Can’t Help But Grin

The Winston Brothers Series by Penny Reid

Contemporary Romance

This is the second book in the Winston Brothers Series. The first book, Truth or Beard, is also highly recommended. My book review can be found here.

Grin and Beard It (Book 2)

Grin and Beard It

Overall Rating: 4.5 (sXe)

Quick & Dirty summary: Sienna Miller is used to dating the hottest men in Hollywood, but she knows beauty is only skin deep. In fact, she’s discovered that the sexier the man the more self-absorbed he is and Sienna is tired of dating men who are only interested in furthering their careers. After all, Sienna is at the top of her career as an actress and writer and anyone she dates is immediately thrown into the spotlight. Jethro Winston is HOT, but what really bowls Sienna over when they first meet, is his ability to flirt. Sienna has never met another man who is as good at flirting as Jethro, but it’s not exactly something Jethro is proud of since it brings up bad memories. Jethro knows that Sienna is the best thing he’s ever seen in Tennessee but he’s afraid to begin a relationship with a woman who is only in town to film a movie and will fly back to LA when he work is done. He knows what he wants is forever and he isn’t willing to settle for less.

Perhaps the component of the novel I love the most about this book is how sweet Sienna and Jethro are with each other. They like each other and they don’t hide it. They flirt, they hang out, and they talk. It’s a good old-fashioned romance and I love it! The conflict that drives the novel is pretty basic: do two people who are attracted to each other want the same things in a relationship? There is very little unnecessary drama, even though Penny Reid could have easily gone in that direction, she maintains the integrity of the characters as straightforward and straight talking.

Another component of the novel I love is actually a characteristic of many of Reid’s novel and that is it tries to challenge stereotypes by writing characters that on the outside look flat, but explode preconceived notions with their complexity. Reid wanted to write characters that were not white and she creates Sienna as a full-figured Latina woman who is smart, funny, extroverted and successful. She has a large family who love each other, but her parents are not maids or gardeners, but rather doctors. There is an acknowledgement of common cultural values (big families that are close), but an emphasis that ambition and success cut across all ethnicities.

Indeed, I think the entire series, while predicated on a funny play on Ashley Winston’s hick family, is to exploit and destroy stereotypes. Here is the white trash American stereotype that plays on poverty, ignorance, and inbreeding, but Reid turns it around by highlighting a smart, unique family that loves their land, their community, and turns a negative family history into one of their greatest strengths. So it’s not surprising that Jethro falls in love with confident Sienna. After all, Jethro knows what it’s like to have people meet you and make assumptions about you.

I give Penny Reid a lot of credit for tackling sensitive subjects. After all, Reid has said from the beginning that she had shied away from writing non-white characters because she’s white. But I agree with the reader who challenged her by saying, “well, you write male characters, what’s so different about that?” Jane Austen, in fact, encouraged her niece, who wanted to be an author, to stick to subjects that she knew which included writing from the female perspective. So it’s logical to assume that if, as a woman, you can write from the male perspective, then as a member of a certain ethnic or cultural group, you can still write diverse characters. And she did her due diligence. She contacted her readers and asked for those who identify with Sienna and asked for their feedback. What’s beautiful about life and about diversity is that even within the same ethnic or cultural group, there is a plethora of experiences and so the creative spirit can be set free within these paradoxes.

Is it worth buying? (Kindle $5.99)

Normally I think books for six dollars are expensive, especially digital books. But, in this case, you should absolutely buy it. It’s funny, it’s smart, and it so so sweet.

Something else you might enjoy:

If you like to complicate stereotypes with a bit of humor thrown in you might enjoy PUCKED by Helena Hunting. This time the stereotypes are with dumb athletes, but I love the heroine in this one too. She’s hilarious and you can read my review of the book here.


5 thoughts on “Can’t Help But Grin

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