What Ales the Earl by Sally MacKenzie

What Ales the Earl (Widow's Brew, #1)What Ales the Earl by Sally MacKenzie
Tracy’s rating: 3.5/4 of 5 stars

Series: Widow’s Brew, #1

Release Date: July 31, 2018

Harry Graham and Penelope Barnes were childhood friends and eventually lovers, they parted ways ten years ago when Harry went off to war. But unbeknownst to Harry, Pen gave birth to a daughter and moved away from Darrow.

Now Harry is back from the war and had unexpectedly inherited the earldom of Darrow from his wastrel brother. He has promised his mother he will marry and has chosen his bride – Lady Susan Palmer. The night he is going to propose, his friend the Duke of Grainger begs him to do an investigation for him. Grainger also inherited unexpectantly and has found a payment being made to someone identified as JSW in Little Puddleton. Harry delays proposing and sets off for Little Puddleton.

Pen has lived in the Benevolent Home for the Maintenance and Support of Spinsters, Widows and Abandoned Women and their Unfortunate Children since her daughter Harriet was just a baby. As the daughter of a tenant farmer, she never expected Harry to marry her and has no regrets, she loves Harriet and will do anything to protect her – even marry the vicar. She lived with her aunt while she was expecting and they came up with a story – Pen calls herself Mrs. Barnes and claims to be a war widow, she has made a life for them, with her knowledge of farming, she grows hops for the brewery they started – Widow’s brew. This story has held for years, but new comers to the home recognize the distinctive silver stripe in Harriet’s hair, that mark her as a Graham. They assume that she is the daughter of the former Earl (Walter) as he spread his seed far and wide. When Harriet confronts Pen about her birth, Pen feels rushed to marry the vicar before gossip spreads.

Harry comes across Harriet and when he sees her hair, makes the same assumption as everyone else. But when he finds Pen being assaulted, he knows the truth. Harriet is his! This begins the reunion of Harry and Pen – but there will be no happy ending – he is going to marry Lady Susan, Earls do not marry farmers daughters. They reconnect and it is clear that the passion and friendship they shared never died and now Harry wants Pen and Harriet in his life for good, but Pen is not sure, she has to do what is best for Harriet – she loves Harry, she always has and always will and she desires him, but she has doubts about how Harriet will be treated.

When Lady Susan, Letitia (Harry’s SIL) and his mother show up in town, Harry’s ideas for the future take a radical turn – but will Pen agree with his new plans?

This book was well written, fast paced read that had a little bit of angst, steamy love scenes, some amusing banter and a sweet second chance at love. And while I didn’t particularly care for Harry at the beginning (it had nothing to do with him not considering marriage to Pen), I did end up loving him by the end. I also thought that this book was one of the most historically accurate regarding the class differences that I have read in a long time, because let’s be honest, an Earl would not consider marrying a farmers daughter – it just wasn’t done. I will definitely be looking forward to the next book in the series and hope that we get a glimpse of Harry, Pen and Harriet’s future, since this book did not have an epilogue (Boo!).

*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an eARC that was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher..*

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Avid reader (and reviewer) of historical romance.

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