Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Review: Beard in Mind by Penny Reid

Beard in Mind by Penny Reid
(Winston Brothers #4)
August 1, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance 18+
Contains: language, sex

All's 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 missing out on what matters most.

'Beard in Mind' is the fifth Winston sibling book (after Ashley, Duane, Jethro, and Cletus's books). Of course, you can read this as a standalone. It's a rich and full-bodied story all on its own. But I will say that you will get an even fuller appreciation for it, and the Winston universe, if you have read the other previous books (and parts of the Knitting in the City series).

'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.