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What Ales the Earl

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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 super 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.


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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 super 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.

30 review for What Ales the Earl

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tracy Emro

    3.5 stars - rounded up 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 Grai 3.5 stars - rounded up 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..*

  2. 3 out of 5

    Cam (abookeater)

    I work at a bar that specializes on craft beer so I picked this up on a whim. Unfortunately, the amount of misogynist comments by both the hero and his peers made me dislike this book. I wish they had been called out at least once.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Clephiro

    Oh boy. I don't even know where to start with this one. It's a historical romance. While I don't enjoy it, I do expect some level of misogyny in the books. This was extra. You could tell that the author was trying to do the opposite because you couldn't go a paragraph without getting hit over the head with the idea of Pen being a businessWOMAN. Unfortunately, it mostly just came off patronizing. There were some weird quirks to the writing as well. 'Zeus' was a common oath for some reason. I found Oh boy. I don't even know where to start with this one. It's a historical romance. While I don't enjoy it, I do expect some level of misogyny in the books. This was extra. You could tell that the author was trying to do the opposite because you couldn't go a paragraph without getting hit over the head with the idea of Pen being a businessWOMAN. Unfortunately, it mostly just came off patronizing. There were some weird quirks to the writing as well. 'Zeus' was a common oath for some reason. I found descriptions very repetitive and characters would repeat the same things over and over. Every time a character mentioned the word 'whore', they stuttered, even if it was out of character. It was exhausting. I found a lot of the book was about the telling, not showing, which often makes the characters actions pretty hypocritical. Also, plot-wise there were a ton of things that didn't make sense. (view spoiler)[ A character laments that Walter has so many bastards that she can't acknowledge but then in the next paragraph exclaims that she's so happy that she'll get to know Harriet. What? Harriet is also a bastard. (hide spoiler)] I also hated Harry with the passion of a thousand suns. He was a wishy-washy idiot who seemed incapable of making a decision.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    I received an ARC from a Goodreads giveaway. Overall, I thought this was a sweet story. There were however a couple of things that drove me mad such as the problems of the main characters being stated again and again and also the time line in which the story happened. Though Pen and Harry had known each other since they were children it did not seem that they truly knew each other that well so I think they should have had a longer time line for their second chance love story.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jaci

    This is the first book in Sally's new Series The Widow's Brew. As you can tell by the title Ale plays a part in this love story. Harry Graham is now the Earl of Darrow after his older brother dies in an unexpected accident. Now he has promised his mother that he will find a bride this season to ensure the succession of his title. The only problem is that all the debutantes are young, feather brains that will drive him to bedlam if he marries one of them. The only remotely acceptable candidate is This is the first book in Sally's new Series The Widow's Brew. As you can tell by the title Ale plays a part in this love story. Harry Graham is now the Earl of Darrow after his older brother dies in an unexpected accident. Now he has promised his mother that he will find a bride this season to ensure the succession of his title. The only problem is that all the debutantes are young, feather brains that will drive him to bedlam if he marries one of them. The only remotely acceptable candidate is Lady Susan who is older than the rest, even though he cannot seem to get a word in edgewise. He is resigned to ask for her hand when he is asked to investigate a matter for a friend in a small town called Little Puddledon. He has no idea that this trip is going to turn his life upside down and determine whether his life will be filled with duty and obligation or bring him the joy of love and a HAE. Penelope Barnes is a participant in a venture that supports the Benevolent Home for the Maintenance and Support of Spinsters, Widows, and Abandoned Women and their Unfortunate Children in the town of Little Puddleton. They grow the hops and brew an ale that is called WIdow's Brew to support the home. She and her beloved daughter Harriet have found a home here. She has managed for almost ten years to pass herself off as a widow with a child. Unfortunately, her fiction is about to be revealed and her illegitimate daughter was the one who will suffer. Growing up the daughter of a drunk and violent farmer, she fell in love with the younger son of a lord who's estate supported the town she grew up in. They spent an idyllic summer together making love and just being happy with each other. Being young they never considered the future or the consequences of what they were doing. Harry goes off to war and Pen is left dealing with the results of their relationship. Now ten years later she has to find a way to keep her secret and protect her daughter. She decides that she must marry and the only remotely eligible man in town the local Vicar. She convinces herself that he will do. Before she can put her plan into motion a new arrival in town spoils her plan and instead of asking for her hand the Vicar attempts to rape her when he finds out that she was never married and her daughter is a bastard. Trying her best to fight him off before he can succeed a man appears and rescues her from the Vicar. She can't believe her eyes, it's Harry! How did he find her and why was he here? Does he know about Harriet, his daughter? Harry is just as surprised to see Pen in this remote small town. He is happy to see her and wants nothing more than to find out why she is there and what she has been doing for all this time. When he finds out that he has a daughter he decides that he wants to get to know her and realizes that he wants both of them in his life. Only he can't marry Pen, a farmer's daughter, the best he can offer her is a position of his mistress. Pen does love him but she won't put Harriet in a situation that would label her a bastard. She tells Harry no, but he doesn't understand if they love each other how she can turn him away. This is a story of how the class differences defined the lives of the rich and the poor alike. Even though Harry loved Pen and his daughter he knows that Society has rules that must not be broken and that he has always been taught that his responsibilities will always come before his happiness. Pen was brought up being told that she can never reach above her station and if she did she would never be accepted by her so-called betters. Children born out of wedlock were treated like dirt and Harriet is an innocent child who doesn't understand why she can't be part of a happy family. Sally writes a story of how love can overcome any stigmas and prejudices. Pen is a truly strong woman who will protect her daughter with her life. Harry is a typical nobleman of the time who thinks he can have his cake and eat it too until he realizes that he has to go against the beliefs that he has known his whole life and make the decision with his heart and not his head. A great beginning to a new series by Sally. I eagerly await the next book in the series.

  6. 3 out of 5

    Caitlyn Lynch

    Harry Graham has to choose a bride, and quickly. He was never supposed to be Earl, but when his brother died in his mid-thirties without siring a son, Harry inherited both the title and the responsibility to ensure the succession. The only problem is that all the ‘suitable’ young ladies he’s meeting in London are utterly uninteresting. None of them compare to Pen, his childhood sweetheart. Encountering Pen again when helping out a friend is quite a surprise… but not as much so as meeting Harriet, Harry Graham has to choose a bride, and quickly. He was never supposed to be Earl, but when his brother died in his mid-thirties without siring a son, Harry inherited both the title and the responsibility to ensure the succession. The only problem is that all the ‘suitable’ young ladies he’s meeting in London are utterly uninteresting. None of them compare to Pen, his childhood sweetheart. Encountering Pen again when helping out a friend is quite a surprise… but not as much so as meeting Harriet, who couldn’t be more obviously his daughter. When Harry went away to join the army, Pen was horrified to find herself pregnant. Her abusive father tried to marry her off to the local blacksmith, an unpalatable option, so she ran away to an aunt who helped her out, eventually ending up at a countryside home for widows and abandoned women. No ordinary home, this one grows hops and makes ale, and Pen’s knowledge of farming is essential to the process. Harry’s reappearance reopens old wounds as well as jeopardising Pen’s standing as a ‘respectable widow’. Frankly, Harry behaved like an ass throughout a lot of the book. His internal thoughts about how Pen would be grateful for his attentions and how she must be gagging for sex after years of abstinence made me want to smack him any number of times, as did his complete ignorance of the trials Pen and Harriet would face if Pen allowed him to set them up in a house near his home. It never even seemed to occur to Harry to ask Pen to marry him until his family basically gave him permission, and as a friend pointed out to Pen, she would have to give up everything to do what Harry asked (become his mistress) whereas he would get to have his cake and eat it too. Harry basically spent a lot of time thinking with the head between his legs. He largely let other people solve his problems, not thinking about other people’s wants or needs until he was basically hit in the face with their existence. Ultimately, he came off as very selfish and I really struggled to like him - we were told in Pen’s point of view how wonderful he was, but I could never quite see it. I liked Pen and her friends, and Harriet was a delightful character, but when you spend the whole book thinking the hero is a bit of a selfish ass, it’s pretty hard to get past. This was solidly written and edited and had some very accurate social commentary so it definitely deserves four stars, but I can’t give it five. Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sissy's Romance Book Review

    What Ales the Earl by Sally MacKenzie is book One in the Widow's Brew series. This is the story of Penelope Barnes and Harry Graham. Penelope and Harry where childhood friends that turned to a lover's relationship. But Harry ended up going to war and now several years later he has returned. Harry didn't know that he was leaving Penelope with a lasting outcome of their relationship when he left. Now he is back having to take over a title that he inherited after his brother death. When going to Li What Ales the Earl by Sally MacKenzie is book One in the Widow's Brew series. This is the story of Penelope Barnes and Harry Graham. Penelope and Harry where childhood friends that turned to a lover's relationship. But Harry ended up going to war and now several years later he has returned. Harry didn't know that he was leaving Penelope with a lasting outcome of their relationship when he left. Now he is back having to take over a title that he inherited after his brother death. When going to Little Puddledon he finds Penelope and Harry starts to learn all he lost. I really enjoyed their story and think this is a great start to a great series.

  8. 3 out of 5

    JoAnn

    What Ales the Earl is a delightful historical romance. I loved the plot and the characters. The author pulls you right into the story with her writing style. Highly recommend this book.

  9. 3 out of 5

    Sara

    I have read and enjoyed several of Sally MacKenzie’s books, and What Ales the Earl was no exception. This was a fun, second chance romance. I especially loved the heroine and the other women she works with in the ale-making business, and I’m hoping we see some of these characters in future books in the series!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Amy Alvis

    I loved Pen and Harry's story! Pen and Harry were childhood friends. Right before he went off to war, they became intimate and Pen got pregnant. With no way to contact Harry, Pen does what she needs to survive and ends up in a tiny town living as a widow. Harry is on the verge of getting engaged when he is asked by a friend to find out some information. He ends up in the same town as Pen and discovers he is a father. Their old attraction is still present but because of their differences in station I loved Pen and Harry's story! Pen and Harry were childhood friends. Right before he went off to war, they became intimate and Pen got pregnant. With no way to contact Harry, Pen does what she needs to survive and ends up in a tiny town living as a widow. Harry is on the verge of getting engaged when he is asked by a friend to find out some information. He ends up in the same town as Pen and discovers he is a father. Their old attraction is still present but because of their differences in station, they feel like they can't be anything more than lovers. Can these two go against society's norm to find their HEA? I'm excited to see what this series brings! I'm hopeful that we get to see Pen, Harry and Harriet again!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Samantha Folkner

    Great book that had me intrigued and reading in all one setting. This is one of those stories you really wonder if the H/h can find a way to make it work or if it’s even best if they do. I loved Pen’s strength and that she always focused on trying to do what was best for her daughter even if it meant sacrificing a part of herself. As a mom I felt those parts relatable. I received an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jacki

    Enjoyed it What I liked: The writing style The characters Part of a series: Widow's Brew Standalone HEA I look forward to reading the other books in this series. I voluntarily read and reviewed an ARC from NetGalley.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Brenda

    Publisher's Description: 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 wr Publisher's Description: 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 Thoughts: This first book in the new Widow’s Brew Series, is as expected from Sally MacKenzie, a delightful mixture of humor and angst. If I want to laugh at some point in a read and nearly cry at others I can depend on this author to give me both emotions as well as well thought out and intelligent characters that make the most out of their situations. I loved this second chance romance and devoured it in a single sitting. The pun in the title should let the reader know in advance that this will be a fun read. Harry and Pen's resumption of a ten year old love with a separation due to war and their differences in status is a delightful regency romp. Their daughter Harriett makes for some poignant and humorous moments in this quick read. Harriett is both a precocious and intuitive nine year old whose perspective on other people is spot on. The fact that Harry can only think of keeping his love and their daughter by asking the love of his life to become his mistress is the only stumbling block in this otherwise wonderfully written book. Everyone knows though that in regency times love was not really an option and one married for position instead. Men often kept mistresses that they loved as well as wives they only tolerated. I gave this book 4.9 of 5.0 stars for storyline and characterization and a sensual rating of 3.5 of 5.0 flames as our couple did not jump right back into intimacy after their lengthy separation. I received a complimentary digital ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley to read and review. This in no way affected my opinion of this book that I read and reviewed voluntarily.

  14. 3 out of 5

    Connie Fischer

    Harry Graham, age 28, has just lost his older brother, Walter, which makes Harry the Earl of Darrow. He is quite taken with the lovely Lady Susan Palmer, daughter of the Earl of Langley. However, the young woman loves to talk. His mother has impressed upon him that he must marry soon and get an heir. But Harry’s friends think he will make a mistake by marrying Lady Susan because her constant talking will drive him crazy. Harry’s friend, the Duke of Grainger, has asked for his help with his estate Harry Graham, age 28, has just lost his older brother, Walter, which makes Harry the Earl of Darrow. He is quite taken with the lovely Lady Susan Palmer, daughter of the Earl of Langley. However, the young woman loves to talk. His mother has impressed upon him that he must marry soon and get an heir. But Harry’s friends think he will make a mistake by marrying Lady Susan because her constant talking will drive him crazy. Harry’s friend, the Duke of Grainger, has asked for his help with his estate books. For some time now, the estate has been supporting something or someone using the initials JSW in the village of Little Puddleton. Harry agrees to investigate this for his friend by visiting the village. Penelope Barnes, age 27, and her daughter, Harriet, are in church lamenting how there are no handsome single men in Little Puddleton. They are living in the Benevolent Home for the Maintenance and Support of Spinsters, Widows, and Abandoned Women and their Unfortunate Children. Some of the women at the Home work to raise some crops. Penelope has been successful in growing some hops to produce their Widow’s Brew which is becoming popular at various local pubs and even in London. Harriet is the illegitimate daughter of Harry Graham, but he does not know about her. Harry and Penelope had played together as children and as they grew up, they became lovers. When Harry left to fight the war, Penelope realized she was pregnant. With no mother and a hateful father, she left home to care for the two of them on her own. The offspring of the Darrow family inherit a gray streak in their hair. Thus, any of their by-blows are easily recognized. Harriet has recently acquired this gray streak in her hair. When Harry comes to town and meets Penelope whom he has seen in years, he is delighted to learn that he has a daughter. He wants Penelope and Harriet to come live in a house on his estate. He plans to marry Lady Susan and when he gets an heir and a spare from her, he will spend his time with Penelope and Harriet. Will she agree to share Harry like that? This is a delightful book by a favorite author of mine. I love this new Widow’s Brew series and cannot wait to read more of the books. Well done! Love her tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. Copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

  15. 3 out of 5

    Amelia

    In the first book of the Widow’s Brew series, Sally MacKenzie delves into the lives of those not born into high society during the Regency period. The privileged attended balls, married well, and often led an idle life, while the individuals who must work in order to live should not associate with the wealthy aristocrats. But in this story, an earl and the commoner whom he once knew learn that the heart does not always follow the rules. WHAT ALES THE EARL is intensely emotional because of realis In the first book of the Widow’s Brew series, Sally MacKenzie delves into the lives of those not born into high society during the Regency period. The privileged attended balls, married well, and often led an idle life, while the individuals who must work in order to live should not associate with the wealthy aristocrats. But in this story, an earl and the commoner whom he once knew learn that the heart does not always follow the rules. WHAT ALES THE EARL is intensely emotional because of realistic and very imaginative circumstances. When Harry Graham returned to Darrow Hall after being gone for ten years, it was to assume the unexpected responsibilities of being the new earl. One of the biggest obligations is to marry a woman who would be suitable for his current status, but he knows no one appropriate and is just going to pick a woman who is practically a stranger. Harry really does not like this idea, as there will be no genuine connection between him and his lifelong partner. After receiving a task to complete in Little Puddledon for a friend, he agrees as it gives him a short reprieve from looking for a wife. While there, he comes in contact with Penelope Barnes, someone that he knew when they were younger as her father farmed on his family’s estate. What Harry also discovers is life-changing, and his reaction to the information could alter many lives. From the moment I was introduced to Pen, I truly liked this determined woman. Though numerous challenges have arisen over the years, she met each trial with a resolve to not let it best her. She did all she could to make her daughter be accepted though she was illegitimate, and I cheered Pen on when protectiveness took over her actions. How Harry responded to several situations showed his lack of awareness to those not in the same class as him, and I liked how Pen set him straight with her candid words. Many of their discussions are filled with deeply earnest comments, and I became more connected to these two characters with each new revelation. Both have passionate natures, and how they expressed their feelings for one another is often heatedly steamy. There is constant believability all throughout WHAT ALES THE EARL, where original situations are conceivable and characters come across as convincing. Sally MacKenzie had me experiencing what it could have been like to be an unwed mother during this time period, plus I also got a sense of the opinion upper classes had for anyone not titled. There was an abundance of humor in the story, and the episodes where amusement was present caused lots of grins and even a few chuckles. I am definitely eager to see what happens in the next Widow’s Brew story. I voluntarily reviewed the book, and all comments are my honest opinion - 4.5 Stars

  16. 5 out of 5

    Marti

    What Ales the Earl by Sally MacKenzie was an historical romance with a twist. Penelope Barnes found herself pregnant and ended up at the Benevolent Home for the Maintenance and Support of Spinsters, Widows and Abandoned Women and their Unfortunate Children. There she found herself in charge of growing hops. The Home has various pursuits to earn money, but the Ale (with Penelope’s hops) is their biggest hope and income. Harry left the farm and his best friend Penelope to go to war. When his brothe What Ales the Earl by Sally MacKenzie was an historical romance with a twist. Penelope Barnes found herself pregnant and ended up at the Benevolent Home for the Maintenance and Support of Spinsters, Widows and Abandoned Women and their Unfortunate Children. There she found herself in charge of growing hops. The Home has various pursuits to earn money, but the Ale (with Penelope’s hops) is their biggest hope and income. Harry left the farm and his best friend Penelope to go to war. When his brother dies, he is forced to come home and become the Duke. His mother and sister-in-law are pushing for him to get married and start a family. He has finally narrowed down the choices to one woman - who just talks and talks and talks. Luckily he took on a favor for a friend and found his old friend and now is the time to really figure out what he wants. I like how Penelope and Harry were together and how he realizes what he could have. I loved the twists and surprises. I think that this series (The Widow’s Brew) is going to be a fun one to read and I am looking forward to the next book in the series. Thank you NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book.What Ales the Earl by Sally MacKenzie was a good read.

  17. 3 out of 5

    Smitten

    The first story in the Widow’s Brew series caught me off guard. Let me preface this, as there may be those who may be reading a review from me for the first time. In a lot of instances, I’ll select a book merely by the title name, author, and possibly genre. Due to my busy schedule I don’t always read the book blurbs or research the books before I launch into them. You read that correctly. I typically know nothing about the book and I like to go in a little blind. Keeps me on my toes and allows The first story in the Widow’s Brew series caught me off guard. Let me preface this, as there may be those who may be reading a review from me for the first time. In a lot of instances, I’ll select a book merely by the title name, author, and possibly genre. Due to my busy schedule I don’t always read the book blurbs or research the books before I launch into them. You read that correctly. I typically know nothing about the book and I like to go in a little blind. Keeps me on my toes and allows me to fully absorb the experience. That being said… I enjoyed this story, though I’ll admit there were a few things that threw me off. Let’s get the ‘off’ things out of the way. One, the heroine at times comes off as a conundrum. At times she settles, allowing herself and her daughter to be treated in a fashion I disliked. Then at others she stands up for herself. I found Penelope’s relationship with other women disheartening, where she let those women push her around instead of standing up for herself. Though, due to the character’s past, her nature is not surprising. Two, the hero had a similar flip flop from being heroic to thinking very dude bro about Penelope. At times I wanted to slap him. For me, dude bro heroes are hard sells, typically. Though, the hero eventually wised up to his dumb ways of thinking, I am not sure if he experienced truth growth. Outside of the situation just working out for him. Things I enjoyed included the truth of Penelope’s circumstances. She’s the daughter of a farmer, an unwed mother, and I think McKenzie did a fantastic job of showing the type of life a woman in her position would end up in, especially back in those times. Her options were few and the fact she survived is testament to her strength. This book also played with some of my favorite tropes, second chance romance and class warfare. I will continue with this series as I am interested in seeing what happens to the other secondary characters that I believe will be future heroines. At least I hope they will be. For those looking for historical reads with a mid-level angst factor. I recommend this book for readers who love Miranda Neville.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    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 summer of love 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 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 summer of love 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 Pen 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’s asked by his friend the Duke of Grainger to explore Little Puddledon, he jumps at the chance. I enjoyed the book & liked the premis of the Home but I did have issues with Harry, his attitude to Pen annoyed me & I for one would have left him high & dry, he did however redeem himself in the end after an hilarious scene at the cottage. Pen had to grow up when she found out she was pregnant & had to leave home, she’s forged a life for herself & Harriet. The characters are well developed & the pace of the story was good. This is the start of a new series & I look forward to some of the other residents having their stories My honest review is for a special copy I voluntarily read

  19. 3 out of 5

    Pamela

    Harry cannot believe his older brother, Walter, is gone and that he has inherited his title, Earl of Darrow. His mother has been pressuring Harry to marry and produce an heir. Harry has looked all season and finally settled on one woman. Before he can propose, Harry's friend has a business matter he wants Harry to deal with for him. That is how Harry finds himself coming face-to-face with a ghost from his past. Penelope "Pen" Barnes was Harry's childhood friend and later lover. When Harry left he Harry cannot believe his older brother, Walter, is gone and that he has inherited his title, Earl of Darrow. His mother has been pressuring Harry to marry and produce an heir. Harry has looked all season and finally settled on one woman. Before he can propose, Harry's friend has a business matter he wants Harry to deal with for him. That is how Harry finds himself coming face-to-face with a ghost from his past. Penelope "Pen" Barnes was Harry's childhood friend and later lover. When Harry left her behind, Pen realized that she was with child. In order to protect her unborn baby, Pen went to stay with an aunt. That is how Pen came to be in Little Puddledon living at The Benevolent Home for the Maintenance and Support of Spinsters, Widows, and Abandoned Women and their Unfortunate Children and working to cultivate hops for Widow's Brew, a local ale invented by a friend. Harry is surprised when he runs into a child he believes to be one of his brother's illegitamite children, but even more surprised when he learns the young girl is his own offspring. Harry reconnects with Pen and begins to realize all he is missing in his life. He wants to keep her and his daughter in his life, but knows getting Pen to agree will not be easy. Find out what happens in WHAT ALES THE EARL. I really enjoyed Pen as a character, but could not find myself liking Harry all that much. I also think Pen gave in way to easily to Harry's wants and needs. I understand they have a child between them and still love one another, but resist the temptation, LOL! Still, it was great to see Harry and Pen find one another again and get their second chance at love. I especially loved hearing about The Benevolent Home for the Maintenance and Support of Spinsters, Widows, and Abandoned Women and their Unfortunate Children. What a mouthful! And I found it very interesting, a group of forward thinking women, one of them being Pen, developed a brew and were trying to market it in such a time period. Kudos to these strong, independent, intelligent women.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Annette

    Harry has become the Earl of Darrow. His older brother died and Harry is now looking for a bride. It is important for him to marry to produce an heir. He is about to propose to Lady Susan. He does not particularly like her, but she is the daughter of an earl and that means she would be appropriate to become his bride. Penelope and her daughter, Harriet, are living in Little Puddledon at the Benevolent Home for the Maintenance and Support of Spinsters, Widows and Abandoned Women and their Unfortun Harry has become the Earl of Darrow. His older brother died and Harry is now looking for a bride. It is important for him to marry to produce an heir. He is about to propose to Lady Susan. He does not particularly like her, but she is the daughter of an earl and that means she would be appropriate to become his bride. Penelope and her daughter, Harriet, are living in Little Puddledon at the Benevolent Home for the Maintenance and Support of Spinsters, Widows and Abandoned Women and their Unfortunate Children. Harry has been sent to Little Puddledon to do a favor for a friend. Money has been donated to someone there and Harry is to go and find out to whom and for what. The errand will also get him away from the opportunity to propose to Lady Susan. When he finds Penelope and Harriet, he finds that he has a daughter who is 9 years old. He never knew she existed. He has spent all those years in the war against Napoleon. Suddenly he begins to feel fatherly toward this bright and charming little girl. And the little girl feels very happy to have a “Papa” of her very own. This is a fun story. There are some dark and hateful moments when people attack Pen and her daughter because of Pen's unmarried state. It is evidence of the time and place. This was when having a child when unmarried was considered to be not only a sin but also a crime against polite society. Pen and others at the home are creating an Ale – Widow's Brew – which is very popular, but they have had to struggle because of bad crops for the past two years. The annual donations have meant a great deal to everyone at the Home. Pen is respected by many in her village because of her knowledge about hops and her hard work. But, that does not mean she and Harriet would be accepted everywhere. Harriet steals the show. She is intelligent and funny and very quick to assess a situation and recognize people for who they really are. Pen and Harry are very good and strong characters who feel constrained by the rules of society in England. They share a past that not only produced Harriet, but also established the love they had for one another. The secondary characters add to the story and the plot moves along at a good pace. There is a great deal of humor. Ms MacKenzie writes books which can make the reader laugh out loud. I have enjoyed this book. It is the first in a series, and I look forward to the next book. I received the book from the publisher through NetGalley. I am voluntarily writing this review and all opinions are completely my own.

  21. 3 out of 5

    Laura J.

    After many years, Harry runs into his first love Pen and finds out they have a daughter. Harry has inherited an earldom and is about to propose to an Earl’s daughter. Pen and her daughter are living in a home for widows and their children. She’s a farmers daughter and is in charge of growing the hops for the Home’s business enterprise. There’s a lot going on: Harry finding out he’s a father ; his offer to Pen the position of being his mistress; the ale-making business; the other women of the she After many years, Harry runs into his first love Pen and finds out they have a daughter. Harry has inherited an earldom and is about to propose to an Earl’s daughter. Pen and her daughter are living in a home for widows and their children. She’s a farmers daughter and is in charge of growing the hops for the Home’s business enterprise. There’s a lot going on: Harry finding out he’s a father ; his offer to Pen the position of being his mistress; the ale-making business; the other women of the shelter; Harry’s almost fiancé; and Pen and Harry’s sexual attraction to each other. However it all seemed a bit shallow. I was indifferent to Harry, Pen and the other characters.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Sally MacKenzie's book, What Ales the Earl, is an opposites attract, second chance, unknown child story. Penelope Barnes ts a drunken farmer's daughter while Harry Graham is an earl. A decade ago they spent a summer together that resulted in a daughter. The moment of truth comes when they reconnect in Little Puddleton. With the sudden death of his older brother, it is now time for Harry to marry and produce a male heir. But there are expectations when you are part of the ton. This is a fun histo Sally MacKenzie's book, What Ales the Earl, is an opposites attract, second chance, unknown child story. Penelope Barnes ts a drunken farmer's daughter while Harry Graham is an earl. A decade ago they spent a summer together that resulted in a daughter. The moment of truth comes when they reconnect in Little Puddleton. With the sudden death of his older brother, it is now time for Harry to marry and produce a male heir. But there are expectations when you are part of the ton. This is a fun historical romance with likable characters and a feel good ending!

  23. 3 out of 5

    Lenna Wright-Berry

    It was good up until the last page, wasn’t a HEA but cliffhanger in my opinion. I would have loved to read how Harriett would take the news....and a later time to see what all life has treated Pen and her daughter. 9-10 years later when the childhood best friends turned loves was the last time they saw each other, she 17 he 18 when he went to war as a spy for the English Crown. Now on official business for his buddy to find out who or what JWS was in Little Puddinton. Well he got to whom it was It was good up until the last page, wasn’t a HEA but cliffhanger in my opinion. I would have loved to read how Harriett would take the news....and a later time to see what all life has treated Pen and her daughter. 9-10 years later when the childhood best friends turned loves was the last time they saw each other, she 17 he 18 when he went to war as a spy for the English Crown. Now on official business for his buddy to find out who or what JWS was in Little Puddinton. Well he got to whom it was but he also found his long lost sweetheart and her secret. How will he take the news and when will that mean for his future??

  24. 3 out of 5

    Billie

    The first in a new series. This second chance, secret baby book was an entertaining read I couldn’t put down. Pen, a farmers daughter, turned hops farmer has been hiding as a widow with her ten year old daughter. The father is alive though. When Harry returns from war as an Earl he swears to do his duty and marry. Then realizes she is what he needs, more than anything. I liked that both the heat and the love between them hasn’t diminished over ten years. They clearly know and trust one another s The first in a new series. This second chance, secret baby book was an entertaining read I couldn’t put down. Pen, a farmers daughter, turned hops farmer has been hiding as a widow with her ten year old daughter. The father is alive though. When Harry returns from war as an Earl he swears to do his duty and marry. Then realizes she is what he needs, more than anything. I liked that both the heat and the love between them hasn’t diminished over ten years. They clearly know and trust one another so deeply. I recommend this one to anyone looking for a second chance love story that is bigger than the rules of society. Received ARC in exchange for honest review.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Received an ARC via NetGalley It is a well-written book and kept me interested, but I hated the lead male character so much that I cannot love the book. Harry Graham, Earl of Darrow is like many men of that time that thought they should get whatever he wanted and let the women make all of the concessions. Harry was an a$$hole, extremely selfish, and I was hoping another character would trip him as he was walking down some stairs. Penelope who was a daughter of a farmer was way too good for him. H Received an ARC via NetGalley It is a well-written book and kept me interested, but I hated the lead male character so much that I cannot love the book. Harry Graham, Earl of Darrow is like many men of that time that thought they should get whatever he wanted and let the women make all of the concessions. Harry was an a$$hole, extremely selfish, and I was hoping another character would trip him as he was walking down some stairs. Penelope who was a daughter of a farmer was way too good for him. Harry’s offer would have caused Pen and her daughter a lot of grief, but Harry gets pissed because he was turned down. He changes his mind within a couple hours and Pen just forgives him way too easily. I think that the concept of the series is good, but just could not like Harry at all.

  26. 3 out of 5

    Jessi

    Ten years ago Penelope Barnes was kicked out of her father's house because she was pregnant. She was able to go to her aunt's for a whort while but eventually found her way to Puddleton and the Benevolent Home there. Her daughter has the distinctive stripe of white hair that all of the Grahams have. But no one knows that her daughter is a Graham. Penelope has been claiming to be a widow. But now there's a new mother/daughter duo at the home and they've identified Harriet as a bastard. Of course, Ten years ago Penelope Barnes was kicked out of her father's house because she was pregnant. She was able to go to her aunt's for a whort while but eventually found her way to Puddleton and the Benevolent Home there. Her daughter has the distinctive stripe of white hair that all of the Grahams have. But no one knows that her daughter is a Graham. Penelope has been claiming to be a widow. But now there's a new mother/daughter duo at the home and they've identified Harriet as a bastard. Of course, they think she's the earl's daughter. And she is. Well, not the former earl who was an incorrigible rake and left bastards all around the countryside. No, she's the daughter of the current earl. The one who left Penelope before she knew she was pregnant. The one who has just wandered into Puddleton... A nice world-building book that suffers a little from so much introduction (I wish we had seen more of the brewery if that's what the series is based around) but I'm definitely looking forward to more in the series.

  27. 3 out of 5

    Nicole

    I received this novel from net galley and the publisher for an honest review. Thank you! This novel brings in past love and the prejudices of society. Penelope Barnes and Harry Graham spent a wonderful summer together before he left for the army. He never knew Pen was pregnant. Pen had a terrible upbringing by her father, and she had to manage the farm, for which her knowledge would be important when the ladies of the home she currently resides in make their infamous Witch's Brew, a popular ale a I received this novel from net galley and the publisher for an honest review. Thank you! This novel brings in past love and the prejudices of society. Penelope Barnes and Harry Graham spent a wonderful summer together before he left for the army. He never knew Pen was pregnant. Pen had a terrible upbringing by her father, and she had to manage the farm, for which her knowledge would be important when the ladies of the home she currently resides in make their infamous Witch's Brew, a popular ale among the locals. Harry is pressured to marry, though he does not want to. When he has an opportunity to escape from a party, he does and runs into Pen and his daughter, Harriet. Harry wants them both is his life, but he can never marry Pen due to her station. Pen and Harry love each other, but know the rules of society. Pen will do anything to protect her daughter. Harry wants to be a part of Harriet's life, for he needs both her and Pen. I felt frustrated with Harry, his wanting a society wife but keeping Pen as his mistress...you cannot have the best of both worlds, for you are sacrificing yourself and causing resentment. Harry needs to make a choice, for he was never supposed to be the earl, and he needs to realize what is more important, what society thinks or what his heart needs.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Stacey

    Upon his older brother’s untimely death, Harry has become the Earl of Darrow. Now he must marry and produce an heir. Never expecting, nor wanting to be in this position, Harry resigns himself to a marriage of convenience, typical of the ton. But first he must tend to an errand given to him by his friend, the Duke of Grainger. Penelope Barnes was the daughter of a farmer and the childhood friend of Harry Graham. Before he went off to war, they became lovers. Harry never knew of the consequences of Upon his older brother’s untimely death, Harry has become the Earl of Darrow. Now he must marry and produce an heir. Never expecting, nor wanting to be in this position, Harry resigns himself to a marriage of convenience, typical of the ton. But first he must tend to an errand given to him by his friend, the Duke of Grainger. Penelope Barnes was the daughter of a farmer and the childhood friend of Harry Graham. Before he went off to war, they became lovers. Harry never knew of the consequences of that affair. Harry’s errand brings him to Little Puddledon and The Benevolent Home for the Maintenance and Support of Spinsters, Widows, and Abandoned Women and their Unfortunate Children, where, to his surprise, he runs into Pen once more. Pen has built a new life for herself and daughter Harriet at the Home and cultivates the hops needed to create their excellent Widow’s Brew. What does this reunion have in store for any of their futures? I enjoyed the premise of the story and the characters, both main and secondary. I’m glad to hear that this is the first of a trilogy, because I want to know more of the stories. Filled with humor, strong women, and difficult choices, it was gratifying to see Harry and Pen get their HEA. Several times, I wanted to shake Harry for his naivete about the ton, but I was glad that he had to work harder to realize and get what he really wanted. I love how the women of the Home worked to find a way to support themselves and came up with the unique idea of creating an ale, Widow’s Brew. I look forward to reading about how the brew fares as well as the lives of the women who have created it. ~~I received an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.~~

  29. 3 out of 5

    Kim Vanravenswaay

    I have to fess up. I did not like Harry at all until the end of the book. I knew it would all work out in the end, but just the idea of how daft he could be made my mind up. Pen and her daughter Harriet made up for him though.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tween 2 Teen Book Reviews

    I loved this book! I loved watching the main characters reconnect over their daughter.

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