Title: Grin and Beard It
Author: Penny Reid
Series: (Winston Brothers #2)
Published: May 31st, 2016
Shelves: New Adult; Contemporary; Romance
Format: Kindle (370 pages)
Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3.5 stars
Sienna Diaz is everyone’s favourite “fat” funny lady. The movie studio executives can’t explain it, but her films are out-grossing all the fit and trim headliners and Hollywood’s most beautiful elite. The simple truth is, everyone loves plus-sized Sienna.
But she has a problem, she can’t read maps and her sense of direction is almost as bad as her comedic timing is stellar. Therefore, when Sienna’s latest starring role takes her to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park she finds herself continually lost while trying to navigate the back roads of Green Valley, Tennessee. Much to her consternation, Sienna’s most frequent saviour is a ridiculously handsome, charming, and cheeky Park Ranger by the name of Jethro Winston.
Sienna is accustomed to high levels of man-handsome, so it’s not Jethro’s chiselled features or his perfect physique that make Sienna stutter. It’s his southern charm. And gentlemanly manners. And habit of looking at her too long and too often.
Sienna has successfully navigated the labyrinth of Hollywood heart-throbs. But can she traverse the tenuous trails of Tennessee without losing her head? Or worse, her heart?
I was eagerly anticipating this novel as I thoroughly enjoyed the first novel in the series, Truth or Beard, which was released last summer. The main reason I was drawn to these books initially was the beautiful covers I mean look at it!! It’s easily one of the cutest book covers I’ve seen and so I got to buying and reading these books as soon as possible. Rambling aside, this series revolves around a family of six brothers set in Green Valley, Tennessee, living their everyday lives following the death of their mother. This particular book centres on the oldest and recently reformed brother, Jethro, and Hollywood actress and comedienne, Sienna Diaz, as they attempt to form a relationship despite his increasing anxiety about his criminal past, and Sienna’s increasing fame as Hollywood’s current favourite celebrity.
One thing that stood out for me reading this novel, was how body confident Sienna was. Despite numerous hints to lose weight throughout the novel by a boring ex-boyfriend who represented the vapidness of Hollywood (albeit it was quite an exaggerated representation), she stood her ground and called out on the bullshit surrounding women’s beauty ideals:
“In show business, I’m what people called fat. In the real world, I’m what people called a woman. (Of note, a skinny or thin female was also called “a woman” in the real world.) […] Do I give two fucks about my weight? No. I honestly don’t as long as I’m healthy. And I don’t know why it’s such a big deal for people […].”
What I liked was that her narrative didn’t shift from “I feel the constant pressure to lose weight” to “actually no, I’m beautiful the way I am”. She was so body confident throughout, and while I certainly see nothing wrong with the representation of a woman slowly coming to love herself just the way she is (as that topic is very much one in which needs exploring and commenting on) as in Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’ for example, this kind of positivity was something I hadn’t really come across in fiction before, and when you think about it, that’s quite sad.. (Book recommendations on this topic are very welcome, I might add!)
Secondly, I liked the insight into Jethro’s past, and seeing just how bad a person he was. He did some pretty shocking things, and what I liked about this characterisation is that these bad decisions were not brushed to one side or excused because he is the main male character. The guy turned his life around and we constantly see through his narrative how he was still struggling with the regret he felt about the way he treated his family, so much so that he felt unworthy of Sienna. I liked the role reversal – I’ve read plenty of fiction where the woman character feels like she isn’t good enough for the guy, and, while I’m not saying I’ve never came across this reversal before, it made a nice change.
Another thing I liked was that this second novel introduces the reader to more of the family members – especially Jethro’s brother Cletus, who we will meet properly in book three). I’m a sucker for big families in novels (see: My Life Next Door), and with these brothers especially, I just find them all really funny and endearing, and that a huge part of why I find this series so enjoyable.
Overall I liked this book about as equally as the first novel, which is to say a lot. I think Penny Reid is a great author to read if you’re just branching out into new adult novels, as a lot of her pairings tend to slowly fall for each other as opposed to getting together and having sex all the way through the novel until that inevitable ‘brief-split’ cliche I come across all the time in NA fiction. Since each book in this series will centre around one of the brothers, we still have another four of these beauties to go, and I’m very excited to read them all. The third book, Beard Science, comes out later this year and I’ll be sure to review it as soon as possible!
Would I read this novel again? Yes!
Who would I recommend this novel to? Fans of NA, readers branching into the NA genre, anyone seeking a fun and light-hearted read, anyone seeking six hunky bearded brothers