Novak - Book Reviews

***** - Excellent
**** - Good
*** - Okay
** - Bad
* - Terrible
+ - Half-star

When Lightning Strikes
(The Whiskey Creek series, Book 1)
Brenda Novak
Harlequin
Fiction, Romance
****

DESCRIPTION: Gail DeMarco, the small-town girl from Whiskey Creek who made good as a PR agent in Los Angeles, may just have gone bust overnight. Her most lucrative (and most difficult) client, the notoriously out-of-control actor Simon O'Neal, took his business elsewhere... and spread the word that everyone else ought to do the same. Anybody who is anybody - or who ever hopes to be anybody - follows O'Neal's lead in this town. If she can't smooth things over with the man, she'll go bankrupt in a matter of months, and she has too many employees depending on her to give up.
Simon O'Neal may be top dog at the box office, but his life off-screen is crashing and burning. Ever since his disastrous marriage ended, leading to a bitter custody battle in which his ex-wife has pulled every dirty trick in the book (and then some), he's been running from bottle to bed to barroom brawl in a slow-motion disaster - and with paparazzi documenting his every misstep, proving himself a fit parent to his only son is nigh impossible. His depression borders on suicidal, his heart's been shattered beyond repair, and his antics are about to cost him the only thing he has left, his career. Unfortunately, he just fired the only PR agent in town who was willing to tell him when he was crossing the line... even though he knew she was right.
Gail needs to save her PR firm. Simon needs a new image. The answer for both: marriage.
It's all an audacious publicity stunt. Show the world that Simon O'Neal is finally settling down with a straight-laced woman, and not only will he be able to use it in court with his ex, but Gail and her firm will benefit from the publicity. Just two years ought to do the trick. But things go wrong almost from the start... leaving Gail no choice but to up the stakes and remove Simon from the public eye until he can pull himself together. He needs somewhere quiet, somewhere stable, without the temptation of glitz and glamor and the constant glare of flashbulbs in his face. Where better - or worse - than her small home town of Whiskey Creek?

REVIEW: Like most romances, this is largely an escapist fantasy. Gail's the hard-working, no-nonsense "Plain Jane" who has devoted herself so completely to her work and pleasing her authoritarian father that she's neglected her softer, sensual side. Simon is (literally) the movie star, the hot and famous masculine man whose looks and money hide a deeply wounded heart... a heart that, naturally, only one woman can heal. They enter into their little bargain on barely civil terms, though there are hints of sparks behind every clash. It isn't long before their fake marriage is threatened by real feelings, which might destroy more than the paparazzi and corrosive Hollywood atmosphere combined. Gail can't believe a man like Simon could ever love someone like her, while Simon has trouble reconciling his own emotions with his bitterness over love in general. Though things start out a bit stilted, with Gail having to eat crow and apologize to Simon, the two actually find themselves on fairly even footing in their (at first) scripted relationship. Aside from their own issues, other threats of varying degrees, from Gail's distrustful family and her old flame to Simon's manipulative business manager and washed-up actor father (who played a significant role in the breakup of Simon's marriage), emerge along the way. Being a romance, there were several givens about the story, but it played out decently nonetheless, and I came to care about the characters. It read quickly and provided just what it promised: a little romantic escape to a small town where happily-ever-afters are still possible.

You might also enjoy:
Unexpected Gifts (Elena Aitken, Fiction - A broken-hearted woman and a commitment-phobic man unexpectedly share a mountain villa at Christmas)
Wicked Games (Jessica Clare and Jill Myles, Fiction - On a reality game show, a writer is forced to team up with a hated rival)
Scoundrel for Hire (Adrienne deWolfe, Fiction - An 1800's silver mine heiress hires a roguish charmer to break up her father's engagement)
The Border Bride (Elizabeth English, Fiction - An English lord's illegitimate daughter is forced to deceive a Scottish laird's son in a marriage that was supposed to end a blood-feud)
Chomp (Carl Hiaasen, YA Fiction - A father-son animal wrangler team deal with an egotistical "survivalist" TV star in the Florida Everglades)
Step Into My Parlor (Jan Hudson, Fiction - On the run from an evil stepbrother, a desperate socialite turns up in a Houston pawn shop)
Just Good Friends (Rosalind James, Fiction - Fleeing a stalker, California-born Kate clashes with New Zealand rugby star Koti)
Trials of Artemis (Sue London, Fiction - An unladylike Regency woman finds herself engaged to a headstrong earl against both their wills)
Bound to the Bachelor (Sarah Mayberry, Fiction - After organizing a charity bachelor auction, a woman's impulsive bid lands her a date with a long-time enemy)
Evidence of Trust (Stacey Joy Netzel, Fiction - A heartbroken city girl meets a jaded ranger on a Colarado ranch during the pursuit of a poacher)
Almost Perfect (Julie Ortolon, Fiction - While struggling to overcome fears of success, an aspiring artist runs into an old flame in Santa Fe)
Code of Honor (Andrea Pickens, Fiction - A jaded womanizer accepts a clubhouse bet to seduce an unladylike woman, only to lose his heart)
Time Treasure (Sheila Raye, Fiction - A woman struggling to save the family salvage business finds herself entangled with a cursed sea captain, who thinks her love might end a centuries-old curse binding his crew)
Bidding on Brooks (Katy Regnery, Fiction - An ex-Olympian sailor turns to a longtime lady friend for help after being talked into a bachelor auction... never expecting to fall in love)
Romancing Miss Right (Lizzie Shane, Fiction - When a romance writer stars on a reality dating show, she doesn't expect to fall for the bad-boy bachelor contestant)
Feel The Heat (Kathryn Shay, Fiction - A lady firefighter resists her attraction to a charming CEO she rescued from a blaze)
Shelly's Second Chance (L B Swan and Hope Chandler, Fiction - Two ghosts must grant the wish of a desperate, gambling-addicted woman)
Someone Else's Fairytale (E. M. Tippetts, Fiction - A driven college student unexpectedly catches the eye of America's hottest star)

Return to Top of Page - Return to Book Review List

Return to Brightdreamer Books Home

Brightdreamer Books is created and maintained by TBW, a.k.a. "Brightdreamer."
E-mail: tbweber AT comcast DOT net. Remove spaces, replace AT with "@" and DOT with "." - please put "Brightdreamer Books" in the subject line, or your e-mail may be deleted as spam! Thank you!