Despite the strict social mores of the Regency period, Penelope Barnes has created a safe home for her illegitimate daughter, Harriet, until mean-spirited rumors crack her mask of respectability and her aristocratic lover reappears.
Penelope seduced Harry, the second son of an earl and her childhood crush, before he went off to fight Napoleon. After he left, she discovered she was pregnant and fled her abusive farmer father, ultimately finding sanctuary at the Benevolent Home for the Maintenance and Support of Spinsters, Widows and Abandoned Women and their Unfortunate Children. Thanks in large part to her knowledge of farming and agriculture, she was able to “manage the orchards and other crops and nurse the all-but-abandoned hopyard back to life,” and she helps launch a brewery. Penelope and Harriet have been happy, but lately a new mother-daughter resident pair at the Home has been teasing Harriet mercilessly and spreading rumors about Penelope, claiming that Harriet is the illegitimate daughter of the philandering former Earl of Darrow. In fact, Harriet is the illegitimate daughter of the current earl, who has come into the title after his brother’s death. Penelope has long claimed she’s the widow of a war hero, but thanks to a genetic oddity that runs in the earl’s family and has recently manifested in Harriet, their cover is blown. Things get more complicated when Harry, on an errand from a friend, comes to investigate the Home and discovers he has a daughter. Obviously an earl can’t marry a farmer’s daughter. Or can he? MacKenzie delivers an engaging plot, and the enlightened moments at the end redeem some mind-boggling choices Penelope and Harry make in the beginning, though a comeuppance for Harriet's tormentor would have been nice.
A fun, heartwarming Regency romance elevated by witty dialogue and a unique concept.