Thursday, May 28, 2015

In the Market for Love

by M.L. Hickerson from the May 11, 2015 issue

Tagline: Nick might not have a fondness for vegetables, but there was something--or-someone--that kept him coming back to the produce stand...

Observations: I found it interesting to find a common romance novel trope in this 800 word story. There have probably been a ton of other stories this trope has appeared in, but this is the first time I've ever noticed it. Sometimes I mentally separate Woman's World romances from full-length romance novels; they're sort of like apples and oranges.

What trope might I be thinking of? It's a trope that promotes lovely conflict--something all novels need, but is not really mandatory in a Woman's World story. And the conflict is all internal.

Look back and see if you can find it.

Did you figure it out? The trope is The Secret. When one of the protagonists has a secret, it always begs to be told. The character is always worrying about it and wondering when it should be revealed. (The author wonders this too. LOL) We always worry about the reaction of the other character when the truth finally comes out.

In this story, Nick's secret was that he had no idea what to do with all those vegetables he'd been buying. (I did find myself wondering what he was doing at a farmer's market if he didn't like veggies, but it didn't stop me from enjoying the story.)

I liked that Nick ended up confessing. (Good boy. Honesty is the best policy.) I loved how their relationship grew slowly and steadily, so that by the end when you got that little plot twist, you totally believed that they could have gotten married and had a little girl, five years later.

And look at the last line.

Investing in the market had made Nick a very rich man.

There's another twist. Instead of using the word "market" like she (he?) had been, Hickerson suggested that Nick had invested in a type of stock market, and I thought it was very clever and different.

Photo credit: Infrogmation of New Orleans via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, May 22, 2015

Free as a Bird

by Nell Musolf from the April 13, 2015 issue

Tagline: When Karen and Tom worked together, they'd been just good friends. Could they be something more now?

Observations: I wanted to talk about characterization with this story, because I really thought the heroine was well done. One of the things about Woman's World stories--and really all romances, if you think about it--is how we can live vicariously through the heroines. We love reading these stories because it makes us feel as if we are in love too, or about to fall in love.

A good way to help that along is to make the heroine likable. Give her qualities that we can identify with, that make us say, "Hey, I'm like that too!" So with this story, I"m going to look at ways that Musolf did that.

1. Karen has a crush on her old boss. Who among us hasn't had a crush on someone we either weren't free to pursue and/or thought was out of our league? Anyone? Bueller? We automatically feel for her because we've been in her shoes.

2. "I took a moment to smooth my hair and make sure no blueberry muffin crumbs decorated the front of my sweater." Again, this is something we've all lived through, right? Where we're thinking, "Oh, please, let there not be something in my teeth" etc. This little moment also adds some tension for us.

3. Likability is increased when we respect the character and admire decisions he/she makes, like both of them staying professional for ten years, when they apparently both had feelings for each other.

4. And when Karen took action...that was great too.  Tom says:

"My problem is I don't like eating out alone." 

Our eyes met over the tops of our coffee cups and my heart did the thumping thing again. "You aren't seeing anyone?" 

That was Karen, taking a step forward. And here again is another step. Tom says he should try taking out someone like her and Karen says:

""Someone like me? How about me?"

That is ballsy! Again, I admire her bravery. I think Karen was a terrific character.

Photo credit: Jazzbobrown, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Walk in the Woods

by April Serock from the May 4, 2015 issue

Tagline: Sarah didn't exactly have a love of nature, but spending time outdoors just might lead to love of another kind...

Observations: I haven't done a stream-of-consciousness critique in a while, so let's do that. It's simple and easy for me, which is something I need because lately my brain is mush.

I love the first paragraph and how once she sees the handsome park ranger, her enthusiasm for the nature class increased.

Then the next paragraph makes me laugh and I am eager to read what the mishaps are, especially since I am not the most adept person when it comes to communing with nature.

OMG, she had to empty water from her sneakers. That reminds me of when my child fell into the tidepools. His shoes took like three days to completely dry.

I'm enjoying their "courtship," which seems to consist of Sarah getting into trouble and Ryan tending to her afterward. This section is pretty long, but it's well done and engaging.

I'm laughing at this part:

"I take it you haven't had much experience in the woods," he joked.

"Really?" She laughed. "What was your first clue?"

And then later, another funny, self-deprecating remark from her when she hears they're going on a night hike:

"Oh good! Walking in the woods at night. What could go wrong?"

I am now anticipating/hoping for some actual wooing from Mr. Park Ranger.

Okay, so he doesn't really go for it. He sort of hints around, but that's cool because it makes Sarah act on her own behalf. Girl power! Cute ending.

Looking back, this was a well-paced story with a lot of "telling," but it had enough dialogue and interaction that you still felt you were in the moment. I felt we saw enough interaction between them to reassure us that they have a decent chance and falling in love. I admire her moxie in suggesting she cook dinner for him, even if he pretty much told her he'd be up for that.

Photo credit: Francesco Veronesi

Sunday, May 10, 2015

You've Got Mail!

by Tina Radcliff from the April 27, 2015 issue

Andi Brown liked her new job, but sharing the same name with a co-worker was causing nothing but confusion...until she met the other A. Brown!

In a Nutshell:
Tired of getting her co-workers mail, Andi takes matters into her own hands. She strikes up a work place acquaintance with him until he goes one step further and asks her out for dinner.

I'm afraid I've fallen out of the habit of reading theses stories weekly. The magazines have piled up and so I find I don't have an easy recollection of the types of stories that have been published lately. So, when I tried to think back on if I've seen a misunderstanding story lately, I couldn't remember.

However, this is a very good opportunity to talk about the trope of misunderstanding. In full-length romance novels, misunderstandings, if handled well, often create a believable conflict between the hero and heroine. If handled badly, it can seem contrived and lead to reader frustration.

In Woman's World stories, the misunderstanding is very often a way to get the hero and heroine together, as in this story. It gives the two main characters a reason to meet, and meet cute. Usually, the characters take it from there, again, as in this story.

Don't get me wrong. The other type of misunderstanding--the conflict kind--also happens in Woman's World romances. In our short 800-word stories, the misunderstanding is often based on an assumption, like the woman she sees him with must be his wife/girlfriend, right? Pfft. No. It's his female cousin/co-worker/neighbor. This kind of hokey plot works for the editors and readers of Woman's World. The trick is to make the characters interesting, get some good banter going, put a spin on it that seems new and different--like a unique setting or event or problem we haven't seen very often.

Photo credit: Russavia via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Kristen's Bucket List

by Patty Murray from the April 20, 2015 issue

Could love be the next check on Kristen's bucket list?

In a Nutshell
Kristen is visiting the Grand Canyon. She meets an elderly woman traveling with her handsome grandson. By the end of the afternoon, he has her phone number.

You have to admire Kristen's spirit and how, undeterred by her recent divorce, is eager to take life by the horns and go out and fulfill her dreams. She's braver than I am. As hermit-like as I am, I'd take a friend.

Jake is a terrific guy, clearly dedicated to his grandmother. It's really a wonder why he's still single. LOL

However, even with these two well-drawn characters, I found myself wondering what cities they lived in.

Otherwise, I liked the story. I liked the ending. It had just the right amount of sugar and optimism for a Woman's World story.