Thursday, 31 May 2012

Some Kate Hewitt Shorts

Kate Hewitt has put together some of her many stories published in magazines over the years in themed anthologies.  Here are four of them. Plus a Novella.  

Out in the Country    ****

Out In The CountryThis is a three in oner. A novella length story that manages to introduce quite a broad range of characters and surprisingly, the ensemble cast are painted with quite a detailed brush.  A real gift, but one Kate Hewitt excels in. Our primary heroine is Lynne, a recently widowed New Yorker, she has come to the point where she wants something more, something new.  At first she thinks it might be returning to her birthplace of Scotland to set up a Hotel with her childhood friend Jess and her fiancé. Only Jess's plans fall through and another option opens up for the old friends in Vermont.

Lynne's daughter Molly is also going through a transitional stage in her life. She is beginning her teaching career at a tough inner city school in New York. There she meets the cynical Luke who guides her through her first weeks and makes her wonder if her long term boyfriend Jason is the right man for her after all.

Meanwhile in Vermont. Lynne and Jess find themselves becoming part of the community and making new friends and even perhaps new loves.  But they first have to come to terms with the past.

This is a sweet and engaging read full of interesting and likeable characters. We see the ups and downs as the characters brave their new world and make decisions about the future. 

Before the Dawn: Stories of Hope in Hard Times     ****

Before The Dawn: Stories of Hope in Hard Times I've been working my way through Kate's series of short story collections.  Kate has gathered them together and is putting them into themed e-books.  This one, based one the old adage that it's 'Always Darkest before the Dawn' is a collection of stories that have the common them of people at their lowest ebb finding, love, hope, redemption, even themselves.  They are not all love stories as such. Four of them are more about family and finding purpose in life. My ickometer gyrated madly when I saw the word infidelity listed as one of the themes but I should have known I could trust Kate to deliver sensitive and beautifully written stories that touch on the serious issues but leave you feeling hopeful and uplifted by the end of the story.

My favourite in the book is the Post WWI Reunion story. 'Memory and Desire' is faintly reminiscent of one of the stories in her historical collection but from a different angle and very moving. 'The Locket' is a sweet romance of young love challenged by circumstance as is 'A Piece of Cake' which shows us that we are all unique and loveable for the right person. 'Comfort' is a comfort read for those of us further down the track when a long term relationship may seem a little flat.  'Now That You're Here', 'Daddy's Girl' and 'Blueberries for Breakfast' are touching tales of family relationships. The last one, a little different, is 'Triangles', the story of a childless woman looking for meaning in her life.

This collection is a quick and easy read and left me feeling pleasantly uplifted.  I went back and read 'Memory and Desire' again because I'd read it late at night and wanted to revisit it.

Through the Years: An Anthology of Historical Romance     *****

Through the Years You might think five stars over the top for a little book of five short stories.  But I loved four of the stories and absolutely loved the fifth.  That was story number two, Finding A Way Home. And yes it was a reunion story.  My very favouritist kind. The stories are all plain straight out romances set in the first half of the 20th Century. From the San Francisco Earthquake to a post WWII department store.

All the stories are very simple and sweet stories well embedded in the era. Kate Hewitt has done a lovely job with her evocative backgrounds that tell you exactly where you are without hitting you over the head or distracting from the core business, the romance.

All the characters are well drawn in spite of the short length of the stories and each and every one of them I would have been happy to read about all night.  

Number One "Elegance" is about a young miss who dreams about being more than just the girl behind the glove counter. She learns that elegance is about more than working in the fancy couture department.
Number Three, "Through the Storm" is a classic tale of the city school mistress proving herself to a small town in the far west, and to a rather special widower. 

The title of number four "A New Hope" at first had me thinking Star Wars but it is a lovely little story set in Ontario reminiscent of Anne of Green Gables and L.M. Montgomery's short tales.

Number Five "A Day Like No Other" is a nice little snapshot of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and two antagonistic young people who discover much more under adversity.

I've left Number Two til last because for me this was the pearl of the collection. The story of a young woman welcoming back her husband in 1920 after six years away in WWI. This lovely and moving tale of a man coming to terms with both physical and mental wounds and the difficulties he and his barely a bride wife have, really caught my emotions.  

This was a free download on Amazon yesterday and I snabbled it up having enjoyed two other similar collections by Kate.  This is my favourite.

Bump: An Anthology About Pregnancy, Motherhood, & Trying For It AllBump: An Anthology About Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Trying for it All     ***

If you are expecting (no pun intended) something resembling Kate's well known Presents romances you will be disappointed. This is a selection of short stories (very short magazine length) dealing with the pains and gains of pregnancy and babies. All the stories are well written, even beautifully written in places. They are not really romances although there is love in them. I found a couple of them quite difficult to read as they deal with subjects that will be emotional, especially for women. Kate has very kindly sorted them from sad through to happy, so it is worth persevering to get a happy ending. Kate's gift for drawing us interesting and engaging people is evident even in these very small tales, but don't expect the intricacy of her usual full length novels.  I gave it 4 stars on Amazon because I liked it but on Goodread I gave three because I didn't quite 'really like it'.  Maybe 3 1/2.  Today was probably not a good day for reading emotionally demanding stories.

Love, Laughter & Lucky Marbles:  An Anthology about the Funny Side of Falling in Love       ****

Now this was exactly what I needed after a pretty rough day. This is a selection of mini romances. Yes they are all about boy meets girl and with a fair indication (give or take about 46 000 words down the track that we don't get to read) that they will end up with a happily ever after. They are all light hearted reads as the title suggests. The most fully developed story was probably Just Friends. It was my personal favourite anyway. But a few others stood out from the crowd as well.

The stories covered a fair range of situations though as is always a risk with gathering an anthology under a topic that there will be similarities. Two sister of the bride stories but they aren't all that similar in the end. A couple of Valentine's that started off with the same theme but diverged pretty quickly.

I enjoyed all the stories. I always worry with an anthology that some make weight might be chucked in. Like when you buy a CD of your favourite artist (I was going to say record but thought that might date me a little). So often you like just a couple of them and the rest are pretty meh! Not so here. They are all light and fluffy but still very enjoyable with engaging characters.

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