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Stella Matutina
books and stories and musings, oh my!
30. The Reluctant Heiress by Eva Ibbotson 
2nd-Mar-2011 11:24 am
Title: THE RELUCTANT HEIRESS, these days; originally MAGIC FLUTES
Author: Eva Ibbotson
Publisher: Speak
Publication Year: 1982
Pages: 325
Status: library

LibraryThing Info

An impoverished heiress and a self-made millionaire come together over an opera he hopes to stage for his fiancé.

Friends, why did you not force me to read more Eva Ibbotson years and years ago? Do you not know how much I love THE SECRET COUNTESS? Do you not know that it is one of the seven books I have loved straight from the first word to the last?

I think you do. Therefore, I cannot understand your refusal to tell me that all her other books are equally lovely.

Shame on you.

THE RELUCTANT HEIRESS is a beautiful, beautiful book. Ibbotson’s prose is so damned gorgeous I can hardly stand it. The lady knows how to turn a phrase. I rarely let myself reread passages I understood the first time, as a general rule, but I couldn’t stop doing it here. I wanted to wallow in her words.

I mean, I’ve told you about how I don’t like reading fairy tales or legends, right? Listening to them; yes. Reading them; no. Well, reading Ibbotson’s prose is like listening to a fairy tale. It’s rich and elegant and magical, even though the story itself hasn’t a hint of magic.

Her prose perfectly complements her characters, too. She has such a gift for taking us inside them; for showing us exactly who they are and how they think via a series of careful phrasings and telling details. She makes their everyday lives into something extraordinary.

I also love the way she illuminates their relationships. The reader knows exactly what passes between them, even when no one says it in so many words. Their affection for one another is always apparent--and it takes many different forms. I was especially pleased with the way Tessa, our heroine, relates to the man her aunts want her to marry. She’s not in love with him, any more than he is with her, but they have a strong, affectionate friendship. It’s lovely.

And have I mentioned her passion for the opera? Y’all know I love anything to do with the theatre, so I was all over that.

Ibbotson even handles the “villain” with respect. The fiancé for whom Guy, our hero, stages the opera is shallow and opportunistic, but she’s rarely malicious. Another character compares her to an artist, fully committed to her craft--which, in her case, is her beauty. She’s by no means out to deceive Guy or make his life difficult. In fact, she’s fond of him and goes out of her way to present herself in ways he might find appealing. She missteps, sometimes cruelly, but it is never her intention to harm.

I loved it, y’all. It’s full of gorgeous prose, wonderful characters and the theatre! I would like some more, please.

4 stars – loved it

Strange Asides:

Several of the characters have hair down to their knees. I’m horribly jealous of them. I’ve wanted hair I could sit on ever since I first came across the idea, in the pages of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House novels. Alas, my hair is stubborn and has always refused to grow very long.

About a year ago, I found a site full of tips for growing hair via Marie Brennan’s blog, and I’ve been following them ever since. I’m finally seeing results! My hair still doesn’t feel very long, since it’s kinky, but it’d be down to my elbows if I straightened it. I am pleased. I hope to be sitting on it within the next two years, if all goes well.

That said: I think Eva Ibbotson may be the queen of Distressing Haircutting Incidents. (NB: from my perspective, any and all haircuts are distressing. I know it’s a personal choice and I shouldn’t impose my own values on others, but I can’t even begin to tell you how sad I get when someone cuts off all their long, gorgeous hair). There was one in THE SECRET COUNTESS. There’s one here. I’m almost afraid of what I’ll come across in her other books.

On a related note, New Zealand is awesome for long hair. Women and men alike keep it long. Some of them keep it very long. I love this.

Age Breakdown:

Tessa is younger than me. Guy and Nerine, his fiancé, are older.

Other Reviews:

A Sea of Pages
I Read Romance
Oops... Wrong Cookie
Sue's Book Reviews

Did I miss yours? Please let me know so I can link to it!

Back In the Day:
How Romantic
2nd-Mar-2011 10:27 pm (UTC)
I hadn't thought of that part. Hmm. I'm already getting used to flipping my hair forward when I sit in high-backed chairs, but that's a different beast altogether.
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