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.
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2dIxpQQ
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2d9IB2i
Amazon CA: http://amzn.to/2cxMu1m
Amazon AU: http://amzn.to/2cCFSzS
Reviewed by Donna ~ 5 stars
***ARC received for an honest review***
“As momma used to say, ‘Best to leave farts and the past behind you.’”
I always knew that Cletus’s story would be amazing, but I have to take off my hat to Penny Reid because she really brought Cletus to life with her words. Such was the intricate nature of Penny Reid’s writing that I could clearly picture and hear Cletus with every word I read, every little nuance of his personality and mannerisms was captured perfectly. He was always the Winston that captured my attention the most, eccentric, quiet, clever, conniving, closed off…who was Cletus Winston?
Cletus is the master manipulator, but never for his own gain, he was a modern day Superman without the dressing up, he was the modern day Robin Hood, he righted a lot of wrongs even if he does go about it the wrong way…but, his intentions were always good.
Jennifer Sylvester is the Banana Cake Queen and has been for years. Jennifer is a master baker and has the whole town salivating over her baked goods. Jennifer though is extremely sheltered, was home schooled by her parents and now their reign of dominance continues. Jennifer works seventy to eighty hours per week for NOTHING! Her parents dictate her life from her phone calls to clothing and accessories, she is as under the thumb as under the thumb can be. Her mother has her dressed like a 1950’s Mary Berry all in the name of “branding.” She cannot think for herself for fear of the repercussions, so she just goes with the flow, until she starts to begin to grow a backbone.
“I’m basically the Rocky Balboa of bakers. I’m unstoppable!”
All Jennifer wants is a husband and family, something to call her own and something she knows that she is never going to achieve without help. Her parents have given her a list of eligible suitors but for once Jennifer wants to do something for herself, repercussions be damned. While filming something for herself she inadvertently catches Cletus on film on one of his Robin Hood missions, but it is something that he could get into HUGE trouble for. Being the good law abiding citizen she is she…blackmails him!! Help me find a husband!
“Where these two yokels saw a weak, sensitive flower—an angelic pushover, ripe for the pushing—I saw an opportunist in banana-cake clothing.”
Cletus is ADORABLE, he knows that he has a tough job ahead of him and being on the receiving end of blackmail is definitely a novelty, but as with anything Cletus does, he doesn’t go in half assed. He has to find out who Jennifer Sylvester really is underneath the façade that her parents have built around her. This is a mission in itself, self-confidence is the biggest issue and breaking her away from her parent’s apron strings is a mammoth undertaking…but what happens when hearts get involved?
“Together we would not be perfectly pragmatic. We would be impressively impractical.”
These two were perfect for each other, even if they couldn’t see it. Jennifer was a people watcher, she may have been meek and timid but she garnered a lot of information and ammunition just from her eyes. Cletus the master manipulator who could turn any bad situation on its head and come out smelling of roses…these two could make a formidable team.
“You seize that woman, Cletus. You make her yours. And then after,” still grinning, Duane dropped his hand on my shoulder and gave me a little shake, “you give that woman your sausage.”
With all the Winston’s making their appearances this story really involves the family as a whole, from practice dates, to pregnancy crazes, talent competitions to putting his sausage in her pie. This book had me in tears of laughter as well as a few stray ones on the opposite end of the spectrum. As with any Penny Reid book her ever present wit is prevalent throughout and once again leads to a well-balanced unputdownable read. I am seriously in awe of this woman’s penmanship. Every story I have read now has had me one hundred percent invested, totally transported into her character’s worlds and lives, this was not simply reading a book, this was a journey and one that I absolutely loved.
“I’d found my tribe. I’d found my people. I’d found my person. And I’d found myself.”
“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 the Author:
Penny Reid is the USA Today Best Selling Author of the Winston Brothers and Knitting in the City series. When she's not immersed in penning smart romances, Penny works in the biotech industry as a researcher. She's also a full time mom to three diminutive adults, wife, daughter, knitter, crocheter, sewer, general crafter, and thought ninja.