Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Book Review: Sleigh Bells in the Snow, by Sarah Morgan

Sleigh Bells in the Snow
(O'Neil Brothers, Book 1)
Sarah Morgan
Mass Market Paperback, 
384 pages
Harlequin HQN
October 29, 2013
Christmas Fiction, Christmas Romance, Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Holiday Romance, Women's Fiction
Source: Amazon

Synopsis: Once upon a time, Kayla loved Christmas.

Now she’s more dedicated to her job than decking the halls, and can’t wait for the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ to be over.

Until she arrives at the enchanting Snow Crystal ski resort, determined to win gorgeous owner Jackson as a marketing client.

But wooing Jackson professionally quickly turns personal as they spend flirty festive nights in this glittering winter wonderland.

With snowflakes swirling and sleigh bells ringing…could Jackson be the one to make Kayla fall back under the Christmas spell?


Last Christmas season, I had the most delightful pleasure of reading Sarah Morgan's Miracle On 5th Avenue, a book which considerably brightened the whole season for me. Right there and then, I became a fan!

This season, I've recently finished Sleigh Bells in the Snow, and it was no less a wonderful read than its predecessor!

Morgan has the wonderful knack of making her characters really come alive in the reader's mind. As I read this novel, I felt so much as if I were part of the story, and the protagonists actually became like friends to me. I would LOVE to be able to attend Kayla and Jackson's wedding! Sigh..... 

Kayla was a character I could immediately relate to, as no one wants to go through rejection, and she was definitely rejected -- by her own parents. Finding out that they were divorcing, at the time that she did, was a HUGE blow to her, one that influenced her life since then, in very important ways. Like many people in similar circumstances, she closed her heart to any relationships, whether friendships or romantic liaisons. Instead, she buried herself in work, and this was what she totally lived her life for. 

Along with an addiction to work, she decided that the Christmas season was something she had absolutely no need for. Thus, she completely avoided any type of contact with such things as Christmas trees, holiday decorations, Christmas carols, etc. She became, in fact, a female Scrooge, although not because she was tight with money. The Christmas season merely represented for her some very painful events in the past, and she just didn't need any reminders of that.

Enter Jackson O'Neil, whose family owns a ski resort in that wonderfully magical state of Vermont, where I've always yearned to live..... 

The resort, named "Snow Crystal", is definitely in trouble, as people are just not booking enough cabins to make it a profitable business. Jackson, being a loyal member of his family, even leaves his own profitable company in Europe to return and help his family save their beloved resort.

In the process, he hires Kayla to perform some PR magic in order to make the resort better known among potential vacationers. Kayla totally accepts the challenge, agreeing to work right through the Christmas season.

If only she had figured out in time that, instead of being totally shielded from Christmas-related events, she would be completely immersed in them....

One of the things I liked the most about this wonderfully addictive novel is that both protagonists are successful at their jobs. There's no question about that. Kayla is simply THE BEST at her job of public relations marketing. Her record proves it. And Jackson is equally successful in his own right, having founded his own highly profitable company. So these two romantic leads are on equal terms here, except, of course, in the emotional terrain. 

I love that it's Jackson who slowly, lovingly, draws Kayla out of her emotional shell. I love that he's so compassionate, such a great listener, and a very patient, empathetic partner to her. And I love that Kayla is so totally dedicated to being a hard-driving business executive, although I do think it was unfortunate that her emotions took a back seat as a result. That Jackson gently thaws her out -- a very fitting metaphor, considering the beautiful winter setting -- makes this role reversal a totally magical one! 

Another aspect of this book I really liked was that, toward the end of the story, Jackson and Kayla were able to come to a very satisfying arrangement in the work department, one that would not only allow them both to achieve success in their separate endeavors, but also, again magically, save the Snow Crystal resort. 

I can't enough GREAT things about this book! In short, this is a romance novel for the 21st century, as there is NO "damsel in distress" in sight, but only a woman, who like many men before her, has shut her heart down. That a man is involved in helping her open her heart to love again makes this an immensely rewarding novel, and points the way to a beautiful harmony between the sexes, instead of gender wars.

The wonderful, comically endearing chemistry between Kayla and Jackson is beautifully shown in their dialogues. Other characters engage in very witty dialogues, as well.

"If I hadn't already given you the business, I'd give it to you now." He towered over her, six foot two of solid male muscle and raw power.

"Because you've seen my legs?"

"Because you laughed." His voice was dark velvet and any desire to laugh vanished.


"What about snowmen? You ever build one of those?"

"I prefer my men warm-blooded."


"Are you serious?" Jackson shook his head. "On second thought, don't answer that. As you pointed out, personal relationships with a colleague make things awkward. And it's unprofessional."

"To hell with professional, it's Christmas. People do crazy things at Christmas."

"Round here people don't wait until Christmas, they do crazy things all the time."


Helping to flesh out the whole "Snow Crystal experience" is the wonderful cast of secondary characters created by Morgan. Jackson's family and friends are just incredibly wonderful and appealing, even including his cantankerous grandfather, Walter, who, at the beginning of the novel, keeps resisting Jackson's plans for the resort at every turn. He was also rather hostile to Kayla and her ideas before he even heard them. So I felt very happy and proud when Kayla was finally able to win him over, and, at the same time, reveal to Jackson what his grandfather's true motives were in throwing a wrench in the works!

I must mention more members of Jackson's family, such as Alice, his grandmother, who calmly knits through her husband's ironically comical temper tantrums, Elizabeth, Jackson's mother, who ends up becoming a mother figure to Kayla, and Tyler, Jackson's wild brother, who fiercely loves his daughter Jess. This girl, who was only twelve, was memorable in her own right; her only wish is to become a skiing champion, just like her famous father. 

Then there's the deceptively formidable, yet in the end, comical, Elise, the French chef who just might have something going with Sean, Jackson's older brother..... And let me not forget Brenna, the resort's ski instructor, who might just have a thing herself for that wild, freedom-loving skier. Her no-nonsense approach to dealing with him was fun to read!

Then there was that lovable, cuddly puppy, named "Maple". She, too, played a very important part in the re-making of Kayla Green's attitude toward Christmas. Thanks to her just as much as to her human owners, Kayla realized that Christmas is a time for love and closeness.

There's no better recipe for the Christmas season than a bit of family mischief and even "meaningful" misunderstandings, all ending in one big happy holiday! Throw passionate romance into this mix, and you have all the makings for a wonderful season of love and holiday happiness!

For those of us, who, like me, are total suckers for funny, emotion-laced holiday stories, this novel will be a perfect accompaniment to the beautiful holiday season! This book, like Miracle On 5th Avenue, is a definite keeper! And I fully intend to read more Sarah Morgan novels, whether or not they have a Christmas setting! She totally makes my reading day!!


USA Today bestselling author Sarah Morgan writes contemporary romance, and her trademark humor and sensuality have gained her fans across the globe. She is a 3-time winner of the prestigious RITA® Award from the Romance Writers of America, and has been nominated five times. Sarah lives near London, England, and when she isn't reading or writing she loves being outdoors.

Look out for Moonlight Over Manhattan, Sarah's latest installment in her series set in New York City, which will be released on Nov. 28, 2017.

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