THIS HEART OF MINE
by Brenda Novak
First 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!
Once again, Phoenix’s eyes were riveted on her son. Only this time, she felt such a surge of emotion she almost darted into the bathroom. She could not break down.
Please, God, don’t let me cry. He won’t come within ten feet of me if I do.
But the harder she tried to hold back her tears, the more overwhelmed she became. In a panic, she slipped around the corner, into the small alcove by the bathrooms, and leaned her head against the wall.
Breathe. Don’t blow this.
The bell over the door jingled, telling her that Riley and Jacob had stepped inside. She imagined them looking around, maybe getting annoyed when they didn’t find her. But she was frozen in place. She absolutely could. Not. Move.
“Hey,” she heard the hostess say with a familiarity that hadn’t been present in her greeting to Phoenix. “We’re busy this morning, like we are every Saturday. But if you can wait for a few minutes, I’ll get you a table.”
“We’re actually meeting someone who should be here.”
That had to be Riley, but Phoenix couldn’t say she recognized his voice. Her memories of him were vivid. But they’d both been so young, and he’d changed a great deal. No longer the skinny teenager she’d known in high school, he was a man with plenty of hard muscle on his solid frame, a man in his prime, and that had been more than apparent as she’d watched him walk, shoulder to shoulder, with their son a few seconds earlier.
“Who are you here to meet?” the hostess asked.
“Name’s Phoenix Fuller,” came his response.
“What does she look like?”
“I’m not sure these days,” he said, and Phoenix winced. Her shoulder-length dark hair wasn’t bad. It was thick, probably her best asset. Her hazel eyes weren’t unattractive, either. She didn’t feel she was ugly. But the scars on her face would be new to him. She hadn’t had those when she went to prison.
“She wasn’t very tall,” he added, as if that might be the only detail still applicable.
“There was a woman who said she was expecting two more to join her,” the hostess said. “But I don’t know where she went…”
Determined not to miss this opportunity after waiting so long for it, Phoenix curved her fingernails into her palms, took a deep breath and stepped around the corner. “Sorry I…I had to wash my hands.”
This Heart of Mine by Brenda Novak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This Heart of Mine by Brenda Novak is a 2015 MIRA publication. I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
This is a powerful story of love, forgiveness, second chances, and redemption. After reading the first chapter, my heart was already breaking for Phoenix, a woman who has endured so much in her life and must now start all over again with little or nothing in a very hostile environment. But, Phoenix is more than willing to face the hostility if it means she might be able to forge a relationship with her son, Jake.
When Phoenix was eighteen, she was accused of murdering a popular student by running her down with her car. She was tried, convicted, and sent to prison. Now after sixteen years in prison, Phoenix has returned to her hometown, a place that never embraced her due to her mother's issues, which included morbid obesity and hoarding.
Sixteen years ago, Riley Stinson abruptly broke things off with Phoenix and she did not take the breakup well. When she is convicted of murder it is revealed she was pregnant. So, Riley became the sole provider for his son and Phoenix was never given any sort of access to him in all these years.
But now that she is free, she and Jake are going to meet for the first time and of course his father will be there with him. This scene sets the tone for the book and I have to say, I had a huge lump in my throat as I witnessed the long overdue reunion of a mother and son robbed of sixteen vital years with one another. While Jake seems ready to give Phoenix a chance, Riley is uncertain. Did she really intentionally murder a girl out of jealously over him? Or was it like Phoenix always claimed- that the passenger in the car that day was the responsible party?
The characters in this book are so well drawn I felt like I was living the story along side them. This is a very emotional story, but also a truly uplifting one as well. Phoenix has nothing but her self respect and pride. I mean nothing. The trailer she lives in is over run with her mother's junk, she has hardly any money, she lives with a mentally and physically disabled parent who is one of the most negative people in the world, but Phoenix is one resilient woman and the one thing that drives her is the love a mother has for her child.
Phoenix faces an epic battle from the start, not just with her lack of funds and her mother, but also, the family of the girl Phoenix is accused of murdering is absolutely outraged she has moved back and proceeds to make her life miserable. Riley's parents are also quite outspoken about their belief in Phoenix's guilt and urge Riley to avoid getting involved with her again.
There were two characters in the book that override all that negativity, hostility, and who set an example others should have followed. One was Riley's friend Kyle who has an open mind toward Phoenix and guilty or not, the way he saw it was that she had paid her debt. So, he begins to take an interest in her.
The other character was Jake. What a great kid. When most teens would have died of embarrassment if they had to deal with a parent who was an accused murder, Jake is desperate to make a connection with his mom and so his open mind and heart paves the way, along with Kyle's example, for Riley to admit he may have misjudged Phoenix, may have made a big mistake in keeping Jake away from her, and most importantly, he realizes he never fell out of love with her.
But convincing Phoenix of that is going to be hard sell. The one thing that would really help them all is the slight possibility there's a way to prove Phoenix was innocent.
Phoenix is an inspiration, a woman who will not look back in bitterness, but a person who will cherish her new found peace, will embrace hope, and will relish every moment she has with Riley and her son.
This story has many layers and makes some thought provoking points, some of which were familial interference, judging people by their circumstances, forgiveness, positive thinking over negative thinking, and leading by example. Some may roll their eyes here, but I also thought the story confirmed my absolute belief in transcending power of love- whether it was parent-child, friendship or romantic love- that was the force that overpowered the haters, the doubters, and led to the the truth, to forgiveness, peace, hope, and healing.
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AUTHOR Bio and Links:
New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author Brenda Novak is the author of fifty books. A four-time Rita nominee, she has won many awards, including the National Reader’s Choice, the Bookseller’s Best, the Book Buyer’s Best, the Daphne, and the Holt Medallion. She also runs Brenda Novak for the Cure, a charity to raise money for diabetes research (her youngest son has this disease). To date, she’s raised $2.4 million.
For more about Brenda, please visit www.brendanovak.com
Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/This-Heart-Whiskey-Creek-Novels-ebook/dp/B00OYCW4RW/ref=asap_B001IGNW9G_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1416452899&sr=1-4?tag-brennova09-20
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