The Ladies of Ivy Cottage
Klassen’s sweet, Regency-set historical takes up where Tales From Ivy Hill left off, returning to the quaint Wiltshire village of Ivy Hill and illuminating the inner lives of Jane Bell, the widowed proprietor of The Bell coaching inn; spinster Mercy Grove, running a girl’s school from Ivy Cottage; and Rachel Ashford, an orphaned gentlewoman whose need for self-support leads her to open a circulating library using her father’s books. While these three women pursue their dreams, they also run into entanglements of the heart. The return of her former farrier, Gabriel Locke, makes Jane wonder if she can put aside her grief over several miscarriages. Mercy finds her prospects enlarged with the guardianship of a young pupil, Alice, and an unexpected suitor. And Rachel has to decide if she is free to accept Nicholas Ashford’s proposal, or if her heart belongs to Sir Timothy Brockwell.
Klassen adds texture to the much-beloved scenes-of-English-village-life genre with reference to contemporary authors, a mystery or two to untangle, and the unspoken heartbreaks that run beneath the exterior of a placid village and its respectable citizens, with special compassion toward the plight of unmarried women in this very conventional world. Klassen’s prose is as mild and gentle as her kind-hearted characters, who take comfort in their Christian faith. The action unfolds on the inward, emotional scale of significant looks and small gestures, and the leisurely setup of the first half builds to several moving surprises by the end, with the fates of two of the three main characters left open for the next books. This installment in the Tales from Ivy Hill series should deeply satisfy existing Klassen fans and gain her some new ones.