Happy Birthday, Janga! Wishing you sunshine, smiles, and happily ever afters today and always.

Monday, June 15, 2015

On Second Thought - - In for a Penny

Graphics by Sharlene


We're premiering a new feature at the Romance Dish today. Sometimes we miss a book - or an author - the first time around. There are so many books published each month and, let's face it, there just aren't enough hours - or dollars - to read them all so some never make it onto our reader radar. Occasionally, a company will reissue a previously published book. Also, with the growing popularity of e-books, many authors have regained the rights to their traditionally published books and are giving them a second chance on the digital platform. All of this gives readers a second chance to discover a wonderful story they may have missed. On the 15th of each month, Janga will be bringing us a review of one of those reissued books and, hopefully, giving you the opportunity to discover a wonderful new book that you may have missed when it was first released or remind you of the reasons you enjoyed reading it the first time around. We hope you'll join us the 15th of each month for On Second Thought



In for a Penny
By Rose Lerner
Publisher: Samhain
Release Date: June 2, 2015





In her 2010 debut novel, In for a Penny, Rose Lerner gives readers a cross-class marriage of convenience tale that combines the lightness of the best traditional Regencies with the gravitas of a novel of social criticism. The result is a fresh take on an old trope and a historical romance novel that deserves a much wider readership than it had when it was originally released. Hurray for Samhain’s reissue!

Nathaniel Ambrey, Viscount Nevinstoke, is an amiable young man who enjoys his life of merrymaking with his friends and his beautiful mistress. He lives strictly for the moment with no thought of tomorrow beyond what amusement the day may bring. That changes when his father is killed in a foolish duel and Nev is forced to deal with the results of a lifetime of excess and thoughtlessness.  Nev becomes the Earl of Bedlow with an estate that has been neglected and exploited and a burden of debt so heavy that even selling his town house, his mother’s jewels, and everything else that is unentailed hardly makes a dent in what he owes. When his sister, Louisa, offers to marry a wealthy merchant, Nev assures her that such a sacrifice is unnecessary, but Louisa’s suggestion reminds him that he met and liked the daughter of a wealthy brewer. She just might be the solution to his problem.

Penelope Brown has no interest in a titled husband. Her memories of the slights and mockery she endured at the hands of her aristocratic schoolmates are still fresh, and she has no illusions about how she and her mother are regarded when they attend social events hosted by the few former schoolmates who remember Penny. When she thinks of marriage, it is an ambitious young man of her own class whom she sees as her husband. Thus, Penny surprises even herself when she accepts Nev’s proposal, even though he makes no secret of the fact that his offer is prompted solely by his desperate need for her dowry.

Neither Nev nor Penny is prepared for all the problems that await them at Loweston, his country seat. The estate and its tenants are even more impoverished that Nev expected, and he has no idea how to deal with the poverty or the simmering resentment. With much of Penny’s money tied up for their children, the funds they have are insufficient for all that needs to be done. An incompetent steward and a vicar who is the very worst sort of pompous, self-righteous fool with no understanding of Christian charity further complicate  matters, as does a neighbor who is willing to go to extremes to control the workers who he is convinced are poised for revolution.

On the personal front, things are not much better. Nev and Penny, despite their differences, genuinely like one another, and that liking develops into warmer feelings. But they are very young (Penny is nineteen; Nev is twenty-three), and they are plagued with insecurities. Penny cannot forget that she is not a true lady, the kind of wife Nev should have, and just in case she should forget for a moment, his mother is there to bemoan the unsuitability and low origins of Nev’s wife. Convinced that the only thing she has to contribute is her money and the knowledge of bookkeeping she has learned from her father’s business, Penny is unwilling to be open about her feelings.

Nev is just as reticent. He feels that he is a failure who has to depend on his wife’s money and cleverness to accomplish anything. He believes Penny deserves a better husband. They are each too determined to protect their vulnerabilities to build on the things they do have in common such as a sense of humor and a love of music or to comprehend that Penny’s understanding of economic principles and Nev’s people skills are actually complementary.  Their marriage and their very lives will be endangered before they share their feelings and claim the happiness they deserve.

Penny and Nev are both wonderful, richly developed characters who struggle and grow during the course of the story. From the beginning, they are individuals who act against type. Romance fiction is filled with aristocrats who court the daughters of wealthy cits or who, at least initially, resent the merchant class heiresses they are forced to marry, often while imagining themselves in love with some more suitable beauty. But Nev never pretends to be anything other than what he is, an inept lord who seeks to marry wealth in order to save his estate and his family. He is grateful to Penny and protective of her dignity, and he quickly comes to appreciate her intelligence, kindness, and strength. He never makes false promises, telling her only that he expects they “could rub along tolerably well together.”

Although Penny admittedly enjoys Nev’s kisses from the first one they share, she never sees him as a romanticized, impossibly handsome figure whom she loved at first sight. She views him as “a perfectly ordinary-looking young man” of “middling height” with hair that is “merely brown” and eyes that are “an ordinary blue, of an ordinary shape and size.” There is something distinctly Austenesque in her response to Nev’s proposal: “ I see no reason why two people of good sense and amiable dispositions should not find a tolerable measure of conjugal felicity, even if they are not, perhaps, united by those bonds of affection and familiarity which one might wish.” Even their lack of communication, which might be irritating in more conventional characters, is believable and forgivable in light of their youth and their particular situation.

The secondary characters are also well developed, and each serves a purpose. I especially liked Penny’s parents, who, far from plotting to see their daughter marry a title, express concern when she accepts Nev. They love their daughter, and their primary concern is her happiness. Her father goes so far as to assure her at the wedding that if Nev makes her unhappy, divorce is an option, regardless of the scandal and expense. Nev’s initial meeting with the Browns is one of the most delightful scenes in the novel, and it is fitting that mutual affection develops between Nev and his in-laws.

When I first read In for a Penny five years ago, I knew it was an extraordinary debut book in its depth of characterization, its attention to historical detail, and its engaging story. Penny and Nev were characters I knew I would revisit, and Rose Lerner was an author I knew I would recommend to friends. Each rereading has strengthened that opinion and my appreciation for this gem of a book. I give it my highest recommendation. And if, after you have read it, you need an audience for your raves, I’m available. I always enjoy having my status as a discerning reader affirmed.

~Janga


Have you read In for a Penny or any of Rose Lerner's other books?

What books or authors have you discovered through a reissue?

What books do you enjoy revisiting?

One person who leaves a comment on today's post will receive a Nook or Kindle (winner's choice) copy of In for a Penny.


24 comments:

  1. I have a folder on my laptop labelled 'Janga Top Recommendations' and looking inside, Low and behold I find Rose Lerner's 'Sweet Disorder', sadly still unread!
    As readers we have 'never had it so good' (to quote Harold Macmillan!), with a vast ocean of superb novels to try. I know I can only read a few so rely on recommendations like this to guide me to my reading Shangri-La.

    This book sounds very inviting Janga. You don't say whether Penny and Nev resolve their financial difficulties but I'm sure I will enjoy finding out! LOL

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    1. Q, I think a lot of us have one of those Janga folders! She's introduced me to some of my favorite authors over the years.

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  2. Furiously adding to my reading list. I agree, a wealth of books at our fingertips.

    I have quite a few books I like to revisit.

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  3. This review made me go out and see if the library has a copy. It does! *LOL* It sounds lovely!

    I might say I've discovered more of Nora Roberts through reissue because I refused to read her for so many years and now I'm "catching" up as it were. Which will take me YEARS because the woman is so prolific. But I'm enjoying myself with a ton of new to me books!

    I revisit Harry Potter, of course; and I recently revisited some Julie Garwood historicals. I always loved her Scottish stuff best of all Scottish stuff.

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    1. Hope you enjoy it, Hellie!

      I think a lot of people are discovering Nora Roberts the second time around. So many good books ahead of you!

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  4. I'm ashamed to admit I've got 2 of Rose's book on my Kindle TBR and I just haven't read them yet. I am notoriously bad about wanting to reread books in a series when a new book comes out - I just reread Grace Burrowes' books Andrew, Douglas, and David in her Lonely Lords series before reading Thomas. Luckily I had some time off from work to do so. :-)

    Thanks for the recommendation and reminder, Janga!

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    1. I have a lot of those "waiting" books on my Kindle too, Glenda. Hope you enjoy Rose's stories!

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  5. I'm ashamed to admit I've got 2 of Rose's book on my Kindle TBR and I just haven't read them yet. I am notoriously bad about wanting to reread books in a series when a new book comes out - I just reread Grace Burrowes' books Andrew, Douglas, and David in her Lonely Lords series before reading Thomas. Luckily I had some time off from work to do so. :-)

    Thanks for the recommendation and reminder, Janga!

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  6. I'm ashamed to admit I've got 2 of Rose's book on my Kindle TBR and I just haven't read them yet. I am notoriously bad about wanting to reread books in a series when a new book comes out - I just reread Grace Burrowes' books Andrew, Douglas, and David in her Lonely Lords series before reading Thomas. Luckily I had some time off from work to do so. :-)

    Thanks for the recommendation and reminder, Janga!

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  7. I loved this book and whole-heartedly recommend it (and Rose's books in general.) Don't enter me in the giveaway; just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the post. Thanks.

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    1. Thanks for popping in! I'm with you on recommending Rose's books. She's such a wonderful writer!

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  8. On Second Thought is a great idea! I have not read In For a Penny and it has been on my All Romance Wish List for a while. Rose Lerner also has an interesting blog which includes some of her historical sources, by the way.

    I recently purchased Rosamund Pilcher's Shell Seekers which I haven't re-read in years and plan to read over a weekend this Summer. Not sure if the Kindle edition is reissue or not, but it came across my radar.

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    1. Oh gosh, I haven't read The Shell Seekers in years! Hope you enjoy your re-read!

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  9. This book is in my TBR pile, but I haven't had the chance to read it. I'll have to remedy that.

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  10. Such a great blog today! I just looked up this author and yes, I had a few books of hers that I wanted to read. Will now look to get this one and put it on the top of my pile. I, too, have a Janga recommendation list! I can honestly say that every book she has suggested , I have and loved. As for what I go back to and re read....the list is long but one series that never grows old for me is The Bridgertons. They started me off in romance and I like to revisit that family from time to time. Although, honestly, there are quite a few re reads. I adore Josie, one of the Essex sisters by Eloisa James and I read her book quite a bit.

    Looking forward to reading this one and will look forward to the 15th of every month here on Romance Dish.

    Hope

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    1. Hope, I think you'll like her.

      The Bridgertons are favorites of mine too. I never get tired of revisiting them.

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  11. I loved In For a Penny, and I have the others on my kindle, ready to read. I need to get back to her. Don't enter me in the giveaway, since I've already read it. Great review!

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  12. I haven't read anything by this author. I haven't read any reissues that stand out in my mind but thanks for the heads up on this one. great post. lisagk(at)yahoo

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  13. OOOOh... this sounds right up my alley :) I've got another Rose Lerner book on my TBR pile and I'm definitely going to be bumping it up. I actually discovered Dean Koontz through reissues. Not a romance but I picked up one of his oldie but goodies when it was given a shiny new cover and I glommed all his books in a month. Thanks for sharing!

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  14. I haven't had the pleasure of reading any of Rose's books as of yet but this one sounds great as it's forced marriage/marriage of convenience is my favorite trope ;) I've added it to my never ending TBR LOL

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  15. I think I have this book buried in my TBR Mountain. When I got it, I never check out the blurb well. This sounds like just the type of book I will thoroughly enjoy. It looks like a good exploration of the difficulties in a marriage brought on by youth, fear, and meddling relatives.

    I revisit many of the first books I read when I first discovered romance. Julie Garwood's historicals were the first and have had many reread. I have a large collection of Harlequin historicals mostly medievals and Highland stories that I go back to when I need a quick comfort read.,

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