Short Stories 366:352 — “Eight Winter Nights,” by Liz Maverick

“Eight Winter Nights” opens with a Hannukah party and a near-perfect meet-cute: wonderful, good-with-words Rachel ends up locked out on a balcony with handsome, new-to-the-city Oz, Liz Maverick’s audio novella had me pretty much from the get-go. Rachel’s voice is that brilliant mix of self-deprecating, smart, and just-a-bit oddball that I adore, and when she found herself face-to-face with such a great fellow, her train of thought was so very real I was immediately on her side. Then her beautiful, outgoing, and genuinely fun friend Tamara arrives on the scene and Rachel watches Oz fall into her orbit, realizes Tamara is definitely interested, and just sort of fades off from the balcony, the night, and the moment.

Then we fast-forward almost a year. The party is approaching again, and Tamara and Oz have been dating for most of that year. Alongside Sarah and Elliot, the five have been a solid, rock-steady group of friends this year, and, okay, so Rachel has spent a year journalling about her unreciprocated feelings about Oz, but mostly she’s in a good place. Ish. Then, with no notice, Tamara breaks up with Oz, takes off to Bali, and asks Rachel to stay with him because Oz broke his leg and between the leg and the breakup, he’ll need help. Rachel, astounded, arrives to help—that’s her thing, she helps, even when it’s not great for her own emotional state—finds handsome Oz with one goal in mind: winning Tamara back. Oh, and for that? He’d like Rachel’s help writing meaningful words of love.

What follows is a story that I found mostly cute and really enjoyable when I was in Rachel’s head especially. Oz’s disconnect between his feelings and what he wants was a smidgeon harder to navigate, and it’s not until later you realize just how much he hasn’t had good relationships in his life on any level (I’d almost rather the author had led with that, rather than it being something of a revelation later to help explain how clueless he was about his own heart). It’s a romance novella, so you know where things are going, and I enjoyed the ride. Tamara was a bit of a cipher, only showing at the beginning and the end for brief moments, and I can see how her revelations might rub some readers the wrong way, but this was very much a rom-com, and the undertones of everyone meddling in each other’s affairs to (somewhat) catastrophic effect was pitch-perfect. All in all, this was fun, and I needed the fun. That it was also a Hanukkah holiday romance was all the more refreshing (and I adored Oz’s various thoughts on the holiday itself, especially his enjoyment of the decorations at the party that dovetails the audio novella).

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