Doing it at: 76%
Catnip: Southern Boys; Beards; Ginger Men; Hate to Love You; Small Town Romance; Funny Girl; Beta Hero; Hot Cars
Shame Scale: That cover is too cute to feel shame. Plus it’s genuinely funny.
Fantasy Cast: This NSFW guy, Anna Sophia Robb
Beards, brothers, and bikers! Oh my!
Identical twins Beau and Duane Winston might share the same devastatingly handsome face, but where Beau is outgoing and sociable, Duane is broody and reserved. This is why Jessica James, recent college graduate and perpetual level-headed good girl, has been in naïve and unhealthy infatuation with Beau Winston for most of her life. His friendly smiles make her tongue-tied and weak-kneed, and she’s never been able to move beyond her childhood crush. Whereas Duane and Jessica have always been adversaries. She can’t stand him, and she’s pretty sure he can’t stand the sight of her…
But after a case of mistaken identity, Jessica finds herself in a massive confusion kerfuffle. Jessica James has spent her whole life paralyzed by the fantasy of Beau and her assumptions of Duane’s disdain; therefore she’s unprepared for the reality that is Duane’s insatiable interest, as well as his hot hands and hot mouth and hotter looks. Not helping Jessica’s muddled mind and good girl sensibilities, Duane seems to have gotten himself in trouble with the local biker gang, the Iron Order.
Certainly, Beau’s magic spell is broken. Yet when Jessica finds herself drawn to the man who was always her adversary, now more dangerous than ever, how much of her level-head heart is she willing to risk?
Cleone: Look at the cover, y’all, whoever did that design is a marketing genius. Ginger beards are such catnip for the Shame Girls.
Mary: I expected something that was basically YA from this one based on the cover, but it was amazingly not the case. I didn’t know anything about it, or Penny Reid in general when we picked it up, but I realized a few pages in that this book was going to hit so many catnip triggers for us.
(We’ve cut out the middle of this pic because it’s definitely NSFW and we should probably draw the line somewhere, but it’s delightful, and we emphatically recommend clicking here to see the original picture of this glorious ginger.
C: Truth or Beard introduces us to the Winston boys, and to Duane in particular. All of the boys have names associated with slack jawed yokels, but Reid manages to make us hot for all of them, even the one who has been given the unfortunate moniker of Cletus. Writing magic.
M: Cletus the banjo player. I kept picturing him as Zach Galifianakis, but he’s described as being fairly attractive, so I’m looking forward to Reid bringing me around on him. If she can make us get hot over a guy named Cletus, we’re going to have to come up with some kind of award for her.
C: Jessica James, sheriff’s daughter and the town’s hot math teacher, has always had a thing for Beau Winston. Beau is charming and sweet and does not inspire her eternal ire like his identical twin Duane does. In fact Jess thinks she can tell the boys apart just by their giant differences in attitude. Of course she can’t. Which leads to an extremely hot interlude backstage at a community center full of most of the community.
M: It was the hottest, and the funniest. First of all, Jess is dressed as Sexy Gandalf for Halloween – an ironic take on the sexy girl costumes. So Beau/Duane drags her backstage, they jump each other, and Jess is thinking, “I’ve always wondered what the big deal is about nipples, and this guy seems like he would know what to do with them,” so she just whips them out. I love her so much. She decides to just go for the gold, right there backstage at the community center with kids wandering around trick or treating. She undoes his pants and gives him a few strokes before Beau puts the brakes on and confesses that he’s actually Duane, and he has liked her forever, and wants to do this the right way. Meaning, with her knowing who he is.
My companion was most definitely not Beau Winston – hero, world’s nicest guy. No, no, no. This man was not Beau. This man was Duane. And this man had just done fantastic things to my nipples.
But all Jess hears is the “not Beau” part, not the “I’m crazy about you” part, so she gets super pissed and they start with the hate foreplay:
“I hope you wander into a hornet’s nest and die of an acetylcholine overdose,” I spat.
“You say the prettiest things.”
C: Mary and I read part of this book lying down together, nursing a Pimm’s Cup hangover (those delicious jerk drinks are stronger than they seem!), and eating bacon sandwiches. Duane is a perfect beta boy — not an actual pushover, just yielding enough — and a mighty fun hangover cure.
M: We loved this book and want to talk all about it, so this might be a little spoiler-y. We don’t reveal any secrets, but if you want to go into this book blind, scroll directly down from one hot ginger to the next.
C: Duane has had a big thing for Jess ever since she pants’d him, threw those shorts in a tree, and defiantly laughed about it after he tackled her full naked. They were younger teens when this happened, so it was platonic but adorable. He’s always loved how fierce and honest and funny she is, and now that she’s back in town he’s determined to bide his time and play out his hand just so. Duane is really big on planning.
M: Unfortunately, Jess is also pretty big on planning, and is only in town for a year or two, long enough to pay off her student loans and save some money so she can go travel the world and satisfy her wanderlust. Settling down in a small town in Tennessee is ultimately not something she thinks she could do.
C: Jessica, once she decides that Fuck she IS hot for Duane and not Beau, is conflicted but very ready to ride that stallion, she’s only had sex once, with a guy she describes as being like a Shetland Pony: disappointing. Jess is pretty sure from the way Duane kisses, and from the fantastic things he does to her nipples, that he will be in no way disappointing. This bearded beta is hot, and skilled.
M: But Duane is Serious about Jess. He wants to do things right, and court her, and be respectful to her parents, and just everything. He’s absolutely the sweetest.
I had an odd thought just then, that I should only ever whisper her name, and that she should always be close enough to hear it.
We love Alphas, but those Betas tho.
C: Despite Jessica’s climbing Duane like a tree every chance she gets, we don’t get sex until the 76% mark, well after our rating cut off. But this sweet, funny book might have to fall under our CoHo exception.
M: I’m cool with invoking the CoHo exception for this one – meaning, it’s good enough for us to wait for the doing it. Much like how Duane feels about Jess?
C: Duane wants to take his time, and make their first doin’ it super special. In fact he thought he might wait until they got married. Which is like the sweetest, but lets get with the square dancing, Duane Faulkner Winston (how great is it that his middle name is Faulkner? Reid is a delight).
She wanted to give me a blow job. I suggested fried pie instead.
M: But even though there’s no actual P in the V till late in the book, Reid manages to keep a good amount of sexual tension going through, with lots of frantic making out, and a nice bit of fun in his muscle car.
“Duane,” I whispered in his ear, more breath than sound, “I’m not letting you leave this car until we make it to second base. At least.”
He rolled the Road Runner forward slightly, nudging the crowd out of the way, giving me his profile.
“Jess, you know how good I am at baseball, right?”
I got the feeling he was waiting for me to answer. “Yes, Duane. I know you’re good at baseball.”
His eyes slid to the side, collided with mine. Again, I saw intense focus, like he had plans and they all involved me.
“Do you think I’d settle for second base if I was sure I could steal home?”
C: Truth or Beard takes place in the sort of small town that seems to only exist in books, and TV — I’m looking at you Stars Hollow — everyone knows Jessica and Duane and their families. Duane’s daddy was a charming shifty biker who ran on the wrong side of the law and treated his mama (who died recently) like shit. Some of his older brothers, specifically Jethro, were involved with his daddy’s biker club, the Iron Order. Duane has always found the bikers to be less than savory and wants nothing to do with them. Unfortunately, the bikers are interested in Duane and Beau and their mechanic skills. Two big, burly dudes have given the twins an ultimatum: help us run a chop shop or we’re sending Jethro to prison for acts he committed while involved in the order. So now the boys are trying to find a way to tell these toughs to go to Halifax without anyone ending up bloodied or imprisoned.
M: This plot with the bikers didn’t really overlap with the romance, but I still really enjoyed it. The resolution surprised me, and not to brag, but I’m pretty good at guessing out plot twists in romance novels.
C: Meanwhile Duane’s still romancing Jess, including teaching her how to change tires and then dancing with her in the garage to The Beach Boys. Swooning all over the place.
C: Jess and her wanderlust provide the other will they/wont they drama in Truth or Beard, since she’s only in town until she gets her finances set and then she plans to travel the world. Duane is discouraged thinking that they’re either going to be working under a time constraint, or that she’ll stay and resent him. He’s too sweet and beta and in love with her to ask her to give up any part of her dream.
M: Meanwhile, Jess is honest with herself and realizes pretty quickly that she WANTS Duane in her life, and wants to find a way to make it work for both of them. She was really a great heroine, and had hardly any DBB (Dumb Book Behavior).
C: We should probably stress that no part of Duane being toothsome and respectful detracts from him being a dreamy, hot book boyfriend. He was a nice Beta antidote to the Leader of the Alpha Pack that we had just read about in Real/Remy. When Jess and Duane finally (FINALLY!) go for a roll in the sheets, he leaves no doubt who will be in charge in bed. Just the way we like it.
M: He was perfectly respectful, till he decided to not be, and then he did a really great job of disrespecting her.
M: This book was delightful. I loved every single character, I loved the banter, and the biker plot actually kept me guessing. We’re going to be preordering everything else in this series, and we emphatically recommend checking this one out.
C: I love the relationship between the Winston boys, and am now pumped for our next installment of Country-Boy-Beard-Porn, which will feature Jethro and a BBW! Penny Reid appears to know just what a girl wants.