I’m not in a slump, I repeat, this is not a slump. I’m just taking a mini break from reading and Bridget Jones taught us that a mini break means true love, right?! Did you ever actually read that book or did you just watch the movie? I <3 the movie, I mean it gave us a chance to see Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy again, but the book was hilarious too. I recommend a nostalgia read! Where was I going with this? Uhhhh…I’m allowed to take a week and a half off from reading, right? I’m still nine books ahead of schedule for my Goodreads challenge, so I can afford it! Can you tell I’m trying to convince myself?
My mini reading break has been full of binges of American Idol (I can’t help it, it’s the only reality tv I watch) and The Alienist. The Alienist was so good that I can’t even talk about it yet, but seriously stop what you’re doing, no wait, don’t stop reading this! Finish reading this, then immediately figure out how you can stream the whole series, you need to, you’ll thank me later, I promise. I NEED to reread the book, then I’ll do a review and comparison, so stay tuned.
So what have I been reading? Prior to my slump, I mean, mini break? Let’s see…ah yes, I did a little rereading, but before that was a long streak of contemporary romances.
But wait, Megan, you aren’t really into contemporary romance! No, not really, but after starting the year off with The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, I was chasing the feeling, looking for something similar. What did I find? Some interesting things to say the least, but I’ll only mention what I really liked, as the others don’t deserve much attention.
My great discovery during this genre binge was author Penny Reid. I stumbled upon her because Eloisa James, one of my favorite historical romance authors, had rated several of her books. Penny Reid has over 20 titles on Goodreads, so its safe to say that she will keep you busy for a while. Her writing is funny and smart and her characters are well developed.
My focus was on her Knitting in the City series and the Winston Brothers series. Some of the characters in both series overlap. The timeline gets a bit wonky during the overlap, but chronologically the Knitting in the City books start first, while the first book in Winston Brothers starts at about the same time as the 4th book in the Knitting in the City books. That being said, you do not have to read both series to understand the other, but it does make it more fun. Each book can also technically be read as a standalone. I actually broke one of my hard and fast rules for series and I skipped one book in Knitting in the City and I survived, more on that below. There are also a few more books in the Knitting series that I haven't gotten to yet.
The Knitting in the City books are set mainly in Chicago and each book centers on the romance of a member of a knitting club. While the ladies are close friends in the beginning, their relationships grow until they become more like family to each other. In the first book, Neanderthal Seeks Human, surprisingly the neanderthal is the female protagonist of the book, not the male as one might expect. Do I remember what happened in this book? Not really, but I remember that it was hilarious and I gave it 3.5 stars, so there you go!
The second book, Friends Without Benefits, is about the best friend of the main character from the first book. It was also extremely funny and lovely, again with the 3.5 stars!
Now onto the third book, Love Hacked, which I skipped for two reasons. Number 1, it involves an older woman, younger man romance and those just aren’t my cup of tea. Number 2, which is probably the main reason, I really, really, really wanted to get to the Winston Brothers, but I wanted the read the fourth Knitting book, Beauty and the Mustache first, because it comes chronologically before the brothers and is about their sister, Ashley Winston, which brings me to the Winstons. I stinking love all of the Winstons, they’re the best.
The Winstons are a family of six brothers and one sister, born and raised in Green Valley Tennessee. Ashley’s story starts with her going home to deal with her terminally ill mother. She hasn’t been home is almost a decade and has let that distance come between her and her brothers. While the romance is developing between Ashley and Drew, a local game warden and friend of the family, the story is also about Ashley rediscovering her family and rebuilding her relationships with them. This book was my first 4 star read from Penny Reid, but not my last.
Next we get to the first official Winston Brothers book, Truth or Beard. Don’t worry, there’s a whole beard title theme coming. Oh, yeah, the brothers are all super hot (obvi) and have beards, just in case you were wondering. Anyway, Truth or Beard is about Duane Winston and Jessica James, the girl he’s been in love with since they were kids, but gasp…she won’t give him the time of day and is hung up on his twin brother! What’s a guy to do? Maybe capitalize on a case of mistaken identity? Yep. Hilarity occurs, also depth of feeling and character, adjustments of expectations and life goals, enjoyment was had by all, 4 stars!
Onto the second book in the series, Grin and Beard It. This book is about the oldest brother, Jethro Winston, former scapegrace, turned park ranger, and Sienna Diaz, Hollywood’s funniest lady, in town to shoot a movie. More shenanigans ensue, love, etc, 4 stars!
Alrighty, now we’re at the good stuff. Beard Science. Seriously, that’s the title. It’s also the best book so far. Oh Cletus. Cletus is the best. Also, Jennifer is the best. They’re both the best. That’s why they deserve each other. You should seriously read the whole series, just to read this book, but don’t start with this book, you need the whole Cletus experience. You have to fall in love with his weird genius self starting in Ashley’s book and work your way through the others, if only to read this book. All I know is, by the time I got to this story, I was dying to read it. 5 stars.
The fourth book, Beard in Mind wasn’t as great, but mainly because it was so much more serious than the others. It tells the story of Beau, the other twin, and his lady, Shelly, who also happens to be the sister of the hero of Neanderthal Seeks Human. Shelly is working through some serious mental health issues and while it was well written, the book just doesn’t have the same tone as the others, so I didn’t have the same level of enjoyment. 3 stars.
The fifth book, Dr. Strange Beard, will be about the youngest brother, Roscoe, and won’t be out until July this year.
I’m crazy impatient to read the sixth book, Beard Necessities, about Billy, my other favorite brother. This one has been building and building my anticipation. Here’s what we know. It’s about Billy and Claire. We’ve been introduced to both of them since the first book. We know that something happened between them a long time ago, then Claire married someone else, who has since passed away. Billy never married and threw himself into this work. We don’t know what caused their falling out. Billy is broody and sullen, so of course, I love him. I need his story like yesterday, but it won't be out until next year. Grrrrrrr…
Overall, I really enjoyed these stories. I find Reid’s writing to be witty and charming, which is especially refreshing in a genre that can be found wanting of substance in general. Something that I really like about her heroes are that they tend to be men who want to form a relationship, they aren’t the ones who need convincing. They realize the worth of the women they’re with and want to make things work with them. Do they sometimes go about it poorly? Sure they do, but there isn’t any whisper of the heroine having to reform a man child or playboy, the guys are all in from the beginning. I think the reason that I preferred the Winston Brothers to Knitting in the City is that the brother books are told from both the male and female point of view, while the knitting books are told from only the female, so the heroes of those books don’t seem as multidimensional, because you don’t know what they’re thinking. All in all, strong male and female protagonists, with funny dialogue and situations, throw in some romance and you’ve got yourself a good time.
Do I now want to go to Tennessee? Hell yes.
PS I decided to title this post Bad Romance as a nod to some friends of mine who may or may not roll their eyes whenever I mention the romance genre. You know who you are ;)