I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.This Heart of Mine by Brenda Novak
Series: Whiskey Creek #8
Published by Harlequin MIRA on March 31, 2015
Genres: Contemporary Romance
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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!
It’s been 17 years and Phoenix Fuller is now released from prison after serving time for vehicular manslaughter. She was 16, pregnant and alone at the time so Riley Stinson, the baby’s father, raised their son with his parents’ assistance. Phoenix wants a chance to have a relationship with Jacob now that she’s free.
Jonetta: She’s nothing like the impression I formed from the books leading up to this one. It never occurred to me that she might be innocent and I thought she was going to give Riley a hard time about their son once released. I ended up having the utmost admiration for her.
Anne: I really liked her and you’re right, she’s nothing like I expected from the previous books. She was unbelievably generous
Jonetta: He was a fairly blank slate for me going into the story. While I landed in a good place about him by the end, I wanted to scream at him from time to time for how he handled Phoenix 17 years ago.
Anne: I’m afraid he was still kind of a blank slate throughout for me, or maybe it was just a blanket of guilt which was overwhelming. . He turned around quickly which was great. But I didn’t lust after him. I did appreciate his ability to build a business and be a wonderful parent to Jacob.
Gotta love family?
Jonetta: Talk about being between a rock and a hard place for both Phoenix and Riley. Her mother and his parents left a lot to be desired. They showed love in very selfish ways and their children turned out well in spite of them.
Anne: I didn’t love their families. I understand their feelings but how did the kids turn out so amazing with such biased parents? At least, Jacob is turning out well. The contrast was a little too great for me between parents and children.
How about the group?
Jonetta: Gotta give them credit this time for stepping up and supporting Riley in the way he needed if instead of their typical judgmental way. I was proud of them, especially Kyle! I’ve not been a big fan but he’s definitely learned his lessons.
Anne: I’ve always loved this group of friends in this small town. It is the reason I enjoy small town series so much; the group of friends and the support of those relationships is what I want. The friends were incredible in giving Riley and even Phoenix, what they needed. I was really amazed by Kyle and am excited to see what is next for him!
Who’d you love?
Jonetta: Phoenix because of her indomitable spirit that was never broken; Jacob, her son, for giving his mother the benefit of the doubt and being a great kid; and, Kyle for just being a GREAT friend.
Anne: You hit the nail on the head with who I loved! Jacob and Kyle made me happy and proud. Phoenix, I loved her, but couldn’t quite believe her spirit. It felt unreal. Who could be that selfless?
Break your heart much?
Jonetta: I was in tears from the very beginning. My heart could barely handle this story. The cruelty of Lori Mansfield’s family was tough to take. But, I also cried when Phoenix rose above it.
Anne: This story was unexpected in so many ways. While I didn’t believe some of the people intellectually, my heart went along for the ride anyway. I cared about them; I enjoyed the story and I wanted the truth to rise to the surface.
Jonetta: Kyle and Riley shopping for Phoenix and the baked cookies. Funniest moments ever!
Anne: I do love the funny! Kyle was hilarious! I loved how he teased Riley about Phoenix. And the way he told it like it was about Samantha and Candy was great, also. Jacob calling Phoenix Mom and wanting her to come to his games, planning to eat his dinner and say it was delicious even if it wasn’t. Riley finding a bunch of jars of spaghetti sauce in the fridge. Phoenix making the birthday gift for Riley..
Jonetta: Definitely the Mansfield family’s attitude (as well as Riley’s mother’s) about harassing Phoenix. How can you condone criminal activity after having lost a child the way they did? It made them even more wrong than the perpetrator of that crime.
Anne: The family’s being selfish and mean, as well as the Mansfields. Penny has had the life she deserved and it was unnecessary, for her and Phoenix.
Thumbs up or down?
Jonetta: BIG thumbs up! It ranks as one of my favorites. I’m primed, now, for Kyle’s HEA.
Anne: Intellectually, some things were hard to swallow since they were a bit too black or white. The ability to be good or bad was a little too complete. Emotionally, I love this series and really enjoyed This Heart of Mine. I do highly recommend the series as one of my favorites. I am wildly curious to know who will be with Kyle.
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