Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen Blog Tour and Giveaway!

What can a widow do in Regency England when she is suddenly left with an Inn to upkeep and no practical experience to do it?  Jane Bell was raised a lady, but after a disappointment in love, marries innkeeper John Bell.  After John’s untimely death, Jane has been left with his Inn and basically lives in denial for a year after his death.  When it becomes clear that the inn will soon be doomed without action, Jane rises to the occasion.  There to help her is her mother-in-law, gruff but effectively Thora, and her brother-in-law, Patrick.  The inn is the center of their small village, Ivy Hill, as Jane soon learns, the rise and fall of the Inn will affect the livelihoods of many beyond the immediate Bell family.  Will Jane be able to save the Inn?

I love that The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill is a novel about an entire village with many intriguing characters and storylines.  With the story starting after John’s death, there are many small mysteries to figure out.  Why are Jane and Rachel no longer friends and what does it have to do with Sir Timothy?  Why did John take out a large loan endangering the Inn with no trail on where the money actually went?  Why was John gone the day of his death?  Who is Gabriel Locke and why did he appear after John’s death willing to work for such a small salary?  I found the characters compelling and multi-layered.  For example, when Thora comes back to town and is critical to Jane, the reader would think that she is going to be a one-dimensional evil mother-in-law.  In fact, she is a compelling multi-dimensional character.  Thora has lost her beloved son and also the rights to the Inn.  The Inn was her family inn that went to her husband upon marriage, to her son upon her husband’s death, and now to her son’s widow at his death.  She has no rights to it or its future, but she loves it.  Although she is 51, Thora has more than one man trying to woe her and I LOVED it.

Rachel Ashford was once Jane’s friend.  She was disappointed in love and takes care of her ailing father.  He has lost his fortune and his estate is entailed away to a distant cousin.  Upon his death, Rachel is left in a quandary.  What does a single youngish gentlewoman do when she is thrust alone amongst the world?  Luckily she has her friend Mercy who runs has faced a similar predicament and runs a gentile school to survive.  Mercy has gathered together a group of the working women of Ivy Hill in a knitting club where they can talk about problems they face as women trying to run a business.  Jane Bell realizes from the club that she needs to support other women and that there is support for her across the village.

The theme of women trying to make it in a man’s world is prevalent throughout the novel.  I thought it was very intriguing and it really made me think about how hard it was to make it if you were without a husband or father figure in your life. I loved all of the characters in the village and the storyline was very engaging.  I also loved that there was a map of the village at the start so you could visualize where various locations were around town.

I loved the following quote as it echoed Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice:

“I realize I possess not those happy manners to ensure my making friends easily.”

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill is the first in a planned series.  I can’t wait to read more in this series. There is much more to this story and I want to spend more time with these characters.

Overall, The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill is a wonderfully engaging novel full of intriguing characters and storylines.  I highly recommend it and can’t wait for more in the series!

Book Source:  Review Copy from Bethany House.  Thank-you!

Book Description
The lifeblood of the village of Ivy Hill is its coaching inn, The Bell. When the innkeeper dies suddenly, his genteel wife, Jane Bell, becomes the reluctant landlady. Jane has no idea how to manage a business, but with the town's livelihood at stake and a large loan due, she must quickly find a way to save the inn.

Despite their strained relationship, Jane turns to her resentful mother-in-law, Thora, for help. Formerly mistress of The Bell, Thora is struggling to overcome her losses and find purpose for the future. As she works with Jane, two men from her past vie for her attention, but Thora has promised herself never to marry again. Will one of them convince her to embrace a second chance at love?

As pressure mounts from the bank, Jane employs new methods, and puzzles over the intentions of several men who seem to have a vested interest in the place, including a mysterious newcomer with secret plans of his own. With the help of friends old and new, can Jane restore life to the inn, and to her empty heart as well?

Visit to find a map of the village, character profiles, a book giveaway, and more!

Author Bio

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. Her books have been honored with the Christy Award for Historical Romance, the Minnesota Book Award, and the Midwest Book Award, among others. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. For more information, visit

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill Blog Tour Schedule

December 5: Author Q&A on Pemberley to Milton
December 6: Excerpt on My Love for Jane Austen
December 8: Review on Laura's Reviews
December 9: Book Spotlight on More Agreeably Engaged
December 10: Review on A Bookish Way of Life
December 11: Review and Excerpt on Delighted Reader Book Reviews
December 12: British Show Inspiration Guest Post on Living Read Girl
December 13: Historical Background Guest Post on English Historical Fiction Authors
December 14: Review on Calico Critic
December 15: Excerpt on So Little Time
December 16: Review and Author Q&A on My Jane Austen Book Club
December 17: Review on Just Jane 1813
December 18: Excerpt on Babblings of a Book Worm
December 19: Review on Austenesque Reviews
December 20: Guest Post on Jane Austen in Vermont
December 21: Review on Luxury Reading

Be sure to enter the giveaway before you leave—the winner will receive a $20 Teavana gift card and a package of four inspirational British romances from four different eras (The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen, A Haven on Orchard Lane by Lawana Blackwell, The Lost Heiress by Roseanna M. White, Not by Sight by Kate Breslin). The winner will be notified on December 22.

[HTML: a Rafflecopter giveaway ]

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Road to Paradise by Paullina Simons

Shelby Sloane has received the best present a graduating high school senior in 1981 could receive – a 1966 yellow Shelby Mustang.  She has lived a sad life wondering what had happened to her mother after she was abandoned as a child.  She decides to take the yellow Mustang on a road trip west after graduation to California to try to find her Mom.  Her ex-best friend Gina finds out about the road trip and asks to tag along to meet her boyfriend in California.  Shelby has everything meticulously planned and doesn’t really want a companion until she realizes that Gina will pay half of the bill.  They start on their road trip and things immediately go from bad to worse.  Gina’s family has stops set up all along the route that are out of the way and include the two carting dogs around the country.  Shelby also picks up a hitchhiker which is expressly against everything their families had told them before leaving and against the rules that Gina and Shelby have made together.

The girl they pick up, Candy Cane, is mysterious, troubled and also wants a ride to California.  When the girls discover that there is a threatening man after Candy Cane, they decide to take her with them.  Will they make it to California?  What is the secret behind Candy Cane and what happened to Shelby’s mother?

I was very interested in reading this novel as I’ve heard a lot of great things about Paullina Simons, in particular, The Bronze Horseman.  I’ll admit I was disappointed by this book.  The writing was excellent, but I found I didn’t really like the characters and it felt like their story was never ending with not much movement.  Once they got on the road and picked up Candy Cane, the story seemed to be constant fighting about whether to keep Candy in the car or not and a very long journey on 2-lane highways across the country to avoid pursuit.  I felt the ending was a letdown as well.  I don’t want to give more details as I don’t want to ruin the story for others, but I felt there were no surprises and the characters were not compelling enough for me to care about their story.

Favorite quotes:

“But there is another road in Nevada that takes you almost there:  U.S. 50, the loneliest road in America.”

“I was young, that’s what the young are supposed to do, not think about much, not thing about consequences, and so I hadn’t.”

“You know what I have been thinking traveling with you through every mile of this country?  What if there is no place in the world for me?”
Overall, Road to Paradise is a road trip and coming of age story that had good writing, but characters that I did not find compelling.

Book Source:  Review Copy as part of the TLC Book Tour

About Road to Paradise

� Paperback: 544 pages � Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (November 29, 2016) Love, passion, and friendship collide on the road trip of a lifetime in this breathtaking novel from Paullina Simons, internationally bestselling author of The Bronze Horseman and Tully. There�s no telling where a journey will lead you� Shelby Sloane has big plans for the summer of 1981. She�ll drive cross country in her graduation present�a classic yellow Mustang. In California, she hopes to find the mother who left her behind long ago, and then return East in time to start college. Her childhood friend Gina is desperate to reunite with her boyfriend in Bakersfield and has convinced Shelby to bring her along. With Gina on board, Shelby�s carefully mapped-out itinerary is quickly abandoned. Soon, so is their �no hitchhikers� rule when Shelby picks up a mysterious girl named Candy Cane, who sets them all on a new and dangerous course. Streetwise beyond her years and decked out with tattoos, piercings, and spiky hair, Candy is on the run from a past darker than anything the two suburban girls have ever known. Candy draws Shelby and Gina into her terrifying world, where life as they know it is turned upside down and there is no place left to hide. Add to Goodreads badge

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Paullina Simons

Paullina Simons is an internationally bestselling author whose novels include Bellagrand and The Bronze Horseman was born in Leningrad in 1963. As a child she immigrated to Queens, New York, and attended colleges in Long Island. Then she moved to England and attended Essex University, before returning to America. She lives in New York with her husband and children. Find out more about Paullina at her website, follow her on�Twitter, and connect with her on Facebook.

Monday, December 5, 2016

A Baxter Family Christmas by Karen Kingsbury

Title: A Baxter Family Christmas
Author: Karen Kingsbury
Read by: January LaVoy & Kirby Heyborne
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Length: Approximately 5 hours and 4 minutes
Source: Simon & Schuster Audio Digital Review Copy – Thank-you!

A Baxter Family Christmas is a wonderful family Christmas story that offers hope, sadness, joy, and love all in one story.  John Baxter’s daughter Erin, her husband, and three of their daughters died in a horrific car accident two years previously.  One daughter survived and lives with Erin’s sister Ashley and her husband Logan.  Erin’s heart lives on in another, Kendra Bryant.  John decides to invite Kendra to the Baxter family Christmas Eve party and this causes much conflict in the family.  Will the Baxter family be together this Christmas Eve or driven apart by this conflict?  Will Kendra Bryant be able to put her life back together with her husband Moe after this surgery?

I enjoyed all of the characters in this novel and thought it was set up well for a person like me who had never read a Baxter family book.  I really enjoyed the main story of Kendra and her invitation to the family Christmas.  The family has gone through hardship and loss – what does it mean to lose an integral part of your family and how do you move on?  There is also a sweet romance between 18-year old Maddie West (daughter of Brooke Baxter West) and 19-year old college student Connor.  They have a misunderstanding as Maddie tries to work through guilt on something that happened in the past to her sister that she feels responsible for.  I also enjoyed that this was a Christian novel and faith was a large part of the novel.  It’s faith that ultimately gets everyone through their hard times.

One annoyance I had with this audiobook is that is started with an endless stream of thanks by the author.  For an audiobook, this would be better placed at the end of the book.  I listened to five minutes of thank-yous and then remembered there was a fast-forward button and skipped to the next section.  Luckily the next section was a review of who all of the characters are in the Baxter Family.  It is apparently a very long running series and being new too it, this was invaluable to me to set the stage for the story.  I liked how the narrators switched depending on if it was a male or female point of view – they had unique voices which kept me engaged in the story.  I also liked how there was a large section at the end with recipes from the story.  I love recipes!  Karen Kingsbury also announced that the Baxter family will be on TV – I definitely need to read more of this series and check out the show.

Overall, A Baxter Family Christmas is a wonderful family Christmas story that I greatly enjoyed.  It was a wonderful holiday audiobook that really put me in the Christmas spirit!