Sleigh Bells in the Snow
By Sarah Morgan
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
October 29, 2013
Jackson O’Neil has left his own highly successful business, a chain of European luxury hotels specializing in winter sports, to concentrate on the family business, the Snow Crystal Resort and Spa in Vermont. His father’s death eighteen months ago in an automobile accident left the family reeling and the business that had been in the family for four generations on the edge of disaster. Jackson is astute enough to know that the only way to save the business is to make some changes, but his eighty-year-old grandfather is fighting him every step of the way. He thinks Jackson’s decision to build luxury cabins and to add the spa was foolish, and he is furious when Jackson announces that he has hired a public relations genius from a New York firm to help them sell the attractions of the resort to a larger audience.
Kayla Green is the public relations whiz. A British import, she is winning accolades from her clients and her boss for her innovative, commercially appealing work. She’s delighted when she learns that she is being given a new account to work on—first, because she’s a workaholic who is always happy to have more work and second, because anything that helps her avoid the excess of seasonal cheer that seems to be everywhere is good. She’s also very curious about Jackson’s reasons for leaving his internationally known business in other hands to focus on some Vermont ski resort few people ever heard of. When he makes clear that he expects her to spend a week at the resort, Kayla is horrified at the idea of taking a full week out of her busy schedule, but then she recalls his mention of secluded cabins and decides that since she can’t make Christmas disappear, the next best thing is spending it in seclusion in Vermont where no one will drape her in tinsel or demand that she visit Santa Claus. What she gets is a messy, marvelous family who makes her a part of them, a sigh-worthy hero who has her reassembling her dreams, and enough love to stretch her heart more sizes than the Grinch’s.
I’ve been hearing good things about RITA-winner Sarah Morgan for a while now, so when I saw an HQN Christmas book with her name attached, I jumped at the chance to review it. I’m so glad I did because Sleigh Bells in the Snow is a smart, sexy story with a surprising amount of sweetness and a generous helping of humor that has a contemporary sharpness without the snark. Kayla is a sleekly polished career woman with a façade so firmly in place that no one who knows her can see the vulnerable, lonely person who still bears the wounds of the unwanted adolescent she was. She has grown strong, but her strength doesn’t mean that the broken places don’t remain weak. Jackson is a dream of a hero—intelligent, good-looking, and accomplished, with a deep love of family and home. An alpha who is accustomed to being in charge and having everything and everyone fall in with his plans, he finds life far more complicated with his family and with Kayla because his heart is on the line.
I loved these characters—not just Kayla and Jackson but also every member of his “infuriating exasperating, interfering, lovable family”: his grandparents, sweet Alice and curmudgeonly Walter; his mother Elizabeth, trying to find her place as she adjusts to being a widow rather than a wife; short-tempered, soft-hearted brother Tyler and his appealing daughter Jess; and even the poodle puppy, Maple. Each one is real and engaging. The other O’Neil brother Sean plays a more limited role, but he is promising. Morgan gives readers a real sense of place with the beauty of the Vermont setting and the thrill of winter sports. Finally, this author includes enough sizzle to please readers who require some steam, but she also includes enough tender, heart-touching moments for this novel to be a truly romantic story as well as a sexy one. And it has the Christmas lights and gingerbread and gifts and snow that one expects in a Christmas book.
This is the first book in a trilogy. I’m definitely signing up for Tyler’s book and for Sean’s. I’m betting that once you’ve read Sleigh Bells in the Snow (and you should read it), you’ll join me.
Sarah Morgan is a new-to-me author, and I loved this first book. Who is your most recent new-to-you author who gave you a book you loved?