Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan
Published: October 29, 2013 by Harlequin
Source: From the publisher via netgalley - thank you!
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? [goodreads]
Snow Crystal is a cozy ski resort tucked away in the mountains of Vermont that's been family run by the O'Neils for the past several decades. When Jackson, the eldest of the O'Neil boys, comes home to take over the business before it goes under, he turns to a hot-shot firm in New York City to salvage their rapport and build up their reputation for more visitors to come. What he gets is an independent, head-strong, sexy British woman that's got a list of credentials a mile long and a pair of legs to match it. Kayla takes on the Snow Crystal case, promising to have the O'Neil's ski resort on every major travel headline in the world.
But Kayla has a hidden agenda of her own while taking on this new client. She sees this as opportunity to escape the holiday bustle of the city, and focus on her work alone, in the serene Vermont mountains. You see, Kayla doesn't celebrate Christmas, she barely even acknowledges the day. To her it's just a painful reminder of her past and the broken family she ran away from. She's spent the majority of her life building walls to protect herself, keeping everyone she knows at a safe distance. When she arrives in Snow Crystal she soon realizes this serene town is the epitome of a winter wonderland. Right off the bat she's bombarded by a demanding, yet loving family, who is eager to know how she'll help their family business. And the reminder of the season is all around her. What should have been an escape quickly becomes her worst nightmare.
The relationship between Jackson and Kayla begins professionally, but as the reader you quickly begin to see the attraction between these two characters. Their early flirtatious moments, especially when Kayla let down her rigid guard and relaxed a bit, were a delight to read. Jackson's family was a nice addition to the story that kept it moving, along with a segue into stories we'll see later in this series. But it was the setting that captured my interests the most. From the picturesque Vermont winter forest, to the crackling fire inside the cozy cabin; every scene played out so vividly as if I were there in Snow Crystal myself.
The focus of whether Kayla can save Snow Crystal from going under begins to shift and becomes something much more personal as Jackson uncovers her fears and shows her how to open herself up, even if she doesn't know the destination of where this path may lead her. He teaches her to focus on the here and now by showing her the beauty of Snow Crystal, and in return she shows him the beauty of who she truly is. If you're seeking a Holiday romance to devour by the fire, while you're warm under a blanket, I recommend visiting Snow Crystal and getting to know the O'Neil family. It was a delight to experience this festive, romantic holiday read, and has become a fictional setting that I'd love to visit again.