Beard in Mind, an all new standalone in the bestselling, romantic comedy Winston Brothers Series by Penny Reid, is available NOW!
All is fair in love and auto maintenance.
Beau Winston is the nicest, most accommodating guy in the world. Usually.
Handsome as the devil and twice as charismatic, Beau lives a charmed life as everyone’s favorite Winston Brother. But since his twin decided to leave town, and his other brother hired a stunning human-porcupine hybrid as a replacement mechanic for their auto shop, Beau Winston’s charmed life has gone to hell in a handbasket.
Shelly Sullivan is not nice and is never accommodating. Ever.
She mumbles to herself, but won’t respond when asked a question. She glares at everyone, especially babies. She won’t shake hands with or touch another person, but has no problems cuddling with a dog. And her damn parrot speaks only in curse words.
Beau wants her gone. He wants her out of his auto shop, out of Tennessee, and out of his life.
The only problem is, learning why this porcupine wears her coat of spikes opens a Pandora’s box of complexity—exquisite, tempting, heartbreaking complexity—and Beau Winston soon discovers being nice and accommodating might mean losing what matters most.
I bent to whisper, “Shelly.”
“I’m going to carry you to your bed. I’ll take the sofa.”
I grinned at her soft noises, at the untroubled expression on her face, and how her brow—even in sleep—still looked regal and stern. Sliding my arms under her legs and shoulder, I picked her up. And, unfortunately, that woke her up.
She jerked in my arms. “What are you doing?”
“I’m taking you to the bed.”
“Don’t do that.”
“I don’t mind, I’ll take the sofa.” Our mouths were just inches apart, and hers was distracting.
She squirmed. “Put me down.”
Sighing unhappily, I did. I set her on her feet next to the couch. The blanket pooled at her feet and I stepped back to give her some space. It was dark, but I could see her just fine, and that meant I had to force my eyes to remain above her neck. The woman was wearing two pathetic scraps of fabric as pajamas. A thin little tank top and shorts. That’s it. I set my jaw and turned to the side, waiting for her to walk past.“Where are you?”
I glanced at her and realized she couldn’t see at all. She didn’t have a hand out, but the way her eyes were moving about the room gave away her blindness.
“I’m here.” I didn’t touch her, because if I did, I wouldn’t want to stop.
Shelly turned her head in my direction and took a deep breath. Still she didn’t reach for me. I didn’t know the specifics of what to expect after her Friday session, but I recalled Dr. West saying something about Shelly doing self-guided ERP exercises over this week.
“Can you see?” She licked her lips, her voice sandpapery. “Because I can’t see at all. It’s so dark.”
“I can see.” Unbidden, my eyes dropped to her body, to the swell of her breasts, the panel of bare stomach, the curve of her hips. Pinpricks of heat raised over my skin and I curled my hands into fists. She shuffled forward and I caught her before she bumped into me, setting my hands gently at her waist.
“Let me take you to your room.” My voice was rough, for obvious reasons. Saying nothing, she brought her hand to my forearm, her body gently colliding with mine. And then her hand on my arm slid up my bicep to my shoulder.
“Shelly.” I was running out of breath.
“I like this.”
I held still and endured her hands moving over my body, down the front of my shirt, stopping at the hem, then pushing it up.
“Take this off.”
I did. I pulled the T-shirt over my head and let it drop to the floor. We stood there, facing each other in the dark, not touching. Despite the session on Friday and the progress that had been made, I realized she wasn’t quite there yet. Dr. West was right, Friday was just a step, the first step. Shelly wasn’t able to initiate contact. Not yet.
Her hands balled into fists and she swayed forward, her breath struggling little puffs. If anything was going to happen tonight, I had to initiate it. I had to be the one to touch first. God, how I wanted her. How I wanted her above me, beneath me, surrounding me. But how could I?
“I know why I hesitate,” her voice was breathless, “but why do you hesitate?”
“Lots of reasons.”
“Give me one.”
“I don’t want to use you.”
“I wish you would.”
That pulled a laugh from me, just a small relief from the mounting tension. My eyes moved over her body, an undeniable impulse to devour the sight of her, her legs, stomach, chest, then up her neck to her lips.
“You asked me on Saturday if sex was a big deal for me, or if it was you. The answer is both.”
She held very still, and I got the sense she was holding her breath, straining to listen. “You are a big deal to me. I don’t want a fling. I don’t want a flirtation. I want promises.”
“What can I promise you?”
That you’ll love me. That I’ll be your priority.
She shifted her weight from foot to foot. A spike of anxiety that she might leave me like this had me acting without forethought. I lifted my hands to her waist again and immediately, her fingertips skimmed over the skin of my lower stomach in response, making my muscles tense in hot anticipation. She grew more assertive as she caressed my sides, abdomen, ribs, chest, shoulders, and then back down. Shelly stepped closer, a hint of thrilling contact between her breasts and my torso, and all the words and worries melted from my mind, died on my tongue, suffocated by the feel of her body, and the possibility of this moment.
Her finger hooked in the waistband of my jeans. “Take these off.” Her hand turned, her fingers and palm cupping me over my zipper. Instinctively, I pressed myself into her touch even as I grabbed her wrist.
“Beau, I promise—” She didn’t get to speak, because I kissed her, hard and wild, unbuttoning and unzipping my fly with one hand and bringing her palm inside my boxers with the other.
'Beard in Mind' may be Penny Reid's deepest book yet. It's a rich exploration of life and love, mental health and family, truth and trust. There was so much research and heart put into this book, giving these characters and their storylines more than just a superficial stereotyping, and instead making them whole and real and unjudged.
Shelly suffers from OCD. Not a flippant "you're so OCD because you're a neat freak." No, her OCD is the real deal. It's been a lifelong struggle, and she has only started treatment in recent months. Now, if you remember Shelly from previous books, she was not painted in a pretty picture. She has hurt her family in terrible ways. And on first impression, Shelly is completely rude and off-putting, despite her beauty. And yet here we finally get to know who the real Shelly is. And what a layered character she is. So many levels, so much depth beyond the gorgeous surface, and yet so difficult to get to know without putting in the effort. Thankfully, Beau and his genuine nature is just the person to reach past the superficial.
Beau's recent struggles are much different than Shelly's. His twin brother, Duane, is preparing to leave the country with his girlfriend, Jess, to travel for an extended period of time. Beau and Duane have never been apart. And Beau is crushed to be losing his other half. Then he has a new co-worker, Shelly, who is as rude as Beau is nice. Despite her attitude, however, Beau can't help but want to get to know her more and get past her prickly exterior. And that's a good thing, too, because Beau and Shelly have even more struggles and surprises to come, and they are going to need each other's support to get through it all.
There are so many things I loved about this book that I can't list them all (too lengthy and too many spoilers). But let me narrow my thoughts down to a few:
1.) I loved the relationship development between Beau and Shelly. It wasn't insta-love. It was a hard-fought, knocking-down-walls, looking-past-the-superficial, and traversing the "for worse" parts of love. It was a mature love, looking at all the parts of a partner, not just the sweet honeymoon period. And it was deep, digging into parts of each other that in a "normal" relationship may not come up until much later in a relationship.
2.) I loved how honest and real, genuine and loving, Beau and Shelly treated one another. The road was not easy, and things were not always resolved quickly, but these two weren't quitters. They genuinely cared about the other, and you could feel that love through the pages.
3.) Oh, and there's heat. I'd say this is the hottest of the Winston brothers series. Yes, Beau and Shelly are dealing with some intense issues. But these two have no shortage of sexy times. Beau is not only sweet, but sexy.
4.) I need to reiterate the caring and real way that OCD was handled in this book. There are some beautiful scenes between Shelly and her therapist, and I loved how tenderly yet honestly this disorder was handled. It allowed us to see Shelly as more than just her disorder, and allowed us to see Beau in an incredibly supportive light. And yet Shelly was not limited to her OCD. We also see her in so many other dimensions, in particular as a crucial player in Beau's journey.
5.) And of course, let's not forget the Winston bunch, their significant others, and the residents of Green Valley. I loved the inter-weaving of storylines (did you read Beard Science?). I love the Winston family in general, and gobbled up all their interactions throughout the novel. Hank and Beau had a particularly fun friendship, and I liked seeing more glimpses of Hank (whom I'm intrigued by, despite my dislike for The Pink Pony). And my interest was peaked about many of the townsfolk popping up here and there, hoping they'll pop up more in future books.
I hadn't planned on such a lengthy review, but I can't help but sing the praises of this story. It may not be for everyone. If you're looking for a typical romance, with a typical hero and heroine, you may be disappointed. Beau and Shelly are not typical, but for me that made them even more special. Take a chance on this story, and let your heart and mind be moved.
(Free in Kindle Unlimited)
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Meet Penny Reid:
Penny Reid is the USA Today Bestselling Author of the Winston Brothers and Knitting in the City series. When she’s not immersed in penning smart romances, Penny works in the biotech industry as a researcher. She’s also a full time mom to three diminutive adults, wife, daughter, knitter, crocheter, sewer, general crafter, and thought ninja.
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