Not-So-Secret Reasons to Read the Secret Countess

secret countess

Hello all! Brr it’s cold outside, so I decided it was time to cosy on up to one of my favourite historical reads. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reread this book (most recently at the end of last year) and yet I still get the urge to revisit it again and again! That’s why I found it super easy to come up with this list of reasons to pick this beautiful story up:

secret countess first line

The setting is gorgeous. Opening in a pre-Revolution Russia and moving across the sea to the English countryside, the book maintains a mythic quality and a superbly atmospheric vision throughout. Stunningly described from the first sentence to the last, I could happily recommend this for that reason alone.

Anna, the main character, is a true heroine. Self-sacrificing and, despite the title, unable to hide her noble nature, what makes her incredible is not her background, but what she does in the face of hardship. Her role in the story teaches many valuable lessons- to never give up hope, to accept responsibility and, above all, to be kind.

While we’re on the topic, this book boasts many other amazing female characters, all reflected in a historically accurate way. One of my favourites being Minna- the stepmother who lays to rest “all the wicked stepmothers since time began”

At the same time, this book manages to have some proper villains. Recently, a friend pointed out to me that a sitcom I-don’t-want-to-spoil-by-naming gave away the villain by having them kick a dog into the sun (ok big spoiler there)- well this has a dog-kicking villain. In fact, this villain is pretty much reprehensible in every way- we learn from their introduction that they are a literal eugenicist. I’m a massive fan of baddies actually being bad and this definitely achieves that. What’s also great is that the dastardly ways of said character are revealed slowly to everyone else in the story (giving the book real tension and a plot).

This is just one of the ways that Eva Ibbotson is frankly a genius writer. As well as creating an exciting cast of characters, she also presents brilliant levels of contrast, to really tug at those heartstrings. One of the things Ibbotson does especially well is building up a character’s hopes at the beginning of a scene or chapter, only to bring them crashing down. And, as if in a perfect mirror image, the happiest moments start so sadly, only to flip everything you were feeling on its head.

Also, the romance is gorgeous. I personally hold the view that one does not know a real love story until they have tried Eva Ibbotson. And this just so happens to be one of her best romances.

I feel like I could go on forever extolling this book’s virtues, but sometimes bananas speak louder than words:

5/5 bananas


If you haven’t checked it out, go read it! And if you have, feel free to gush with me in the comments! 😉

55 thoughts on “Not-So-Secret Reasons to Read the Secret Countess

  1. oh wow, I completely forgot about this book until I saw your post!! I absolutely loved this growing up- great choice! I may have to go away and read it now…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Eva Ibbotson wrote one of my favourite books, Journey to the River Sea, and I don’t know why I haven’t read any more of her books. Now, though, this one is definitely going right to the top of my TBR! Great review 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I LOVE The Secret Countess! The ‘reveal’ scene, where they find out who she is, is fantastic.

    Have you read Journey to the River Sea as well? It’s another great story.

    Now I feel like rereading both books (and buying A Secret Countess)!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah I’m so glad you loved it too!! Yes- really loved that part- it was so well done.

      And yes- I absolutely love Ibbotson’s books and that one was so beautiful 🙂

      hehehe well now I feel like buying and rereading journey to the river sea 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m sold. 😊 I added this book to my TBR list after reading one of your previous posts where you mentioned you re-read it. But now it’s been moved high up on my list. Can’t wait to read it this winter, thank you for bringing to my attention. Lovely post. 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This sounds like a wonderful book and I’ve added it to my very long TBR list. Thanks for a provocative review.

    Re: Fran Laniado’s comment: I so prefer The Secret Countess to the title selected for American audiences. Perhaps it’s trying to channel that very famous TV series – you know which one I mean.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ah I loved this book when I first read it (I was probably 10?11?)… Eva Ibbotson is a great writer! A Company of Swans is probs my fave though… maybe because I did ballet when I read it?

    Liked by 2 people

  7. After reading this review, I actually immediately went to Goodreads and added it to my TBR. Great review! It sounds so fantastic, and I don’t think I’ve ever read any books set in Russia so here’s one I should pick up!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh my goodness, I read so many of Eva Ibbotson’s books when I was growing up, but somehow I never came across this one. I guess it’s never to late, eh? Thanks for bringing it to my attention 🙂

    My favourite of hers (of the ones I’ve read. She wrote so many books!) was always Journey to the River Sea. I’ve read that one so many times!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. This sounds really good all around! The setting, the writing – as proved by that quote- wowieee! – and a credible villain… it truly, truly sounds like a engrossing book! Great review 🙂


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