BEARD WITH ME by Penny Reid — double review!

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.


Title : Beard With Me
Author : Penny Reid
Series : The Winston Brothers (book 5.5/6)
Format : eARC
Page Count :
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Cipher-Naught
Release Date : September 16, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★.5 / ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Here it is, the highly anticipated origin story about Billy and Claire (Scarlet), easily the angstiest ship in the Winston Brothers series. And wow, there’s a lot to unpack here.

I wished she’d stop making everything so hard. I wished she’d just let me take care of her. Tricking her into doing the right thing, the smart thing, made me feel like an asshole.

A lot of this story worked for me and also a lot of it didn’t. I was mostly just going through the motions (sad motions because there is some unfortunate content to work through but still, not hooked) until about 70%. At which point things take a turn and I was so so so so here for it. The last 30% isn’t all greatness, of course, and it certainly isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. As warned, as we all knew to expect, this isn’t a romance, there is no HEA. Not yet. But it was still probably my favourite part of the whole story.

Have you ever wanted something you know you can’t have?
All the time.”

I also have a sorta mild discomfort with some of said romance. At least at this stage. Well, not just the romance; this book — and series — is rife with uncomfortable things, dark things, violent things. For all the quirky, home cooked, sweetness and charm, of the south, which Reid definitely infuses these books with, there is a darkness to this series, too. But my issue with the romance is that, well. These kids are young. There’s nothing graphic, it stays pretty solidly PG-13, but there is a weirdness to reading about people being attracted to a fourteen year old. Even if the other protagonist is only sixteen. Reid addresses this, not only through Billy but another character, but still.

I would’ve called him a sonofabitch, but his mother was a nice lady.

It was strange, but also delightful, to see Cletus in his younger form.. and yet still very much the same Cletus. Most of my highlights were from him, naturally. Literal highlights I mean, on my kindle. Though I suppose the high points also included him. I’ll admit, though, that it was hard to remember that these characters were much younger than we’re used to them being. Both because of circumstance and attitude, I think. Either they weren’t written young enough or I’m just too used to their future selves. Not sure which. Maybe both. And maybe that’s where, as much as we all wanted this prequel, maybe it would’ve just been better in a smaller doses. Like flashbacks within a book. But either way, I’ll be glad to reunite with Adult Winstons and Adult Claire. Though I did love seeing Bethany, the Winston matriarch, again.

Cletus Byron Winston! Are you crazy? You asked your twelve-year-old brothers to get you a keg?
If by ‘crazy’ you mean genius, then yes I am.”

The end of this book is achingly tragic and sad as we expect, not just because of the Billy and Claire situation, but because of the Billy and everything situation. My heart breaks for him. There are so many characters to dislike, either because of their bad intentions or because of their good intentions that still make them unlikeable, but at the core I love the Winstons, always. The upside of reading this, too, is that I’m extra pumped for my full series reread now. All the little easter eggs, all the foreshadowing, I’ll be able to relive with new eyes, now that we have this story.

The last thing I ever want to be for you is a regret.”

I’m so looking forward to Billy’s happy ending and definitely Claire’s. These two deserve it. But I know it’s going to be hella rough along the way. And, complicating matters, knowing it’s going to be the end? I fully expect much tears to come in this final book.

** I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review. ** 


Micky’s 4 star review

…and exhale. I feel like I’ve held my breath for the last 30 minutes reading this book. It’s been a journey, beautiful and tough in equal measure and I am left needing more from Billy and Scarlet, so much more. When will their next book be (rhetorical question).

The warning at the beginning of the book is right, there are triggers for days but call me up to the challenge and in I went. Clever Penny lulled me in with ease for a while until my adrenaline started pumping, my eyes filled and my heart hurt. This is an emotive story to the power of 10 and everything about Scarlet in particular, is tragedy with hope; it was that hope that kept me going in this book.

Amongst the tough and tragic is an engaging story of first love. What evolves between Billy and Scarlet is so tangible and everything lovely, that as a reader, I was on their side. Just as you get carried up in the lovely, it doesn’t matter because the story builds your trepidation, ready for the fall. Bonus time is that Cletus as a teen was pretty fun and this is a balm that will see you through the journey that this story takes you on.

BEARD WITH ME was discomfort sliced with beauty and it has left me discomforted now after reading. That said, I am glad I did and I feel that through all these Winston Brother stories I have read, I really was in the dark about the depth of what had gone on between these two. This is a story worth your time and unsettling.

Penny Reid wrote what is essentially a YA story but it felt more like contemporary romance because that is where I’m used to seeing this family. I am a mixed ball of feelings and I know I’m going to be thinking about this for a while when really I just want to move on. It’s hard not getting the ending you want, but I am ready to wait for it even so.

I voluntarily read an early copy of this book, thanks to the author.

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