Karina Bliss’s Woo Me is one-third of a unique three-part novella series. Its events occur concurrently with those in Joan Kilby’s Win Me and Sarah Mayberry’s Wait For Me. The novellas recount the story of three friends, “sisters-of-the-heart,” attending a traditional Bachelor and Spinster Ball in the Australian outback. Ellie, Jen, and Beth forged friendships in a girls boarding school, seeing each other through farce and tragedy. Now, at 28, they’re in various stages of heartbreak. They congregate at Ellie’s father’s cattle station and resolve to heal their broken, neglected hearts by romping through the bacchanalian shenanigans at the local Bachelor and Spinster Ball. Bliss’s Woo Me is Jen Tremaine’s story. Jen was dumped by her slick ex-boyfriend, the one who re-fell-in-love with his ex-wife. While drowning heart-sorrows with drinkie-poos, Jen accepts Ellie and Beth’s dare to wear Ellie’s “Clarabelle” cow costume at the B&S ball. With Dave’s betrayal fresh, Jen isn’t looking to mend her heart with a fling. She’s going to support Ellie in her unrequited love pursuit of her father’s wrangler, Rick, and heal her newly-divorced, fragile friend, Beth. One sexy, funny, and loving security guard later, Jen re-assesses her “man-ban”.
The security guard is Logan Turner, former SAS, older brother to Lily, the B&S’s chief organizer. Logan patrols the ball’s parameters, escorts inebriated revelers, and runs into a cow-costumed figure landing in scrapes and trouble. Miss Bates thought the opening of Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Natural Born Charmer ruined her for animal-clad heroines, but Bliss’s Jen-Clarabelle was hilarious. This made the novella’s first half stronger and more interesting than its rom-conventional second. The cow costume frees Jen (a woman whose parents’ acrimonious divorce taught her “how to quarantine her feelings”) to play Cupid to B&S’s attendees, and from flirting with and attracting men. She gains observer status, even while she takes on a more “scape-goatish” role with the ribbing, teasing, and tail-snatching she endures. Hardy-har: Jen’s “Clarabelle” makes great comic fodder; witness Logan’s first glimpse of her: “A cow wandered into sight arm-in-arm with two gorgeous women.” Then, Logan catches Jen-Clarabelle in a near-faint on the dance-floor because “dancing inside Clarabelle was like dancing wrapped in a duvet.” At this point, Miss Bates was ROFL! Another great moment comes when Jen-Clarabelle meets a giant bunny: “In the spirit of animal solidarity, she paused to talk to a pink rabbit giving away free condoms.” How can you NOT love Bliss’s wink at safe sex and birth control?!
Woo Me offers a great meet-cute between Logan and Jen-Clarabelle. Logan finds Jen-Clarabelle fumbling around on the dance floor, near-passed-out from heat and dehydration; he assumes the mysterious cow-person is drunk:
The Terminator frowned at her. His eyes were Atlantic blue, in keeping with the implicit power of his warrior body and the vise-like grip on her clothing …
“You’re female.” Exasperation replaced embarrassment. “Hel-lo,” Jen shook her udders at him. “I’m a cow.” …
… ” … Listen, there’s trouble brewing around the bar, otherwise, I’d walk you to your tent.”
“I’m fine,” she waved airily. “You go. Save the other species.” She proferred her mitten-hoof. “It’s Jen. My name.”
Why Miss Bates loved this: Bliss made her heroine beautiful by Jen’s humour and good cheer. She made her hero like her, even with matted cow-head hair and ludicrous costume. Bliss created the scene’s humour with word-play and Jen’s manipulation of her costume. She gave her hero marvelous eyes of “Atlantic blue” and poked some fun at his larger-than-lifeness – typical rom-suspense hero meets cow – except he has the heart and humour to fall in love with her-fer. (Like Bliss, Miss Bates loves her bovine jokes.)
There’s isn’t much Bliss can do with Jen and Logan once Jen’s out of the cow costume, except write their romance as love at first sight. Jen and Logan find each other, miss each other, re-encounter, laugh, and get to know each other under the stars. Yet, it felt, to Miss Bates, as if they were trying to convince themselves and the reader of this love-at-first-sight, meeting The One in an instant. On the other hand, unlikely as this encounter of cow and enforcer is, Jen and Logan are really nice. Miss Bates especially liked Logan’s characterization as an SAS officer, élite and respected, who leaves the force because he wants to experience life without the vigilance. He wants “to relax and be gentle and kind.” That is exactly what he is in, or out of uniform. And Jen, so ruefully aware that her parents’ divorce has made her emotion-shy, is as likable in her humour and kindness as Logan.
In the end, it was easy for Miss Bates to wish them well and believe in their HEA. They’re mature and willing to compromise. They’re steady and loving, kind and funny. Logan is strong and protective without being overbearing, willing to bend his life to Jen’s and not demanding in kind. Jen is vulnerable, but also capable and independent. Despite their “profile” as strong military type and damsel/heifer-in-distress, their HEA is anything but typical. As a cherry on top the rom-sundae, Bliss pens a beautifully twisty little epilogue that fools and surprises the reader most delightfully. With Miss Austen, Miss Bates says that in Bliss’s Woo Me is evidence of “a mind lively and at ease,” Emma.
Karina Bliss’s Woo Me is self-published. It was released on October 20th, 2015, and may be purchased at your preferred vendor. Miss Bates received an e-ARC from the authors.