24 June 2015

Review: SPLASH! by Various Authors

2015 Reading Challenge – Short Stories

SPLASH! is a compilation of nine faith-filled romance novellas by indie authors from around the world. Yes, I know novellas aren’t exactly short stories, but I haven’t read short stories in years and Amazon had this listed in the Christian Short Stories category. I figure that means it counts.

It’s hard to review nine different stories by nine different authors. I’ve and enjoyed read previous books by the first three authors, but the other six were new to me. No matter. My previous knowledge of the first three set high expectations I hoped the others would match.

Overall my expectations were met. Yes, the writing and editing was better in some stories than others. Yes, I liked some of the stories better than others (with nine stories there is always going to be a couple I like more or less than the others, for whatever reason). Yes, the Christian element was stronger in some stories than others. But all nine had a solid Christian message, and it was good to see (read?).

I’m sure you don’t want to read my extended views of each novella, so I’m going to give you a whistle-stop tour of all nine, prefaced by one simple statement: this is a great light read, and you might just find a new favourite author.

His Perfect Catch by Narelle Atkins, set on the beaches of New South Wales, Australia. Mia is escaping Sydney—and her ex-boyfriend—and finds hew new next-door neighbour is Pete, her teenage crush. There’s a heap of attraction, but is Pete planning to move back to Sydney? I edited this story which means I’m naturally biased towards it, but I did enjoy Mia and Pete’s story, especially the location (it’s not New Zealand, but it’s close), and the fishing scenes (Mia might not be as high maintenance as Pete thinks, but flat shoes are still a stretch for this city girl).

Sweet Serenade by Valerie Comer, set in the wilds of Canada, in which outgoing tour guide Carly finds she is attracted to the brooding Reed, despite her cousin’s assertion that he’s a standoffish ice man. A fun story, and I especially liked the way Carly and Reed were able to stand up for themselves and their beliefs in a lake of lukewarm churchgoers. This is one of those novellas I’d like to have been longer, so we could see more of Carly and Reed sharing their faith as they fall in love. It’s the third novella in a series, but works just fine as a standalone story.

More than Friends by Autumn Macarthur, set near Edinburgh, as Catriona is desperate for a man to chaperone a church trip to the beach with her and a minibus full of disabled children. She turns to Alistair Murray, her brother’s best friend, a work colleague … and the teenage crush she never quite got over. Friends to more-than-friends is one of my favourite plot devices, and this one had me smiling as Ally and Cat worked things out.

Love Flies In by Heidi McCahan, set in Alaska as new Christian Tisha McDowell reconnects with her college nemesis Chase Binford, the guy she used to hassle for his Christian faith … and apparently kissed. Once. I always enjoy stories set in Alaksa—it’s the US with a twist—and this novella showcased the setting well. And, yes, there was some romance once Chase worked a few things out. Men. Eternally frustrating, but you can’t have a Christian romance without one.

Testing the Waters by Lesley Ann McDaniel, set in Crescent Cove, Oregon, where Curt Mason is working as a waiter to help out a friend, and meets the gorgeous and glamourous Theresé from Paris. Except she’s actually plain Theresa Reynolds from Portland. I was initially hesitant about this—I’m not a fan of lying heroines or heroes—but the author redeemed the plot and wove in an important point about being who we are meant to be in God, so I was more than pleased with the end.

The Lifeguards the Swim Team and Frozen Custard by Carol Moncado has an intriguing and potentially amusing title, but the story didn’t live up to the promise, partly because I never got a fix on where it was set, and I had some initial confusion about a couple of the characters. But it was fun once it got going, and my lasting complaint was it ended too quickly (an unfortunate side-effect of the novella!).

Time and Tide by Lynette Sowell, set in Chincoteague Island, Virginia, where fashion writer Karyn Lewis has retreated following the loss of her job. She reconnects with high school friend Brodie … but gets a shock when she meets his daughter. This wasn’t one of my favourite stories—I didn’t see enough chemistry between Karyn and Brodie, and the plot seemed too detailed for the novella format. It’s ironic, because Lynette Sowell is probably the best-known author in this set, but I found the other stories featured stronger, fresher writing.

Draw You Near by Jan Thompson is set in Savannah, Georgia, where Londoner Lars Cargill has come to find the mysterious woman in a painting by Abilene Dupree. This had potential, and parts of the story were really sweet, but Lars came across as more American than British (perhaps he’s really from New England). On the plus side, there was plenty of chemistry and a shared faith between Lars and Abilene, but that came to a head too quickly and the last quarter of the story dragged. A lot.

Orphaned Hearts by Marion Ueckermann, set in Zambia near the mighty Zambezi River and Victoria Falls. I’m a sucker for exotic locations, and my only experience of Africa is Egypt, so this story really attracted me. Lady Abigail goes to Africa to spend a year teaching in an orphanage … and to get away from an ex-fiancé she can’t ever see herself marrying. She meets handsome widower Simon, who runs a different kind of orphanage—an elephant sanctuary—but who has given up on God since the death of his wife in childbirth. No, the plot isn’t exactly unique, but the setting is and that made what could have been a ho-hum story rather special.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading these novellas, and have certainly found some more authors to add to my to-watch list. My ever-longer to-watch list. Some of these novels are part of a series of novels or novellas, but they can all be read as standalone stories.

Thanks to the authors for providing a free ebook for review.

I do have one free copy of the SPLASH! Kindle ebook to give away—leave a comment to be in the draw to win (winner drawn one week from the publication of this post).


  1. Thanks so much for reading and reviewing, Iola! I'm so glad you enjoyed reading many of the varied stories in the set.

  2. Like Autumn, I appreciate your detailed review. I'm glad you enjoyed Sweet Serenade and most of the others :)

  3. Hi Iola, Thanks so much for taking the time to review all the stories in SPLASH!

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