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

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Bread and Jam by Melanie Dusseau

From the September 19, 2016 issue

Tagline: When April met Chad, it was a sweet surprise!

Woman's World tropes: a farmer's market/yard sale, coffee date

Observations: I swear this story felt like it was more than 800 words. I thought it was well done.

I have to admit I rarely go to farmer's markets, but I think they're terrific, not only to discover new food items and fresh produce, but as settings for Woman's World stories. There's that nostaligia/Americana vibe they have that appeals to both the readers and the editors.

I don't know why, but I felt the caramel macchiato references were a little forced. It may be because I'm a barista and caramel macchiatos are layered drinks, so there is a layer of sweetened milk on the bottom, then the espresso, then foam or ice, then caramel sauce. So, there is no one color.

However, I loved the idea of her selling jam and him selling bread and the random customer making the comment about bread and jam being the perfect pair. I loved the idea they had of giving out samples of both their wares. I really loved the old man tipping his hat to them in the parking lot. I really loved that little addition.

On a side note, last week, I was talking about a mid-point black moment. This week's story had no black moment at all, which is fine. I just thought I"d point that out.

Photo Credit: Scott Miles Love via Flickr Creative Commons License

Perfectly Imperfect by Kate Hewitt

From the September 26, 2016 issue

Tagline: The bride-to-be had cold feet...until a little reminder warmed her heart!

Woman's World Tropes: Troubled couple

Observations: I admit when I saw this was the first of the Harlequin stories, my expectations rose. I didn't know what to expect. Would the story conform to the types of stories we've become used to? Would they have the same sweet tone? I have to say yes and no.

We met a bride who was having second thoughts. Couples in trouble aren't unheard of in Woman's World, so that was fine. But the story just didn't grab me. When I got to the end, I didn't get a warm fuzzy feeling. I was glad for the heroine, but it felt a little like politeness--as if a co-worker had told me "My sister's getting married" and I said, "Oh, I'm glad."  It took me a while to figure out why.

Firstly, introspection dominated this story. We are in the bride's head so much of the time. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, and because of the type of story this is, I don't know that that could have been avoided.

Secondly, we never did learn her name. Again, this is not a big deal. Maybe Hewitt did this on purpose, so that every reader could put herself in the heroine's shoes and really experience the story on a more intimate level. If so, I'm not sure this is the type of story to do that with. In my opinion, better to do it with a story that is much more upbeat.

I think the main reason I wasn't crazy about this story is because I didn't have a chance to like the bride first. She starts out discontented. Yes, she was stressed out from her wedding preparations. That's understandable. Yes, I talk about minor character arcs--even in these short 800 words stories--and how it's good if a character grows and changes within the story. And there were paragraphs where she thought about positive things. But for some reason none of that quite won me over to her side. I found myself caring more about Sam than I did about her.

Your mileage may vary. I'd love to hear about it if your experience was different.

Photo credit: Cara Fealy Chote via Flickr Creative Commons License

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Throwback Thursday by Nell Musolf

From the September 12, 2016 issue

Tagline: Lane thought she might be too old to hear the bells ring again, then Will walked into her life!

Woman's World Tropes: Matchmaker, Old Flame (sort of), a repeated saying

Observations: Darling story. Here's a list of the things I liked about it.

I loved how Musolf brought a little of the current day into this story with "Throwback Thursday."

I liked how Lane admitted to herself that she wouldn't have contacted Will on her own.

The bells ringing motif was cleverly brought back when she heard the bell on the door of the coffee shop.

There was a black moment here, right in the middle of the story. I am wondering if this is a more natural place for it to occur in these short stories. In novels, usually black moments occur near the end of the story. Let's keep an eye out for that in the future. Not that it will be a hard and fast rule, but if it does happen near the middle, there's probably a reason and I'd like to explore what that is.

Photo Credit: Yogendra Joshi via Flickr Creative Commons License

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Purr-fect Romance by Mary Davis

From the September 5, 2016 issue

Tagline: Lucy was tired of losing roommates then Milo came into her life!

Observations: Cute story. Like last week, this story is also tightly plotted. The whole bridesmaid stuff at the beginning is not only backstory to explain why she's moving to a smaller apartment, it sets up the occasion for which she has to dress up, so she can knock Mark's socks off later. I loved that. There was also the breakaway collar plot device, which forced her to see him again.

On a side note, I loved how the cat "talked." That was so cute and clever.

Photo credit: Helen Haden via Flickr Creative Commons License

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Second Chance at Love by Diane Crawford

From the August 22, 2016 issue

Tagline: After years of being on her own, Carol was certain she'd never find romance again--then she met Nick!

Observations: I couldn't find much to talk about with this story. It was a solid story, well-plotted. I felt certain the hero and heroine would be going on many more dates. I liked how the last line tied in with the garden theme...

Carol wasn't a gardening expert, but her intuition told her that growing conditions were perfect for this new relationship!

Photo Credit: Robert Ashworth via Flickr Creative Commons License

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Missing Issue

I seem to be missing the August 22 issue. If anyone can send me a photo of the story for that week, I'd appreciate it.

Meant to Be by Mary Jo Young

From the August 29, 2016 issue

Tagline: Kate thought she was too busy to find romance...until she met Darcy!

Observations: I'm so excited because this story was full of teaching moments.

I liked this story. It was cute. I especially admired the part where Kate was lost in her own thoughts and then came back to the conversation...

Robin's chirpy voice continued as Kate's thoughts turned elsewhere. After work, she'd promised to take her niece to ballet class, then pick up groceries for her sick neighbor. Somewhere along the way, she would grab a sandwich and eat on the run. It would be a full evening.

"So would you be his date?" Robin's voice broke into her reverie.

"What?" Kate surfaced with a start. "Sorry, what did you say?"

See what I mean? I felt as if I had joined Kate on her reverie.

I also wanted to point out this one sentence, because this is a lesson I need to take to heart.

Kate's heart did a little rhumba.

Young could have used a cliche phrase, like "Kate's heart skipped a beat." I, myself, am guilty of using that one! Or "her pulse quickened" or something like it. But doing a rhumba? Very original. This is the type of thing that, if you don't think of it while you're writing, you can fix in the revision stage. Make it a point to read your story and to look for trite phrases like hearts skipping beats. The stories are so short, that you can designate one reading just for this purpose. It might seem like a little thing--this is only six words, after all--but I believe the little things add up, especially in an 800 word story.

Lastly, this story is a great example of a mash-up of Woman's World tropes. Tropes are great because they're ideas that have a proven track record. Yes, they can become cliche, but only if you write them as such. One way to avoid the cliche and embrace the familiarity of the trope that readers respond to is to take two or more tropes and combine them, like take a woman to the rescue and add a garage sale, or make the setting a high school reunion and throw in a lost pet.  This week's story took three--a wedding, a matchmaker, and a blind date. You can also take one trope and really do something crazy with it, like maybe two lost pets. Maybe the heroine, while out looking for her missing dog, finds the hero's missing dog. Wait a second...I think I'll write that story! But see what I mean? It can get your brain thinking.

Photo Credit: John Lodder via the Flickr Creative Commons License