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?
I am not sure what I was expecting from this book, but it fell flat for me. The book started with so much promise. A widow becomes the owner of her husband's inn, but she has no desire to be a part of the operations. A mother-in-law returns to the inn she once adored but is hurt by the fact she is no longer in charge. The two ladies do not care for each other, but they must find a way to save their precious inn.
I found myself torn between rooting for Jane and wishing she would just give up and move on with her life. She sometimes seemed like a woman who could do great things and make a difference in the world. At other times she came across as privileged and whiny, thinking the world should owe her something for the sacrifices she made through marriage.
I did not like Thora from the beginning. She was condescending, hateful, and downright mean. I never felt she was truly on Jane’s team until the very end of the book. Perhaps that was meant to be that way, but I wished she had proved to be a gracious person earlier in the story.
In the end, we see Jane stand up for herself and the inn, but I felt it was too little too late for me. I was bored with the story by that point and just wanting to get to the end. It was a feat I could not enjoy no matter how hard I tried.
In short, I simply did not care for this book.
Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. Three of her books, The Silent Governess, The Girl in the Gatehouse, and The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, have won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. She has also won the Midwest Book Award, the Minnesota Book Award, and Christian Retailing’s BEST Award, and been a finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Awards and ACFW’s Carol Awards. She blogs at http://www.inspiredbylifeandfiction.com.
Julie and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.
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