Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Without Words - Lori's Review of THIS HEART OF MINE by Brenda Novak

Title: This Heart of Mine (Whiskey Creek #8)
Author: Brenda Novak
Publisher: Mira
Publication Date: 3/31/2015
Source: ARC from publisher through Netgalley

First love. Second chance? 

As the daughter of a hoarder, Phoenix Fuller had a tough childhood. So when the handsome, popular Riley Stinson became her boyfriend in high school, she finally felt as though she had something to be proud of. Phoenix was desperate not to lose him—especially once she found out she was pregnant. Yes, she might have acted a bit obsessive when he broke up with her. But she did not run down the girl he started dating next! 

Unfortunately, there was no way to prove her innocence. Now, after serving her time in prison, Phoenix has been released. All she wants to do is return to Whiskey Creek and get to know her son. But Jacob's father isn't exactly welcoming. 

Riley doesn't trust Phoenix, doesn't want her in Jacob's life. He is, however, ready to find someone to love. And he wants a good mother for his son. He has no idea that he's about to find both—if they can forgive the mistakes in their past.

It was a shocking experience that jump-started Brenda Novak’s bestselling author career.

“I caught my day-care provider drugging my children with cough syrup and Tylenol to get them to sleep while I was away,” Brenda says. “It was then that I decided that I needed to do something from home.”

However, writing was the last profession she expected to undertake. In fact, Brenda swears she didn’t have a creative bone in her body. In school, math and science were her best subjects, and when it came time to pick a major in college, she chose business. 

Abandoning her academic scholarship to Brigham Young University at the age of 20 in order to get married and start a family, Brenda dabbled in commercial real estate, then became a loan officer. 

“When I first got the idea to become a novelist, it took me five years to teach myself the craft and finish my first book,” Brenda admits. “I learned how to write by reading what others have written. The best advice for any would-be author: read, read, read….”

Brenda sold her first book, and the rest is history. Many of her novels have won or placed in contests such as the National Reader's Choice, the Bookseller's Best, the Write Touch, the Award of Excellence and the Beacon Award for Published Authors. 

Brenda and her husband, Ted, live in Sacramento and are the proud parents of five children—three girls and two boys. She juggles her writing career with her children’s softball and soccer games, field trips, carpool runs and homework sessions.

When she’s not spending time with her family or writing, Brenda is usually working on her annual fundraiser for diabetes research—an on-line auction held at her website May 1st – May 31st. Her youngest son, Thad, has diabetes, and Brenda is determined to help him and others like him. She also enjoys traveling, watching sporting events and biking--she rides an amazing 20 miles every day! 

Brenda's Facebook page:

I have seen similar stories where there is young love separated by years and heartache, who come back together as adults with miles of baggage to work through, but this story was still unique. This story is more.

Phoenix Fuller, with her strange mother, never quite fit in back in high school, until she caught the eye of Riley Stinson. Riley had a good family and was popular.  Is it any wonder that she didn't want to let him go when he began dating someone new? While Phoenix might have become a bit stalker-ish, she most definitely did not harm Riley's new girl. So why had she spent the last sixteen years paying for a crime she didn't commit?

Now that Phoenix is finally free, all she wants is to get to know Jacob, the son she hasn't seen since the day he was born. With no way to prove her innocence, Phoenix is not exactly welcomed back by the town of Whiskey Creek, or even by Jacob's father.

Riley doesn't trust trust Phoenix and though he wants to keep her away from his son, he can't deny that she has served her time. He also can't deny Jacob's wish to get to know and protect his mother. Neither can Riley deny the stirrings in his heart anytime Phoenix is around.

I loved that the obstacle these characters had to maneuver around was something so different and huge, but also boiled down to a simple matter of trust. Riley didn't trust that Phoenix wouldn't harm someone. Phoenix didn't trust that Riley wouldn't take away her visits with Jacob if she did the least little thing wrong. But mostly, Riley and Phoenix needed to learn to trust their hearts.

4 out of 5 stars for me

Ray LaMontagne - Without Words

All the while, truth was mine
It's with myself, I fight
Sin you've carried like a corpse
Across your back these days
Let it fall away

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