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The Reluctant Heiress Paperback – April 30, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 8 Up—In post-World War I Austria, Englishman and self-made magnate Guy Farne buys a countryside castle as part of an elaborate plan to woo Nerine, the woman he loved and lost as a penniless teenager. Meanwhile Tessa, Pfaffenstein Castle's headstrong young heiress, revels in the anonymity of life as a junior wardrobe mistress at the International Opera Company in Vienna. When Guy commissions the company to stage a production of Mozart's Magic Flute at Pfaffenstein, he and Tessa meet and bond over their love of art and music. He is unaware of her connection to his new estate until her identity is revealed at a lavish ball held to introduce Nerine to Austrian society. Though drawn to Tessa, Guy stays faithful to his deliciously snobby fiancée. In the meantime Tessa fields the dogged (and comic) marriage proposals of a local prince. Predictably, the star-crossed pair eventually get their well-deserved happy ending. The novel opens with too much telling instead of showing, but Ibbotson hits her stride once all the players assemble at the castle. Vivid details bring supporting characters to life. German phrases and literary allusions may escape young readers, but do not detract from the overall flow of the narrative. There is nothing groundbreaking here, but this is satisfactory historical romance for future fans of Philippa Gregory.—Amy Pickett, Ridley High School, Folsom, PA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Eva Ibbotson, born Maria Charlotte Michelle Wiesner (21 January 1925 – 20 October 2010), was an Austrian-born British novelist, known for her children's books. Some of her novels for adults have been successfully reissued for the young adult market in recent years. For the historical novel Journey to the River Sea (Macmillan, 2001), she won the Smarties Prize in category 9–11 years, garnered unusual commendation as runner up for the Guardian Prize, and made the Carnegie, Whitbread, and Blue Peter shortlists. She was a finalist for the 2010 Guardian Prize at the time of her death. Her last book, The Abominables, was one of eight books on the longlist for the same award in 2012.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Speak; Reissue edition (April 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142412775
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142412770
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #686,901 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Angela Thompson VINE VOICE on September 21, 2009
Format: Paperback
I was so excited to find another Eva Ibbotson book! Awhile back I blew through A Song for Summer, A Countess Below Stairs, A Company of Swans and The Morning Gift. When I surfaced again, I found myself really hoping the magic spell wouldn't end there. Happily there was one more sweet historical in store for me. THE RELUCTANT HEIRESS is a (retitled) re-issue of Ibbotson's Magic Flutes, which was originally published in 1982. It is set in the 1920s and revolves around the outrageously funny and touching members of the Viennese Opera Company, in particular a young woman named Tessa who eats, drinks, and breathes music and is the heart and soul of the company.

The narrative alternates between Tessa and Guy's stories as they work their way toward meeting one day in the bowels of the theater when Guy walks in on a weeping Tessa, who (an absolute martyr when it comes to opera) has just chopped off all her beautiful hair to provide a wig for the diva to wear in that night's performance. From there their lives intersect at more or less regular intervals and these two individuals with such wildly different backgrounds unexpectedly become friends. The one thing they share is a love of music. And music permeates the pages of this book, wrapping itself around you as you read.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Judith Wade on June 17, 2009
Format: Paperback
All right - Ibbotson's books are formulaic, but who cares? THE RELUCTANT HEIRESS is a delightful page turner that made me laugh out loud and not want to stop reading. Loved it.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on May 2, 2009
Format: Paperback
In 1922, Princess Theresa-Maria of Pfaffenstein may be an heiress, but she will not inherit much more than a rundown castle. Most aristocrats would be appalled, but Tessa is euphoric, because her financial state allows her to do what she wants. Thus she works for the Viennese opera company as a wardrobe mistress hiding her royal connection from her peers.

First generation nouvelle riche English orphan millionaire Guy Farne comes to the opera house seeking a means to entertain his high society guests and his snobby fiancée. When he and Tessa meet they are attracted to one another and quickly fall in love. However, she is unsuited for him as he wants an aristocrat not a working girl as a wife. Meanwhile impoverished Prince Max loves Tessa and wants to marry her.

Though a young teen historical romance, THE RELUCTANT HEIRESS provides much more. The underlying premise throughout the complex story line is how much WWI shook up the world order; similar in tone to the excellent PBS series The people's Century especially how The Great War reshaped the rest of the twentieth century. Readers will need a bit of time to fully understand how the prime four characters feel about the new world order because Eva Ibottson has cleverly left clues about what would have been expected of each if WWI had not occurred. This is a great young adult early 1920s tale at a time when the enthusiasm of a new hope for world peace was waning into a great depression.

Harriet Klausner
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By AUPoohBear on April 25, 2010
Format: Paperback
Found on the docks at Newcastle-upon-Tyme, Guy is a foundling who spent his earliest years at the Foundling Home fighting any perceived insult or injustice. At the age of 6 he was adopted by the widow Martha Hodge, who saw his potential and loved him unconditionally. Guy worked hard to please Martha and turned his energy to his studies. After attending University in Vienna, Guy came home changed and determined to make millions. Now, in 1922, he has become a multi-millionaire and is rich enough to buy a castle. He decides to buy Pfaffenstein castle to woo back his lady love who rejected him years ago when he was poor. Tessa was born and bred the Princess of Pfaffenstein but is now a republican and working backstage at a Vienna opera company for free because she loves music so much. She encounters Guy backstage when he comes to hire the opera company for his engagement house party. She is struck by his kindness to her but knows he will go away and she'll never see him again. When the opera company is engaged to perform Mozart's Magic Flutes at Pfaffenstein, Tessa is torn between her duties to her station and her heart. Should she marry Maxi, a prince who lives in a damp and crumbling home or can she help patronize the arts? Will Guy actually marry the spoiled beauty he believes he loves? Those are the questions that kept me turning the pages long into the night. This is a typical Ibbotson romance novel with a doe-eyed virtuous heroine who tried her hardest to please everyone and an older man of the world. The book is filled with beautiful descriptions and historical details of pre- WWII Austria and a number of quirky characters. Though Ibbotson reuses the same formula and elements of previous stories, this is a sweet, funny and charming romance novel for teens and adults.
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