In for a Penny
by Rose Lerner
(Leisure, $6.99, PG-13)† ISBN 978-0-8439-6335-9
What a delightful surprise to open the cover of In for a Penny and be instantly drawn into the Regency world created by Rose Lerner.† I canít remember the last time I read a book in one sitting, but this one was so good I couldnít put it down.† If youíre fond of Regency-set romance, this book is an absolute must-read.

Nathaniel Ambrey, Viscount Nevinstoke, or Nev to his friends, is enjoying the carefree delights of a wealthy young nobleman Ė parties, gambling, and nights with his mistress Amy being at the top of the list.† At a gathering one evening, Nev makes the acquaintance of Miss Penelope Brown, daughter of a successful brewer.† Penny has a huge dowry, but as a Cit, has little entry into society.† Her Cockney-born mother hopes sheíll make a noble match based on her fortune.† Nev and Penny share a brief conversation and find there are sparks of interest and common ground between them.

When Nevís father takes his own life, leaving huge debts, Nev must abandon his former lifestyle and take up the reins as the new Lord Bedlow.† What he desperately needs is an infusion of cash.† Nev seeks out Penny, and in an unusual turn of events, is completely honest with her.† He explains his situation and proposes marriage.† Penny accepts, to her own surprise and her motherís delight, but has a few conditions.† Nev must treat her parents with respect. No drinking or gambling.† And no mistresses.

Nev agrees, the marriage takes place, and they head to the Bedlow estate.† What they find is worse than they thought.†The tenants are living in abject poverty and are distrustful of the new Lord and Lady Bedlow.†The crops are a failure.†The house and gardens are a mess.†There are rumblings of unrest among the workers.† Nevís mother and sister snub Penny at every opportunity.With nowhere to turn, Penny and Nev must turn to each other for support, and a wonderful romance begins to blossom.

There is plenty more to this story, with several side plots involving the workers, another landowner with possibly evil intentions, and Nevís mistress.† Almost none of these plays out as expected.† Nev and Penny find their businesslike arrangement isnít what either of them wants, either, but neither knows how to express their feelings, afraid that the other wonít feel the same.

Rose Lerner succeeds because she takes chances and stays true to her characters, and kudos to Leisure for not forcing her into a more traditional mold.† Penny comes from working class stock; her parents are sometimes a bit crude, but she loves them fiercely and wonít tolerate anyone treating them with disdain.† This strength of character spills over into her marriage, and when faced with a scandal from her husbandís past, Penny is more than up to the task.† Sheís a delight.

Nev is her equal in character development.† Heís a fine person at his core, but has never needed to rise to the occasion and act like a responsible adult.† When the role of family provider is forced upon him, Nev knows heís woefully unprepared, but pulls himself together and shoulders his new responsibilities as best he can.† Penny, who at first was merely a pretty source of cash, turns out to be his anchor and his partner in every way, and this completely unexpected development throws Nev for a loop.† The one thing he never expected to find turns out to be the one thing he canít imagine losing.

Because the romance develops slowly, itís convincing. Itís not instant fireworks, either, which lends even more credibility to their relationship.† This is a love story that takes some work, but itís definitely worth it.† Nev and Penny have a nice steamy chemistry together.

In for a Penny is a wonderful, unusual, well-written Regency romance that is easily one of the best of the year so far.† Leisure has a real gem in Rose Lerner and I canít wait for her next release.†

--Cathy Sova

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