Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
I stand in my truth: Billy Winston is still my favorite Winston brother. It’s just an undeniable truth. If you had told me in Engagement and Espionage that I would grow to like Cletus Winston, well, I would have chuckled, patted you on the back, and said, “okay…sure”, a comment that would drip with hints of sarcasm. I mean, I don’t have anything against Cletus. It’s just…he’s not my cup of Winston Brother tea. It’s that need for revenge at any cost, the reality that if there was an award for Most Petty Winston Brother, he would win, that oftentimes makes me roll my eyes and turn the page without a care for Cletus. But now, Penny Reid went ahead and ruined my mild disdain for her hero. In Marriage and Murder, her newest book, she wrote a Cletus that feels like the other Winston brothers, a hero who takes his treasuring of his fiancee to a whole other level. I mean, it’s easy to do with a heroine such as Jennifer Sylvester. The wide-eyed, seemingly innocent, Banana Cake Queen really comes into her own in this book. But, for me, it’s Cletus’s mild evolution from Petty Betty to protective hero that won my heart. Now, add to that a caper that twists and turns and (sometimes) loses you a bit, along with that strong familial sense that you find in any Winston siblings book, and you cannot possibly put down Penny Reid’s newest book to her booklist. In this book, Cletus finally transcends the minutiae of revenge to fall more madly in love with his soulmate, the ever-sweet Jennifer.
I loved…that Jennifer recognizes her $ex kitten ways. In this book, Jennifer questions her almost oppressive Christian ideas about $ex and embraces the truth that she loves it, especially with Cletus. The fire between Cletus and Jennifer burns HOT in Marriage and Murder.
I loved…that, through the Winston family, Jennifer finally gets the sibling relationships that she needs since her brother Isaac has turned his back on her. There is a very sweet moment between Jennifer and Billy that pops a tear.
I loved…that Penny keeps you guessing with the suspense of the story. There are Papa and Mama Sylvester in this story, and the fore-knowledge we have about their storylines finds development in this book.
I loved…that I would really love more Solving for Pie stories. Cletus and Jennifer’s story does feel wrapped up in the end, but it also feels like there is more tomfoolery in Cletus and Jennifer’s lives.
I loved…that I can never get enough of the Winston siblings. Penny brings them “all to the yard” in this book, and it continues to remind me why I adore their series and the subsequent Smartypants Romance books. Penny Reid’s stories just feel like family. As a reader, you belong. I want to live in Green Valley, Tennessee with all of these interesting, quirky characters because I feel like I might have a spot there.
If you haven’t read Penny Reid yet, what are you waiting for? Entwined in all the qualities I’ve listed above are ideas about life, about how we treat each other, about how we live. There is a humanity in Penny Reid’s “smart romance.” And she has clearly done it again with Cletus and Jennifer’s Marriage and Murder. There is always room for Penny Reid on your TBR…and you won’t regret it.
In love and romance,