This book by Sarah Morgan was supposed to be another cosy Christmas read for me, but I was disappointed to the point of considering putting it aside more than once. I had not read anything by the author before, so what I expected was a foreseeable romance against a Christmas backdrop, maybe with some humour thrown in, just the kind I sometimes like: sweet and harmless like a plate of Christmas cookies, if counterbalanced by something more substantial every now and then.
The idea behind the book is nice enough and could have been turned into the kind of reading material I expected when chosing it out of a pile of books my mother-in-law had set aside for me when I came visiting her in Yorkshire in August:
It's actually two books in one, each involving one of two brothers and how they find love (after some twists and turns, of course).
1. Daniel and Patrick work at a clinic, with Daniel being on the rescue team, saving injured climbers and other people who were daft enough to risk life and limb in the mountains without proper equipment and preparation. His brother Patrick is an obstetrician, and he is so good at his job that he has a waiting list of women who insist he shall be the only one to deliver their babies.
Two years ago on Christmas Eve, Daniel proposed to his girlfriend. The same evening, Patrick's wife left him and their two children, which scared Daniel so much he instantly broke off his engagement. That in itself was, I thought, completely illogical behaviour, but I conceded that of course most people forget all sense and reason when it comes to love and relationships.
Anyway, now it's nearly Christmas again, two years later, and Daniel's ex-fiancee is back to work at the clinic, after she has convinced herself that she is well and truly over the disastrous end of her relationship with Daniel. Of course she bumps into him nearly as soon as she's back, and of course she has been kidding herself all along - the old attraction is still there, and the inevitable slide towards a renewal of their former romance begins.
The story could end there, but you didn't expect it to be that simple, did you? Daniel did not remain single while Stella worked and lived elsewhere, and the reasons for breaking off the engagement are still as solidly in his mind as before. Also, Stella has joined a dating website, desperately trying to find someone who is not Daniel to fall in love with.
Rest assured that everything turns out to every romantic's liking.
2. Part II of the book tells Patrick's story. As mentioned in Daniel's story, he and his children are left by his wife on Christmas Eve two years ago. There are many ladies who'd give and do anything to be the new Mrs. in his life, but Patrick focuses entirely on his work at the clinic and his kids, who adore him.
Just before Christmas, he is invited to a hospital in the US who offer him a job - and a new life. Sounds tempting, and he travels across the Atlantic to have a look. His guide for the day at the hospital is not only young and attractive, but highly professional and a lot of fun at the same time. The two of them end up spending a memorable night together.
But Patrick decides he does not wish to uproot his children, not after what they went through with their mother having left them, and that he loves his work at the clinic and the closeness to family and friends too much to give it all up for a new start in the US.
Imagine Patrick's surprise when, soon after he has returned home, one evening he finds Hayley, the girl from the hospital in the US, on his doorstep, suitcase in hand! Why has she come? And what twists and turns need to happen until these two finally understand that they are perfect for each other (and the kids)?
So far, so good. Sounds sweet and romantic enough, doesn't it? And it is - on the surface. But there was an undercurrant right from the start that left me feeling uneasy. Forget the fact that nobody just says something; men always "drawl" and the women always answer "huskily". There are a lot of stubbled jaws and unruly dark hair on the mens' heads, while the women look of course gorgeous without it requiring any effort, even if they have just landed in the snow on their backsides.
I can deal with that, and although the few steamy scenes were a bit unlikely, I didn't mind them, either. But what I do mind is when violence, even in its mildest form, is shown as something to be desired in a man. Look at this:
He caught her chin in his undamaged hand, turning her face to his, his movements strong and confident, his tone raw and demanding. "Why didn't you tell me you were coming back?" - [...] Stella moved her head but he had her trapped.
And this is just one of many similar examples, of wrists grabbed and backs pressed against walls and so on. Am I the only woman who thinks it is wrong to treat anyone like this, let alone a woman one professes to be attracted to? Once I realized this was going to be a pattern in the characters' behaviour, I should have put the book away. But I did read on, and there were bits I enjoyed. For instance, I found the descriptions of work at the clinic, dealing with the patients and so on really interesting, and I am convinced the author did her research well for those scenes. But altogether, I can not adivse anyone to read "Angels in the Snow".