Today’s book review (of a single short story) is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey.
‘Marilyn’s Christmas Surprise’ by Alyssa Lindsey
Synopsis: Thirty years old, single and hard working – Marilyn never seems to have the time for romance or relationships. That is until her actress sister brings the CEO of Charles Industries to the family Christmas, as yet another potential fiancé. Marilyn can’t believe the instant raw magnetism between Brett Charles and herself – but her sister seems oblivious. Is the attraction mutual? Marilyn would never hurt her sister, and couldn’t possibly have a relationship with a cheat – or could she…?
This short story is available (free at the time of typing this review) via http://www.amazon.co.uk/Marilyns-Christmas-Surprise-Collection-Romantic-ebook/dp/B009VKD5MK and http://www.amazon.com/Marilyns-Christmas-Surprise-Collection-Romantic-ebook/dp/B009VKD5MK.
I don’t always, but I’d read the above synopsis before I started reviewing the book so knew pretty much what was in store (without knowing the ending, of course) but the dilemma is planted quite early on in the story so it’s not a spoiler as such.
I like it when characters are different from each other and here we have sisters (Marilyn – our main character) and Amber. Until it was mentioned, I’d assumed Amber was younger than Marilyn’s thirty because of the names (their older sister is Rose) – great strong, and distinctively different names which bely their characteristics; Marilyn’s domesticated whereas Amber’s flighty.
The first four chapters (the equivalent to Act 1) are based around a traditional American Christmas Day. The ‘hero’ of the story, Brett Charles (I’m intrigued by first names as surnames), is a typical tall, blue-eyed and handsome male which would normally be a cliché but here it was intended and the fact that he and Marilyn are also opposites is endearing.
Chapter 1 (which itself surprised me as short stories don’t usually have chapters) starts in Marilyn’s – third person – viewpoint and stays in third person when it switches to Brett’s pov. It’s very easy to slip from one viewpoint to another but Alyssa successfully avoids this… until the line ‘But he belongs to my sister.’ which would be taken as the narrator’s sister, unless it would have been Marilyn’s thoughts in which case it should have been in italics.
Chapter 4 (Act 2) had me a bit confused as it mentions that Marilyn had a shop which she’d arranged in just two months so I presumed it was now February / March time. The story then continues with the path of true love not running smoothly (there often has to be more than one dilemma in a short story).
There were occasional instances reminding me that the story was set in America, presumably also the nationality of the author such as the location (Portland) and the phrase ‘ten till five’ which I took as ‘ten to five’ within the context. The following love scene (it was inevitable that there would be one) felt a little clichéd but was at least brief and certainly no sickly Fifty Shades of Grey.
Having the mention of (real) celebrity names made me smile and it felt totally authentic that an ‘ordinary’ woman should be in their company.
At the end of chapter 5 there was a slip (of sorts) of viewpoint with the mention of ‘here’ rather than ‘there’. I was rather surprised that there’d been no mention of Amber up to this point, that Marilyn had only been in contact with Rose and not their younger sister so I kept an eye out for when (presuming) this would happen (it didn’t).
With my editor’s hat on, I spotted a few things I would have changed (or suggested changing) including repeated words within the same sentence and phrases that needed trimming, but I probably would have done the same with whatever I read and in this case it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story.
I’m not a huge fan of pure romance fiction (the hunk on the front cover is a giveaway of the genre) but the ‘slushy’ scenes were short and I enjoyed them. That said, I’m such a wuss and could feel my nose tingling with the final chapter and a smile when I reached the end. Immediately after that we’re invited to read Alyssa’s collection ‘The Little Book of Christmas Love Stories’ and after this one, and short stories being my first love, I probably will.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, Chair of NWG (which runs the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition), Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition and creative writing tutor for her local county council. She is also a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on Twitter, Facebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page). She also recently created five online writing groups and an interview-only blog.
Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has six others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-mine/short-stories.
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