Tag Archives: Knitting in the City

Penny Reid Reading List

Knitting in the City Series:
Neanderthal Seeks Human – Strangely compelling, I’ve re-read it a few times
Friends Without Benefits – Meh
Neanderthal Marries Human – More strangely compelling, also re-read
Love Hacked – differently strangely compelling
Beauty and the Mustache – Really liked it, Winston sister, recommended
Ninja at First Sight – Cute-ish
Happily Ever Ninja – NOPE!
Dating-ish – Meh

Winston Brothers Series:
Truth or Beard – too much comeheregoaway
Grin and Beard It – pretty darn good
Beard Science – decent
Beard in Mind – very good, recommended
Dr. Strangebeard – not yet published
Beard Necessities– not yet published

Dear Professor Series:
Kissing Tolstoy – Loathed it

Other:
Elements of Chemistry – Very frustrating, young adult romance
The Hooker and the Hermit – Loathed it, made me stabby

Links to my reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful or my  streamlined recommendations list.

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The Winston Brothers: Beard in Mind by Penny Reid

Buying all of Penny Reid’s Winston Brothers and Knitting in the City books means that I have ridden the roller coaster of her uneven stories. The writing is always fine, and often much better than that, but she hits more rough patches than smooth and doesn’t always manage her plot complications well. Those issues are dealt with, mostly, in Beard in Mind and along the way, the reader gets to see couples from previous books, including Quinn and (my favourite) Janie.

One of Reid’s best efforts, Beard in Mind is a strong entry to the Winston Brothers series with its tortured heroine and the world’s most affable hero. Beau Winston is a sincere charmer. Helpful, well-intentioned, and self-possessed, he does not know what to make of the extraordinarily prickly new mechanic in the family auto repair shop. Shelly Sullivan, sister of Neanderthal Seeks Human’s Quinn, is irascible and difficult. Her habit of cutting people off at the knees perplexes and fascinates Beau. Shelly gets under his skin and her obstreperousness doesn’t stop him from falling for her as he comes to understand the reasons behind it and respect the person she is.

So often in romances, the hero is exasperating and the love of the heroine is traditionally redemptive. It’s nice to see the trope switched here. Shelly, however, doesn’t require of fixing/redeeming. She has OCD and what she needs is someone who sees her as whole, has expectations of her, and understands that sometimes she is at war with her own mind. Beau, while going through his own issues, is the right man for her. Each is responsible for managing their challenges or “fixing their own refrigerator” as it is described in this story. You root for Shelly to find what she needs and to be given/take the opportunity to participate fully in life and relationships.

I would recommend Beard in Mind not just because it’s Reid’s strongest book in a while, but because it contains a sublimely romantic moment. Given the genre and the number of books I read, you’d think these would occur more often, but they simply don’t and this one was the equal of the very short list of those I keep in my head and can track on the fingers of one hand.

I need to make a Penny Reid catalogue page, but in the meantime…

Knitting in the City Series:
Neanderthal Seeks Human – Strangely compelling
Friends Without Benefits – Meh
Neanderthal Marries Human – More strangely compelling
Love Hacked – differently strangely compelling
Beauty and the Mustache – Really liked it, Winston sister
Ninja at First Sight – Cute-ish
Happily Ever Ninja – NOPE!
Dating-ish – Meh

Winston Brothers Series:
Truth or Beard – too much comeheregoaway
Grin and Beard It – pretty darn good
Beard Science – decent
Beard in Mind – please see above
Dr. Strangebeard – not yet published
Beard Necessities– not yet published

Other:
Elements of Chemistry – Very frustrating, young adult romance
The Hooker and the Hermit – Loathed it, made me stabby

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful or my  streamlined recommendations list.

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Knitting in the City Series: Ninja at First Sight and Happily Ever Ninja by Penny Reid

My reaction to Happily Ever Ninja is why Penny Reid continues to be on double-secret probation with me, a situation that started with The Hooker and the Hermit, deepened with Elements of Chemistry and was cemented by Truth or Beard. I wasn’t going to buy Happily Ever Ninja. I WASN’T. No matter what joo-joo a couple of earlier books in the Knitting in the City series possessed or how much I liked Beauty and the Mustache. Penny Reid’s status as an autobuy was over. Then I read Ninja at First Sight and it intrigued me. I followed with a sample of Happily Ever Ninja and enjoyed the set up. Giving in, I bought the full length novel. Boy, was I disappointed. The strong beginning devolved into a Truly Silly and Pseudo Serious Adventure acting as a metaphor for marriage. Thinking again, I’m placing Reid on triple secret probation. I don’t really know what that means, but I won’t be paying for any more of her books.

Happily Ever Ninja

From Amazon: There are three things you need to know about Fiona Archer… I would tell you what they are, but then I’d have to kill you.  But I can tell you that Fiona’s husband—the always irrepressible and often cantankerous Greg Archer—is desperately in love with his wife. He aches for her when they are apart, and is insatiable when they are together. Yet as the years pass, Greg has begun to suspect that Fiona is a ninja. A ninja mom. A ninja wife. A ninja friend. After fourteen years of marriage, Greg is trying not to panic. Because Fiona’s talent for blending in is starting to resemble fading away.  However, when unexpected events mean Fiona must take center stage to keep her family safe, her response stuns everyone—Greg most of all. It seems like Greg’s wish has come true.

Greg and Fiona have spent the entirety of their marriage, and most of their relationship before that, living far apart. Years of long distance life have taken their toll and on Greg’s latest, brief visit home he realises Fiona is slipping away from him. When his professional life takes a Very Dramatic turn, she works to set everything to rights.

Fiona was consistently, wonderfully competent which was her blessing and curse. While a riot, Greg was dismissively autocratic when dealing with her. Not in a rude or high-handed way, he was just won’t listen to her. She is more capable than him, he really should clue in and when he continues not to it is very frustrating. I know that was the point, but it was overplayed. The two end up on a whirlwind adventure and how Fiona makes it through without slapping him is beyond me, even if I understood why there were together.

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Ninja at First Sight

I liked this prequel to Greg and Fiona’s novel and wish it had been longer, although some gaps from it were filled in during the full length book. Having recently read a bunch of new adult romances, this story of two university students filled that bill nicely. Fiona has chosen to go to college far away from her parents. It’s her only hope for independence from their pressure and ongoing concern as a result of a serious health crisis she suffered as  a teenager. Incredibly shy and a bit awkward, she is dragged around her residence by a well-intentioned roomie and meets Greg. He’s older, British, and attached. He also knows a good thing when he sees it and is gone on Fiona from day one. Their courtship was sweet and involving. I blame it for getting me to overlook my Penny Reid book-buying embargo and buy Fiona and Greg’s full length story.

Penny Reid’s Catalogue:

Knitting in the City Series
Neanderthal Seeks Human – Strangely compelling
Friends Without Benefits – Meh
Neanderthal Marries Human – More strangely compelling
Love Hacked – Pretty darn good
Beauty and the Mustache – Really liked it
Ninja at First Sight – see above
Happily Ever Ninja – see above

Winston Brothers Series
Truth or Beard – too much comeheregoaway

Other
Elements of Chemistry – Frustrating, young adult romance
The Hooker and the Hermit – Loathed it, made me stabby

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

The Winston Brothers Series: Truth or Beard by Penny Reid

Truth or Beard is the first book in the Winston Brothers contemporary romance series, but the Winston sister already had her turn in a book I liked better, Beauty and the Mustache.

Jessica: If I said the sky was blue you would say it was purple.
Duane: Sometimes the sky is purple. Right now it’s indigo, almost black. You can’t just make a unilateral statement that the sky is blue.

Ah, that’s the stuff. Banter gives me life. Penny Reid writes great banter, friendships, and familial relationships; unfortunately, in Truth or Beard, the romantic relationship didn’t really work. It got off to great and steamy start, but fizzled under the weight of comeheregoaway. Penny Reid writes great heroines and the men are so smitten, so I did want to like this book. I wanted to like it so much. This hero has a beard. Do you have any idea how much I love beards? Plus, every hero in this series has one. Heaven, I tell you. HEAVEN. Or it would be, if the narrative had held up.

The six  bearded Winston brothers, and their beardless sister have just lost their mother. Duane and Beau, the twins, run an automotive shop with Cletus, the unfortunately named, zen one. Duane has long had a hankering for the sheriff’s daughter, Jessica. She, in turn, has always had a crush on Beau. When Jessica moves back to her parents home in rural Tennessee to teach at the local high school and save money on rent in anticipation of setting out on a life of travel, Duane makes his long-awaited move and the two of them start to date, then take turns deciding the relationship can’t work. By the time they reached a consensus, I didn’t care any more. I even went off and read something else for a while when I lost interest in the story.

This makes the second Penny Reid book in a row I haven’t really liked and had too much vacillation on the part of the leads. The price will have to be right for me to read any more of her novels.

Penny Reid’s Catalogue:

Knitting in the City Series
Neanderthal Seeks Human – Strangely compelling
Friends Without Benefits – Meh
Neanderthal Marries Human – More strangely compelling
Love Hacked – Pretty darn good
Beauty and the Mustache – see above
Ninja at First Sight – quite good
Happily Ever Ninja – frustrating

Winston Brothers Series
Truth or Beard – see above

Other
Elements of Chemistry – Frustrating, young adult romance
The Hooker and the Hermit – Loathed it, made me stabby

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

Knitting in the City Series: Friends Without Benefits and Scenes from the City: A Knitting in the City Surprise by Penny Reid

These are books two and six from Penny Reid’s Knitting in the City series:

  1. Neanderthal Seeks Human
  2. Friends Without Benefits – see below
  3. Neanderthal Marries Human (novella)
  4. Love Hacked
  5. Beauty and the Mustache
  6. Scenes from the City: A Knitting in the City Surprise (novella) – also below
  7. Happily Ever Ninja – 2015

Friends Without Benefits

I enjoy the unrequited love trope, especially as the romance genre always allows for the besotted character’s vindication, but having said that, Friends Without Benefits was just okay and not as good as the others in the Knitting in the City series, although I did welcome the visits with other characters from the novels. As with the other books, there was a subplot that took a turn into high drama even though Reid is so good with the relationships it was unnecessary.

Elizabeth is a doctor completing her residency and is winding up her pediatric rotation. She is paged to a consultation for a Cystic Fibrosis study and finds herself face-to-face with a man she is has known her whole life, but hasn’t seen for 11 years. Nico Moretti is the son of her mother’s best friend, the uncle to the sick child, and both the former bane of Elizabeth’s existence and the boy she summarily dumped right after losing her virginity to him.

Nico has made a life for himself as model and then successful stand-up comedian called The Face (an odd juxtaposition to be sure). He has a TV show in New York, but is visiting Chicago to help care for his niece. He takes one look at Elizabeth and realises this is his chance to win the woman he has always loved. Capitalizing on the CF study and his fame, he makes sure his niece gets the best possible care and that Elizabeth never leaves him again.

While Friends Without Benefits had Reid’s usual wry humour and smolder, it never really clicked for me. Despite strong chemistry, I just wasn’t invested in Elizabeth and Nico.

Scenes from the City: A Knitting in the City Surprise

Some readers must have complained about the lack of [insert funky  bass line here] in the novels as this addition to the series consists of follow-up chapters on the couples including some bedroom time and an extended excerpt from the upcoming book Happily Ever Ninja.

Neanderthal Seeks Human’s Janie and Quinn are on their honeymoon doing what honeymooners do. There is no new information, just Janie acting in her usual charming offbeat way and Quinn appreciating both her intellect and the way she looks in a bikini.

Love Hacked’s Alex and Sandra have been married for a year and are blissfully in love. For their anniversary, Alex arranges a special adventure for Sandra. This chapter had no smolder and benefited from it.

Nico and Elizabeth’s follow up to Friends Without Benefits addresses their wedding and its aftermath. As the books are told from the women’s perspectives – with the hero’s perspective in a final chapter – this episode was indirectly covered in both Neanderthal Marries Human and Friends Without Benefits.

The end of Beauty and the Mustache (which I really liked) had protagonists Ashley and Drew agreeing to be together in Tennessee, but she was still living in Chicago. Here, she waits in her empty apartment for Drew to come and pick her up for the drive to her new home. While impatiently waiting, she revisits the letters he wrote to her during their time apart. Drew arrives, they get busy, the end.

Ninja at First Sight excerpt from Happily Ever Ninja

Part of the delight of the Knitting in the City series is the group of female friends the stories are built around. Only one of them was married at the outset, Fiona, and she has been with her husband Greg for over a decade. This sneak peek takes the reader back to when they met at university. Fiona was a competitive gymnast who lost several of her teen years to fighting a brain tumor. Greg takes one look and is very interested, but he is also older and more worldly than she. Smitten, Fiona crushes on Greg and he on her while they both keep their distance. After a drunken confession and a sobering night’s sleep, they start to talk, and then kiss, and then the damn excerpt ends and leaves the reader hanging. I don’t normally like the married couple falling in love all over again stories, but I strongly suspect Happily Ever Ninja will make it onto my reading list when it is released.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful which includes the aforementioned observations.

Knitting in the City Series: Beauty and the Mustache by Penny Reid

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:

Knitting in the City Series
Neanderthal Seeks Human – Strangely compelling
Friends Without Benefits – Meh
Neanderthal Marries Human – More strangely compelling
Love Hacked – Pretty darn good
Beauty and the Mustache – see above
Ninja at First Sight – quite good
Happily Ever Ninja – frustrating

Winston Brothers Series
Truth or Beard – too much comeheregoaway

Other
Elements of Chemistry – Frustrating, young adult romance
The Hooker and the Hermit – Loathed it, made me stabby

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

Knitting in the City Series: Neanderthal Seeks Human, Neanderthal Marries Human & Love Hacked by Penny Reid

Don’t worry, despite the title it’s not one of these:

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Now, you can’t unsee it either.

The Knitting in the City contemporary romance series is extremely highly-rated on Amazon and I both do and do not understand why. I don’t know what juju is in these books, but I keep re-reading the ones I have, particularly Neanderthal Seeks Human and Neanderthal Marries Human which both focus on the same couple. Re-readability is a kind of litmus test for me with this genre. I interact with the novels differently than I do other books. If one grabs me, I will reread my favourite sections and revisit the book again and again. If I really like it, such as A Kiss for Midwinter, I will read it again from cover to cover. (Note: I did this yesterday.) and not just the good bits. That does not mean what you think it means.

Knitting in the City Series

  1. Neanderthal Seeks Human – Strangely compelling
  2. Friends Without Benefits – Meh
  3. Neanderthal Marries Human – More strangely compelling
  4. Love Hacked – Pretty darn good
  5. Beauty and the Mustache – Really liked it
  6. Ninja at First Sight – quite good
  7. Happily Ever Ninja – frustrating

 

The heroine of Neanderthal Seeks Human and Neanderthal Marries Human, Janie, is both wonderfully quirky and highly capable. A buxom goddess, her sense of self is in contradiction to how other people perceive her. A first person narrator, she misinterprets or is oblivious to a lot of what goes on around her, experiencing the romantic self-doubt even the most together people feel. Janie is very likeable and that goes a long way. She might misunderstand, but she is smart and kind. I would have like to hear the hero’s perspective as well and the second book, Neanderthal Marries Human, incorporates it with good results.

Quinn Sullivan (Holy romance novel name, Batman!), owns a large security firm. He’s self-made and has a dubious past. Taciturn and stoic, he has many qualities that would be really annoying in real life, but are perfectly groovy in a hero. I enjoy these large, quiet protector types, even though such a creature would drive me crazy almost instantly were he real. Quinn communicates almost exclusively with his eyes, slight changes in the way he holds his mouth, and with his hands. He can’t keep them off of Janie. I cannot resist a besotted hero.

While the Neanderthal love story was sweet, the secondary plot was more octoplary in nature and a little cray-cray: Major events being dropped in and then glossed over, tons of family baggage, and things taking a turn for Too Much.

Like the Neanderthal books, Love Hacked suffered from cloak-and-dagger-and-not-really-unwilling-suspension-of-disbelief sub-plotting and benefited from a sweet relationship. The hero, Alex, was different from almost any I’ve read. Filling a usual heroine’s role, the Victim of Circumstance, he has a very difficult past, a not much less complicated present, and a heroine, Sandra (Holy not a romance novel name, Batman!), who not so much rescues him, but accepts him as he is. He is also the youngest hero I’ve ever read. He has crammed a lot into his young life and this makes the match believable.

Was that coherent? Do I care? Did I stutter? I have been working long days for the past 10 weeks (poor me) and these three Knitting in the City books have become vodka tonics to my long day. To be perfectly honest, with some romances, – not these – this has meant skipping from the set up to when the couple first gets together. Plain escapism isn’t enough, I require full immersion and recurring familiar escapism, so I re-read. Apparently, my work brain needs to be subsumed immediately and can’t be bothered with all that lovingly crafted exposition. Revisiting books that are already familiar or have recently become so [cough]theseones[cough] fills the bill.

Question: Sandra is 28 and a practicing psychiatrist. Doesn’t that take about 12 years? Would she be done with her undergrad/medical school/residency already?

Also by Penny Reid:

Winston Brothers Series
Truth or Beard – too much comeheregoaway

Other
Elements of Chemistry – Frustrating, young adult romance
The Hooker and the Hermit – Loathed it, made me stabby

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.