Autumn is the perfect time for romance. Okay, is romance ever out of season? But you have to admit that being kissed under a harvest moon sounds totally romantic.
The newest anthology, Love Under the Harvest Moon, from Roane Publishing features five short stories centered around the theme of autumn. Three of them feature back-to-school in one way or another.
Amidst Strawberry Fields
This short story is by Nemma Wollenfang. I was interested to read it since Nemma shared a spot with me in Masked Hearts.
First of all, I was surprised that is was a young adult romance. Not because I don’t like them, because I’m a huge fan of young adult literature in many genres. However, Roane Publishing generally excludes stories with young adult characters from their anthologies.
I enjoyed the story. At first, I was thrown off because there was talk of a farm but the first sentence has a Ferrari pulling up to the school parking lot. What?
Eventually, I settled into the rhythm of the story. Beth was more mature than your average teenager. Maybe because of all the responsibilities she had at the farm.
This is a story about race relations, prejudice and even racial profiling. Not that any of those terms were used. But the gypsies aren’t welcome at the school and before long, it’s obvious the police want to blame them for any crime that happens around town.
Some things about Beth remained vague (like where was her father?) and the details of the harvest ceremony were released grudgingly.
A solid start for the anthology.
Four out of five stars
I’m familiar with T.E. Hodden because we shared a cover with the Hearts of Valor anthology.
His story ended up being the best in the bunch. His prose is poetic. His characters solid. And the one-day time frame of the story kept the pace ratched up so I had to keep turning pages.
It took me a few pages to orient myself to a romance narrated in first person by a man. First, I’m not generally a fan of first person in romances because the tension can be tightened so much more effectively if readers can get inside the heads of both characters.
At first, I thought it was going to be another “I walked in on my girlfriend with another guy” story. But Hodden threw a curve ball (or three) in the middle of these over-used (in my opinion) trope.
I don’t want to give anything away because this is a story best experienced firsthand.
Five out of five stars
This story by Patricia Crisafulli started slow and never really gained momentum.
It was written in present tense which is tedious for me to read, but I don’t think that’s why I didn’t connect with it.
The shero, Anna, was a single mom with plenty of problems. She was relatable and likable. The writing wasn’t terrible.
A romance never unfolded. We went from a guy telling her to loosen up to her holding hands with him at the harvest festival. No idea how they got from one point to the next. Most of the story is about Anna’s other problems and he makes brief appearances. You know he’s going to be the love interest because there’s no one else.
But how? The story has too many holes.
Three out of five stars
A Harvest Homecoming
This little tale penned by Laura Lamoreaux and T.L. French tried to pull me into its contemporary world.
Tanya is home again after an ugly divorce. She’s marking time until she can find another job as a reporter. And, of course, since anyone can be a teacher (in Texas, I guess), she takes a job teaching freshman English.
You all know I’m a substitute teacher with a background working in education for a decade, so this attitude rubbed me all kinds of wrong. But I kept reading.
Tanya runs into a guy she used to know, who once crushed on her, and he ends up being totally hot nowadays.
I probably don’t need to go on. It unfolded predictably from there.
At least the plot made sense and the story was complete. And the dig at teaching (unintentional or not) was redeemed by the end of the story.
Four out of five stars
Claire Davon, another anthology mate of mine from Masked Hearts, writes another girl comes home from the big city and takes a teaching job story. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if it wasn’t back-to-back with the other one.
Here Vanessa runs into her old flame, who broke up with her after cheating on her. See what I mean about the cheating boyfriend or girlfriend being an over-used trope?
Vanessa still has feelings for him. Does he have feelings for her?
Rather than taking the time to develop conflict and flesh out a longer story, Davon takes our couple out on a date and has them resolve everything over one meal. I believe in the restorative power of Italian food as much as the next person, but I couldn’t get on board with such an easy resolution of big issues.
I also didn’t connect with these characters as well as I had with those from the other stories.
Three out of five stars
All in all, this was a pleasant way to pass some time cuddled up on a rainy day. Each story is the perfect length for a lunch-hour dive into fiction-land.
Overall, it earns four out of five stars. (Okay, if you do the math, it technically gets 3.8 stars, but that rounds up to four, right?)