Tag Archives: Snow

December Read-a-Thon: Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan Will Insure You Have a Very Merry Christmas

25 Dec

Sleigh Bells in the Snow (The O’Neill Brothers #1 – Jackson and Kayla) by Sarah Morgan (HQN, November 1, 2013)

If I’m going to bother to write a review for Christmas morning, you can be darn sure it’s going to be a really good book that I’m recommending. Knowing that I wanted a story with serious oomph, I deliberately held off on even reading Sarah Morgan’s Sleigh Bells in the Snow – I wanted it to be like a present to myself. So one night with the snow drifting outside, the ski slope lit up in the distance (you can see one from my living room windows) and a fire crackling, I sat down and read it in one sitting.

It is always so exciting to watch a terrific category romance author take the plunge into longer length, single title books. Granted, it’s nerve-wracking – can they make it? Are they able to fill all those extra pages with solid character development and tension or will the book feel like a category romance with way too many scenes?

No one who loves Sarah Morgan has anything to worry about with the recent release of her outstanding Christmas novel, Sleigh Bells in the Snow. Not only has she graduated to writing emotional longer books with compelling characters and sniffle-inducing families, but (thank god) this book starts up a series, the O’Neill Brothers, that feels a lot like Jill Shalvis’ Animal Magnetism series or Bella Andre’s Sullivan series, so if you enjoy those two contemporary authors and their family dynamic, you probably want to take a look at the sexy, skiing O’Neills.

Jackson O’Neill has made more than a name for himself in the global skiing industry with his running some of the most successful European skiing locales. But after his father’s tragic death, he dropped it all to come home to Vermont and take over Snow Crystal Resort, the ski resort founded by his great-grandfather and handed down to each eldest son. Unfortunately for the entire O’Neil family, Jackson’s father loved the skiing but not the business side of things, meaning Jackson has inherited not only a property inches away from bankruptcy, but also a large family grieving his father’s passing while also having a noisy stake in the business. Arguing with his irascible grandfather, his concerned grandmother and mother, as well as his two brothers is the norm but it doesn’t make it any less exhausting. He knows they need serious help and Jackson has a line on a fabulous PR firm in Manhattan which supposedly has some kind of wunderkind in the ranks who can turn around businesses like his. Wasting no time, he goes to New York to take a look.

How I picture some of the O'Neill's resort. And how do I get some of that Belgian hot chocolate??

How I picture some of the O’Neill’s resort. And how do I get some of that Belgian hot chocolate??

Kayla Green was happy to leave London for New York for the plum position at Innovation PR and she’s well on her way to being the youngest vice-president in the company’s history. Right now her major problem is that she hates Christmas and yet is living in a city known for attracting tourists just to enjoy the holiday atmosphere…and it’s killing her. When she hears her workaholic boss is interested in her taking over the O’Neill account – and that doing the preliminary pitch and research would involve her being at a secluded mountain cabin with no holiday decorations – she’s all over it. That Jackson O’Neill is one of the handsomest men she’s seen in forever is just an added complication, but it’s something she’s sure she can ignore.

That is, until she gets to Vermont, and then nothing can be ignored – not the weather which she’s woefully unprepared for, or the fact that she didn’t even know what a moose looked like, or that she’s never skied. What really can’t be ignored is the tumultuous, lovable, frustrating O’Neill family who seem to live and breathe not just every aspect of the holiday but also highlight to Kayla everything that is missing in her life, bringing up the most painful memories and forcing her to face her demons. But facing all those dark fears while trying to be a professional and help Snow Crystal find its deserved place on the map is next to impossible, particularly while fighting her growing attraction to Jackson – it’s like Kayla is in the middle of an emotional blender.

The O'Neill family has a history of horse-drawn sleigh proposals. Seriously!

The O’Neill family has a history of horse-drawn sleigh proposals. Seriously!

When Jackson realizes that this vulnerable side to Kayla is even more attractive than the sexy, blonde killer with that knee-weakening British accent he saw in the Manhattan boardroom, nothing is going to stop him from getting under her skin and into her bed. O’Neills are renowned for knowing what they want and going after it with serious determination, and Jackson knows that Kayla is not only what the resort needs, she’s also precisely what’s been missing in his life as well. But getting past her icy walls is going to take some serious maneuvering and possibly the help of his whole family to win her.

Oh, wow. I defy you to not fall for each one of these frustrating, flawed, sexy, wonderful O’Neills! At just shy of 400 pages, Sleigh Bells in the Snow has ample time for character development beyond just the hero and heroine and Morgan takes advantage of the extra length, sussing out family history and conflicts and giving us a little backstory on each of the family members and secondary characters. It’s easy to see the other brothers’ future matches (and how hard it’s going to be to make those work) while being reminded that it’s often very easy to see other people’s problems while being blind to your own. Kayla’s backstory is so painful that I want her parents invited to the resort simply so the O’Neills can detonate an avalanche above them – it’s not hard to appreciate how much she has to overcome in the space of a short week to face what she could have with Jackson and his family.

Suddenly Last Summer (The O’Neill Brothers #2 – Sean and Elise) by Sarah Morgan (HQN, June 24, 2014)

Perhaps because of all this great character development, there is terrific potential for the future books in the series, and not just with the wonderful brothers. Peppy cousin Dana and the outlier sheriff Josh are ripe for their own novella(s) and I can picture a prequel or two for both the O’Neill brothers’ parents and the grandparents considering the hints dropped regarding their proposal stories which also happened at the resort. This is one romantic mountain!

The only disappointment to be had with Sleigh Bells in the Snow is that 1) these gorgeous men are sadly fictitious and 2) this mountain resort with its private cabins and hot tubs doesn’t actually exist. So, you are left with doing the next best thing and booking your time with the first of Sarah Morgan’s fabulous series. Stay tuned for the second book in the series, which focuses on the hilarious, very French chef of the resort, Elise, and Jackson’s twin brother, Boston’s top orthopedic surgeon, Sean, who are both confronted with the memory of a spectacular summer night together when he comes back for a visit. Their story, Suddenly Last Summer, will be out by the end of June 2014 and this reader has already pre-ordered it!

Many thanks to Sarah Morgan for giving me such a great book (and such a terrific family) to love this holiday season. Merry Christmas!

Make the Last Spring Snow Melt with Two “Snowed In Together” Romances

28 Apr

I have to confess for a real thing for stories about two people becoming lovers in a snowstorm, probably because I fell in love with my husband during one.  Given my penchant for them, I’m sure more than one romance I’ll write will have this trope as an element.

North of Need by Laura Kaye (Entangled Publishing, October 2011)

So I was excited when a couple of snowbound books came across my radar.  The first one, North of Need by Laura Kaye, is the first of a series entitled Hearts of the Anemoi and, since one of the characters is a snow god, falls soundly in the paranormal romance category. Young widow Megan Snowe (I know, cute, right?) has decided to spend the holidays by herself at her mountain cabin since she just hasn’t been able to get into the spirit of season. Her wonderful husband died two years ago and many of Megan’s dreams were abandoned then as well. Lonely and sad, she builds a snow family and cries when she realizes that she’s unconsciously created the one thing she believes she’ll never have.

Owen Winters (love the naming, seriously) literally appears on her doorstep practically naked and shivering.  An ancient god of winter called into corporeal form by her tears, he has heard Megan’s late husband’s plea to help and protect her.  Already in love with her from afar, Owen has taken the opportunity to obtain a temporary human form and use the snow (he needs the cold to survive) to woo her.  If Megan can admit to loving him, he would be able to stay with her forever, but her scars run deep. A major snit on the part of one of his brothers, who controls the warm weather, has the snow melting at a rapid pace. With Megan reluctant to admit to fact that she’s fallen hard for this gorgeous stranger, this change of weather puts their future in jeopardy.

Laura Kaye makes this hero and heroine incredibly appealing and easy to love. Megan is a beautiful but damaged heroine who realizes that everything you love can be taken away in a moment, an awareness that has her reluctant to risk her heart again.  Owen is temptation personified, not just in his hot body (not hard to believe he’s a god from the description here) but from his loving personality.  His indulgence in the sensory ability of his new form make for some of the best and most erotic scenes in the book! No one who takes a chance on this well priced volume (I only paid $4.99 for my Kindle edition) will be sorry with this happily ever after or the hints at the future books in the series.

Snowbound with a Stranger by Rebecca Rogers Maher (Carina Press, May 28, 2012)

Browsing my new account in NetGalley led me straight to Carina Press‘ latest offerings and I was thrilled to stumble across the contemporary romance novella Snowbound with a Stranger by Rebecca Rogers Maher. While the snow aspect drew me to the story, I am also on a novella binge since I’m finishing up a class in writing novellas (given by the ever wonderful Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Chapter of the Romance Writers of America).

Burned out nurse Dannie Marino is hiking with colleagues from her hospital and trying not to notice hunky Lee, a recent addition and expert hiker. As the temperature drops, Dannie gets separated from the group by accident but doesn’t start to panic until the snow begins to fall.  Luckily before she succumbs to hypothermia, Lee finds her and is able to get her back to the cabin owned by Dannie’s doctor friend, who has led the rest of the group back down the mountain to safety.

With no electricity or other people to distract them, Lee and Dannie are forced to face the crackling electricity (and I mean crackling, you’ll never look at a Scrabble board the same way again) between them. Lee is flooded with not only desire but emotion he hasn’t felt since 9/11 and losing his wife to cancer nine years ago, while Dannie discovers that, while it’s cold outside, her prickly layer is softening as Lee sees through the job and relationship defenses she’s held in place for years.

Rebecca Rogers Maher could teach her own novella class without a doubt. Even with only 73 pages to play, she not only crafts a compelling love story between two damaged individuals but paints vivid characters with just a few brush strokes. I appreciated that her protagonists were older (late thirties, early forties) yet still just as sexy as the taut young bodies we enjoy reading about in other romance novels. Maher also won my admiration with the way she portrayed Lee’s complex sexuality. While Dannie comments that his occupation of social worker means he’s a nice guy and probably a beta, Lee has no trouble dominating her in bed and taking initiative, while managing not be the typical non-communicative alpha teetering on the brink of the jackass moniker.

The heat of summer will be here soon enough, but for now, I’m going to enjoy my time with a good snowbound romance.  Hope you manage to keep warm!

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