Published by Running Wild Press, “This, Then Is What Counts” will be available January, 2024.

H J Brennan’s latest novel, This Then Is What Counts renders an unlikely, contemporary couple bound in love and forced into a tragic odyssey.

James is thirty-something and emotionally adrift when he encounters a tall, heroic and deserted June. They work and sweat side-by-side on a historic construction project in the forest along the Chesapeake. Their mutual passion is lit, June’s secrets are revealed, and love and life are threatened.

Twenty-five years later, James is alone. He reflects on that short time he and June shared. It seems like yesterday, and she was bigger than life and the only love he’s known. It was a physical year of working with their hands and enjoying their bodies, and they took hold of those days and swung them over their heads. When June’s troubled past showed up, she laid out her options: “I either fight hard, run hard, or I’m screwed.” They ran. As James tells the story in his darkly comic and unsettled retirement, a mystery builds as to why he’s alone when his memories of that single year with June present such a wide-screen love.

“HJ Brennan has the ear of a jazz musician and the voice of a poet, and somehow manages to bring these gifts to the page as the author of riveting, page-turning fiction like you rarely encounter. His unique, flawed and memorable characters become as real as the people in your life and stay with you long after you finish the last page.”

Malena Watrous, contributor to The New York Times and author of “If You Follow Me.”

H J Brennan’s This Then Is What Counts is a love story in all the best and most extreme ways: the promise and anticipation of new life and the finality of death; lifelong obsession, moment-by-moment joy, and cataclysmic sorrow. You will root for James and June, and as all young couples deserve, you will suffer their losses vicariously and celebrate the possibility of a happiness leavened by time and circumstance.

David Borofka, author of “A Longing for Impossible Things” and “The End of Good Intentions.”


Fathers’ Day, Brennan’s award-winning debut novel, takes place in a central Pennsylvania town and tells a tale of family tragedies, resilience and hope.

At times laugh-out-loud funny, Fathers’ Day is the story of Victoria and her student Francis whose year-long journey helps each deal with the burdens of shared loss.

It’s the story of a woman, barely more than a child herself, trying to save her student who may know more about love and consequence than she does. Fathers’ Day paints a life slightly to the side of the one we thought we knew, but is infinitely more sorrowful, more delightful and more filled with transformative potential.

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“Brennan has masterfully planted seeds throughout the tale that bloom in unexpected places . . . well-plotted and rendered with care, for readers who like complicated characters.”
​– Kirkus Reviews

Beautifully written, Fathers’ Day engages with the moving story of first-year teacher Victoria and her student Francis, whose year-long journey helps each deal with the burdens of shared loss and move toward hopeful transformation. The novel is poetic in its language but also laugh-out-loud funny, filled with vividly-drawn, compelling characters who advance the story, some in unexpected ways. I thoroughly enjoyed the read and my time in the world of Fathers’ Day, and eagerly await HJ Brennan’s next novel.
​– Mary Leigh Hennings, critical reader

This was a thoroughly engrossing read for me. I cared about Victoria and Francis. The ending hung with me for days and I really wanted to talk with someone about it. I am recommending this for my book club. It touches on the themes of law vs morality, the nature of heroism, and how we can be forever marked by the people in our lives.
Patti Walker, Editor, Obstinate Daughters Press