My rating: 5 stars / It was amazing
On a rise overlooking the Wiltshire countryside stands the village of Ivy Hill. Its coaching inn, The Bell, is its lifeblood--along with the coach lines that stop there daily, bringing news, mail, travelers, and much-needed trade.
Jane Bell lives on the edge of the inn property. She had been a genteel lady until she married the charming innkeeper who promised she would never have to work in his family's inn. But when he dies under mysterious circumstances, Jane finds herself The Bell's owner, and worse, she has three months to pay a large loan or lose the place.
Feeling reluctant and ill-equipped, Jane is tempted to abandon her husband's legacy and return to her former life of ease. However, she soon realizes there is more at stake than her comfort. But who can she trust to help her? Her resentful mother-in-law? Her husband's brother, who wanted the inn for himself? Or the handsome newcomer with secret plans of his own . . . ?
With pressure mounting from the bank, Jane struggles to win over naysayers and turn the place around. Can Jane bring new life to the inn, and to her heart as well?
The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill is a cozy book to sink into and enjoy at an unrushed pace. Before reading it I had heard that it was different from Klassen's other books, and I agree- but definitely not in a bad way. There is less suspense, but still a good amount of intrigue. The story is told from the perspective of three main characters: Jane, the innkeeper; Thora, her mother-in-law; and Rachel, Jane's estranged childhood friend. There is a wide cast of community members that interact with the ladies, but not too many to keep track of, especially since they are introduced gradually and each is so individual. I loved the steady weaving in and out of the story and relationships and how each flawed character grew and progressed through the challenges they faced. The workings of the countryside inn reminded me of other favorite books with a similar setting (Doing No Harm by Carla Kelly and Jackaroo by Cynthia Voigt) and it was so skillfully represented that I was fascinated by the historical details without being overwhelmed by them. The romance and potential for romance is subtle but definitely an undercurrent. I am so glad I gave this book a chance and am looking forward to continuing the series! Highly recommend!
(I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)