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Our Review

“The last thing I ever want to be for you is a regret.”

Oh, Penny Reid, damn near decimated our hearts with this one. With bruised and battered hearts, we sat pondering the story of Billy and Scarlet, two sweet beautiful souls, and our hearts ached for them both. This is a story you take time to reflect on; you really feel for these characters. Penny Reid outright warns, ‘this is not a romance’, and indeed it isn’t but what it is, is a love story, a story of strength and resilience, about bravery and kindness amongst all the hate and cruelty in a world where two children who should have been protected by their fathers, live in fear of them.

‘It felt so good. It felt more than good. It felt like the beginning of something terrible and beautiful and dangerous and wonderful.’

This agonisingly heartbreaking story harboured a pain that spanned nearly twenty years and was a difficult story to read. We can only surmise the pain the author went through bringing this story to life, and we applaud her for telling it in all its raw, gritty, ugly and beautiful glory. Billy Winston – this boy – he made us believe that not all hero’s wear capes. He was written to perfection.

To say we ‘enjoyed’ Beard with Me would seem a bit insensitive considering its content, but we did enjoy the insight into two characters who have intrigued us for so long, though nothing could have prepared us for their story.  Nothing! It was utterly heartbreaking; many tears were shed.

“You deserve the best, Scarlet. Only the best. And I swear, I will always mean every one of our kisses. Every single one. “

It did take us a little while to settle into the story which was no fault of Penny Reid’s, but more that we kept pausing to figure out how the pieces fit together later in the story. We then chatted and decided we were going to forget all that came after and concentrate on being present in this story, which was the right decision because it enabled us to become instantly swept up in the story.

“This is a terrible story.”
“Yeah. It is.”

Billy Winston has always piqued our interest, an integral member of the Winston family, who always seemed to be on the periphery, and Scarlet (Claire) have been in our hearts since book one. What was their story? Why was there so much animosity between them? What occurred in their past that left such a lasting painful reminder more than twenty years on? Well, it’s all here and all we can say is…bring on Beard Necessities in November because we are desperate to follow this story to the end. Never have we wanted a couple to find love and happiness. These sweet souls deserve it!

‘…looking back, it seemed inevitable that I’d end up here, loving her.’

Beard with Me has many taboo subjects and we had to keep reminding ourselves of Billy and Scarlet’s tender ages, 16 and 14 respectively because they appeared so mature. Scarlet’s upbringing will reduce even the hardest heart to tears. Billy’s selfless nature will make a cynic believe.

Despite the shitty hand she was dealt, Scarlet remained funny, sincere, sweet and innocent with a beautiful heart, who had painstakingly built a wall to mask her emotions and guard her heart and it would be Billy Winston, a beautiful, loyal and kind-hearted man managed to slip through the cracks.

‘I knew with absolute certainty; I’d dream of her and her spirit and her voice for the rest of my life.’

It was wonderful catching up with the Winston family in the early days – Cletus entertained us and later broke us, Jethro’s complexity enthralled us, Duane and Beau put a smile on our faces and little Roscoe stole our hearts. It was also lovely to spend time with the achingly sweet family matriarch Beth and explore her relationship with Ashley. But it was Billy and Scarlet who left their mark. Billy who had to fight through his life, Scarlet who had to fight every day to survive.

‘…this moment would have been an extremely meaningful one for understanding the sweet, noble, beautiful, but deeply complicated boy at my side.’

This was the story we always wanted but were in no way prepared for. We were rendered speechless breathed in with every word. Although acutely painful, it still maintained the warmth and wit synonymous with Penny Reid’s stories. The Winston’s with their quirks and quick tempers exude the family loyalty and love that continually steals a little more of our hearts with each book.


‘Beard With Me’ is the origin story of Billy Winston and Scarlet St. Claire (aka Claire McClure) and is just the beginning of their epic love story.

No one is better at surviving than Scarlet St. Claire and making the best out of circumstances beyond her control is Scarlet’s specialty. In an apocalyptic situation, she’d be the last person on earth, hermitting like a pro, singing along to her CD Walkman, and dancing like no one is watching.

Scarlet is clever, Scarlet is careful, and Scarlet is smart . . . except when it comes to Billy Winston.

No one is better at fighting than Billy Winston and raging against his circumstances—because nothing is beyond his control—is Billy’s specialty. In an apocalyptic situation, he’d be the first person on earth to lead others to safety, overcome catastrophe, or die trying.

Billy is fearless, Billy is disciplined, and Billy is honorable . . . except when it comes to Scarlet St. Claire.

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