Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Let it Snow! by Joan Dayton

from the January 9, 2017 issue

Tagline: Susan thought she'd never love again...until she met Dan!

Woman's World Tropes: Man to the rescue, independent woman, matchmaker family member, widow, moving on

Observations: There is a great deal of information packed into the first two paragraphs. I haven't talked about this in a while, but backstory dumps are a-okay in Woman's World stories. You don't have time to dribble it in a bit at a time, like you do in a novel. Quick and dirty, ladies! Everything is compressed in an 800 word story.

Here's what Dayton stuffed in there:

  • Susan needs a snowblower.
  • Susan is new in town and new to Minnesota weather.
  • She has a daughter and granddaughter.
  • Susan has become a do-it-yourselfer.
  • Susan had help with this transformation.
  • The helper is single.
After that, still in Act One, she's just as efficient.

  • Dan is proactive about helping Susan when she comes to the store.
  • Dan and Susan are still dancing around their mutual attraction. ("I wouldn't want to trouble you...")
  • Dan makes a subtle move to show he's attracted. ("I really admire how you dove in and tackled all those home projects.")
  • They start using first names.
Act Two, we see the plot moving forward when the daughter gives Susan the push she needs.

Act Three, the scene is all set. The reader is just sitting there waiting and hoping it will turn out all right. And it does. Dayton throws in some romance for good measure--Dan snow-blowing a heart in Susan's driveway. Totally adorable. 

In my opinion, the story would have ended nicely after he says "All the time in the world" but Dayton went even further and brought back the fact that Dan's face lit up when he smiled, which was mentioned earlier in the story.

This was a well-crafted and enjoyable story.

Photo credit: Janine via Flickr Creative Commons License

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Just Like Magic! by Terry O'Brien

From the January 2, 2017 issue

Tagline: Emma was unsure about her niece's matchmaking abilities...until she met Jeff!

Woman's World Tropes: matchmaker, shelter dog, male teacher

Observations: This was a pleasant story, but nothing really stood out to me.

Here's a very minor tip...

O'Brien named Abby's parents Zach and Liz. In my opinion, it wasn't necessary. You name characters because they're important and/or will be appearing enough that it would be awkward (or annoying as to the writer) to not name them. In this case, they're mentioned one more time and could have been referred to as Abby's parents.

This detail/teaching point that isn't anything earth-shattering, but readers are trained to remember characters that have been named and in a story this short, eliminating extraneous names might make the story feel cleaner and more streamlined.

Photo credit: Tim Pierce via Flickr Creative Commons License

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Christmas Wishes by Jules Bennett

from the December 26, 2016 issue

Tagline: She's about to erase the professional line he vowed never to cross...

Woman's World Tropes: Widower

Observations: All righty! Another Harlequin story. I was all prepared to be underwhelmed again, but this one was much more on target. It wasn't dripping with conflict or drama, just a little internal angst that was pleasantly not over the top.

It was all from Jack's point of view and I found myself wanting to read more and find out if Vivianna was aware of her boss's budding feelings for her. I'm thinking she must. Why else invite him inside after the party?

Thumbs up for this one. At the end, I felt hopeful that things would work out for them.

Photo credit: Shimelle Laine via Flickr Creative Commons License

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Christmas Match by Tina Radcliffe

From the December 19, 2016 issue

My apologies for being so behind on the blog. I have a novella due in mid January and I'm woefully behind. I'll catch up eventually.

Tagline: Anna never thought she would meet anyone special...then a handsome cabbie drove in to her life!

Woman's World Tropes: Man to the rescue, airport, weather problems

Observations: I liked this story a lot. Come winter time you can bet you're going to get a story set in an airport, and this is the second one we've seen in a little bit. I'm okay with it though. They were different enough that I didn't sigh and think, "Oh no, not another airport story."

One of the things I liked most about this story were the two black moments. The first was very subtle and had to do with the romance. She's just been dropped off at the airport...

"Happy holidays to you as well." She paused, thinking that she wanted to say more, but that was silly, wasn't it? She hardly knew the man.

You see the heroine actively turning away from "love," and the reader worries a little bit, but not too much because we know we'll get a happy ending.

Not too soon after, we get the plot black moment of her missing wallet. I thought it was very clever to insert such anxiety here for us. Woman's World frowns on a lot of drama, like arguing or over the top emotions, but when we read about the possibility of her missing her flight to visit her sister, the new mom, we worry for her. We don't want her to miss out.

The ending was a little tiny bit drawn out, in my opinion, but it didn't hamper my enjoyment of the story.

I want to know where I can get one of those blinking Santa pins!

Photo credit: Andrew Rivett via Flickr Creative Commons License

Friday, December 23, 2016

Shall We Dance? by Elizabeth Palmer

from the December 12, 2016 issue

Tagline: Allison and David wanted adventure for the holidays..and then they realized true love was more important!

Observations: OMG. I. Loved. This. Story. I have tears in my eyes and that hasn't happened in a long time. Let me try to put into words what made this story so outstanding to me.

First, we have an established couple. If you've ever tried to write a story that is not a first meet story, you know how difficult it is. What I have found to work is to find a tiny problem that a couple might have. In the second story I published with Woman's World, it was that a new mother was feeling fat and frumpy. In another, it was the mother of the bride feeling her
empty nest something awful, like Allison in this story. Then the husband steps in and saves the day, like he did in this story, by suggesting they dance.

Allie has a small character arc in which at first, she doesn't want to wear the Santa hat, nor does she want to dance, but she overcomes that reluctance. How does she do it? With that magical flashback memory that I saw just like it was a movie.

The "out-danced" line was funny.

There is sentimentality in droves. It's Christmas. It's their 25th anniversary. And let's not forget the newlywed couple. I was already misty after reading that Madonna flashback paragraph, but when it became clear the honeymoon couple were going to get their honeymoon after all...I was a goner. And then Palmer really nailed it when she had David and Allie go home. Did anyone else get the shivers when they read that final word, "home?" That word has power, especially because they spoke it together. It was the perfect ending.

Photo credit: David Fulmer

Friday, December 16, 2016

Puppy Love! by Tina Radcliffe

From the December 5, 2016 issue

Tagline: Mandy thought love would never find her...then she found puppy love!

Woman's World Tropes: Animals, Pet Shelter

Observations: Very cute story. I liked how time passed, making us feel as if the story was bigger than it was. They met accidentally at the pet rescue shelter. She approaches him at work to ask for a reference. She talks to him again to tell him the good news, and he takes it from there, offering to pick her up when she collects her new pet.

I thought the line about the cuteness factor was great!

Good job, Tina Radcliffe!

Photo credit: Sherry Venegas via Flickr Creative Commons License

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A New Beginning by Sherelle Green

Tagline: Madison was about to give up on love until an unexpected surprise changed everything...

Woman's World Tropes: Pregnancy reveal, marriage in trouble

Observations: I didn't love this story.

Here's the timeline as I understood it. Madison gets pregnant. She tells Logan. They decide to celebrate. (I'm assuming this was pretty early, definitely first trimester, because why wait weeks before you celebrate?) She makes a dress for the occasion. But before they can celebrate, she miscarries.

In my opinion, their devastation seems overblown. I mean, don't people know not to get too excited when they get a positive pregnancy test because most miscarriages happen within the first three months? Is that not common knowledge anymore? This is why, when I miscarried, I was disappointed not crushed. If Madison had been further along, if they'd known the baby's sex and so forth or if she'd had miscarriage after miscarriage and each time their marriage got a little bit weaker, I could see them getting hit hard, but such was not the case. Other people may feel differently based on their own fertility history, so take this with a grain of salt.

Putting the miscarriage aside, I also thought it was a bit odd that she designed a dress for "the night we were supposed to celebrate the expansion of our family." It might just be me, but my husband and I didn't choose a night to celebrate. Maybe you celebrate on the day you find out you're pregnant or the day you share the news with your husband, but to designate a certain night seemed strange.

There was a chunk in the middle where they recount the earliest days of their relationship and it felt a little "As you know, Bob...," stilted and unnatural.

Finally, back to the timeline. Four months ago they were intimate. So, she's probably known she was pregnant for a month or two. She doesn't tell him? She was willing to just go ahead and get the divorce without telling him she's pregnant? Sorry, that's not cool. I realize the pregnancy was supposed to be this nice surprise in the story, but I can't respect a heroine who would do that.