WHAT ALES THE EARL by Sally MacKenzie

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Widow’s Brew Series, Book 1

From the publisher:

Scandal does not define the “fallen” ladies of Puddledon Manor’s Benevolent Home. Instead, it’s a recipe for an intoxicating new future as the women combine their talents—to operate their own brewery and alehouse . . .

When Penelope Barnes arrived at the Home with her young daughter, she discovered a knack for horticulture—and for cultivating the hops needed to produce a superlative pint. She put her scandalous affair with Harry Graham firmly in the past, along with the wrenching pain she felt when he went off to war. After all, she’d always known a farmer’s daughter had no future with an earl’s son. Now she has the pleasant memory of their passion, and she has little Harriet, for whom she would do anything—even marry a boring country vicar . . .

Harry went off to fight for the Crown unaware that his delightful interlude with his childhood friend had permanent consequences. Now he’s back in England, catapulted into the title by his brother’s untimely death. He sorely misses his former life of unfettered adventure, so when he has reason to explore Little Puddledon, he jumps at the chance. But what he finds there is something—and someone—he never knew he’d lost, and a once forbidden love whose time has come, if only he can persuade Pen he’s home to stay.

This was my first time reading this author. I had read a review that emphasized the strong female character, which intrigued me, so I borrowed the book from my library.

I did like these characters but I would have liked the secondary characters fleshed out a bit more, especially since this is an introduction to a new series. There are a few strong women here but we don’t learn much about them other than the bare basics. Same with all the other characters in this book, other than the main characters they are just names on a page.

At this point, I have read many historical romances of the “royalty can’t marry a commoner, or can he/she” ilk and it is not my favorite. The royalty in question here, the Earl, is bound and determined to marry another royal for the purposes of breeding, but he also plans to live his own life. A loveless marriage, but one that ensures the line continues, and in this case, an example set by the Earl’s parents. This one suffers from the same problem I have with many of these, the sudden light bulb moment near the end of the book of “I’m a  ____ (insert title of your choice) so I can marry whomever I please” moment which leads to the happy ending.

This book ends rather abruptly but with the requisite happy ending. While it wasn’t my favorite, I liked it well enough to look for the next book in the series. I always remain hopeful.

9/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

WHAT ALES THE EARL by Sally MacKenzie. Zebra (July 31, 2018).  ISBN 978-1420146714. 352p.



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