Tuesday, March 31, 2015

This Heart of Mine (Whiskey Creek #) by Brenda Novak

Book Blurb:

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…

My Review:

Brenda Novak took me on a though provoking, emotional journey in This Heart of Mine.  I absolutely love Pheonix and Riley's story...I didn't want to put it down!

Pheonix is probably the complete opposite of what you'd expect of someone who has been in prison for 17 years for a crime she claims she didn't commit.  She is so brave and strong.  Returning to small town Whiskey Creek would not be an easy thing to do after what she's been through, but she does it...for her mother and her son Jacob.  The son she's never seen since she gave birth.  No matter what people think of her, she wants the chance to know him, and hopefully have some kind of relationship with him.  She's not sure what to expect from him, since Jacob's father has made it clear he doesn't want her in his life...but she is going to do whatever she can.  And Pheonix does everything she can, from trying to fly under the radar and being as least noticeable as she can be to giving money to Riley for Jacob's care when she barely has enough to get by on her own.  She doesn't want to cause problems...she just wants to know her son.  I really, really liked Pheonix and the way Brenda told her story.  It was easy to feel for Pheonix.  She didn't try to gain sympathy from anyone, she didn't want it.  She just accepted how things were, and always was thinking of others.  It was not easy at all for Pheonix...many of the people in Whiskey Creek were not ready to put the past behind them.  She persevered though and her strong character is powerful.

Riley was Pheonix's high school boyfriend who has raised their son since birth.  He's very cautious about letting Pheonix into Jacob's life...he's not sure what to expect.  I liked his character too.  He's very cautious and uncertain, but he's not pushing Pheonix away, nor is he discouraging Jacob from having a relationship with her.

What neither of them expected was for the old feelings to still be there.  But Pheonix isn't ready to trust Riley again yet, and she doesn't want to interfere with the life he has.  As she bonds with Jacob and forms a relationship with him, it is impossible to stay away from Riley though.  She tries, because the past still haunts them both even if Riley wants another chance.  Can they and the people in Whiskey Creek ever move on from it?  Will Riley and Pheonix have a second chance together as adults?  Or is it too late and the only relationship they'll have is through their son?

This Heart Of Mine is not only about second chance at love, it's a second chance at life for Pheonix.  She really is a memorable character and makes you wonder what it could possibly have been like for her for the past 17 years.  I like how she sees her relationship with her mother also, this only makes me admire her more...for seeing beyond the surface of things.  I saw a lot of character growth for Riley and Pheonix, and it was so touching watching their relationship bump along and move forward.

There are quite a few secondary characters who have appeared in other Whiskey Creek books, but I honestly believe This Heart of Mine is so powerful it can easily stand on its own.  Brenda explores not only family and relationship dynamics, but small town dynamics that show the strengths and weaknesses of places like Whiskey Creek.

With a heroine who will capture your heart and grab your respect, I highly recommend This Heart of Mine to any romance reader!

5/5 stars

Purchase from Amazon.com

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