An Ode to Historical Romance: Eva Ibbotson

Today’s blog post is a little different than others I’ve done in the past, but in February I wanted to honor one of my favorite romance writers: Eva Ibbotson.

I can remember fondly finding my first Ibbotson title, A Countess Below Stairs, in Barnes & Noble as a newly-minted teen; this was before I really appreciated and understood the library, so the monthly trips my mom and I took to Barnes & Noble were some of the exciting moments of my life at that time. Anyways, I found A Countess Below Stairs and absolutely devoured it…and I begged my mom to take me so I could get more of her books!

I didn’t realize this at the time, but these books I was loving and inhaling in the mid-2000s were reprints of books published in the 80s and 90s! As you’ll see in the book descriptions below, these books have been revamped and republished many times and found their way into the hands and minds of people around the world. I wanted to showcase Eva’s work not only because sadly she has been dead for 10 years, but because her books were some of the first forays I made into romance and have burrowed into my heart…and I want them to do that for others!

So without further ado, here are the historical romances Eva Ibbotson came out with for teens during her lifetime (and yes, I still have most of my original copies…they’re amongst my most prized books!)

A Company of Swans

For nineteen-year-old Harriet Morton, life in 1912 Cambridge is as dry and dull as a biscuit. Her stuffy father and her opressive aunt Louisa allow her only one outlet: ballet. When a Russian ballet master comes to class searching for dancers to fill the corps of his ballet company before their South American tour, Harriet’s world changes. Defying her father’s wishes and narrowly escaping the clutches of the man who wishes to marry her, Harriet sneaks off to join the ballet on their journey to the Amazon. There, in the wild, lush jungle, they perform Swan Lake in grand opera houses for the wealthy and culture-deprived rubber barons, and Harriet meets Rom Verney, the handsome and mysterious British exile who owns the most ornate opera house. Utterly enchanted by both the exotic surroundings and by Rom’s affections, Harriet is swept away by her new life, completely unaware that her father and would-be fiancé have begun to track her down…

A Countess Below Stairs (also published as The Secret Countess)

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…

The Morning Gift

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?

The Reluctant Heiress (also published as Magic Flutes)

Spring 1922.

Tessa is a beautiful, tiny, dark-eyed princess – who’s given up her duties to follow her heart, working for nothing backstage at the Viennese opera. No one there knows who she really is, or that a fairy-tale castle is missing its princess, and Tessa is determined to keep it that way.

But secret lives can be complicated, and when a wealthy, handsome Englishman discovers this bewitching urchin backstage, Tessa’s two lives collide – and in escaping her inheritance, she finds her destiny…

A Song for Summer

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.

Do you have any favorite childhood authors, or favorite historical romance writers? Leave their names in the comments below!

Until next time…

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