Paperback, 400 pages
Published October 29th 2013
by Harlequin MIRA
My Rating: ❀❀❀❀
Genre: 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?
Let me begin by saying I really like Brenda Novak's novels. They drive me crazy, but I do enjoy them. Her writing is crisp, the stories are well told, and each one is original. But, as is beginning to become a pattern with me when I read a Whiskey Creek novel, there is always something that floors and frustrates me.
I've always wondered about what sort of HEA Sophia could get. She married young, to a man she didn't really love after becoming pregnant and broke her true love's, Ted, heart. And she paid for it dearly. A controlled woman, who suffered abuse at the hands of her husband, I have long wondered how she'd get back together with Ted. And I have to say, I never pictured that her story would go quite this way.
Skip, her husband, dies in an effort to fake his own death. He leaves Sophia and their daughter, Alexa without a penny. And everyone in Whiskey Creek wants money from Sophia that she doesn't have because they figure she was involved in Skip's swindle of them. I was disgusted by their attitude, and treatment of Sophia. And Sophia really hits rock bottom. She has no money, a drinking problem, and no one to turn to. I don't think I've even seen a character in more pathetic circumstances, and yet somehow Sophia finds the strength to carry on for her daughter's sake.
Ted, who's always been in love with Sophia, even though their break up was bad, decides to help Sophia out by giving her a job as his housekeeper. And Sophia is determined to prove that she can handle the job. Ted is equally determined to avoid becoming involved in with her. He takes an active interest in helping her, in helping her daughter, in finding them a safe place--in his own guesthouse--to stay when their own home is broken into and threatening notes are left for Sophia. And yet, a somehow intelligent man like Ted also makes the biggest asshat move ever by becoming involved with someone else, someone he's not even remotely attracted to in an effort to deny his true feelings for Sophia. It pissed me off and was really unsettling, and if you read the book, you'll understand exactly what I mean when I say unsettling. And I was equally disappointed with the woman he become involved with because that woman knew Ted had never stopped loving Sophia.
The thing that killed me most about this plot point was that it detracted from Ted and Sophia's romance. Like, it big time detracted from page time I felt ought have been devoted to their romance. I was disappointed at how short the romance part of the novel was, and although I can walk away saying it was a good romantic story, I wouldn't say it's a solid romance. I enjoyed it, even when my eyes were bugging out of my head at the choices Ted made, but I was frustrated.
But the thing I most enjoyed about this novel was seeing Sophia really take charge of her life and fighting back. She picks herself up and takes it one day at time, becoming stronger for herself and her daughter, and even though Skip left with her nothing, and made her a huge social pariah, she never complains and even seeks to help those who her husband swindled out of thousands of dollars. I truly admired her in this book, and was very proud to see her come into her own. And I was glad to see Ted realize that she wasn't some spoiled princess and to come to accept his own feelings for her. I just wished it had happened a little sooner.
I've no idea what to expect from book six, in this series, but I do know that Brenda Novak will make it an entertaining, and layered story and that's what keep me coming back to this romantic series.