When I was about halfway through Nine Coaches Waiting, I found myself on the phone with my mom, who asked me what I was reading. Since it’s a pretty obscure book, I didn’t expect her to react the way she did: “I read that thirty years ago!” And “Your aunt loved Mary Stewart’s books.” Apparently, it was so “trashy” that my grandfather forbid his daughters to read it.
My copy of this 1958 book is a 2006 reprint, and I have to say that, considering what’s published these days, Nine Coaches Waiting isn’t all that scandalous. But it’s a great novel of Gothic suspense and romance nonetheless, borrowing from the styles of the Bronte sisters and Daphne DuMaurier.
The story begins when half-English, half-French Linda Martin goes to be a governess in France to nine-year-old Philippe, Count of Valmy. Although Linda forms a special bond with her ward, she senses something distinctly dangerous and sinister about Philippe’s uncle Leon and his aunt. That doesn’t stop Linda from rushing headlong into a romance with the Valmys son, Raoul. Soon, however, Linda begins to notice that something is not quite right about the “accidents” that Philippe keeps having…
As I’ve said before, there’s a heavy Bronte/ DuMaurier influence here (though one can hardly blame Stewart for borrowing from her predecessor; Daphne DuMaurier did the same for Rebecca). The book could have been campy, but it’s not. Instead, it’s a wonderful, intricately-plotted novel of suspense. I finished reading this book days ago, but it took me a while to figure out what to say in this review. The novel is the kind that stays with you for a long time. And you’ll never feel the same way about a wheelchair ever again.