The Ladies of Ivy Cottage (Book 2—Tales From Ivy Hill series) by Julie Klassen

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5-stars

I was thrilled to be reconnecting with these courageous, strong and determined women. Rachel Ashford takes center stage in this book. She is a displaced gentlewoman of meager means since her deceased father’s estate is now home to his distant cousin, Nicholas Ashford, where he and his mother reside (entail laws and all that). Fortunately, Rachel has been invited to live with her friend, Mercy Grove, and her aunt Matilda at Ivy Cottage. With few other options available to her, Rachel accepts the generous offer and tries her hand at teaching the pupils at Mercy’s girls school on the premises, since she needs an occupation. That venture proves unsuccessful as she is not particularly skilled at the art of instruction. Meanwhile, Nicholas Ashford desires Rachel’s hand in marriage. Although accepting him would secure her future and place her back in the beloved Thornvale where she grew up, she continues to put him off. Meanwhile, there might be hope in the way of a proposal from Sir. Timothy Brockwell. Brockwell’s interest in Rachel is not new, and the circumstances surrounding the possible suitor seem more favorable now since they don’t involve her friend Jane Bell, the woman presumed to marry Sir Timothy. Their recently reconciled friendship is highly valued by both women. Still, Lady Brockwell has higher aspirations for her son in the way of a marriage partner. Rachel is fiery and feisty, dodging Lady Brockwell’s subtle assaults at her. But even if Sir Timothy defies his mother and asks for Rachel’s hand, how might it affect her friendship with Jane?

During her first meeting of the Ladies Tea and Knitting Society, Rachel’s impoverished predicament is shared with the attendees by Mercy Grove. These progressive women suggest that Rachel earn her livelihood by starting a much-needed circulating library in Ivy Hill with her father’s extensive library, which Rachel inherited but is forbidden to sell off. This endeavour proves promising and Rachel is on her way to sustaining herself in the meantime while living at Ivy Cottage.

Mercy Grove has more or less resigned herself to spinster status. She doesn’t think herself attractive and doubts that any man will find her so. Solace comes in the form of her recently attained ward, Alice, one of the little orphaned girls that attends her school. The two are attached to each other. So what will Mercy do when a person from Alice’s mother’s past threatens to sever their relationship?

I love the propriety, etiquette and decorum of the Regency period. The slow pace of life is a welcome diversion from today’s fast world. Despite the improprieties of the upper crust—their infidelities, indiscretions and scandals, Julie Klassen does not deliver them to us in the same way we’d receive them from a dime novel. In contrast, her prose is all manners and grace, indicative of the time period. The visual impact of her stories is what keeps me coming back to her books.

If you love historical fiction involving revitalized friendships, swoon-worthy romantic moments, an atmospheric setting with fully developed characters, this book is for you. But do yourself a favor and begin with the first book in the series, The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill. Highly recommended series.

Thank you Bethany House publishers for a complimentary copy of this book. In exchange I have provided an honest review.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day.

Advertisements

Throwback Thursday – Bluebells in the Mourning by KaraLynne Mackrory

fullsizeoutput_ec7

Throwback Thursday is hosted by Renee of It’s Book Talk.  This meme was created to share old favorites and/or books published over a year ago.  Today I’m going to be sharing a Pride and Prejudice variation that I enjoyed immensely.  Bluebells in the Mourning by KaraLynne Mackrory.


Why I chose this book:

I was in the mood for a historical novel at the time so I requested this book from the publisher based on the description on the back cover. It sounded interesting. I didn’t know what to expect since I’d never heard of KaraLynne Mackrory. When I received the book I began reading and I was pleasantly surprised by this beautifully written Pride and Prejudice continuation. It blew me away with its tender, emotional scenes and lyrical prose. I couldn’t believe how incredible it was. See my review here.

I was particularly touched by a scene between Elizabeth Bennett and her mother, it made me feel like this …

Yes, it was deep. A poignant scene that truly moved me. Excellent writing.

I highly recommend this book if you enjoy historical fiction. It was an outstanding read for me. So much so that it’s stayed with me and brings back fond memories whenever I think about it. It remains on my bookshelf to this day.


Have you heard of KaraLynne Mackrory or read any of her books, including this one?  What did you think?  I’d love to know your thoughts.

Thank you for visiting. Happy reading.

An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 4.5 stars

The Civil War is raging. Ellen “Elle” Burns, once a slave along with her parents, is a free negro living in the North. She’s chosen to relinquish that freedom to become an undercover spy for the Loyal League, Union supporters, posing as a mute slave girl in a confederate Senator’s home in Richmond, VA. The Loyal League’s mission is to help destroy the Confederacy. Elle’s assignment in Senator Caffrey’s home is to use her eidetic (photographic) memory to expose secessionists’ secrets. Elle is hopeful that her efforts will contribute to the end of slavery in the south. It’s risky business, but “anything for the Union,” she continually recites in her mind to dispel the hatred she has working as a slave under a cruel and exacting mistress, the Senator’s daughter, Susie. Susie is intent on vexing her daily—spewing racial epithets and making derogatory comments and accusatory statements that undermine Elle’s true character and nature. The condescension is almost beyond what she can bear. And with no way to defend herself, the mental pain inflicted is agonizing. Repressing her abhorrence for the oppression and denigration she’s experiencing, along with fellow slaves working in the Senator’s household, is excruciatingly difficult for Elle since she is highly intelligent and in reality, free. If that weren’t enough, Senator McCaffrey has got a new friend, Malcolm McCall, a confederate soldier who makes recurring visits to the Senator’s home. Initially terrified that Malcolm’s kindness towards Elle is a ploy to have his way with her, a common practice, Elle soon learns that McCall is also an undercover spy, working for Mr. Allan Pinkerton’s secret service, also Union supporters. The two must act wisely so as not to blow each others cover. This proves to be more difficult for Malcolm as he is almost immediately besotted by Elle’s beauty and her unique abilities as an undercover spy.

At first Elle views the Scotsman much the same as any other white man, an oppressor of her people, especially since his disguise consists of a grey confederate uniform, a stark reminder of the subjugation and brutality that her people endure by men who look like him. But his continued good-naturedness towards her gradually chips away her gruff, reticent exterior and before long she begins to fall for the man who can’t resist her. But they can’t allow their feelings for one another to supersede their mission. And there’s another problem. The senator’s daughter is continually making advances at Malcolm and wondering why he isn’t reciprocating. She’s becoming enraged and desperate because of his rejection, but Malcolm can’t bring himself to betray Elle, not even for the cause. The dejected woman’s actions culminate in an unthinkable act that threatens to ruin their mission. Can Malcolm and Elle do whatever it takes in support of the Union, exposing the secessionists and relaying vital information back to the Capital before it’s too late, or will their love prove to be a hindrance to the cause they’ve both been so committed to?
This book was suspenseful, educational, thought provoking, and poignant. The blatant racism was difficult to stomach. I had to continue to remind myself that this was the norm in those days, but I couldn’t help thinking about the prejudice and racism that still exists today.

I was rooting for Malcolm and Elle. Their forbidden love was difficult for me to envision because of the time period. They were well aware of the challenges it would cause, and the obstacles they faced seemed insurmountable. Their tenacious spirits and determination to fulfill their mission while preserving their secret relationship was inspiring.

Overall I enjoyed this book. There was lots of action and tense scenes that engaged me. I liked the idea of a romance between Malcolm and Elle, but I would have appreciated a more wholesome approach to it. Their scenes together were mostly lustful in nature, and that was disappointing to me since I prefer reading tender, wholesome romances. I skipped over the racy stuff. I guess I expected a more mellow romance with this one. Aside from that, a very good read.

Review: The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill
The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ When I need a little Regency indulgence to feed my Anglophilic yearnings, I can count on complete satisfaction with a Julie Klassen book. Atmospheric in its descriptions of English village life and the goings-on of its people, The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill captures the very essence of Regency era living. And now about the book…

Jane Bell’s husband John died and left her The Bell, a coaching Inn that she has no interest in running. Complicating matters, Jane learns that The Bell is saddled with debt which leaves her more eager to dispense with it. Her mother-in-law, Thora Bell, an austere woman who has never cared much for Jane in her estimation, was originally landlady of The Bell (or The Angel as it was then called), it being her family’s establishment. However, due to marital entitlement laws and such during that time, which ultimately curtailed a woman’s financial freedom, it eventually became the property of her husband, then her son, and now her daughter-in-law, Jane. Thora Bell has returned to the Inn to assess matters and to stay on and help out, she hopes. When the book opens it’s been about a year since John’s death and The Bell has fallen into neglect, an exorbitant loan is due, and because of the subpar service, mediocre accommodations, and its neglected state, The Bell is no longer profitable. Jane can sell at a loss, allow her brother-in-law Patrick, who also resides at The Bell, to assume the place along with the debt, or she can proceed at trying to salvage the Inn herself. Feeling defeated, she’s leaning towards options 1 and 2. But when one of her employs makes a dramatic statement causing her to reconsider her original inclinations, Jane realizes that more is at stake than her ability to pursue and secure her own livelihood. The Bell must be salvaged, and what’s clear is that for the most benefit to be achieved she should be the one to take charge of it.

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill’s pace is like a walk through pristine English gardens on a balmy Spring day, parasol in hands and a companion by your side. At times an unexpected gust of wind sends you hastening for shelter from the impending storm. So many enthralling elements within this book. The entrepreneurial spirit that existed during a time when women weren’t highly considered, relative to matters of business, was inspiring. I loved Jane’s gumption as she sought advice from experienced businessmen, merchants and friends. Her commitment to transform The Bell into an establishment reminiscent of its former glory and reputation showed her strength when faced with what appeared to be insurmountable odds. I loved the growth of her character. I appreciated how Jane refused to adopt the old ways of doing things; ways that her mother-in-law approved of, but instead opted to pursue more innovative techniques to improve the Inn’s appeal. The transformation of the relationship between Thora and Jane was endearing. In fact, so many of the characters were three-dimensional that I felt particularly interested in the thoughts, motivations and actions of most of them. I cared about them – from the potboy to the magistrate. There was mention of stately as well as stubborn old horses, lovely manor homes, thriving hotel establishments, the Royal Mail service, female businesswomen, love interests and much more. A plot fully fleshed out and an absolute joy to savor.

In conclusion, I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed this book. I anxiously await book 2 in the series which I believe will be out in December, 2017. The characters are not easily forgotten, and I’m eager to learn of their eventualities. The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill is outstanding! Most highly recommended.

If you’d like to know about the setting for The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill, as well as the characters and other research relating to the book, Julie Klassen has a website exclusively for that purpose. It’s Talesfromivyhill.com, and it’s definitely worth viewing. Beautiful photos, videos, a map of Ivy Hill and lots more.

View all my reviews

Review: A Haven on Orchard Lane

A Haven on Orchard Lane
A Haven on Orchard Lane by Lawana Blackwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ This is my first book by Lawana Blackwell and she’s been added to my list of favorite authors. I was beaming with pleasure while reading A Haven on Orchard Lane. What a delightful historic tale it was, filled with characters of substance that I could envision so clearly; and beautiful, refreshing dialogue that made this book the epitome of comfort and warmth. To be honest, I had taken a break from historic novels because I was growing weary of the same plot lines and scenarios. This book has caused me to regain faith in the genre. The story was unique and unlike any other book I’ve read in this category, with writing that spoke to my heart and nourished my soul. I was always ready to pick up where I’d left off. Now a little of what it was about….
Mrs. Charlotte Fosberry was a highly respected actress in her former days. Now at 50, she’s no longer on stage, but married to Lord Fosberry who did not marry her for love. Presuming she possessed more wealth than was the case, he confessed his true motives for marrying her and has grown critical and mentally abusive to Charlotte; making off-color comments about her weight and such. She desperately needs a way out and it comes by way of a theater part that she is called upon to play. Knowing that Lord Fosberry won’t allow her to just walk away from their marriage, Charlotte must devise a scheme to make her exit. Things don’t turn out the way she expects regarding her big break on stage, and she finds herself at the mercy of her estranged daughter, Rosalind, who Charlotte did not raise. Forgiveness is the order of the day, and Rosalind will learn almost immediately that her mother isn’t the person she’s made her out to be. In fact, Charlotte has much to contribute to many secondary characters by way of wisdom, and even theatrical experience. There’s a little mystery and intrigue in the story, a love triangle and ultimately the most wonderfully fulfilling ending.
Ms. Blackwell does Christian Fiction right. There are a few brief scriptural references to bible passages and characters, and a mention here and there of the folks making their way to worship services. But happily it wasn’t a lesson in Christianity or didactic in any way (I attend my own worship services for that). Oftentimes when reading a Christian Fiction novel I find that the author’s views don’t align with my personal beliefs and ultimately upset my delicate sensibilities related to religion. Because of this I find it difficult to review these preachy books objectively. This was not so with A Haven on Orchard Lane. What little I didn’t agree with wasn’t enough to affect my enjoyment of the book. It was mainly just solid story-telling without profanity, violence or graphic sexual scenes. What I personally expect from a Christian Fiction novel. I loved it!! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Thank you Bethany House for a free copy of this book. I have not received any payment for my honest opinions about it.

View all my reviews

Review: Yours Forevermore, Darcy

Yours Forevermore, Darcy
Yours Forevermore, Darcy by KaraLynne Mackrory
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 4.5 stars. A great read!!  Mr. Darcy is befuddled. Miss Elizabeth Bennet has refused his proposal of marriage, administering a stern rebuke along with it. Downtrodden and dejected, Darcy confides his situation to his cousin Anne who reveals to him that his proposal, while sincere, lacked tact and therefore exuded an air of impudence, resulting in Miss Bennet’s rejection. While acknowledging his goodness, she nevertheless recommends that Darcy take steps to improve his character.  In her estimation he interferes unnecessarily in the affairs of others, an impertinent gesture on his part, namely with regard to dissuading his friend Mr. Bingley from courting Elizabeth Bennet’s sister Jane, another factor contributing to Miss Bennet’s refusing him. Reflecting on the matter Darcy concludes that Anne is correct in her estimation, but it appears too late to reverse the outcome. Elizabeth’s bad opinion of Darcy is sealed and his dreams of betrothal to the lady are ruined. Or are they?  Darcy is incredulous, and as such he is anxious to quit Rosings Park immediately to avoid any further encounters with Elizabeth, preferring instead to placate himself by writing letters to his beloved which he never intends to mail.  But when Mr. Collins louses up Miss Bennet’s travel plans, placing Darcy in the awkward position to offer assistance, will the debacle give way to new opportunities for them?  Or perhaps will future encounters shed light on Darcy’s true character, improving his ill-fated lot with Miss Elizabeth?
KaraLynne Mackrory has a gift for writing Regency romance and she delivers it with ease in the most eloquent way. This is the second book I’ve read by this author and I truly enjoyed it. Those who’ve enjoyed Pride and Prejudice, and retellings thereof, will very likely appreciate Yours Forevermore, Darcy. Definitely a recommended read.
Thank you Meryton Press for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review which I have given.

View all my reviews

Review: Sprig Muslin

Sprig Muslin
Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ THIS WAS AN AUDIOBOOK. Sprig Muslin is a delightful Regency era tale that begins with Sir Gareth Ludlow, a widow who lost his beloved wife Clarissa to a tragic accident. Convinced that he will never truly love again, he sets out to marry an amiable and respectable long-time friend, Hester Theale, whom his sister regards as old (at 29) and insipid. En route to propose marriage to Hester, Sir Gareth encounters a young woman unchaperoned at an Inn, Miss Amanda “Smith”, a feisty, pretty and high-spirited girl of about 16 who puts him in mind of his young niece.  Determined not to allow this spunky but innocent, gentile young lady to fend for herself in a public Inn without an escort, he takes on the role of guardian with the intention of delivering her back to the safety of her grandfather, who Amanda is running away from since he will not permit her to marry her beloved Neal.  Amanda’s age and Neal’s station in life being a major factor in his decision. Reluctantly Amanda accompanies Sir Gareth until she realizes his scheme to return her to her grandfather. From this point a series of blunders, falsehoods and unbelievable situations take the story in directions that excite, shock and ultimately leave you in such a satisfied state of mind that you will no doubt long remember it for many days, weeks or even months to come.  This was my first Georgette Heyer book and I am hooked. There was wit, charm and characters of great depth that regaled me from beginning to end.  A masterful writer of the Regency period, I will be looking forward to reading more of her books in the future.
View all my reviews