source: Netgalley (review copy)Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan
series: O'Neil Brothers (1)
I really enjoyed this romance novel set around the holidays.
Kayla Green is an extremely successful workaholic who hates nothing more than the Christmas season ("I'm Scrooge, but without the tasteless nightwear," 8). She's busy avoiding holiday celebrations at work when she learns of a lead that could lead to a huge account for her PR firm. When the potential client (the sexy, young Jackson O'Neil, CEO of Snowdrift Leisure) makes an unorthodox request (that Kayla agree to spend a week up his family's secluded Vermont resort in order to experience the resort firsthand and get the rest of the family on board with her developing an integrated marketing plan for the resort), Kayla surprises both her boss and Jackson O'Neil by agreeing to spend the holidays at the resort ("Kayla decided that given the choice between an encounter with Santa or a black bear, she'd take the bear," 42).
As would be expected with a romance novel, Kayla and Jackson have immediate chemistry. Chemistry he's willing to explore and she wants to do her best to ignore. And, of course, Kayla's time at Snow Crystal resort does not go to plan. She flubs her initial presentation to the resort's stakeholders, making her job of winning them over that much more difficult. In the course of showing her all the resort has to offer Jackson takes every opportunity to thaw Kayla's chilly exterior, much to her chagrin. On top of that Jackson's family is not the least bit businesslike and they aren't content to ignore her and let her do her work, insisting on pulling her into their holiday celebrations. In order to win the Snow Crystal account, Kayla is going to need to confront the issues that cause both her hatred of the holidays and fear of intimacy.
Even given the time constraints inherent in the Sleigh Bells in the Snow's plot, Kayla and Jackson's relationship proceeds at a reasonable pace (personally I dislike romance novels in which relationships progress too quickly). Both Kayla and Jackson have interesting and complex backstories and the issues they have to overcome in order to be together are realistic. Morgan also populated the novel with a bevy of well-realized secondary characters (mostly in the form of other O'Neil family members), many of whom will no doubt appear in the other books in the series as each installment will revolve around one of the O'Neil brothers.
My one complaint about the novel is that it gives away too much about the other books in the series. By the end of Sleigh Bells in the Snow readers know who both of the other brothers will likely end up with and have a general idea of the issues that the couples will have to overcome in the course of their own stories (more so for Tyler than for Sean). This isn't really enough to ruin or spoil the upcoming books, it's just that I would have preferred less in the way of clues about later installments.
disclosure: I received a review copy of Sleigh Bells in the Snow from Harlequin via NetGalley.