Donna Reads: Neanderthal Seeks Human (Knitting in the City #1) by Penny Reid

Janie Morris is having a very bad day. She’s found out her boyfriend cheated on her, they broke up, leaving her homeless, and she’s been downsized on her job. She’s escorted out of the building by a sexy member of the security staff she secretly calls ‘McHotpants’. She’s been secretly spying on him for a few weeks. Janie is a bit of an eccentric, given to bouts of verbal diarrhea, spouting all sorts of useless facts and figures when she’s nervous. Quinn Sullivan (McHotpants) is also not what he seems. He and Janie meet up again, and he helps her get a new job.

Without giving away too much of the plot, this was a cute romance. Janie’s friends are members of a knitting club, and the women in the group are all good friends. Quinn is a tough guy with a secretive past, and although he insists he doesn’t date or do relationships, he’s drawn to Janie’s sweetness and eccentricities. The story also included some family drama, some over the top angst with the ex-boyfriend, and some criminals who were quickly dealt with in a rather silly scene.

I thought Janie had autistic tendencies. She was extremely bright, had poor social skills at times, and she focused on obscure details. As a mom to an autistic son, I saw similarities. I’m not sure if this was the author’s intent, but it struck a chord with me and made me smile. Janie made me laugh out loud several times. She was so earnest, sincere, and unintentionally silly you couldn’t help but like her.

Donna Reads: Beauty and the Mustache (Knitting in the City #4) by Penny Reid

Ashley Winston is the only girl in a family of seven siblings. She lives in Chicago and works as a pediatric nurse. She left home in small town Tennessee eight years before, eager to get away from a difficult situation. She never went back, not even to visit, even though she spoke to her Momma every day by phone. As the story opens, she’s finally returned to Tennessee because her mother is dying. She discovers that her brothers have changed. She finds not only her six brothers at the family homestead but also her oldest brother’s boss, Drew Runous. In Ashley’s absence, Drew has become a well-liked member of the family; he’s like a son to her Momma.

I loved Drew. He was the strong silent type, but he had many layers, and he was a mystery to Ashley. It wasn’t hard to see that he was a stand-up type of guy, someone who could be trusted and relied upon. That was why Ashley’s mother had put her faith and trust in him. I had a more difficult time with Ashley and her amazing lack of self-esteem. She was a former beauty queen who thought everyone still thought she was a trashy, disposable piece of ass (her own words). She’d made a life for herself in Chicago and was determined to return there after her Momma passed away. Drew was in love with her right from the start, but he wouldn’t tell her, and he wouldn’t ask her to stay. He refused to hold her back. Drew was quiet and taciturn. He wrote poetry; he filled an entire notebook with love poems and letters to Ashley, but he never let her see it. He had a poetic soul; he just couldn’t vocalize his thoughts and feelings.

This is the Winston family novel I should have read first (before the Winston Brothers series). It gives the family history and backstory I needed before I began the other series. It made that series so much better for me. This should be book one in the Winston series.

This was an Audible book. This story was told only from the heroine’s point of view (except for the epilogue). The entire novel was read by only one person, a female voice. I think I prefer a narration with alternating male and female voices, but this novel wasn’t written that way. It was well written enough that Drew and Ashley both still came to life for me.

I highly recommend this one.

Donna Reads: Grin & Beard It (Winston Brothers Book 2) by Penny Reid

Sienna Diaz is a plus-sized Latina comedic actress, known as America’s sweetheart. She’s also a movie writer, and she stars in her own films. She’s won an Oscar, and she’s at the top of her game. In Tennessee to film her next movie, she’s enjoying a rare moment to herself, in her rental car, on her way to the friend’s cabin she’s borrowing, when she realizes she’s lost. She’s having a bit of a meltdown when she’s rescued by a handsome park ranger. Jethro Winston is big, bearded and has no idea who Sienna is. That alone is enough to peak her interest. It’s a rare experience for her not to have someone falling all over her, asking for her autograph and picture. Afraid to tell him who she is and then have him look at her differently, she tells him she’s a writer and doesn’t correct him when he misheard her say her name as “Sarah”.

I enjoyed the first book in the Winston Brothers series, but I loved, loved, loved this one. I adored Jethro, and I liked Sienna a lot. Jethro was strong and didn’t take crap from anyone. As the oldest Winston brother, he takes his responsibilities seriously. Jethro had a less than savory past, and even though he’s turned his life around, he worried about how that would affect Sienna’s image. Sienna was funny, and I really liked her growth as a character. It was great to see her finally stand up to her sister and I liked how she handled the other actor at the London premiere. I also liked how once these two characters committed to each other, they didn’t waver.

This was my first experience with an Audible book. It was a real treat to hear the characters acted out. Chris Brinkley read Jethro’s parts, and he has the sexiest voice. He made me believe he WAS Jethro. His voice is very soothing and smooth. His Southern accent was soft and sweet. Cielo Camargo was Sienna, and she was also excellent and believable. I am a huge reader and I never thought I’d enjoy an audiobook, but I did. I’ve already purchased the third book in the series in Audible format. I can’t wait to hear it. I highly recommend this one.

Donna Reads: Truth or Beard (Winston Brothers #1) by Penny Reid

duaneJessica James returns home after college to take a teaching job as a Calculus teacher at the local high school. She is the Sheriff’s daughter, and her brother is the deputy. It’s a small town where everyone knows everyone else, and weekend nights are spent at the community center listening to locals making music. She’s grown up with the Winston family (there are six boys and one girl). Jess has always had a thing for Beau Winston, but she’s tongue-tied and awkward in his presence, never able to tell him how she feels. She doesn’t suffer the same affliction with his identical twin brother, Duane. She and Duane have spent their entire lives battling. They are like oil and water. One night at the community center Jess gets up the nerve to talk to Beau, and she is stunned when he leads her to a private spot and kisses her. The chemistry between them is immediate. She’s even more stunned when she discovers Beau is not Beau. He’s Duane.

Parts of this romance were sweet, and parts of it were frustrating. I liked Duane. He’s moody, quiet and not always able to express himself as well as his more outgoing twin. I liked him a lot better than Beau. Duane has always loved Jess; he was just never able to tell her. Jess is a bit of a dimwit at times. That was frustrating. She was supposed to be super smart, and at times she came off as seriously stupid. I do like that once she figured out how she felt about Duane, she was all-in and wouldn’t let him walk away. Her lifelong dream has always been to leave the small town and travel the world, living other places and experiencing life elsewhere. She can’t see past that and at first refuses to commit to a relationship with Duane because that would stifle her dreams. He loves her enough that he can let her go and he won’t hold her back. Her siren call has always been to travel; I loved it when he told her that she was his siren call.

I did find the Winston brothers themselves to be a bit goofy, and it got more pronounced as the book went on. The heroine even called them a bunch of hillbillies. They all have beards, most of them live together in the family homestead, and they drink moonshine. The hillbilly vibe and even the way the characters spoke became more rural as the novel progressed. That was a little bizarre. Otherwise, this was a decent read.