It's a well-known fact that America has some of the biggest and best of everything, including writers - and some of my personal favourites come from over the pond. However, it's always a special thrill for me to discover a really excellent British writer and early last year, I did exactly that when I discovered Jan Ruth. Her novel, Wild Water was one of the best stories I read during 2012 and I suspect it now has a permanent place in my top ten all-time favourite novels.
Jan lives in North Wales and writes contemporary, romantic women's fiction. Love stories with strong, identifiable characters. Her feel for the Welsh landscape is evident in all of her books. Her style has been described as between two genres - not light enough for romance but not literature either - it sits somewhere between the two. Her books convey some serious threads with a good blend of humour, a balance of light and dark. Different from the majority of romance in that she often writes from the male perspective.
Last month Jan produced an anthology of short stories titled The Long and the Short of It. This is available FREE from Smashwords. It's a collection of five short stories, followed by a full chapter from each of Jan's three full length novels. That's over thirty thousand words of humour, the complications of relationships and the poignancy of love - and all free!
My Review of The Long and the Short of It
Now I have to confess, I'm generally not a great fan of short stories but being such a great fan of Jan Ruth's longer novels, I was therefore very pleased when I saw she had brought out this anthology. The collection contains five stories based around people who have reached a certain crossroads in their lives. People who need to find space to reacquaint themselves with their inner person and make the right decision about the future. And as usual, the physical space is provided in the shape of the wild and wonderful Welsh landscape. In Jan Ruth's stories this landscape becomes almost a character in its own right.
Against this dramatic backdrop we meet Frankie, torn between the decision to forge a new life with Clara or pick up the pieces of his shattered life with Ella; the selfless Pattie, whose birthday candles illuminate more than just the cake and Tom in my favourite story, A Piece of Cake, who takes responsibility for sixteen rambler-pensioners who lead him to a turning point in his life. There is also the rather haunting story of Mari, half a twin coping with tragedy in a mysterious way and the final (almost a flash-fiction piece) involving Sylvia an abandoned wife who almost manages to convince herself that solitude is a desirable state.
All Jan Ruth's characters live and breathe in their realistic complexity, but I always find her male characters more interesting and better developed than her female ones. I found myself wanting to know much more about Frankie and Tom than the rest in this collection and wishing those stories were longer. I awarded this collection 4.5 cute cats:
If you haven't discovered Jan Ruth for yourself yet, then download this collection and I promise, like me, you'll be hooked.