Do you want:
Family Bonding, and
Good Old Fashioned Christmas Cheer?
Then you can trust Mills & Boon, and Sarah Morgan, to get it right!
Seriously. With Mills & Boon at the helm this book was always going to be a successful romance, it’s what they do, and boy do they do it well. This book packed a whole rollercoaster of love (to quote 90s girl-band B*Witched) and emotions into its pages. I’m not just talking about the sizzling chemistry between Kayla and Jackson either, which was welcomed with open arms. Honestly, that would usually be enough, but I look for something more in a Christmas book. In addition to leaving me feeling warm and fuzzy and craving gingerbread/cake/other sundry Christmas treats, it’s got to be about families getting together and being sickeningly happy and adorable. If that is also your criteria for a good Christmas book then I don’t hesitate to recommend “Sleigh Bells In The Snow”
That’s not to say the family in “Sleigh Bells”, the O’Neills, are teeth rotting levels of sugar coated overload. They’re not, instead they are a genuine family facing the very real possibility that they might lose their generations old Ski Resort “Snow Crystal”. Each member from octogenarian Walter down to pre-teen Jess have enough depth and character to warrant their own novel (Elise’s story “Suddenly Last Summer is out in July and is already on my to read list! ) but what binds them together is the love they share for each other; it oozes from the pages like the golden syrup I’m guessing Elizabeth uses in her cinnamon stars. I loved the way Morgan captures the O’Neills family dynamic; seen at their best in their busy family kitchen talking loudly over each other. I almost got a headache just reading so I was instantly able to empathise with Kayla’s overwhelmed panic upon being thrust into their hectic circle. Plus their togetherness makes a stark contrast to Kayla’s family dynamic, which can only be described as awful.
Kayla was a wonderfully drawn heroine. She’s not your typical Scrooge, she doesn’t hate Christmas she just avoids it and all the emotional baggage it carries. In fact she’s pretty much avoided anything except work since she was a child. The payoff of being such a workaholic is that she’s extremely successful at what she does, she works in PR and has quickly risen up the ranks. However, no amount of success compensates for what she has missed out on, which in this case is essentially everything! I found it really interesting that so much of her job revolved around creating the perfect experience and memories for other people- her plan for saving Snow Crystal basically revolves around this, and yet she does not take part in these things herself. Kayla is one of life’s observers, she was made to feel like an outsider as a child and instead of letting this ruin all aspects of her life she has turned it into her advantage, learning to see things from outside personal relationships and engagement. In that sense she is the perfect PR guru because she does not become attached and she is able to think coolly about what needs to be done.
Ultimately though her determination to remain detached from everything holds her back. She cannot really understand the true magic of Snow Crystal because she looks at everything too analytically, and when business meetings are conducted around a kitchen table this outlook is always destined to fail! Kayla really grows and blossoms in “Sleigh Bells In The Snow” to begin with she is rather two-dimensional, simply because she’s smothered anything but the most necessary human functions but just like the snow air breathes a healthy glow into her cheeks so to does her time at Snow Crystal help her grow as a person, with the help of hunky Jackson of course!
Jackson is the perfect love interest, not only because he totally believes in Kayla’s abilities as a PR expert but because he sees glimpses of the woman she could be if she let the facade slip and determines to uncover the real Kayla. His dedication to helping Kayla grow as a person is really medal worthy and it was refreshing to have a hero be so in touch and comfortable with his emotions and feelings when the heroine was so terrified of hers. It was an inversion of stock tropes that really worked. In many ways Jackson is the ideal hero for a Christmas romance because as well as being totally smitten with his heroine he is also totally devoted to his family and friends and seems to think of all these people’s happiness as much as his own. Plus he can ski, which is kind of a pre-requisite if you own and operate a ski resort in a Christmas wonderland!
I really enjoyed “Sleigh Bells In The Snow” and it totally confirmed in me a love from Christmas books, I love having a new reason to look forward to the season now! The relationship between Kayla and Jackson is lovely and natural with definite overtones of “When you know, you know” and is aided by the fact that the O’Neill family as a whole is so brilliant. Plus, I defy you to read this book and not want to immediately start baking cinnamon stars, although the recipe is illusively withheld!
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