The lifeblood of the Wiltshire village of Ivy Hill is its coaching inn, The Bell. But when the innkeeper dies suddenly, his genteel wife, Jane Bell, becomes the reluctant owner. Jane has no notion of how to run a business. However, with the town’s livelihood at stake and a large loan due, she must find a way to bring new life to 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 find her place in the world. As she and Jane work together, they form a measure of trust, and Thora’s wounded heart begins to heal. When she encounters two men from her past, she sees them–and her future–in a different light.
With pressure mounting from the bank, Jane employs innovative methods to turn the inn around, and puzzles over the intentions of several men who seem to have a vested interest in the place. Will her efforts be enough to save The Bell? And will Thora embrace the possibility of a second chance at love?
I like Julie Klassen because she writes regency novels with drama. That said, my first reaction upon finishing this book was, ‘that was awful.’ And then I saw it was a series and I was like ‘that was good.’ So let me warn you, this is a series, you will absolutely need book two because there are so many loose ends that are not tied up.
What I liked
History. Klassen’s use of history is flawless. She manages to explain and convey the conventions of that time without ever turning it into a history lesson. I learn so much reading her novels about small town life in England.
Relationships. Because this is going to be a continuous series, relationships are really teased out and developed here. Every character is nuanced and fleshed out. No one is all good and no one is all bad (though some people’s bad is bad). At the core of this novel, is how the townspeople interact with each other.
Romance. I’m not going to lie, Jane has one possibility too many. But she has yet to play one guy against another, so it okay for now. I do have a favorite. But I am interested to see how it all plays out. There is a secondary romance that was kind of interesting. Different, but kind of interesting.
Small mysteries. Jane has a lot of small mysteries to solve and the major one in this book, is why did her husband die? It’s very good how it all unravels.
Spiritually, the characters pray and learn to turn to God in their problems.
What I didn’t like
I’ll be honest, it didn’t bother me too much, but this is a book that takes its time. No flashbang here. So it might feel a bit slow at times.
Romantic scale: 7
Overall, a very good start to a fascinating series.
**I received a copy from BethanyHouse. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**