The Winston Brothers series by Penny Reid

I’m not a huge series reader, but I must tell you about my all-time favorite series. I met author Penny Reid at the 2019 Book Bonanza in Dallas, TX this past August. Of the over 50 authors I met there, Penny was the most humble, kind, and hilarious one. I knew immediately that I would enjoy her books, and man was I spot-on! Her writing is so refreshing, full of hilarious banter, romantic escapades, and a strong bond between a Southern family of six bearded brothers living in small-town Green Valley, TN.  

Of all Reid’s books, my favorite are the Winston Brothers series. The first book in the series is called Truth or Beard and is the story of Duane Winston. Duane’s mama, Bethany, was the beloved town librarian but she passed away at a young age after a fairly quick battle with cancer. Sweet Bethany’s only bad habit was staying with Duane’s despicable daddy, Darrell Winston, who is in jail due to his illegal exploits with the local biker gang, the Iron Wraiths. Bethany and Darrell had 6 boys (Billy, Jethro, Cletus, red-headed twins Duane & Beau, Roscoe) and one girl, Ashley. The brothers are ultra-charming and handsome, but also prone to mischief. Reid’s characters are charming and unique, and she tackles tough issues very well with her tell-it-like-it-is dialogue. Cletus, Duane, and Beau run an auto mechanic shop in Green Valley. Jethro is a park ranger with a bit of a sordid past. Billy is a senator, and Roscoe, the baby of the family, becomes a veterinarian. Ashley took on a sort of sister-mom role to the guys when Bethany passed away. They are all very close, and Cletus is a main part of the glue holding them all together.

Each book in the series focuses on a different Winston brother and his romantic exploits. They can all be read as a standalone full-length romantic comedy, but are better enjoyed when read in the order of publication so readers can follow the progression of the family as it grows with marriages and births. It’s easy to spot these books for their creative cross-stitched covers, each depicting a different bearded Winston brother (and one of Ashley!). (Side note: I also love that Penny cross stitches, just like me! Nerds, unite!) My personal favorite of the brothers is Cletus because of his extensive vocabulary and extreme geekiness that only someone like he can pull off as cool. Not to mention his homemade sausage and special coffee. He makes me laugh so hard!

I hope you enjoy this series and let me know what you think! The fictional world of Green Valley, Tennessee that Penny created is so popular and loved , in fact, that now there are a whole bunch of other amazing authors writing book series that take place in Green Valley, TN. The Winston brothers make many appearances in the Smartypants Romance books, which I absolutely love! They are all part of the amazing Smartypants Romance group. For instance, the Donner Bakery series which is Cletus’s wife, Jenn’s, bakery and the Scorned Women Society series by Piper Sheridan which is the story of Suzie Samuels, and all of the women that heartthrob, bad-boy turned park ranger Jethro Winston left behind. And, my personal favorite, as a librarian of course, is the Green Valley Library series, which have amazing titles (Love in Due Time, Shelf Awareness, Crime and Periodicals, Prose Before Bros). I mean, come on, the titles alone make a librarian swoon! And there are a bunch more Smartypants Romance books launching this year. Yippeee!

I’ll leave you with my favorite quote from Cletus Winston:

“Stay away from the normals, the small-minded people who fill their brains with small-minded pursuits, who blend in and keep up with the Joneses. Those people will tear you down and make you boring. Instead, surround yourself with the weirds. With the misfits, oddballs, and outcasts. Because the normals, bless their hearts, have no idea how to have fun.”

 

 

 

Purple Hearts by Michael Grant

y648.jpgPurple Hearts is the final book in the Front Lines trilogy by Michael Grant. This young adult historical fiction story takes place in 1944. Though the Battle of D-Day at Omaha Beach, the Battle of the Bulge, and the depiction of German death camps is written with historical accuracy, the one twist in the story is that it takes a place in a world where women are drafted into military service right along with the men. For this reason, the series focuses on three main female characters from the first book when they start out as recruits, through the second book where they receive Silver Stars for bravery and to the final book where they have earned Sergeant status and Purple Hearts. Rio, Rainy, and Frangie (Doc) courageously fight through excruciating conditions and never-ending days of battle, in which the harsh realities of war are not sugar coated. 

Rio, a Sergeant and the first woman to receive a Silver Star recipient, has a boyfriend (an army pilot named Strand who cares more about himself than anyone else), but she begins to develop feelings for Jack, one of the soldiers under her command. This makes for a bit of romantic angst in the midst of so much war, which I rather enjoyed.

Fellow Sergeant and friend, Rainy, is undercover in Nazi-occupied France in order to get closer to the enemy and destroy some of their ammunition stockpiles. She joins forces with the maquis, forming an unlikely partnership in which the end goals are the same. Rainy is a Jewish American who is both bold and brave, not afraid of her mission at all.

Frangie Marr, known as “Doc,” is a black Army medic from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her religious Southern upbringing bodes well for her “bedside manner” with wounded soldiers, making her a friend and favorite to many. Though she is dealing with “separate but equal” segregation back home, as a soldier she is equal, allowing her to really make a difference, saving and comforting wounded soldiers with a fierce, brave tenacity that is unparalleled.

The writing is well-researched as Grant seamlessly weaves together the narratives from Rio, Rainy, and Doc, along with some other lesser known characters that are important to the storyline. Being the final book in the trilogy, the way the author provides closure for each of the characters taking readers through to the end of the lives is well-written and most appreciated, allowing readers to see that the war wasn’t the end for these brave young women. They had so much life left to live and enjoy after serving selflessly for their country. Also included between the narratives are letters written to many of the soldiers from family members they left back home, which really brings the characters to life even more.

Even though it’s intended for a young adult adult audience, it would certainly appeal to adults who enjoy military fiction. The battles and violence are graphic and bloody and the dialogue includes quite a bit of rough language, so I would not recommend this book for younger teens or middle grades. Fans of Ruta Sepetys and Chris Lynch will enjoy this series.

A sincere thank you to the publisher for the review copy of this book.