Review: Beard in Mind by Penny Reid

First and foremost, I need to start off with saying: I love Penny Reid. I am convinced that she can do no wrong. She is also the author that brought me back to the Romance world (thank you a million). My first introduction to her was with the book Truth or Beard. And I’m not going to lie; I 100% bought the book because of the beard (oh, and well, the synopsis sounded pretty damn good as well). You see, my husband has a magnificent beard and I am a sucker for full bearded heroes. Color me happy when I found Penny Reid and her menagerie of bearded men. Praise the Lord!

One of my favorite things about Reid is that her books are always a surprise. You never quite know what you’re going to get from them. While, yes, you have your “typical” boy meets girl and they eventually fall in love, the “how” they fall in love is always so unique. So different. So smart. And I love that. I love that Penny Reid presents these scenarios that make the reader think and ponder about what they just read. As she says, these are smart romances.

Beard In Mind lives up to the full Penny Reid potential. It was unique. It was heartwarming. It was wonderful. I am now also fully convinced that all of her books should be sold with a package of tissues.

Beard In Mind is the story of Beau Winston (twin brother to Duane Winston, grumpy hero of Truth or Beard) and Shelly Sullivan (sister to Quinn Sullivan, hero of Neanderthal Seeks Human and Neanderthal Marries Human). Both characters have been introduced before throughout the books, they’re familiar and characters I’ve been wanting to get to know better. And Penny delivered. Boy howdy did she deliver!

I never would have thought of these two as a match until Penny sneakily brought them together in Beard Science. But once that was set up, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on their story. At first glance, these two people seem as opposite as night and day. Beau is described as, “the nicest, most accommodating guy in the world…Handsome as the devil and twice as charismatic.” And Shelly? Well, Shelly is not nice. She’s blunt, rude, and a, “stunning human-porcupine hybrid.” At first glance, these two don’t seem to make sense, but as the old adage goes, “opposites attract.”

But this is more than a story of two opposites finding each other. This is a story of two people who feel broken (and feel is the important part here) and helping each other shoulder that burden.

Because, here’s the thing, Shelly is clinically diagnosed with OCD.

It is because of her OCD that Shelly acts like a human-porcupine hybrid. It is how she has learned to cope. So this is where you should start pulling out your box of tissues. Because the first chapter from Shelly’s perspective is so damn heartbreaking. Shelly views herself as a broken thing that needs to be fixed in order to function.

While Shelly has OCD, Beau has his own set of troubles. And just as Shelly has to learn to trust someone else, so does Beau. And they find that trust in each other. But more importantly, they learn to support each other throughout their own individual hurdles. It isn’t about fixing each other. It is about supporting each other.

“All people are broken, Shelly. No one is perfect. Some seek help. Some don’t. But no one is ever fixed by another person. We can only work on ourselves… You can be supportive of Beau, hold the tools for him while he works on his refrigerator, remind him to take a break, show interest in his struggles. You can do things, gestures of kindness that show him he’s appreciated, that you care about him. But no on can fix Beau’s refrigerator except Beau.”

Can I get an “AMEN!” from them back????

I cannot tell you enough how much I love and appreciate this. I have read too many romance stories with the magic penis/vagina where the hero/heroine is cured/fixed/suddenly whole by the amazing power of love and the magic penis/vagina. And I cannot applaud Penny enough for making this statement. Your problems aren’t fixed by someone else. They are fixed by working on them yourself.

And this backdrop serves to highlight the wonderful characters that are Beau and Shelly. From previous books, Beau is presented as the charismatic, fun-loving Winston brother. He’s affable and easy going. And, in some ways, he’s easily lost in the background of his other Brothers. The other Winston brothers have been highlighted in some way, shape or form, with Penny dropping hints about their backstories. She hasn’t really done that with Beau. And to see the depths of his character come to the foreground is a beautiful thing. More is learned about who he is as a person and his own internal struggles. Pair that with the fact that his twin, his best friend, is leaving, and there is a sense of longing that surrounds him.

He is a character that feels strongly and it is that which, I think, draws him to Shelly. As Beau starts to peel back the layers that are Shelly, she becomes irresistible to him. He can’t escape her, and eventually, he doesn’t want to.

“But I love you and I need to know whether you’re staying or going. Whether we’re in this together, for the long haul, or if you’re planning to move back north, closer to your family. And if that’s the case, I want to go with you. I can’t think past losing you. I can’t focus on anything else. Where you are, that’s where I want to be.”

And Shelly…oh my goodness, Shelly…Shelly is such a beautifully written character. I feel like Penny Reid did a wonderful job portraying someone clinically diagnosed with OCD and presenting her daily struggles. It was so moving to see Shelly go from struggling with her disorder to her acceptance of it (more or less. As I said before, she isn’t cured by the end of the story). To see the role that Beau played in that story. It was gorgeous.

“And I felt the kiss she placed on my neck just before she whispered, “I just realized something.” “What?” “I don’t want to be perfect.” I grinned, smoothing my hand down her back and placing a kiss on her temple. “Good. ‘Cause perfect is boring.”

But Reid, being the wonderful storyteller she is, portrays Shelly as someone more than just her OCD. She has her own quiet strength, loves fiercely, and is stubbornly determined. She is such a unique character and I was enthralled with the way Reid brought her to life.

In the end, this is a story of two people learning to love each other, learning to trust each other, and becoming a safe space for each other.

What Could Have Been Better?

I really have one minor complaint with this book and it has nothing to do with the storyline or character development. Sure, there were a few times I wanted to smack Beau upside the head, but it really only added to the story.

I wanted a scene with Shelly and Jennifer and Ashley making soap! I was so disappointed that didn’t happen! Reid sets up such a wonderful interaction in both Beard Science and Beard In Mind (these books happen simultaneously) between Jennifer and Shelly and the connection they have all because Jennifer suggests they make soap in her super sterilized kitchen! I would love to read more about the Winston brother’s women bonding! Part of the reason I love Reid’s Knitting In the City books so much is because of the tight knit (see what I did there??) friendship between those ladies! I frankly want more of that for the women in Green Valley.

So, dear Penny Reid, if you somehow happen read this (that would be amazing!), please, I beg you, a novella, a short story, a little something about these women making soap! These women are amazing and I would love to read more about them in the future!

Buy The Book


Review: Wait For It by Mariana Zapata

Mariana Zapata’s Wait For It is by far the best example of the single mom trope I have read. Wait For It is the story of Diana who, after the tragic death of her brother and his wife, finds herself the new guardian of her two young nephews, Josh and Louie. The book begins a few years into her guardianship and starts with their move into a new home and neighborhood. And with that new neighborhood, comes a new neighbor, Dallas, who is tall, dark, and handsome…and just happens to be Josh’s new baseball coach.

When it comes to “single mom romances”, I always have reservations. Many books that follow this trope use the children as a convenient plot device to keep the heroine and the hero apart. The main obstacle these two have to hurdle is the mother’s trust issues when it comes to her children. I understand that entrusting children with someone else is a delicate issue however, more often than not, the child isn’t even a character in the story. Or if they are, they act as an ill-timed (or convenient?) cock-blocking device. Children are used as props rather than treated as actual characters. They are forgotten, easily left behind in the story, rather than adding to it. In some cases, the hero and the children very rarely interact, which, to me, seems like a huge oversight in the story especially since the main obstacle the lovers need to hurdle is her trust in him with her kids. How can she gauge that trust if the man never meets the kids????

What I love about this book is that, while it employs the single mom trope, the boys are a very real part of the story. Diana’s love and devotion to these two boys is made unequivocally clear time and again. She is a mama-bear when it comes to them. Fighting for them, loving them, and reprimanding them when they need it. But there is a huge undercurrent of doubt and vulnerability when it comes to her ability (and credibility) to raise Josh and Lou. I imagine most parents feel some sort of doubt when raising their kids, but Diana’s is compounded based on the fact that, 1) these are not her biological children, 2) these kids came to her due to traumatic circumstances, 3) she receives criticism on how she raises them from multiple sources, and 4) raising kids is hard. Her life took a very sudden and abrupt turn when she became the boys’ guardian, but she has poured her life into making sure Josh and Lou know they are loved.

Josh and Lou interact with Dallas almost as much as Diana interacts with him. It helps that Zapata made him the baseball coach and neighbor, to be sure, but all the times in which all four of them are in the same scene together, it never feels forced. Dallas never steps on Diana’s toes as she raises them. Never makes a bid to seem like the “cool” adult leaving Diana behind as the “mean” one. There is no power dynamic struggle between the two of them. As the story progresses, it becomes evident that Dallas has come to love and care for the boys in his own way. It is a family of three slowly accepting this new person into their lives…eventually forever.

I’d be the star of the show until this man came into it and set this space for himself that no one else could ever fill. The boys loved him almost as much as me. I wasn’t even a little upset about it. – Diana

The Romance

If there is one thing I’ve learned from reading Mariana Zapata’s stories it is that she is the queen of the slow burn. She manages to weave these captivating stories of two people gradually falling in love. So gradual, in fact, that near the end of the books I am yelling at her characters to just, “do the do already!!!” The reader can tell, the hero can tell, every other supporting character can tell that these two people are in love. Everyone, that is, except for the heroine. She manages to capture the excitement and doubts a person feels when falling in love. I’m sure any woman who has ever liked anyone can relate to Zapata’s heroines.

A misunderstanding borne out of misread intentions gets these two lovebirds started out on the wrong foot. It is amusing to read these stilted interactions between Dallas and Diana, knowing that somehow she’ll win him over. And once she figures out why he’s being so standoffish, she confronts it, head on.

Just so you know, yes, I think you’re a good-looking guy, but you’re not my type. I swear I’m not trying to get in your pants or anything. I can see your wedding ring, and I don’t do that kind of thing…You and Trip scouted Josh out. It wasn’t like I was trying to get him on the team to seduce you or something…I’d like us to be friends since we live across the street from each other, but if that’s not something you’re willing to do, it’s okay. I’m not going to cry about it…So? Should I fuck off or not? – Diana

And that’s part of what I like so much about Diana’s character. She’s bold, sassy, and willing to go to the mats for her boys. But she is also a very vulnerable character (see above about raising the boys) and that is where Dallas comes in. Dallas becomes the support that Diana didn’t know she needed. He slowly becomes a friend and then a confidant to her, being willing to listen to her and support her even when he may not know exactly what to do. It is his quiet support and steadfastness that has Diana eventually falling in love with Dallas.

Dallas was the most constant man I had ever met in my life. His patience, steadfastness, and determination covered every inch of his entire being as he smiled at me. – Diana

Dallas, raised by a single mother himself, recognizes that Diana’s stubborn ass needs help every once in a while. And so he helps her, not taking “no” for an answer. Not because he doesn’t believe she is capable, but because he recognizes that she needs someone else to help shoulder the burden. It is through their friendship, the inside jokes, the teasing, the laughter, and their vulnerability with each other that Dallas falls in love with Diana.

I thought you were crazy at first, and then I got to know you and I liked you-you were my friend and you were nice just because that’s how you are, not because you wanted anything from me. And then that day I was taking lice out of your hair, you looked up at me while we were laughing and I knew I was done…Diana, I love you, and every bone in my body tells me that I’m gonna love you every day of my life, even when we want to kill each other. – Dallas

While the book is slow in some places, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It does take a while for Diana and Dallas to start interacting regularly, but those parts only serve to develop the relationship between Diana, Josh, and Lou. While, yes, this is a romance story, I’d like to say more that this is a love story. It is the story of the love between a mom and her boys. A story of love between a man and woman. A story of love of a growing family. It’s a story about the messiness of love.

Swoon-worthy Quotes

  • The hand connected to the forearm I’d been touching came up to my eye level. His fingers went to my chin cupping it as he looked directly into my eyes. “If something happened to you, I wouldn’t be okay. I would never be okay.”
  • “What do you want from me?” “Everything.”

Buy the Book



Barnes & Noble