The Awakening of Ivy Leavold (Book 1)
Here’s the old-school Gothic erotic romance I expected when I started Simone’s Thornchapel series! An innocent young woman finds herself helpless and adrift in a new home, at the mercy of a mysterious and figure who instantly captivates her attention.
Despite Simone’s effortless narrative that elevates the interactions between Ivy and Julian to sexual with a mere glance, the premise can be complicated for a modern reader’s sensibilities. Due to the gendered power dynamics of this period, Julian’s interest in Ivy is always going to be a bit “rapey.” But Ivy is no swooning ingénue. She’s been functionally independent for years and has no illusions regarding her status in society and the ability for upward mobility.
Adding a house party filled with libertines to the mix escalates events between Ivy and Julian that might have otherwise dragged on too long for even the most patient reader. However, the specter of Julian’s two dead wives continues to cast a pall over Markham Hall. I’m eager for the next book, both to solve these mysteries and see how deep the connection between Ivy and Julian leads.
The Education of Ivy Leavold (Book 2)
As a writer, I’m fascinated by language use. When reading historical romance that includes power dynamic play, it’s interesting to see what terms and explanations characters share in both dialogue and internal narrative. The added layer that historical romance brings to uneven power in terms of gender and financial/economic status heightens this book from a generic love story between two headstrong individuals to amazingly sexy connection between two lovers who might be perfect for each other – if one of them didn’t already have two dead spouses.
Because Julian is still keeping secrets, and not just about his former marriages. Despite how easy it would be for Ivy to subsume herself in her relationship with him, jarring moments prevent her from surrendering wholesale. Unfortunately, Julian has made surrendering look rather pleasant.
Sierra makes the romantic connection between Ivy and Julian all too real, even with the multiple layers to this story. I was genuinely shocked by the turn at the ending (one of those moments that seems inevitable only after the fact). I’m anxious to finish this series and see where it all leads, regarding both the romance and mystery elements.
The Punishment of Ivy Leavold (Book 3)
The theme of this book boils down to self-acceptance. Julian knows who he is and what he wants, and even he still struggles with his desires. Ivy is still young, and though her upbringing was nontraditional, she must rebel against social conditioning regarding her feelings for Julian. The love between them is never the issue, but rather, acceptance of what they each bring out in the other. (And what they bring out is sexy as hell.)
The resolution of the murder-mystery subplot wraps up both completely as expected and with multiple shocking twists. I figured out the murderer and his motive back in book 1. However, I did not expect the reveal of his actual identity and that another secondary character would involve herself in the affair. Simone humanizes even Ivy’s biggest detractors.
My favorite scene in the book is when Ivy reaches out to Molly for advice about Julian. The two women are still not friends, but their recognized connection as atypical women for their society transcends that. I can’t wait to dive into Molly’s stories soon, and I hope to catch glimpses of Ivy and Julian’s happily ever after within them.
“The Reclaiming of Ivy Leavold” (Book 4)
This lovely short story follows the main Markham Hall trilogy and gives readers a peek at Julian and Ivy’s happily ever after. Having a child was never going to make these two into a “normal” couple, and Julian realizes the error of taming his wildcat. However, Julian makes it clear that Ivy also belongs to herself as much as him, leaving us an ingenious and poignant love story to go along with the inevitable sexy bits.