I know, I know, that post title could apply to basically every single gothic romance ever. In fact, as Linda Hilton knows, as I actually cribbed the title from an essay she discusses in this post (which is well worth reading, so you should read it!).
Nine Coaches Waiting centers around Linda Martin, a young French woman who is hired as the English speaking governess for Count Philippe Valmy, the nine year old heir to the Valmy estate and fortune. There are a couple of "accidents" where Philippe is nearly killed, at which point Linda begins to wonder if they were really "accidents" at all, or if someone really is trying to get rid of the young count.
As always, Mary Stewart's descriptions are truly lovely and evocative. Linda meets Raoul Valmy, Philippe's much older cousin, who is dashing and handsome and oh so mysterious. He doesn't live at Chateau Valmy, rather he lives at one of the lesser Valmy family properties near by. As the conspiracy unfolds, Linda falls head over heels in love with the enigmatic Raoul, which she realizes after possibly the most epic first date ever set down in fiction.
I am not going to describe that evening in detail though, as it happens, it was desperately important. It was then, simply, one of those wonderful evenings … We stopped in Thonon beside a stall where jonquils and wallflowers blazed under the gas-jets, and he bought me freesias which smelt like the Fortunate Isles and those red anemones that were once called the lilies of the field. Then we drove along in a clear night with stars as warm and a waxing moon staring pale behind the poplars. By the time we reached Geneva – a city of fabulous glitter and strung lights whose reflections swayed and bobbed in the dark waters of the Lake – my spirits were rocketing sky-high; shock, loneliness, the breath of danger all forgotten.
OMG, can Mary Stewart turn a phrase or what?
Linda realizes the truth about the so-called accidents and takes flight from the Chateau with young Philippe, and what follows is several chapters of suspense where the two of them are being chased, hiding, escaping and trying to make their way to safety, without really knowing who is behind the attempts to murder Philippe. As was true of This Rough Magic, Stewart has a definite talent for ratcheting up the reader's anxiety. As is de riguer with romantic suspense, there is a happy ending.
This is my fifth Mary Stewart, each one more delicious than the last. At some point, I assume, I will have to hit a clunker.