Penny Reid

Review: Beard with Me by Penny Reid

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Title: Beard with Me (Winston Brothers #6)
Author: Penny Reid
Publication Date: 16 Sept 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Humor, Romance

Author's links: WebsiteTwitterFacebookGoodreads

My rating: 4.5 Stars

Blurb 

‘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.

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.

Review

It’s the start of Claire (here Scarlet) and Billy’s epic love story. This takes us back in time when they were teenagers and their love did not have a happy ending then. 

I loved it, even though I had some issues with it. It’s moving, angsty, with the final 10% being particularly intense and making me cry the whole time I was reading them. 

It’s told from dual POV and paints a very dark picture of their teen years - we see them both working hard on making the best of a very difficult situation. All that happens in this book explains who they have become as adults.

I loved seeing more of Cletus too and his own growth and change. Billy was amazing despite the mistakes he made. It was all done following a deep desire to care for everyone, to help, to support, to keep the people he loved safe from harm. 

Claire is really young here, only 14 years of age. She has been through so much in life already and that’s has made her distrustful and cautious. I liked her voice and I felt deeply for everything she was going through. 

As regards the romance, it was all about the magic of first love - the confusion,the thrill and anticipation coupled with doubts and trepidation at facing something for the first time. I liked how they worked out through their feelings for each other, starting for distrust, going through friendship and care to love and desire to be together.

At the same time despite it being kisses only and there was nothing graphic, I was disturbed by the way others sexualised Scarlet and the very descriptions of her desires/reactions made me uncomfortable. It’s likely a me thing but it was there and I didn’t like it. I was particularly bothered by Ben’s behaviour though I believe I was meant to feel that way about him and I am not hopeful about his actions towards Scarlet in the future. 

Another thing that bothered me and I want to draw specific attention to it is the author’s casual attitude towards CWs expressed in the beginning of the book. I have been a fan of Penny Reid’s since she published her first book but I can’t overlook how dismissive she was about CWs. This book deals with some very heavy subject matter and I believe readers deserve information about that before starting the book. I will list my CWs in the end of my review. 

This is somewhat spoilerish but it's important for me to mention it: the pregnancy and miscarriage plot didn’t quite work for me. It felt just a plot device and didn’t fit seamlessly in the story.

The ending was very emotionally heavy, not only because the MCs don’t get together but rather because we leave them when their lives are in complete shambles. I love the insight this story gives into why the Winston brothers and their sister end up the way they are when we met them in their own books. 

CW: child abuse, cutting, violence, severe beating, accidental pregnancy and miscarriage, parental neglect, underage drinking 

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