Beard With Me
By: Penny Reid
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Content Warning: All the triggers
Bookish tip: Not only do you need tissues, you will need your favorite comfort food and/or beverage…and probably multiple of it…to get through this.
‘Beard With Me’ is the origin story of Billy Winston and Scarlet St. Claire (aka Claire McClure) and is just the beginning of their epic love story.
No one is better at surviving than Scarlet St. Claire and making the best out of circumstances beyond her control is Scarlet’s specialty. In an apocalyptic situation, she’d be the last person on earth, hermitting like a pro, singing along to her CD Walkman, and dancing like no one is watching.
Scarlet is clever, Scarlet is careful, and Scarlet is smart . . . except when it comes to Billy Winston.
No one is better at fighting than Billy Winston and raging against his circumstances—because nothing is beyond his control—is Billy’s specialty. In an apocalyptic situation, he’d be the first person on earth to lead others to safety, overcome catastrophe, or die trying.
Billy is fearless, Billy is disciplined, and Billy is honorable . . . except when it comes to Scarlet St. Claire.
Sit back, Reader. This is going to be a long one.
Penny Reid wrote Beard With Me for her “Reiders”. If this book is a love letter to her fans, there is absolutely NO DOUBT that Penny Reid loves her “Reiders”. Absolutely none.
Beard With Me is a Winston Brothers origin story of EPIC proportions. This story has been years in the making – not only years in the Green Valley universe but the actual years of my life. If you know the Winstons, you know a lot of the story already. Penny has laid different nuggets of information regarding Billy Winston and Scarlet St Claire (aka Claire McClure) and the entire Winston family since the very beginning.
I know the story. I have read ALL the books. I KNOW the bits and pieces of it and yet, it did not matter. Beard With Me is a tragic love story nonetheless. Knowing what happens before hand, knowing how the story will end, does not change the fact that this tale is so heart wrenching and beautiful and haunting and tragic. It does not take the emotion or the sting out of it. This story wrecked me. It will stick with me for days. The Winstons and the Green Valley universe are like real people thanks to the wonderful talent of Penny Reid. And this book…..this is EVERYTHING.
Billy and Scarlet
How Scarlet St. Claire ever became the character that she is today is beyond my own brain’s comprehension. Scarlet is brave and beautiful. She is such a strong character to have endured the life she has. She is funny and stubborn and so very down to earth. She does not allow herself to dream until Billy Winston shows her how.
Billy Winston is one of the most compassionate, loyal, fearless, courageous, honorable and intense characters I have ever read. He is so noble, a complete sacrificer. Billy carries the world on his shoulders and always does whatever it takes to protect his family and Scarlet. And I mean – WHATEVER. Billy Winston is so much more than I ever really thought he would be.
Billy and Scarlet make each other better. They are better together than apart. Billy wants to control everything. Scarlet doesn’t want anyone to rescue her. She wants to take care of herself. And yet, Scarlet makes Billy lose control and also allows Billy to take care of her. They are each other’s harmony. He is the sunshine to her rainy day….She is the light to his darkness.
Their love story is of the best kind. Slow burning. Heartwarming. Haunting. Beautiful. Tragic. Epic.
Billy may have rescued Scarlet….but I have a sneaky suspicion that Scarlet is the only one who can rescue Billy now. But that’s story for another day.
The Green Valley Universe
Beard With Me gives us a glimpse of many other characters. There are scenes with Bethany and all of the Winston siblings. Jethro is shown prior to his infamous turnaround. Ben McClure has several appearances (though I got a creepy vibe from him). And then there is my favorite, Cletus Byron Winston.
Cletus is such a huge part of Billy and Scarlet’s story. Is he still the meddling, manipulating brother? Yes. But he is also reckless and careless. Does he still have schemes? You betcha. But he is also just a teenager with anger issues. In the prior books, Cletus is more somber and now you have the insight as to why.
Penny’s Gifts to Her Reiders
There are SO many magnificent lines in this book – I feel as if I highlighted the entire book.
There are beautiful lines like these:
- “She’s the colors of the forest.”
- “This was the best sound. Singing with Billy Winston and his guitar while fighting laughter. Never in my life had I been so happy.”
- “Her voice carried to me. So my feet carried me to her.”
There are funny, “throwbacks” ones:
- “Apparently, he thrived on taking orders.” – Scarlet talking about Ben McClure
- “…leaving Hank Weller in charge of the party. For some reason I couldn’t quite put a finger on, i had complete faith that kid could handle it.”
- “I love my brother, I did. But he was a master emotional blackmailer and he knew just the right string to pull.” – Billy talking about Cletus
And haunting lines of foreshadowing like these…
- “I hope one day you find someone who steals yours.”
- “The last thing I ever want to be for you is a regret.”
- “It felt like bleeding and making no effort to cauterize the wound. It felt close to madness. I knew, with absolute certainty, I’d dream of her and her spirit and her voice for the rest of my life.”
ALL THE STARS…ALL THE FEELS. There are a few books that absolutely wrecked me this year – Colleen Hoover’s All Your Perfects, Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Daisy Jones and the Six, Tracey Garvis Graves’ The Girl He Used to Know and now Penny Reid’s Beard With Me. This story will stay with me for a very, very long time. My heart will bleed forever more….well, until I get an HEA.
One Last Note
Penny Reid – I know you did not want to write this book. I mean there is a letter to us Reiders in the beginning of it. I know you think we will all hate you. But I don’t. I never could. This book is a gift. A true gift. And for that I am forever grateful.