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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Julie Klassen: The Innkeeper at Ivy Hill

By Kelly Bridgewater

The lifeblood of the Wiltshire village of Ivy Hill is its coaching inn, The Bell. But when the innkeeper dies suddenly, his genteel wife, Jane Bell, becomes the reluctant owner. Jane has no notion of how to run a business. However, with the town's livelihood at stake and a large loan due, she must find a way to bring new life to the inn.

Despite their strained relationship, Jane turns to her resentful mother-in-law, Thora, for help. Formerly mistress of The Bell, Thora is struggling to find her place in the world. As she and Jane work together, they form a measure of trust, and Thora's wounded heart begins to heal. When she encounters two men from her past, she sees them--and her future--in a different light.
With pressure mounting from the bank, Jane employs innovative methods to turn the inn around, and puzzles over the intentions of several men who seem to have a vested interest in the place. Will her efforts be enough to save The Bell? And will Thora embrace the possibility of a second chance at love?

From Amazon

My Review:

Regency Romance is not my go-to genre of choice, but Julie Klassen has written some great books like The Secret of Pembrooke Hall, so I give her a chance every time a new book comes out. I prefer a story with non-stop action and a lot of movement. Characters that move in and out of the story but don't take over the whole story. I like "plot-driven" stories. A Regency Romance is pretty much a "character-driven" novel where the entire story centers around the lives of the different characters. With Julie Klassen introduction to her first series, The Innkeeper at Ivy Hill, Klassen focuses on the lives of three different women and the historical period at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Klassen is a master at bringing the world of the Regency era to come to life. With her descriptive words, I feel like I am sitting in the Bell Inn in Ivy Hill, England. I see the stables, the Inn, and the characters that roam around the property. Klassen does a good job with her writing. It is concise and moves around between each character's perspective.

Speaking of characters, Klassen has created the story with three different point of views: Jane Bell, Thora Bell, and Rachel. Jane is the Innkeeper at Ivy Hill, which she inherits with the passing of her late husband, John. When Jane married John, her job was to look pretty and be a woman of society. But unfortunately, after he died, she had to step up and take care of the Inn. It takes over a year for Jane to fulfill the role that has fallen onto her. At first, I really didn't like Jane because she was being walked on, but then she stepped up and saw her Inn as something to save. I began to like Jane. Next, Thora, the matriarch of the Bell family appears with the idea of taking control of the Inn, but instead, she watches as he daughter-in-law grows into a leader. Finally, Rachel learns the hard truth of what Jane had gone through by going through the same path of losing her family home and being humbled into a normal working woman. I really don't understand what Rachel had to do with the story.

The plot was slow-moving. I know this is what the genre asks for. A character-driven story with little to no interaction that puts Jane or Thora's life at stake. It is a story that centers on the daily life of the characters. Fans of Klassen, Jane Austen, or Sarah Ladd's work will enjoy this novel and probably eat it up. But for me, it was pretty long and not enough action to satisfy me. Whereas the plot moved slower than I enjoy, Klassen's research into the postal system and how to run an inn intertwine well with the story. I really liked learning some part of history when I read a story, and Klassen does a great job at doing just that.

The Innkeeper at Ivy Hill is not an original story with a predictable ending. The spiritual elements are not mentioned that often. I honestly can't remember where God is mentioned in the text. Maybe it got lost in all the stories of Jane and Thora's life.

In conclusion, The Innkeeper at Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen features three different heroines who work to overcome the conventions of woman in the early nineteenth century. While the story is lengthy, I had a hard time staying focused. I couldn't wait for the novel to be done. BUT . . . this novel is exactly a perfect fit for the Regency genre where the characters rule the action.

I received a complimentary copy of The Innkeeper at Ivy Hill from Bethany House Publishers and the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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