When I recently found out Julie Hearn had a new book on the shelves I nearly popped a seam in my eagerness to get my hands on it. Ivy did not disappoint. Set in Victorian England (my favorite historial time period, it should be noted), this is the tale of a girl born in the slums of London, living her not-enviable childhood in the ill-named Paradise Alley. With her bright red hair and pale skin, Ivy is considered a misfortune from birth. She is soon orphaned and placed with her hideous extended family. Through a series of events, Ivy is separated from her brood and taken in by Carrotty Kate, a skinner, or one who mugs children to strip them of their clothing in order to sell the wares on the black market. Ivy literally lives in a den of thieves, but Carrotty Kate (also a redhead) becomes her much needed mother figure. Flashforward to her adolescence and we find Ivy back with her real family and addicted to laudunum. She has developed into a willowly, oddly beautiful young woman, the perfect model for the Pre-Raphaelite painters of the day. She becomes the unwilling model to a overblown (and utterly terrible) young painter whose jealous mother immediately sets about trying to get Ivy out of the picture. . . using any devious means at her disposal.
I was expecting Ivy to be a historical fantasy as both of Hearn's previous books--The Minister's Daughter (one of my all time favorties) and The Sign of the Raven--were, but this historical fiction novel does not delve into the realm of the uncanny. Chockful of Victorian turns of phrase and featuring a wide cast of varied characters, Ivy is a treat. (It also gets an A+ for its gorgeous cover.) I highly recommend it. First check out Ivy, then be sure to get your hands on a book of Pre-Raphaelite paintings. And don't be surprised if you find Victorian slang soon creeping into your speech. "Snaffler" has become my favorite new word.