In for a Penny by Rose Lerner

in for a penny

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“Grand Passion or epic disaster?”

Lord Nevinstoke revels in acting the young wastrel, until his father is killed in a drunken duel. Never one to do anything halfway, Nev throws off his wild ways to shoulder a mountain of responsibility and debt vowing to marry a rich girl and act the respectable lord of the manor.

Manufacturing heiress Penelope Brown seems the perfect choice for a wife. She’s pretty, proper, and looking for a husband.

Determined to rise above her common birth, Penelope prides herself on her impeccable behavior and good sense. Grand Passion? Vulgar and melodramatic. Yes, agreeing to marry Nev was a rare moment of impulse, yet she’s sure they can build a good marriage based on companionship and mutual esteem.

But when they arrive at the manor, they re overwhelmed with half-starved tenants, a menacing neighbor, and the family propensity for scandal. As the situation deteriorates, the newlyweds have nowhere to turn but to each other. To Penelope s surprise, she begins to fervently hope that her first taste of Grand Passion in her husband’s arms won’t be her last.

Publisher and Release Date: Samhain, June 2014 (originally published 2010)

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Rating: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Caz

Rose Lerner’s début novel In for a Penny was originally published in 2011, but has been out of print for a while due to the demise of Dorchester Publishing. The author’s most recent book, Sweet Disorder (to which I gave a five star review) was recently published by Samhain, who has now reissued Ms Lerner’s earlier novels, In for a Penny and A Lily Among Thorns. Ms Lerner is a very talented writer who, while setting her stories in the Regency period, has managed, in each of her books so far, to give readers a view of something other than the glittering ballrooms of the ton, combining an eye for historical detail and social observation with a well-developed romance.

Lord Nevinstoke – Nev to his friends – is a character rather in the mould of one of Georgette Heyer’s “wastrel” heroes like Sherry in Friday’s Child; he’s not really a rake, just a young man enjoying all the pleasures of a life “on the town”. Nev’s bachelor existence comes to an abrupt end when his father is killed and is discovered to have left a mountain of debts, leaving Nev in desperate need of funds. So he does what any young nobleman in a similar situation would do, and finds himself an heiress to marry.

Penelope Brown is the daughter of an extremely rich brewer, and although she and Nev have spent only a few minutes in each other’s company, she can’t help being a little bit smitten by such a charming young man. Nev is completely honest about the reasons for his sudden proposal, and Penelope appreciates his honesty, thinking that perhaps she can help him (she has a head for finance and he doesn’t) – so she accepts and they are married without delay. Immediately, I liked both characters for the way they entered into the marriage with their eyes open and the feeling that while they weren’t madly in love, they liked each other and could probably make a go of it.

The newly-weds travel to Nev’s estates, and set about trying to put things to rights. But all is not well, and they encounter distrust and animosity at almost every turn. Ms Lerner turns the focus of her story away from the whirl of the social season, and sets it in a less-than-idyllic countryside in which the farmers and tenants are finding it hard to make ends meet and have suffered years of neglect by the landowner – Nev’s father – who was supposed to be responsible for their welfare.

At the same time as he is learning to run the estate, Nev and Penelope are navigating their way through their new relationship, and finding that’s not all plain sailing either. The couple gets along very well, although Pen’s business acumen sometimes makes Nev feel inadequate, and Pen’s lowly background makes her feel as though she’s not good enough for him. But those sorts of class distinctions don’t matter to Nev. He may be Penelope’s social superior, but he never treats her as anything less than an equal.

But with feelings of inadequacy and insecurity lurking beneath the surface, there is scope for misunderstanding and miscommunication, which stems from both characters’ reluctance to open themselves up to the possibility of their love being one-sided.

While In for a Penny is a superb book, the second half of it becomes a little over-populated with plot-points. We already have a fledgling marriage navigating its way through rocky patches and the unrest bubbling along through the yeomanry who are feeling the pinch because of mechanisation and enclosure. To this are added the oily local magistrate who has his lecherous eyes on Nev’s sister and the even oilier vicar who is taking back-handers, a poaching gang, and, on top of it all, a subplot involving Nev’s ex- mistress, which, personally, I could have happily have dispensed with. Nev and Penny had enough to contend with without all those extraneous issues.

Still, the writing and the characterisation are both excellent, with Nev being the real stand-out character. He is only twenty-three, and at the beginning, is living the high life with nobody to worry about other than himself. His father’s unexpected death hits him hard, but there is never any question in his mind that he must do his duty and take his responsibilities very seriously. There’s a nice sub-plot concerning Nev and his two bosom buddies, and how he comes to see that he’s outgrown them. He’s a terrific hero – honest and hard-working – and his treatment of Penny is simply wonderful, time and again showing how much he cares through small gestures and consideration.

Penny is Nev’s opposite. She’s a commoner and her family has made its money in trade; she has been well educated and brought up as a lady, but there’s no escaping the fact that society looks down on her because of her origins. She’s intelligent, practical and has a sound business mind that is the perfect complement to Nev’s “people skills”.

In for a Penny is a terrific portrait of a marriage of convenience turning slowly into love amid real-life problems like being short of money and having to cope with new and difficult situations. The romance is beautifully developed and has real depth to it, and Ms Lerner’s grasp of the history of the period is sound and used to very good effect. In spite of my comments about the density of the plot in the latter part of the story, I’m nonetheless recommending this delightful book very highly indeed.

At time of publication, this title is available for $4.24 from Amazon

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