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

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.

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