Series: Whiskey Creek Book #5
Author: Brenda Novak
Blurb: Christmas is a time for remembering…Too bad not all memories are pleasant! Everyone in Whiskey Creek remembers Sophia DeBussi as the town’s Mean Girl. Especially Ted Dixon, whose love she once scorned. But Sophia has paid the price for her youthful transgressions. The man she did marry was rich and powerful but abusive. So when he goes missing, she secretly hopes he’ll never come back—until she learns that he died running from an FBI probe of his investment firm. Not only has he left Sophia penniless, he’s left her to face all the townspeople he cheated.…Sophia is reduced to looking for any kind of work to pay the bills and support her daughter. With no other options, she becomes housekeeper for none other than Ted, now a successful suspense writer. He can’t bring himself to turn his back on her, not at Christmas, but he refuses to get emotionally involved. He learned his lesson the last time. Or will the season of love and forgiveness give them both another chance at happiness?
Thoughts: Let’s just say that this was not at all what I was expecting for a Christmas novel. After reading this, I was not exactly in the mood for Christmas or full of good cheer. By the time the “romance” portion of it kicks into high gear, my mood was not quite up to the whole romantic part of it. The majority of the book is very morose and disenchanting – and quite frankly I did not like the characters very much at all.
I usually try my best to allude to things while not giving away spoilers….and I will try my best to do so here while still getting across the issues that I disliked most about the book. I think you can guess most of it from the blurb, but I’m sorry if I put too much of a spoiler in here for anyone – that is not my intention. From there, I will say that while I understand Sophia was abused during the marriage, she only made it worse for herself by drinking. This allowed the husband to belittle her – even to their daughter – and make herself look worse in the long run. A girl that was so vibrant and outgoing in the past – albiet portrayed as mean – I just wouldn’t see laying down and taking this kind of behavior. She had more spirit than that! I do understand that it was a coping mechanism for her, but really she just made it worse for herself. Even disregarding that however, once all her funds are seized by the government because of her spouse’s misdeeds, instead of trying to get some money together to feed her daughter she lays around in the bed all day. Someone else has to see her daughter at the graveyard and come back to the house to knock some sense into her! Yet prior to that there was a discussion regarding how the in-laws might make an attempt to get custody – and this is how you show what a good mother you are? While I can understand her circumstances and depression, she needed to get herself together for her child! Her character was just so lackluster and namby-pamby and a bit of a doormat -especially in the beginning – that I found it difficult to get through the novel. The way the majority of the town reacted to her plight only made it worse.
Ted, her old boyfriend, was just as bad. He wasn’t likable in the beginning and by trying to later on ‘get her out of his system’, and then even going so far as to date someone else to enable him to keep his distance better, didn’t endear him to me. If anything, these two characters definitely deserved each other! But with all their past history, I just didn’t find it realistic at all that they would get together. There are other reasons why I just didn’t connect with this book, but I don’t want to give too much of it away, so I’ll settle with that for the purposes of the review.
What really did it for me though is that it was supposed to be a holiday title! While understanding and forgiveness are indeed things we want to remember at Christmas, the whole tone of this one just completely turned me off. If anything it put me out of a good cheer-holiday type mood – and just made me annoyed and depressed. About the only good part for me was the secondary cast of characters from previous titles that made appearances. Even though I had not read about the characters in previous books, their willingness to step in and help – even someone to whom they all previously disliked – was very admirable and did have me wanting to read more about some the characters from previous books. For fans of this series, I can see how this would be a must read – they definitely will not one to miss Sophia’s story since it shows her in a different light. It shows a different side to Sophia that, from what I understand, was not shown in previous books. I will be interested to see if going back and reading some of the earlier books gains me a different insight into this one so that I might appreciate it more.
For me, this title was just okay. It didn’t really blow me over as I had expected. I’m not sure how much was a lack of connection to the characters, and how much was lack of build-up to this story – since I had not read previous titles in the series. I really struggled on what grade to give this one, but I think for me it has settled in with a C. (There were enough issues with it that I didn’t feel it warranted a B, but I think a D would have been too harsh) I have looked around at other’s opinions (after I have written my own review of course!), and apparently I fall in the minority here – as it seems to have went over well with other readers.