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Genre: Origin Story | Literary Fiction
Series: Winston Brothers #6
Pages: 500 pages, Paperback Edition
Giveaway: Please click the image at the bottom to enter!
My Rating: 4.5 stars!
Description: 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.
* content warning if you’re sensitive to certain topics.
Disclaimer: I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, but it does not influence my opinion of the book nor the contents of this review in any way.
Honestly, I sat on this review for awhile. If you’ve been around here awhile, you know that Penny Reid is one of my favorite authors ever and I’ve been following the Winston Brothers series for awhile now. It would be a great understatement to say that Billy and Claire’s love story has been something to look forward to and anxiously await. Because there have been hints and teases throughout the whole series! I didn’t sit on it because I didn’t like it or was disappointed, rather because of the sheer amount of intense feels this book evokes.
I should start by saying that Scarlet St. Claire, the lead of the story, is the same person as Claire McClure. Different name, same person, different time in her life. Beard with Me takes places several years before the events in any of the Winston Brother’s books, way back when Scarlet was 14 years old and Billy 17 years old.
It was an intense story, and to be honest, this is going to be a hard review because I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s worth a try to share it with you. This book was so great because it really sneaks up on you, but in the best of ways 💕✨ And this book wasn’t all doom-and-gloom – please don’t think that. It was a hard story, but it definite had its bright spots and was frequently funny and very sweet. Any book with Cletus in it, let alone a Teenage Cletus is bound to have some giggles involved.
She deserved so much better than the hand she’d been dealt. Maybe her struggles had made her strong, resilient, but she didn’t deserve to be burdened with them.
It was also a hard story. For anyone who is familiar with the Pennyverse and the Winston Brother’s books in particular, you’ll remember the ominous presence the Iron Wraiths have throughout the series. To anyone not familiar, the Iron Wraiths is a motorcycle club in Green Valley (the town the book/series take place) and they are not the nice kind of motorcycle club, like the awesome one’s Kristen Ashley writes. It’s a gang of thugs, and they are awful people. And Scarlet, the 14-year-old lead, is the daughter of the President.
His name is Razor, after one of his favorite items, and it because clear over and over again why he’s called that, as he inflicts his abuse on Scarlett. Scarlet has not had a nice life, and does her best to just survive long enough to get out, get away. In a way, she kind of does. It may be the middle of winter, but her little tent and campground home is finally her oasis away from her father and his proclivities.
Throughout all of the Winston Brother’s books, Billy, one of seven, was always the one I most intrigued by. We knew, just by the glimpses we got of him, that he’d been through some deep shit. The kind of awful, dregs-of-humanity deep shit that completely changes a man, we just didn’t know what. Now we know, and it completely broke my heart. He wasn’t the oldest of the Winston siblings, but he was the one who took up the mantle of Man of the House and helped his mother with groceries and parented (a verb?) his five younger siblings.
Billy had a quiet, enduring strength about him that was both shocking and completely expected, with his sense of loyalty and a fierce need to protect. I didn’t really know what I was getting into with Billy, having only met him in passing a few times in the other books, but I am quite pleased with what we got. He seemed like he had such a small role or was only there in passing with the other books, with the other brothers now adults, but now we know that’s not the case. He may have been in the shadows, but he was always there for his brothers, giving up everything support and encourage them. Everything.
“I knew, with absolute certainty, I’d dream of her and her spirit and her voice for the rest of my life. The belief was soul-deep, in my bones and muscles and skin, but particularly in my heart.”
My favorite part (other than Billy and Scarlet) was seeing all the Winston Brothers, but young. It really made me want to go back and read their books, they were all just so gosh-darned cute. Especially the twins, who were hilarious and completely incorrigible, and Roscoe 💕✨ I loved their family dynamic, although not conventional and not perfect, it was full of love, a few laughs and an overwhelming amount of support for each other.
It was nothing less than I expect of Ms. Reid, who always writes with a full cast of characters and an overwhelming sense of community. She really set the bar high with this book, as she continued to pour more of her self into her characters and this story. It was completely breathtaking, overwhelmingly sweet and crushingly tragic.
I should be clear, as the author has been, that this is not a love story. It’s an origin story to an epic love story, so please don’t go in with a huge amount of expectations. Ms. Reid also says that you don’t have to have read Beard With Me to read their story Beard Necessities, but I’m going to respectfully disagree and say that you may not ~have to,~ but you should to get a full picture, and it’s definitely worth the read.
This was a definite pivot from the generally light-hearted and fun tone, but with surprising depth, of the typical Winston Brother’s books, but it worked well for the story and was, dare I say it, absolutely necessary. Their story tore my heart out, stomped on it and ate it for dessert, but it also gave me a lot of hope for the next installment. No one deserves a happy ending more than these two, and I really need that second book to show it to me. Please, Nov. 4th, come quickly.
* The giveaway is run by Penny Reid. Cover to Cover is not responsible for providing a prize or the giveaway in any way other than providing the link. Please click the image below to enter!
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Have you read any of Penny Reid books? What are some of your favorite second-chance romances? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!