PROMOTIONAL FEATURE: If you love charming English village stories like the BBC’s Cranford, award-winning author Julie Klassen’s Regency series is for you!
Julie Klassen is the author of 11 novels of historical fiction set in early 19th-century England, also known as the Regency period. She jokingly says that the real reason she writes is to justify her long-held desire to travel to England, which she has been able to do four times now, and plans to return next year.
In 2016, Julie and her husband attended the Jane Austen Festival in Bath for the first time. The festival, held every September, draws hundreds of Jane Austen fans. Participants attend classes on various aspects of Regency history, Bath society, and Jane Austen’s life, and enjoy English country dancing. Another highlight is parading through the streets of Bath in the “Grand Regency Costumed Promenade” with hundreds of people in period attire, while crowds of people line the streets to watch — locals as well as tourists from all over the world (for details, visit http://www.janeaustenfestivalbath.co.uk). Experiences like these, along with other research, help Julie add the intriguing and authentic historical details that bring her novels to life.
Julie’s first 10 novels are all stand-alone stories, but she has wanted to write a village-based series for years. A proud Anglophile, she loves BBC series set in English villages, like Lark Rise to Candleford, Cranford and Middlemarch, as well as the Thrush Green series of books by Miss Read. “I am drawn to their close-knit communities filled with unforgettable characters, the romances, family drama, and, of course, the British accents,” she explains. In this tradition, she has written her very first series, Tales From Ivy Hill, which begins with The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill.
This series tells the stories of four women facing life-altering challenges with the help of their quirky neighbours and intriguing newcomers.
In the first book, a genteel widow becomes the reluctant landlady of a languishing coaching inn when her husband dies. Jane Bell 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.
As pressure mounts from the bank, Jane 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, Jane struggles to restore life to the inn and to her empty heart as well.
The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill has garnered praise from prominent publications, including Booklist and Publishers Weekly, which said of the novel: “With her signature insight into the human heart, Klassen draws readers into the deceptively quiet English countryside of Austen’s day, a world of complicated yet joyful, messy yet faithful lives of regular people who choose to truly live despite their difficult circumstances. Readers will rejoice that this is only the beginning of her new Tales from Ivy Hill series.”
Ivy Hill is a fictional place, but it was inspired by the National Trust village of Lacock in Wiltshire, which Julie has visited on a few previous trips. She was so charmed by it that she decided to use it as a basic model for the layout of the fictional village of Ivy Hill. Julie says, “I love Lacock’s collection of half-timbered buildings and ivy-covered stone cottages, broad high street and narrow side streets, as well as its tempting shops, public houses, inn, and bakery.” And she has not been the only person enchanted by the place. Lacock has been used as a film location for scenes in Pride & Prejudice, Cranford, Emma, and recently, a market scene in the sixth series of Downton Abbey. If you have the opportunity, you may want to visit Lacock in person and experience its charms for yourself.
Until then, you can get a glimpse of the village in The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill or by watching this short video of Julie Klassen on location in Lacock, Wiltshire, and see the setting that inspired Tales From Ivy Hill.