Saturday, January 2, 2021

Snow Day

 by Shelley Cooper from the January 4, 2021 issue

Tagline: In the midst of a snowball fight with her nephews, Maeve joins forces with their handsome neighbor, Simon...and gets hit with a surprising new chance at love.

Observations: Shelley Cooper has done it again. I loved this story! This is my favorite part:

Since she wasn't one to get a dare go unchallenged, she gathered a handful of snow and mounded it into a tight ball.

"What's she doing?" Patrick's voice held a panicked note.

"She's not going to throw that at Mr. Graves?" Peter sounded equally panicked.

"Yes, she is!" Parker's eyes shone with admiration as Maeve stood and aimed.

I also loved the rules that kept cropping up.

Photo by John Lodder via Flickr Creative Commons License

Skating Through Christmas

by Shelley Cooper from the December 21, 2020 issue

Tagline: Facing Christmas alone, Holly is struggling to get into the holiday spirit, when a surprising gift leads her to the skating pond...and a shot at love.

Observations: When I got to the part where her parents gave her her old skates, I knew this story was going to be fantastic and I wasn't disappointed. Maybe it's because when I was about seven years old, I took ice skating lessons with dreams of being a Chinese Peggy Fleming. (I think I lasted about a month. LOL)

The phrase "heart-clenchingly handsome," didn't float my boat, but I was highly amused by their holiday themed names - Nicholas Winter and Holly Snow. Too cute.

At the end of the story, Cooper calls back two things that she introduces at the beginning, a great trick to tie things together, sort of like when you gather a stack of papers and then jostle them together so they're all squared up.

Here's a quote for the first call back.

"...The theme for this holiday is relaxation."

Then, at the end of the story...

The smile on his face reminded her of what the season was really about: togetherness.

For call back number two, the cancelled blind date doesn't seem significant at the beginning of the story until you (and the characters!) realize they were each other's blind date.

This story wins the Kate Willoughby Handshake for surprising me. I hadn't foreseen that they were each other's blind date.

Photo by Jeremy Keith via Flickr Creative Commons License

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

A Perfectly Good Man

 by Marcie McEachern from the December 14, 2020 issue

Tagline: Kristen is unsure if moving to a new town was the right choice, until a dashing stranger gives her the sign she's been hoping for.

Observations: It's been a while since I saw a story with the trope of "Grandma's Advice," so I was glad to see it in this story. This is a tried and true Woman's World plot in which the heroine remembers a piece of advice, usually a saying, that a relative always said. It's usually about love, but it doesn't have to be. It's also usually a heroine, but you could swap the genders for a twist. Usually the advice ends up coming true, but McEachern put her own twist on it and wrote a story that did not conform to the norm. 

I liked the humor at the end of the story. 

Photo by Marco Verch via Flickr Creative Commons License

The Thanksgiving Saving Grace


by Maria Gorman from the November 30, 2020 issue

Tagline: When Grace gets a flat tire on the way to her sister's Thanksgiving dinner, a handsome stranger comes to her rescue...and winds up her guest of honor.

Observations: Okay, I have a confession to make. I am addicted to Criminal Minds. I never watched this show when it was on the networks, but I discovered it on Netflix and I can't stop watching episodes. Unfortunately, this means I am thinking about serial killers more frequently than most people, which is why I couldn't help thinking that Grace needed to be much more careful, especially on a back country road where there are no witnesses. LOL

Other than that, and my thought that she should have called her sister ahead of time to see if it was okay, I thought it was a solid man-to-the-rescue story. 

Photo by Rodney Campbell via Flickr Creative Commons License

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The Apple of His Ice Cream

 by Marcie McEachern from the November 23, 2020 issue

Tagline: When an ice cream vendor starts stealing business from her pie stand, Amanda never expects he'll be stealing her heart too!

Observations: Marcie McEachern is quickly becoming a regular contributor. Obviously, she's figured out what the editors like.

In this story you'll find two Woman's World tried and true elements.

  • A nostalgic Norman Rockewellian event like apple picking
  • Comfort food x two!
I truly enjoyed seeing the heroine wrestle with her conscience and choose to take the high road. Sometimes reading a Woman's World story is like the opposite of watching a reality show in that we can actively see people making good choices that demonstrate character.

Photo by Jennifer Boyer via Flickr Creative Commons License

Heart to Hearth

by Jill Weatherholt from the December 7, 2020 issue

Tagline: When Jacquelyn calls in an expert to clean out her chimney, she never expects to start a fire in her own heart!

Observations: I really liked this story and it's funny because I need a chimney sweep's services too! We haven't had a fire in our fireplace for many years, and like Jacquelyn, I'm afraid to try until I have a professional make sure everything's okay.

I was a little surprised at how melancholy the story got. If it had been me, I'd have been worried I'd pushed the sympathy a little too far, but the editors didn't seem to mind.

I loved how he came dressed up. I also loved his chimney sweep joke. (It makes me want to watch Mary Poppins. LOL) 

Photo by Karl Baron via Flickr Creative Commons License

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Love a la Mode

by Carol Kalme from the October 5, 2020 issue

Tagline: When Judy goes apple picking, she gets more than she bargained for when she runs into an old flame.

Observations: You can't choose a more fall-inspired activity than apple picking, which is a personal bucket list item. I really enjoyed the part where they were recalling how they'd known each other in college. (For the record, I would give apple pie and peanut butter ice cream a try. It sounds good!) 

I wasn't crazy about him touching her chin and turning her face toward him. That seemed too intimate, considering they hadn't seen each other for many years and even then, they were customer and pie girl. 

I loved the surprise that they'd been set up. I've mentioned before that I'm difficult to surprise and this author accomplished it! (If you're a Great British Baking Show fan, you'll understand when I say I feel a little like surprising me is this blog's equivalent of the Paul Hollywood handshake. LOL) 

However, I did feel a moment of confusion when I wondered how the daughter could have known they were acquainted in college. It seems unlikely that either Richard or Judy would have mentioned each other to her. Then I thought okay, it was just a coincidence. The daughter had no foreknowledge that her boss and her mother had known each other. She was just playing matchmaker, which is fine, but I did have that moment where I questioned things and that might be on me and my analytic mind. What was your experience with this story? Tell me in the comments!

Photo by Shardayyy Photography via Flickr CC license.

Friday, September 25, 2020

A Bite of Love

 by Alyssa Symon from the September 21, 2020 issue

Tagline: When Theo's high school crush returns to town and opens a bakery, it's only a matter of time before he gets a sweet shot of romance.

Observations: This was a solidly written story. My favorite part was...

She smiled--there wasn't a heart in town she couldn't melt with that smile.

What a perfect line.

Also, right after that there's a high pitched voice that says, "Cookie!" and I thought it was the hero! I thought he was so nervous that his voice cracked. I immediately reread that part and realized my mistake.

I also thought it was funny that she thought he was on a stakeout, after last week's story, which really was a stakeout.

Photo by Vegan Feast Catering via Flickr CC license

Monday, September 21, 2020

Undercover Love Story

 by Shelley Cooper from the September 14, 2020 issue

Tagline: When Gideon, an undercover police officer, falls for Becca during a sting, he wonders how she'll react when she finds out he's not who he seems.

Observations: Again, what a unique premise for a Woman's World story! I love crime shows and I love Woman's World romances and this was a fun mash-up of the two. I would never have thought to try putting those two things together. 

I adored the teasing banter between Gideon and his co-workers. I loved the touching moment when Becca tells him she's there for him. I would have thought there were too many names/characters to keep track of in such a short story, but it wasn't.

Photo by Brad Greenlee via Flickr CC license

Friday, September 18, 2020

Staying Past Summer

 by Wendel Potter from the September 7, 2020 issue

: When she moves to her aunt's hometown, Shallon Seacrest never expects to find her old friend Travis...or a chance at new love.

Observations: What stood out to me in this story was the setting. You can't get more Norman Rockwellian than Bison Falls, the town in this story. I have never lived in a place where there would be a Labor Day potluck, so for city folk like me, this kind of story has the appeal of living the small town life vicariously. When a story is set in a small town, I automatically feel like life is passing at a more leisurely pace.

Potter managed to surprise me, even though I saw this hint earlier in the story...

He regarded Shallon, his eyes flashing with recognition as a shiver ran down her spine.

I read that and wondered about the recognition and then moved on to read the rest of the story. Then at the end, I was surprised to see they had known each other as kids. I love being surprised when I read. I applaud the author for accomplishing this in such a short story. :) 

Photo by A Little Bit of Stone via Flickr CC license