Review: When Lightning Strikes by Brenda Novak

When Lightning Strikes (Whiskey Creek Trilogy, #1)When Lightning Strikes by Brenda Novak (Whiskey Creek Trilogy #1)
Romantic Contemporary
August 28, 2012

Reviewed by Tori

PR firm owner Gail DeMarco finds herself in hot water when her A list client retaliates against some bad PR she gave him and as a result, Gail has been dropped by her other clients. With her business going downhill quick, Gail has to swallow her pride and convince Simon to call a truce and to take her back.

Hollywood bad boy, Simon O’Neal only wants one thing; to see his little boy. He agrees to forgive Gail and help her out for a price. He needs to clean up his image pronto and he wants her to help him pull it off.

Gail agrees to marry him (reluctantly) and use her company and her spotless reputation to polish up the tarnish that clings to Simon’s. Once they hammer out the details and sign the contract, Gail convinces Simon to leave Hollywood and come with her to her hometown of Whisky Creek, California. Gail feels that a small town with no Hollywood distractions is just what Simon needs to settle down and get back in touch with himself. Simon agrees and finds himself not only taken with the town, but also taken with Gail. Gail fears falling in love with the love em’ and leave em’ bad boy, convinced he could never truly love her. When the inevitable happens, can Gail save Simon and her heart, or will she lose both?

When Lightning Strikes is the first installment of Brenda Novak’s Whiskey Creek Series. A romantic contemporary that unfortunately tripped coming out of the gate for me and never quite recovered. The storyline isn’t bad, it’s just boring. The premise holds a lot of promise. A marriage of convenience between a Hollywood bad boy and morally upstanding good girl.


Only, what sounded good in the excerpt doesn’t translate well onto paper for me. I love Brenda Novak’s romantic suspense books. And while I know this is NOT a romantic suspense, it’s her ability to bring her character to life and the rich in depth world she builds around them is the appeal for me. I felt this book missed the mark. There is no life or passion to our protagonists. No real emotional connection. I would have found both Gail and Simon to be inspiring protagonists if only Novak would have worked harder on their characterization. We see their faults and then their change of heart, but to me the catalyst for these changes is glossed over. In fact, a majority of the story glosses over the why’s and just gives you the results.

I found Gail suffered from a martyr complex and she makes sure you know just how great her sacrifice is. Through 3/4 of the book all you hear about is how she is sacrificing herself for Simon’s wellbeing. How, no matter what happens, Simon will never really shake his bad reputation or become a better person. She tosses his bad behavior in his face so many times, if I were Simon, I would have caused problems just to spite her. Her family and friends don’t like Simon, which is Gail’s fault because she did nothing but bad mouth him to them. I found it hard to believe that she, as a PR specialist, would have publicly lamb blasted him in the first place. He was her client. She spent a fair amount of time telling everyone how terrible he is, then can’t understand why everyone can’t just like him and get over it.

Simon was a little better. His divorce from his wife was brutal and he lost custody of his son because of his bad behavior during and after the divorce. You learn later that there was a very good reason for Simon’s behavior but he refuses to stand up for himself, fearful he will never see his little boy again. Im sorry, but if you have evidence that could give you your heart’s desire, then you use it. You don’t sit on it due to what if’s and maybe’s. I will admit that he does try his best to fit in with Gail’s family and friends and in their “pretend” marriage.

We have a rushed low key romance on Simon and Gail’s part and even a tiny love triangle that fizzled for me. I expected some challenge or conflict in that aspect but nothing really happens. He’s used more as an “a-HA” moment then anything else. I did enjoy the secondary characters. They seemed more personal and acted in a realistic fashion. We meet Simon’s dad who I thought was one of the more interesting characters. Simon and Gail’s time in Whiskey Creek was, in a nutshell, not interesting.

To sum it up, this story is very cookie cutter with textbook characters and situations. No real conflict or angst. No real emotional soul searching or romantic epiphanies. Even the bombshell ending played out like a write by numbers scenario and I felt cheated.

Rating: D
Dear Author – C
The Book Pushers – B-/B+
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  1. says

    Oh um, wow. I’m like you I love Brenda Novak’s RomSuspense so I’m sort of surprised to see this get a D. Usually her stuff is just so good. I haven’t read this yet but now I’m on the fence about whether I want to or not.

  2. says

    I DNF’d the novella because it was bad. I had a feeling the books would be equally disappointing so I decided to skip them. But the novella is free on Amazon if anyone is curious.

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