Saturday, December 23, 2017

Ashes on the Moor

Ashes on the Moor by Sarah M. Eden

After the death of most of her family, Evangeline's aunt brings her to Smeatley, a factory town totally different from her previous home. Raised in the upper class, Evangeline now must work as a schoolteacher--despite having no experience and barely understanding the Yorkshire accent--if she is to prove herself worthy of the inheritance her grandfather has saved for her and, more importantly, to be reunited with her sister Lucy, who has been sent away to attend school elsewhere. Evangeline's aunt is cruel to her, refusing to acknowledge that they are related, constantly critical of all of Evangeline's efforts, and reluctant to give Evangeline anything that might help her succeed. Irish brick mason Dermot is the only other person she knows, and while he initially seems reluctant to speak to her any more than necessary, he comes to be her dearest friend and biggest support. Dermot's son, Ronan, is different from other children and Dermot is worried about how he'll do at school, but Evangeline seems to understand his needs and he thrives under her attention. As Evangeline tries to do her best for her students, she finds herself clashing with school administrators and must decide how to move forward if the school inspector demands she change her teaching style to the detriment of her students. Changing her style could help her efforts to be reunited with Lucy, but they could also alienate all of the students; refusing to change could cost her her job and force her to leave Smetley--and Dermot.

I absolutely loved this book. Sarah Eden is fantastic at writing snappy dialogue and incorporating humor, and I laughed so many times at Dermot's and Evangeline's interactions. Eden also does a great job at developing her characters, and I loved not only the main characters but also secondary characters. I really enjoyed the look at Victorian England and the working class--it was really interesting to learn about issues such as mill workers' housing and factory conditions in the context of the story. I also really enjoyed reading about the dialect differences and how the people of Smetley's language wasn't considered "proper" and how it was difficult for children to learn to read English that was spelled so differently from their own dialect. That was just a really interesting addition to the story--the type of addition that makes this book stand out from other historical romances. The romance is sweet, the characters are terrific, and I loved everything about the book. I've loved Sarah Eden's Regency books, but I'm excited about her venture into the Victorian Era and hope she'll be writing more books in this time period!

I read a copy via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Ladies of Ivy Cottage

The Ladies of Ivy Cottage (Tales from Ivy Hill #2)
By Julie Klassen

After her father's death and the transfer of his estate to a male relative, Nicholas Ashford, Rachel Ashford has moved into the home of her friend Mercy Grove and Mercy's spinster aunt Matty. While she has helped with the school that Mercy and Matty run for girls, Rachel needs to find a way to support herself. With the encouragement of her friends as well as other women in the town, Rachel decides to open a subscription library with books she inherited from her father and donated books from the townspeople. As she works to get her library up and running, Rachel stumbles upon a couple of mysteries that she sets out to solve--and finds that doing so brings her in close contact with the man who broke her heart years ago. Mercy Grove wants nothing more than to expand her school; she loves her girls and her work. When the great-grandfather of one of her pupils wants to make her the child's guardian, Mercy happily accepts. However, when she tells her parents the news, they come to visit--bringing a potential suitor with them. While he might suit her in some ways, Mercy finds herself more interested in the carpenter who donated his services to install shelves in Rachel's library...but she doesn't think he returns her regard. She must figure out which path is the right one for her. Things are running well at Jane Bell's inn, and James Drake, who is establishing an inn of his own nearby, is attentive and charming, but she wonders what his true motives are and finds herself longing for the company of a different man--but she doesn't know if she'll ever see him again. I thought this book was charming. I wish I could jump into the story and visit Ivy Hill and all the characters. Ivy Hill just seems so charming, and I'm just in love with the delightful setting. I also loved the characters; I was swept up in their stories and really wanted to see how things would play out for them. I felt like they were well-developed and it was easy to empathize with their worries and fears. I will say I wish there had been more of a resolution for one character in particular--but that is just a reflection of how much I enjoyed the book, not a criticism of the way it was written. I can't wait for the third book in the series! I actually like this series more than any of Julie Klassen's other books. I read a copy via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.