brenda novak

July’s Author Crush: Brenda Novak is Queen of the Romance Novel

in Romance by

Sometimes we fall in love with an author who has written one or two amazing novels. Maybe they put out a book every three years or so, and we patiently wait for that new release to show up on our shelves. If it ever does.

And then there are the powerhouses.

You know who we’re talking about; those authors who often put out multiple books a year, who’ve written dozens of bestsellers and who know their audience like the back of their hand. Think Stephen King, Nora Roberts and James Patterson. These are the authors we turn to over and over, trusting that they’ll consistently deliver an awesome read. And as avid readers we need these authors, relying on their prolific nature and their never-ending well of plots and ideas to keep us entertained. So in honor of powerhouse authors, this month we’re celebrating one of our favorites: Brenda Novak.

It sounds trivial to say we have an author crush on Novak, though we certainly do. She’s one of those rare romance writers who seamlessly moves between sub-genres –- contemporary romance, romantic thrillers and historical romance –- and is an expert in all of them. And while we love all of her series (and she has a bunch, trust us), she’s probably most well-known for Whiskey Creek.

Novak’s Whiskey Creek, or “the Heart of Gold Country” as it’s so often referred, is a fictional town set in California. Novak has written 10 novels (and one novella!) about the small town, where everyone knows each other and the secondary characters are just as important as the main romance. We love when authors build a whole community into their work, and Whiskey Creek is one of the best around. If you like romance, quaint settings and well-written stories, then this is the series for you. But if thrillers are more your style, then try Novak’s Department 6 trilogy. Like historical romances instead? Then maybe Of Noble Birth is the right book for you. Whatever you prefer, Novak can fill any of your romance novel needs.

Novak has several books in the works, including a few new print runs of old favorites and two brand new novels to be released this summer. One is The Secrets We Kept, which releases on July 26 and is a sequel to Novak’s beloved novel, The Secret Sister (more on that below!). The other is the first full-length novel in The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles, called Her Darkest Secrets, which comes out August 30. See? We told you she was prolific.

If you haven’t read any Novak novels yet, have no fear. Here are four of her older stories that we just can’t get enough of:

When Lightning Strikes: Whiskey Creek, Book 1 (MIRA, 2012)


This is the first full-length book in Novak’s series, and it combines all of our favorite romance tropes: a marriage of convenience, a love-hate relationship, and a movie star who falls for a ‘normal’ girl. Gail DeMarco runs a successful PR company, until she fires superstar Simon O’Neal who’s self-destructing after a messy divorce. But he’s not having that, and he takes all her clients with him when he goes. Gail needs him back, and he needs a better image if he wants to get custody of his son. They decide to get married for two years to save both of their futures. But Gail is finding it hard to keep her hands off the sexy actor, and he’s not sure he can keep his good guy persona up for long. These two have chemistry for days, plenty of drama to keep them busy, and a lot of hot kissing scenes that slowly lead to love. Ten Whiskey Creek books later and this is still one of our favorites.

A Winter Wedding: Whiskey Creek, Book 9 (MIRA, 2015)


We love all the Whiskey Creek books, but number nine holds a special place in our hearts. It tells the story of Kyle Houseman, who we first met all the way back in When We Touch, the novella that launched the series. Back then, Kyle’s great love Olivia Arnold married his stepbrother, while he was trapped into marrying her sister. Olivia found true love, but Kyle ended up divorced and wary of falling in love again. It doesn’t help that his former wife is a stalker who can’t seem to let him go. Enter country singer Lourdes Bennett, who comes to Whiskey Creek in order to finish her album (not to fall in love). Obviously, she falls in love. So does Kyle, and these two have the sweetest romance ever. Plus we get to see all of our favorite Whiskey Creek couples and townspeople again (including a wedding!).

Through the Smoke (Montlake Romance, 2013)


Out of all of Novak’s historical romances, Through the Smoke is definitely our favorite. When the Earl of Druridge’s wife mysteriously dies, he’s afraid he might have had something to do with it, especially as he just learned that she was pregnant with someone else’s child. But he can’t remember anything about the night she passed away, and if he doesn’t find out the truth quickly he’ll be forced to marry again or tried as a murderer. Rachel McTavish is the daughter of a bookseller, and her brother and father both worked in the Earl’s mines. Like the rest of the townspeople, she sees him as a tyrant who abuses his workers, but she also has information about what happened to his deceased wife. Desperate for answers, the Earl agrees to help Rachel’s sick mother in exchange for her help. But when the two start working together, the mystery -– and the romance! –- starts to build. This story is more layered than your typical romance novel, with characters who are flawed, complex themes and a well-written story that will suck you in from the first page.

The Secret Sister: Fairham Island, Book 1 (MIRA, 2015)


If there’s anything we love more than long-lost loves finding each other again, it’s birth secrets that threaten to rock a whole family. Luckily, The Secret Sister has both. This book is so beloved that it’s getting both a reprint and a sequel this year. It follows Maisey Lazarow, a woman who returns to her island hometown after she loses her infant daughter and her life falls apart. She’s there to recover and help her addict brother, while also avoiding her controlling mother. She ends up staying in a rental cabin that just happens to be next door to the boy she lost her virginity to. He has a daughter and a burning desire for Maisey, who is all too happy to meet his needs. But things become complicated when she finds a box of photographs that feature a young girl she’s sure is her sister. Her family and her future are at stake as she works to unravel the mysteries of her childhood. Romantic, smart and thrilling, Secret Sister is Novak at her best.


Main image Courtesy Brenda Novak

Rachel Carter grew up surrounded by trees and snow and mountains. She graduated from the University of Vermont and Columbia University, where she received her MFA in nonfiction writing. She is the author of the So Close to You series with Harperteen. These days you can find her working on her next novel in the woods of Vermont.

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