8 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: In For A Penny by Rose Lerner

Title In For A Penny

Author: Rose Lerner

Genre: Romance / Historical

Publisher: Leisure Books
Publication Date: February 23, 2010
Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages

Stand alone or series: Stand alone


No more drinking. No more gambling. And definitely no more mistress. Now that he’s inherited a mountain of debts and responsibility, Lord Nevinstoke has no choice but to start acting respectable. Especially if he wants to find a wife-better yet, a rich wife. Penelope Brown, a manufacturing heiress, seems the perfect choice. She’s pretty, rational, ladylike, and looking for a marriage based on companionship and mutual esteem.


But when they actually get to Nev’s family estate, all the respectability and reason in the world won’t be enough to deal with tenants on the edge of revolt, a menacing neighbor, and Nev’s family’s propensity for scandal. Overwhelmed but determined to set things right, Nev and Penelope have no one to turn to but each other. And to their surprise, that just might be enough.

How did I get this book: Review Copy from the publisher.

Why did I read this book: I was offered a copy of the book and I thought it sounded good. I never, in a million years, would have thought it would be SO good, it basically restored my faith in Historical Romance.


If you follow this blog closely you know that I love me some romance. You will also know then that I haven’t read one that I absolutely LOVED in months. Until I read In For a Penny. As soon as I sat down to write this review I realised I was going to do something different. This is going to be long, so brace yourselves.

Come closer. I will tell you why I loved this book so much I have been gushing about it to everybody I know.

The beginning is delightful. Many a romance novel starts with a rakish hero either being bored with his rakish life or with us being told how much of a scoundrel the hero is. We hardly ever see it. However, in this book, the first few pages show me that the hero, Nev is well and truly a scoundrel – but not a cad. He is young and restless and how could he not be? He is 23, living in London, enjoying life with his friends. He will inherit one day but has no responsibilities yet so he can just go to parties, gamble and keep a mistress, Amy whom he genuinely likes. He enjoys music and reading – what strikes me the most when I read these first pages is how happy and how joyous he is and how young he sounds. He attends a formal party with his two rascal best friends where he meets the heroine Penelope (who is a Cit – ie.not an aristocrat but someone who makes money). He thinks she is pretty and invites her to dance and because she is rather straight forward, he thinks he can get away with other things:

“Would you like to step out on the terrace?” he asked hopefully.

She laughed outright. “I hope I’m not such a green girl as that. But I will allow you to select some hors d’oeuvres for me.”

“A task! My lady has set me a task! But first I beg a token of your favor.”

“I’m afraid my red sleeve embroidered with great pearls is pinned to my other evening gown, my lord,” she said with ironic courtesy.
His eyes lit up. “You like Malory!”

She flushed, as if it were something to be ashamed of. “I’ve always been fond of the Morte d’Arthur. I hope my taste in modern literature is rather more elevated.”

Nev grinned. “Says you! I’ll wager a pony you’re hiding The Mysteries of Udolpho in your reticule even as we speak!”

He teases Penelope but he is the one who loves Gothic novels, she is the one who looks down on them. By then I am already half way in love and it’s still the first chapter. Before much else happens, he learns his mother is at the party and he is terrified of her because he should have dined with her and guess what – he runs away in terror of his mother through the streets of London. How novel.

A couple of weeks later and his father is dead. Nev inherits the title, responsibilities that he is not at all prepared to handle, he needs to take care of his mother and sister and worst of all, debts he has no way of settling. He does he best to – he sells property, jewels, his horses. He talks to his solicitor. Never once it crosses his mind to sell his sister in marriage – instead he sells himself. He remembers the girl he met at the party, Penelope. She is rich. He thinks they would do well together. He goes to her, he explains the situation and asks for her help and hand in marriage.

Penelope, whose family comes from nothing and became rich with her father’s acumen for business, decides to say yes. Even though she has harbored the hope of marrying her friend Edward, she and her family always hoped she would be a lady and then there is something about Nev. But mind you, Nev is not one of those impossibly handsome, hot, rich dudes from romance. Oh no. He is poor and common.

There was to be sure, nothing out of the common way about him. A perfectly ordinary-looking young man, Penelope insisted to herself. He was of middling height, his shoulders neither slim nor broad. His hands were not aristocratically slender – there was nothing to set them apart from the hands of any other gentleman of her acquaintance.

His hair was a little too long, and she thought its tousled appearance more the result of inattention than any attempt at fashion; it was neither dark nor fair, but merely brown – utterly nondescript save for a hint of cinnamon. His face too would have been unmemorable if it were not for a slight crookedness in his nose, suggesting it had been broken. His eyes were an ordinary blue, of an ordinary shape and size.
So why could she picture him so clearly, and why did the memory of his smile still make her feel – hot, and strange inside?

What makes it for Penelope is his cinnamon hair, his smile and then there was his voice. His voice. And the fact that he is so earnest. And that is what leaps from the page of this book:

This couple’s earnestness to make this marriage work. When Penelope says yes, she makes a list of things she expects from him, amongst them: respect, that he doesn’t keep a mistress and that he doesn’t resent her for the money she brings to the marriage. Nev is prepared to say yes to all of these things and yet they are not easy: and of course they are not. He even breaks apart from his two best friends – he is so determined to shift his life around he thinks he can’t do it with his friends around.

And then there is Amy – at one point in the novel he thinks about her and he misses her and their camaraderie. Although this is usually a big no-no to me (I mean, come on, a hero thinking about a former mistress? How dares he?) it actually made Nev a much better man to my eyes. It means he wasn’t an user – and better yet. When he thought of Amy and their camaraderie he realized that he didn’t know her and he didn’t care to know – and that realization made him see how much he wanted to get to know Penelope . This is not the only novelty, Amy comes back into the scene and she is not the bitch ex-mistress that comes as the Big Misunderstanding – she is actually a rather nice young lady whose presence move the two of them to talk to each other.

Another novelty? Nev decides to get to know Penelope better before they have sex. And the first time they fool around for real and he pleasures her and brings her to climax, the next day she is all smiles and all dressed up for him. And this is what he thinks:

She was radiant and happy because she never experienced the peak of pleasure before. When Nev had discovered he could do it to himself the summer he turned twelve, he had spent nearly three days in his room with the door locked. But poor, innocent Penelope didn’t realize that’s all it was. She thought there was something special about him.

Nev knew perfectly well that there wasn’t. If she had married Edward, she would be looking at him right now as if he had hung the moon. The thought made him queasy. He had taken everything from her and given her only this one thing she could get from any man who took her fancy, and she was smiling gratefully at him and doing her hair up pretty.

I don’t think I ever saw a hero thinking around these lines. There is usually pride and jealousy or lust.

But enough about Nev. Because Penelope is a great heroine – strong and capable. A little bit cold to begin with, thinking that’s what it took to be a lady: to be in control. She never jumps to conclusions about Nev and she is prepared to help him becoming a man. They are so young the two of them – I hardly ever get this sense of a couple growing together, working together. This is what they have to do – to get their marriage on the tracks, their lives too.

And Nev’s estate – let’s not forget that. Dealing with poachers, tenants and riots- they have real problems to deal with. And it is interesting – all the more when I learnt about the author’s research about hardships of the English working class in the era and agrarian riots in East Anglia in 1816. To the Historian in me, it is like Christmas in July.

This book is so good, I can almost forgive the unnecessary villain and his subsequent villainous, melodramatic act towards the end. The bane of my existence when it comes to Romance Novels – why this when so much awesome secondary and primary internal and external conflicts already exist?

I already said too much, and didn’t even mention Nev’s family, the cute secondary romance, the few and very good sex scenes. But I shall leave you with one last quote, my favorite in the whole book:

“Nev?” she asked, and he would have given her anything.” Will you read to me?”

He blinked. “You want me to read to you?”

She nodded.”You – you’re good at it.”

She had only heard him read aloud once – Byron, at her parent’s house. She didn’t even like Byron. He had supposed she was thinking him the most frivolous fellow alive, and instead she had liked it. For the first time in days, Nev felt that life was full of pleasant surprises. He grinned at her. “Let me dig up our copy of Malory.”

When he had found it, he returned to the window seat. He glanced at her to see where she wanted to sit; to his surprise she crawled between his legs again and settled there. So he rested the book on her lap and his chin on her shoulder and began to read. She was soft and warm and laughed in all the right places, and when he bent and kissed her hair she made a contented humming sound in the back of her throat.

This is the sort of quiet affection that makes me sigh in contentment and finally, finally I found myself hugging a book after months of drought. That, fellow romance readers is why I love Romance.

Notable Quotes/ Parts: You need another? I will give you another one:

She sighed and tilted up her face. He felt a flash of something – Penelope seemed haloed for an instant in perfect beauty, and he felt a sharp, unsettling pang as if someone had plucked one of his heartstrings, hard, and found it out of tune. It wasn’t like affection or lust – those he knew; it was something entirely unfamiliar.

“Is something wrong?”

He realized he had stopped moving, his thumb at the corner of her mouth.”Not at all”. He tried to smile. The feeling was gone now, but it had left something in its wake – a sort of lifting up, a yearning toward something undefined. He had sometimes felt like this when he had heard the opening chords of a favorite piece of music. He had read a poem, once, that almost described it: a shaping and a sense of thing beyond us .

That was how he felt when he looked at Penelope just now. As if something were happening to the two of them, just beyond the reach of his understanding.

Additional Thoughts : Stick around as the author will be here later talking about her inspirations and influences for writing the book. Plus, we will be giving away a signed copy of the book.

Verdict: I loved this novel so much and can’t wait to read more from Rose Lerner -I welcome the author to the genre with open arms. More please!

Rating: 8 – Excellent leaning towards a 9

Reading Next: Something About You by Julie James

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  • Jodie
    February 19, 2010 at 6:12 am

    He explains the situation, instead of trying to ‘cleverly’ trick her into love? Swoon.

  • GrowlyCub
    February 19, 2010 at 6:52 am

    This sounds lovely. I so need something to get me out of my reading slump. I hope I win a copy if not I’ll just have to buy it! 🙂

  • Mandi
    February 19, 2010 at 8:01 am

    I kind of read this review with one eye open because I am reading this soon :)But I can’t wait..looks great!

  • Jessica Kennedy
    February 19, 2010 at 8:02 am

    Glad to see you liked it as I too received an ARC and was wondering how it would be. 🙂

  • Gwen
    February 19, 2010 at 9:34 am

    Fabulous review. It’s so hard to find authors with a fresh take these days. I’m looking forward to this one! 😀

  • Celia
    February 19, 2010 at 9:35 am

    Oh, this book sounds utterly delightful. I let myself get about 2 paragraphs in to your delicious review before I pulled myself out. I’ll just have to wait for the real thing to arrive, now. Thanks for the recommendation, and lovely review!

  • Estara
    February 19, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    I’ll comment here that I really loved the author interview and her views (and the impetus for this particular book), and I also enjoyed your review. I hate the fact that the book doesn’t seem to be available in ebook, because I no loner buy new-to-me authors in paper first. I’ll put it on my wishlist and hope it comes out in ebook at some point.

  • Estara
    February 19, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    An Aside: the release has been pushed back to March, according to the Dorchester website and Amazon.de.

  • GrowlyCub
    February 19, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Estara, Amazon.com is already shipping it or at least claiming to. Weird!

  • Meghan
    February 19, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    This sounds just wonderful. And I love the passages you chose. I’ll have to keep an eye out for this one.

  • Angie
    February 19, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Sounds lovely, Ana. I’m glad it did the trick for you as I hate those particular genre slumps. They leave me so depressed and listless.

  • Bridget Locke
    February 19, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    Oh, lovely! I’ve been looking for a sweet, gentle romance. Not drama…no drama. 🙂

    Sorry, high on painpills. Brain’s not working too well. lol

  • Kerry
    February 19, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    Oh, this sounds lovely.

    Stop adding to my TBR, dammit. 🙂

  • peggy
    February 19, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    The book sounds so interesting.

  • Marion Spicher
    February 20, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Thank you for the thorough review. I will be looking for this book as soon as it is available.

  • Chassily Wakefield
    February 20, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    What a fantastic review, and what a refreshing take on an historical romance. I’m adding this one to my TBR pile immediately, thank you! 😆

  • Ana
    February 20, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    Thanks you guys, I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did! 😀

  • Sarah Rees Brennan
    February 22, 2010 at 6:24 am

    INSTA-BUY, clearly! Thank you Ana…

  • MaryK
    February 23, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    This sounds great. I love marriage of convenience plots.

  • Trisha
    February 27, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    I really liked this book! I think the biggest reason, and what I found to be the most novel aspect, was how important class and poverty are to the story. Not just in regard to Penelope’s background, or Percy’s, or Nev’s struggle to fix his estate, but the tenants, as well. It’s a huge part of the story, and not easily resolved. I’m one of those readers who’s wanted to see more historicals that don’t center on the rich and/or titled, so I was probably inclined to like this anyway.

    Even without this, though, there was a lot to enjoy. Nev was a refreshing change of pace from the typical male protagonist in historicals, and so charming! I didn’t mind so much the villain and his dastardly deeds as I wished Penelope and Nev talked a bit more. (It reinforced my preference for the internal conflict to be resolved prior to the external one in romances.)

  • Sunday Salon: This, That, and Another Thing « Tempting Persephone…
    February 28, 2010 at 5:01 am

    […] for a Penny by Rose Lerner. The last one – by Lerner – I had to pick up after reading a glowing review over at The Book Smugglers (they also have a guest post from the author up here .) And can I just […]

  • orannia
    April 26, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Oh Ana – you’ve completely got me sold and since I was just lucky enough to win an Amazon voucher and my library doesn’t have this I’m going to go mad and buy it! It sounds amazing and has two of my favourite tropes – marriage of convenience and estate rehabilitation 🙂 *bliss*

  • The Book Smugglers » Blog Archive » Smugglivus 2010 Guest Author: Rose Lerner
    December 24, 2010 at 12:02 am

    […] Work: In for a Penny, reviewed by Ana HERE and still her top Romance read of 2010. Also, check our Rose’s wonderful Inspirations and […]

  • The Book Smugglers » Blog Archive » Smugglivus Presents: Ana & Thea’s Most Excellent Books of 2010
    December 31, 2010 at 12:04 am

    […] White Cat by Holly Black, 8 (YA, Fantasy) 14. Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld, 9 (YA, Steampunk) 15. In For a Penny by Rose Lerner, 8 (Romance, Historical) 16. Here There Be Monsters by Meljean Brook, 8 (Novella, […]

  • silversatyr
    June 2, 2012 at 11:32 am

    So I read the start of this review, then decided to come back to it after I’d read the book – which I did later that day and couldn’t/wouldn’t put down. 3-5 hours later I’d finished and come back to read the rest of the review. I agree whole-heartedly with it.

    I’m not a big reader of romance. Usually it’s part of the fantasy genre – unavoidable but lurking there, somewhere – and I hate historical romances most of all, but this book hooked me and, well, I couldn’t not like it.

    So, uh, thanks for the review that led me to another good book – especially one that’s so out of my preferred genre. 😀

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