Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sunshine in the Forecast

by Elizabeth Palmer from the March 17, 2014 issue

Tagline: When Anna met Mike, she forgot about the cold winter and began to look forward to a warm and sunny future...

In a Nutshell: Anna has just moved north and isn't sure she likes it, especially when she discovers the oak tree in her front yard is a lost cause. She changes her mind when she meets the man from the nursery.

Stream of Consciousness Observations: Hm. I'm to the place where the magazine inserts a highlighted quote and so far, I'm not particularly drawn in.

Handy how the neighbor happened to have a slip of paper with those names and numbers on it. LOL

Ah! The neighbor warns her to ask for the young Mike Greene. There's a nice twist on the cliche. Very often in WW stories, there is a "mix-up" in a family business situation. Usually the older worker is unavailable or sick and the real love interest steps up to the plate.

Notice that Palmer has laid out the heroine's conflict in a couple of places. Anna isn't so sure about living up north.

I love the moment they meet. Mike is funny.

Now I'm really liking Anna's inner thoughts. Obviously we know she's going to choose to stay, but you can see that she's already subconsciously made the decision when Young Mike talks about the maple. Up until then she'd been just thinking about moving back, then after meeting Mike, her thoughts take a turn and become more about what she'll miss. Subtle change, but important.

All right, done with the story. I liked it. In fact, I guess you could say I warmed up to it. Get it? LOL. Seriously, it took me a tiny bit to get into the slower, more thoughtful tone, but once I did that, I was fine. I guess I was expecting a perky heroine, and Anna wasn't. I did enjoy watching her change her mind about staying.

Photo credit: Denis Jacquerye via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Escape Artist

by Shelley Cooper from the March 10, 2014 issue

Tagline: Laura couldn't keep her dog from running away. Fortunately, he never ran far...just to Matt's house!

In a Nutshell: A dog plays matchmaker when he keeps running away to the house that a cute single guy is restoring.

Observations: Since this is the second story I'm analyzing today and I have limited time, I'm going to do a Stream-of-Consciousness Review ™. LOL.

The first couple of paragraphs are good. I, too, rescued a dog, so I'm immediately drawn in and feel a connection with the narrator. I also feel sympathy for her having just been dumped by her fiancé. Poor thing.

Oh. Teeny is a Great Dane. Holy moly. I have a Chihuahua. Polar opposites! 

Hm. I wonder what kind of neighborhood she lives in if there are Victorian houses sitting around abandoned. But I go with it.

OMG. LMAO. "I'm not sure, but after that kiss, I think Teeny and I are going steady."

I like seeing the progression of their relationship, via Teeny's messing up the porch and shirt.

I really liked the invitation, but I kind of wonder if he could have restored the house in two weeks. Glory is a strong word.

LMAO again at Matt's outfit for the BBQ.

Hm. I am disappointed with the ending. It felt very abrupt. I think it might have helped if right after he said, "And I do want to get to know you better, Laura," she had said something and they'd shared a moment. Instead there was "telling," of the "show don't tell" fame. "That was the day I fell in love with Matt. Thanks for telling us, but I'd rather see it happen real time. 

Oh, a wedding. That' makes sense, but it falls flat for me because I don't feel the couple has a strong enough connection built.

The last sentence was terrific, but I'm afraid it didn't make up for the lack of of happy sigh at the critical place in the story.

Love in His Eyes

by Rosemary Hayes from the March 3, 2014 issue

Tagline: Lisa and Joel were a perfect match but up to now, neither of them had been willing to admit it!

In a Nutshell: As good friends, Lisa and Joel are at the zoo together to take photographs. At Joel's insistence, she signed up for a photography class after she lost her job. While at the zoo, Joel finds the courage to tell Lisa he wants to be more than friends.

Observations: There are many elements in this story that I wanted to point out. Since I'm way behind analyzing the stories and want to do two today, I'm going to just list them.

1. In the very first paragraph we see a darling indication that Joel is sweet on Lisa. As usual, she didn't have to ask him to smile--he always smiled when he looked in her direction, whether or not she held her camera.

2. I had a moment of skepticism when the chimp smiled. I bet you could wait for three days and not see a chimp smile. Not sure they even smile at all or if they only bare their teeth when threatened, like many other animals.

3. I wasn't big on the "say cheese please" joke.

4. I did think the teasing about his receding hairline was good. It showed me that they are that comfortable with each other that she feels okay with teasing him about it.

5. I loved the way he talked about eagles mating habits as a way to lead into what he was really trying  to say to her. Smart guy! Smart author, too.

6. I also adored when she realizes and she snaps a picture at the moment she sees the love in his eyes through her view screen. That paragraph was amazing. You get her physical reaction, her sudden seriousness. You see her thought process as it finally dawns on her. The final sentence warms your heart, and then you get the one word paragraph that means, to me, she took the picture and will have it forever, and that everything just clicked for her.

7. After that perfect paragraph, the author made sure we see Lisa confirming that the feeling is mutual and a sweet kiss to seal the deal.

Ah romance!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Contest to Win One of My Books

As some of you will undoubtedly know, I also write longer, steamier romance fiction under the name Kate Willoughby. My newest book, On the Surface, is coming out next month. It's a hockey romance and I think it's the best book I've ever written.

To get ready for the Big Day and the hordes of fans I hope are in my future (LOL), I had my author website revamped and I unveiled the finished product a couple of days ago. I'm running a contest for people to win a copy of the book, if you are interested.

You will land on the home page, but just choose "blog" on the menu bar to find the contest.

Good luck and thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Thief of Hearts

by Shelley Cooper from the February 24, 2014 issue

Tagline: Julie and Kevin were destined to meet and fall in love. At least, that's how Maurice saw it!

In a Nutshell: Julie's cat likes to take items from people's homes and bring them to Julie. When he snatches some things from neighbor Kevin, the humans realize there might be something worth pursuing.

Observations: This was one of the best stories I've read in a long while. In fact, it inspired me to do a Top Ten list at the end of the year.

As I read it, my smile got bigger and bigger. I make notes sometimes on the page--places in the story I want to talk about in the analysis. As you can see by the picture I marked a lot of places.

Right off the bat, there's an excellent hook first sentence.

I live with a thief.

Isn't that great?

Next, I had to admire Julie's deductive skills when she figured out which house the cuff link must have come from.

When she sees him, we get a great bit of description that takes ownership of the fact that heroes are so often tall, dark, and handsome, but puts a spin on it that makes it amusing.

He was a walking cliche--tall, dark and almost more handsome than my poor heart could tolerate.

I liked her using the word "rock" in its most modern way:

Even without the jacket, the man rocked a tuxedo.

Here's where I laughed:

"A cat burglar, huh?"

I liked her inner thoughts here too. I thought they were cute:

"No, I'm happily divorced. It's a co-worker's wedding. The cuff links were a groomsman gift."

The euphoria that filled my heart at this news was downright alarming.

The twist around two thirds in, where Maurice the cat, starts giving gifts to Kevin was surprising and absolutely perfect! I defy any reader to get to that part and not be completely sure these two will have a happy ending, because hello, the CAT liked him. That's gotta count for a lot, right?

Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, the bra shows up. Game over. At this point, I'm cursing Cooper for being such a terrific writer. Sometimes I get jealous that way. I get all, "WHY are you not writing stories like this, Kate? Put the hockey books aside for a few days!"

I liked at the climax how Julie is, after being frustrated with the lack of progress in their relationship, suddenly shy and not quite ready to believe he is really interested in her. You catch your breath there (just like her) and laugh at her witty remark about the cat, just in case he didn't mean what she hopes he means.

I thought her last line came a tiny bit abruptly, but that is such a minor quibble, it's almost not worth mentioning.

Often I have a hard time writing the critique. This one came very easily.