Genre: Christian Historical Fiction
Rating 4.5 Stars
Summary: On a rise overlooking the Wiltshire countryside stands the village of Ivy Hill. Its coaching inn, The Bell, is its lifeblood--along with the coach lines that stop there daily, bringing news, mail, travelers, and much-needed trade.
Jane Bell lives on the edge of the inn property. She had been a genteel lady until she married the charming innkeeper who promised she would never have to work in his family's inn. But when he dies under mysterious circumstances, Jane finds herself The Bell's owner, and worse, she has three months to pay a large loan or lose the place.
Feeling reluctant and ill-equipped, Jane is tempted to abandon her husband's legacy and return to her former life of ease. However, she soon realizes there is more at stake than her comfort. But who can she trust to help her? Her resentful mother-in-law? Her husband's brother, who wanted the inn for himself? Or the handsome newcomer with secret plans of his own . . . ?
With pressure mounting from the bank, Jane struggles to win over naysayers and turn the place around.
Julie Klassen is one of my favorite authors. She could have her own sub category on this blog because of how many of her books I have read. This start of a series - a first for her. Unlike a majority of Christian writers seem to crank out trilogies like there is no tomorrow, capitalizing on their characters to keep us coming back for more - Klassen usually ties everything up in one book. I'm not complaining about this series approach. There are stories at in Ivy Hill and I'm excited to see how they fold out.
This approach also allows for the slow and steady pace which fits in perfectly with the setting. I didn't feel like it was dragging, it was merely taking its time and letting us enjoy the journey of Jane and Thora. The story unfolds gently, but with twists that I wasn't expecting, but with character growth that felt real. No one changed with a single revelation, they grow and change with minor set back the way we all do on our own little journeys. (I hate it when books try to have someone change like a switch going off. Yes, I have those sparks of inspiration where I'm going to be a better person and make my bed every day, meal prep and go to the gym 3 times a week. But we all know that within a week I'm back to where I was but perhaps with the bed made 2 times a week)
As usual, I fell in love with the characters - not all of them, I still don't know how I feel about Patrick and I don't think I would mind if he fell off the map. But Jane and Thora, Mercy and Rachel are all women I wanted to spend more time with. Each woman is strong in her own right and are all showing different facets of femininity. That perhaps is one of the greatest strengths of Klassen's characters I don't feel like these women are overly stereotyped or one dimensional. They are human and we get to see their strengths and weaknesses and grow closer to all of them.
Overall if you like Christian Fiction that isn't too preachy, gentle stories that are reminiscent of Gaskell and Austen this is one I would recommend. I'm very excited to read the next book in the series.
Thank you Netgalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.