Review: What Ales the Earl (Widow's Brew #1) by Sally MacKenzie

Print Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Zebra (July 31, 2018)

From 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.


My Rating: 3 stars out of 5

I had previously been introduced to this author via her Spinster House series, which I adored! So I was excited to join her on this new journey... only to be let down. Unlike her Spinster House series, I found it almost too easy to put this one down and walk away from it. It was just missing ... that spark. 

Normally I enjoy a second chance romance, and that is exactly what this was. However, Pen was lacking the backbone that I expected from heroines this author produces. She claims to be "offended" and "mad" about the way her daughter (and later herself) are treated, but she does little to stand up against the bullies (especially the ones against her daughter). In fact, after building a life she "cannot leave" she certainly considers leaving it to marry the Vicar and take on the duties of his wife. 

And then Harry comes back into her life and ...... he is going to marry someone else. This is not unusual per-say, but the amount of emphasis the author placed on it was a bit much. Not only was Harry consistently thinking of the woman he was going to marry, but Pen thought of her as well. In fact Lady Susan made a much bigger role in the overall story than the character actually played. 

While on the subject of that particular character, I find it hard to believe that he did not see Lady Susan for who and what she was before it came to a head in Little Puddleton. There were also a few other details that I felt were not keeping in tune with the time period. 

On the whole however, I do think those who enjoy second chance historical romances may enjoy this one and I would read more from this author.

DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review. This has not affected my review in any way. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are 100% my own.


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