Monday, August 31, 2015

Love at the Farmers' Market

by Diane Crawford from the August 17, 2015 issue

Tagline: Everybody at the farmers' market seemed to love Lily's zucchini brownies--and she was please when one good-looking customer came back for more!

Observations: I always look forward to Diane Crawford's stories. (Hi, Diane! Long time, no email! :) ) This one was a solid offering. When I read the tagline, I immediately thought of another story set at a farmer's market. The heroine in that one wore a crazily-colored wig as a sales gimick...

Anyway, what I liked about this one was that she lead you to believe that the guy her grandmother wanted her to meet and the zucchini brownie lover were one and the same person. If you're a long-time reader of Woman's World stories, I'm sure you weren't fooled at all. But that doesn't really matter, Woman's World readers are willing to suspend their disbelief and pretend for the sake of the reading experience. That's really what we all do when we read romance, right? It will always end happily, but we enter a state of temporary disillusion so we can have fun worrying that it won't.

When the reveal finally happened...I loved that part, where she pretended to be psychic and spouted all the wrong information. I thought that was hilarious. And the hero's response was perfect.

"Reception must be bad today. My name is Tanner, my grandmother is Ruth and I'm an EMT." He took the brownies. "How about we discuss your psychic abilities over coffee when you're finished here? There's a coffee shop around the corner."

I also really liked how I felt at the end of the story. Sometimes when I finish reading a Woman's World story, I feel quietly content that things will work out. With this story, there was more excitement and optimism in the heroine. She was really psyched (yes, I still use that term) to go out with Tanner and it came through.

Lastly, I couldn't help but notice there was a recipe for zucchini brownies in this issue. Coincidence? I don't think so. :)

Photo credit: BarbaraLN via Creative Commons license

Friday, August 28, 2015

My Charming Opponent

by Tamara Shaffer from the August 3, 2015 issue

Tagline: Jennifer really didn't expect to enjoy the fencing class she'd signed up for. But that was before she met Jack Anders...

Observations: This week we have a "moving on" story in which the recently divorced heroine is trying something new. I think we all admire a woman who puts a painful past behind her and looks ahead to her future. What we don't expect, as readers, is for her to try fencing!

I thought there was enough detail and realism to make me suspect that Shaffer has taken fencing lessons or knows someone who has. (My sister took fencing in college. I am sure she still has her epee. She was a theatre major. 'Nuff said.) It was clever to have them matched up because they were both lefties and handy way to have them connect over this commonality.

As you can see, there was a misunderstanding on Jennifer's part when she sees him get in the car with the woman and toddler. This little tool is one we see often in Woman's World stories. Don't be afraid to use it. The trick is making sure the reveal (that it's actually the sister/cousin/neighbor/co-worker) flows. For instance, Shaffer could have written something like this:

"You're a formidable opponent, as well as a pretty one. It's a good thing my sister was able to drive me to class last week, since my car had broken down, otherwise I wouldn't have met you."

A bit clunky, right? A little, "As you know, Bob..."

So, make sure that when you drop that info about who that decoy really is, you do it naturally. The conversation has to sound normal, not stilted. A good way to make sure it's not stilted is to read it aloud. Or have someone else read it aloud to you.

Photo credit: Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 2.5


Monday, August 24, 2015

When Tracy Met Rick

by Rosemary Hayes from the August 10, 2015 issue

Tagline: Tracy's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day turned into something quite the opposite when she met Rick...

Observations: I laughed when I read the beginning of this story because the same thing almost happened to me. This was back in the day when you actually had to insert your key into the door to unlock it. I put my key in and it didn't unlock. I was confused until I saw that a person was sitting in the driver's seat! I was so embarrassed, even though it was an honest mistake. Same make, model and color, as in the story.

I thought that Rick's opening line was funny. I always appreciate a hero with a sense of humor.

There was a little gray moment when Tracy declines his invitation to go for coffee, which is usually something I like. Even though they're only 800 words, these stories benefit from a wee bit of tension, however, I kind of thought saying she didn't go out with strangers, just so she could introduce herself, seemed a little lame.

A wedding at the end is always a surprise and an admirable feat. It's not easy to go from strangers to spouses in 800 words. :)

Photo credit: Kevin Krejci via Flickr, Creative Commons license


Monday, August 17, 2015

On Blueberry Hill

by Kady Winter from the July 27, 2015 issue

Tagline: As teens, Kelly and Ryan had been too young for happily ever after. Now, all grown up, would they get another chance at love?

Observations: I wanted to point out the tension building in this story. I thought Winter did an excellent job of ramping up the drama. And yet, it's interesting in Woman's World stories, how sometimes the climax of the story occurs in the middle and not near the end, as in this story.

The story begins with quite a bit of backstory. I've said this before and I'll say it again, where in a romance novel you're cautioned about dumping too much backstory in the front of the story, here in Woman's World Land, it's okay.

By the time we arrive at the blueberry farm, we are invested in Kelly as a character and we are as anxious as she is to see if her old flame, Ryan, is there.

We get excited and then disappointed when we see his son. There's a short break in the action as we wait for the son to fetch his dad and during that break, we're getting more and more anxious. Then, the big moment arrives:

"Kelly?"

She turned.

Right there. You see the two very short sentences? See how her turning is its own sentence? That is a very subtle touch there that draws that moment out until we're holding our breath, waiting to see if it's Ryan.

That's the climax of the story and it's near the middle. After that, the tension wanes. We get confirmation that Ryan is also single and that he never forgot her either. We also slide into a sweet, sentimental moment with them as they reminisce.

I don't know about you, but I got chills when I read the end.

Photo credit: Caleb Slemmons, via Creative Commons License

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Birthday Surprise

by Shannon Fay from the July 20, 2015 issue

Tagline: Derek went with his daughter to her friend's party, never imagining he would enjoy it as much as she did!

Observations: I really enjoyed this story. I liked how Fay had me not liking the hero at first, then changing my mind and making me root for him.

At first, I didn't like Derek at first because he was ditching his daughter to work. Now, I'll admit to my share of drop-off's at birthday parties when my kids were younger, however, this guy only sees his daughter on the weekends! I was angry with him for resisting her invitation. However, as noted in Vogler's The Writer's Journey--an EXCELLENT book for fiction writers--the hero must "resist the call" at first.

When Derek decides he needs to step up and join his daughter, he shows a bit of character. So, I thought maybe I was too quick to judge.

When he goes to the refreshment table and says, "Is this an open bar?" I laughed. He has a sense of humor. So, there's another point.

By the time the story ended, I was glad he was going to see Aggie again. I liked seeing he spent some time with his daughter at the party.

I thought that the "surprise" theme (in the title and then mentioned twice in the story) was subtle and well done.

Photo credit: Paul Sapiano via Creative Commons License


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Sunshine Ahead

by April Knight from the July 13, 2015 issue

Tagline: Raine O'Day didn't mind that her name made people smile--especially people as cute as Patrick!

Observations: It never ceases to amaze me how much Woman's World loves their tropes. The car trouble trope is familiar, but the thing that makes it a little bit different is the fact that the cowbell is making the noise. I thought that was a cute little twist.

On the characterization front, I liked the little ways Knight made the Patrick and Raine likable. Raine was a good sport about her name. I have noticed that sometimes, people with names that are easily made fun of sometimes have a chip on their shoulder about it. I liked that Raine wasn't overly sensitive about her unusual name.

I liked how Patrick's sense of humor was a little off-kilter. I thought it made him adorable. I also liked that he turned the name thing around and nicknamed her Sunshine instead.

Then, when Raine found out it was the cowbell in her trunk that was making the noise, again, she was a good sport.

Sometimes I hear that in romance novels, you don't want your heroine to be a Mary Sue--meaning a woman who is just too perfect and who has no flaws. I actually think that for Woman's World stories, you sort of want to err a little on the side of a Mary Sue. The characters in these stories don't have that much of a character arc to make, if any, and so it's okay to paint them with a Father Knows Best type of brush.

Photo credit: "Cowbell-1" by Michael Malak - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cowbell-1.jpg#/media/File:Cowbell-1.jpg

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Fourth of July Fireworks

by Lisa Weaver from the July 6, 2015 issue

Tagline: When Amy's van broke down on the way to the parade, help arrived in the handsome form of Fireman Dave...

Observations: I'm so short on time. I have a deadline looming and I'm a little scared I won't make it. So I'm going to do a stream of consciousness critique.

The first thing I notice is that this is first person, present tense. Not my favorite, but only because I have to get my brain into that groove.

The first few paragraphs are chock-full of information and action. Every single word is necessary and this is something you're forced to learn how to do in a Woman's World story. Eight hundred words isn't much.

The car breaks down. This is a common enough trope in Woman's World stories.

Ah, one of her charges, Lila, knows Fireman Dave. I wonder why.

Oh, he takes his shirt off? Woot! That usually doesn't happen. I love Amy's reaction of trying not to stare, but failing.

Okay, Lila's kitten must have been up a tree and Dave rescued her.

Fast forward to the parade...the moment you see Amy jump to the conclusion that Dave is married, you know that she's wrong. However, it's always fun to see the explanations and in this story it was a little out of the box. I've never seen a dog be mistaken for the wife. Weaver also explains why he's driving a total soccer mom car.

The ending fell a little bit flat for me.