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I take some solace in knowing that I apparently have nothing better to do than fret over whether I'm biased against rooting women who go on reality shows. Anyway, check out my review of Subsolar Drift's Letters From a Secret Admirer, below.
Impressions before reading: From the tags, cover art, and description, this looks like a pretty typical TwiDash shipfic, liable to play its rom-com conceit totally straight, and of the sort where I say something like "If you're looking for this specific kind of thing in your ponyfic, you'll like it, but it's got nothing to offer anyone else." It looks like that, but based on both the recommendation, it's supposedly more accessable to non-shippers than many of its ilk. And the amount of discussion its generated on its own page (nearly 500 comments on a barely-10k-word story) is probably a good sign for it at least being unique; while it certainly possible that it's just 500 "DAWWWW"s in a row, stories which generate a lot of comments tend (for better or worse) not to be totally paint-by-numbers--something's gotta get all those people talking, right?
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Dash decides to pay back her friends for the whole Mare-Do-Well affair by personally pranking each of them. And for Twilight, she has a foolproof plan: pretend to be Twi's secret admirer. There's no way that could backfire!
Thoughts after reading: Actually, my initial impressions were pretty much spot-on, before I started walking them back. This is the very definition of predictable shipping: a story with a preordained pairing, in which the romantic path, dung-hits-the-fan, and reconciliation/ending kiss can all be easily predicted simply by reading the fic's description. In terms of plot or event, there's no reason to read this fic unless you specifically want to read "this (kind of) fic."
But that's not a deal-breaker, by itself. Lots of stories are predictable. Heck, any story you re-read is predictable by definition, but we still re-read them because we like them. But my point is, unless you already like "Dash pretends to fall for Twi, then really falls for Twi, then Twi finds out the letters were fake, then they make up and kiss" (don't even pretend any of that was a spoiler), this isn't the story for you; there's nothing to the plot besides a veritable checklist of shipping cliches.
It'd be fair to say that the arc is disappointing on its own merits, though. Twilight randomly deciding she was lesbian took the cake (imagine, if you will, a story about a lesbian who decided that she was going to be straight now because she'd "never really thought about liking guys" before, but this one seemed kind of sweet), but a lot of the story's cliches are simply tossed in the reader's lap without support or explanation. Things happen in this story because they are necessary for the fic to proceed to its next preordained block, over and over again, without regard for building believable characters or developing emotions organically.
And the writing itself doesn't do the fic any favors. A missing word in the very first sentence is never a good sign, and in this case it belies regular editing errors throughout the fic. Apparently the story was written under time constraints for a contest; those constraints show in the construction. And not just in those kind of basic mistakes, as repetition in words and phrases s very noticeable throughout, and there's a tendency for the narration/characters to repeat it/themselves, sometimes in nearly back-to-back sentences.
★☆☆☆☆ (what does this mean?)
"If you're looking for this specific kind of thing in your ponyfic, you'll like it, but it's got nothing to offer anyone else," I said before reading, and I was basically right. This is a fic which has no appeal beyond its core shipping demographic. And that's fine; entire subcategories of literature are built around sometimes ridiculously specific audiences. But it's fair to say that Letters from a Secret Admirer belongs to that category of writing unlikely to transcend the boundaries of its core constituency: TwiDash fans looking for the fic equivalent of comfort-food empty calories.
Recommendation: I think I've been pretty clear, but: if you like TwiDash and the rom-com formula played perfectly straight, this will probably suit your fancy. If not, there's nothing here for you.
Next time: Why am I Pinkie Pie?, by Hoopy McGee