I state upfront that earlier this year I met Sarah at an RNA ‘do, and we had a lovely chat. But I loved her books before and I love them now, and so I’m doing this review. Just bear in mind that I met her and enjoyed her company tremendously and I’ve fulfilled my self-imposed restrictions of being totally honest upfront.
I can’t not review this, because Sarah Morgan has done a brilliant job of writing a heartwarming Christmas story without the cloying sentiment that I, for one, detest. It’s like comparing “It’s A Wonderful Life” with – well, with almost any other Christmas film. She takes what should be sickly and turns it real and engrossing. One of her talents is taking a well-worn trope and making it new and interesting. And I think I know how.
In this book, Rio Zacarelli, a Scrooge of the first order, finds Evie, a girl he’s never met before, naked in his bed in the penthouse of the hotel he owns in London. He kisses her, and photographer snaps the kiss. He’s been set up.
Evie has been thrown out of her London flat, and demoted from working on reception at the hotel to working for housekeeping. The awful manager of the hotel hit on her (and she struck back – go Evie!) and the housekeeping manager is a female who bullies the people who work under her. On the night in question the hotel manager invites her to stay in the penthouse after she’s finished preparing it for Christmas, as Rio isn’t expected until the next day.
It’s not long before Rio learns that Evie is innocent of the scam. That’s a relief, because a different author might have turned it into a book long Big Misunderstanding. That would have been a shame, I think. Instead, all the conflicts come from within. Evie’s grandfather is in a home, but she doesn’t need the money to keep him, they sold the family home to pay for his nursing care. She just needs a job to keep her and to make her grandfather proud. Evie is innocent, but without the stupidity that often accompanies it. She had drifted into an engagement with a neighbor, but he dumped her in favor of someone else, and they hadn’t had sex.
Evie is tall and auburn-haired, with blue eyes. When the story starts she’s convinced she has a huge backside, while Rio sees curvy. My only niggle with the story is that when Rio assesses her size, he says she’s a size twelve – that’s a US eight or ten – and that doesn’t say “massive” to me. It says slim, attractive. If she’d been a sixteen I’d have probably gone with that. Her poor self-image seems a tad imposed, but it does work with her figure, so mentally pretending she’d said sixteen instead of twelve, I carried on reading.
Rio is your gorgeous Italian, dark haired and eyes, but his secrets are valid and important ones. Not “I loved a bitch once and she left me, so I hate all women” or “I saw Mummy kissing Santa Claus so I hate him.” When you learn why Rio wants to keep his reputation clean, and why he hates Christmas, they are chilling reminders of the world beyond the magical circle of this story.
There are two lovely moments that brought tears to my eyes, and they parallel each other. One, early in the novel, is where Rio says he loves her for the benefit of the onlookers, and Evie thinks how nice it would be to have him say that to her for real. It’s when she realises his appeal is far more than his wealth and power. The second is the bit at the end, which I won’t spoil for you, but if you read category regularly, you can have a good guess at. Loved it.
There are so many things I might have balked at in another novel, but in this one Sarah Morgan brings it all together into a magical mixture. The story just flows and you believe in the characters. And I think that’s the secret. As well as possessing writing talent in abundance, (skilz, she haz them), she writes about characters you believe in, and where all the conflicts come right from the heart. The external elements of the plot aren’t half as important as what these people are thinking and feeling. That must be it. And so easy to do! (not!)
Unexpectedly homeless for the festive season and exhausted from transforming the penthouse of the hotel where she works into a dazzling winter wonderland, chambermaid Evie Anderson secretly sleeps over. Woken by an outrageously sensual kiss, Evie feels her body come alive – until she realizes her seducer is Rio Zacarelli, her dangerously attractive new boss!
This Christmas, it’s imperative that Rio’s reputation appear spotless – but innocently enticing Evie is a temptation he can’t resist! Their scorching chemistry leads to twelve nights of endless pleasure. But will it last once the decorations come down?