Friday, December 20, 2013

(Review) Take Me Home for Christmas by Brenda Novak

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Title: Take Me Home for Christmas
Author: Brenda Novak
Series: Whiskey Creek, #5
Published: October 29, 2013 (Harlequin)
Rating: Lunch Break Read
Format: E-galley received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Christmas is a time for remembering. Too bad all memories aren't 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?
Before I go into the review of the book itself, I would like to explain why I dislike the cover blurb. For one, it's misleading, implying that Sophia simply rejected Ted once upon a time. When, in fact, she was his long-time girlfriend and freaking slept with someone else. Just a tiny bit different. But my major problem is the wording of this: "But Sophia has paid the price for her youthful transgressions. The man she did marry was rich and powerful but abusive." I don't care how much of a bitch she was in high school. No one deserves abuse. Ever.

Now that that's out of the way, we can move onto the actual book.

I had a rather strange relationship with Take Me Home for Christmas. I came extremely close to DNFing several times (and I almost never DNF books if I've read more than 5 pages). You know why? Because NOTHING WAS HAPPENING. You think I'm kidding. I mean, the book did start with Sophia's husband dying in an attempt to fake his own death. But after that? It was a depressing snooze-fest for another hundred pages. Ted and Sophia didn't even SEE each other until 100+ pages into the story. What could have been conveyed in 2-3 chapters took 9.

But! I stuck it out. And I am glad I did! Because after they finally started interacting, things got good fast. Like, holy crap, you guys. I usually am not a fan of ex stories. In fact, I never would have requested this one, had I known (I guess that's Blurb Writer: 1, Sharon: 0?). But I am happy I did! Because that actually wound up being my favorite aspect of the story. This book was emotions galore, and it was BEAUTIFUL. It was smoking, sizzling, longing, angsty deliciousness. What it WASN'T was a story about people more in love with nostalgia than each other. And I love it a lot for that.

Another great thing is that this book did not feature a "likable" heroine. Sophia was horrid in high school (for mostly unnamed reasons). She had cheated on Ted in the past. She dealt with depression in the wake of everything that happened with her husband. She was a recovering alcoholic, which was a constant struggle for her. She did her best to stay strong because of her daughter, Alexa. But she was human. She made mistakes. Unfortunately, by the end, she was rather sickeningly good, to provide a nice foil against the horrible person she was supposed to have been earlier in life. I kind of just wanted to roll my eyes and say, "Yeah, she's nice now. WE GET IT!" But I did like the idea behind it.

Ted was quite swoon-worthy. He made a valiant effort to not be in love with Sophia, and I applauded his efforts to try to be logical about his approach to love. Of course, he failed. Because as he spent more time with Sophia, he fell in love with her. And even if he had carried a torch for her over the years, he fell for the current her, not only an idea of her. And I believe I've already spent several adjectives describing how I felt about that bit.

Unfortunately, I did have a problem with the fact that a book called Take Me Home for Christmas contained maybe a page or two related to Christmas things. It's just so frustrating to pick up a book, rightly expecting a book with a decent amount of Christmas, only to be disappointed when there's nothing more than a couple of throwaway references.

I also had issues with Eve. She was a fabulously friendly and strong female character who was willing to stand up and help Sophia and tentatively extend a hand in friendship...until Eve started dating Ted. And then OH NO, she could possibly even be friends with Sophia. Because Sophia might make a move on Ted. Eve went from Great Side Character Whom I'd Like to Get to Know straight to Grinchy Girlfriend in 2.8 seconds. Thankfully, she snapped back out of it, but I didn't really get why it had to happen in the first place. It didn't seem to go with her character.

Now you can see why I said my feelings about this book were complicated. I found a lot of things to be either boring or frustrating. BUT I was absolutely in love with Sophia and Ted and their love story. So in conclusion, I would say that Take Me Home for Christmas is worth reading for that alone.
Sophie DeBussi’s husband was gone.

“Anyway, love doesn’t necessarily make a relationship successful.”
“No, but it gives you a hell of a lot more to fight for – and it makes life far more rewarding when you win.”

*All quotes were taken from an advance copy and may appear differently in the finished book.

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