A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

H is for The Heart of Christmas by Brenda Novak aka P is for Pet Peeves

on May 29, 2015

I almost didn’t read this. The series has been more misses than hits for me, and in the book prior to this one, a sympathetic character did something so unconscionable, I never wanted to go near Whiskey Creek again, for fear of being a witness when that particular shit finally hits the fan. But I got sucked in by the hook of the most recent book, This Heart of Mine, and then some plot confusion led me to check this one out of the library… and then there was a bunch of other books I should have been reading instead, so there you go.

I quite like Novak’s voice, and it shows to advantage here. Her plots are generally exciting — the hero of this one is Rex, a character from one of her romantic suspense series, who’s on the run from a gang he used to run with — but the people are pretty realistic and everyday, without being dull. The heroine Eve is a pretty pragmatic person:

“And every woman needs a man.”

“Are you being sarcastic?”

She laughed. “Of course. These days most of us believe we can take care of ourselves. But your background puts that comment in perspective, so I guess I can’t hold it against you.”

“You think you could shoot a man?” he asked.

“Probably not,” she admitted. “But I don’t think most of the men I hang out with could, either.”

Eve is turning 35, almost all her friends are married and having kids, and she’s starting to feel like she’s missing out. But a drunken, unprotected one night stand with a guy who’s only passing through town wasn’t the kind of life change she was hoping for.

This is a solid read, but did get into pet peeve territory for me a number of times. One of the recurring characters in the book is the living… well, fictional… embodiment of slut-shaming: the greedy, spiteful, surgically enhanced Noelle. Her character gets a work-out here as resident Bad Girl — Eve even pimps her out to Rex at one point. Eve, of course, is a Good Girl who just made one little mistake, and she’s thoroughly ashamed of herself. She also decides what to do about the possible pregnancy — keeping it, duh — without the slightest hint of any decision making process. It’s 0-60: “Oops, we screwed up! Keeping it!”

But I do kind of like the series again and may keep up with it, especially considering certain events. IIRC, Novak had copped out excused herself from writing a story for her character Baxter, who came out as gay in the course of the series, because he’s already got a love interest. However, that relationship is on the skids in this book, and I believe ended completely by the next one. Will we get a romance for Baxter after all? Hope springs eternal.

10 responses to “H is for The Heart of Christmas by Brenda Novak aka P is for Pet Peeves

  1. Olivia Dade says:

    Wouldn’t it be awesome if Noelle got her own book too? I’ve read one author (don’t ask me which–it’s all a blur at this point) who did that. She took the woman portrayed as the town whore in one book and wrote a story with that woman as the heroine. It was so damn refreshing.

  2. lawless says:

    Bonus points for showing how the MC came to have unprotected sex rather than merely using it as a Plot Device with a character who is otherwise so self-controlled and uptight that without some inner monologue we didn’t get, her actions seemed way out of character. (Teresa Weir, I am looking at you.) Minus points for slut-shaming. I have no problem with women who have sex with lots of men, even more than one man at the same time! I say go for it if you can make it work without being harassed.

    Consideration of abortion seems to be another no-no in romance. It’s up there with adultery. Me, I’d be happy to see more of both, but I’m far on the “like keeping things real” end of things. Just more fuel for my conclusion that the genre as a whole (not all of it, but most of it) is a socially and politically conservative one that serves, rather than challenges, the aims of patriarchy. Even the abundant sex does that.

  3. azteclady says:

    I wish there were more characters in romance willing to at least think about other alternatives–from abortion to giving up for adoption–even if they eventually decide on keeping the baby.

    I have never read anything by Ms Novak, though, so I don’t know how it would work for me from her.

    • willaful says:

      Yes. It’s not like I insist on heroines having abortions, though I think it’s realistic to show that many women *do*. (The movie “Obvious Child” has a really good reflection of this reality, btw.) But at least think about things for a minute! Perhaps investigate the morning after pill! (Though that might not have applied in this case, since they didn’t realize right away that they’d messed up.) Acknowledge that this is a huge decision and worthy of some attention!

      On the pro side, at least there was no overt abortion villification, which you see constantly in romance.

      • azteclady says:

        A while back I had posted links to an article about a career woman who got pregnant by stupidity. She considered abortion, even though it was implied she was ‘pro-life.’ In the end, she had the child but relinquished all parental rights to her older sister, who could not have children yet wanted to desperately.

        I would love to see something like that in a romance novel–even if it’s part of a ‘secret baby’ or ‘tragic secret’ plot.

      • willaful says:

        I can’t call specific titles to mind at the moment, but I’ve definitely seen that plot.

  4. SuperWendy says:

    Gentle on My Mind by Susan Fox. I read it for a contest, so never really “reviewed” it – and it wasn’t a perfect book (for me at any rate) – but how the author handles the abortion topic is extremely noteworthy. Rosario wrote a really good review for it in case anyone is curious:


  5. […] I wrote about The Heart of Christmas, SuperWendy recommended this as a story in which pregnancy options are given serious consideration. […]

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