The Ladies of Ivy Cottage, by Julie Klassen

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Return to Ivy Hill as friendships deepen, romances blossom, and mysteries unfold . . .

A gentlewoman in reduced circumstances, Miss Rachel Ashford lives as a guest in Ivy Cottage. With her meager funds rapidly depleting, she is determined to earn her own livelihood . . . somehow. Her friend Jane Bell and the other village women encourage her to open a circulating library with the many books she’s inherited from her father. As villagers donate additional books and Rachel begins sorting through the volumes, she discovers mysteries hidden among them. A man who once broke her heart helps her search for clues, but both find more than they bargained for.

Rachel’s hostess, Mercy Grove, has given up thoughts of suitors and finds fulfillment in managing her girls school. So when several men take an interest in Ivy Cottage, she assumes pretty Miss Ashford is the cause. Exactly what–or whom–has captured each man’s attention? The truth may surprise them all.

First Thoughts:

I loved Julie Klassen’s previous book, The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill, so I’m delighted to have the opportunity to read and review The Ladies of Ivy Cottage.

My Take:

Julie Klassen’s debut series continues with a book focusing on two spinsters who run a small girls’ school and their friend. These women, first introduced in The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill, are considered past their prime when it comes to marriage eligibility but each has a reason for their singleness. But could their romantic fortunes be changing?

The Ladies of Ivy Cottage is the second book of the Tales from Ivy Hill series, and I definitely recommend reading the book one before starting it. Ivy Cottage starts almost immediately after the culmination of events in previous book, and there are plenty of references to these events. Almost all the characters featured were introduced previously and this novel focuses on their efforts to break free from their pasts. There are also poignant looks at the loss of family members and the process of getting old.

Of course, my British upbringing means, when it comes to British-based fiction, I often notice that which most readers would not. I think Klassen possibly muddled two historical Wiltshire locations. In one chapter she describes a visit to a place called Old Sarum, “or ‘Stonehenge’ as some call it. Old Sarum is the remains of a medieval settlement, but the narrative clearly describes Stonehenge which is known for its prehistoric stone circle.

I’m disappointed that it appears the Ivy Hill series will end after the next book. Since it’s been compared to The Thrush Green series by Miss Read and the Mitford series by Jan Karon (both of which contain multiple novels), I had expected more than just three books. Regardless, I am looking forward to The Bride of Ivy Green which will be released in December 2018.

Thank you to Bethany House for my complimentary copy of The Ladies of Ivy Cottage, which I received for my honest review.

Have you read The Ladies of Ivy Cottage? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.


Author Q and A

Publisher: Bethany House (a division of Baker Publishing)

Publication Date: 05 December 2017

Page Count: 448

Read more on:   Bethany House’s Website   Julie Klassen’s Website   Tales From Ivy Hill

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Lady Jayne Disappears, by Joanna Davidson Politano

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Lynhurst Manor is a house built on secrets . . . and the arrival of Aurelie Harcourt might reveal them all.

When Aurelie Harcourt’s father dies suddenly, he leaves her just two things: his famous pen name, Nathaniel Droll, and his wealthy family–who want very little to do with her.

As Aurelie struggles to find a home with her father’s family and learn the rules of society, she relishes in his parting gift–the beginning of his last story. The story she always wanted to hear, about her mother’s mysterious disappearance from the home where she now lives. To complete the novel, she’ll have to extract clues from relatives–and one enigmatic houseguest–who often seem reluctant to give them up.

First Thoughts:

This sounds an intriguing title from a debut novelist. The back cover copy doesn’t mention the particulars of Aurelie’s father’s death, but retail sites state it was in a debtor’s prison. Having grown up in England, this is a familiar concept to me. York Castle Museum, which I visited on a recent trip back home, is partially housed in a former debtor’s prison. Charles Dickens wrote about them, using his remembrances of when his father was sent to Marshalsea debtor’s prison in London.

My Take:

On a dark and rainy night in 1861, Aurelie Harcourt is released from a debtor’s prison and picked up by a carriage sent by a mysterious aunt. This scene is described in Aurelie’s own words, casting her as a romantic and fanciful writer following in her author father’s footsteps. Yet she has no formal education and lacks the social graces required of her for her future. Her actions become a source of disparagement for her cousin who believes the younger woman should have no place in the family. It’s no surprise that Aurelie’s closest friend should be the family seamstress, who has secrets of her own.

An alternate perspective of Aurelie’s story comes from Silas Rotherham, a family friend. Here the narrative switches to third person and, while it reveals useful information, feels slightly out of place. I suspect this is because the prologue sets up the story as though Aurelie is telling it to a publisher. How would she know what Silas was doing and thinking while not in her company? More jarring to me, however, is the naming of the prison and how it is referred to throughout. In the book, it is called Shepton Mallet Prison in an area called Glen Cora and referred to as The Mallet. In actuality, there is a former prison in the town of Shepton Mallet, Somerset, and it was sometimes known to as Cornhill because of its location in town. Each time someone referred to Shepton Mallet, or The Mallet, in the book my mind went to the town whereas they meant the prison. This was a personal problem, however, and readers unfamiliar with the area will most likely not experience it.

Overall, Lady Jayne Disappears is a bit of a gothic melodrama. It contains mysteries in an imposing, brooding, mansion, and over the top characters such as Aurelie’s cousin and that woman’s daughter. There are several twists and turns to keep the reader guessing, and plenty of Victorian scandal. I did find the ending a bit too abrupt for my liking, however, and had a couple of questions for which answers were not to be had.

Thank you to Revell for my complimentary copy of Lady Jayne Disappears.

Have you read Lady Jayne Disappears? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.


Publisher: Revell (a division of Baker Publishing)

Publication Date: 03 October 2017

Page Count: 416

Read more on:   Revell’s Website   Joanna Davidson Politano’s Website   Debtor’s Prisons in England

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The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey, by Carolyn Miller

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Will a damaged reputation and desire for society’s approval thwart the legacy of grace?

Tainted by scandal and forced to leave London for the quieter Brighton countryside, the Honorable Miss Clara DeLancey is a shadow of her former society self. She’s lost the man she loved to another and, in a culture that has no patience for self-pity, is struggling with depression. A chance encounter brings her a healing friendship with the sisters of an injured naval captain. But Clara’s society mama is appalled at the new company she’s keeping.

Captain Benjamin Kemsley is not looking for a wife. But his gallant spirit won’t let him ignore the penniless viscount’s daughter–not when she so obviously needs assistance to keep moving forward from day to day. Can he protect his heart and still keep her safe?

When they’re pushed into the highest echelons of society at the Prince Regent’s Brighton Pavilion, this mismatched couple must decide if family honor is more important than their hopes. Can they right the wrongs of the past and find future happiness together–without finances, family support, or royal favor?

First Thoughts:

Since I’ve read and appreciated the first two books in this series, I’m hoping to be similarly satisfied with Miss DeLancey’s story.

My Take:

What is it with Regency society mamas who want their daughters to marry for titles and security? Is it out of a genuine concern for their daughter’s wellbeing? Is it because their mothers had them marry for the same reasons? Even though the DeLancey fortunes have sunk Frederica, Viscountess Winpoole, still has high hopes for her daughter. Whoever marries Clara must have equal rank of Viscount Winpoole or higher. A mere baron or anyone untitled simply will not do. Her actions have embarrassed Clara, who’s now the talk of the ton, and the poor girl is ready to end it all. Except… someone stops her.

The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey (a play on Clara’s courtesy title) starts and ends in dramatic fashion. Clara is at her lowest until she meets both a savior and her Savior. But church is a place where you go to be seen; doing benevolent works in a poor part of town is no task for a lady. Clara still has a couple of connections, however, and she uses them to introduce the youngest Kemsley sister to society. It’s a move that will bring her back in contact with her former romantic interest and his new wife, a woman who shows extraordinary grace to Clara and therefore helps in her healing.

This was an enjoyable novel of brave military men, pompous members of society, and scoundrels who are anything but the Han Solo sort of scoundrel we love. Tense times lead to more than one encounter with evil, resulting in no way out for the doers of evil. Clara rises from despair to happiness, and her story shows that we are never really alone. He is with us, even if we don’t know it. Kemsley’s fortunes change in a somewhat predictable way, perhaps necessary for the narrative’s requisite happy ending.

I do suggest reading the previous two books in the series. While this book brings the trilogy, A Legacy of Grace, to a close it does appear that they form part of a larger series called Regency Brides. The next trilogy in the series, A Promise of Hope, looks like it’ll be published early next year with the first principal female being someone familiar to Carolyn Miller’s readers.

Thank you to Kregel for my complimentary copy of The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.


Publisher: Kregel Publications

Publication Date: 24 October 2017

Page Count: 296

Read more on:   Kregel’s Website   Carolyn Miller’s Website   Brighton Pavilion

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million