Series: Whiskey Creek #7
Format Read: eGalley
Source: the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Release Date: October 28, 2014
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Blurb from goodreads:
Just call her Christmas Eve…
Eve Harmon has always enjoyed Christmas, but this year it reminds her of everything she doesn't have. Almost all her friends are married now, and that's what Eve wants, too. Love. A husband and kids of her own. But the B and B she manages, and even Whiskey Creek, the small Gold Country town where she was born and raised, suddenly seem…confining.
Eve's worried that her future will simply be a reflection of her past. There's no one in the area she could even imagine as a husband until a handsome stranger comes to town. Eve's definitely attracted to him, and he seems to have the same reaction to her. But his darkly mysterious past could ruin Eve's happily ever after just when it finally seems within reach. And just when she's counting on the best Christmas of her life!
Prior to this story, I'd read one only book by Novak and I wasn't able to finish it - too many cliches, stereotypes, and a stupid, naive heroine who annoyed me. But so many of my blogger friends love Novak so I thought I'd try again. I was about 2/3 of the way through this book, maybe halfway, when I realized the book that I had given up on tied into this one, even though it wasn't part of the Whiskey River series. I liked that touch, that tie-in with another set of characters.
Eve is feeling melancholy. Her 35th birthday is a few days away and she's still childless and unmarried. Most old her friends are married or coupled, some with kids and one couple with a child on the way. She feels lonely, adrift, and purposeless.
Eve closed her eyes as she pinched the bridge of her nose. She had to get out of this town. She felt trapped, stifled. As much as she loved Little Mary's and Whiskey Creek and all the people she'd grown up with, she needed something new. But it seemed odd that this realization had burst upon her so suddenly. Did other people question where they were in life at only thirty-five? Was she having a midlife crisis before she ever hit midlife?
She goes out drinking and gets wild with a man who's wandered into town. Their one night stand becomes an affair. There's attraction on both sides but both Eve and Rex yo-yo, fighting their attraction while trying to get closer to each other. Eve considers leaving town and starting a new life somewhere else while Rex has started over several times already and is tired of it. He wants to settle down in one place but his life has complications. Okay, complications is simplifying things. He's a walking soap opera all by his lonesome. It got wearying at times and I wanted to tell him to get over himself.
Eve could be whiny and that got on my nerves but for the most part she accepts responsibility for the decisions she's made, for the consequences of her actions, and prepares to deal with them. I didn't completely get her pursuit of Rex, a man she barely knew, and at times she behaved in stalker fashion, something I'm never comfortable with. Rex alternately pushed her away and kept coming back for more and she let him.
She'd already made up her mind to surf the wave she was riding all the way into shore--shore being the moment Brent (our hero goes by several names during the story, including Rex and Brent ~ Bea) left Whiskey Creek for good. Yes, she'd crash in the foamy surf. But he wouldn't be around to see it, and it wasn't the crash that mattered. It was having the guts to stay on the board.
I have to give her props for going after what she wants and hanging on for the ride even when I didn't completely buy into it or how fast things were moving.
The story has a much darker edge than either the cover or blurb suggest and it took me by surprise. It was hard to reconcile with what had promised to be a sweet Christmas romance. Christmas actually wasn't all that important to the story, and except for one scene at the end, it could have happened at any time of year.
Overall, "The Heart of Christmas" was engaging, it kept me reading, and the characters, primary and secondary, were interesting but the story didn't click with me. This is my second book of Novak's and neither one has worked for. I think it's safe to say that her writing doesn't do it for me.