02/06/2009

Magic Flutes (by Eva Ibbotsen)

I really didn't know what to expect from this book, sent to me by The Bookbag for review. I'd never heard of Eva Ibbotson, although it turns out that she writes two basic genres: ghost stories for children, and light romantic novels set in the early 20th century.

'Magic Flutes' is in the latter category. It's published as a Young Picador, which suggests that it's intended for the teenage market; however I doubt if it would be of much interest to younger teens, and almost certainly not to most boys. It's not exactly chick-lit either, but writing as a not-so-young fan of light romantic fiction, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The two main characters, Guy and Tessa, could hardly be more different. Guy was a foundling, abandoned as a newborn baby in Newcastle in the early part of the 20th century. Tessa is an Austrian princess, born around the same time.

By the time the story opens, in the 1920s, Guy is a millionaire, in love with the beautiful, widowed Nerine. He is determined to woo her afresh, and is quite certain that the perfect setting for his bride is a huge Austrian castle.

Tessa, meanwhile, owns such a castle. However, Tessa is now an orphan, and no longer wealthy. She has left home and works, incognito, in a struggling theatre company as the under wardrobe mistress.

These worlds collide when Guy decides to buy Tessa's castle, and to employ the theatre company in a production of 'The Magic Flute' as the perfect setting to propose to his intended bride ...

My only complaint about this novel is that it was rather slow to get started. I felt that there was too much detail and background in the early chapters. But by the time I was about a third of the way into the book, I was hooked. The writing is good, the characters well-drawn, the conversation realistic.

All in all, I thought it an excellent book. It reminded me slightly of Georgette Heyer's novels - and that's a great compliment - despite being set much later in history. There was almost a hint of 'The Sound of Music' too. But really it's in a genre of its own, which I hesitate to target since almost anyone could enjoy it if they happen to like light romantic fiction.

(My longer review of 'The Magic Flute'  can also be found on the Bookbag site)

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