Saturday, May 25, 2024

The Gift of Gabby

by Mary Ann Joyce from the May 13, 2024 issue

Tagline: As a surprise Mother's Day gift, Gabby set her mom, Tess, up with the handsome owner of a fix-it shop...and their fix-up soon turns into true love.

Observations: I loved this story. It has all the hallmarks of a classic, well-done Woman's World romance. I'd expect nothing less from Mary Ann Joyce.

Note the three act structure. In the first act, we meet Tess and her daughter, Gabby, the librarian. We get a little background on Jim. We find out Tess is having dishwasher trouble. It's almost Mother's Day. 

In the second act, we meet Jim and see what he looks like. We see them being easy with each other, despite Jim being nervous about his presentation. There's a brief "telling not showing" paragraph about their conversation and how they both like to keep busy. We also find out he's a widower. 

Act three, the class goes off without a hitch. It's discovered that, unbeknownst to the two of them, daughter Gabby set them up, promising Tess would help him with the class if he came and fixed her dishwasher. There's a very brief black moment when Tess tells him he's obviously not obligated to follow through, but never fear--Jim is smitten. 

I also loved the humor about the cat...

"She bought me the Alexa device so it wouldn't be so quiet all the time. It's wonderful and it fills my house with music!"

"My son got me a cat named Oscar," Jim said. "He fills my house with hair."

Cute punny title too. 

Photo by Dylan Foley via Flickr CCL

Friday, May 17, 2024

Carnitas and Love

by Maria Gorman from the May 6, 2024 issue

Tagline: When Ava's neighbor convinces her ot host a Cinco de Mayo party, she never expects it to include tacos, margaritas, and romance.

Observations: I am not sure, but this might be the first Woman's World story I've read to have a person of color in it. Please comment below if you remember this happening before. Either way, it's welcome and might I say long overdue. The time when mixed race couples are frowned upon is far behind us. It's wonderful to see a Woman's World story reflect the current times.

I really appreciated this sentence, which showed a physical reaction that did not include electricity of any kind.

"...he smiled, sending her pulse racing like an Indy car."

I liked seeing carnitas, an authentic Mexican dish, as his specialty. I love carnitas tacos. I live in Southern California and fantastic Mexican food is readily available. (It would have been perfect if they included a carnitas recipe elsewhere in the magazine.)

I also heard Luis's voice in my head with a Mexican accent, which was fun!

A tiny bit of criticism...I wish they'd been consistent with the italics for the Spanish words. They only italicized especialidad but should probably have included "hola," "amiga," and "perfecto."

Photo by Mike McCune via Flickr CCL.

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Coming Home to Love

by Shelley Cooper from the April 22, 2024 issue

Tagline: When Mackenzie fostered a pup whose owner was deployed, she never imagined the handsome dog-dad would soon take her breath away.

Off the Cuff Observations: I usually do Off the Cuff Observations when I'm way behind on the blogging, which--as you can tell from the April date--is currently the case.

So, right off the bat, I know I'm going to like this story. I LOVE watching videos with deployed soldiers being reunited with their dogs. I get all the feelz from those and they never get old. 

Can you bring non-service dogs to the airport? Not sure about that, but I'm letting it slide because the promise of the reunion payoff is enough for me.

...she wasn't prepared for the shock to her central nervous system when she saw him. -- No electricity. Yay.

Oh, she took pictures of the dog the whole time and sent them to him? Love it. So they have a relationship. 

"Can I give you a ride?" -- Seems like they would have figured this out beforehand. 

Okay, at this point, I read quickly to the end, engrossed in the story. I noted he checked for her consent before kissing her, something that, in this day and age, seems like a good idea. I liked the banter at the end and that last line had just the right timing. Nice story! Not that I'd expect anything less from Shelley Cooper.

Photo by evan p. cordes via Flickr CCL.

Friday, May 3, 2024

A Promising Partnership

by Chris Maday Schmidt from the April 15, 2024 issue

Tagline: Businesswoman Lila Parker has a meeting about the future of her start-up. But when she makes a professional faux pas, it just might lead to love.

Observations: I was utterly surprised by the twist in this story! Brava, Ms. Schmidt! This plot twist was so well done that after I read the story, I re-read the story to experience everything but with the knowledge that he was her client. What a delight.

Photo by Moresheth via Flickr CCL

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Pup Paves the Way to Love

by Kay Layton Sisk from the April 8, 2024 issue

Tagline: Allie never would have guessed the lost puppy that her dog, Biscuit, found in the flower bed would be what led her straight to a budding new romance.

Observations: Great story. I immediately saw a writing tip to share with you.

When you're trying to communicate information and your main character is alone, here are two things Ms. Sisk did that you can do too.

1. Get the info across via her thoughts or the narrative.

Last spring's frog crop had cost a trip to the vet, and Allie didn't want a repeat performance.

2. Have the character talk aloud to a pet/animal (as in this story), to herself, or even to something like a photo of a loved one.

"You're a mess, girl, but let me get a photo and I'll put it on the neighborhood watch site. If it wasn't the weekend, we could go to the vet and see if you're chipped. Either way, we'll find your family pronto!"

Photo by Tyler Allen via Flickr CCL

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Love Around the Corner

by Cher L. Tom from the March 25, 2024 issue

Tagline: After a series of bad dates, Marcie opens up to her friend Max--who might end up being the one she was looking for all along.

Observations: I'm not a huge fan of friends to lovers stories, mostly because I am usually frustrated that the two people are too dense to see they belong together. 

I'm an impatient reader, apparently. LOL

However, I really liked Max. He was the best part of this story. His humor...

"Is my hair singed?" he deadpanned.


He bakes/burns cookies! I mean, come on.

He plays pranks. Love it.

So, in summary, create a really lovable character, one that the reader/editor can't resist either. Make him or her someone you'd like to date. 

Photo by Whatleydude via Flicker CCL

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Lucky Find

by Shannon Fay from the March 18, 2024 issue

Tagline: When Melanie went to the park to pick clovers for an upcoming art project, she never expected that her excursion could lead to finding a stroke of good luck on her own--and the possibility of a chance at happily ever after.

Observations: I thought this was a fun, well-written story that follows the structure and story elements we expect from a Woman's World romance. Let's go through them, one by one, shall we? LOL

The heroine is presented along with her goal--finding four leaf clovers for her bookmarks.

She meets a man, whose goal is finding his lost keys. He also has a cute dog whose plot purpose is revealed later.

Someone has to make a move, and in this story it's Melanie. She suggests they look for the keys and the clovers together. (If the hero makes the move, it's fine, it's traditional, but if the heroine makes it, it demonstrates her confidence or her willingness to take chances or action to achieve happiness.)

They engage in conversation. This conversation accomplishes a few things. The dog is used as a vehicle to reveal that Wyatt is single. It establishes that Wyatt is a good listener and they make a solid connection. You must establish a connection between the characters, physically and mentally. You do this by showing and sometimes by telling. In this story, Fay shows them connecting over her making paper, then follows up with a "telling" paragraph that describes that they spent a lot of time together and the heroine "didn't want it to end."

We come to what is developing into a Woman's World cliche--the hand holding. <sigh>  I am not against holding hands in a story, per se. It's a fantastic way to show a relationship in its early stages developing. However, I don't relish it happening too fast in the relationship, i.e. within an hour of meeting someone, not without good reason, like helping someone to their feet after they've fallen or onto a rocking boat. Here, Wyatt has a good reason to offer his hand--he's helping her up from a crouch. Thumbs up. But forcing physical contact for the plot isn't being true to your characters. Imagine yourself in the woman's place. In the exact same circumstances, would you like the man to hold your hand or be creeped out about it? 

Wyatt takes the next step and asks her out to dinner. I like this because earlier, it was Melanie who suggested they search the grass together, so this makes things even and suggests a give and take that would serve them well should things develop between them. 

Lastly, we've ended the story with a callback to the beginning. I like to call this coming full circle. Melanie remembers the clover she found and wonders if it brought her some good luck.

Photo by Cygnus921 via Flickr CC License