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.

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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.

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Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James

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MY REVIEW:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ What a delightful surprise this book was!! A lovely, charming and beautifully written account of Jane Austen’s first love interest, Edward Taylor, inspired by true events. Jane Austen is 15 years old when the book opens and excited when she learns that she is to accompany her mother, sister, and younger brother to visit her elder brother Edward, who resides with Thomas and Catherine Knight of Godmersham Park, Kent. Edward is recently engaged to Ms. Elizabeth Bridges of Goodnestone Park, and the family is invited there to celebrate a month-long multitude of festivities, to Jane’s overwhelming delight. As they got underway to Goodnestone their carriage met with peril and was nearly upset, leaving them virtually stranded on the road. When circumstances begin to look grim, Edward Taylor appears and rescues them. This is where Jane and Edward make their acquaintance, and she is at once smitten by his smart appearance. Jane eventually learns that Edward is highly accomplished; at 17 he’s traveled the world and been educated by many Masters, speaks several languages, been in the company of numerous influential people including princes, ambassadors and lords. She’s enamored by his opinions and thought processes regarding various subjects, and appreciates how his insights encourage her to think differently about some of her own deeply entrenched ideas. He is also somewhat of an enigmatic fellow and likes to take risks, challenges commonly accepted practices, and prefers not to inherit and manage his father’s estate. The daredevil in him is somewhat displeasing to Jane on more than one occasion. Nevertheless, Jane feels certain that she truly loves Edward. Or does she?
I was enraptured and caught away by the mention of balls, picnics, garden parties, long walks and similar activities that the family engaged in. The visual detail of the aforementioned was splendid and I felt transported back in time where I could be a spectator of Jane’s young life. Character development was excellent and I could easily envision many of the key family members, friends and acquaintances that were met with while I read along. It was nice to see the close bond that was evident between Jane and her older sister Cassandra, and also her younger brother Charles. I also liked how the book reminded me of Jane Austen’s book Emma, and her disastrous match-making attempts. Mostly I loved watching how Jane and Edward’s attachment unfolded.
This was the first book I’ve read by Syrie James and I was truly impressed!! So much so that I immediately looked into her other books and purchased one in audiobook format. If you enjoy Jane Austen inspired works, I trust you will be thrilled when you read Jane Austen’s First Love. MAGNIFICENT, and highly recommended!
Thank you Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose, and Syrie James, for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, which I have given.