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cover58810-mediumFirst 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!

I have not been afraid to share how much I love Novak’s Whisky Creek series – When Lightning Strikes, When Snow Falls, When Summer Comes, Home to Whiskey Creek, Take Me Home for Christmas, and Come Home to Me.  And This Heart of Mine is no different. Every single book I’m drawn to her characters, connecting with them emotionally and taking them in like old friends. And the plots are absolute page-turners – I find myself glued to my e-reader and tuning out the rest of the world for hours on end.

Understandably, Phoenix is afraid of getting on Riley’s bad side. He controls access to her son and years ago he crushed her heart. Coming out of prison, she’s strong but hesitant to do anything that would impact her chances to finally be a mother to Jake. I’ve got to think that being in jail, and all of the things that happened to her, would have made her a harder person, but she’s absolutely amazing.

And that is what causes Riley to be conflicted – I will say that I’m a little surprised at how quickly Novak had Riley change his mind about Phoenix. He’s spent almost two decades thinking that she was an awful person, who killed another girl. I think I would have liked just a little more conflict on his side but I do like that he was willing to look beyond her history to the person beneath. He’s a good man, a good father, and a good friend. Hard-working, intelligent and caring, he’s great hero material.

Unlike most of the stories, we spend most of the  time focusing on the Stinson group, but we do get a little bit of the rest of the friends and quite a decent amount of Kyle. The closeness of this group has been one of my favorite things about this series and although I missed the others a little, I did love the extra bit of Kyle. I can’t wait to see what Novak has in store for him – I really hope he finally gets his girl in the next story!

I think the mark of a fantastic writer is making readers feel deeply for the characters – and I absolutely ached for Phoenix. She lost so many years, not only in jail but in getting to know Jake. This Heart of Mine is definitely emotion-packed and my own heart broke a time or two. Full of tears and laughter, friends and family, the little town of Whiskey Creek provides a fantastic read every single time.