My airplane and clearing-that-shelf reading this week has been A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson (Penguin - Speak). I thought this was a YA book--and there's no reason it can't be read by a young adult, in my opinion--but it felt like the sort of book that's always been in the adult section. I don't know how I acquired this book, so I can't really say more.
Anna is a countess, and the sort of remarkable person who is kind, strong, and humble, despite a very privileged upbringing. But, when the Bolsheviks do their thing, she and her family must flee to England, losing touch with their servant (who's carrying the non-entendre family jewels). While a family friend has helped younger brother Petyr find a place at a respected boarding school, Anna and her cousin, Prince Sergei, end up in service, Sergei as a driver and Anna as a maid of many different responsibilities.
The Earl of Westholme's household staff are discomfited by the new arrival; they see through Anna's disguise and resent the intrusion on their space--but Anna is careful to fill her new role as one born to do so, and after winning a grudging respect, proceeds to charm the household. At least, all except for Muriel Hardwicke, the earl's common-born fiance, who has some unfortunate feelings about eugenics... But, if the family, the staff, and the Earl turn away Miss Hardwicke, will they have to sell their home and scatter to the winds? And is there any hope for Anna and the Earl's star-crossed love?
The stylized language and Anna's steadfast, grown-up Pollyanna-ish personality make this book loads of fun, though there are moments where information is deliberately held back from readers so the denouement can be fetchingly unraveled all at once. Problems with punctuation and spacing, particularly commas, happen often enough to distract, though not quite often enough to warrant avoiding this book if a sweet romance, not in-period but in a country atmosphere like Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility, is up your alley. If you have an e-reader, I might recommend an e-version for the fun of quickly and easily looking up rarely-used words and those used in uncommon ways.