This was not at all what I was expecting. Beard in Mind might be the best book Penny Reid has ever written. The lovely Mrs. Prolixity Julien and I have both put Penny Reid on triple-secret probation for sins against writing, reading and the Romance genre. We are harsh because we love and we want her to do better. Beard in Mind was doing better. A big huge thank you to Mrs. Julien for lending this to me. I will be adding it to my permanent collection.
Beau and Shelly are equally interesting characters. We get a lot more of Beau than Shelly, but seeing Shelly from Beau’s changing perspective works well for the story. The friend and family relationships are well developed and comfortable. At one point it occurred to me that the familial bonds that Reid shows are what Nora Roberts has been trying to describe for decades.
There is some high drama fuckery, but Reid does a much better job of grounding it than she has in previous books. In this case, the high drama actually moves the plot forward. I am still trepidatious about where the motorcycle gang drama is going. Beau’s relationship with his best friend Hank is strained as a result of the fuckery, and Reid gives them a conversation that illuminates the internal obstacles Beau will need to overcome, and is also the kind of conversation long time friends have when they are pissed at each other.
“Meaning you’re gonna keep messaging me cat pictures until I stop ignoring you?”
“If that’s what it takes, then yes. And God bless the Internet, because if there’s anything it has in infinite supply—other than ill-formed opinions—it’s cat pictures. And if that doesn’t work, then I’ll buy you a second house.”
“Hate to break it to you, but you can’t force a person to be your friend. Nor can you buy friendship.”
“Then what can I do?” His tone hardened, grew serious, as did his glare. “Because I’m sorry.
Romance is still fantasy, so we have unnaturally compressed timelines, ridiculous displays of wealth, and unnecessary famousness.
Shelly has a major mental illness, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I don’t have this particular mental illness, so I can’t speak to the particulars of the way Reid portrays OCD or its treatment. Ignorance may be bliss. I do live with chronic depression and anxiety disorders. I appreciate that Reid had Shelly in therapy before the book started, and expected to be in therapy for the rest of her life. I appreciate that Shelly was determined not to be Beau’s fixer-upper project. I have negotiated relationships while mentally ill. It is fraught with danger. Even with the compressed timeline, Reid did a good job of showing Beau and Shelly teetering on the brink of failure and making choices to step back.
I’m going to need Reid to write a few more at this level before she is officially forgiven for earlier sins.
Edit: I always leave things out of reviews, and usually talk myself out of putting them back in. In this case, Mrs. Julien’s spoilery email reminded me that it was both appropriately steamy and deliciously swoony.