Saturday, December 31, 2011

The True Spirit of Christmas

by Sandra Noble from the December 26, 2011 issue

Tagline: Megan thought she was facing a lonely Christmas until a handsome stranger with a generous heart proved her wrong...

In a Nutshell: Megan's daughter goes to spend Christmas with her dad and Megan is feeling lonely. She goes to get her favorite coffee to cheer herself up and the friendly store owner doesn't seem upset to be working Christmas Eve. That's when Megan gets the idea to spread some Christmas cheer to people she knows who are also working. She delivers meals to them, complete with fruitcake, and when revisiting that store owner, garners an invitation to go view the Christmas lights with him.

Observations: What I want you to notice with this story is the theme of good cheer throughout. Megan has good reason to feel down, being all alone on Christmas Eve, and yet...

No, Megan thought. I'm not going to feel sorry for myself. 

Megan takes action against the sadness, something Woman's World likes. As I've said before, the entire magazine is devoted to improving women's lives--their health, their outlooks, their pocketbooks, everything, so featuring a heroine who embodies that is a no brainer. (The hero is a positive and caring guy, too.)

I also noticed that this story was light on the romance, heavy on the Christmas spirit, but I suppose that makes sense, considering it's a holiday themed story.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Gift From Santa

by Marie Anderson from the December 19, 2011 issue

Tagline: Even Santa was surprised by Ed's grandson's unusual--and unusually sweet--Christmas wish...

In a Nutshell: Ed promised his daughter that he'd find out what his grandson, Willy, wants for Christmas. When the kid won't tell, he asks Santa what the boy wished for when he sat on his lap. Santa arranges a meeting after work and it turns out he's a she. Willy wants his widowed grandfather to find a new grandma, so guess who goes out for coffee?

Observations: I was with this story until almost the very end. I was ready for a matchmaker story in which the grandson or the daughter planned something crafty. But then I found out Santa was a woman. I've talked before about telling "one big lie" in a Woman's World story, after which you have to be as realistic as possible, perhaps to keep things balanced. And often in a WW story, the lie is a coincidence. However, in this tale, we are expected to believe that a woman is posing as Santa.

Hmm. Nope. Not buying it. Kids are sharp. I think they'd notice Santa's femininity, even under the costume and beard. Santa may be fat, but I doubt he has man boobs that big.

However, I'll give my usual disclaimer. Obviously, the editors thought the story was just fine--fine enough to publish.

I will add that I really liked the ending where she's named Merry (Meredith). Perhaps it's because of the season, but I didn't find that corny at all.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Perfect Christmas Tree

by Wendy Hobday Haugh from the December 12, 2011 issue

Tagline: After meeting Zach, Molly had a feeling her Christmas was going to be as perfect as her Christmas tree...

In a Nutshell: Molly, divorced a year, is shopping for a Christmas tree. The tree farm manager, Zach, tries to help her, but the tree she really wants is not on farm property. He volunteers to talk to the person who owns the land and see if they can make a deal. Later, Zach shows up with the tree. Turns out he is the land owner.

Observations: Although I saw the twist a mile away, I still enjoyed this story. I wanted to point out the story starts out in Zach's point of view, which allows us to see how he's attracted to her. (There was one small blip into Molly's POV when she is "Grateful for his help," but it didn't pull me out of the story. I only noticed it afterward when I was studying it.) At the midpoint, we switch to Molly's POV and we then see that she's just as attracted.

I also liked how Haugh deftly handled Zach's honesty. He does tell that little white lie when he says he'll talk to the guy who owns the field (unless he actually went home and talked to himself. LOL) But later...

    Her eyes narrowed as she studied Zach's ruggedly handsome face, soft brown eyes and oddly sheepish expression. 
    "Are you telling the truth, Zach?" she asked.
    "Absolutely," he replied, unflinching. "The tree is a gift."

You can see he feels a little guilty about the white lie, but when he delivers that unflinching reply, I thought to myself--that guy's hero material.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Recipe for Love

by Mary Ann Joyce from the December 5, 2011 issue

Tagline: Lizzy met Cole in her cooking class and it wasn't long before things started heating up--at least for Lizzy...

In A Nutshell: While taking a cooking class, Lizzy falls "in like" with her partner, Cole. After one of their many coffee dates after class, she daringly kisses him. She worries that she went too far, but at the last class she finds out Cole didn't think so at all.

Observations: This story had an unusual structure, but it really worked. Joyce started out with a black moment--the impulsive kiss. There is a rather longish conversation between Lizzy and her friend that takes up the first third of the story, then we backtrack to find out what all lead up to the kiss. By the time Joyce brings you back to the present, you're anxious to find out what Cole thought of the surprise lip lock. (Isn't it funny how, of course, we know that he was fine with it, yet we feel the tension just the same. I guess it just goes to show you how easily we can fool ourselves.) Then, at the end we get another black moment when we fear that Cole isn't showing up for class because he didn't like Lizzy's cooties. Two black moments! Sometimes Woman's World stories don't even have one, but in this story we get a twofer. Awesome.

My Favorite Line: "I wish I were more like you sometimes." Then he gently wiped some chocolate from Lizzy's cheek. "You also wear your fondue well." LOL