Review: ★This Heart Of Mine★ by @Brenda_Novak

This Heart of Mine (Whiskey Creek #8)
Author: Brenda Novak
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Chick Lit
Length: 400 pages
Release Date: March 31, 2015

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…

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Review

5 stars

She’d wanted him so badly seventeen years ago. And now that he wanted her, regardless of what anyone said, she wouldn’t come near him.

This book. This wonderfully written, poignant, emotional and beautiful book. This Heart Of Mine reminded me exactly what made me fall in love with contemporary romance in the first place. I cannot believe that I am just not discovering this fantastic author and 8 books into a series no less. And I’m sure some of my OCD friends are twitching right now over the fact that I started with book 8 in a series. But breathe easy, concerned friends, because this book was easily read as a standalone and I am not planning on going back and reading the 7 books that came before it.

Phoenix Fuller grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. A daughter to an overweight hoarder, she’s never had an easy life, so when handsome and popular Riley Stinson becomes her boyfriend, she thought her life was finally starting to look up…until he broke up with her. Being young and having no support, she didn’t know how to deal with her heartbreak. Her extreme behavior after the breakup led her to be incarcerated for a crime she was innocent of simply because she was the most likely suspect.

Now after spending the past 17 years in prison, Phoenix is back to the small town of Whiskey Creek with a new outlook on life. She wants to help take care of her mother and she wants to get to know her son, a son she had with the boy that stole her heart all those years ago and then ripped it to shreds.

Don’t let your pride stand between you and the things you need, Phoenix.”
“Pride? All I have left is my self-respect. You want to take that away, too?”

I think that Phoenix was probably one of the best heroines I have read in quite a long while. You would think that going through what she’s gone through, she’d be angry at the world, cynical and bitter. But she was none of those things. She had this charmingly unassuming quality to her that made her both vulnerable and yet strong. She’s broken in a way that she no longer believes herself worthy of love or kindness of others. She’s accepted that about herself and she doesn’t blame anyone or holds any animosity towards the people that have done her wrong. She simply takes it for what it is and tries to live her life and provide for her son even if his father isn’t exactly welcoming and she has to live on her last cents just so she can go to bed at night knowing that she gave something to him.

Riley is still trying to set his feelings in order now that Phoenix is back. He loved her when he was 18, but he was too immature to truly recognize it for what it was and not give into the pressure of his family about being too good for the town’s trailer trash. The unanswered questions still burn between Riley and Phoenix, as well as the lack of closure for their failed relationship makes for some angst. The author did such an incredible job writing these two characters that you can’t help but feel every emotion they feel. Riley is definitely a man that feels guilt and he doesn’t know what to do with it. He knows that he’s one of the many that has wronged Phoenix, but as much as he wants to right it he also knows he may never get her forgiveness. This was just so incredibly palpable the story practically vibrated with it. I can’t even begin to describe in words all the feels that this book brought out in me.

It’s not fair, I know. I don’t understand why everything went the way it did. But since you came home it feels…it feels as if you’re what I’ve been waiting for.

Phoenix was by all accounts a heroine that I probably would have hated in any other book. Her insecurities and her experiences truly made for a broken woman, and yet…she wasn’t. There was always just something so endearing about her that you can’t help but have your heart break for her and everything that she’s been through.

I fell in love with Riley and Phoenix, and even more so with their son Jake. This was not the typical teenager that you’d expect to read about. He was wise beyond his years, so down to earth and kind. I just adored him and how he was always this part that kind of filled in the holes between Riley and Phoenix and made them whole. I loved all the secondary characters as well.

While this book wasn’t very steamy, I never even found myself missing it. I loved the story so much that I think anything more than what it had would have been too much. The budding relationship between Riley and Phoenix was realistic. Brenda Novak did a great job building it around everything that they’ve been through and giving both their experiences justice without taking anything away.

I’m happy to do all the fighting, for both of us. But I have to have YOU on my side. I have to know I’m fighting for something I can actually win.”

My only minor complaint is how a few things wrapped up. I guess I wanted apologies and repercussions. But at the same time, it was realistic and played true to the story and the characters. So as much as I would have loved to have something…more, I understood why it was the way it was. I also would have loved an extended epilogue, but again, the ending was satisfying enough that I didn’t focus on that too much.

The mere fact that I was so thoroughly engrossed in the story I couldn’t bear to put it down for even a second. If that’s not a 5 star read, I don’t know what is. If you’re a fan of chick lit, second chance romance, and amazingly written characters with a poignant story, this book is an absolute must read. I can’t recommend it enough.

ARC courtesy of publisher in exchange for an honest review

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