Friday, December 6, 2013

Sleigh Bells In The Snow
For every romance reader who loves Christmas-themed stories there are just as many readers who strongly dislike them.  I can understand this, because the holiday season is often tough, emotionally, on a lot of people.  Also, let's be honest Christmas romance fans, it's easy for the schmaltz to creep in.  How many books have we all read featuring Pollyanna heroines sprinkling Christmas fairy dust over the surly Scrooge-like hero until her brand of saccharine somehow manages to win him over but leaves the rest of us with a massive toothache?  What Sarah Morgan gives readers with Sleigh Bells in the Snow is the exact opposite.  She's somehow managed to deliver a story for all the non-Christmas romance fans out there.

A Brit living in New York City, Kayla Green hates Christmas.  The hoopla, the forced "good cheer," the endless office parties, the tinsel strewn over every object that stands still for more than five seconds.  She really dislikes the holidays.  Kayla is all work, no play, and because of this is the rising star at the PR firm where she works.  So it's only natural that she's tapped to handle the incoming Snow Crystal account.  A resort in Vermont, it's a family business working on it's fourth generation.  Unfortunately it's in trouble, which leads to prodigal son Jackson O'Neil coming home to try to right the ship.  Even though he's a successful businessman in his own right, he's getting a lot of static from the other members of his family.  He's hoping hiring Kayla, a decision the family isn't universally overjoyed about, will drum up what Snow Crystal desperately needs - paying customers.  Even so, he's shocked when Kayla volunteers to spend the week of Christmas at the resort to work on her proposal.  Who willingly would give up their Christmas holiday to work?

Kayla, that's who.  All Jackson has to say is "secluded cabin" and Kayla is all in.  She can hide out in Vermont, burn the midnight oil, land the Snow Crystal account and avoid Christmas all at once!  Or so she thinks.  She's not quite prepared for Jackson's family or Jackson.  Everything about this plan soon spells certain doom for Kayla's wounded heart and before you know it she ends up falling for her client hook, line and sinker.

What a lovely role-reversal this story was!  Not that Jackson is a Pollyanna who wants to sprinkle Christmas fairy dust all over Kayla, but he is a man who believes in and is devoted to his family.  Even when they're being a massive pain in his ass.  Snow Crystal is where Jackson grew up.  It's where he and his brothers learned to ski.  It's where they found themselves.  And it's also the source of a lot of their own personal baggage.  Jackson comes home to clean up the mess left by his recently deceased father and to prove to everyone (especially his grandfather) that he's the man who can ensure that the family business will be around for future generations.

Kayla is haunted by an epic screwed-up childhood.  She's always felt like an outsider looking in, and no other time of year has a way of accentuating that quite like Christmas.  Not only does Jackson disarm her, but his entire family has a way of crawling under her hardened exterior.  Then when Jackson decides that they should stop ignoring the chemistry that is coursing between them?  It only gets worse for her.  Why can't he just keep his distance and let her bury her head in her work?

Morgan channels all the elements and charm of a small town contemporary without drowning the reader in all the things that can make small town contemporaries annoying.  She develops the family dynamic and wisely keeps the focus of the story strongly on the family members.  She includes a couple of non-family member workers at the resort in order to set the stage for the future books in the series featuring Jackson's brothers (hey, those guys are going to need heroines!).  She creates a cozy holiday vibe to the Snow Crystal resort and has Kayla experiencing all that can be offered at such a place during that time of year.  Slowly, as the heroine begins to thaw - the romance blossoms.  It's a great first book in a series, and just the ticket to get you in the proper holiday mood.

Final Grade = B+


Brie said...

"Morgan channels all the elements and charm of a small town contemporary without drowning the reader is all the things that can make small town contemporaries annoying."

THIS! I had lost all hope for small-town romances, and then this book came along. It focuses on the main characters and the sequel-bait secondary characters have roles that extend beyond the sequel-bait. It was cute but not overly sweet and I just want more. Oh, and the hero and heroine actually communicated! The one thing I didn't like is that Jackson had a bit of a "I know what you want and what's right for you" attitude, but I will forgive him for it, because the rest was so good. I want book 2 now! *cries*

Phyl said...

I really liked this one, too. It's interesting to see Morgan go from HPs to longer books, too.

azteclady said...

Grrrr....why you tempt me like this???? *adds to list*

(thank you--so happy you had so many good reads during your hiatus!)

willaful said...

I'm another who doesn't much like holiday stories and really did like this. I wonder if those who haven't liked it -- I've seen some negative reviews -- are the holiday story lovers?

Anonymous said...

I adore Christmas-themed stories. In fact, I am a bit of a sucker for them. They tend to give me the "warm fuzzies" and they also tend to have the most gorgeous covers.

Wendy said...

Brie: Yeah, that "I know what's good for you" attitude was a bit overdone for me too - but there was SO much good about this book that it was easy for me to overlook. Oh and the secondary characters! Cannot wait for the rest of this series now.

Phyl: It's not always a smooth transition. We all know authors that "I liked her categories better...." or "she just cannot write short." Morgan's first foray into longer, I thought, was very solid.

AL: It was so nice to read nothing but "good stuff" over my hiatus. This was the "best" of the bunch - but really, splitting hairs. Fun good books are always way better then angry bad books :)

Willaful: I haven't delved too much into review coverage on this one - but all the normal blogs I follow seemed to have liked it. I adore Christmas romances and enjoyed this a lot. Mostly because I appreciated that Morgan added her own tweaks, and gave us all something a little different without throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Kelly: I LOVE Christmas stories. Every year I end up buying a huge host of them to add to my TBR ::cry:: This one is probably the best Christmas book I've read in a while too. Well worth checking out, says me.