A HERO WITH A BEARD! My first lumbersexual after 3 years and 300 books. I may need a moment.
Penny Reid’s great Knitting in the City series continues with Beauty and the Mustache, a book that also happens to introduce a family of brothers (Cletus, Beauford, Jethro, Billy, Duane, and Roscoe) set for their own stories. They all have beards, too! Huzzah!
Ashley Winston is a nurse living in Chicago and she has just come home to rural Tennessee to learn why her mother is not returning her calls. She’s in hospital, no one has been allowed to see her, but Ashley is let in only to learn that her mother is dying. The story follows her mother’s decline and Ashley’s incipient relationship with Drew Runous, although the two never overlap inappropriately. She has never met Drew before, but she’s been gone for 8 years and missed the period in which he developed close ties to her family and, in particular, her mother.
Beauty and the Mustache starts out with regional stereotypes and moves on from there. Ashley’s memory of her six brothers as a group of troublemakers who tormented her during a difficult childhood is inconsistent with the present. She clawed her way out of her limited life in Tennessee and everyone has grown up since then, including Ashley, so now she has to figure out what she wants and where she wants to be.
Game warden Drew is a classic protector/warrior hero and like all Reid’s men fits neatly into an idealized male type. He is the still water that runs deep, a mountain man with a PhD and the soul of a poet. He has issues from his childhood, too, but he is a good, honest, and trustworthy man. As Ashley observes, he is also “fiction handsome” and “romance novel”/”viking conqueror” gorgeous. Tall, muscular, be-plaided, deep, and bearded. Sign. Me. Up.
Each chapter starts with a quote appropriate to the story and, as I happen to collect quotations, I loved this element. Told from Ashley’s perspective, but with Reid’s usual inclusion of the hero’s voice in the final chapter, the book performed a nice balancing act with Ashley’s emotional turmoil about losing her mother and Drew’s sudden presence in her life. The final portion of the story had some of the heightened reality that each of the Knitting in the City books has when things take a turn for over-the-top, but Reid somehow manages to prevent it derailing the plot, likely because I am so involved by that point that I just go with it.
I will continue to read Reid’s series. The female friendships are a delight, each of the women have a distinct personality and their relationships have the closeness that I have experienced in my own life. Also, having gone through a somewhat similar parental death, I thought those elements of Beauty and the Mustache rang true, even if they did make me want to cry.
The next book in the Winston Brothers series, Truth or Beard, was not as strong.
Penny Reid’s Catalogue gives an overview of her published works , some of which I recommend and some of which I dislike intensely.