Rachel Ashford moves in with the Misses Groves at Ivy Cottage, hoping to find a way to support herself now that her cousin has inherited her family home, but teaching at Mercy's school is not a good fit for her. The ladies come up with the idea of a subscription lending library with the books that Rachel's late father left to her as well as a few donations.
Meanwhile Jane Bell has put her grieving behind her, and is ready to move on with her life. While Mercy has long ago put thoughts of love and marriage behind her, so when suitors begin to swarm she assumes that they are coming to see the lovely Rachel, but the reason they come may not be what she thinks.
Three women solve mysteries from the past, and face their future, could love be coming their way as well?
This book continues to follow childhood friends, Rachel, Jane and Mercy, as well as featuring many returning characters from the first book in the series, like Sir Timothy Brockwell, Mr. Drake, and the patrons of The Bell.
I love how Mercy has found her calling in teaching and wants to reach out to more children by opening a school for all children no matter their ability to pay. But Mercy struggles to raise the funds for such a venture. On top of that she is approached by the guardian of one of her students with a request that she adopt the little girl. As complications escalate, Mercy must stay true to her faith, family and friends. Mercy faces every challenge with grace, and I admired her faith and determination.
I really like how Rachel opens herself to new ideas and takes on the challenge of a library, even though it wasn't something that she had originally imagined for herself. She also must make a decision about her future, and where her heart belongs.
Gabriel Locke returns to Ivy Hill a changed man, to take care of the horse that he had left in Jane's care. He and Jane renew their friendship, and the spend much time together. Gabriel is charming and romantic, but respectful and never pressuring.
I like that there is a lot going on, the ladies uncover many mysteries, and I liked how Rachel, Jane and Mercy's stories are interwoven as they support each other through the ups and down of their lives. While this is the second book in the series, and I think it would be easier to jump into the story with having read the other book before, I think that this book could also be read as a stand alone. A wonderful read with a Jane Austen flair, and many colorful characters.
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