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February 2009

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shadefell in marystewart

Review: "Nine Coaches Waiting"

Nine Coaches Waiting, 1958, is a delirious blend of Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, MacBeth, and Cinderella.

A young woman, orphaned at a young age and raised in a boarding school, moves from England to France to take care of an orphaned boy living with his Aunt and Uncle. The boy, Phillippe, is the Comte Valmy, and his gaurdians insisted on a Governess who was English, and spoke no French-- ostensibly, so the child could practice his English without leaning on the crutch of his native French. But seriously. Who'd buy that explanation? Linda Martin, who was born and lived in France until the death of her parents, pretends not to know any French as she is desperate for the job.

Arriving at the country Manse Linda is spooked by Leon Valmy, young Phillippe's guardian. Despite a physical impairment, he is still a dangerous man; a tiger in human guise. Linda also meets his son, Raoul, who is very like his father. Linda falls in love with him, but when Phillippe is almost killed several times, Linda is led to suspect that Raoul might be behind it. After all, if the boy dies, Leon inherits the Valmy land and title... and after him, Raoul. And if Linda is the only thing standing between the child and Raoul...? Well, who will miss one orphaned English governess?

This is an incredibly exciting book, although the romance angle is a bit ham handed, as it is in many of Stewart's earlier books. There's constant confusion over who is bad and who is good, deception layered atop deception. This is a nice change. Characters, and their interactions, are complex. It's also a fairly dated book, as none of the female characters know how to drive. But then, my grandmother never learned how to drive, either. It's always interesting to see how women's roles, and their place in society, have changed.


I really liked the romantic angle in this book, actually. Maybe because it was the first one of her books I read, and I didn't know what to except. I thought the layers, the deception and Linda not knowing who to trust was really interesting - and really added to the suspense. I also really enjoyed the fairy-tale parallels, and liked the Linda was able to laugh at them.

I would say that, given the year the novel was written, its not so much dated as 'historical'. It's set in a world that is very much post-WWII and quite different to that of today. It definately makes the story interesting, because the social conventions and exceptations are different to what they are now.

But that's just my two cents, or whatever you want to call it...