Thursday, October 31, 2013

Second Chance

by Monica Andermann from the November 11, 2013 issue

Tagline: What were the odds that a rainy night and a broken-down car would bring love back into Ellen's life?

In a Nutshell: Ellen has car trouble. The tow truck man is a guy she knew in high school. Turns out he wanted to ask her to the prom way back when.

Observations: I thought this story was above average. Sometimes I like it when the author constructs the story so it feels as though a lot of time has passed. In this case, the almost entire story happens as we read it. Except for "A few minutes later, they pulled into the service station," there are no jumps ahead. It was refreshing.

I wanted to point out a couple of things. One, notice how Andermann helps the reader identify with the heroine with the whole internal monologue about being called "ma'am" versus "miss." Who among us hasn't felt a similar emotion?

Also notice how smoothly she worked in a physical description and some backstory when she talks about Ellen's curly hair. In one fell swoop you get a mental picture of Ellen, you see they already know each other, that she got a divorce last year, and she's optimistic enough by now to get herself a new look. This is the type of multi-tasking you have to do when you only have 800 words to work with.

My Favorite Part:

"You know, Ellen, I had a big crush on you in high school."

Ellen felt her heart skip. "You did not," she laughed.

Photo by ToastyKen (cc)

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Invitation

by Donna Brennan from the November 4, 2013 issue

Tagline: Molly's favorite things were running and reading. So why bother with a party where there was zero chance she'd meet a man with the same interests?

In a Nutshell: Molly doesn't want to go to a party, but she does anyway. There, she meets a man and almost doesn't recognize him as the guy she often runs past at the park. They find out they have a lot in common.

Observations: After I finished this story, I really felt as if I'd been to a party. I could immediately identify with Molly because I, too, dislike going to parties where I know almost no one. I, too, am critical of food (but I'm not a restaurant critic!)

I thought it was cute how she nicknamed the people she saw at the park and then ran into "The Blue Streak" at the party.

It might have been funnier if she'd omitted the sentence in between the two lines of dialogue. Comedy is all about timing, and I think that long delay between the set-up and the punchline is too long here.

Original:  "I try not to run in heels." I smiled into the blue eyes that had inspired his nickname. "It's rough on the ankles."

Revised: "I try not to run in heels." I smiled up at him. "It's rough on the ankles."

Photo by Tobyotter (cc)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Halloween Magic

by Patrice Howell from the October 28, 2013 issue

Tagline: Tom wondered if the silver wand Jenny carried had magical powers...because she had certainly cast a spell on him!

In a Nutshell: Tom is a workaholic who just finished a huge project at work. He is going to celebrate with good take-out. He meets Jenny and her niece who are trick-or-treating in town. She asks him to join them. He does.

Observations: This story had a different feel to it and I'm trying to figure out why. Maybe it was because it was focused on the man. Maybe it was Tom's dissatisfaction with life. Maybe it was that he didn't meet the heroine until the story was half over.

I liked how Tom was flustered and couldn't form a coherent thought, but I thought it was odd for Jenny to ask him to accompany her. My practical side is coming out because I assume she's supposed to be bonding with her niece and I didn't think she should be talking with this chivalrous guy. Speaking of chivalry, even though he'd held the door for her, he was a complete stranger. It was just...weird.

And yet, Woman's World liked it enough to publish it, so it just goes to prove once again that this is a subjective business.

Photo by Robynlou8

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Other Path

by Tracie Rae Griffith from the October 14, 2013 issue

Tagline: Happily, Annie managed to convince her mother that the road to love isn't always the smooth one!

In a Nutshell: Annie goes on a bike ride with her mom, who lives in a retirement village. When faced with a fork in the path, Annie convinces her mom to take the bumpier one for a change. There, by the pond, they see Sam, who lives in the same retirement village. What a coincidence!

Observations: It seems like a while since we've seen a matchmaker story and this was a sweet one. I liked how cleverly Annie convinces her mom to go out of her comfort zone. There was no trickery, as can sometimes come into play with matchmaker stories. She uses the lure of a possible duck sighting instead.

There were some signals that Annie's mom and Sam might have a happy future, which is always reassuring to the reader. They may not register them consciously, but I think subconsciously if you insert some positive connections between the potential lovebirds, it makes the story more believable and satisfying.

For one, you can see that Sam already likes the mom because he's given her some tomatoes. Mom already likes him, too. ("He's such a nice man.") There's also this:

"Excuse me, is this seat taken?" Mom asks. Sam turns at the sound of her voice and his face lights up.


He's also there to feed the ducks and Mom is a bird lover. So there are three indicators that things will turn out well with them. They're on the right track and that's the aim of these romance stories--to help you feel happy and hopeful, if only for a little while.

Photo by Boegh (cc)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Handsome Helper

by Tina Radcliffe from the October 7, 2013 issue

Tagline: Annie ran into Patrick, and it turned out to be the first day of their life together

In A Nutshell:

Observations: I'm going to do a stream-of-consciousness critique today where I just type what I'm thinking as I read the story.

Hm. She literally runs into him. Seems a bit cliche, but I'm willing to see if the author makes me forget about that.

I like the phrase "hard wall of man." Of course, what red-blooded woman wouldn't? LOL

I like his name, Patrick Murphy. Hers...she has two first names. :/

He is helpful and very nice.

I wonder at Annie's business acumen. She's got her grand opening on Saturday and she's just now thinking about hiring some extra help? Hm. And obviously, Patrick won't be sending anyone over to help her out. He's going to go himself. And maybe ask for a maple bar in payment.

Oh, there, she out and out offers him one. LOL

And here's Annie chiding herself for not getting help ahead of time. Yeah. What were you thinking, chickie?

Aha! I was right. Patrick shows up as the helper, but I wonder why he was late. I'm suspecting it's so the author could build the tension.

I like him flipping the sign on the door.

All in all, it was a so-so story. I liked Radcliffe's "A Match Made In Winter" much better.

Photo by HeatherHeatherHeather (cc)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Missing issue

Alas, I am putting a call out to my followers, hoping someone can send me a copy of the story from the October 7 issue. I got a magazine in the mail and it's dated October 14. :(