Sleigh Bells Ring
RaeAnne Thayne’s Sleigh Bells Ring is charming right from its first few paragraphs, where a snowball fight is compared to a full-on battle scene. The characters are likable, the prose fun and engaging and the story enjoyable, and a really good way to pass an afternoon. It’s a bit cheesy, but so goes the genre.
Annelis – Annie – McCade’s life has been managing the Angel View Ranch in Holly Creek, Wyoming since she gave up city living. Annie’s father ran the place and she grew up on the property, but now he’s gone, and even the ranch – which once belonged to her family – is theirs no longer; Annie’s grandfather sold the property out from underneath them to a billionaire, who hired her to caretake the place during his final months.
Annie was fine with being alone, but now her life revolves around other people – the charities she’s knitting a blanket for, and her brother Wes’ six-year-old twins Alice and Henry, who she’s caring for following her sister-in-law’s sudden passing and after Wes’ grief-fueled drunken spree through their hometown landed him in jail. Annie is the only family they have now.
She finds herself retrofitting her life around the two emotionally-scarred children, which means plotting a dream Christmas for them. She hopes to hold it at the Angel View, even though all of the other employees are supposed to be long gone for the holidays.
Unfortunately, Tate Sheridan, who owns Angel View, decides to come home and spend the holidays there. Following his grandfather’s death, Tate is next in line to run the family business, something he desperately doesn’t want to do. Annie’s had a crush on Tate since she was eleven, but she’s got a lot on her plate. Can Annie, Tate and the kids form a family that includes Wes? And will the children acclimate to their mother’s death and get on with the business of living?
You likely know the answers to these questions, but Thayne wrings something fun and sweet and touching out of the romance anyway. Interestingly, this romance is very faith-based, which the publisher isn’t trumpeting and which isn’t mentioned in the book blurb; Wes uses his faith in God to get him through his imprisonment.
My biggest caveat is how plot-moppety the twins are – they are so wholly unaffected by their mother’s death I was concerned about their psychological welfare. But they’re really secondary to Annie and Tate’s growth – emotional, spiritual and physical. The banter between them is good and funny, and reflects how long they’re supposed to have known one another. They’re a nice couple to follow, and I truly enjoyed Annie as a heroine. There are also nice messages about addiction, recovery, forgiveness, and how to grieve in a healthy manner.
There’s a fun secondary romance featuring Annie’s best friend, Bree, who also mends fences with Annie after their friendship fell apart years ago.
Perhaps Sleigh Bells Ring leans a little too heavily on women’s fiction tropes, but if you like Christmas romances by Debbie Macomber and similar authors, then you’ll like this one.