THIS HEART OF MINE (Whiskey Creek #8) by Brenda Novak ~ Release Day Review
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!
•♥• Book Links for THIS HEART OF MINE:
•♥• My Review:
The Whiskey Creek series from author Brenda Novak has been a favorite of mine from the start. Novak does such an incredible job of making her characters real-to-life, meaning flawed and likely to make mistakes as all humans do, and yet does an even better job at showing her readers the true heart of her characters, and allowing you to love them anyway. In THIS HEART OF MINE, the 8th book in this series, she brings Phoenix Fuller back to take the hot seat in Whiskey Creek.
Throughout the series Phoenix has been alluded to and disparaged as the crazy teen from the wrong side of the tracks who fell so in love with Riley Stinson, popular golden boy, that when he broke up with her she ran down the competition for his affection, literally. Then announced she was pregnant with his child. Fast forward seventeen years. Phoenix has served her time in prison for murder and is back in Whiskey Creek hoping Riley will allow her to get to know their son. NO ONE wants her there, but for the chance to finally be with the son she wasn’t even allowed to hold after she gave birth she will face them all.
Phoenix was completely different than I expected. She is humble, kind, determined to make her own way, asks nothing of others, and expects nothing of others. She fully realizes and accepts what they all think of her. She is just ever hopeful, caring only for a chance to be a mother to Jake. That Jake will accept her. She is still claiming her innocence, but not bothering to try and defend herself anymore. It’s impossible not to love her and cry, literally, for all the injustice she’s faced and the cruelty of her situation. Just as it’s impossible not to admire her strength and her grace as she holds her head up and does everything she can to prove her love to her son, and to his father. Novak makes you just want to hug Phoenix up and make it all better for her. As a mother, Phoenix’s story was heartbreaking and had me crying in more than one place, but you’re going to love it. And you are definitely going to love Phoenix.
Riley Stinson was also just a teenager when the girl he thought he loved did the unthinkable and was sent to prison. He has spent the past 17 years regretting his part in the whole situation and focusing on being the best father he can to his son Jake. He’s dated, but never felt a real connection with anyone. Not since Phoenix. At 17 years old, and ever since, he’s listened to the family and friends he trusts to help him determine the best course of action… keeping Jake away from Phoenix, even if his heart whispers he might be making a mistake. Now the moment he’s been dreading is here. Phoenix has come back to town and at 16 years old, he feels Jake has a right to make his own decision about whether or not to give his mother a chance, so he allows the contact. Supervised contact. Which puts Phoenix back into his life as well and she is not what he expected. Not who he’s been telling himself she was all these years. Who she is, is the same girl who stole his heart all those years ago.
I’m beginning to think Novak should have named this series Redemption Creek. Sophia, Eve, Phoenix, Kyle, et al. all seemingly too far gone in their misdeeds to ever be trusted again. Yet Brenda shows us their heart and smoothly brings them back into the good graces of the town, and her readers, one after the other. Her stories are always heartfelt and emotional, with just the right touch of humor highlighted with realistic dialogue and secondary characters who she allows us to come to know and love as if they were our own friends. Just really terrific writing that always leaves me wanting more. The second chance she gives Phoenix and Riley to have their one and only in This Heart of Mine is no different. Loved this book! 4.5 stars
~Complimentary copy received in exchange for a honest review~
•♥• Learn more about the entire Whiskey Creek Series here!
•♥• About Author Brenda Novak:
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!