The Ladies of Ivy Cottage (Tales from Ivy Hill #2) by Julie Klassen

This is the second book in a Cranford-like series focusing on a small English village in the 1800s. Book 1, The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill, was previously reviewed here.

The Ladies of Ivy Cottage front cover (Bethany House)

THE PLOT: This volume focuses more on characters who were more secondary in the first book: Mercy, who lives with her aunt and runs a school; and Rachel, who came from a good family but lost everything. Rachel was being courted by Sir Timothy when her father’s downfall was revealed, and he backed away. Rachel has lost her home to her father’s heir, who wants to marry her. But Rachel would rather find some way to make it on her own (even if genteel ladies aren’t supposed to enter trade) and moves in with Mercy and her aunt. And just maybe, she’s still carrying the torch for Sir Timothy.

Meanwhile, Mercy, the “homely spinster daughter” according to her parents, runs a school at Ivy Cottage even while longing for a child of her own. She may get her chance when a local man wishes her to adopt his secret granddaughter. But of course nothing is simple. Mercy’s parents want her to give up the girl and the rest of the school and marry a teacher. Is there any hope for a little unexpected romance for Mercy?

MY TWO CENTS: I really enjoy Julie Klassen’s books, and I’ve found that a series works even better for her. We do get to revisit the more prominent characters from Book 1, Jane and Thora, and I’m sure we’ll see them again with some resolutions in Book 3. We met Rachel and Mercy in Book 1, too, but we really get their major development here.

As for our main characters, I really admire them both. Each has an easy way out that she refuses to take. Rachel struggles with accepting charity or an easy yet loveless marriage, and then chooses using the resources she has to start up a library. Despite being marginalized by her own mother, Mercy refuses to give up belief that she deserves happiness of her own choosing. However, neither of these plots seem anachronistic. The women aren’t rebels or early feminists; they’re just trying to do their best in the world of their time.

 

COVER NOTES: We see the backs of Rachel and Mercy, wearing appropriate fashions for the time. The titular cottage is on display, and how much would you love to live there??? (With indoor plumbing added, of course.)

BOTTOM LINE: I’m very much enjoying this series, and I think  Julie Klassen has moved to an “auto-buy” status for me.

TEACUP RATING: Five out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available now in paperback, hardcover, and eformats.

NEXT UP IN THE SERIES: The Bride of Ivy Green will be released in December 2018. Check out the author’s series page at talesfromivyhill.com.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Once Upon a Christmas Eve (Maiden Lane #12.75)

Heavy work deadlines and more illness have caused me to miss posting some reviews prior to release dates, again. I had planned to play catch-up all through my week of vacation…which was spent battling some sort of respiratory flu with high fever. Let’s see if I can remind people about a couple of things that came out at the beginning of December…

First up is the (almost) finale to the “Maiden Lane” series. (Why do I say almost? Because Hoyt revealed in her newsletter that newletter subscribers will get a special story in serial format about Joseph Tinbox and Peach, titled Once Upon a Missive. So if you’re a “Maiden Lane” superfan but somehow not on Hoyt’s newsletter list, I suggest you subscribe.) In the meantime, we finally get the story of Lord D’Arque in Once Upon a Christmas Eve.

Once Upon a Christmas Eve front cover (Grand Central Publishing/Hachette)

THE PLOT: Adam Rutledge, Lord D’Arque, is no fan of Christmas, but he his a huge fan of his grandmother, so they’re off to celebrate Christmas when their carriage is wrecked. The closest house where they can find shelter happens to belong to Godric St. John and his wife Megs (of “Maiden Lane” #5, Lord of Darkness. Megs is related to a bunch of other characters, and I’m not going through them all!) The St. Johns are having a party that includes Godric’s sister, Sarah St. John. Sarah has her own reasons for still being unmarried, but her mother has invited an assortment of unmarried young men to try to turn her head. Of course Adam is entirely unsuitable, yet the two are drawn together. Adam will have to pass some tests to prove to Sarah that even unsuitable young men can be honorable.

MY TWO CENTS: What amazes me is that this story was written prior to the #METOO movement. Its release just couldn’t be more timely. You would think that society would have progressed somewhat from the late 1700’s in terms of treatment of women, sexual assault, and slut-shaming, but…maybe not as much as we should have.

So this story focuses very much on the meaning of consent, and gives the hero the chance to show that he is a champion of putting blame where blame truly belongs (which also ends up winning him the approval of his chosen lady’s family). Don’t worry, there are no graphic scenes describing sexual assault; the two instances explored in this book are just enough to make the point. And guess what? Men who stand up for women and their rights are hot.

COVER NOTES: Sarah wears this gown, and I’m always a fan of clothes from the story appearing on the cover. Plus, it’s gorgeous.

BOTTOM LINE: A timely story that wraps up a couple of characters we’d hoped to see again with deft but deferential handling of harassment and assault, which seems pretty universal given its setting and current events.

TEACUP RATING: Four-and-a-half out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available now in eformats.

NEXT UP FROM AUTHOR:  Hoyt has announced a new three-book series deal, although I don’t think we have any specifics yet. Also, don’t forget that Maiden Lane started out a as a three-book series, so there’s no reason to believe that this one couldn’t expand as well. I’m ready for a whole new world from Elizabeth Hoyt!

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

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