Thursday, April 2, 2015

"This Heart of Mine" by Brenda Novak

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…
Genre: Contemporary Romance

My review:
Its not often that I'm really moved by a character in a book, but Brenda Novak has done that with the character of Phoenix in This Heart of Mine.  Having read all of the previous books in the Whiskey Creek series, I knew about Phoenix in a superficial way, but she is not the person I thought she was.  I'm not sure I can find the right adjectives to describe her but some of her personality traits would be: humility, strength, deference, meekness, fearfulness, consideration, ... there are too many to list. I loved how she was rebuilding her life and continuing to demonstrate to anyone who would listen that she was just there to have a relationship with her mother and her son and was not trying to disrupt the lives of the others in Whiskey Creek. Phoenix epitomizes "if life gives you lemons, make lemonade".  
The primary focus of This Heart of Mine is Phoenix's re-entry into Whiskey Creek after 19 years in prison.  She wants to meet her now 16-year-old son and forge a relationship of some sort with him.  She is fearful of his reaction to her, but I was pleasantly surprised at the maturity that Jacob demonstrated, embracing his mother literally and physically and paving the way for her re-entry into Whiskey Creek.  Phoenix continued deference to Riley and Jacob's needs endeared her to me. I saw Jacob as a reflection of the Riley that Phoenix fell in love with as a teenager, and a wonderful reflection of Riley's parenting of Jacob while he himself was still growing up.
While there were times I expected to feel sorry for Phoenix, I really didn't.  But over and over, I felt sorry for Riley.  I didn't expect that. Riley was trapped in the middle between his parents, his parents friends, his son, his group of friends, and Phoenix.  The emotional struggles he went through while trying to navigate a path through his struggles, demonstrating sensitivity to the feelings of others but ultimately being true to his own feels made me empathize with him throughout the story.
We really got to know Kyle a lot better in This Heart of Mine and he was another favorite character of mine.  His strength helped convince Riley to follow his heart and he was a true friend to Riley - and to Phoenix.  I'm sure his ultimate love story will be as endearing.
After approaching This Heart of Mine with skepticism - often books this far into a series don't deliver with the same punch as early books - I was pleasantly surprised at how wonderful and different this book was.  This Heart of Mine is a wonderful addition to the Whiskey Creek series and a true reflection of the depth of talent in author Brenda Novak. 
Goodreads - Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Kobo

Author's web site:

After I found Brenda Novak's books and her website, I found that Brenda Novak and I have something in common - we both have children with Type 1 diabetes.  Brenda Novak has leveraged her visibility as an author and her relationships in the industry to raise money for Type 1 diabetes research through "Brenda Novak for the Cure".  I'd like to invite you to check out her web site and consider a donation to her fundraising, or purchasing one or more of her upcoming fundraising book bundles.

Fundraising website:

Thanks for your support of research that may help her son - and my daughter - one day live without Type 1 diabetes.

1 comment:

  1. Isn't it interesting how well Novak paralleled forming opinions of people based on others' opinions in books and in real life? I adored Phoenix and Riley's story, even if I was on the verge of tears for most of it. You're right about Riley and how he was trying to balance others' feelings with his own but I was proud of him for putting his own feelings first. It is his life, after all. And I came to like Kyle even more as well. :) Lovely review, Nancy!