Series: Winston Brothers
Category: Contemporary Romance, Young Adult Romance
Tags: Small Town
Published September 2019
Boyfriend Rating: 💍💍💍💍💍
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A 5 star moving, touching, heartbreaking origin story that sets up an epic love story.
Scarlet St. Claire is a survivor. She’s careful and she’s smart, but not when it comes to Billy Winston.
Billy Winston is a fighter. He’d do absolutely anything for his family which is why he must always be in complete control. Billy is fearless and he’s honorable, but not when it comes to Scarlet St. Claire.
“Crushing me. Yes. I was well and truly crushed.”
That is how Scarlet felt whenever Billy looked at her, stared at her, talked to her, was around her. It was beautiful and yet somewhat painful and uncomfortable for her.
I can understand how she felt because that is how I felt while reading this book.
I read Beard With Me having already read books 0.5-6 of the Winston Brothers series where I had fallen hard for these two.
I’ve loved Billie and Scarlet throughout the series and knowing Beard With Me is their origin story and that they aren’t together for YEARS after just tore my heart out a bit each time I read more of this story.
So, know that my thoughts in this review come from someone who has been invested in Billy and Scarlet since this series began – not from someone fresh to this book (though it could be read as a standalone followed by Beard Necessities).
A Book With ALL the Feelings
If you are going to read this book (and you should), just be prepared to FEEL.
I had so many feelings and then more feelings and then even more feelings.
I felt compassion for two innocent TEENS who have to live as adults at such a young age, taking care of themselves and in Billie’s case, taking care of his siblings and other responsibilities.
I then felt anger and rage that they HAD to live as adults because they had fathers who were selfish, narcissistic, and psychotic to say the least.
I felt tenderness and sweetness as a 14 year-old and 16 year-old learn to trust each other, develop a friendship and form a bond so strong and unique to only them.
I felt frustration, sadness and more anger at the hopelessness of the tragic turn of events surrounding their fragile, young love and the lack of a HFN or HEA that I knew wasn’t coming. (THANK GOODNESS for Beard Necessities!).
I am SO GRATEFUL that Penny Reid wrote this origin story as it’s a gift to get more of Billie and Scarlet even if it made me have all of those feelings.
And it will make their HEA all the sweeter truly knowing all that they have gone through, suffered through and persevered through.
What I loved most is that this is simply a story of Billie and Scarlet finally coming to “see” and get to know each other.
It’s not bogged down with any other overarching theme or topic that I’ve come to expect in a Penny Reid novel (such as police brutality in Dr. Strange Beard for example) but is a snapshot of the first weeks of their friendship and how they came to fall in love despite the odds stacked against them.
One of the Best Male Characters
Billie Winston is one of the best male characters I’ve read in a long time.
He struggles with anger towards his father and the fear of becoming like him in any way beyond looking just like him.
He struggles with his jealousy and hurt caused by his older brother who walked away and left him without a best friend and confidant.
He’s drowning in responsibilities and pressure with the fear that at any moment it could all shatter but he will always sacrifice for his family- always.
And yet with Scarlet, he could finally just be, if only for a little while, and he loved her fierce.
“I loved her voice when she sang, but I suspected her spirit eclipsed it as my favorite thing about her.”
“Scarlet and her voice were the same. Momentous, incredible, and unheard.”
An Old Soul
Scarlet was an old soul for someone just 14 years old.
She’s a survivor and yet despite all that life has brought her (or not brought her in some cases) she’s sweet and caring and SO STRONG.
I love how Reid depicted her innocence whenever she spoke to herself or tried to cheer herself up by telling herself jokes.
My heart just broke for this lonely girl.
All he wants is a normal, happy family. All she wants is a kitchen.
I hope they both find that in Beard Necessities!!
For those with trigger aversions: One reason I didn’t read this book when it first came out was because Penny Reid herself gave a warning about potential triggers.
I for one steer clear of books with gratuitous violence, abuse and especially rape so I was very hesitant to start this book knowing that my beloved characters were going to go through some heavy stuff.
Without giving away spoilers, I can say yes there is some violence/abuse, but my imagination had expected WAY worse and I am so glad that I didn’t let that stop me from reading this story.
One of the best books worth reading. I can’t recommend enough!
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