Joint Review: Dr. Strange Beard by Penny Reid

Reviewed by Caitlin & Sara

Caitlin: I’m a Penny Reid fan, and her last several books have been, in my opinion, her best. Marriage of Inconvenience and Dating-ish were the two best books in the Knitting in the City series by a mile (thanks to a complete lack of slut-shaming that plagued the earlier books), and I’m very much enjoying her Winston Brothers series.

Sara: I’m also a Penny Reid fan and I agree. It’s great when you can see an author grow. Gone is the problematic slut shaming and completely monochromatic cast of characters and in their place are thought provoking commentary on current events and more diversity. I’m really happy with the way Reid’s writing and this series in particular is going.

Caitlin: The Winston boys are a family in Green Valley, Tennessee that are all very handsome, very sexy, and very bearded. Dr. Strange Beard is about Roscoe Winston, the youngest brother, and his childhood friend Simone Payton. ​Roscoe is 26 years old, a veterinarian, over 6 feet tall, and a total flirt. He also has a situational memory, in which he can recall conversations word for word even if they happened 20 years ago. This is the alleged reason he ghosted Simone 10 years ago – he drunkenly admitted he was in love with her, and she was not ready to hear it. Too distraught to be around someone who could never love him back, Roscoe simply cut his best friend out of his life.

​Simone, not having any memory of that conversation, never understood why Roscoe left all those years ago. But she went on living anyway – going to DC for college and then getting a job with the FBI. That’s why she’s back, actually. Ostensibly, she’s “figuring it out” while working at her parents’ diner in Green Valley. In actuality, she’s checking on Darrell Winston (Roscoe’s father) and his motorcycle gang, the Iron Wraiths, to see about a string of murders that seems to happen in June of every year, and all signs point in that direction.

Sara: Dr. Strange Beard is the fifth book in Penny Reid’s Winston Brothers series and takes place roughly 5 years following the events of the last book, Beard in Mind. So new readers to the series might catch some spoilers or find themselves on the outside of an inside joke, but otherwise this can be read as a stand-alone.

Caitlin: I loved Simone. She was sweet, loving, forgiving – and tough as nails and knew exactly what she wanted at all times. I wanted Simone to be my best friend. I wanted only good things for Simone. She was a rock star. ​Roscoe… well, I admit, I’m a sucker for a virgin hero. And there were so many sexy things about Roscoe (see: he worked with puppies, has soulful eyes, very protective of the people he loves). But I had a LOT of trouble getting over him ghosting Simone like that. And it would be one thing if he did it when he was 16, understood he was wrong, and then proceeded to act like a normal adult for the rest of the book. But that’s not what happened! Simone had to continually chase him down until he finally stopped resisting and decided he wanted to try this thing with Simone once and for all.

Sara: This is why books are great! Two people can read the same book and have completely different opinions. I loved Roscoe. Yes, he sexy and a virgin hero AND he cuddles puppies for a living, but it was his sensitivity that got to me. I really saw him as someone with a sensitive soul who guards his heart and mind like precious treasure and doesn’t let just anyone close to him and yet is kind and wants to see those around him happy. I’ll be the first to admit I’m a sucker for the damaged hero, Which is maybe why Roscoe really did it for me.

On the other hand it took me a while to warm up to Simone. It wasn’t that I didn’t like her character, but more that, to me, she was written as a kind of prickly pear. After her family was devastated by a situation with her sister and being ghosted by Roscoe, Simone developed a thick outer crust of cynicism and sarcasm to prevent the hurt of broken relationships and to keep people at arm’s length. While I could understand Simone’s point of view, it certainly didn’t immediately endear her to me. I did eventually enjoy her character and actually see her as one of the strongest of Penny Reid’s heroines in the Winston Brothers series. Simone is confident in herself as a black woman in rural Tennessee, as a forensic scientist, as a sister, a friend, a lover and when things get hairy she’s completely kickass. I really grew to love her, but it wasn’t without some growing pains.

Caitlin: I did think Roscoe was sexy. (Very sexy, tbh.) And in the end, I did root for the two of them together, because I believed in their chemistry and I believed they were in love with each other. Penny Reid is a funny writer, and the interplay between the Winston brothers (I got a big kick out of Jethro playing dad) always puts a smile on my face. The only thing keeping this review from being an A is Roscoe not taking Simone’s feelings into account earlier.

Sara: I agree on all counts (especially on Roscoe being very sexy!) and I also, in the end, eventually rooted for these characters. While I also loved the humorous side of Penny Reid and catching up with all the characters of the series Winston Brothers I’ve grown to love, what made Dr. Strange Beard for me was the author’s more serious side. I really like that she included some darker elements. Midway through the book, Simone encounters a racist police officer while simply minding her own business. This scene kind of took Simone from a token black character, added simply to check boxes on a diverse character checklist list, and gave her humanity and depth. This is something I’ve always loved about Reid and that I particularly liked about this book, the ability to take a light, funny romance and add smart, thoughtful elements that make me think outside my own experiences and world view. That’s why, along with the great characters of Roscoe and Simone, Dr. Strange Beard is an A- for me.

Caitlin: Overall, I definitely recommend this book. It put a smile on my face and it was an easy, quick read.

Sara: Same! Go check out this book. It made me laugh, cry, think and was, overall, a great read.

Caitlin’s Rating: B
Sara’s Rating: A-

*ARC received from publisher for honest review

Click to purchase: Amazon

Dr. Strange Beard
by Penny Reid
Release Date: July 30, 2018

Comments

  1. Ana Johnson says:

    Interesting that both of you agree that Penny Reid’s latest books are her best. I feel totally opposite. As a matter of fact, I am seriously reconsidering if I want to continue reading her future books.
    It pains me to say that I have felt for a while that her books have turned into crowd pleasers. In other words, I miss the fresh and quirky style she had in her earlier books. Neanderthal meets Human series and Hypothesis series were phenomenal. Penny created unusual and lovable characters. Now I just feel that her books are full of characters made to please the readers NOT the author. Best books are written from the author’s imagination without wanting to please anyone else. A talented writer pours her imagination and talent into books that us readers can then weave it into our fantasies.

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