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The problem is when a third-party site gives you run-of-site links - that looks purchased, hence a penalty isn't far away.
The only time I have personally witnessed a penalty for interlinking involved a site with hundreds of "sister" sites all in the same niche. It had something to do with a certain topic. So they had a main topic site, but they had other sites built around keywords related to other types of related topics. They'd been hit with a penalty and we're wondering why. So they contacted me because they wanted to hire me to help them. I talked to them for a half hour and from what they told me it seemed that was the problem so I told them what to do to fix it. I don't think they ever thanked me but they used my advice and got unbanned.
The two sites deal with products that are distinct from one another yet share a common creation process; So therefore they are somewhat related.
On my main site I review some of the work I have I have performed for my clients. I wonder, if rather than just placing a link with some anchor text from my manin site to the new site I could write an article about the new website and devote an entire page with a link?
Still, Google identifies the IP (if the sites are running on a shared server) and that doesn't count too much or at least with the same weight as if they were non related.
In a short way, G knows both sites are "brothers" (or cousins) and that is not a natural link.