Jane Bell never fancied herself a businesswoman. But when her husband, the owner and manager of The Bell, a coaching inn in their village of Ivy Hill, suddenly passes away, Jane must discover a new calling. Unlikely characters come to her aid as she determines a new future for herself. Julie Klassen invites readers on a new journey with a fresh series, Tales from Ivy Hill…
Three-time Christy Award winner Julie Klassen is a best-selling author of historical fiction. The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill (Bethany House) is Julie’s 11th novel, but oddly enough it’s her first attempt to write a series. In the historical genre, series are extremely popular endeavors for authors. Julie confesses why she is pivoting from her usual stand-alone format. “I often receive emails from readers asking for sequels, or saying they don’t want a book to end. Sometimes I don’t either! After setting up an entire village and populating it with a cast of characters, it’s hard to say good-bye after one book. I am looking forward to staying in the same village for at least three books, going deeper with the main characters, and bringing more characters to life.”
Tales from Ivy Hill will be comprised of three novels and is set in a fictional village in England during the Regency Era. Each book of the series will delve deep into the lives of four female characters after life-altering events. Julie promises intriguing supporting characters but will continue the story of her main character throughout all three novels. Another big theme in the series will be community and friendship.
Julie is particularly excited about writing a series set in a small village. She believes it’s something readers will enjoy as well. Although Ivy Hill is fictional, Julie pulled inspiration from the village of Lacock in Wiltshire, England. Julie visited Lacock several times. She isn’t the only one who finds the village an ideal setting. Scenes from Pride & Prejudice and Downton Abbey have been filmed there as well.
The Bell is not just any inn in Ivy Hill; it is actually the lifeblood of the village. And particularly, it is a coaching inn. Julie explained a little about this type of inn. “In this era, stage and mail coaches were the primary means of travel, and they stopped at coaching inns along the way to change horses, let passengers take a meal, or stay the night. Coaching inns were restaurant, hotel, “train” station, travel agency, livery and repair shop, all rolled into one.”
After her husband’s death, the responsibility of managing the inn falls to Jane. But Jane has no experience or knowledge in running a business. Her mother-in-law, Thora, does have the know-how to guide Jane since she was the mistress of the inn for many years. However, Thora is dealing with her own struggles. Without a purpose and wrecked with grief, Thora has become calloused and resentful over the years. As she and Jane work together to restore the inn, two men from Thora’s past return to her life—each with intentions and affections for her.
As Thora begins to open her heart to the prospect of love again, the stakes are raised for the success of The Bell. Jane must innovate if she intends on paying the bank and saving the inn from ruin. The well-being of the village rests on Jane’s shoulders. A mysterious newcomer also enters the picture with hidden motivations for his interest in the inn. Intrigue, romance, history and charm are all wrapped up in one Regency Era novel. RT Book Reviews notes there’s “a bit of something for everyone in this first installation of Klassen’s first Regency series.”