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An Ivy Hill Christmas
by Julie Klassen
Review

Tea, flowers and an open book on a table in the garden - Used to feature my book reviews

The opportunity to read this Christmas novella, was one of those ‘right time, right place’ Netgalley moments, when publisher Bethany House, released some ‘Read Now’ copies, so my thanks to all concerned.

AN IVY HILL CHRISTMAS (Tales From Ivy Hill)

Cover image of the book 'An Ivy Hill Christmas' by author Julie KlassenRichard Brockwell, the younger son of Ivy Hill’s most prominent family, hasn’t been home for Christmas in years. He prefers to live in the London townhouse, far away from Brockwell Court, the old family secret that haunts him, and the shadows of his past mistakes.

But then his mother threatens to stop funding his carefree life–unless he comes home for Christmas. Out of options, he sets out for Ivy Hill, planning to be back on a coach bound for London and his unencumbered bachelor life as soon as the festivities are over.

But Christmas in the country presents unforeseen surprises, including encounters with an orphaned apprentice, the first love he disappointed years ago, and Arabella Awdry, a young lady who is far more appealing than he recalled . . . and determined to have nothing to do with him.

Will Christmastime in Ivy Hill, with its village charm, kissing boughs, joyous songs, and divine hope, work its magic in his heart . . . and hers as well?

Cover image of the book 'An Ivy Hill Christmas' by author Julie Klassen

JULIE KLASSEN

Image of author Julie KlassenJulie is a graduate of the University of Illinois.

She worked in publishing for sixteen years, before turning to writing her multi-award winning books, full time.

Enjoying BBC period dramas, Julie is a lover of romance, British accents, Jane Eyre, or anything by Jane Austen.

She also enjoys travel, research, long hikes, short naps, and coffee with friends.

Julie lives with her husband and family, near St. Paul, Minnesota.

Keep up to date with all Julie’s latest news at her website

Follow Julie on Twitter

Chat with Julie on Facebook

Cover image of the book 'An Ivy Hill Christmas' by author Julie Klassen

FIRST LINES

CHAPTER ONELONDON, DECEMBER 1822

“Walking past a linen draper’s Richard Brockwell surveyed his reflection in the shop windows with approval. He cut a fine figure, although he said it himself. Inside, he glimpsed a pretty debutante he had been introduced to at some ball or other. She had flirted with him, and they had danced once, but he had not asked her again nor called on her afterward. Nor did he stop to renew their acquaintance now. She was too young and too … eligible”

Cover image of the book 'An Ivy Hill Christmas' by author Julie Klassen

MEMORABLE LINES

“I applaud your philanthropic spirit. Truly. And like you, I give all I can spare to my charity of choice. My favourite coffeehouse and bookshop have first claim on my heart – and my purse”

.

“Yes, drat those men with professions. How tedious. They make us men of leisure look bad”

.

“In a lonely place, he stopped, struck by the sight of a long stretch of freshly fallen snow. Unscathed by animal tracks, footprints, or wheel ruts. Untouched by man. Pure white, unblemished, unspoilt, beautiful – perfectly capturing and reflecting the sunlight. What would it be like to be that new, that perfect, that pure, he wondered, when he himself felt sullied – a dark, muddy mess. And what was it about seeing such a sight that made a man want to step foot across it, to claim the virgin territory for himself and make his mark? And too often, end up ruining it? Richard shook his head. Not this time. Not him, not anymore”

.

“Richard stared at the silent house. His father’s hypocrisy was at least partly why he wrote satire lampooning those who set themselves above others, when they were really sinners like everyone else. He was no saint either, of course, but he didn’t pretend to be”

 

Cover image of the book 'An Ivy Hill Christmas' by author Julie Klassen

REVIEW

“unexpected romance changes the heart of one determined bachelor”

The ‘Ivy Hill’ books are a series, with this shorter novella being a Christmas addition. However the author has invested great efforts in making An Ivy Hill Christmas work as a stand alone story, which it does beautifully. Any references to previous events are no more than could be expected from any other stand alone story, and the characters are all wonderfully drawn with relationships explained as part of the ongoing narrative and dialogue.

Also important for me, is that, whilst Ivy Hill is a fictional family estate in Wiltshire, the village of Wishford, near Salisbury, is most definitely not. As this is only a few miles from home, I would count this as a local to me story, which makes it so much more attractive and appealing.

The strong opening sequence is followed by a heart-warming, slightly predictable storyline, although no more so than I would have expected from a period romance, with the package being topped off, as I might have hoped, with a satisfying and totally wholesome ending.

The period research is meticulous and clearly undertaken with great enthusiasm and attention to detail, which is easily explained by the author’s love of all things Jane Austen and British period romantic drama. The realism and authenticity is apparent, even down to the ‘Queen’s English’ spelling in the narrative and dialogue, although I did spot a couple of lapses back into ‘American English’, but I can forgive those in the overall scheme of things.

In a richly crafted, well developed storyline, which is equally plot and character driven; a rich in detail, social commentary of the times unfolds into a saga of a fractured family reunited, overlaid with unexpected signs of spirituality, hard won forgiveness and serendipitous acts of generosity and kindness. Some visually descriptive narrative and entertaining observational dialogue, make this hugely atmospheric story, one to escape into on a cold winter’s day, putting the reader right at ease and at the centre of the action.

The characters are like the pages of an open book, easy to relate to and become invested in, despite their emotional complexity and their individual searches for a sense of belonging. They are remarkably multi-faceted and engaging, with a surprisingly welcome genuine depth of feeling and synergy between them.

The Brockwell’s are Ivy Hill’s most prominent family and whilst class will ultimately always prevail in this Regency saga, the various members of this largely philanthropic family are a little more generous to the estate villagers and more attentive and caring towards their staff, than many of their landed gentry counterparts. It transpires that the two Brockwell sons, heir Sir Timothy and his younger brother Richard, share an unspoken and closely guarded secret, about which neither has spoken for many years, with each in ignorance of the others knowledge of the matter. It is from this single act of betrayal by a third party, that whilst Timothy treads the path of least resistance and wisely holds his council, Richard chooses the future which he knows will most irk and rile the betrayer and forges for himself a reputation which is self fulfilling and only designed to add to, rather than lessen his feelings of hurt and grief. Thus the brothers are rather set at odds with one another, although neither knows why, creating a compelling backdrop for a storyline which is perceptive, clips along at a good pace, and is written with total maturity and intuition.

Leaving his self-imposed exile in London to come home to Ivy Hill for Christmas, for what is the first time in some while, Richard has his long buried demons forced out into the open, where he has to reconcile them with his conscience. In so doing he must accept that those he has wronged in the past have chosen to forgive him, even though he is struggling to forgive himself. Until he can come to terms with and accept the random acts of kindness which are bestowed upon him, he can never move forward to be the man he is truly destined to be, rather than the penance he thinks he needs to shoulder, as he silently searches for atonement from the sins of the fathers and eventual reconciliation with his family.

Image of author Julie Klassen

A complimentary kindle download of this book, for review purposes, was made available by the publisher, and supplied by NetGalley

Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article which promotes this book or its author.

I personally do not agree with โ€˜ratingโ€™ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a well deserved 4 out of 5 stars!

Written by
Yvonne

I canโ€™t remember a time, even as a child, when I havenโ€™t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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14 comments
    • Thank you for adding the review to your catalogue, although it might have been a little selfish of me, as the location aspect of the storyline was definitely personal to me, being just a few minutes drive away for us!

      I couldn’t read period drama / historical romance on too regular a basis, but there was a good solid underlying storyline to this book, which gave it some substance.

      Thanks for your continued support, I always appreciate it ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Sounds like a very good book. I wish I picked this one for Christmas instead of the one I read.
    I also like the attention to details, as in using Queen’s English, which is expected from a regency book. Sadly many authors think that by changing “car” with “carriage” they made a realistic period drama, so I appreciate the authors who respect the period.

    • Hi Anca,

      I don’t like getting to bogged down with a ‘chunkster’ book if I am going to go for seasonal reading, something short and sweet will do me fine.

      ‘An Ivy Hill Christmas’ is just that, although it, together with the supporting books in the ‘Ivy Hill’ series, have been meticulously researched, by an author who clearly has a love of the period and a strong ethic about her storylines and characters.

      As I mentioned, there are just literally a couple of lapses in spelling back to American English. However the rules are so blurred on that subject these days, that I might be seen to be just a little pedantic about it. Many English authors try to switch things around if they are writing a story aimed predominantly at the US market, probably with an equal number of faux pas! In fact, I seriously think that grammar, spelling and language use as a whole, have almost no rules any more and anything goes!

      Thanks for taking the time to support Fiction Books, both here and over at Goodreads, during the past year. I have had great fun chatting with you about books and just about anything else we get side-tracked onto! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • So pleased I bought this one for my Kindle recently, having read about here. I think it would do nicely for the ‘Historicals’ challenge, all I have to do is decide whether to read it now or leave it until December. That seems like a long way away somehow, though I realise it will be here in a blink of an eye!

    It must be a lovely thing to be an author in Minnesota!

    • Hi Cath,

      December does seem like quite a long way away, so I suppose it all depends on whether you are a strict ‘seasonal reader’, or not!

      If you enjoy this particular novella though, then it is part of a wider ranging series, so if you decided to read some of the others around it, then the Christmas theme may not stand out so much!

      I have read the premises for the rest of the ‘Ivy Hill’ series to date, and think it would make an excellent TV period drama series, although I suppose that under current Covid restrictions and budget cut-backs, we won’t be seeing much in the way of new programming any time soon! A winter and spring of repeats awaits us I guess – Deep Joy!!

      I have never travelled to that particular part of the US, have you? ๐Ÿ™‚

  • This time period can be hit or miss for me, but it still sounds like a delightful, easy read for the holiday season. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

    Looking at your exchange with Cath…. my son lives in St. Paul’s “twin city” (Minneapolis) and we’ve visited there once. Thankfully, it was in the October. It’s a beautiful area, but waaaay too cold in winter!!

    • Hi Kelly,

      It was surprisingly good actually and I enjoyed it much more than I had anticipated. Julie Klassen is definitely my new ‘go to’ author when I want to read any historical romantic fiction.

      I can imagine that visiting your son in Minneapolis must have been a real shock to the system for you. I’m guessing that their summers are more like your winters, so their winters must be truly off your scale! I am assuming that now he visits you, rather than the other way round!

      I haven’t ever checked out a map of the State before, however being the nosy sort of body I am, I was interested to see just how far apart St. Paul’s and Minneapolis are. I know that many East Coast town and city names reflect our own, for obvious reasons, however I was surprised by just how many of the towns surrounding St. Paul’s and Minneapolis, were English town and county names. It whiled away (wasted) a lovely few minutes! ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Oh, they do get warm in the summer and we can get cold here (we got into the 20sF last night), but theirs includes lots of snow and protracted days in the teens and single digits, even in the daytime. Brrrr! Minneapolis and St. Paul are across the river from each other (definitely not the Mississippi River as we know it down here!) and we visited both places. They rarely get down here and we’ve only been there once, so it mostly just phone calls, but that’s okay. And interestingly enough, I’ve read several novels set in Minnesota in recent years and have a few still in my TBR.

    • Hi Mary,

      Happy New Year to you and yours also! Let’s hope that 2021 is much kinder to us all, after all, it can hardly get much worse! ๐Ÿ™‚

      I really do think that this might be one you would enjoy and it really does work okay as a stand alone story if you don’t want to invest in the entire series.

      I can really visualise this family saga as a TV period drama, as author Julie Klassen does an excellent job with the narrative and dialogue.

      Thanks for stopping by and Happy Reading ๐Ÿ™‚

Written by Yvonne

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