I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Take Me Home for Christmas by Brenda Novak
Series: Whiskey Creek #5
Published by Harlequin MIRA on October 29, 2013
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Christmas is a time for remembering .
Too bad all memories aren't pleasant. Everyone in Whiskey Creek remembers Sophia DeBussi as the town's Mean Girl. Especially Ted Dixon, whose love she once scorned.
But Sophia has paid the price for her youthful transgressions. The man she did marry was rich and powerful but abusive. So when he goes missing, she secretly hopes he'll never come back—until she learns that he died running from an FBI probe of his investment firm. Not only has he left Sophia penniless, he's left her to face all the townspeople he cheated .
Sophia is reduced to looking for any kind of work to pay the bills and support her daughter. With no other options, she becomes housekeeper for none other than Ted, now a successful suspense writer. He can't bring himself to turn his back on her, not at Christmas, but he refuses to get emotionally involved. He learned his lesson the last time.
Or will the season of love and forgiveness give them both another chance at happiness?
I’ve been waiting for Sophia and Ted’s story since these characters were first introduced. My expectation was that it would be emotionally challenging as we know she’s a victim of domestic abuse and I was somewhat prepared for this dimension of the story. I was ill prepared for the ugliness that she would suffer from the residents of Whiskey Creek.
The set up
Sophia was involved with Ted when she was in high school. When he left for college, she secretly got involved with the wealthy Skip DeBussi, dumped Ted and married Skip. She was also the leader of the popular cliques and wasn’t the nicest of people. It is understandable how Ted would still harbor resentment 14 years later and he’s avoided her in his adult life, even when she began showing up for the Friday morning coffee with the rest of the group. Now that her marriage is behind her, he’s still uncertain of how to deal with her and knows he has unresolved feelings.
Sophia’s husband dies trying to fake his own death and leave the country because he knew his Ponzi investment scheme was imploding. She’s left having to deal with the FBI and a town full of angry investors. Sophia has no money, creditors constantly after her for everything they owned and no real friends. In spite of his hurt feelings, Ted can’t stand by and watch her and her 13-year daughter Alexa be left destitute and so mistreated so he gives her a job and safe harbor.
The heart and soul of the story
It’s been a long time since I’ve read a more heartbreaking story. Sophia couldn’t seem to catch a break and the Whiskey Creek residents were there to ensure she didn’t get one. Money can bring out the worst behaviors in people and the loss of it even more. There were some angels in the midst and without them Sophia might have gone under, emotionally and financially. Ted got a chance to see the best of Sophia under the most trying circumstances, allowing him to forgive her and be honest with himself about his true feelings for her and the passion that kept them stoked for the past 14 years.
As much as I loved this story, Ted and their friend Eve’s relationship derailed me. He may not have been aware of the depths of Sophia’s feelings for him but deep down he had to understand how hurtful this would be to both of them. Eve was most definitely aware of Ted’s feelings for Sophia (as did most of the group) and went for him anyway (didn’t she learn from her experience with Joe DiMarco?). I thought them insensitive at best, her for knowing the truth and him for subconsciously using Eve as a distraction.
I have an advanced review copy so I’m uncertain if this was changed but the ending was pretty abrupt. It would be better served with at least a short epilogue.
The bottom line
I was an emotional mess for most of this story. Sophia’s transformation from mean/spoiled girl to an abused trophy wife and ultimately to a woman determined to live a more meaningful life was inspirational. Her journey was hard, often more than I thought she (or I) could bear. I’m hoping eventually Eve’s story will help me understand her point of view better than I do now and I think I’m always going to resent Ted. Whiskey Creek is not all sweetness and light and that’s what keeps me coming back…the characters are flawed, dealing with relevant issues and not always making the best decisions and behaving badly. I love this series!
I also love to talk about books. There’s nothing more exciting than to finish a great story and cover it A to Z with other people, exploring different perspectives and points of view. So, if you see something on my shelf you’d like to talk about, send me a message and we’ll talk!
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