The Heart of Christmas, by Brenda Novak

November 24, 2014 Book Reviews 8 ★★★

The Heart of Christmas, by Brenda NovakThe Heart of Christmas by Brenda Novak
Series: Whiskey Creek #7
Published by Harlequin on 2014-11-01
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: the publisher
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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!


The Heart of Christmas is a gritty romance; I wouldn’t call it a Christmas/holiday book, which the cover and blurb led me to expect. It does take place during the holidays, but there’s not a lot of feel-good holiday joy. To begin with, it features a very wounded hero in a very bad situation, and it starts off with a one-night stand (or what was intended to be one night, anyway.) Novak is a good enough writer to make me care about the characters despite my discomfort with his past and with both main characters’ actions in the present (vis-a-vis each other, as in the intended casual nature of their relationship.) However, the ending felt somehow anticlimactic, and much too easy given the tensions and issues earlier in the book.

I also felt as though the plot would have fit better in a more urban romantic suspense novel, as opposed to setting it in Whiskey Creek. To be fair, Novak hasn’t shied away from gritty or painful situations in her other books in this series, at least the few I’ve read. But this particular plot and main character felt over the top for the setting and most of the series’ regular characters. (Incidentally, you don’t have to have read the previous books to make sense of this one; Novak brings you up to speed on the bare minimum you have to know about other characters.)

If you’re fine with this odd mix of gritty romantic-suspense-style plot and charming small-town setting, you’ll probably enjoy The Heart of Christmas. Just don’t go into it expecting warm holiday charm.


About Brenda Novak

Brenda Novak’s writing career began after she caught her day-care provider drugging her children with cough syrup and Tylenol to keep them quiet. She decided she needed to work from home. It took five years to teach herself the craft and finish her first book. The book sold, and the rest, she says, is history.

Brenda and her husband, Ted, live in Sacramento and are the proud parents of five children—three girls and two boys. She juggles her writing career with her children’s softball and soccer games, field trips, carpool runs and homework sessions. She runs an annual fundraiser for diabetes research; her youngest son has diabetes. She also enjoys traveling, watching sporting events and biking–she rides an amazing 20 miles every day!

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8 Responses to “The Heart of Christmas, by Brenda Novak”

  1. Katherine @ I Wish I Lived in a Library

    It drives me nuts when the blurb and cover give off such a different impression than the actual book gives me. I’ve had it happen a few times and it’s always a little jarring. I’ve read a few of Brenda Novak’s books and I’m not sure what I think of her. The books I’ve read have definitely been darker than the usual small town contemporary. Given my history with her and your reservations I think I’ll skip this one but thinks for sharing! Great review!
    Katherine @ I Wish I Lived in a Library recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday – My Winter TBR PileMy Profile

  2. Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

    I quite enjoyed this on, except for the condom fail. It always, always makes me roll my eyes at that. It should be second nature for people to use condoms when they’re with people they don’t really know!
    Too bad it wasn’t completely to your liking, and I can understand why completely. Misleading blurbs are the devil!
    Have a terrific Thursday, Lark.
    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews recently posted…Review: Coming for You – J.A. HussMy Profile