3.5 stars, but rounded down to 3 because of past bad behavior.
It was with great trepidation and a whole lot of “this is a bad idea” that I purchased Penny Reid’s Grin and Beard It. I had read books of hers I liked, books I really disliked, and a series that took me hostage. Reid is good at witty banter and female friendships, but has written some dubious, or outright abusive, male protagonists and is overly fond of big misunderstandings and high drama fuckery. She was about to go on my Do Not Buy list, but she really turned it around with this installment in the Winston Brothers series. She remains on my Approach With Caution list.
The Winston Brothers are a spin-off of Reid’s uneven Knitting in the City series. If you want a good rundown of which of those books to seek out and which to avoid, try Mrs. Julien Presents. The Winston brothers are 6 bearded men in the Appalachian mountains in Tennessee – unusual for contemporary romance. The protagonist in this installment is the eldest brother, Jethro. Jethro has also been on double secret probation because he used to steal cars for a motorcycle gang and treat women poorly. He made some serious life changes and has worked hard to turn himself into a good man. The next installment will be Cletus. I have concerns – Cletus can be a bit twee. He is a delightful side character in this book, but there may be too many twitches.
Wish fulfillment fantasy can be one of the best elements of genre fiction. Wish fulfillment fantasy can help us imagine a better world. In Romance, the fantasy is usually the male protagonist. In Grin and Beard It, the fantasy is the female protagonist. Sienna Diaz is a feminist wet dream. She is a Latina, average sized (ranging between a 14 and an 18) and not ashamed of it, funny, smart, feminist, writes her own material, and is an Oscar winning A-list actress beloved the world over. Even with all this wish fulfillment baggage, Reid still makes her grounded and believable. Reid can’t resist putting in a big misunderstanding, but she manages to do it early and get it over with fairly quickly. I now desperately want Sienna Diaz to be a real screen writer and actress. I very much want to watch her debut movie, Taco Tuesday.
Grin and Beard It is a delightful and quick read. I would heartily recommend reading Beauty and The Mustache, the Knitting and the City book from which this series sprung, and avoiding Truth or Beard, the first of the Winston Brothers series.