A single woman in 1820 is a woman who must work hard to determine how to support herself. In a world where a woman is not allowed to vote, make decisions, or often own their own home, if a woman is left widowed or fails to find a spouse, it is a short path into poverty and despair.
The Ladies of Ivy Cottage is the second novel in the excellent Tales from Ivy Hill series by one of my favorite authors, Julie Klassen. Ivy Cottage is owned by the Grove family. Mercy Grove has moved firmly into spinsterhood and has found happiness by running a girl’s school in her family home with her Aunt Mathilda. Her parents live in London and her brother is overseas, allowing her to live life as she wishes. Her happiness is shattered when her parents arrive with a perspective suitor and an ultimatum. Will Mercy surrender her heart for her school?
Rachel Ashford grew up a lady, but her father lost the family fortune and a distance cousin has taken over her childhood home. Rachel goes to live with her friend Mercy in Ivy Cottage determined to find a way to support herself. And she does just that when she uses her inheritance of her father’s library to start the first subscription library in Ivy Hill. Rachel pines over her lost love, Sir Timothy, while also considering the attentions of her cousin and the potential of life back at her family estate. Will Rachel find happiness?
Jane Bell the main character from book one also returns with more mystery and romance. I loved all the characters in the village and the dark secrets that we learned in this novel. I also loved how the novel explored the real loss that a woman faces when she loses her children to miscarriages and is not allowed to morn or discuss the topic. I also loved the exploration of how a woman could make it is 1820 England. The woman banding together and helping each other out in the village is another favorite element of mine in this book.
My absolute favorite part of this novel was the hint of the one of my favorite books of all time, Persuasion by Jane Austen. One of the storylines gently follows Persuasion complete with the hero giving the heroine a copy of Persuasion with Captain Wentworth’s speech highlighted. Sigh. I LOVED it!
The Ladies of Ivy Cottage is a Christian romance which I like. What this really means is that it is more like a Jane Austen regency romance where the romance is romantic and does not veer off into bedroom scenes. There is also no swearing. There is a light discussion of faith such as[BG1] when the ladies go to church or look for guidance in prayer.
My favorite quotes:
“Remember, Fanny, there is more to life than beauty, which doesn’t last anyway. There is character and virtue. Gentleness and sweetness of temper.”
“And . . . have you a favorite author?” He grimaced. “I do detest that question. How can one answer? How can one choose a favorite from among one’s very confidants and mentors? I am not a youth with my arm slung around the shoulder of one chum to the exclusion of others. Each suits at a different time. A different season . . . “
Overall, The Ladies of Ivy Cottage was a joy to read – great characters, setting, and story. I can’t wait to see what happens next in Ivy Hill. I highly recommend this to fans of Jane Austen, regency romances, or just someone just looking for a heartwarming story with wonderful characters.
Book Source: Christmas Present from my Husband Ben