Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Long Engagement

by Susan C. Hall from the August 27, 2012 issue

Photo by Ed Yourdon (cc)
Tagline: Given that Katie had accepted TJ's proposal 20 years ago in kindergarten, no one could say that they were rushing into things!

In a Nutshell: While reading the newspaper, Katie sees a picture of the boy who proposed marriage to her when they were in kindergarten. She tries to track him down in the phone book and on the Internet, but to no avail. Following her roommate's suggestion, she goes to the river walk where the picture was taken, hoping to run into him. She does. They reconnect and make a date for dinner.

Observations: I really enjoyed this story, even though I had an idea about "kindergarten sweethearts" that I had planned to write myself. The early bird catches the worm!

Anyway, I found Katie the heroine to be spunky and proactive, qualities I admire. I loved the banter between them. There was none of the awkwardness I would certainly wallow in in that same situation. Also, notice the upbeat ending that is popular at Woman's World. There is no HEA, but the hope of one instead.

He waved and walked to his car, and I watched him go. I was definitely looking forward to tonight--and to whatever might happen next with TJ and me.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Candy Lady

by Jan Bono from the August 20, 2012 issue

Tagline: Mitchell had a crush on the pretty young woman in the candy store. He never suspected he was sweet on him too!

Photo by
In a Nutshell: Mitchell likes the girl who sold him fudge, but he can't figure out how to approach her without appearing creepy. Luckily, she's a forthright woman and makes the first move herself.

Observations: Woman's World stories are heartwarming often because the protagonists are uncertain, like most of us. We see their doubts and fears and identify with them because of them. Mitchell is a good example of this. He seems like a real person. I think that's a goal when creating characters for a Woman's World story--make them real, not realistic.

Unfortunately, I found him a little milk toast. AFter reading the story, I didn't quite buy that he "was afraid asking for [her phone number] would seem presumptuous. Creepy even." I think he was just plain afraid, because later when he sees her again...

Mitchell smiled back, suddenly feeling at a loss for words.

I would like to have seen him develop a little gumption by this time in the story.

My Favorite Part: I enjoyed Amy. She was spunky and cute, as we see here.

       "Did you eat that whole pound of fudge already?" she asked, [sic] with a teasing tone.
     "Good!" she said. "That means you came back just to see me."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Really Bummed

So, I got a rejection yesterday for a story I really thought would pass the test. Johnene said "it didn't work for her." Rats!!! I thought it was a super cute story with a built in, had to do with Jane Austen.

Well, darn. I guess that frees me up to expand it. I really liked the title Finding Mr. Darcy, and thought I could build a novella around it, so now I can.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Other Half

by Cathy Cobb from the August 13, 2012 issue

Tagline: When Ellie met Bob, his friendly warmth melted her heart and made her feel that she would be happy again--and maybe very soon...

Photo by flyinfoto (cc)
In a Nutshell: Ellie has gone through a mid-life divorce and is new in town. She gets a job at Bob's restaurant and does very well her that very night. She thinks that Bob's partner is also his wife, but it turns out she's mistaken and Bob seems interested.

Observations: It's easy to identify with Ellie. She's shy, like a lot of us, but she's also willing to get out there and do what needs to be done--in this case, get a job.

This story had the misunderstanding story element, present in so many Woman's World romances. Remember the guy in the red shirt on Star Trek? The one who always got killed when they went down to the planet surface? You could always be sure of that. In WW stories, if you see a woman who appears to be the main squeeze of the hero, you can bet that she is not. We fall back on this trope because it adds tension to an otherwise tensionless story. Part of the fun of reading is going on that roller-coaster, feeling highs and lows, even if Woman's World stories are more of a kiddie ride than one of those Six Flags monsters.

One other thing I wanted to point out was how deftly Cobb put in Ellie's backstory. In a novel, you might get the character's history over the course of chapters or paragraphs. Sometimes in a Woman's World story you have to pack it into one sentence...

"I moved," I answered simply. No need to mention grown children and a mid-life divorce.

Done. Nice and tight.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

New Print Release

Today is a wonderful day.

The Be-Wished series, five years in the making, consists of four books: All In, A Wolf at Her Door, Once Upon a Kiss, and Just Winging It. The first two stories were published in their own print anthology last year called Wolf Wishes. 

Now, the second volume, Midnight Wishes has been published in print!

I hadn't seen the cover until today, but I love it. As an author who has most of her stories sold digitally, it's exciting and special when you see your work in print. One of these days, I'll do a book signing. Maybe at the Romance Writers of America Conference or the Romantic Times convention next year.

Until then, I'm just thrilled to have these books available.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Proposal

by Rosemarie Naramore from the August 6, 2012

Tagline: It had never occurred to Holly that if she wanted to get to know the handsome stranger, she should just give him a ring!

In A Nutshell: Holly owns a cupcake shop. There's a regular customer she likes. One of her employees loses his wedding ring and everyone suspects it got baked into a cupcake. The man she has a crush on comes in with the lost ring and admits he became a regular customer because he's been trying to work up the courage to ask her out.
Photo by The Shopping Sherpa (cc)

Observations: This story succeeds on several fronts. It's got humor in that line that Ethan says near the end. (More on that later.)

It's got tension. That irate customer comes in, and we worry for Holly. (But she handles the situation deftly. This makes us respect and admire her and root for her to find her special someone, because she so obviously deserves it.)

It takes advantage of the popularity of the Cupcake Wars television show. (I think Holly is much savvier and likable than some of the bakers I've seen on that show. Sometimes they seem so...cheerfully empty-headed. I know they must be, by definition, smart business owners, but on TV many of them appear vapid.)

The last third of the story is fantastic. I could picture Ethan finding that ring and laboring for a really long time to come up with that line, which was really cute.

     "I just want to say that I really think we should have dinner first. Maybe go out a few times." 
     She frowned, confused.
     "You know," he said, smiling, "before I accept this." He opened his hand to reveal a gold band in his palm.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Close Encounter

by Amanda Stonebarger from the July 30, 2012 issue

Tagline: Angie intended to give the guy who'd blocked her car a piece of her mind. She ended up giving him a piece of her heart instead...

Photo by Robert Couse-Baker (cc)
In a Nutshell: Divorced Angie is late to pick up her daughter Chloe from soccer practice. When she comes out of the grocery store, she sees that the two cars on either side have parked way too close. The owner of the truck comes out and he's handsome and charming, and--what do you know?--he is the uncle to Chloe's best friend.

Observations: I thought this story was adorable, one of those ones where I think to myself, "You've been in that situation many a time. How come you never thought about making it into a Woman's World story???" But there's a good reason for that. This story had the challenge of putting the heroine into a highly, highly annoying situation, casting the hero as the "bad guy," and then somehow making the two amenable to a date.

I'll show you how I think Stonebarger pulled that off.

"Need some help?" a male voice asked. Angie could hear the amusement in his voice.

This amusement is the first subtle softening of the hero/villain.

Prepared to vent, Angie turned her head. But one look at this very good-looking man stopped her. He was smiling, but it was an embarrassed smile, and his friendly eyes weren't mocking her.

This was not subtle at all, but we see that Angie's annoyance has come down a few notches. She's still upset, however...

"I'm surprised you could fit it into that space at all," she said. "That thing needs a whole lot to itself."

But when the hero/villain, Mike, tells her it's his brother's truck, she softens even more.

"Well, I"ll let you off with a warning, since you're a first time offender," she said. "At least, I hope you are."

After that Stonebarger throws in a convenient coincidence--that Angie's daughter and Mike's niece are best buddies--and the rest of the story plays out like we'd expect. They make a date. Do notice the slight black moment. (Maybe I should start calling them gray moments.) It was one of those awkward silences...

They stood for a moment, hands still interlocked, while the misty rain began to patter down harder.

You think that this is it, that they're going to part and the chance for love has slipped away, but no. Mike steps up to the plate and asks her out. Atta boy!