by Brenda Novak
Series: Whiskey Creek #8
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Contemporary Romance
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…
This Heart of Mine by Brenda Novak is the eighth book in her Whiskey Creek series. I love small-town romances and I have always wanted to try one her novels. I was delighted that this worked as a standalone and was even more excited to meet Phoenix Fuller. An unusual heroine and a second chance romance gave me all the feels.
Phoenix was not a popular kid in high school, in fact most thought her an oddball. She lived in a trailer on the outskirts of town with her mother but Riley noticed her and the two fell in love. Family pressures led to their break-up and Phoenix found herself alone, heartbroken and pregnant but a tragic car ride sealed their fate. Phoenix was accused and found guilty of running down a classmate and sentenced to jail.
The story picks up seventeen years later when Phoenix is released and returns to Whiskey Creek hoping to establish a connection with her young son. Novak did a wonderful job of fleshing out the characters and making me connect. It is a story of forgiveness, truth and most of all love.
The romance was sweet, tender and made my heart skip a beat. I adore second chance romances and this one was fragile and filled with heartache. I was so glad to see Riley and Phoenix get their chance. Phoenix is such a strong character and her story will have you swallowing a lump in your throat. I would have imagined she would be bitter, but her journey has been remarkable and the scars she carries are a testament to her strength. Yet, beneath it all she is still that hurt young woman with a tender heart. Her son, and townsfolk made the tale feel genuine allowing us to feel the impact her return has made. We see the stigma of living on the wrong side of the tracks in a small-town and the helping hand of neighbors.
Novak stated that Phoenix’s story just flowed from her and you can feel it in the writing. The characters are genuine and their interacts realistic. If you have not tried Novak, yet I encourage you to try This Heart of Mine. Low angst, realistic characters and low-heat make this a perfect Sunday afternoon read. Go, go visit Whiskey Creek, I promise you will want to stay awhile.
* Review linked to CBB Book Promotions
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