Amazon (UK) / Amazon (US) / Book Depository
Twenty-year-old Ruth Berger is desperate. The daughter of a Jewish-Austrian professor, she was supposed to have escaped Vienna before the Nazis marched into the city. Yet the plan went completely wrong, and while her family and fiancé are waiting for her in safety, Ruth is stuck in Vienna with no way to escape. Then she encounters her father’s younger college professor, the dashing British paleontologist Quin Sommerville. Together, they strike a bargain: a marriage of convenience, to be annulled as soon as they return to safety. But dissolving the marriage proves to be more difficult than either of them thought—not the least because of the undeniable attraction Quin and Ruth share. To make matters worse, Ruth is enrolled in Quin’s university, in his very classes. Can their secret survive, or will circumstances destroy their love?

Her books feel almost magical.
I did not know what to expect from Eva Ibbotson's books. I had seen them a lot whilst working in libraries, but had never picked them up and did not know anything about the author herself. I had assumed she was a young writer, not a woman who died in 2010, at the age of eighty-five, with such a rich history behind her. Having now finished five of her books, I can now say that I completely understand why she is an author who is held in such high regard. She weaves history and romance together so effortlessly, and they all have such a magical feel about them. I finish them with a smile on my face, and a warmth in my heart that is so hard to truly explain.

The Morning Gift is one of those books that seems to slowly sneak up on you and you just don't see it coming. It had a slow start and I will admit to struggling with it at first. This book takes place as the Nazis have invade Vienna, and takes us up until the end of the WWII. Eva Ibbotson was born in Vienna, and had to flee the country herself when the Nazis invaded. So it is understandable why she wants us to feel like we really get a true look at that part of history. She doesn't quickly brush over it, she gives us a rich and detailed view of Vienna, of the treatment of Jews during that time, and the horrifying reality of having to flee from your home.

The romance in this is very subtle and slow building. Our two characters seem completely oblivious of their own feelings for the longest time, which feels both totally adorable and totally frustrating. The books slow start is made up for in the second half, when the pace really picks up and the rest of the book felt like it flew by in no time at all. I got ridiculously caught up in the story and had to see it through till the end, I couldn't step away and come back to it. And I was so pleased by it all when I finished. If you're someone who appreciates historical fiction, with a slow building and very subtle romance, then this is definitely the book for you.

4/5 Butterflies

Title: The Secret Countess
Author: Eva Ibbotson
Publisher: Macmillan's Children's Books
Buy This Book: Amazon (UK) / Amazon (US) / Book Depository
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...
This book again showcases just how effortlessly Ibbotson writes historical romance. This one takes place after the Russian revolution, where young Anna, a Russian Countess, has fled to England. She has to hide her aristocratic background and find a job, which finds her working as a servant in the home of the Westerholme family.

I really loved Anna's character, a girl who had such a privileged upbringing but hasn't allowed that to go to her head. She is such a determined character, and very hard-working and never saw herself as better than any of the other servants in the Westerholme household. She's kind-hearted and caring, and she was a character that I instantly liked. I just wanted everything to work out for her in the end because she was a character I couldn't help but root for completely.

This book reminded me so much of Downton Abbey, it has that feel about it. If you have watched and adored Downton Abbey, then you definitely need this book in your life. I tried finding books like DA, at the time I first became addicted, but never found any that were any good. This one was so good, and everything I had been looking for but could never find. It made me want to go rewatch the first few (and decent) seasons of Downton.

I loved that this also looked at a part of history that I haven't seen looked at very often in many middle grade fiction books. The romance was also as slow building and adorable as the one I'd seen in The Morning Gift.

4/5 Butterflies


Title: Magic Flutes
Author: Eva Ibbotson
Publisher: Macmillan's Children's Books
Buy This Book: Amazon (UK) / Amazon (US) / Book Depository
Being an heiress in 1920s Austria with nothing but a broken-down castle to your name and nary a penny in your purse could be frustrating for anyone but the Princess Theresa-Maria of Pfaffenstein. “Tessa,” however, is thrilled with her situation, as it allows her to concentrate on her love of the arts—and no one in the Viennese opera company need know that their delightful and charming under-wardrobe mistress is really a princess. But when the dashing self-made millionaire Guy Farne arrives at the opera in search of suitable entertainment for his high society guests, Tessa realizes that there may be more to life—and love—than just music. But while the attraction between them in undeniable, Guy’s insufferable snob of a fiancée only solidifies Tessa’s determination to keep her true identity a secret. Yet, after a chance meeting with the handsome Englishman, Tessa’s reserve begins to melt, and she starts to wonder if it’s not too late for a fairytale ending… 
Having read three books by Eva Ibbotson in a row, it had become quite clear to me that the woman was a master when it came to writing historical romance. And totally adorable romance at that. Don't go thinking these are going to be adorable or cute in the way that you'd find Stephanie Perkins or Kasie Wests books. These are romance that are set during a time when the approach to romance was all about courting, dowries and engagement announcements.

Magic Flutes, by the end of it, had stolen my heart and quickly became my favourite Ibbotson book so far. I loved all of the art and music that were found in this book, it made this such an enchanting read. Tessa, Princess of Pfaffenstein, happily gave up her title so that she could pursue her love of the arts, and gets herself a job working for a Viennese opera company. Guy Farne, the self-made millionaire, comes to buy castle Pfaffenstein, making it possible for Tessa to continue pursuing her work with the opera. Their paths continue to cross though, and I loved watching them slowly fall in love, while both seeming quite oblivious to it for the longest time.

Whilst I have come to realise that Ibbotson's books are never going to truly shock me or take me by surprise, I still can't help but enjoy every single one of them. Her books are so wonderfully well written, thoroughly researched and she effortlessly brings all of her settings to life.
4/5 Butterflies

Title: A Company of Swans
Author: Eva Ibbotson
Publisher: Macmillan's Children's Books
Buy This Book: Amazon (UK) / Amazon (US) / Book Depository
Weekly ballet classes are Harriet Morton's only escape from her intolerably dull life. So when she is chosen to join a corps de ballet which is setting off on a tour of the Amazon, she leaps at the chance to run away for good. Performing in the grand opera houses is everything Harriet dreamed of, and falling in love with an aristocratic exile makes her new life complete. Swept away by it all, she is unaware that her father and intended fiancé have begun to track her down . . .
I was almost certain that I had found my favourite Ibbotson novel when I read Magic Flutes, but then A Company of Swans came along and proved me wrong. This book took me on such a journey, and the romance in this one completely won me over. The romance was as cute as I had come to expect, but it was also a much more passionate romance than I would have expected.

This book takes us on a journey, along with Harriet, as she leaves her sheltered life in London to join a touring ballet company as they travel the Amazon. Ballet plays a very important role in this book, it's what allows Harriet to finally escape from her overbearing parents. Now I am someone who knows very little about ballet, but I never found it hard to follow. I also loved that Ibbotson explains the plots of the ballets they are performing.

The love interest in this one is Rom, who seems to be quite a typical Ibbotson leading man. They always seem to be older than our heroine, and very rich too. He also reminded me a little of Guy from Magic Flutes, in that he can be rather sweet but also has a habit of being a bit of a douche at times too, and unfairly shouting at Harriet. But, when I really think about it, I think that has more to do with the time that these books are set in. He does redeem himself for me by being absolutely adorable when the moment is called for, plus Harriet doesn't just roll over and take any of his crap. I rather liked those two together.

4/5 Butterflies


Title: A Song for Summer
Author: Eva Ibbotson
Publisher: Macmillan's Children's Books
Buy This Book: Amazon (UK) / Amazon (US) / Book Depository
Ellen never expected the Hallendorf school to be quite so unusual. Her life back in England with her suffragette mother and liberated aunts certainly couldn't be called normal, but buried deep in the beautiful Austrian countryside, Ellen discovers an eccentric world occupied by wild children and even wilder teachers, experimental dancers and a tortoise on wheels. And then there is the particularly intriguing, enigmatic, and very handsome Marek, part-time gardener and fencing teacher. Ellen is instantly attracted to the mysterious gardener, but Hitler's Reich is already threatening their peaceful world, and only when she discovers Marek's true identity and his dangerous mission does Ellen realize the depth of her feelings for him - and the danger their newfound love faces in the shadow of war.
Now I get to say that I was wrong about Magic Flutes, and then I was wrong about A Company of Swan. THIS BOOK is my favourite Eva Ibbotson novel so far. I really ended up loving this one, I adored the beautiful Austrian setting of this one. I really liked both of our main characters here, Ellen was as lovely as I have come to expect from an Eva Ibbotson novels. And Marek actually became my favourite male lead from any of her novels, he completely won me over.

Marek is not only a gardener and fencing teacher, he is also a wonderful and extremely talented composer but he turned away from that life. His best friend is Jewish, and the Nazi regime is now in power and so his friend is banned from performing, so Marek refuses to continue doing it. He works at the school, but it's really a cover for him as he works for the Resistance, and helps people fleeing from the Nazi regime. He risks his life every time he does it, because he can't just sit idly by and not do anything to help.

I think this might have been my favourite so far because I felt like the focus was on way more than just the romance. I think it also helped that I found this one a little less predictable than some of her other books, there were things that happened within this novel that actually took me by surprise. I really enjoyed the boarding school and seeing Ellen grow to know and care for the children. I was also impressed with the ending of this book, I felt it gave me way more closure than I am used to with her book endings. But I felt like I got a perfect ending and conclusion to the story. This is most definitely my favourite Ibbotson novel so far, and probably the one I would recommend the most.

4/5 Butterflies


* I received a copy of this book through LoveReading4Kids in exchange for an honest review. 

14 comments:

  1. OMG IT MAKES MY HEART SO HAPPY TO HEAR YOU ENJOYED ALL OF THESE CHARNELL!! *squeals* The Secret Countess will probably always be my favourite (mainly because my 13 year old self was in love with Rupert *COUGH*) but I can't wait to reread all the others again too!!

    But yes! SO MUCH LOVE FOR ALL THESE REVIEWS! <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did, they were all so much fun to read and all such cute romances.

      Delete
  2. It seems like you loved all of these for very different reasons, and I am so glad to hear that you were able to enjoy all of these books. I had assumed Eva Ibbotson was a young writer as well so it is completely new to me to actually know a bit more about her. She seems to have gone through a lot, and I am so glad to know she can demonstrate that so well in her writing - a legacy she has left behind. I am very interested in reading the first one you mentioned, The Morning Gift because it also seems to relate so closely to the author. I would probably like all of these actually because historical romances <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, I had always assumed she was young and very much alive and well. I was surprised to find she had been dead for a while now. I enjoyed them all, very pleasant reads.

      Delete
  3. This right here: "I finish them with a smile on my face, and a warmth in my heart that is so hard to truly explain."
    Is why I love reading! So glad you picked up this author and love her, she sounds amazing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She writes some wonderful historical romances, they are adorable!

      Delete
  4. Omg you HAVE been busy reading all the things from this author, right?! HOW HAVE I NEVER HEARD OF HER?! I'm super interested in that ballet one because...ballet. I know nothing about ballet either, but for some reason it really interests me?!? Squeak!! I'm glad you found such an awesome author who writes so beautifully!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know. I received them all so thought I would give them a shot. They were adorable, and I enjoyed. I won't read them again, but they were fun to read.

      Delete
  5. Ok, I feel like an idiot because I have never heard of this author. Looking up her books right now, I'll have to read them after reading your reviews! ~Pam

    ReplyDelete
  6. These all sound very good. Nice post! :)
    @dino0726 from 
    FictionZeal - Impartial, Straightforward Fiction Book Reviews

    ReplyDelete
  7. Other person who loves Eva Ibbotson's books :D
    It'a a shame she is not more popular. I love all her books and my favorite book is Company of Swans, because the ballet, A Song for Summer was my first book by her
    yes, all her book are similar, but they are full of magic, her girls are lovely and the guys charming, and the descriptions of places very beautiful

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, she really does deserve more recognition!!! :)

      Delete

Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, it always makes my day! Because of time restraints, this is now an award free zone but thanks so much for considering me! Feel free to leave a link to your own blog and I will come visit.