These days I'm not much of a romance reader, but I have been known to make an exception for Eva Ibbotson. Why the exception? Well, I suppose it's because the positives usually outweigh the negatives. Her somewhat formulaic (but sweet and gentle) romances are typically paired with reasonably good historical fiction and above average characterization. Oh, and she's also a really good writer!
This one started out much as I expected - a clever and likeable young heroine sets off to find her way in the world and usually finds love in the bargain. In this case, Ellen has found a job as head housekeeper at a very bohemian boarding school in Austria (on the eve of WW II). So, yes, there is a bit of a 'Sound of Music' vibe going on here. (And, I must say I was excited to find a bit of a kindred spirit in Ellen - an educated woman who unashamedly finds pleasure in domesticity.) All in all, a pretty decent set up and I was really digging it for the first half of the novel. But then the story went off the rails and just never got back on track. At first, I was really rooting for the leads, but then I came to really dislike them both. He allows tragedy to turn him into a selfish prick and she becomes a total doormat. Not really a great recipe for life long happiness if you ask me.
This is the third Ibbotson romance I've read and I think I'm officially done with them. I'm still interested in trying some of her juvenile fiction, however.