Title: The Heart of Christmas, book 7 of Whiskey Creek Novels
Author: Brenda Novak
Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary Romance
Published by: Harlequin MIRA
Published Date: October 28, 2014
Just call her Christmas Eve…
Eve Harmon has always enjoyed Christmas, but this year it reminds her of everything she doesn’t have. Almost all her friends are married now, and that’s what Eve wants, too. Love. A husband and kids of her own. But the B and B she manages, and even Whiskey Creek, the small Gold Country town where she was born and raised, suddenly seem…confining.
Eve’s worried that her future will simply be a reflection of her past. There’s no one in the area she could even imagine as a husband—until a handsome stranger comes to town. Eve’s definitely attracted to him, and he seems to have the same reaction to her. But his darkly mysterious past could ruin Eve’s happily ever after—just when it finally seems within reach. And just when she’s counting on the best Christmas of her life!
My Thoughts: I don’t read nearly enough of Brenda Novak. Her stories warm the heart and let you re-find the goodness of people. In this particular read, a group of friends rally round Eva when life has handed her a man she can relate to both body and soul, but logically she can’t believe he could be good for her.
In one stupid evening of self-pity, drinking at Sexy Sadie’s, on her 35th birthday thinking she may never find her partner in life and afraid staying in small-town Whiskey Creek will ruin all chances of finding anyone, she connects to a stranger, gorgeous, air sizzling between them even across the room. So much connected she finds herself in her bed with this same man, a man she describes to herself as masculine beauty. As the cloud of drink starts lifting, she remembers being taken home by one of biggest gossips in town, Noelle Arnold. She and her ‘date’ were dropped on her driveway, but were apparently sober enough to find her bed.
The scene of the morning after is funny and not. Through the process of piecing the evening together, which both had problems remembering they realized they had safe sex only once of the three times they recalled.
Brent Taylor, pretty boy, was not planning on staying around, he was drifting through, hiding out from a rough gang from his days in prison. He had joined the gang for self-preservation within the prison, but once he was out he was unable to shake them.
Brent Taylor was a good man and I really liked how the author painted him. We all make mistakes in our teenage years. They are years difficult to pass through without missteps. Not only was Brent an extremely handsome man he was a good person, but guilt from his previous life rode him hard. He was unable to forgive himself and with those thoughts, he couldn’t bring danger into anyone’s life. Therefore, no attachments. No involvement. So he had kept on running. When The Crew found him, he’d pick up, sell his business, go somewhere else and create a new name, a new life. But Brent, too, just was tired of the running. He liked what he saw in Whiskey Creek. The people were kind. He saw Eve had the best of friends who supported each other. He wished he could stay. He wished it even more when he found out Eve was pregnant. His child. He needed that kind of life and he needed a woman like Eve.
I loved the tension in this story. The Crew were out looking for Brent. In a scene, very pivotal I stood in the darkened room with Brent looking for The Crew to arrive. But only by an unusual event which took him out of his home late at night to his neighbor’s, did he see them arrive. They stormed his house ready to kill him. He saw it all. Fortunately, he wasn’t there. So here was this hunk of a guy, great in every way, trying to get his head on straight, and being changed by a gang that wouldn’t go away. Loved the plot, loved the telling.
A part of the story I felt it added nothing to the telling. It was about who killed Mary, a young girl who lived in Eve’s B and B. Perhaps I’m not seeing the whole picture, but I believe it could have been eliminated in large part. That being said, it didn’t overly detract from the sweet Christmas read Brenda Novak wrote about forgiveness, particularly forgiving oneself.
ARC was provided by NetGalley for an honest review.
“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!