From the desk of Sophia Rose:
We return once again to a snug English village tucked away along a coaching road and this time the holiday season brings more than Christmas cheer. The Tales of Ivy Hill are an interrelated series of inspirational historical romances by bestselling author Julie Klassen that bring a whole village to life. The books are tender, gently paced stories that are set against a Regency period historical backdrop that has been well-researched even if the village of Ivy Hill and its characters are fictitious.
In An Ivy Hill Christmas, the fourth installment to the series, the Brockwell prodigal son, Richard, who has seemingly been living the swinging bachelor life in London at the family townhouse while surreptitiously writing satire for his friend’s magazine and working on getting his novels published, is given an ultimatum by his mother. Come home for the holidays or lose her generous allowance.
Richard has been avoiding his family and the family home for years. It pains him because he feels he doesn’t fit into the family and he knows the hurtful lie his father perpetrated and the family still revers the man. Then there is the fact that his mother blatantly schemes to get him married off when he has firm intentions to remain a bachelor. He is certain that she has a prospective lady in mind already. If he must go and suffer Christmas with his family, then he will not go alone. He invites his friend to accompany him along with a stray dog he took up and already has plans to get back to his London life as soon as he can.
Arabella Awdry knew Richard Brockwell was contemptible when they were younger, but his insulting words and attitude when he arrives prove to her that people do not change. She is prepared to avoid him at all costs no matter how hard her mother and his work to push them together. She is no longer that silly, giggling girl who crushes on handsome Richard and she has dreams of joining her aunt in London to do much-needed charitable work.
Only, Richard shows a caring side when he takes an interest in an orphaned printer’s apprentice, helps a destitute widow, and takes a warm interest in his family. Which is the true Richard Brockwell? Her heart softens just as something occurs to prove she was right.
An Ivy Hill Christmas brings a flavor of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen in its richly flavored historical English country holiday season and full-fledged characters. Richard is rather detestable in the beginning and I worried that my early opinion would hold true, but Klassen has a way of redeeming her characters and Richard is no exception. He has a great deal of hidden pain driving his behavior and unresolved guilt and blame that takes the course of the whole book and many encounters with family and friends to help him sort out the past. Arabella seems to have it all together, but she does have a tendency to judge quickly and makes her mind up that Richard is a rakish fop to protect her tender heart so she believes appearances over his word.
While the book spotlights Richard and Arabella, there are strong and engaging secondary characters who have their own chance at Christmas romance and a reunion with all the primary characters from earlier books joining in for the Brockwell and Ivy Hill festivities. I loved seeing the ladies’ group seeing one of their own in need and working to better her situation and it was fun seeing the various holiday activities from the past.
The inspirational element is the Christmas story, of course, but also the need to forgive so healing can come. In Richard’s case it is about being forgiven for his past mistakes and also forgiving his deceased father for the past hurts.
With An Ivy Hill Christmas, Julie Klassen continues to dazzle in the inspirational historical romance genre. It was a beautiful step back into the past full of nostalgia and good cheer, family and romance. I was missing Ivy Hill and it was lovely to return for the holiday season. I encourage those who enjoy sweet historical or inspirational romance and women’s fiction to also give the three-book series a try, too.
5 out of 5 Regency Stars
- An Ivy Hill Christmas: A Tales from Ivy Hill Novella, by Julie Klassen
- Bethany House Publishers (September 1, 2020)
- Hardcover, trade paperback. eBook, & audiobook (212) pages
- ISBN: 978-0764233814
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Cover image courtesy of Bethany House Publishers © 2020; text Sophia Rose © 2020, Austenprose.com