Truth or Beard
Grade : A

My apologies to everyone who recommended this series to me and was rewarded with ‘that doesn’t sound like my cup of tea.' You were right and I was wrong. Deliciously, wonderfully wrong!

Truth or Beard is the first book in Penny Reid’s Winston Brothers series about six handsome, bearded brothers living in the middle of the Smoky Mountains, racing, fixing and sometimes stealing cars, playing banjo music over campfires, skinny-dipping in cold November lakes and steering clear of the local biker gang. Now, if you’re thinking ‘that doesn’t sound like my cup of tea’, think again!

Jessica James grew up with the Winston brothers in Green Valley, Tennessee. She’s back from college, teaching calculus at the local high school to pay off her student loans, and then she’s out of there. Jessica has some serious wanderlust and plans to spend her life traveling the globe. Her fondest memory of Green Valley is her infatuation with Beau Winston. She adores Beau - he rescues her cat, he saves kids from rattlesnakes, he’s polite to his elders and he’s beyond hot. Not at all like his twin Duane, who pushes Jessica into ponds, argues with her about the color of the sky and throws rocks at her cat.

When she attends the Halloween party at the Community Center (where she has the bright idea to dress as “sexy Gandalf” to irritate her sheriff father and deputy sheriff brother) she sees Beau for the first time in over four years and is struck, like a deer-in-headlights - her body is a “blubbering mess of hormones” and her mind which starts to play Gary Wright’s Dreamweaver. Her lifelong crush approaches and, completely out of character, pulls her away from the crowd, behind the stage and starts kissing her. Jessica is lost in a sea of want. She’s so lost, she’s pretty sure that she’s about to have crazy sex right behind the wall of the party when suddenly her swain pulls back and curses. They stare at each other, breathing hard and that’s when she hears someone calling “Duane, you dummy, are you back there?” And it’s Beau’s voice. Jessica has been kissing Duane.

Duane Winston is stubborn, sexy, smart and fiercely loyal. And he’s had it bad for Jessica since she de-panted him in a pond after he pushed her in when she was fourteen and he sixteen. He knows Jessica thinks she’s kissing Beau but he can’t resist - he just wants one kiss, that’s all. Until Jessica starts to respond so enthusiastically – and he’s lost. He pulls back before it goes too far, but now he’s had his kiss and Jessica is furious with him.

Jessica is wildly confused about her reactions to Duane. She can’t stop thinking about him and his hot hands. She is surprised to find that her crazy infatuation with Beau is gone - no deer-in-headlights, no romantic music in her head. Gone! And she can’t stop staring at Duane. A round of Truth or Dare later, and she finds herself naked in a pitch dark lake for fifteen minutes with Duane listening to him tell her things like “arguing with you is one of my favorite things” and “I think we’re suited”. Befuddled doesn’t begin to describe how Jessica is feeling.

"I feel like I don’t know you at all. One minute you’re the Duane Winston who throws rocks at my cat, kissing another girl, making me feel like I have heartburn, arguing about the color of the sky, and the next minute you’re telling me we’re suited for each other. I don’t trust you."

"Jessica, we’re standing in the forest naked. You trust me a little."

True - she does and she’s definitely discovered an attraction to Duane that she didn’t even realize was there. And what does Duane mean by “I think we’re suited”? Is he planning to court her? Why is Roberta Flack’s The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face playing in her head when she looks at Duane? And what about her plans to leave Green Valley and never look back?

Truth or Beard skilfully switches the PoV between Jessica and Duane. I ached to hear Duane struggle with his desire to make a lifetime with Jessica and his conviction that he needs to let her follow her dreams. And getting inside Jessica’s head was an adventure of its own. Her sensual awakening at the hands of Duane is equal parts tender, sexy and hilarious. Watching Jessica reconcile her wanderlust with her current reality was thoroughly engaging.

Jessica and Duane are easy to cheer for and it’s plain to see that these two have been building up to this for years. The cast of supporting characters is well done and downright hilarious at times. I couldn’t help thinking that I’d like the Winston brothers to meet Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton brothers. And I’d like to be there when they do.

Truth or Beard gives the reader a super steamy attraction between the leads. Add in Duane’s incredibly tender statements and you’ve got a dreamy romance.

"My priority is making sure all your dreams come true. You can trust me on that.

You’re it Jessica James. And that’s the truth. Not racing or going fast. Not fixing up old cars. I want to spend my life with you and maybe that makes me wrong in the head and unhealthy, or old-fashioned, but when I think of my future and what I want, all I see is you."

Beyond being a first-rate romance, Penny Reid’s writing is enjoyable and mind-blowingly creative. I guffawed numerous times and went back and reread chapters (even before I finished the book). When I finished. it was with a heavy, contented sigh and a giddy burst of delight. And another heavy sigh!

If you like unique, clever romance with a shot of hilarity then Truth or Beard is for you. I’m off to read the next book in the series!

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

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Reviewed by Evelyn North
Grade : A

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : March 9, 2019

Publication Date: 07/2015

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