Desert Isle Keeper

Beard Science

Penny Reid

Penny Reid’s Beard Science is awkwardly and wonderfully odd, and no carefully selected combination of adjectives can adequately communicate the mind-bending deliciousness of this thoroughly enjoyable book. The author’s creativity beats to its own drum, and she’s successfully written something different – an original story with an incomparable cast of characters that stands out in the vast sea of normal. This is no small feat considering the volume of novels flooding the market every day and when one remembers that romance endings are essentially scripted before an author ever writes a word. Beard Science should be on every Best Romance of 2016 list, and Ms. Reid should be a case study examined at the Romance Writers of America convention. I wish I could add wild and exaggerated hand gestures to my review, because I need a visual way to sufficiently convey and punctuate my feelings, and I refuse the lure of the emoji.

Cletus Byron Winston – how I love the subtle perfection of Cletus Winston – is the third eldest of six bearded brothers and the mastermind and heart of the loving and kooky Winston family. The fact that there are six of them, and their facial hair make them prominent figures in the small rural Tennessee town of Green Valley, but they’re infamous for their individual antics, criminal father and revered librarian mother, who recently passed away. Cletus is a mechanic and owns a local garage with two of his brothers, but he’s far more than just a small town business owner and one of seven siblings. (There’s a sister in the middle of all the brothers.)

He is a social genius who seems to be an awkward bystander uttering seemingly random and strange pronouncements. He’s a master manipulator and an expert in the psychological game of life, bending people to his will without their ever realizing it. He’s quietly in the background of everything, but his schemes are not based on self-interest or seeking personal gain. Most of what Cletus does is done with the intent to protect and support the people he loves, and he’s the Robin Hood of the Winstons – stealing good deeds from the stingy-hearted and gifting them to those he cares about. You’d never guess from his stoicism and quiet manner, but Cletus loves fiercely and passionately. He also practices yoga, makes spectacular homemade sausage, audits a high school Calculus class and is an amazing banjo player who can be found every Friday night at the community center taking part in the town’s weekly jam session.

Banana Cake Queen Jennifer Sylvester – famously known throughout the state for her award winning banana cake – has known of and observed Cletus her entire life and is the only person – except for his brothers – who detects his ability to stealthily influence others. She’s a spectator of life and a people watcher who lives on the sidelines behind her public image. She’s under the thumb of her controlling and conservative parents who insist she play the role of Queen continually, making it her job and her identity. She’s never dated and desperately wants to have a family of her own, but she has no idea how to interact with men. She decides Cletus is the perfect tutor because he obviously understands the human psyche, and she wants him to show her how to attract and catch a husband. When she discovers an opportunity to blackmail him, she seizes it and secures his agreement to teach her, thus committing her first act of rebellion in a meticulously scripted life.

Cletus has never noticed Jennifer beyond his customary internal cataloging of everyone he meets, but he takes note of her now when she surprises him. And no one EVER surprises him. She’s an unexpected puzzle, and he agrees to help her out of a desire to study and not because he truly feels threatened by her blackmail attempt. Neither imagines Cletus might be the man she will want or that he might need to be that man, because Cletus simply never imagines that they will suit. Their dance of courtship begins as the teacher and the observer and transitions into a charming union of two people moving to a rhythm of their own making. There’s great fun throughout and no end to the surprising bursts of comedy and sigh-worthy acts of love between both lovers and family.

Cletus and Jennifer’s story might sound like it follows a tried and true romance formula and – on the surface – it does. Beard Science is epically different because of the nuisances throughout and the subtle departures from everything that is ordinary and expected in a romance; it’s frighteningly bizarre. Laughs will erupt without warning, and you’ll pause dumbfounded. Reader internal dialogue might go something like this:

Did I just read that?

Yes – yes, I did.

Did they just say/do that?

Yes – yes, they did.

I need to read that again, savor it and commit it to memory and enjoy it again another day. 

Don’t worry about reading the previous two books in the Winston Brothers series if you have not already – they’re stand-alone reads – but you’ll likely want to immediately after you finish Beard Science. I did, and they’re amazing too and give you an insightful introduction to Cletus. There’s no possible way to explain the inexplicable, and I’ve waxed poetic enough. Read Beard Science and send Penny Reid a thank you for allowing us into her magical and odd world of the Winstons.


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Book Details

Reviewer :      Mary Dubé

Grade :     A

Sensuality :      Warm

Book Type :     

Review Tags :     


  1. Lynda X December 13, 2016 at 12:32 pm - Reply

    This book is so much fun! It’s a little gem.

  2. Dabney Grinnan
    Dabney Grinnan December 13, 2016 at 12:38 pm - Reply

    I just downloaded book one. I’ve not read her so, yay!

    • Maria Rose
      Maria Rose December 13, 2016 at 6:07 pm - Reply

      Dabney, Neanderthal seeks Human is always free too, it’s the first of her Knitting in the City series (of which The Winston Brothers is a spin off). It’s delightful! I’ve read it 3 or 4 times now.

      • Blackjack December 13, 2016 at 7:51 pm - Reply

        Yes, I loved Neanderthal Seeks Human and find it to be one of her best.

  3. Em Wittmann
    Em Wittmann December 13, 2016 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    I haven’t read her stand alone titles, but I love her rugby series with L. H. Cosway. Light, romantic, sexy + sports. They’re excellent.

  4. Wendy December 13, 2016 at 2:44 pm - Reply

    I loved this book so much. I have been waiting for someone to review it! This was the first of Reid’s books I read, then of course I glommed all the others. But none was as special as this one.

    • Mary Dubé
      Mary Dubé December 13, 2016 at 5:48 pm - Reply

      I still feel giddy thinking about this book. It was so quirky and different.

  5. Maria Rose
    Maria Rose December 13, 2016 at 6:06 pm - Reply

    She’s such an excellent writer and this one made the cut for my best of 2016 list! I love that Penny doesn’t follow traditional tropes or make her stories carbon copies of each other. They are all fresh and original, while being witty, sexy and fun.

    • Mary Dubé
      Mary Dubé December 13, 2016 at 8:03 pm - Reply

      Maria is why I read Beard Science so I owe her big! It my best of 2016 too!

  6. Kathy Zimmer December 13, 2016 at 7:12 pm - Reply

    I loved this book, as well as the others in this series, all jems in my opinion. I also love your review.

    • Mary Dubé
      Mary Dubé December 13, 2016 at 11:09 pm - Reply

      Thank you! I wanted to do it justice but it was hard without the ability to move my hands wildly and perform a happy dance.

  7. Blackjack December 13, 2016 at 7:53 pm - Reply

    Beard Science lived up to its hype for me, and I had some doubts going into it that Cletus could be a successful romance hero. This is the best of the Winston Bros. books thus far and one of Reid’s best, I think!

    I never see Penny Reid reviewed at AAR and so I was happy to see this review today.

    • Mary Dubé
      Mary Dubé December 13, 2016 at 8:02 pm - Reply

      You are so right about Cletus. I think he is the mascot for her brilliance. He’s everything I never knew I wanted in a romance hero.

    • Maria Rose
      Maria Rose December 13, 2016 at 9:32 pm - Reply

      I think you haven’t seen her reviewed at AAR before because it’s more common to get advanced copies from the big publishers who have marketing and business plans in place to promote their authors and give them a lot of visibility. If an indie author doesn’t submit a book to AAR for consideration of review, then they don’t get into the ‘queue’ so to speak, and they just aren’t visible to the reviewers. I do think that the amount of indie books reviewed has increased this year with the addition of several new reviewers who have more contact with the indie community. I’ve personally been reading Penny’s books since early 2014 but I have had prior commitments to review them elsewhere. I’m so glad Janet gave it a chance!

      • Blackjack December 14, 2016 at 2:45 am - Reply

        Incidentally, Penny Reid responded to a “review” I posted of one of her books several years ago on Goodreads, and she asked me what AAR was and didn’t seem to have heard of this site at the time. Hopefully, that changes if she sees her books reviewed here.

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