Beard Science by Penny Reid
Winston Brothers #3
Publication Date: October 11, 2016
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Humor, Romance
Make a deal with the devil and you might get what you want, but will it be what you need?
Jennifer Sylvester wants one thing, and that one thing is NOT to be Tennessee’s reigning Banana Cake Queen. Ever the perpetual good girl and obedient daughter, Jennifer is buckling under the weight of her social media celebrity, her mother’s ambitions, and her father’s puritanical mandates. Jennifer is officially desperate.
And desperate times call for Cletus Winston.
Cletus Winston is a puzzle wrapped in a mystery covered in conundrum sauce, and now he’s in a pickle. Despite being convinced of his own omniscience, extortion by the exalted Banana Cake Queen of Green Valley has taken him completely by surprise. So… what’s a maniacal mastermind to do?
Likely, the last thing you expect.
‘Beard Science’ is the third book in the Winston Brothers series, is a full-length romantic comedy novel, and can be read as a standalone.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who reads my blog or visits my Facebook blog page that I’m a Penny Reid fanatic. I bow down to her storytelling prowess…her ability to infuse such varying personalities into her characters…her willingness to go against the grain and create highly intelligent, quirky, and richly dense heroes and heroines. There is no other writer like Penny Reid, and I don’t think there ever will be because she demonstrates how right and left brained she is with her scientific intellect as well as her creative use of diction and her meticulously, character-driven storylines.
I’ve read almost every single one of Reid’s books, and I’ve loved them all, but there’s just something about these Winston brothers. They are quite the eclectic group of men and Penny Reid does a fantastic job of illustrating their individual nuances. Since being introduced to Ashley’s brothers, I’ve become almost fixated on Cletus. His wit, his oddities, and his covert meddling are the characteristics that set him apart from the rest of his brethren, and it’s those ideas that endear him to me. His scientific approach to interacting with people and his ability to cleverly manipulate situations without people realizing what he’s doing is masterful – it’s a true art form that he seems to patent all on his own – at least he did until the one person who he’s never truly seen pulls one over of him and blackmails him into doing her bidding for once, which, in the end, actually seems to be for both of them.
Like Cletus, Jennifer Sylvester is quite the scientific guru; in fact, many aspects of her life revolve around rational acts and require a deliberate approach, more so to appease her parents than anything else but Jennifer still understands the role she is to play and works with precise care in order to create the superficial caricature of a southern woman – the persona that her mother expects her to never delineate from regardless of who she’s with or where she finds herself.
But if anyone took the time to truly see Jennifer…to look beyond the well-coiffed hair and Banana Cake Queen nickname, they would see a 22 year-old sheltered and caged woman, who more than anything, craves love and attention for who she is NOT what she can create in a bakery.
But knowledge is power and Jennifer does what she has to do in order to get what she wants, and Cletus Winston is in for the shock of his life when it comes to who Jennifer Sylvester truly is, and by turning the tables on Cletus, Jennifer’s able to play the game just as good or maybe better than Cletus ever has, which is exactly what the controlled, sneaky man needs to help him focus on his own life instead of constantly meddling in his siblings’ lives.
Beard Science was a perfect story because all of Cletus’ hypotheses and conclusions were turned upside down due to one woman’s attempt to find herself and be set free from how the whole town views her. And, as Cletus learns who Jennifer truly is, readers do as well as, which helps us to recognize just how much Cletus and Jennifer complement one another and balance each other’s oddities.
Just like Cletus, there’s a method to Penny Reid’s madness and even though, at first, her pairings might not make sense to some readers, as soon as we’re allowed to investigate a bit more and truly understand the chemistry between the heroes and heroines, it’s more than clear that Reid’s conclusions are accurate and even perfect given her specimens and their attributes!
4.5 Poison Apples
“I saw what you did.”
“You saw what I did.” He repeated flatly, apparently bored with me and the conversation. His eyes were on the rear-view mirror.
But I would not be ignored. Not this time.
Gathering every ounce of courage within me, I blurted, “I saw what you did, last week, with the Iron Wraiths evidence. You took it. And now they can’t find it, and now they’re dropping the case against Razor.”
Finally, Cletus looked at me. To my astonishment, his typically green eyes had become a fiery blue and he snapped, “You saw no such thing.”
“I did.” I nodded at my assertion. “In fact, I have a video of you doing it.”
He blinked. His expression and his voice, usually so controlled, both cracked with surprise. “You did what?”
“I recorded it, on my phone.” I swallowed three times for no reason.
His gaze sharpened in such a way that startled me, as though clouds or an illusionary mist parted and revealed a slight glimpse of the real Cletus Winston beneath. These new eyes flickered over my person.
“Prove it.” His demand was sharp and quick, like a whip, and made my heart jump to my throat.
I pulled my phone from my purse with trembling fingers. I knew why I was shaking. I wasn’t used to confrontation. I was a natural pacifist, preferring peace to sass. But desperate times called for desperate measures.
He snatched my cell once I’d unlocked it and tapped through the series of screens until he reached my videos. He found the one dated last week, the one I’d taken of Sheriff James talking about my banana cake and hit play. As Cletus watched, a touch of color drained from his cheeks. He was seeing what I’d spotted last week when I reviewed the recording. One half of the screen was the sheriff. The other half of the screen was Cletus in the background, pocketing the evidence, looking around, then walking away.
Cletus made a strangled noise that sounded both frustrated and enraged. I eyed the door next to me, considering and immediately dismissing an escape. Meanwhile, he watched the recording again. When it ended for a second time, silence took its place, hard and heavy between us. I examined his profile, endeavoring to parse his thoughts.
Cletus’ expression was blank, which—I abruptly realized—was highly unusual. He always wore an expression. Thoughtful, concerned, patient, bored, interested, somber, perturbed. How odd, for a person to always have an expression . . . unless that person wore emotions like a mask, meant to misdirect the true nature of his thoughts.
“You made a copy?” His tone, laden with ice and granite, made me shiver.
He didn’t sound at all like the bumbling but affable Cletus Winston I’d known since forever. He sounded . . . dangerous.
I needed to clear my throat before I could speak. “I did. I made a few. Saved in a few places.”
The side of his mouth ticked up, but his eyes lacked humor as he turned them back to me. “That was smart. Otherwise I would have smashed your phone into a quantity of tiny pieces. Then it would have been your word against mine.”
“That’s right,” I said the words on a breath, the good sense of fear wrestling with determination.
But, damn it, I need his help! And it had to be him. It just had to. He could make anything happen. Everyone in town and the surrounding areas owed him a favor. I’d heard the rumors. I’d paid attention. I’d put the puzzle pieces together.
And now I had the most powerful man in east Tennessee right where I needed him.
About Penny Reid
SEX! It all started with sex, between my parents. Personally I don’t like thinking about it, but whatever works for you is a-ok with me. No judgment. The sex happened in California and much of my life also occurred in that state until I moved from the land of nuts (almonds), wine, silicon… boobs, and heavy traffic to the southeast US. Like most writers I like to write, but let’s get back to sex. Eventually I married and gave birth to 2 small people-children (boy-6, girl-4 as of this writing).
By day I’m a biomedical researcher with focus on rare diseases. By night I’m a knitter, sewer, lino block carver, fabric printer, soap maker, and general crafter. By the wee hours of the morning or when I’m intoxicated I love to listen to the voices in my head and let them tell me stories. I hope you enjoy their stories.