When I requested Santa’s Sweetheart on Netgalley I did not realize it was actually the fourth book in The Christmas Tree Ranch series. That being said as I was reading this one, I did not feel overly lost. The author did a great job of introducing these characters to me and explaining all of their connections. The focus for this one were the characters of Sam Delaney and Grace Chapman.
Sam Delany is the sheriff of the small Texas town of Branding Iron. He is also a recent widow and a single parent raising his six year old daughter, Maggie. Maggie is a very perceptive and precocious young girl and she does not want her daddy to be sad anymore. So she picks out her school teacher, Grace Chapman, as the perfect candidate for the job; and coordinates several different situations where they will be forced to spend time together in. Yes, Maggie is a little matchmaker maker and will do anything to have her family achieve their happily ever after.
Grace is new to Branding Iron and is just looking to blend in and not cause a scene. She is very closed off as a person because of her personal history and she is afraid to let anyone in for fear of being hurt. She has also set up some very strong boundary lines that she refuses to have crossed. Yet the more time she spends with Maggie and her father the harder this is. This is the first holiday season that Sam has allowed himself to celebrate since his wife died. Her still has alot of emotions which he has been overcome in order to come to terms with his loss. It surprises him how easy it is to spend time with Grace and how attractive he finds her. There is a very strong push-pull dynamic throughout this story as Sam and Grace attempt to understand their feelings and Maggie plays little matchmaker.
Branding Iron is a small town that in many ways is stuck with their traditional roles. Every year there is a Christmas festival and when suggestions are brought up for changes the hairs are raised on people’s necks. Grace and Sam find themselves in the middle of all of this as they are both part of the planning committee; and spend many nights together trying to keep the peace. I enjoyed imaging all the decorations and everything that was described for the Christmas festival and Christmas ball. I’m admittedly a sucker for those kind of things!
All of the characters in Santa’s Sweetheart had distinguishing characteristics that made it easy to tell them apart. Maggie’s attempt at sneakiness made me laugh, and the slow melting of the walls between Sam and Grace had me melting along with them. Overall, this was an easy and enjoyable read for the time but, it likely won’t be one that stays with me very long. It was good for the 2021 holiday season though.
Rating: 3 Stars
**I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**