Hunches, horse races, and heartbreak
Ten years after Simone Payton broke his heart, all Roscoe Winston wants is a doughnut. He’d also like to forget her entirely, but that’s never going to happen. Roscoe remembers everything—every look, every word, every single unrequited second—and the last thing he needs is another memory of Simone.
Unfortunately, after one chance encounter, Simone keeps popping up everywhere he happens to be . . .
Ten years after Roscoe Winston dropped out of her life, all Simone Payton wants is to exploit him. She’d also like some answers from her former best friend about why he ghosted her, but if she never gets those answers, that’s a-okay. Simone let go of the past a long time ago. Seriously, she has. She totally, totally has. She is definitely not still thinking about Roscoe. Nope. She’s more than happy to forget he exists.
But first, she needs just one teeny-tiny favor . . .
“Simone, this is not one of our adventures from when we were kids. This is not finding Blithe Tanner’s cat. These men are murderers, drug dealers, thieves.”
“I know.” Boy oh boy, did I know. I didn’t want to be here anymore than he did. I was frightened. Yet allowing Roscoe to be taken on his own hadn’t been an option. “I can handle myself, and I can provide backup for you, if you need it.”
Roscoe gripped my shoulders. “Nothing can happen to you, do you understand?” His words were emphatic, his gaze disoriented, desolate, frantic. “If anything happens to you, I’ll . . .” He swallowed, apparently unable to finish the sentence.
My heart twisted to see him like this. I wished there were some way to show him what I could do, what I was capable of, so he would stop seeing me as a liability.
Well, why can’t you?
Now there was a thought.
Stepping out of his grip, I walked backward to the other side of the room and took a deep breath. “Okay. Come at me.”
He blinked. “What?”
“I want you to come at me.”
“Simone,” he seethed.
“Come at me, bro.” I did that little movement with my fingers, my palm turned upwards. “Come at me or I’ll start singing again.”
“I’m not doing this.”
“Fine.” Frustrating. “I’ll come at you.”
He stood there, features set, looking raw.
Moving quickly forward, staying light on my feet, I faked right and then went left, hooking him behind the back of his leg, catching his arm to twist behind his back, and sending him to the ground—face-first—with a thud.
I winced as he grunted, my knee at the base of his spine, his arm restrained behind his back. “Sorry! But you wouldn’t listen to me.” Leaning forward, I whispered in his ear, “Are you okay? Did I hurt you?”
Roscoe’s back and shoulders rose and fell with an expansive breath, like he was about to respond, but in the next moment he’d spun his legs to the right, leveraged my knee on his back to throw me off-balance, and slipped his wrist from my hold.
In my defense, my grip had been lax as I was purposefully trying not to injure him.
The next thing I knew, Roscoe had me pinned to the ground, air knocked out of me, him hovering above, and my gun digging into my ribs beneath my shirt. He’d been careful to subdue my legs, likely so he wouldn’t end up with a bruised ballsack.
His stare more probing than angry—which I took as a good sign—he said, “I didn’t teach you that. Where’d you learn that?”
Even though I was still coughing, I smiled and rasped, “Since college, take judo.”
He nodded faintly, his eyes moving between mine, looking concerned. “Are you okay? Did I hurt you?”
“No.” Endeavoring to catch my breath, I said, “I took it easy on you because I didn’t want to hurt you either, but I’m an asset, not a liability.”
“You’re definitely an asset.” Roscoe frowned, his gaze dropping to my mouth. “And a distraction,” he said, his voice rough.
“I’m a distraction?” I asked, my words still breathy.
I bucked, but he held me fast.
“Yes. . .” His stare turned inward. “You are most definitely a distraction.”
Even though I’d had plenty of time to recover and we’d been holding still for close to a minute, I was still breathing hard. This might have been because of my lingering irritation. Or, maybe it was because the length of Roscoe’s lean body was lying on mine. He held my hands on either side of my head, our faces even, his mouth just inches away.
Was it insane that I hoped he kissed me?
Let’s go with no.
He gave me his eyes again and I saw something there, a battle. He looked undecided, at war with himself, straining against something I couldn’t see.
“Roscoe?” I whispered.
Roscoe closed his eyes, and I thought he was going to let me go, but in the next second his lips descended, capturing my mouth in a tender kiss.
I kissed him back.
That’s what one does when Roscoe Winston kisses one. Moan and kiss. Repeat. Because not doing so would be a travesty.
His hold on my hands slacked, his fingers seeking and threading with mine. He settled his hips between my legs, his form relaxing. The weight of him was different now, warmer somehow. At least I felt warm. I also felt cherished as his tongue sought mine, again tenderly, stroking, causing my abdomen to twist and tighten into delicious knots.
He broke the kiss and a protest died on my lips as his mouth trailed down my jaw to the sensitive skin of my neck, sucking, licking, savoring me. What had felt warm and cherishing heated, and my hips tilted reflexively as he nibbled on my ear, cradling his rapidly growing erection.
We both gasped as his hips rocked in an answering yet inelegant movement. It felt perfect and essential in the moment.
“Oh God.” His hot breath spilled against my jaw, a ragged sigh. “What are we doing?”
“I don’t know, but don’t stop.”
Every time a new Penny Reid novel is released, it feels a little bit like Christmas… or my birthday… or some other holiday when people give gifts. Because that is just what Penny’s books are: gifts.
Dr. Strange Beard picks up several years after the conclusion of Beau’s book (Beard in Mind, #4 in the series). I did not know there was a time jump going in so I was thrown for a loop right away. Within the first 10% of the book, there were so many family updates that my brain went into overdrive. (See my reading status updates for this book for proof.)
But that was one of my favorite things about this book. We were given so many little peeks into the rest of the Winstons’ lives and how they’ve changed in just a few years. Those updates just seriously gave me life. It felt like a family reunion without all the drama of being with your actual family.
The story itself centers on Simone and Roscoe. They were childhood best friends until something caused Roscoe to pretty much ditch Simone. There’s not really a better way to describe it. At first glance you may say, what a jerk!, but that’s the glory of good storytelling, and with Penny’s books you always know there’s more than what first meets the eye.
To me, Simone felt new and fresh from Penny’s other heroines. She still had that quirky something that all Penny’s characters have, but her voice felt different (especially at the beginning). In Penny’s author notes she mentions she used sensitivity readers for Simone. I think that was evident, in a good way, and as a reader, I appreciate the extra effort it took to do that.
A big character growth for Simone is her going from ‘love’s not for me’ to ‘I’m in love with Roscoe.’ Her growth did feel like it was missing something in the sense that it was quick. I wish we’d gotten more from Simone on what exactly made her go from ‘no love’ to figuring out she’s in love. It seemed like a quick turn-around and it was lacking a bit for me.
Roscoe, how I love thee, let me count the ways. He was such a wonderful mix of a sweet, sensitive, and romantic soul as well as being strong, fierce, and oh so loyal. We learn in the book that he has an eidetic memory, which was so interesting to learn about. (That’s something about Penny’s books I love. I always come out on the other side with a bit more knowledge in my brain). Due to his amazing memory, he remembers things word for word. There are passages in the book where we’re remembering alongside Roscoe, so there’s a lot of flashbacks. While I understand why Penny did this, I wish there’d been a little less of it. One or two examples would’ve been fine. I did like it when it was interwoven with his present thoughts, but the longer word for word passages felt redundant to me. There is a part where we get a glimpse of Simone’s memory in a flashback-like scene, and that was funny to see the difference between a ‘normal’ memory and an eidetic one.
I really enjoyed both Simone and Roscoe’s characters. We also got to see more of Simone’s family and I am holding out hope her brother and especially her sister, Dani, will get books of their own in the spinoff series (Green Valley).
This book was definitely difficult to put down (just like all the books in the Winston series). A lot of things were set up in this book that I think will all come to a head in the next and final Winston book which is Billy’s. His is probably the book Reid’s fans are most looking forward to. There’s been so much build up for it so there’s an extreme level of anticipation!
Overall, another home run from Penny Reid.
I received a free ARC of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
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MEET THE AUTHOR: PENNY REID
Penny Reid is the Wall Street Journal and USA Today Best Selling Author of the Winston Brothers, Knitting in the City, Rugby, and Hypothesis series. She used to spend her days writing federal grant proposals as a biomedical researcher, but now she just writes books. She’s also a full time mom to three diminutive adults, wife, daughter, knitter, crocheter, sewer, general crafter, and thought ninja.