Overall Grade: 4.5 ⭐️
I have to be honest. I’ve been sitting on my thoughts about Penny Reid’s Beard in Hiding, not because I didn’t love the story. I did. It’s because it hit so close to home with my life that I almost cannot be unbiased about it. At its core, Beard in Hiding exists to provide the story of Jason “Repo” Doe and Diane Donner. Their story has been teased in other Reid books, but it has never been fleshed out. What you find with Repo and Diane is an opportunity for second chances in life: for Repo to love and care for someone and for Diane to live as a better version of herself, while loving a man who has never felt fully loved. The beauty of that is lost on someone in their twenties and thirties, the time when we make those bad decisions that mete out consequences in our forties and fifties. Repo and Diane have regrets, obviously, but they recognize that the curves of their paths were necessary for them to find each other.
For me, Beard in Hiding is an epic love story in that it allows its hero and heroine to find their happy ending even though it’s wrapped in bittersweet. The only “newness” to Beard in Hiding in terms of story relates to Repo and Diane’s points of view. Up to this point, we understand their coupling through the unreliable perspectives of Cletus and Jennifer. In this book, Reid allows you to fall in love with Repo and Diane who seem like characters who would be difficult to love. Yet, by the end of this story, your heart has been given over to them as they “ride off into the sunset” together to avoid having to undermine the other person’s livelihood.
Where I connected with this story is in the characterization of Diane Donner. This is a woman who has lived a life at the mercy of her husband. She is incredibly independent; she owns the Donner Lodge and runs it well. Yet, in her home, she is a second-class citizen who must oversee her home under her husband’s rules. There has been little personal freedom there, and it has had unintentional consequences: the emotional wounding of her daughter and the estrangement with her son. And these things, after the split from her husband and shuffling of her priorities, have left her with gaping holes in her soul. Thankfully, Reid gives her the space of this story to rectify this situation, but, by the story’s end, Diane has to accept that she can never go back but she must look forward to a future that is grounded in the love from Repo. It feels bittersweet, having to say goodbye to her children who she adores with a mother’s heart knowing she may never see them again, and I ended Penny Reid’s Beard in Hiding with a heart hurting for her while also celebrating her new love. I understand the challenges of loving adult children and the space it necessitates when all you want to do is attach them to you forever. I a
lso understand a world reduced to the whims of a husband. Reid’s storytelling in this book captures these hurts so beautifully.
Beard in Hiding is the perfect addendum to the SmartyPants Romance Fall 2021 release. Did I know I needed this story in my life? No…but every turn of the page underscored my own feelings and made me feel seen, the true mark of a strong, emotional story.
In love and romance,