Friday, 17 March 2017

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen

Welcome to the English village of Ivy Hill, where friendships thrive, romance blossoms, and mysteries await. . . .

The lifeblood of the village of Ivy Hill is its coaching inn, The Bell. When the innkeeper dies suddenly, his genteel wife, Jane Bell, becomes the reluctant landlady. Jane has no idea how to manage a business, but with the town's livelihood at stake and a large loan due, she must quickly find a way to save 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 overcome her losses and find purpose for the future. As she works with Jane, two men from her past vie for her attention, but Thora has promised herself never to marry again. Will one of them convince her to embrace a second chance at love?

As pressure mounts from the bank, Jane employs new methods, and puzzles over the intentions of several men who seem to have a vested interest in the place, including a mysterious newcomer with secret plans of his own. With the help of friends old and new, can Jane restore life to the inn, and to her empty heart as well?

Review: It is so good to crack open a novel again. Life has taken a few exciting turns and reading isn't quite as easy to fit in as it used to be. It is nearly 1 am and I just finished reading this delightful novel by Julie Klassen. It feels like a guilty pleasure staying up to the wee hours to indulge in something as peacefully serene as reading a book. The only thing missing is a cup of tea, and I would recommend to anyone thinking of reading this novel that a cup of dark English tea would be just the ticket. 

The Inkeeper of Ivy Hill is a well written book. What do I mean by that? Well, the grammar is neat and organized and the style is very easy to read but not too simplistic. The dialogue flows easily and well, and one can imagine a person actually using such language. The descriptions are enough to give you a good mental picture of the scenes but they are not long enough to bore. The characters are interesting, varied, and evolve through the story. There were no 'glitchy' phrases or sections that left me lurching over the words. This, to me, is what encompasses a well written novel. 

I really enjoyed the slow, budding romances and tentative relationships of the four main ladies in this novel. Missy, Rachel, Thora, and of course, Jane. All the girls are so different, but they are alike in that life has not been kind to them. Missy's plain face has kept the shallow young men away, and it seems as she gets older that her chances of meeting a man who can see into her beautiful soul are fading away. Rachel, a lady of note, is reduced to nothing but her valise when her father dies and leaves their estate to a distant relative. Thora, married once for love and then left with nothing, is resolute in never wanting to be shackled to a man again. And lastly, sweet Jane. A gentle lady who ends up married to an innkeeper, and finds herself widowed not many years later, now has to struggle for her own survival against great odds.

This novel weaves a wonderful story of perseverance and tentative love as these four women team together to try and get by in a society that favours men in business and does not encourage entrepreneurship or independence in women. I found the plot to be simplistic, but the story did not suffer for it. The characters were vividly full of life; I eagerly anticipate the next novel in a desire to find out what happens to these industrious women. 

Lastly, there are strong faith components in this book - not just in statement but in the actions of the women. Themes of forgiveness, self-control, and compassion run high. 

Thank-you to Graf Martin Communications and Baker Publishing House for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

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