Christmas in Tahoe
Elisabeth Barrett / November 11, 2013 / $2.99 digital
Silicon Valley actuary Ann Smith is an expert at calculating probabilities, but lately the odds haven’t been in her favor. Two years ago her fiancé died a week before their planned Christmas wedding, leaving Ann heartbroken and alone. When a friend suggests heading up to Lake Tahoe for a long Christmas weekend of skiing, wine, and relaxation, Ann thinks it might be just the thing to help get her life back on track. But Ann’s plans go awry when her friend cancels at the last minute, and Ann ends up driving to Tahoe with Chase Deckert, a sexy snowboarder who pushes all her buttons.
Chase Deckert is a man who lives by his own rules. A few years ago his business partner betrayed him by selling out their biomedical research for a quick profit. Chase left science far behind, and now spends his days snowboarding in Tahoe, wanting nothing to do with the dog-eat-dog world of Silicon Valley. Chase has closed his mind and his heart and only believes in one thing: fate. But fate seems to be in a giving mood, because joining him for Christmas is a brave, beautiful woman who shows him the true meaning of the season and helps him rediscover a part of himself he’d long forgotten.
Fueled by the mountain scenery, the season, and their unbelievable chemistry, Ann and Chase end up learning more about each other—and themselves—than they ever imagined possible. Can one long, steamy Christmas help them realize they’re meant to be together? Or when the holiday is over will they be right back where they started?
Elisabeth Barrett's Christmas in Tahoe takes a number of the romance genre’s expectations and tweaks them just a bit. Our heroine Ann Smith is still struggling with being an “almost widow” two years after her fiancé’s sudden death. She’s been barely holding on, burying herself in the welcome oblivion of a busy career.
One of the first things that caught my eye about this book was the heroine’s occupation. She’s an actuary. Now that’s an occupation that stands out in a sea of cupcake decorators and B&B owners. Even better, Ann Smith loves her job, loves making sense of the world around her. It’s not every heroine who can own a profession that is stereotyped as so dull and uninteresting and bring love and passion to it. Her work for an insurance company is a way to help people. Her passion for compiling facts numbers extends to carrying a GPS on her road trip, so she’ll always know where she’s going and where she’s been.
Ann’s friend arranges to take her to Tahoe for the holiday to distract her from her grief. Chase Deckert, the hero, is a snowboard instructor who shows up to pick up Ann when her friend is tied up at work. He takes her on a snowy road trip to his place in Tahoe, a vacation town he’s been hiding in for the past year, a place where, he says, “one of the dirty little secrets about this place is that a lot of the people here have been burned in some way.”
Chase is no different. He seems at first glance like he has nothing in common with the staid and kind of uptight Anna. He teaches at the nearest ski resort now and then. But he’s recovering from his own loss that has him hiding out in Tahoe. His best friend and business partner sold their company out from under him, including the research that had consumed his life, and then ran off with his girlfriend. He was burned to a crisp and still wants to avoid getting sucked back into the Silicon Valley rat race.
Both Chase and Ann struggle to move forward from the loss of their old lives. Ann’s fiancé and Chase’s work both ate up a disproportionate amount of their lives, crowding out other parts of them. They have been adrift in their own way as they try and recover that part of their lives they’d set aside. By the end of the handful of days together, they both recognize that they need more balance in their lives and start working on finding that with each other.
One of the things I really enjoyed about the book was Ann’s relationship with her fiancé. John was a good guy, a great guy even, and Ann genuinely loved him and still misses him. I got the feeling that if the world had been different, they would have made each other happy. So often the evil ex seems like a short cut to making it clear that the hero is The One. Barrett really takes the time to explore Ann mourning John in a realistic and unromanticized way, both the old relationships strengths and shortcomings.
And Chase is the kind of hero who can stand up to that kind of comparison. He’s a lumberjack lookalike, complete with plaid shirt and a black lab, who is also a science geek. The best of both worlds! Plus, he cooks a mean Bolognese.
Underneath his sporty disenfranchised exterior he’s a frustrated research scientist. And underneath Ann’s buttoned up suit, is a woman who is unafraid of taking the right risks. They really bring out the best of each other.
Ann and Chase only have a long holiday weekend together and the book is on the shorter side. After their near instant attraction I worried that the HEA would feel rushed, at the end but Barrett was wiser than that. It ends firmly with the idea that Ann and Chase will be happily together forever. But the ending itself is just the first step on that journey so it felt real and true. They’ve proven how good they are together through the book and I had no problem believing that their relationship was up for the big changes they would face together.
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Julia Broadbooks writes contemporary romance. She lives in the wilds of suburban Florida with her ever patient husband and bakes ridiculous amounts of sugary treats for her teens' friends. Find her on Twitter @juliabroadbooks.