I’m a long time fan of Penny Reid’s books, in particular her Knitting in the City series, which led to her Winston Brothers series, which has now led to her Good Folk: Modern Folktales series. This latest offering brings to the forefront some of the secondary characters met through the Winstons. Folk Around and Find Out is an opposites-attract romance that I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish. It may even have eclipsed Beard Science as my favourite of Reid’s contemporary romances (just don’t tell Cletus!).
Hank Weller runs a strip club, The Pink Pony, in Green Valley, Tennessee. It’s a business he started to thwart his wealthy family’s expectations of him, but one he runs with pride. (He also has other businesses that are equally profitable, but most people don’t know about them). He makes sure the strippers who work for him are paid fair wages, are protected from harassment, and are given other job opportunities when they no longer want to perform at the club. In other words, he’s a decent guy despite what people who don’t know him may think. He also happens to be Beau Winston’s best friend, a relationship that has lasted over the years since childhood.
Charlotte Mitchell is an Elementary school teacher and a church-going mother of four (Kimmy, Joshua, Sonya and Frankie) whose ex-husband happens to have run off with one of Hank’s employees. This has put Hank into the hot seat (though the blame really lies with Charlotte’s ex), with the community giving him the cold shoulder since it happened. But Charlotte needs Hank – or rather, she needs to find out what happened to her cousin, who was rumoured to have worked at a strip club before disappearing – so she approaches Hank for a job as a stripper to get an ‘in’ to the business. She doesn’t think about what that might mean for her own reputation, or for her children at school, as she’s never been one to be bothered by rumours and such. Hank refuses, but then it turns out he needs a bookkeeper and Charlotte has those skills – so voilà, she ends up working for him anyway. Her plan is to work there for only a couple of weeks while she investigates what happened to her cousin.
Once in each other’s company, Hank can admit to himself that he’s attracted to Charlotte. As for Charlotte, well she’d had an unrequited crush on Hank when they were teenagers; he’s a few years older than her and sometimes they would both be hanging out at the Winstons’ at the same time (Hank with Beau and Charlotte with Beau’s younger brother Roscoe). Of course it’s been several years since then, and Charlotte thought she’d put those feelings to bed a long time ago. However. now that Charlotte is Hank’s employee, she’s off limits as far as Hank is concerned. This ratchets up the sexual tension between them. Eventually, with Charlotte’s full consent, their feelings spill over into a secret affair. But can it really lead to a lasting relationship?
Watching Charlotte and Hank dance around each other is a lot of fun as they come to terms with their attraction. Their love scenes are sexy (a definite plus for single mom Charlotte) and there is plenty of witty banter to go around. Growing up in the same community makes them think they already know a lot about each other, but they are constantly surprised by new information that makes them see one an
There wouldn’t be a Green Valley without the Winstons, so there are several cameo appearances by the brothers and their spouses. Charlotte is a good friend of Sienna (Jethro Winston’s wife) and their children have play dates and birthday parties together. Beau and Hank have a standing fishing date during which they get into in-depth conversations about life and love. At one point Cletus Winston (the man who knows everyone and has a secret dossier on them) gets involved when Charlotte’s ex-husband’s family starts to make trouble. I loved these appearances and catching up with everyone.
But the most enjoyable part of this story is how Charlotte’s children are all so different and how Hank is absolutely wonderful with them all. He treats them all as individuals and bonds with them in different ways. Hank, who has had no interest in having children up to this point in his life and has no experience with them at all, becomes a stalwart friend and helper and all-round parent material, to Charlotte (and Hank’s!) surprise. Ms. Reid is excellent at writing realistic child rearing scenarios and the addition of Hank to Charlotte’s family adds another meaningful layer to this romance.
I’m very happy with how this story evolved, the characters, the situations, and the sexy romance. There is a satisfying resolution to the case of the missing cousin, too. I highly recommend Folk Around and Find Out to fans of the author and to anyone who enjoys single parent romances and unexpected heroes.
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