Review: What Mattered Most by Linda Winfree

Posted February 14, 2008 by Holly in Reviews | 7 Comments

Review: What Mattered Most by Linda WinfreeReviewer: Holly
What Mattered Most by Linda Winfree
Series: Hearts of the South #.5
Also in this series: Truth and Consequences, His Ordinary Life, Uncovered, Fall Into Me, Memories of Us (Hearts of the South #5), Hearts Awakened, Facing It, Hold On To Me, Gone From Me (Hearts of the South, #10), Memories of Us (Hearts of the South #5)
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publication Date: February 27th 2007
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy
Pages: 290
Add It: Goodreads
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Series Rating: four-stars

A man in the worst place he can be—between two women—and forced to choose which one lives or dies.
Houston homicide detective, John O'Reilly, is torn between two women. One is the woman he's loved without hope for years. The other carries his unborn child. Now, a man bent on revenge wants O'Reilly to choose, and any choice he makes could cost him everything.
Gutsy sheriff’s deputy, Lanie Falconetti, is determined not to repeat her mother’s mistakes in love. Her no-strings attached affair with John O’Reilly leads to an unexpected, but joyfully welcomed pregnancy. However, the shadow from John’s past threatens not only her chance at happiness, but her life and that of her unborn baby as well.
This title contains explicit sex and violence.


This is a prequel of sorts to the Hearts of the South series by Linda Winfree. I reviewed the first book in the series here.

John O’Reilly is in love with his partner, Beth. He has been for several years, but unfortunately for him she doesn’t return his feelings. Once upon a time, Beth and John had been lovers, but only because Beth had just gotten out of an abusive marriage and John was there to keep her safe. Once she realized what she was doing, she stopped sleeping with him, explaining that while she’d always care for him, they weren’t meant to be together.

So John moves on…with Lanie Falconetti. They’re instantly attracted to each other and within a week of meeting her, John moves in. But still, he pines for his partner. Then, Lanie turns up pregnant. Although there have been no words between them, Lanie knows they love each other. Or so she thinks…until Beth’s ex-husband shows up and shoots John and takes Beth hostage.

When John wakes up in the hospital, the first thing he does is ask for Beth. Lanie tells him she loves him, and he wants Beth. That’s when she realizes she’s been living in Fantasy Land. John doesn’t love her, he loves his partner. But then things go from bad to worse, because Lanie is kidnapped by Beth’s ex, too. And she’s horribly injured. The ex demands that John choose: Lanie – and their unborn child – or Beth.

He’s saved from having to make a decision, but the battle has just begun. Though the ex has been arrested and Beth has taken off for parts unknown, John has his work cut out for him. Because he’s realized Lanie is the woman he loves…..only she’s given up on him completely.

The Good: John’s relationship with his son, when he’s born. I loved that although he didn’t want the baby before it was born, he immediately fell in love with him after he was born, and changed his entire life to be with him, even going so far as to take a desk job so he wouldn’t be putting himself at risk. And watching him care for his son alone (Lanie was in the hospital after the attack) touched me. I’m such a sucker for babies and their daddies.

Really, I just liked him, period. Although I was hurt for Lanie at first, once he realized what an ass he’d been, he did everything possible to show Lanie he really cared and that he’d really changed, I started to forgive him. My heart started to hurt for him towards the end, because of the guilt he carried for Lanie getting hurt, and because he so wanted what they’d had back. Lanie wasn’t good enough for him, IMO.

Which brings me to…

The Bad: Lanie. She drove me up the effing wall. At first, I understood her reasons for being hard on John. I understand that she felt betrayed, and was worried that John had been screwing his partner behind her back. But the longer she sulked, the more she annoyed me. She kept asking “Where’s Beth?” “Oh, don’t you want to be with Beth?” “So, why didn’t you go with Beth?” “Don’t you mean you love Beth?” Good lord. It got the point where I wanted to bang my head against the wall. Instead of moving forward – with or without John- she acted like a jealous teenager, throwing temper tantrums and saying mean and spiteful things. She needed to grow the hell up..and IMO, she never did.

She also had some lingering side effects from her injuries. She had a major concussion and as a result her short term memory and her ability to do math suffered. At first I felt sorry for her, because I can’t imagine not being able to remember a phone number that I’ve known all my life, or not being able to add 2+2. But once again, it went on for too long. I would think she’d do adapt. Instead, she whined about it, and punished John, as if it were his fault. (Although, I suppose it kind of was, since he didn’t tell her about Beth’s ex and got involved with her..or at least, that’s how he saw it…but still, it was over the top) As I said, she really needed to grow up.

And don’t get me started on the way she acted with/towards her son…Ugh. Although, she did improve in that aspect, so I forgave her that, if not the other stuff.

One last thing that was bad: They called their son “Sonny Buck”. That wasn’t his name, but that was the nickname they gave him. Totally a personal thing, but yeah..wasn’t feeling it. I thought it was cute the first time John called him that, but then it just got real old, real fast.

The Ugly: The ex-husband plot. Well, that’s not entirely true. The plot in and of itself wasn’t so bad. The issue is that the author didn’t follow through with it. The first 3 or so chapters are dedicated to what was going on with the ex. Beth getting kidnapped, John getting shot, Lanie taken hostage, John being told to choose, Lanie’s partner being found dead outside her house, the calvary rushing in to save everyone. The ex was arrested and that was it. Not another word was said about him, the situation, the partner, nothing. It was like those first few chapters were nothing more than a bad dream that never really happened. There was no regret that her partner was dead, or mention of a funeral. There was also nothing else mentioned about the ex. He was arrested..but then what? We never heard what happened after that.

Honestly, if I wouldn’t have already had the other books in the series, I probably would have stopped after this one. I’m glad I didn’t, but I think y’all might want to stay away from this one. OTOH, Lori loved it, so maybe it’s just me?

2.5 out of 5

As I said, this is a prequel of sorts to the rest of the series. I don’t think you have to read it to understand anything that happens with the rest.

The series:

What Mattered Most (prequel)
Truth and Consequences
His Ordinary Life
Hold On To Me
Anything But Mine

This book is available from Samhain Publishing. You can buy it here or here in e-format.


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7 responses to “Review: What Mattered Most by Linda Winfree

  1. I think John has a case that “I’m in love, I’ve been in love for a long time, let’s just continue to be in love.” It’s funny, because most of the time, you wait for the hero to realize that he’s in love, but once in a while, you’ll get a hero that knows he’s in love, but in the end he’s wrong.

    I’m curious about the book now. The plot/idea sounds good, too bad it didn’t turn out so good.

  2. Oh, my God, I love this! Absolutely, seriously, for-real love this.

    I love that you love John. There’s such irony in that — he’s one of my favorite characters, yet he got me kicked out a critique group for being the “anti-hero” who thought he loved someone other than the heroine and didn’t want his baby at the beginning of the book.

    Yeah and about those dropped suspense elements . . . if I could rewrite now that it’s five years down the road (wow, that’s a long time) and I know more about plotting, I would. Well, after gutting Hold On to Me and rewriting that book after it was contracted? Maybe not. 😉

    And I love that you didn’t give up on me.

    Thanks again for making my day!

  3. LOL @ the triple comments. No worries there.

    Yep, I loved John. Seriously loved him. Nath was asking me about him today and I told her I probably should have hated him, but you did such a wonderful job of writing him out I couldn’t..I just wanted to eat him up. Esp. seeing how he was with his son. Loved it!

    Lanie..not so much. But then, I’m really hard on heroines. LOL

    And, I’ve read all the books in this series (that are out so far) and they improved muchly. 🙂

    Thanks for coming by..and thanks for offering many hours of enjoyable reading.

  4. Lori

    I absolutely loved John, too. And I’m as hard on heroines as you are, Holly. I started out not liking Lanie, too. I think I felt as though if she hadn’t had a head injury she probably would have forgiven him sooner. It just took her longer to process it all. And I felt for her, with the difficulties she had trying to put her own life back together. I guess I gave her a lot of leeway, which is pretty unusual for me, isn’t it? Says something about how this book hit me, cause I don’t usually do that.

    But you’re right, John absolutely carried this book. I loved him to pieces.

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