Julie Klassen has created a delightful world in the Regency-era village of Ivy Hill, bringing three novels thus far in this series to her readers. In 2020 she also published a novella entitled An Ivy Hill Christmas, returning to the characters and setting of Ivy Hill. For this story she focused on the dashing and rakish Richard Brockwell, the prodigal son of the popular Brockwell family. I imagined him as a young Greg Wise, the actor who played the scoundrel Willoughby in the 1995 cinematic adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. While Klassen’s Richard Brockwell may not have wreaked as much damage as Austen’s Willoughby did, he certainly has many mistakes in his past and a reputation which would cause any respectable young lady to steer clear of him. When he returns home from London for the Christmas season, he hopes to encourage this reputation, as he has no desire to marry. Living a bachelor’s life in London with no thought to anyone but himself is an ideal existence. Or is it? The young Brockwell comes in contact with a few unexpected individuals which shift his perspective considerably. It makes for an interesting Christmas season indeed.
I thoroughly enjoyed An Ivy Hill Christmas, with its inclusion of previously-established characters and the introduction of new ones. The plight of the young apprentice Jamie was especially touching, and I loved how his situation not only highlighted the struggles of children in that era, but also ways in which those less fortunate children could be helped. Klassen has done her history homework, and I enjoyed learning about various traditions of that time period too. For example, I knew that “12th night”/the 12th Day of Christmas is on January 6th, but I was not aware of the tradition of quickly removing all traces of holiday decor before the stroke of midnight, leading into the 7th. Like the characters in the story, I don’t believe in “bad luck”, but it’s certainly a good habit to establish: cleaning up the holidays well before the end of January!
The romantic aspects of the story were certainly present, but they were not heavy and were very family-friendly. Klassen made a plot choice that I did not expect, which is to her credit. I expected a particular conclusion to the book, and had it gone in that direction I would have been disappointed, honestly. A slight pivot was made near the end which brought about results which were not only more realistic than my imaginings, but were more satisfying as well. As a Christian I also appreciated the themes of redemption and the love of God towards all men, regardless of their pasts.
As the holidays are quite busy for most people, An Ivy Hill Christmas is the perfect read for fans of the series who don’t have copious amounts of time to read a lengthy novel. As many established characters from Ivy Hill are mentioned, in this reader’s opinion it would be best for the series to be read first before jumping into the novella. This will increase your enjoyment of the holiday story.
I also have come up with a reading plan based on the chapters and dates included in the book. If the following sequence is followed, you will be (for the most part) reading the corresponding chapter to the date on the calendar. For example, Christmas Day arrives in Chapter 8 of the story, so that chapter will be read on December 25th. Each day's "assignment" isn't very long, and fits nicely into a busy schedule. Mark your datebooks now! Add the Tales from Ivy Hill series to your TBR list for this year, and get ready for next Christmas. December will return before you know it!