Lucy Clarke works for a London-based marketing agency that’s more like family than an employer. Unfortunately, they are all facing the possibility of layoffs because of the loss of two major accounts, despite the valiant efforts of their benevolent leader. Lucy decides to make a desperate pitch for a major account, Miller Active, a sportswear company led by CEO Ross Miller even though her agency probably isn’t on the approved prospect list. It’s almost Christmas and his family home is Glen Lodge in the Scottish Highlands so Lucy decides she’ll combine a trip there to develop another project with a visit to Glen Lodge and deliver off her proposal in person. Meanwhile, the Miller siblings meet to plan their visit home and how to avoid their mother Glenda and grandmother Nanna Jean’s prying into their personal lives. Alice is a doctor who is bringing Nico, a cardiac surgeon and the man she’s been dating for nine months, home for the holidays. Clemmie, the youngest, has a major secret she plans to share when she arrives. And Ross is dreading confrontations with his father, Douglas, who helms the family business, Glen Shortbread, and expected him to take his place, not go his own way.
the heart of the story…
Obviously there’s a lot going on as Lucy thought she was dropping in on an idyllic family at Christmas, one she’s yearned for since the death of her beloved grandmother two years ago. She has no other family and the holidays are hard and lonely. It all gets further complicated when she arrives before Ross and the family seems to believe she’s his new girlfriend. It’s pretty hilarious, especially the delightful but unfiltered Nanna Jean who makes it clear that she wants to see some great grandchildren. When a snowstorm sets in and traps everyone, including Lucy, it makes for interesting dynamics and not everything is lighthearted and cozy. There are real issues going on between Alice and Nico that threaten their relationship. Clemmie’s announcement causes some friction and Glenda feels as if she hasn’t served her children well. Ross and his father continue to struggle, both operating from misconceptions about the other. What looks like the ideal family on the outside is just another normal family dealing with the same issues everyone else has to face.
This was quite the challenge to manage such a diverse group of characters in ages and regional dialects and the narrator met that challenge. Her storytelling skills were wonderful, conveying the right emotions, highs and lows, throughout. She made this a more interesting reading experience.
the bottom line…
I love these type of stories, especially in a holiday setting. What better place for it to happen but in the Scottish Highlands at Christmas in a snowstorm. The Miller family was intriguing on its own but I also found Lucy to be a compelling character who yearned for family and relationship. I always look forward to the author’s annual holiday stories and this one just kept me in my happy place. She nailed the family issues and softened them by adding comic relief through Nanna Jean, though underneath all her shenanigans was sage wisdom. The romances were complicated but I rooted for all of them. This was a wonderful listening experience to prime me for the upcoming holiday season.
- Release Date: September 20, 2022
- Narrator: Ruth Sillers
- Audio Length: 12 hours, 32 minutes
- Publisher: Harlequin Audio
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Maya helped Lucy pack boxes of the Fingersnug into a bag. “Isn’t there a risk that turning up at his house in Scotland makes you look like a stalker?”
“I can see why you might be concerned about that and I’m not going to say it didn’t cross my mind, but no. Firstly because I’m in Scotland anyway, doing a photoshoot for the Fingersnug along with reindeer and several influencers, and secondly because this is what Zoe told me to do. I’m simply following her advice. And it’s not as if I haven’t tried every other route first.” Maybe she was overstepping a little, but sometimes you had to take a risk to get ahead.
Ever since Arnie’s health scare she’d been working flat out to put together ideas for Miller Active. She was excited about her plan and desperate to get her proposal in front of Ross Miller before the competition snagged his attention. She was willing to take the chance that the whole thing could explode in her face. What was the worst that could happen? He’d slam the door on her, which wouldn’t be pleasant but at least she’d be able to limp home knowing that she’d done everything she could to help Arnie and protect people’s jobs.
“Who is Zoe?”
“Ross Miller’s personal assistant. She’s great. She’s organized, and she knows everything. We went to that new wine bar near the river last night, and—”
“You went to a wine bar with Ross Miller’s assistant?”
“Yes.” Lucy tucked some of the festive “props” she’d bought into the bag. “We’ve been talking every day for the past week, and we’ve become friendly.”
Maya shook her head in disbelief. “How do you do it? If someone stands still for long enough, you befriend them.”
“It wasn’t hard. I like her. I took my proposal over to the office and we got chatting. Turns out she’s from Scotland, too, and she knows Ross from school.”
“And he gave her a job?”
“Why not? She’s brilliant. And who knows, maybe she threatened to reveal all his secrets if he didn’t employ her.” Lucy added two boxes of fairy lights to the bag. “They’re obviously good friends. Sounds as if they have one of those fun relationships full of banter where she scolds him, and he pretends to do as he’s told. Can you pass me the snow globe?”
Maya handed it to her. “Good friends? Or very good friends.”
“Not romantic. According to Zoe, Ross isn’t involved with anyone. He occasionally dates, but women tend to get frustrated by his focus on work. He actually forgot about his last date, left her sitting in a restaurant.” She forced the snow globe into the bulging bag. Maybe it had been optimistic of her to think she could manage with the one bag.
“Not the king of romance, then,” Maya said. “Does Ross know that his assistant is revealing his entire personal life to strangers?”
“I’m not a stranger. I’ve seen her four times this week.”
May rolled her eyes. “And no doubt by Friday you’ll be godmother to her children.”
“She doesn’t have children, although she would like to. She’s dating William, but he’s currently living in Edinburgh and she misses him horribly. William, it seems, is very slow to make a commitment so Zoe is thinking of proposing herself. We talked through a few strategies.” Lucy tried to close the bag and failed. “A little help, please?”
Maya pushed the sides of the bag together. “No offense, but since when did you become the expert on marriage proposals?”
“I know a lot about the theory.” Finally, Lucy managed to close the bag. “You don’t have to travel the world to teach geography. I’m creative, that’s my job. I know how to make an impact. Also, I pay attention to what people want and need. That’s the basis of successful selling and, in the end, that’s what we’re doing. All the time. Every day. I’m going to be selling the idea of me to Ross.”
“So where does William fit into this?”
“William works in risk assurance so it’s understandable that he won’t be given to impulse. He needs a little something to nudge him past that caution barrier. Fortunately Ross Miller closes the office for a week over Christmas, which means Zoe can go home, too.” Lucy lifted the bag. “This weighs a ton. Nothing else is fitting in there.”
“He closes the office?”
“Yes. He goes home to Scotland to spend time with his family.”
“It is. I like it when people appreciate family.” Lucy lowered the bag back to the floor. “I feel as if I’ve forgotten something. What else do I need?”
“A whole lot of good luck and the bound copies of your proposal. You wanted two, is that right?” Maya handed them to her. “You haven’t discussed this with Arnie, have you?”
“No. He is supposed to be resting. No stress. You know what he’s like. If I even mention this, he’ll want to be involved.” She knew she’d never forget the sight of Arnie being taken away in an ambulance. For a horrible moment she’d thought she might lose another person she loved, but fortunately it hadn’t turned out to be as serious as they’d feared.
Arnie had been discharged with medication and a lecture on lifestyle.
He was keeping in touch with the office, but Lucy had given everyone strict instructions not to contact him.
The office felt strange without him there. Even the Christmas tree and the decorations couldn’t make up for his absence. But if he rested now, hopefully he’d be well enough to come back to work in January.
In the meantime she was holding the fort.
Maya gestured to the proposals in Lucy’s hand. “Good work, by the way. Clever. I think Ross Miller will be impressed.”
“Let’s hope so.” She grabbed some Christmas wrapping. “Did you see the photo Ted sent round? The baby is gorgeous.”
“They’re not getting any sleep.”
“I know. Ted says he watches the baby half the night to check she’s still breathing.” Lucy knelt on the floor, cut the wrapping paper and measured a length of ribbon.
“Ribbon?” Maya frowned. “You’re not seriously gift wrapping the proposal?”
“Why not? It’s Christmas.” She wrapped the document carefully. “Even the most hard-hearted businessman can’t help but respond to wrapping paper covered in cheerful robins, surely?”
“That’s why you’re wrapping it? To fill his hardened heart with festive joy?”
“No.” Lucy tied the ribbon and secured the label she’d handwritten in careful script. “I’m wrapping it in case something happens and I’m not able to deliver it to him personally. It’s Christmas, and they have a big family gathering every year.”
“No. I read about it in that magazine feature I mentioned.” She’d pored over every page, envious of the oversize Christmas trees, the lush garlands adorning fireplaces and the curved bannister. “If I hand them a boring-looking proposal the chances are they’re going to forget about it. Who wants to read a boring document at Christmas? If I wrap it, then there is a good chance that at some point over the festive season it’s going to be opened.”
“Possibly by one very disappointed kid who is immediately going to throw a tantrum before tossing it out of the window.”
“No young children in the family, according to my research.” She tucked the wrapped parcel carefully into her laptop bag, along with the spare unwrapped proposal.
“Please tell me you’re not dressing as Santa when you drop it off.”
“I wasn’t planning to—” Lucy rocked back on her heels “—but now you’re making me think.”
“Well don’t think. You’ve done enough thinking.” Maya rested her hip on the desk and folded her arms. “So why didn’t he go into the family business?”
“Ross? I have no idea, and it’s not relevant. I am not there to interfere with family politics. I am simply going to ring the doorbell and hand over my gift. Merry Christmas. That’s it.”
“You should have put a copy of that marketing magazine in with the proposal. Cover girl Lucy.”
Lucy stood up and put the unused wrapping paper back on her desk. “That’s one of those awards that we are all super proud of, but no one else in the world has ever heard of.”
“But you’re the face of modern marketing. He might be impressed.”
“Or not.” Lucy glanced at her phone. “I have an hour before my train leaves.”
“The sleeper. I’ve always thought that sounds romantic. Traveling on a train through the darkness, clickety-clack, clickety-clack.”
“There is nothing romantic about having a carriage to myself.”
“Maybe it will be like one of those spy movies,” Maya said, “where the bad guy is lurking, waiting to throw you out of the window.”
“And for that comforting thought, I thank you.”
“You should have taken some days for yourself while you’re up there. Have a mini break.”
Lucy couldn’t think of anything worse. “I’ve already booked my return journey the following night. All organized. It’s a flying visit.”
Even if she had the money for it, she didn’t want to spend time in a hotel on her own at Christmas. How miserable would that be?
No, she’d spend the day taking creative photos of the Fingersnug with the reindeer herd as her backdrop, and then she’d deliver her proposal to Ross Miller on her way back to catch the train.
As far as she could see, there was nothing that could go wrong.Excerpted from Snowed in for Christmas by Sarah Morgan. Copyright © 2022 by Sarah Morgan. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
Q & A with the Author
Can you describe your hero and heroine in 3 words each?
Heroine: Feisty, fun, lonely
Hero: Smart, sexy, honorable
Are any of the holiday scenes in this book inspired by your own holiday traditions?
Traditions are an important (and fun!) part of the festive season, and everyone has their favorites. In Snowed in For Christmas there is a scene where Glenda and Nanna Jean decorate the tree while chatting with each other, and that was inspired by a tradition observed annually in our house! We love to go to the forest to choose our tree, and then we decorate it together using an eclectic mix of decorations accumulated from various travels over the years. Like Glenda and Nanna Jean, I also use decorations our children made when they were young. You can’t beat a baked star!
What are the key elements of a holiday romance?
A good holiday romance delivers a powerful emotional journey between the main characters, but must also capture the warmth and mood of the season. In a holiday romance the season almost becomes another character, and as well as creating atmosphere it can impact on the characters and the plot. You can sink into the magical snowy setting of a fictional winter (no scraping ice from the car, no frozen fingertips), and enjoy romance with all the extra emotional intensity that the season brings.
Is it difficult to come up with a specific Holiday themed novel every year?
I don’t find it difficult. In fact, by the end of the summer I can’t wait to get started on my next festive book. I’ve written a holiday themed novel every year for as long as I can remember, and it has become one of my own holiday traditions. Why do I love writing them so much? I suspect for the same reason readers enjoy reading them. They’re heartwarming, fun and super romantic and bringing individuals and families together during the holiday season creates endless opportunities for conflict and fun times.
Do you decorate your writing room when you are writing a holiday book?
I start writing my holiday book in September, well before anyone else is thinking festive thoughts, and I decorate my writing room with some of my favorite Christmas decorations. I have a miniature tree with lights, a soft toy moose (so cute!) and some snowy pinecones. That, and a festive soundtrack, is enough to put me in the mood and keep my mind focused on winter and the holidays.
What is the best gift you’ve ever given? Recipient’s reaction?
Many years ago I was working in my first job as a nurse in London and one of my patients, the same age as me, was too sick to go home for the holidays. He said that all he wanted for Christmas was to leave the hospital and go outside for a while to have a taste of ‘normal life’, so we found a wheelchair, bundled him up in warm clothes and blankets and I pushed him to see the London skyline. We chatted about everything (but not illness or hospitals), just two young people enjoying each other’s company. While we were looking at the lights reflecting on the river it started snowing lightly which was magical. He said it was the best evening he could remember (I’m sure it wouldn’t be allowed now because of health and safety!).
What is the best gift you’ve ever received?
When I was eight my parents gave me a hamster. I’d been desperate for a pet, and I was so excited I managed to lose it in the living room and we spent the rest of Christmas morning searching for it. We found it, so there were happy endings all round!
What’s next for you?
I’m putting the finishing touches to next year’s summer book (more on that soon!) and I’m starting my Christmas book for next year. I’m already excited to write it!
About the Author
Sarah Morgan is a USA Today and Sunday Times bestselling author of contemporary romance and women’s fiction. She has sold more than 21 million copies of her books and her trademark humour and warmth have gained her fans across the globe. Sarah lives with her family near London, England, where the rain frequently keeps her trapped in her office.
(Thanks to Harlequin Audio for my complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.)