The Winston Brothers series is one that I need to catch up on, I’ve only read Dr. Strange Beard. Luckily, for Beard with Me, reading the previous books isn’t a must. This is a standalone and background story for a couple of the characters. A big thanks to the author and Social Butterfly PR for providing me with an ARC to read and review.
A little warning before my review and a little excerpt. The author warns us of a lot of triggers and this book is really intense, so be aware when you pick this one up!
“This is Penny Reid at her finest.” — L.B. Dunbar, author
Beard With Me, an epic and breathtaking story from New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Penny Reid, is available now!
No one is better at surviving than Scarlet St. Claire and making the best out of circumstances beyond her control is Scarlet’s specialty. In an apocalyptic situation, she’d be the last person on earth, hermitting like a pro, singing along to her CD Walkman, and dancing like no one is watching.
Scarlet is clever, Scarlet is careful, and Scarlet is smart . . . except when it comes to Billy Winston.
No one is better at fighting than Billy Winston and raging against his circumstances—because nothing is beyond his control—is Billy’s specialty. In an apocalyptic situation, he’d be the first person on earth to lead others to safety, overcome catastrophe, or die trying.
Billy is fearless, Billy is disciplined, and Billy is honorable . . . except when it comes to Scarlet St. Claire.
‘Beard With Me’ is the origin story of Billy Winston and Scarlet St. Claire (aka Claire McClure) and is just the beginning of their epic love story.
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I have to say this book is definitely a bit different than the other books I’ve read by Penny Reid. While I’m used to some quirky characters and laugh out loud moments, Beard with Me is definitely a bit darker. This book is pretty long and very intense and knows how to hit you in all the feels.
Billy is a Winston brother and he is definitely the kind of person who feels it’s his responsibility to keep everything running smoothly at home. At 16, he takes on so much of his family life to help out his mother. Having five younger siblings (and an older one he doesn’t want to talk about), life is never boring in their household.
Billy is a character that stole my heart about a third into the book. At first he was a little too rough around the edges for me, but once he let Scarlet in, there was something about him! I love how deep he feels. Even though he knows things can’t happen or how messed up their families are, he loves with his whole heart.
Scarlet is only 14 in this story, but feels so much older. That’s not surprising once you learn more about her family. No one should go through what she does and it’s not surprising she doesn’t live at home. For someone to put themselves in the situation Scarlet is in, it’s clear things are bad. Scarlet is very strong though. Even at her darkest moments she tries and sees the light. Music is her distraction and I can very much understand that!
Letting someone get close to her isn’t something Scarlet wants to let happen. Her walls are built up and she won’t let anyone break them down. That is until Billy. I love how at first she was so careful, but slowly started letting her walls down and let herself be loved by Billy and his family. At times she seemed a bit harsh, but at her age and situation, who can blame her?!? Scarlet is a character that deserves the best life possible.
Beard with Me is an emotional story. A lot of things happen no human should ever have to face. That being said, these characters are still able to find a little bit of light and enjoy the smaller things! Even though my heart ached while reading this story, little moments brought a smile to my face. Even though this story is pretty dark, Penny Reid gave us little spots of light.
I loved that this story was split in a dual POV, because we would’ve missed a lot if that wasn’t the case. Both of their stories is so important. I only wish that near the end we got a little more of Scarlet. I was left with a few questions. Don’t expect a happily ever after reading this story, just hope like all of us readers that there will be some type of happily ever after in Beard Necessities!
“Do you want me to leave?”
Yes. That would be best, a wise voice said between my ears.
So of course I inhaled deeply and said as calmly as I could manage, “I thought we were going to go get firewood.”
“But then,” I blurted, flustered and irritated with myself for not speaking wisdom, “You should go. You can’t tell me carting firewood back and forth between your house and here is how you want to spend the last of your Thanksgiving weekend.”
“I didn’t say it was.” He began making his way up the incline.
“But you just said—”
“How about we make a deal.” Billy dropped the kindling next to my little woodpile, dusting his hands off on his pants. “I’ll cart the firewood, and you sing.”
“You want me to serenade you while we carry firewood?”
He smiled, slow and easy as he walked to me and reached out his hand. On autopilot, I accepted it and allowed him to help me up.
As soon as I was standing, his gaze moved from my hairline down to my nose, lips, and then chin, saying quietly, “I’ll take a serenade from you anytime.”
Thunk ka-thunk. That was my heart. It had been doing the thunk ka-thunk quite a lot around him. I ignored it, because what else could I do?
“And you’re not carrying the wood.” He tugged on my hand, pulling me out of my daze and past my tent.
“I will too carry wood.” Struggling to find my bearings, I stumbled after him. “I can carry logs just fine.”
“You’ll carry a log.” Billy fit his fingers between mine, pressing our palms together and grinning at me like he was waiting for me to argue and he couldn’t wait.
Snapping my mouth shut, I glared at him.
“Nothing to say?”
Maintaining my glare, I walked next to him. I wasn’t being led anywhere I didn’t wish to go. Not anymore. He wasn’t talking me into anything else.
“That’s an awfully mean look, Scarlet.” His grin grew, his brutally attractive eyes glowing happily as he peered down at me.
“Well, you deserve it. Always trying to tell me what I can and can’t do. I’m not arguing with you about this. I’m carrying as much wood as I want and you can take your stupid, chauvinistic opinions and shove them up your pretty-boy ass.”
Goodness. Where had that come from?
Billy’s steps faltered and his mouth fell open, his eyebrows rising high on his forehead. He stared at me, looking shocked as hell. And then in the next moment, he threw his head back and laughed. But he did not let go of me, instead bringing my knuckles to his chest as his deep, rumbly laughter filled the empty spaces between the trees, surrounding us.
Yes. I was well and truly crushed as I could only watch Billy Winston laugh, desperately basking in the image of him so delighted and relaxed. I had the odd sense that his laughter also filled the empty spaces inside of me, the neglected, vacant rooms, and even a few places that felt brand-new, like he’d created them.
All that noble honesty he carried around like a boulder abruptly lifted, revealing him. Just him. Carefree and young and happy. Someone he might’ve been if his burdens hadn’t been so heavy, his responsibilities so broad.
It lasted only a minute, maybe two, maybe less, but I had the sense of being caught afterward. Billy’s laughter had receded, but he’d spun a web while I’d been staring at him, holding his hand.
His grin became smaller and he bit his bottom lip, his gaze dropped to my mouth. “You think I’m pretty?”
“You know you’re pretty,” I said, bizarrely out of breath, rattled, needing to anchor my focus to a tree beyond him and waging war against the heat climbing up my neck to my cheeks. Oddly, my eyes stung. I blinked.
His attention was still on me. I felt it, but I didn’t dare look at him. I couldn’t handle one of Billy Winston’s intense stares right now. He’d probably use my scattered wits to his advantage, talk me into something I shouldn’t want to do, and then I’d be kicking myself later.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, his voice deep with concern, all trace of his earlier humor gone.
I huffed, trying half-heartedly to steal my hand back from him. He didn’t let it go, instead taking my tugging as a signal to step closer, filling my vision.
“Are you ever going to teach me how to play the guitar?” I closed my eyes.
He didn’t answer right away, and I felt him hesitate, his mind work before he muttered, “It’s only been a week.”
A quality to his voice made me think he wasn’t answering the question I’d asked, but rather he was reminding himself that it had only been a week since we’d struck the deal.
Was that only last week? Why does it feel like so much has changed?
Then he said, “Don’t be angry.”
“I’m not angry.” I was muddled, my head and heart hurt, I was incredibly confused, but I wasn’t angry.
The air shifted and I felt him move closer. A second later, the fingers of his free hand were at my ear, tucking my hair behind it, his fingertips lingering at my neck, sending wave after wave of goose bumps every which way. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t swallow. I couldn’t think. Every nerve in my body strained toward him and I didn’t understand it. What is happening?
“Have you ever been kissed, Scarlet?”
Meet Penny Reid:
Penny Reid is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today Best Selling Author of the Winston Brothers, Knitting in the City, Rugby, and Hypothesis series. She used to spend her days writing federal grant proposals as a biomedical researcher, but now she just writes books. She’s also a full time mom to three diminutive adults, wife, daughter, knitter, crocheter, sewer, general crafter, and thought ninja.
Connect with Penny:
Mailing List: http://pennyreid.ninja/newsletter/
This was one emotional story and I definitely need Beard Necessities! Have you read any of the Winston Brothers books? If you have, let me know what you think of them in the comments!