Saturday, 16 December 2017

Emma's Review: Ha'Penny Schemes by Gemma Jackson

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

In 1920’s inner-city Dublin tenements, Ivy Rose Murphy struggles to survive and thrive in the harsh poverty-stricken environment she was born into. She is trying to adapt to her new role as a married woman. There are those jealous of the improvements she has managed to make in her life. To Ivy it seems everyone wants a piece of her. She is stretched to breaking point.

Ivy’s old enemy Father Leary keeps a close watch on her comings and goings. She has attracted the attention of people willing to profit from the efforts of others. She needs help. Ivy’s friends gather around to offer support – but somehow Ivy is the one who gives hope to them.

Ivy’s husband, Jem Ryan, is a forward-thinking man. He is busy making a better life for the family he longs for – but can he protect Ivy when her enemies begin to close in? 

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Many thanks to Poolbeg books for my copy of Ha'Penny Schemes to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

Ha'Penny Schemes is the fourth book in the series written by Gemma Jackson following the tough life endured by the indomitable Ivy Rose Murphy. I have read all of the previous books and have found Ivy to be a woman who has grown and matured since we first met her. She displays such courage, strength and tenacity in the face of untold hardship. I feel I have been with Ivy on a journey and we are now reaching the latter stages of it. I'm not certain whether this will be the last book but if this was to be the case I feel enough of her story has been told and this book would end it at an appropriate time.

New readers to the series needn't worry that they would find it challenging to catch up with what has gone before as plenty of background information is there for everyone to be brought up to date with the stage that Ivy is at in her life. Ivy hasn't had the easiest of childhoods or upbringings but she is made of strong stuff and has weathered many storms through her sheer hard work, ambition and the guts to just get on with things when everyone else around her may have just given up. She has a creative flair and always comes up with ingenious ideas to earn some money all with the long term goal of finding love and happiness and creating a better life for herself and those around her.

Living in the Lane in Dublin's city centre, an area jam packed full of tenements and the most deplorable of living conditions, Ivy is now happily married to Jem – owner of the nearby livery yard. Both Ivy and Jem could only be described as the hardest working people you could come across. They are always on the look out for ways of making money and have a real entrepreneurial spirit. It's not done in any brash or showy rather as a means to further themselves and I suppose to eventually make it out of the lane. They share a common bond apart from the love they have for each other and their values and beliefs are very much on the same path. They are a couple who were always destined to be together. Ivy has her hands in many pies. Be it the collection she does at the doors of rich people's houses, having a team making dolls for a local toy shop or any number of other little side line businesses. Ivy has a knack and a charm that few can deny. Behind the hidden enclave of poverty that is The Lane years of penny pinching and ingenuity have paid off for Ivy as she now has her own building where she rents out rooms to various characters. I felt by this stage that I know so much about Ivy and Jem that where could the story possibly go now.

On the one hand new characters needed to be introduced or old favourites could once again step into the spotlight but on the other hand when this did happen I'll admit to becoming very, very confused. I think that's the problem I had with this book. Yes it was rich in historical detail and it highlighted the lives of people nearly 100 years ago. The research undertaken to bring that era alive was impeccable but to be honest despite the fact I wanted new storylines to pop up there were just way too many characters to familiarise myself with or even to remember all their previous story lines which impacted the way they were living now. I couldn't keep track of who was who and who were they related to in the Lane. Had I read of these characters previously? If so, I had forgotten them.

Some of the storylines introduced were all too brief before being quickly resolved and then we moved on to new characters. Just like Ivy seemed overwhelmed with all the developments around her I myself felt the same with regard to the characters and storylines. I think if even one or two had been cut it would have allowed for more development particularly the story of Ria and also the mysterious actress who makes a reappearance to inhabit the rooms she rents in Ivy's house. For me these two storylines were the most interesting and gripping. They held my attention and as these two hurtled towards their conclusion there were a few twists and turns and unexpected reveals which left me gasping out loud. Simply because I had never seen them coming and yes they were very cleverly done and brought together connections and explained things I had wondered about before. I was also glad to see some resolution with regard to Father O' Leary who had caused unnecessary hardship and difficulties for Ivy at every step of the way.

Ha'Penny Schemes hasn't been my favourite book of the series so far but I wouldn't have missed out on reading it given I had spent so much time and with Ivy in the past and was interested in the long term outcome for her. No matter how many challenges she faces, she always approaches them head on. Where others may see stumbling blocks with no way around them Ivy only sees ways and means to overcome everything. She deals with the unexpected blows and troubles of life with ease some would say. Yet it's clear to see the internal emotional and rational struggles she goes through. I loved the ending in this book that came to Ivy but still wonder should it be left here or will we see more of Ivy and co. This was a nice book but I'm in two minds whether to return for more visits to Ivy Lane. I would be very interested to see what other readers thought of Ha'Penny Schemes.

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