Monday, November 28, 2016

Dinner and Romance by Shannon Fay

From the November 21, 2016 issue

Tagline: Carol decided to spend Thanksgiving alone...until gorgeous Nathan appeared!

Woman's World Tropes: Holiday, shy man, nostalgia (Wizard of Oz)

Observations: Here's another great example of a Woman's World strong heroine. She's alone for Thanksgiving and feels a little lonely but puts a positive spin on her situation. Note that Fay doesn't belabor the point. She could have chosen to emphasize Carol being by herself for the holiday and tweak our heartstrings, but she didn't. She shows Carol being okay with her life. There's only the tiniest hint that she's not completely content...

In many ways, I missed having someone to share my quiet holiday. My ex had moved on with his life, but since the divorce, no one special had crossed my path.

See? There's no drama or "woe is me" thoughts. This is important. While character growth is a good thing, don't stray too far into a heroine who is a whiner or pessimistic or is too happy wallowing in her problems. This is not the type of woman Woman's World likes to feature. Carol's problem is very subtly handled. You can feel her indecision at the end, but she chooses to step out of her comfort zone anyway.

Photo credit: Carmen via Flickr Creative Commons License

Friday, November 18, 2016

Leftovers for Thanksgiving by Mary Jo Young

from the November 14, 2016 issue

Tagline: Linda didn't have time for romance until she saw her neighbor in a new light!

Woman's World Tropes: Man to the rescue, friends to lovers

Observations: Mary Jo is having quite a run. I thought this was an adorable story. I loved seeing so much interaction between the hero and heroine, especially because they were working toward a goal together. I didn't get a super warm fuzzy feeling at the end, but I smiled the entire time I read it.

Photo Credit: Martha_chapa95 via Flickr Creative Commons License

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Night at the Museum by Susan Hollaway

from the November 7, 2016 issue

Tagline: Katy didn't think her job at the museum could be better...until she met Logan!

Woman's World Tropes: "Freaky Friday" type switcheroo, matchmaker (sort of)

Observations: I'm going to do a stream-of-consciousness analysis today, which means I'll read it and comment as I go. I've fallen behind with the blog and need to catch up.

A museum is a fun setting and I've always thought those museum sleepovers sounded like fun.

Ah, we have a substitute security guard, who is--surprise!--younger than the normal one.

Hmm. The extended hand-grasp? It felt a teensy bit creepy to me since they just met. I'd have preferred for her to feel a tingle of awareness.

He asks to do a walk-through with her, which struck me as weird. It would seem to me that whomever he's relieving from duty would do that.

Oh, here's a surprise. We end the scene and jump forward in time a few days. I expected to see the whole night with the kids play out.

Awkward use of a word... Just then, the man who'd interrupted her thoughts since Kids' Night approached. Interruption is a brief occurrence, not something that can happen continually over the course of a few days.

Wait, Logan is the new owner of Sterling Security? I'm stopping here for a bit to try to understand the timeline here. Logan is apparently an entrepreneur and has been observing his uncle providing security for the museum for two years and then decides he likes the company enough to buy it? This is strange and confusing enough to pull me out of the story. But I put it behind me and keep reading.

Oh, the matchmaker dad is adorable.

Okay, I liked it with reservations about the fact that Logan was the new owner of the company. If you're a regular follower of this blog, you know I can be a very pragmatic reader and when the facts pull me out of a story, I get cranky. To me, it's important to ground a story in reality so that readers are able to participate in the romantic fantasy without interruption. I would have been happier if Logan had always been the owner. Then, hiring his uncle would have made sense to me. It's the fact that the's the new owner that's tripping me up. It's weird how big a difference one word can make.

Photo credit: M01229 via Flickr Creative Commons License

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Lake House Ghost by Jody Lebel

from the October 31, 2016 issue

Tagline: It was more than Mitch's ghostly tale that made Abby shiver...

Woman's World Tropes: Small town, new in town.

Observations: Now this is more like it. I thought this story was adorable, as was Mitch. The banter between him and Abby was so cute. The only thing that gave me pause was the cat thing. It seemed to not tie in to anything. I half expected Mitch to live next door to her and have a litter of kittens he was trying to find homes for. I read the story again to see if I'd missed something, like a cat sticker on Abby's car or a cat keychain or something. Nope. But it didn't really matter much. The story was great.

My favorite line:

"Random purring can be quite unsettling."


Photo credit: Kate O'Neill via Flickr Creative Commons License

Dinner Reservations by Cat Schield

from the October 24, 2016 issue

Tagline: Melody's game plan for romance was about to be thrown a curve ball

Observations: So, this is the second of the Harlequin stories and, in the words of Johnene Granger, it didn't work for me.

I found it a little hard to swallow that Melody accidentally put on a black dress and is only just realizing that she set up a romantic dinner with "flicking" candles and Kyle's favorite meal. I would rather have seen her dither in front of the closet wanting to wear something sexy for Kyle but having to remind herself that this was just a ruse. I would rather have seen her feel bad about the game playing. Then maybe I might have respected her more and been happy for her happy ending.

There was a legit black moment and Melody is faced with a hard choice at the end, but again, I couldn't like the way she handled it. I'm assuming Melody and Hunter's relationship was exclusive just by virtue of the fact that they'd been seeing each other for over a year. If Melody had a problem with him taking her for granted, she should say something to him, not concoct a fake relationship to make him jealous. I also thought it was callous how she held her hands out to Kyle and basically dismissed Hunter without so much as a by your leave. Granted, Hunter demanded that she choose, but I still would have preferred that she at least apologize.

Some might argue that this is just a story and I shouldn't be so preachy or judgmental, but in long novels or short stories when I have my reader hat on, I need to respect the main characters and I just couldn't warm up to Melody. Your mileage may vary.

Photo Credit: Stephanie Vacher via Flickr Creative Commons License

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Romance Is In Your Future by Mary Jo Young

from the October 17, 2016 issue

Tagline: Rosalyn was interested in getting to know Hugh better..and little did she know that he felt the same!

Woman's World Tropes: Couldn't find any.

Observations: I liked this story a lot better than last week's story by Young. I remember a story about a Halloween carnival fortune teller, but it was so many years ago, this story felt fresh.

Anyone who has ever worked or volunteered at a school knows the cafeteria lady is always referred do as the cafeteria lady, so that rang true for me and gave me a chuckle.

I liked Rosalyn's spunky attitude here:

But she was just the "cafeteria lady" with the ponytail and shapeless uniform. Hardly competition for the cute English teacher or the girls' PE coach who ran around in shorts all day.

And then later there was this little bit when she was "telling his fortune..."

"I am beginning to get a picture of someone."

"Not the English teacher who likes to correct my grammar," Hugh warned, "or the girls' PE coach with that infernal whistle around her neck."

I thought that was cute and clever how Hugh unknowingly countered her self-doubt.

Photo credit: Milestoned via Flickr Creative Commons License

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Loving George by Mary Jo Young

from the October 10, 2016 issue

Tagline: Ruth thought love would never find her...until she met George!

Woman's World Tropes: a wedding, a last-minute substitution, a widower

Observations: This story reminded me of a trope I haven't seen for a while, but which is a tried and true one--the last minute substitution. Here, we have Bax, the delivery boy, going to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. So his father steps in to do his job for him. We've often seen this the other way around, where the father has the job and the younger son steps in. Either way, it works.

I didn't love this story, mostly because of some tiny details that took me out of the story experience. (However, remember I'm always in analyzing mode when reading a Woman's World story, so I don't read just for pleasure. I'm actively looking for things I can talk about.) I didn't understand what this meant...

The two owned Dream Weddings and for the last two years had been doing reception venues.

What does that last part mean, "doing reception venues?" When you're wedding planners, don't you automatically take care of decorating the venue? Admittedly, my wedding was in 1991, but if I were to hire a wedding planner, I'd expect them to make sure the venue looked good. Maybe some planners aren't hands-on. Okay, I could buy that, but I wish I'd had a tiny bit more of an explanation here so I wasn't pulled out of the story, confused.

I also wondered about their very tight timeline. If it had been a morning wedding, fine. I could totally believe they had plenty of time to get the tables and flowers set up if they arrived at seven. But if it was an evening wedding so I don't know. You can't have the ceremony too late, or there isn't enough time for partying. Getting the flowers to the venue by seven doesn't leave much set-up time, regardless of the appendectomy delay.

As you can see, I did a lot of wondering, outside of the story.

Still, I thought the George Clooney stuff was very cute. And I loved the visual of the sparkling water in the vases.

Photo credit: andervinny via Flickr Creative Commons License

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Love Will Find A Way by Mary Davis

from the October 3, 2016 issue

Tagline: Becky didn't want to take a chance on love...until she met Tony!

Woman's World Tropes: a concerned friend, characters with a mom & pop type business

Observations: I thought this was a solid story, nothing particularly amazing.

I really liked how Becky ended up wanting to take a chance on love, but I wondered why I didn't feel happy for her until I went back to see how the author had established her hesitancy and fear. After re-reading, I saw no indication that she wasn't ready for love. Actually, she was just really (understandably) busy. So, I think that this story would have been better if we saw some hint that Becky was only saying she was busy to cover up the fact that she was afraid, for whatever reason--a bad break-up, being jilted at the altar, what have you. Then, we can properly applaud her taking that first step at the end of the story.

Photo credit: Sarah Horrigan via Flickr Creative Commons License