Looking for something deeper than the whirlwind of love at first sight? Delve into two romances between already established couples—reunited childhood sweethearts in Sally MacKenzie’s What Ales the Earl, and an already engaged pair in Alyson McLayne’s Highland Betrayal.
A LIGHT-HEARTED BREW
Most lovers of historical romance know the cardinal rule of Regency society: marry among your own class. A servant does not marry a lord, and an earl certainly does not marry a farmer’s daughter.
Penelope Barnes couldn’t care less about the gossip among the high-society members of the ton. She has enough on her plate. Between raising her young daughter, tending to the hopyard at the brewery and trying to attract a suitable husband to sustain her family, Pen has left behind all memory of intrigue or romance—until the new Earl of Darrow sweeps back into her orbit.
Harry Graham couldn’t be less enthused about the part of his duties that require choosing a wife and having an heir. Unfortunately, the last taste of real desire he had was shared with Pen nearly a decade prior, before his military service tore them apart. When business brings Harry to Pen’s little town and they are reunited, he falls for her harder than ever. With their different worlds looming between them, can he convince Pen to accept the love—and the lifestyle—he offers her?
What Ales the Earl marks the tantalizing beginning of MacKenzie’s new Widow’s Brew series. With so many titles in the Regency genre, it takes a singular kind of story to hook readers and keep them rapt till the resolution. What Ales the Earl presents its fleshed-out characters with stakes that are high but realistic and relatable to the audience. Pen is both strong and fallible, and she loves her daughter every bit as much (or more) as she does the man who pursues her. For his part, Harry is passionate about Pen but deeply respectful. He grows as a man, and his family supports him and his happiness in every way possible.
If you happen to be seeking a romance with uncomplicated sex appeal, a life-affirming message and a lot of well-brewed beer, What Ales the Earl is sure to quench your thirst.
If you’re after a romance with a tough-as-nails heroine writing her own destiny, check out the Scottish historical subgenre. And if you’re looking for the best of the best this category has to offer, pick up Highland Betrayal, the newest title in Alyson McLayne’s red-hot series The Sons of Gregor MacLeod.
Laird Callum MacLean has been lucky—he is betrothed to Maggie MacDonnell, papers signed and promise sealed. And it is more than a political arrangement, as Callum and Maggie are drawn together by forces stronger than a written agreement. But when Callum’s father dies under mysterious circumstances and Maggie ends their betrothal, he fights his instincts to go to her and stays with his clan to investigate his father’s death.
Maggie misses Callum very much—more than she expected to—but when she uncovers a dark plot that threatens herself and her betrothed, she takes her fate in her own hands and runs away from home. She soon finds herself right back where she started, staring down Callum MacLean and faced with the decision to trust him or look only to herself. With so much violence and betrayal surrounding them, Maggie and Callum are forced to work together for the good of their people, and perhaps their union.
Although strong, no-nonsense heroines are trendy in the romance genre at the moment, Maggie is unlike any other character you’ll come across. She wields daggers along with a sharp tongue and a strong resolve, and she is as capable in strategy or combat as Callum. This does wonders for their chemistry, and it makes every moment between them as intoxicating to the reader as it is to the couple.
Besides that, the intrigue and danger put to the protagonists feels real and visceral. While reading one of the scenes wherein the lovers are attacked while vulnerable, I audibly gasped and scared the life out of my cat. Prepare to be drawn in deeply.