Review of Truth or Beard by Penny Reid

I thought it was a given that I’d enjoy this book. I’ve seen rave reviews, it was a Goodreads winner, it checked all the sweet romance boxes I usually like. There is some serious hype surrounding this one, but it just didn’t work for me.

Falling for the wrong twin never felt so good . . .
From the NEW YORK TIMES, WALL STREET JOURNAL, & USA TODAY bestselling series

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 perpetually level-headed Jessica James has been in naïve and unhealthy infatuation with Beau Winston for most of her life. 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.

When Jessica finds herself drawn to the man who was always her adversary, how much of her level-head heart is she willing to risk?

Truth or Beard is book #1 in the Winston Brothers series. Each book is a standalone, full length (110k words), contemporary romantic comedy novel, and follows the romantic exploits and adventures of one of the six Winston Brothers.

Available on Amazon and through Kindle Unlimited.

Maybe it was the fairly young age of the main characters… no, I don’t normally mind that. Maybe it was the many many many many song references? Maybe it was the caveman antics of the male lead at the opening of the book? I don’t know. Each of those issues by themselves really aren’t awful and nothing that would put me off. Yet for some reason this story did not work for me. I still can’t figure it out!

The female lead is actually really sweet. A high school Math teacher with dreams of paying off her student loans and traveling the world. She’s as spunky as she is sweet and cute as she is honest. I quite enjoyed reading from her perspective. She makes some pretty silly comments at times e.g. repeatedly referring to her boob as coconuts… repeatedly! It might have been funny the first time, not so much by the fifth. Yet, her unassuming honesty, not naivety, was quite refreshing to read.

The male lead, Duane, is broody and ornery (a word used repeatedly to describe him). Of course he’s hot too. As rough around the edges as he’s made out to be in the opening, it’s not long before the reader realizes there’s also a great deal of depth to him too. I enjoyed how family-centred he is and how he takes responsibility for his brothers, even though he’s one of the younger ones.

Have I used the word repeatedly repeatedly in this review? I apologize… but some parts of this book were quite repetitive! We had to read how Jess’s aunt treated her like an employee at least three times. Duane’s need to make his and Jessica’s first time together perfect was also harped on quite a bit.

Back to the good stuff: the chemistry between Duane and Jess is well-written even if not quite swoon worthy, at least for me. I enjoyed their interactions but never felt fully invested in their romance.

Another part of the story I enjoyed, however, was the confrontation with the biker gang, The Iron Wraiths, towards the end. Admittedly, though, that whole subplot seemed a bit over the top, just like Jess’s inheritance, and I couldn’t whole-heartedly get into those parts of the story.

I quite enjoyed the scenes involving members of both Duane and Jessica’s family as there are quite a few of them and really fun family dynamics and perspectives. The Tennessee setting with the Smoky Mountains backdrop is charming and made me want to book the next available cabin holiday.

Although I couldn’t really connect with the characters and fall into this story, I’m not ready to give up on the series. I did like some of the recurring characters and I’d definitely like to read Claire and Billy’s story. I guess I’ll revisit this series some time later on.

Overall, this was a fun read even if a touch underwhelming for me. I give it 3/5 espresso shots.

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