Beard Science (Winston Brothers #3) by Penny Reid

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Make a deal with the devil and you might get what you want, but will it be what you need?

Jennifer Sylvester wants one thing, and that one thing is NOT to be Tennessee’s reigning Banana Cake Queen. Ever the perpetual good girl and obedient daughter, Jennifer is buckling under the weight of her social media celebrity, her mother’s ambitions, and her father’s puritanical mandates. Jennifer is officially desperate.

And desperate times call for Cletus Winston.

Cletus Winston is a puzzle wrapped in a mystery covered in conundrum sauce, and now he’s in a pickle. Despite being convinced of his own omniscience, extortion by the exalted Banana Cake Queen of Green Valley has taken him completely by surprise. So... what’s a maniacal mastermind to do?

Likely, the last thing you expect.

'Beard Science' is the third book in the Winston Brothers series, is a full-length romantic comedy novel, and can be read as a standalone.


Cletus is an evil mastermind. Well maybe not evil, but he has a lot of coals in the fire at any one time. He notices things, makes note, and uses that information when he needs it. When he wants someone to do something for him. He has dirt on almost everyone in town, but no one seems to know that. His brothers know he is tricky, but he is good at pretending to be the affable guy around town.

Jennifer is the banana cake queen. Not that she wants to be that, or is only that, but that is the only thing everyone in town seems to know about her. She was incredibly sheltered, homeschooled and her parents still have tight control over her. She always does what they want even if it is not what she wants. After her brother left the family and disappointed everyone she just can't do that to them as well. So she dresses in her costume, she puts on her smile, she tries to be the banana cake queen they want her to be, only she hates it. She doesn't like to be the center of attention, to be on camera, anything like that . She is quite, but she notices things as well. Mainly how dangerous Cletus is. No one else seems to realize he is anything more than the odd Winston brother, but she sees him. She has been watching and compiling her own data. He is not always the nice guy he tries to pretend he is.

When Jennifer's parents finally want her to do something she really doesn't want to do she only has one option. One person she can go to for help. Cletus. She has dirt on Cletus and she is not above using it to get him to help her. Yes, she is kind of afraid of him, but she doesn't have any other options. Cletus has never really noticed Jennifer and when she comes to him for help he pretty much brushes her off right away. Until she surprises him with her blackmail. It is not easy to surprise Cletus, but Jennifer keeps doing just that. Oh it was great. Cletus knows just what she needs, she needs more self confidence to be able to stand up to her parents. She needs to let her strength shine through, the strength that is already there, and do what makes her happy. These they were awesome together. The slow build, the inexperience, the unexpected.

Cletus and Jennifer were so much fun to read. Cletus thinks he is always in control of the situation, after all he knows who he will eventually date and whatnot when the time comes, but Jennifer gets under his skin. She starts liking him as well and it was awesome. I loved this read. I already loved Cletus before I started the book, but the two of them together? Amazing. I especially loved once Cletus realized Jennifer was for him. His possessiveness? Phew! I wasn't quite expecting that, but I loved every minute of it! He was wonderful to read. I loved how he saw Jennifer and talked of her once he realized his feelings. Oh Cletus, you somehow made me love you even more than I already did. .

This story is amazing. I loved watching these two grow and figure things out. It is not always easy, they don't always know what they are doing, but oh it was wonderful. I knew I would love this story, but I didn't realize just how much awesomeness would be packed into it. Go. Read this book. Cletus + Jennifer = Love!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★1/2


“So Cletus told me I needed to change one thing every day. He wasn’t specific about what I should change, just that I should decide on the one thing myself.”

Billy nodded.

I continued. “At first I didn’t see the purpose, but—do you know?—Cletus was right. Something as trivial as paining my nails a different color made me feel like I could do anything I set my mind to.”

Billy smiled.

I continued. “Cletus also said-”

Billy cleared his throat. “Do you go to the jam session much? I think I’ve only seen you here a handful of times.”

“I don’t, actually. I’d like to, but Saturdays are busy. I’m usually making special orders on Friday night. I’ve heard you sing a few times, though. You should do it more often, you have such a nice voice.”

Billy smiled again, his eyes sliding to me then away. “Thank you.”

“And Cletus is amazing on the banjo. Last year he did a folksy version of Thriller, during Halloween. It was spectacular.”

Billy sighed.

Conversation was surprisingly easy with Billy Winston, once I stopped being afraid of saying the wrong thing. Instead of worrying, I just said whatever I wanted. He wasn’t a big talker, other than asking me questions, so I filled the silence. Sometimes what I said made him laugh. Sometimes it made him nod. Sometimes it made him cough.

But usually whatever I said made him smile. And that was nice. He was nice.
He pulled his truck into the community center lot and it was clear the jam session was already in full swing. The evening was chilly, so folks were dressed in coats.

I pulled my shawl over my shoulders and Billy opened my door, helping me from the car. I slipped my fingers back into the crook of his elbow while trying to suppress a new, and more powerful, flutter of excitement as we approached the community center.

I wondered if Cletus would be there. I wondered what he would think of my dress, and my hair in a bun, and my purposefully minimal makeup, and my nail polish. Even though I was nervous, I grinned at the thought.

“What are you smiling about?” Billy asked, giving me the side eye.

“I’m nervous,” I answered honestly, feeling breathless, then asked before I could catch myself, “Do you think Cletus is here?”

Billy’s mouth tugged to the side and he studied my face. “I’m sure he is. Why?”

“I wonder what he’ll think of my dress,” I admitted excitedly.

Billy chuckled and shook his head.

“What? What is it?” I pressed, searching his profile for a sign as to why he was laughing.

He pulled us to a stop and faced me. “Since this is a practice date, do you want me to give you a tip?”

I nodded eagerly. “Yes, please. All tips are welcome.”

“Okay. Here goes,” he gathered large breath, like he was bracing himself, and said, “When you’re on a date with a man, it’s probably best not to bring up a different man.”

My lips parted as my face fell. “I’m sorry. I keep talking about your brother.”

“No, no. It’s fine.” He reached for my hand and squeezed it. “This is a practice, no need to apologize. I’m not upset. But if this were a real date, you bringing up Cletus and wondering what he’s going to think of your dress would definitely rub me the wrong way. If I’m on a date, I want that woman to be thinking only of me. Does that make sense?”

I nodded, because it did make sense. “Just like, I probably wouldn’t like it—if this were a real date—if you kept bringing up other woman.”

“That’s right.” He moved my hand back to his arm. “You’ll want to keep the conversation about the two of you.”
I considered things as we walked. “Thank you, Billy.”

“For what?” He opened the double door for me, placing his hand on the small of my back to usher me inside. The entryway was full of people, but I hardly noticed them.

“Thanks for doing this, and for the tip. Thanks for sacrificing your Friday night.”

Billy covered my fingers on his arm with his hand. “It’s not a sacrifice, Jennifer.”

“Well, it can’t be pleasant.”

He grinned again and gave me an incredulous look.

“What? What did I do this time? Do you have more tips?” I needed to know. I hoped he filled the whole night with tips, so I would be an expert when the time came for a real date.

Billy’s grin faded as his piercing blue eyes moved over my face. If he’d done this just last week I think I would’ve fainted on the spot, mortified and terrified and assured of my own failure.

But so much had changed in a week. I wasn’t afraid of him anymore. I was changing, becoming braver. So I met his glacial eyes straight on and lifted my eyebrows encouragingly.

“You can tell me, whatever it is,” I whispered earnestly, stepping closer. “Like I said, all tips welcome.”

Finally, he said, “You have no idea how gorgeous you are, do you?”

I gaped at him, because that was not what I’d expected him to say.

But before I could recover, a stern voice to my left interjected. “She has no idea whatsoever.”
I turned and found Cletus standing at my shoulder. Startled, I stumbled a step to the side so I could see him better. What I found surprised me.

His jaw was clenched.

His mouth was curved into a frown.

And Cletus’ eyes, a dangerous and fiery blue, were narrowed on his brother.
About the Author:

Penny Reid is the USA Today Best Selling Author of the Winston Brothers and Knitting in the City series. When she's not immersed in penning smart romances, Penny works in the biotech industry as a researcher. She's also a full time mom to three diminutive adults, wife, daughter, knitter, crocheter, sewer, general crafter, and thought ninja.
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