Truth or Beard, by Penny Reid

truth or beard

Grade: A-

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

Book Description:

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.

beard 1

beard 3

(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.

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In the Fast Lane, by Audra North

In The Fast Lane

Grade: B

Doing it at: 65%

Catnip: Race Car Drivers; Southern Boy; Fake Relationship; Strong Female Lead; Boxers Boner

Shame Scale: Light shame. The heroine is a total alpha and it’s refreshing to see a book about a woman with the cool catnippy job.

Fantasy Cast: Oliver Hudson; Eliza Dushku

Book Description:

LIFE IN THE FAST LANE
Racing cars is in Kerri Hart’s blood–literally, since it’s the family business. But Hart Racing is in dire financial straits, and as the only female rookie driver, Kerri’s sponsorship offers always tend to be of the unzipped racing-suit variety. It’s a message she’d rather not sell to her young fans. But how can she afford not to?

LOVE ON OVERDRIVE
Ranger Colt knows how to make a woman’s heart race. But when his voice pops up on Kerri’s headset–while she’s in mid-tailspin–she’s in no mood for his charms. Colt Hardware now has a significant stake in the Hart family business, and Kerri has no choice but to work with him. But when her ex-boyfriend makes a very public, tabloid-fodder scene that threatens to tarnish her image, it’s Ranger who comes to the rescue. Pretending to be engaged to generate some good publicity seems like a good plan. In fact, it works–all too well. What begins as a ruse is revving up to feel a whole lot like the real thing. Will Kerri and Ranger’s fake-lationship take a wild turn. . .and lead them toward the finish?

This is a quick story (170 pages) about Kerri, a gorgeous, confident race car driver, and Ranger, the new owner of her family’s racing team. Hart Racing has been struggling financially, and Kerri has a PR problem – as one of the only women in racing, she’s painted by the media as a diva, and hounded for things that are dismissed for the other male drivers. Ranger’s father bought Hart Racing, and sent Ranger down to prove himself by turning the team into a success.

The story opens when one of Kerri’s ex’s runs onto the track during a practice run, almost causing an accident, with a giant banner proposing to her. There are spelling errors. Ranger sees all this happen, and is all, “No big, we’ll just pretend we’re engaged and that will solve everything.” Kerry is predictably outraged, because her family legacy was just sold out from under her, and she’s in the middle of a media storm from a doofus ex boyfriend, but she’s taking the blame, being portrayed as a man-eater. She sees the logic in Ranger’s solution, but I love how she refused to let anyone mansplain to her:

“Settle down, now, and hear -”

“I swear to God, if anyone tells me one more time to settle down, I will gut him with a socket wrench.”

Violent, but effective. He made what he hoped was the right decision and simply shut up.

They decide to get things off on a professional start with some hot “practice kissing,” and predictably they have amazing chemistry. Nonetheless, they try and keep things on a platonic level, with occasional kissing for the cameras. We all know where this story is going – both of them want to fuck each other into the mattress, but try and hold off to keep things on a business level. In other words, fantastic tension. Ranger is worried to start anything with Kerri since he’ll be leaving in a few months to go back to his dad’s company, with a big promotion and he doesn’t want to break Kerri’s heart. But Kerri is all, “Maybe I just want to use you, bro.”

And the sex was a good blend of playful and hot, our favorite:

“Shit, Ranger, your cock is really big.”

The whispered words nearly shut him down, and he half laughed, half groaned through is teeth. “God, sugar. No offense, but I’m gonna need you to be quiet for a little bit if you need this to last more than ten seconds. Give or take five.”

I really enjoyed Kerri as our heroine. She’s working hard to empower young girls, and it was great to read a book where the girl gets the cool job. North does a good job highlighting inequities in how the media treats women vs. men, and Ranger was happy to sit back and let Kerri live dangerously. In a genre where overprotective men are celebrated, this was an immensely refreshing change.

This one comes out on July 14, click to view on Amazon:

Asa, by Jay Crownover

Asa

Grade: A

Doing it at: 29%

Catnip: Reformed Bad Boy; Guilt; Southern Boy; Cop and Criminal; Bar Sex; Handcuffs; Marked Men; Crownover

Shame Scale: I’m not ashamed of this. Are you ashamed of this? (note from Cleone: No Shame)

Fantasy Cast: Joel Kinnaman and Danneel Harris

Book Description:

Jay Crownover’s New York Times and USA Today bestselling Marked Men series continues with the much anticipated story of southern charmer and certified criminal Asa Cross.

Starting over in Denver with a whole new circle of friends and family, Asa Cross struggles with being the man he knows everyone wants him to be and the man he knows he really is. A leopard doesn’t it change its spots and Asa has always been a predator. He doesn’t want to hurt those who love and rely on him, especially one luscious arresting cop who suddenly seems to be interested in him for far more than his penchant for breaking the law. But letting go of old habits is hard, and it’s easy to hit bottom when it’s the place you know best.

Royal Hastings is quickly learning what the bottom looks like after a tragic situation at work threatens not only her career but her partner’s life. As a woman who has only ever had a few real friends she’s trying to muddle through her confusion and devastation all alone. Except she can’t stop thinking about the sexy southern bartender she locked up. Crushing on Asa is the last thing she needs but his allure is too strong to resist. His long criminal record can only hurt her already shaky career and chasing after a guy who has no respect for the law or himself can only end in heartbreak.

A longtime criminal and a cop together just seems so wrong . . . but for Asa and Royal, being wrong together is the only right choice to make.


We’ve got a crush on Jay Crownover. Her books make us stupid, like: googling “clip on cock piercing” (<– NOTE: Does not exist), “excellent male butts,” and youtube videos of “men with hot Southern accents.” This is the last book in her Marked Men series, and to say we were excited for it is an understatement. We stayed up late on release night to download, neglected our children and work, and generally checked out of life and into Fantasy Denver for awhile.

Mary: This is definitely her hottest cover model. I feel like he’s an apology for Better When He’s Bold. If I hadn’t read any of the other books in this series, I still would have bought this one because of that smolder. Congratulations to whoever dug up this guy. And his mother.

Cleone: I kept going back to the home screen to look at the cover model, until M suggested Joel Kinnaman at a *very* opportune book moment- then my brain switched into over drive. Asa text 1

M: Since this book is part of a series, we had been introduced to Asa way back in Jet, and he was pretty despicable. I don’t want to ruin anything because I think everyone who likes trashy books should read these ones, but I pretty much wrote the character off as irredeemable. I was picturing him as an Alex Pettyfer with the personality of Sick Boy from Trainspotting. I definitely needed the three book buffer for my feelings to mellow on him. When this book picks up, he has been on the straight and narrow for a year or so, and it definitely helped for us to actually see him earning that in Rome, Nash, and Rowdy, not just picking up with his story after some truly heinous shit and asking us to trust him straight away.

C: The way they have time pass in this series always pleases me, we get to check in on the characters from the previous books AND the characters personal growth feels a lot more believable when it didn’t just happen over a three-day sex-a-thon.

M: This one starts off with Hot Lady Cop Royal (yes, every single character in this series has a weird name) having an emotional breakdown over her partner being shot off of a building. Like shot with a gun, then he fell. He’ll live though! She’s consumed with irrational guilt and looking to self-medicate with some vitamin D. Specifically Asa’s D. Royal and Asa have been dancing around each other for a while. Asa keeps turning her down because she’s a cop and he’s a newly reformed criminal who’s certain he’ll relapse, and because he’s trying to be a nice guy, and he’s pretty sure she’ll regret him when she’s gotten her head straight.

They push and pull, and when they finally get to the hokey-pokey, its glorious. Jay Crownover writes some hot smut. I bookmark like crazy. Asa’s strategy for brushing off her advances for good is to lure her into the bathroom where she can see that he’s jacking it in a steamy shower instead of taking her up on her many offers. Because that’s obviously a logical plan.

C: I don’t usually think of being stared at while a guy jerks off as being particularly hot, but Crownover proved me wrong. She does know how to write the smut, and I bet she’d be very fun to get drunk with and talk trash.

M: Their relationship is easy-ish, with most of the drama revolving around Asa’s terminal guilt for his past misdeeds, and his absolute conviction that he will fuck up everything nice in his life, including Royal. It’s like he has preemptive guilt. Honestly, it’s a little over the top.

“She lathered up her long hair either unaware of or purposely ignoring the fact that I was a boneless, shaking mess behind her. I had never had anyone offer something up without expecting something, usually more, in return. I couldn’t get my erratic heartbeat under control so I could put all that emotion her selfless actions had awoken in someplace safe.”

Her selfless actions causing this emotional upheaval are of course, a blow job. LOLOLOL

C: The Crownover books don’t usually provoke eye rolling, but that definitely did it, I refuse to believe that a boy who is crazy charming, super pretty, and has been around the block has never before received a blow job without the quid pro quo. Also:

“He was filling me up with his emotion and his impressive erection”

That one made me laugh so suddenly that I bit my tongue a little, and Mary informed me she highlighted the same line, possibly my new favorite romance line ever. It kind of sums up the genre, no?

M: I don’t feel like I’m spoiling anything by saying that there was a breakup, and it was dumb. I hate to criticize Jay, you know she’s my girl, but I can think of a dozen more interesting/plausible reasons for them to break up.

Asa text 2

C: Yes, without being spoilery, or defaming our main writer squeeze, the drama in this one could have been way more interesting or scandalous. We made a list but it is kind of spoilery, so I guess email us if you want further ramblings.

The ending was very sweet, and gave us a nice update on where everyone else in the series is in their life. We’re going to miss the marked men with their tattoos, pierced dicks, and feisty ladies. Luckily Crownover is doing a new series in their expanded universe, and maybe the new gents have cock piercings!

(Note: We’re 80% certain that after reading this series, we can convince the Paperback Purist to convince her husband to get an erotic piercing and report back to us on whether or not these books were being accurate.)

“No one has a headboard made for handcuffs in the real world.”

They don’t, but they should, we are #teamhandcuffs

Click to view on Amazon: