by Anna Jo Christopher from the February 20, 2012 issue
Tagline: Wes had given up on trying to meet the pretty brunette who'd moved into his building--until a chance encounter changed everything...
In a Nutshell: Wes's co-worker wants to set him up with a new hire at a company party. The new hire ends up being newly engaged. But all is not lost, one of the servers at the party happens to be the woman who just moved into his apartment building and he finds out they have a lot in common.
Observations: This story was twisty turny and I really enjoyed it. I, myself, have been trying to figure out a way to write a story that starts out as one type (like a matchmaker story) and ends up being something else. It adds an element of surprise that is very refreshing and Christopher did it right here.
First, she leads us to believe that Wes is going to end up with his new neighbor. (Why else would she be mentioned, right?) Then she also mentions the new hire at Wes's work. Boom, we immediately think, they'll be one and the same person. But lo, she's not! We get an early black moment when we find out that the new hire just got engaged.
Wes is splashed with wine. If you're like me, you think--oh! it's the neighbor. But it wasn't! Split second later you find out the neighbor is one of the servers at the party. Ah, at last. Now we can settle in and watch the romance happen.
Christopher then shows them making that connection. Wes and Kelly discover they share two passions--Stephen King novels and hiking. Terrific. The hiking was foreshadowed in the beginning of the story when Wes mentions he's "an outdoors blue jeans type of guy." Very tight.
Wes also makes a character arc in that he starts out by telling us he's shy and gets tongue-tied around women and ends up realizing--and we see this realization happen--he can talk to Kelly. He even musters up the courage to ask her out.
There's humor too, in the way Kelly teases Wes at the end about needing directions to her place since he got lost getting to the company party. Cute.
My only gripe would be the bland title. Otherwise, it's so easy to see why they published this one. In the class I'm teaching starting next Monday, I talk about several of the story elements that Christopher has packed in here. It's like this story was written to prove what I'll be talking about in class!