Sunday, November 30, 2014

Mr. Romance

by Le Ann Dowd from the November 24, 2014 issue

Dannie and Shane had met one Thanksgiving and fallen in love. Could another couple have the same luck?

In a Nutshell
Dannie and Shane are newlyweds. Shane's dad is a widower. Shane wants to fix him up with the new neighbor and Dannie doesn't.

All in all, this was a good story. I liked the freshness of a male first-person POV. I really liked the idea of two "victims" of a fix-up were paying it forward. What a cute and original idea. However, I did have a little criticism.

Sometimes writers, usually beginners, feel they have to get creative with dialogue attributions. They are usually afraid that "said" is boring and repetitive, therefore they pepper their writing with synonyms. (Disclaimer: I have no idea if Dowd is new to writing. I don't even know if she was the one getting attributively creative.) However, using these types of attributions too much can feel strange to readers.

"That's me," I teased. "Just call me Mr. Romance."

"Really, Shane? A fix-up?" Dannie chided. "Has that ever worked for anyone we kmow?"

"It's kind of last minute," Dannie fretted. "She probably has plans."

If this were my story, I would not have used "teased." If we use "said" instead of "teased," we still get the humor. Better yet, delete the first part and make it say "Just call me Mr. Romance." "Tease" isn't the right word to use here anyway. Who is he teasing? If anyone, he's teasing himself. As the narrator of the story, why would he point out that he's teasing himself?

I would have gotten rid of "fretted" as well. If you read the dialogue without it, you still get the feeling she's fretting by virtue of her words...

"It's kind of last minute," Dannie said. "She probably has plans."

Out of the three of them, I'd have kept "chided." That puts a nuance on what she said that wouldn't otherwise be apparent.

So, to reiterate, never feel weird about using said over and over, unless it's already clear who's talking and it's unnecessary to point it out at all. Readers are used to "said" and don't even notice it. "Saids" just fade into the background.

One last small point--I understood that she didn't want to make French toast because there was so much cooking ahead. Hey, I totally identify with that predicament! However, at the end of the story, after they decide to invite the neighbor, she decides to make it after all. I didn't understand what made her change her mind. Maybe one of you can enlighten me. :)

Photo credit: Chef Sean Christopher (Directly from the Author) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, November 24, 2014

Good Sports

by April Knight from the November 17, 2014 issue

Julie and Will met and discovered they liked an didn't like a  lot of the same things!

In a Nutshell
Julie is thinking about changing jobs so she'll meet more men. While staring at a sporting goods store window, lost in thought, she meets a man who is just as non-athletic as she is.

I wish I liked this story more than I did. This one came in solidly average to me.

My favorite line was "Hey, would you like to have a coffee with me?" He pointed to a cafe across the street. "We can discuss all the things we aren't good at."

Photo Credit: ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Wrong Number, Right Man!

by Anna Jo Christopher from the November 10, 2014 issue

Becky's silly mistake resulted in a very romantic outcome!

In a Nutshell
Becky is helping her grandmother out, changing the batteries on her wall phone. When she accidentally direct-dials the police department, an old flame comes to investigate the emergency.

This story was everything we'd expect in a Woman's World story and done well. I wrote many positive comments in the margins. First, I loved the foreshadowing in the very first paragraph:

Sometimes I think nobody in the world makes the kinds of silly mistakes I do. But then I think, if I hadn't made that one silly mistake, I wouldn't have become the happiest woman on earth.

Not only do I identify immediately with the heroine (because I make a lot of silly mistakes), but I find out that I am in for a full-on happy ending. Woman's World stories rarely end with marriage, but judging from this paragraph, I am hopeful.

Next, the whole problem with getting the phone back on the wall...that is also totally me. I have been there, done that. So I sympathized with the heroine. I have not, however, accidentally called the police. (Although I sort of wish I had.) I loved this surprise, which I didn't see coming. I did notice some odd attention spent on describing the memorized emergency numbers, but didn't think anything of it.

I was surprised a second time by the fact that the cop and the heroine knew each other. Old flame stories are not exactly uncommon, but I wasn't expecting this twist. Perhaps because usually there's only one surprise to be found.

I liked the humor too:

"Those were fun times," he said. "Cops and robbers. We terrorized the neighborhood."

I raised an eyebrow. "Glad to see you chose the more ethical road." 

And finally, there was the hinted-at happy ending. The marriage, the tying in of the snickerdoodles mentioned at the beginning of the story, and a reminder about the silly mistake wrapped everything up beautifully.

When comparing this week's story with last weeks, I think these are both familiar plots, but story two had a couple of surprises and some humor, which made all the difference.

Photo credit: Nightflyer via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


by Pamela Hart from the November 3, 2014 issue

Rosie had a feeling a little black cat would bring her luck. And she was right!

In a Nutshell
Rosie adopts a black cat. Two little trick-or-treaters, dressed as black cats, come to the door with their handsome (divorced) dad. They all just moved into the neighborhood.

I was not wowed by this story. There was nothing wrong with it. It just didn't stand out in any way. We've seen these characters before--the single woman, the divorced dad, the happy kids. We've seen this plot before--two people meet because of some activity the kids are doing. There was no outstanding banter or emotion or a creative twist. I read it and shrugged. Maybe you had some other reaction.

Photo credit: By Chris Yarzab (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Full Moon Madness

by Lisa Weaver from the October 24, 2014 issue

When Alex met Katie, Halloween went from scary to enchanting!

In a Nutshell
A woman is out on Halloween and a werewolf notices her being followed. When she is ambushed, she takes down one guy herself and the werewolf, an undercover cop, captures the other. They make a date for coffee.

This was a very unusual story in that it was bursting with surprises! I very much enjoyed the first person hero POV. It was refreshing. The beginning was very "telling," and you really get a narrator feeling from the guy. It might have been dull except for the fact that he's in protector-mode, which is a great trait to have if you're the hero in a romance story.

My first surprise was when the woman took the one guy down with a karate chop. That was awesome and so unexpected. Then, when the werewolf turned out to be a copy, I was like, "Whoa! Double whammy!"

However, there were some fight mechanics that were a bit off. Forgivable in a story like this, but in a more gritty and realistic story, would irritate me. Katie manages to take a guy down with karate and still hold onto the basket. I questioned why he didn't cuff the first guy before taking him back to the scene of the crime. I also thought with all the grabbing and karate chopping, the cupcakes would either have flown out of the basket or been hopelessly messed up.

I also thought it was a little stupid of her to go down that street, especially after his seminar at her school was one on safety. Knowledge of karate doesn't mean you should take unnecessary risks.

But, still, a great story!

Photo credit: By Kristin Ausk (originally posted to Flickr as Cupcake sampler box) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons