cover image The Sound of Sleigh Bells

The Sound of Sleigh Bells

Janet Dailey. Kensington, $16.95 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-1-4967-4773-0

The latest ghostwritten outing under the name of the late bestseller Dailey (1944–2013) is a cookie-cutter small-town contemporary. Recently divorced Ruth McCoy moves home to Branding Iron, Tex., and gives up on finding love, with good reason: “Her first love had gone to prison. Her second had been killed. Her third had turned out to be an abusive monster.” Instead, she’s focusing all her energy on giving her three children a holiday they’ll never forget. But it’s only so long before fate throws her back into the path of rancher Judd Rankin, her first love, who, unbeknownst to him, is also the father of Ruth’s eldest child, Skip. Judd still has feelings for Ruth, but he’s sure she wouldn’t want to date an ex-con who broke her heart. When Skip takes an interest in Judd’s saddle making business, however, Judd is happy to take the boy under his wing. This mentorship leads Judd and Ruth to spend more time together and their romantic tension mounts. But how will Judd respond when he learns the truth about Skip? Branding Iron in December is quaint and cozy, and the family-oriented plot will please Dailey’s diehard fans, but the characters are one-note and the beats play out predictably. Beyond name recognition, there’s not much to make this stand out. (Oct.)