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.