Piper Huguley's A Virtuous Ruby
The novel opens in 1915 in the little mill town of Winslow, Georgia, in the USA. Eighteen-year-old Ruby Bledsoe is preparing to leave her house for the first time in a year: in that year she became a mother after having been raped. Fifteen months ago her uncle Arlo was lynched, but she is willing to risk speaking out against oppression, for the sake of her baby, Solomon. The town is named after Paul Winslow, the mill owner, father of Ruby’s rapist, David, and also the father of Adam Morson, Paul’s older, illegitimate, Black child who has trained as a doctor and, like Ruby, can pass for white. Adam begins working as a doctor to the Black people in the town. Ruby attempts to set up a chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in order to improve their lives but, to discourage her, another Black man is murdered. Ruby plots to disrupt the Fourth of July, but in the interim sometimes assists Adam when he visits patients since she has had some experience as a midwife and wishes to become a nurse. The Reverend Charles Dodge, the hypocritical Black pastor of First Water Christian Church has expressed disapproval of Ruby but nonetheless lusts after her and wishes to marry her. After Ruby declaims the words of the Declaration of Independence in public she ends up in jail and Paul Winslow visits her there to threaten her into changing her ways and marrying Charles Dodge. In addition, Paul’s wife, Mary, is beginning to show an interest in her pale-skinned grandson, Ruby’s baby, and both David and Adam begin to fear Mary may try to take the baby from Ruby. Dodge conspires with the town’s sheriff to have Adam arrested while Paul Winslow is out of town, and this sheriff then sells Adam on to a sheriff in another county, to work in a chain gang. Ruby pleads for Mary Winslow’s help, is rebuffed, but David Winslow is moved to help Adam and buys Adam’s freedom because he feels remorse for his rape of Ruby and wants to help her find happiness with Adam. David later collapses during a public religious meeting, having begged for God’s forgiveness; Adam diagnoses him with terminal tuberculosis and David dies after begging for, and receiving, Ruby’s forgiveness. Adam writes himself, Ruby and Solomon into the Winslow family Bible. Adam and Ruby marry and prepare to leave Winslow with Solomon.
Rose Lerner's In for a Penny
The novel opens in June 1819, in London. Nathaniel Arthur Delaval Ambrey, Viscount Nevinstoke (usually known as Nev) is a young and irresponsible member of the aristocracy. However, when his father, Lord Bedlow, is killed in a duel, Nev must take responsibility for his family’s debts and attempt to restore the family estate at Loweston. To do so, he proposes marriage to Penelope Brown (usually known as Penny), who is the daughter of an extremely rich brewer. She accepts, despite having initially planned to marry her friend Edward. Once married, Penny and Nev move to Loweston, which they discover has been much neglected. The people living on the estate are poor and are being exploited by both the vicar and the most important of Nev’s tenant farmers, Tom Kedge. As a result, many have turned to poaching and are arrested on the orders of the neighbouring landowner, and Justice of the Peace, Sir Jasper. He wishes to marry Nev’s sister Louisa; she is in love with Percy, a friend of Nev’s who is not considered a suitable match for her since he is the son of Lord Bedlow’s former estate manager. Tensions escalate, Kedge attempts to blackmail Nev, news of the Peterloo massacre reaches Loweston, and Louisa elopes with Percy. Sir Jasper irrationally blames Penny for both the elopement and the instability in the district and plots to kill her, the families of the incarcerated poachers attack Nev but he persuades them to help him rescue Penny, and Sir Jasper is killed. Percy and Louisa regret eloping and quickly return; Nev agrees to their betrothal. The next day Nev, Percy, Louisa, and Penny happily eat breakfast together and, with Sir Jasper dead, concoct a plan to rescue the poachers which involves Nev becoming a Justice of the Peace.
Alyssa Cole's A Princess in Theory
The novel opens with the text of several emails sent to Naledi Smith by Likotsi Adele, assistant to His Royal Highness, Prince Thabiso of Thesolo, asking Naledi to send verification that she is Thabiso’s betrothed and assuring her that, if she is indeed his bride-to-be, she will be received well despite her parents’ action. Naledi assumes the emails are a scam. She left Thesolo as a child and remembers only that she grew to adulthood in foster care. She is now an overworked graduate epidemiology student, burdened with debt. Thabiso arrives in New York for meetings but decides instead to prioritise finding out more about Naledi. Since she mistakes him for a co-worker, he does not inform her of either his status or his long-standing relationship with her. He continues the deception, moves into an apartment beside hers and their relationship develops. Unfortunately, he has still not told her the truth when she finds out, via an announcement at a charity event, that he is both a prince and engaged to be married. However, he is able to convince her that, as an epidemiologist, she should come to Thesolo to help identify the cause of a mystery disease and also meet her lost family, while posing as his fiancée. Naledi falls ill, but this helps her solve the mystery of what was causing the disease. She and Thabiso admit their love for each other and return to New York.