Just in time for Valentine’s day…
Towards the end of last October I had the pleasure of reading The Halloween Book from KUF; an anthology of Halloween themed short stories. It was enjoyable, and fed into the themes of the season especially well. This anthology, aptly entitled Hearts and Arrows is perfectly placed for Valentine’s day and includes a collection of nine (modern romance) short stories. Much like the last outing it’s well put together (and edited) with a good selection of authors, which as I’ve said before is a great way to introduce you to some new books. Overall I’ve given it 4 stars because I did enjoy it but as with any anthology I read there were definite favourites amongst the bunch namely ‘Un-Valentine’s Day‘ and ‘You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me‘. Let me point out that this isn’t so much because of the quality of writing in this case, but more to do with how much I related to the short story in question.
So, in order of appearance…
Roulette, by David Wailing. (4 stars)
“Welcome to the Other Halves Valentine’s Day Speed-Dating Event! My name’s Scott Rowley, your relationship assassin for the evening, and I’m here to kill something stone dead.”
I liked the charm of the narrative in this short and how the protagonist would change his demeanour with each new partner. It was romance in a roundabout way and my favourite feature had to be how the tables were turned on Scott towards the end.
Rollercoaster, by Ann Madden-Walsh. (2.5 stars)
“Is life infinite? For forty years she has lived in hope that one day her first love will return. Now she’s about to find out.”
I had trouble with this one. The beginning and end were well thought through and flowed well, but the majority of the main story centred on self-reflection, which I couldn’t relate with. It’s difficult to judge because I’m not hugely philosophical and if I had lost a loved one in a similar fashion perhaps my response to this short would have been different.
Love Transcending, by Lou Wellman. (3 stars)
“A disillusioned young man takes some time out to find himself, but discovers more than he ever would have imagined.”
In The Halloween Book, Orange Squash (by Lou Wellman) was one of my favourite shorts, so maybe I was expecting more from this one. Overall the story was fine, there was enough to keep me reading but there were parts that I felt were unrealistic and sudden. Although I recognise that that could be what the author was aiming for, it did not seem believable (as a story) to me, which diluted the take home message.
Puppy Love, by David G Pearce. (3 stars)
Too many exclamation marks
“Christopher Parker looks back at his first love. Was it just ‘Puppy Love’ or was it more than that? Tonight he might find out the answer.”
The premise to this short is sweet, and I liked the choice of ending (especially how the faith that his first love had in him turned out to be well-placed). My main bugbear with this one was the multiple exclamation marks. I understand that for a child narrating, or to emphasise a child’s feelings, that exclamation marks could work. But, to me at least they seemed overused, which provided a constant irritation throughout a good story. (Yes, I realise that might sound a little crazy…)
A Romantic Quest, by Cecilia Peartree. (3 stars)
“In post-war Britain, a man and a woman find themselves on opposite sides of the law. Is the gulf between them too big to be bridged? Or will love find a way?”
This one had a good opener; I immediately got drawn in after the previous short. There were times though where it seemed part of the story was missing; I think I wanted more detail or action. That said, it was an interesting idea and a good play on post-war Britain.
Un-Valentine’s Day, by Kristine Cayne. (5 stars)
“It’s Valentine’s Day, and Noah Jensen has a mad crush on Cassie Ames, a woman who vehemently hates the holiday. Even worse, she doesn’t see him as boyfriend material. Can Noah give Cassie a perfect day and move out of the dreaded friend zone—and into her heart?”
Perhaps my favourite of the set, which may say more about my take on Valentine’s day than anything else. I liked the switching perspective in this short; it was used expertly to give you an idea of each character’s thoughts and feelings, which really helped to develop the storyline and also encouraged a genuine investment in the character’s involved.
Donna’s Date, by Lexi Revellian. (4.5 stars)
“On leaving the office party, Donna finds a card from a stranger under her windscreen wiper, asking her out…”
An understated romance, this short seems to concentrate more on Karma than a traditional romantic theme. I wasn’t sure where this story was heading from the onset (which is a good thing) but I was happy with where it led me. Some people can be mean and it’s great to see them get what’s coming to them.
Relationship Status, by David Wailing. (4.5 stars)
“Like everyone in the year 2022, Amy relies on her auto. It’s the digital version of her: filtering the internet, interacting online, organising her calendar and automating every aspect of her life. Even her lovelife. Amy’s auto knows who should be her partner – whether she likes it or not…”
This short is based on a brilliant idea. The author has clearly thought through the implications of a simple technology taken to the extreme and woven in some AI to boot. The struggle that the main character went through: dismissal, denial, anger and retaliation and finally acceptance was great fun to read.
You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, by Talli Roland. (5 stars)
“Do actions really speak louder than those three little words … even on the most romantic day of the year?”
Again, I think I was heavily influenced by the un-Valentine’s day feel to this one. The premise is interesting; how much importance do we give to three little words that could be used without thought? I particularly liked how the character resolved to confront her partner towards the end and how this was thrown out the window with some well-meaning actions. It was a great take home message: A short story that can get you thinking or change your perspective is a great thing indeed.
Disclaimer: I don’t much like Valentine’s day but I do like a good romance…