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Review – Sleigh Bells in the Snow (O’Neil Brothers #1) by Sarah Morgan

Sleigh Bells in the Snow cover image
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Publish Date: Out now
How I got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley

Once upon a time, Christmas was Kayla Green’s favorite time of year. Now all the workaholic wants for Christmas is for it to be over—as fast as possible! So when duty calls her to snowy Vermont to close a deal with a new client, Kayla is grateful for an excuse to avoid the holidays for another year.

Jackson O’Neil left a thriving business behind to return home and salvage his family’s resort—it’s in his blood, and he can’t let it fail. Now that he’s got marketing whiz Kayla Green working with him to put Snow Crystal on the map, success is on the horizon. The fact they strike enough sparks off each other to power all the Christmas lights in Vermont is just an added bonus.

Kayla might be an expert at her job, but she’s out of her depth with Jackson—he makes her crave the happy-ever-after she once dreamed of, and it’s terrifying. As the snowflakes continue to swirl, will the woman who doesn’t believe in the magic of Christmas finally fall under its spell?
This blurb came from the author’s website.

I will admit I look forward to the holiday stories each year, probably because my family has such strong traditions we have developed over the years. I have also missed Christmases with my family so I understand the pain of being alone or not with family for them. I also know how I feel when I am brought into another family or when a group of us away from home create our own celebration. I also remember how my brother-in-law looked when he joined us for his first Christmas and how I think we overwhelmed him **grin** so I enjoy seeing how authors combine the holidays, everything associated with them.

Sleigh Bells in the Snow had the same feel as several of the small town remotish setting contemporary series that I have read and enjoyed in the past so I was able to settle into the book rather quickly. It did start-off slow but once Kayla arrived at Snow Crystal the pace picked up. While slow I did like catching a glimpse of Kayla in her home environment and the O’Neil clan at home. Both sides showed they had some issues, which made the setting and characters more believable.

I got a good chuckle out of Kayla’s insistence on heading to Snow Crystal over Christmas as a way to get away from the madness. Due to her thoughts and experiences about the holidays, she never once considered how the O’Neils would react to Kayla visiting their resort during Christmas alone. It was also evident she expected this family run business to operate out of a boardroom. Kayla did research Jackson in his role as successful overseas tycoon but she never looked at Snow Crystal, granted between her boss’ pressure and her desire to escape she made several assumptions which came back to haunt her as she tried to sell her plan. My heart about broke when I found out why she was not a fan of Christmas but her background meant if she decided to take a chance she could have a large impact on the O’Neil family.

Jackson was drowning. He left his successful overseas business to return home 18 months ago after his father died and he realized what Snow Crystal’s financial situation was. Desperate to save the family business while protecting the mental happiness of his mother and grandmother he threw everything he had into the family business fighting his grandfather’s resistance. After 18 months of trying and still not seeing an increased number of bookings he hired the company Kayla worked for to increase their visibility. He knew that simply talking about Snow Crystal would not be enough but if he could get a marketing expert to stay for a week they would fall in love with what Snow Crystal had to offer and therefore help save the resort. He wasn’t expecting workaholic Kayla who had no interest in discovering the hidden wonders of Snow Crystal but he was determined.

I enjoyed Jackson’s combination of persistence and patience as he worked to save the resort and build something with Kayla. I also liked his interaction with his brothers and the other locals on a day-to-day basis. The fact that he was willing to take a step back and look at his relationship with his Grandfather then have a honest chat with him really said a lot about his character. It was evident that he deeply cared about his family, Snow Crystal, and as he got to know her, Kayla.

Kayla’s very nature as an outsider meant she was extremely sensitive to the nuances of the O’Neil family when she wasn’t fleeing from their holiday spirit. It was touching to watch the O’Neils wear down her resistance to family activities. They decided just because she was away from home and working over the holidays did not mean she should spend them by herself. One-on-one they showed evidence that Jackson’s traits ran in the family but as a group they were an unruly mob. I enjoyed watching Kayla slowly open up to them and become closer to Jackson. I also enjoyed that Kayla was strong enough to realize when she made a mistake and do what it took, including groveling, to fix it.

As touching as I found the romance and Kayla’s acceptance in Sleigh Bells in the Snow, there were a few things that bothered me. First, I am pretty sure I know the couples for the next two books unless Morgan throws in some major curves which could make the succeeding books seem disconnected. Second, some of the supporting characters seemed more two-dimensional instead of fully-fleshed out. I had hopes for a few of them because they played a pivotal role in a scene but they disappeared again or only added a single note after appearing to have worth. I think some of the uneven characterization could be attributed to introducing characters and the setting so hopefully the next installments will be more even. I am curious to see if I figured out the couples and how they will work through their issues.

I give Sleigh Bells in the Snow a B-

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By E_booklover

E is addicted to books. She discovered at an early age that not only were they her transport to far off worlds, adventures, and exotic cultures, but that she ran into far fewer objects if she walked while reading then if she wasn't reading. She reads across several genres, such as: romance, western,mystery, SF/F and its derivatives. She isn't too picky except for good characterization, settings she can imagine, and a story that flows logically... umm so ok -- she wants a good story. Have any to recommend?

One reply on “Review – Sleigh Bells in the Snow (O’Neil Brothers #1) by Sarah Morgan”

I had a lot of problems with Sleigh Bells in the Snow. First, I never warmed up to Kayla, nor did I believe that someone so savvy in business and so successful in PR could be such a ninny. The fact that she was so unprepared for Vermont in winter was so stupid and not even a little amusing. And really, in the U.S. December+Vermont=Christmas.
Jackson and his brothers, the niece, Brenna and the chef are good characters, but I really disliked the grandparents’ portrayal and the mother was just a cardboard cut-out. The bit with the moose was funny and I loved the dog, but I could have easily stopped reading at any time.
SPOILER……
It had soooo much potential, but as the first book in a series and a holiday story it fell short for me and I had a really hard time with the “after one week lets get married I’ll love you forever trope”.
My mother loved the book and over all the reviews have been good. I like Morgan and I will read the next book, but this time around I didn’t feel the love or the holiday spirit while reading SBITS.

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