Does Eva Ibbotson write for children or for adults? I’d say A Song for Summer (lovely book) is for adults and The Secret of Platform 13 for children. The two novels I’ve just read come somewhere between the two and I’d categorise them as romances; romances strongly influenced by Georgette Heyer.
In A Company of Swans Harriet is the daughter of a Cambridge professor who leaves her upbringing to his mean spirited, narrow-minded sister and refuses to let the brilliant girl go to Girton. These two are pantomime figures, a pair of Murdstones. Harriet is well trained in classics but has another secret love: the dancing classes she is allowed to attend each week. She is offered a place in a Russian touring ballet company which her father of course refuses for her and so she rebels. This is all highly unlikely since she is eighteen and has never danced on stage but the author knows this and explains it away.
The hero, Rom, one of Ibbotson’s brilliant but rebellious misfits, is impossibly handsome, brave, athletic, clever – and rich. So, like a true Heyer hero, he is able to act above the law and fix things to be the way he wants them. Here’s an example of the Heyerish-ness. Harriet wants to speak to Rom but finds her intentions misunderstood; to his great disappointment Rom sees her as just another dancing girl and she finds herself being groomed for the bedchamber. Expecting to be ‘ruined’, as she puts it, she says, ‘I don’t know what to do’. He realizes she is virtuous, then
‘(she) lifted her face with perfect trust to his.
Which made it difficult for Rom to do what he intended…But he mastered himself…And his voice suddenly rough, “No breath of scandal shall touch you while I live”.
See? Pure Heyer.
The other day I noticed this book in a ‘three for two’ display of children’s books in W H Smith’s. I wouldn’t buy this for a ballet-mad eight year old as there is quite a lot of (pure and non-explicit) sex in it. A lovely romance for older girls, though.
I loved A Secret Countess so much that I read it almost at a sitting. Another Heyer-eque romance, I’d say. Anna is an aristocratic Russian exile forced to earn her living. Rupert has returned from the (First World) war to take over the earldom and estate he inherited when his elder brother was killed. There are shades of Lord Peter Wimsey here when the butler says, ‘there’s no doubt who was the finer gentleman’. Rupert has been inveigled into a promise of marriage to one of the nastiest women you could ever hope to read about but his sense of honour will not allow him to break the engagement. Will true love conquer all? If you know your Heyer, you know the answer.