Tag Archives: Penny Reid

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 gives an overview of her published works , some of which I recommend and some of which I dislike intensely.

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

Elements of Chemistry by Penny Reid

I’ve read enough Penny Reid now that I can tell you what I like about her books. She’s very funny and she uses first person narration incredibly effectively. Often one’s inner life can be so different from one’s public persona and that juxtaposition, when done well, greatly adds to the characterization. That said, Elements of Chemistry also got this response from me, spoken out loud and with a great deal volume:

 She needs to be punched in the head.

But more on that later.

Kaitlyn Parker is the daughter of a very successful and famous family. Martin Sandeke is the son of a manipulative bastard of a billionaire. As Elements of Chemistry fits into the “New Adult” romance genre, Katy and Martin meet when they were paired up as chemistry lab partners at an Ivy League university. Katy tries to be invisible, Martin insists on seeing her. When Katy overhears people scheming (yes, scheming) against Martin, she peeks out of her cloak of invisibility to warn him. Martin is somewhat suspicious, but mostly grateful to her for this chance to make his move, so he finagles spending Spring Break with Katy, her friend, and the members of the college rowing team – of which he is, of course, the captain – at his family’s Caribbean estate.

Elements of Chemistry started well. Martin was very interested in Katy and not willing to let the opportunity to get closer to her pass. He pursues while Katy dances between her own distrust of the hot guy who wants her and the fact that she also desperately wants him, too. There is a lot of comeheregoaway in this book, a hitherto unprecedented amount of it. A level of comeheregoaway that means that the last two-thirds of the book consist of Big Misundertandings and me wondering at what point this lovely university student became Too Stupid to Live. Sadly, it was the last comeheregoaway in anticipation of the novel’s denouement that left me wishing physical violence upon Katy.

I continue in my failure to understand the timelines in so many of these books, or, to be more accurate, how many authors don’t understand that they need to successfully portray the emotional connection between the leads to justify the compressed timeline. Contradicting myself, all Martin and Katy seemed to have was an emotional connection, but it was constantly fraught and angst-filled. An hour or two of connected bliss (emotional and betimes physical) and their relationship would derail.  I appreciated that Martin adored Katy and was willing to work through her insecurities, but, comeheregoaway, jeezy chreezy, comeheregoaway, big dramatic moment, comeheregoaway, falling in love, comeheregoaway, and starting a relationship, comeheregoaway, is not supposed to be this difficult. Walk away, dude. Just walk away.

Elements of Chemistry was maddening and Penny Reid’s foray into co-writing,The Hooker and the Hermit, put me in the mood for a stabbing. Her Knitting in the City series is where I will be spending my time with her catalogue from now on. I particularly enjoyed Beauty and the Mustache.

Penny Reid’s Catalogue gives an overview of her published works , some of which I recommend and some of which I dislike intensely.

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
  8. Dating-ish: A Humanoid Romance
  9. A Marriage of Inconvenience

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.

Penny Reid’s Catalogue gives an overview of her published works , some of which I recommend and some of which I dislike intensely.

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.

The Hooker and the Hermit by L.H. Cosway & Penny Reid

I have really enjoyed and recommend Penny Reid’s Knitting in the City Series and plan to try out other novels she writes, but this one confused me. It’s a bad sign when one is wondering if the contemporary romance one is reading is in some way meant to be the questionable elements of 50 Shades of Grey (which, admittedly, I haven’t read) done right. What a mess. I was making notes by the end of the first chapter.

Working with L.H. Cosway, Reid has written a book about a pig-adjacent man who falls in love with a woman who has major social anxiety issues. By day, Annie works for a PR firm. At twenty-three years old, and a recentish Masters graduate, I found her status as one of the best in the business silly. She *just* finished school. On the side, she writes a hugely successful and profitable blog for which she tracks down and secretly photographs male celebrities (she even gives tips on how to do so), then mocks their fashion choices. Ostensibly, this turns the tables on the way women in the media are criticized, but the fact that she hunts these people down and, unbeknownst to them, documents them was a record needle scratch for me. Moreover, I have some small experience in this area as part of an online community (Pajiba) for several years and having written for its website. From what I have seen, there is NO WAY Annie’s clever little posts are going to make her any kind of income without constant effort and hours of content creation on her part.

Ronan is an Irish professional rugby player taking time off after trying to feed a teammate his fist upon discovering the man’s infidelity with Ronan’s fiancee. Said woman, by the way, is a repellent, avaricious hoochie vilified in the way that anyone other than the good girl heroine is in questionable fiction. He was engaged to her after all, before she turned into a slutty, plastic-surgery-victim bad girl. Anywho, choosing New York City to lay low, Annie takes one of her privacy invading photos of Ronan and he responds to the resulting blog post. Simultaneously, his management wants his image to undergo a transformation and Annie is assigned to help him with social media and his public persona. Juxtaposing the work relationship – which involves pretending to date – and their blog-based email correspondence allows everyone to express their true feelings without taking too many risks. Annie is guilty of a lot of comeheregoaway, the authors are guilty of an inconsistent and confusing characterization.

It’s not that the book was badly written, Reid is always funny and articulate, it’s that I was surprised by the character choices. In addition to those issues, the [insert funky bassline here] left me a bit perplexed. Ronan has a kink that he is pleased to discover Annie shares; however, there’s enjoying sexual play and then there’s warning signs that you are being pursued by a potential abuser. The Hooker and the Hermit had both and I found that combination odd, as surely there is a difference between behavior in the bedroom and being a controlling boyfriend. Ronan says and does every single overly aggressive thing women complain about and it’s NOT CHARMING, especially for someone as social anxiety ridden as Annie is portrayed to be: he’s in her personal space, he cages her with his arms in an elevator, there’s inappropriate touching, comments on her physique (in a professional context no less), ignoring “no”, telling her there are “rules” now they are together. These are all red flags.

Penny Reid’s Catalogue gives an overview of her published works , some of which I recommend and some of which I dislike intensely.

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: 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 gives an overview of her published works , some of which I recommend and some of which I dislike intensely.

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 Complete Reading List by Author

Short Version: Recommended books are in bold, reviewed books are linked, these are ruthlessly streamlined recommendations lists –

So You Want to Read a (Historical) Romance
Ten Great Romance Novellas to Get You Started
Plus just for funsies: The Worst Romance Novels I Have Ever Read

I have more content based lists over there on the right  –>

Annual Reading Tallies & Author Commentary 2012 – 2017
On reading romance: Emotional Version and Pseudo-Intellectual Version.

My AUTOBUY List (Links Will Take You to a Summary of the Author’s Catalogue)
Tessa Dare (on probation right now actually)
Laura Florand
Lisa Kleypas
Julie Anne Long
Courtney Milan – The. Very. Best.

Albert, Annabeth Waiting for Clark (Bryce/Clark)
Albert, Annabeth Save the Date (Randall/Hunter)
Alexander, R.G. Ravenous novella (Declan/Trick/Jennifer)
Alexander, Victoria Love with the Proper Husband (Marcus/Gwen)
Alexander, Victoria Lady Amelia’s Secret Lover novella (Robert/Amelia)
Alexander, Victoria The Prince’s Bride (Rand/Jocelyn)
Alexander, Victoria The Importance of Being Wicked (Winfield/Miranda)
Alexander, Victoria Lord Stillwell’s Excellent Engagements novella (Winfield/ Felicia&Lucy&Caroline)
Alvarez, Tracey In Too Deep (West/Piper)
Andre, Bella The Way You Look Tonight (Rafe/Brooke)
Ann, Jewel E. When Life Happened (Gus/Parker)
Ashe, Katharine In the Arms of a Marquess (Ben)
Ashley, Jennifer The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie (Ian, not surprisingly/Beth) – GENRE OUTLINE
Continue reading

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:


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
  8. Dating-ish: A Humanoid Romance
  9. A Marriage of Inconvenience

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 dramatic 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 the 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?

Penny Reid’s Catalogue gives an overview of her published works , some of which I recommend and some of which I dislike intensely.

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