Posted in Reviews

The Ladies of Ivy Cottage

Welcome back to Ivy Hill, the setting of Julie Klassen’s first series, Tales from Ivy Hill. Last year about this time, I reviewed book one, The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill. I was delighted to return for the second installment entitled The Ladies of Ivy Cottage.

Shifting attention from Jane Bell and her inn, Ivy Hill readers get to know two other characters a little better. Mercy Grove, introduced in book one as one of Jane’s dearest friends, runs a residential girls’ school with help from her aunt Mattie. Although Mercy would love a husband and children of her own, she is content pouring her heart and love into the girls who attend her school. Meanwhile, she is thrilled to welcome Rachel Ashford into her home. Once a belle of high social standing, Rachel had turned the head of the highly eligible Sir Timothy Brockwell years before. But, when her father became embroiled in scandal, everything changed. And, upon her father’s death, the Ashford home was inherited by a distant cousin, leaving her homeless. Welcomed warmly into Ivy Cottage, Rachel seeks to find a way to earn her own keep and make herself useful. Could the unlikely idea of a circulating library be the solution she has been needing?

Rachel Ashford’s story is the highlight of The Ladies of Ivy Cottage; but just as in the first book, every story continues to press forward. Although Jane Bell is enjoying great success at her inn after solving the mystery behind her husband’s death and the impending financial ruin of the inn, her heart is still processing through the many stages of healing, and it is obvious that changes may still lie ahead of her. Meanwhile, great changes are already taking place in the life of Mercy Grove. Hints exist of what might lie ahead for her in an upcoming installment of Tales from Ivy Hill.

As in all of Julie Klassen’s novels, threads of mystery run through The Ladies of Ivy Cottage, but relationships seem much more prominent in this book. And, these relationships are handled quite well as the characters work through issues at stake as well as spiritual dynamics. And, as with The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill, this book offers a story with closure while still keeping readers hungry for the next book.

Yes, book two definitely confirms the Julie Klassen can write a series as successfully as she can write a single, self-contained novel.

This book was sent to me by Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Reviews

The Inkeeper of Ivy Hill

Nearly six years ago, I posted my first Julie Klassen review. I’d already snagged a second of her books free for Kindle, so I read that one, too. It wasn’t long before I was hooked. Julie Klassen’s flair for unexpected twists, fascinating character development, and glimpses into British society all fascinated me. Since then, I have been on a mission to collect all of her titles, the last of which ended up under the tree this Christmas – including the German version of one title! (My husband is so sweet to feed my love for historical fiction.)

So, naturally, when Klassen’s most recent novel came up for review, I jumped right on it. Typically I keep track of what my favorite authors are up to, but somehow I’d fallen behind this time around. Thanks to the full plate I was balancing, I had not followed her Facebook posts or e-mails for some time, other than to note that a new book would be coming. I didn’t pay much attention to what it was. I just knew I wanted to read it.

Very early in the reading, I began to wonder what this wonderful author was up to. She always has several plot lines that leave me wondering how they will all tie together. But, The Inkeeper of Ivy Hill seemed to have more than the norm. I could see how several of the various lines interconnected, but a couple of others seemed to be a little too independent. How in the world would everything be resolved in a mere 435 pages? I was halfway through the book – enjoying it immensely, but still concerned about everything coming together – before I took the time to look at the cover and notice a small detail I had missed: Tales from Ivy Ill – 1. Suddenly, it all clicked. Julie Klassen was writing her very first series!

So, how has she done so far? Well, here’s what I can say based on The Inkeeper of Ivy Hill:
– The main story of this title can somewhat stand alone. I like that. Although I enjoy series like those of Patrick W. Carr or Brock Eastman (for a younger audience – although I love them, too!) that continue a story through multiple books, I am also thoroughly enjoying Julie Klassen’s approach in the Tales from Ivy Hill series. She has introduced a variety of characters whose stories we know will be developed more fully in future installments. But, The Inkeeper of Ivy Hill fully processes through the immediate story of Jane Bell and her battle to save her late husband’s inn – as well as her internal battle to discover whether or not she even wants to save the inn!
– The mysteries make me want to come back for more. Not only have a variety of characters been introduced, but their mysteries have been hinted at. I love Klassen’s approach to mystery. It somehow keeps the stories exciting while never being outlandish or far-fetched. These are real-life mysteries. The kind we might find in our own daily existence. Yet, they are still captivating.
– The Inkeeper of Ivy Hill deals with heart-wrenching realities, and deals with them well. Real people facing real heartache. Sometimes reading such things in a novel gives us insight into how to walk through the same thing with a friend.
– Faith, also, is handled in a real-life manner as characters work through their beliefs and reliance (or lack thereof) on the Lord as they process through their circumstances.

Once I realized that there were not, in fact, too many plot lines that would lead to rushed connections or a lack of resolution (because, after all, book two will come around next year!), I honestly could not find anything to dislike about The Inkeeper of Ivy Hill. Julie Klassen has already proven that she can write without falling into a predictable formula. Now she is showing that she can successfully create a series. I look forward to every single upcoming title in the Tales from Ivy Hill series!