In which I review a book I didn’t like
Because I can.* But first…
What I’ve read this week:
Stranded with a Scotsman, Serenity Woods (short story with big clunking Truth or Dare plot device, didn’t love it)
Pandora, Jilly Cooper (re-read, still brilliant as always)
The Change in Di Navarra’s Plan, Lynn Raye Harris (requires higher than normal suspension of disbelief, even for an HP)
The Cubicle Next Door, Siri Mitchell (I’ve been reading inspies for an new religion and romance post; it was okay)
The Boss’s Bride, Brenda Minton (ditto)
And this week’s pick for a review: Sleigh Bells in the Snow
(Note: I’m twitter friends with Sarah.* In the past she’s been kind enough to send me free copies of a couple of her books, but I paid for this one. Full price, even though it was later heavily discounted. Yes, I’m cross about that.)
Author: Sarah Morgan
Publisher: Mills and Boon/HQN. It’s Morgan’s first single title for Harlequin/M&B and I was excited to see what she’d do with the extra wordcount.
I don’t love either of these. If I were not already a Sarah Morgan fan I don’t think either would have got me to pick the book up. On the other hand, as a Sarah Morgan fan, I do like the way her name is huge on the US cover. That’s a sign of confidence in her that is well-deserved. But that upside-down Spiderman kiss? That always looks weird to me.
Hero: Jackson O’Neil, CEO of a series of luxury winter sports hotels in Europe. Now back at home to drag the family business back into profitability, despite the help of his family and with the help of a PR genius he’s brought in from New York.
Heroine: Kayla Green. Single, British, twenty-something, hates Christmas, has truly awful parents who messed her up badly. Works for a PR company in New York. Has never been to Vermont in winter, but is willing to go for work and to escape Christmas. Unfortunately Christmas is waiting for her in Vermont, along with Jackson’s loud, chaotic family, home and business. All her worst triggers, in fact.
I admit, I never really bought into Kayla as the PR genius. Her presentation to the family was so ill-judged, that even if it had been made in a boardroom with everyone in a business suit, it would have been a disaster. Basic research would have helped with that, as well as with some more sensible packing. I’ve never been to Vermont in winter either, but I’d have made sure I had snow boots to wear. To be honest, you need snow boots even for New York in winter.
Other: Cast of thousands, mostly related to Jackson. I was most disappointed with this part of the book, actually. There are two secondary pairings, one of which appears early on in the book and I was at least expecting that one to be resolved by the end. That’s part of what I like about the longer single title books, is that they have room for a secondary romance. But no, these were both sequel bait. There’s a storyline about Jackson’s niece which parallels Kayla’s backstory in some respects. There’s a grumpy grandad, who comes round in quite a nice way. There’s a puppy.
Marriage: This was where it really went wrong for me. I’d been mostly enjoying the first 80% of the book. Jackson and Kayla’s romance was going slowly and cautiously. She has a ton of baggage and they only have a week together, and I liked that they weren’t racing to the altar. Except that at the end they are. The proposal comes out of nowhere and I absolutely didn’t buy the eventual outcome of it.
Enjoyment factor: So, okay, I am maybe more of a Christmas grump than most people, but I set out to enjoy this book and wanted to be drawn in to the magic of Christmas at Snow Crystal. There were some really good scenes and, like I said, I did mostly enjoy most of the book. I guess maybe my expectations were just too high, because by the end I was pretty disappointed. I’d been hoping for something a bit different. Sarah Morgan’s category romances usually deliver all the promise of the Presents/Modern line but with an extra dash of humour, reality and depth. I didn’t feel that here. It was fine. It just wasn’t exceptional.
Epilogue: No, but there be sequels ahoy. I will probably read them. And if they aren’t Christmas books, there’s a good chance I’ll enjoy them more than this one.
*I’ve been thinking about this a lot in light of recent and ancient discussions. The conclusion that I’ve come to is that I wouldn’t be willing to write a negative review of an Entangled book, so I won’t review any Entangled books. Books by Entangled authors writing for a different publisher/self-published are fair game, however, for negative or positive reviews. Books by other authors I know in person (there’s hardly any of these) or online are also fair game, but I’ll make sure to mention any connections I have upfront.