Retro Friday: Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.

Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart is one of the titles that Angie suggested when I asked her for recommendations similar to Eva Ibbotson’s novels. I’ve never read a Mary Stewart novel before so I decided I should give her books a try, they seem intriguing. I called the local bookstore and was thrilled to discover that the branch near my house had a copy. This book probably spent the shortest time on my wishlist – bought a copy on the same day I found out about it. Holly mentioned that she’s also interested in reading Nine Coaches Waiting so we decided to do a read-along. As always, it was a lot of fun reading a good book with a friend, even if we can only discuss our thoughts through online means. I think one of the perks of having read-alongs is you get to talk about spoilery details and things that you can’t mention in a review.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

When lovely Linda Martin first arrives at Château Valmy as an English governess to the nine-year-old Count Philippe de Valmy, the opulence and history surrounding her seems like a wondrous, ecstatic dream. But a palpable terror is crouching in the shadows. Philippe’s uncle, Leon de Valmy, is the epitome of charm, yet dynamic and arrogant — his paralysis little hindrance as he moves noiselessly in his wheelchair from room to room. Only his son Raoul, a handsome, sardonic man who drives himself and his car with equally reckless abandon, seems able to stand up to him. To Linda, Raoul is an enigma — though irresistibly attracted to him, she senses some dark twist in his nature. When an accident deep in the woods nearly kills Linda’s innocent charge, she begins to wonder if someone has deadly plans for the young count.

Linda is a very lonely young woman. Brought up as an orphan in England, she dreams of going back to her beloved France and jumps at the chance to work as a governess in a chateau located in the French alps. I thought the writing in Nine Coaches Waiting was beautiful and I was charmed by the atmospheric setting. Here’s a passage that I really liked:

“I’d live with loneliness a long time. That was something which was always there… one learns to keep it at bay, there are times when one even enjoys it – but there are also times when a desperate self-sufficiency doesn’t quite suffice, and then the search for the anodyne begins… the radio, the dog, the shampoo, the stockings-to-wash, the tin soldier…”

Linda forgot to include books, which are the best anodyne (had to look up the meaning of that word) for loneliness. It’s not surprising that she bonds with her charge, Philippe, who is also an orphan. Young Philippe may be a count but it sure doesn’t make his life easier. His Uncle Leon and Aunt Heloise may be interesting individuals but they aren’t exactly warm people – I was glad that he slowly became friends with Linda so that there was at least one adult who cared about him. When Raoul de Valmy enters the picture, the novel takes on a Jane Eyre and Cinderella feel. What’s even more delightful is that Linda was aware of it and kept making references to both stories. There’s a slow build-up at the start of the novel, plenty of time to enjoy the writing and get to know the characters. While the mystery wasn’t that surprising, the last few chapters had my heart pounding. I was scared for both Linda and Philippe and I wasn’t sure about a certain character’s innocence. There are enough twists and turns in novel to keep readers guessing. I breezed through the latter section of the book and was more than satisfied with how things ended although I wanted more of the romance. Don’t get me wrong, I think the romance was developed well but I just wanted more scenes between the heroine and her hero.

Nine Coaches Waiting is the first book that I finished this year and if all of the books that I read in 2012 are just as good, I would be one happy reader. Recommended for fans of Gothic mysteries and romantic suspense. I enjoyed reading Nine Coaches Waiting so much that I knew it wouldn’t be the last Mary Stewart book that I’ll read. I’m looking at My Brother Michael or The Moon-Spinners for my next Mary Stewart read because both books are set in Greece and I’ve always wanted to go there. Feel free to recommend your favorite Mary Stewart, would love to check them out!

Other reviews:
Book Harbinger
She Reads Novels
At Home With A Good Book and the Cat
Everyday Reading

31 thoughts on “Retro Friday: Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart

  1. I’ve actually been reading a lot of Mary Stewart recently! I think my favorite so far is Thornyhold, which has just a touch of magic to it and a very lovely setting. But I’ve also really enjoyed Rose Cottage, The Stormy Petrel, and The Ivy Tree. Madam, Will You Talk has a very thrilling plot, but the romance is SO completely ridiculous, I don’t buy it.

    I’ve just been reading the ones that are in my two library systems–I haven’t read either of the ones you mentioned! But I might be able to get them through inter-library loan.

    • Oooh a touch of magic? Thornyhold has been added to my wishlist! Together with all of the other Mary Stewart recommendations that others have mentioned in this thread. 😛 I hope you can get her other books through inter-library loan (which sounds awesome, by the way) soon. It makes me happy that she has a huge backlist because I have a feeling I’ll enjoy going through the rest of her books.

  2. Oh, I adore the romance in MADAM, WILL YOU TALK. I was just going to recommend it. To each her own, I suppose.

    Good choices with the Greek ones, Chachic! I’d add THIS ROUGH MAGIC to that trio and you’ll be all set. 😉

    So pleased you enjoyed your intro to Mary Stewart.

      • Lol. I totally understand. With Stewart, I think people really develop personal favorites and they last. MADAM was my first one, so fond memories, etc. And, of course, there are the ones you liked but didn’t rock your world. My mom is a die-hard AIRS ABOVE THE GROUND woman, and it’s never quite held the same magic for me. But there does seem to be a Stewart for everyone. She’s wonderful that way. 🙂

    • I’ve added Madam, Will You Talk to my wishlist as well. And This Rough Magic as well. If I can’t go to Greece, I might as well just read about it! Angie, thanks again for the Mary Stewart recommendation. I think it’s fun that there’s a Stewart for everyone – she’s kind of like Ibbotson that way, yes? I remember we have different Ibbotson favorites. 🙂

  3. You know, I keep seeing her books around and wondering if I should read them. But now that the magic words “similar to Eva Ibbotson” have been uttered, you leave me with no choice 😛

    • The Eva Ibbotson factor was what convinced me to read this one! I hope you get to read one of Mary Stewart’s book soon, Ana. Would love to know what you think of them. 🙂

      • They really are magic words, I promise! When Angie mentioned that Mary Stewart is similar to Eva Ibbotson, I had to rush out and get a copy. And honestly, I got excited when I saw that the bookstore had copies of the rest of her backlist.

    • No worries! I’ve added all three books to my wishlist. I want to read the rest of Mary Stewart’s backlist anyway, I just wanted to find out what your favorites are. 🙂

  4. When I was in a teenager, and YA left much to be desired, Mary Stewart was one of my re-reads ad nauseum (thanks to my dear mother, who pressed them into my hands!) Airs above the Ground was the first one she gave, me, Angie–it was her favorite, just like your mom!

    I myself stand by Moonspinners….

    • Teenagers are really lucky nowadays, YA is filled with so many amazing titles. Back in our day, we didn’t have much to choose from. I feel kind of sad that I didn’t find out about Mary Stewart then. I’ve added The Moon-Spinners to my wishlist ever since you mentioned it, Charlotte. That one has a Disney movie version, right? Have you seen it?

  5. Love this thread! Now I want to read Madam Will You Talk! And Moon-spinners, and Thornyhold for that touch of magic, the list goes on… I would love to read her entire backlist. Did you know that she also wrote an Arthurian series that is supposedly quite good?

    Great review as always Chachic. I loved the self-references to Cinderella as well. The end was predictable but I didn’t mind either. I will definitely think of a wheelchairs differently from now on. 🙂

    • Ahhh, I am seriously tempted to drop by the bookstore this weekend and purchase copies of Mary Stewart’s books. I still have that gift card that I received from the office gift exchange. Maybe I should use it already? I’m set on reading the Greek ones first and then will follow up with the rest. I’ve heard about the Merlin series too, I want them as well!

      I know what you mean – I never thought wheelchairs were creepy but Leon de Valmy changed the way I think of them. I loved Linda’s references to Jane Eyre and Cinderella and how she reprimanded herself for being a romantic fool.

  6. Reading your review is a pretty big reminder of all of the books I want to read — namely my first Mary Stewart AND also Eva Ibbotson’s YA stuff.

    But okay, you uttered some magical words:setting, romantic suspense, ORPHANS, France. My ears are perked. Plus that cover. Plus Angie. Plus Holly. HELLO NINE COACHES WAITING WELCOME TO MY WISHLIST.

    • April, I have a feeling you’d like both Mary Stewart and Eva Ibbotson! I can’t wait for you to read and review them, would love to know what you think. I love how they feel like comfort reads even when you’re reading them for the first time.

      LOL love how enthusiastic you are! I hope Nine Coaches Waiting will be your first Mary Stewart as well. It looks like it has all the elements that you enjoy in fiction. 🙂

  7. So wonderful. I’ve never read this one either — but it looks wonderful.

    Also I so want to join in on your next readalong. It looks like you and Holly had a blast!

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  11. Is it cool for a guy to enjoy Mary Stewart; but hey great writing’s great writing, and Mary Stewart is up there with the best – so visual. Her Merlin series of books are up there with the best Arthurian fiction ever written. If you’re looking for YA retro that should be more widely read you’ve gotta try The Mantlemass Chronicles by Barbara Willard. These were written throughout the 1960’s and 70’s – great young adult historical fiction that follows a family through centuries. Check out their ratings on Goodreads. Love Thornyhold by the way.

    • I think it’s awesome for a guy like you to enjoy Mary Stewart’s writing! 😀 Her Merlin series is already on my wishlist. I still need to go through her other romantic suspense titles, I have five of them waiting in my bookshelf (Madam Will You Talk, The Gabriel Hounds, Thunder on the Right, Wildfire at Midnight and The Ivy Tree). This is the first time I’ve heard of the Mantemass Chronicles, sounds pretty interesting. I looked it up on Goodreads and it looks like the series is out of print?

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