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First Page: Unnamed contemporary

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***

There was a woman in the kitchen.

Harris rubbed a hand across his jet-lagged eyes and tried to focus. Yup, definitely a woman. She was sitting at the dining table, pulling her lip between her teeth. Her very white teeth. Her left hand was twisted into the dark corkscrews of hair that she had just about constrained with a brightly coloured bandana, and the other tapped a pen against her cheek impatiently. Piles of alarmingly thick textbooks surrounded her laptop and the papers she was currently looking through. Eyes narrowed in concentration, she clearly had no idea that she was being observed.

Harris coughed politely. He had no idea who the woman was but she didn't seem to be doing any harm.

She gave no sign that she had heard him. He coughed again, a little louder.

"Excuse me,' he tried. Then he noticed the wires trailing from her ears and the little iPod placed by her elbow. He shrugged and walked across to the refrigerator to grab a can of chilled soda, too tired to care very much. She had to look up sooner or later and they could do the introductions then. He opened his drink and leaned against the counter, waiting for the mystery girl to finally notice him.

He'd almost drained the can dry by the time she looked up. Harris watched as her eyes sharpened into focus and her mouth opened in surprise. She tugged the earphones out and stood up in a rush.

I'm so sorry,' she began, hastily packing her things away. "You must be Mr Bond. Mr Lennox said you'd be out at work all day. I wasn't expecting to see you here.'

Harris nodded slowly. Simon Lennox was a friend and business associate of his father. He had offered Harris a three-month internship at his company and use of his London flat for the summer. He hadn't mentioned anything about a cute girl who liked to do her homework in his kitchen. "My flight arrived late last night,' he explained. "I'm taking the day to get over the jetlag and find my way around before I show up for work.'

"Of course.' She smiled at him and her whole face lit up. Harris couldn't help but smile back. "Well, don't worry,' she continued, "I'll leave you to it. There's plenty of food in the fridge. If there's anything you particularly want me to get, leave me a note. I usually come in on Mondays and Thursdays from eight to eleven. I clean, tidy and shop. Anything else you need me to do, let me know.'

"You're the housekeeper?' Harris blurted out in surprise. Angie gave him a questioning look so he raised an eyebrow and pointedly glanced down at the laptop still sitting on the table.

She stared at him for a moment, then shook her head as if in amazement. "Cleaner, actually,' she replied curtly, closing the computer down. "Angie Ferguson. Didn't Mr Lennox mention me?'

Harris smiled ruefully, remembering Simon's email. "He did. I was rather expecting someone, ah-' He made a vague gesture in her direction. "-older.' That wasn't quite what he meant but it would do.

"I'm twenty-four. Perfectly old enough to hold down a part-time job, thanks.'

He shook his head. "Not what I meant. Sorry, my body still thinks it's the middle of the night.' He glanced over at the kitchen clock. Half past ten.

"Sure.' She'd picked up her satchel and slung it over her shoulder.

"Wait,' Harris urged her. "You said you work until eleven?' Did Simon have any idea how this girl was ripping him off? Studying while she was supposed to be working, and now bunking off early?

"Officially.'

"Well, then, I do have something else I need you to do.'

Dark eyes narrowed suspiciously. "The bathroom's clean, the fridge is stocked, there are fresh towels in the airing cupboard. Mr Lennox left a list of useful phone numbers on the hall table, and the code for the wifi is on there, too.' She folded her arms and met his gaze full on.

Harris nodded, desperately trying to think of something else to keep her busy. To keep her here. "Great.'

"So unless you need me to unpack for you, I'll be going.' Her voice oozed with sarcasm and for an instant Harris wondered why on earth Simon kept her around. She might be easy on the eye, but if she was always this lazy and disrespectful of her employer, he'd have fired her long ago.

‘Actually, I do.' It was as good an excuse as any. Last night he'd barely kept his eyes open long enough to pull an old t-shirt and pajama pants from his bag. He kept his gaze fixed on her face, watching as her jaw tensed and her mouth set into a hard line. She hadn't expected him to call her bluff. Interesting.

Still, she shrugged the heavy bag off her shoulder and automatically Harris reached out to take it from her, only realising too late that he was now standing inches away from the most unpredictable, gorgeous girl he could ever remember meeting. And although he was still tired with the jetlag, he wasn't too tired to respond.

Angie's fingers tightened around the leather strap. "I can manage.' Her eyes met his, daring him to disagree, but her breath was coming quicker and her voice was shaky.

"I'm sure you can,' he murmured, but he couldn't stop his fingers from curling themselves around hers, effortlessly taking the weight of the satchel from her. He leaned in closer, drawn irresistibly by the intoxicating fragrance of her hair, and the temptation that lurked in every inch of those gloriously full lips.

Her head tilted slightly upwards towards him and Harris took the silent invitation to press a light kiss at the corner of her mouth. He shifted a little and closed his eyes as he moved in for a second attempt.

An instant later her knee made contact with his groin and the resulting sharp stab of pain forced him to pull away, bent double and moaning in agony. Harris grabbed the back of a chair and concentrated on breathing through it.

After a couple of minutes of biting his lip to prevent himself from cursing in a way that really wasn't appropriate in front of a lady, Harris just about recovered enough to look up. He was startled to see that Angie had picked up her bag and was on her way through the door.

"Hey, where do you think you're going?'

She shot him a look of pure contempt. "You work it out.'

"Look, I'm sorry, okay? I just wanted to see what it would be like-'

His voice trailed off as Angie turned back, very slowly. Menacingly, he thought, with a shudder. She took a step towards him.

Harris straightened up, ready for the next onslaught.

"You wanted to see what it would be like to kiss a black girl?' she spat at him, each word more forceful than the last. She had dropped the bags again and at her side, her hands curled into fists.

Harris stood his ground and tried to keep calm. "No! I wanted to see what it would be like to kiss you.'

That didn't seem to pacify her any.

"That's what they teach you in America, is it? That it's okay to kiss any woman you happen to fancy, just to see what it would be like?'

She was standing right in front of him now. She was only a few inches short of his six foot, but she was considerably slimmer. And curvier. Harris forced himself to keep his eyes fixed on her face. He didn't like to think what she would do otherwise.

"Let me give you some helpful advice, Mr Bond.' There was the sarcasm again, mocking and condescending. No one had ever spoken to Harris like that before. "In this country, that's harassment. And if you try it again, you'll be lucky to get away with a pair of bruised balls.'

Damn, she was gorgeous.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

42 Comments

  1. Merrian
    Sep 18, 2010 @ 05:25:38

    Sorry he’s an idiot this doesn’t get me in at all and just annoys me that sexual harassmant is the opening intro scene

  2. J.J.
    Sep 18, 2010 @ 06:50:33

    Going to have to agree with Merrian. The guy has no redeeming qualities. He even thinks a variation on the tired old saw “You’re so beautiful when you’re angry.” He’s patronizing–worrying about Angie’s work ethic on behalf of her employer, ordering her around so he can keep her there for his entertainment. The sexual harassment goes beyond gross.

    Also, emphasizing the white teeth and full lips of a black character is… I’m going to skip to the tactful phrase “highly problematic.” All we know about Angie’s looks is that she has three stereotypical black characteristics–hair, lips, teeth–and that she’s gorgeous. The only remotely individual physical characteristic is her bandanna, and maybe her height. Unless the author is trying to subtly convey that Harris is the kind of subconscious racist who sees black women as a collection of racially stereotyped traits, Angie really, really needs to be described in terms of something other than her race.

  3. romsfuulynn
    Sep 18, 2010 @ 07:53:11

    Ick.

    Wanna be rapist jerk. There is no redeeming possibility here for a male character in this century.

    No even if she knees him in the groin and goes directly to the police station, he gets arrested, loses his job, loses the business he is there to get and we pick up ten years later.

    I just am reading “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and her solution came to mind.

    Just ick.

  4. romsfuulynn
    Sep 18, 2010 @ 07:59:20

    Oh, yeah. I forgot the racist part in describing his jerkdom.

  5. Gwynnyd
    Sep 18, 2010 @ 09:07:08

    There’s one technical problem – he knows her name before she tells it to him.

    I think the overwhelming rapist-male mindset could be fixed with just a little tweaking, if that’s not the first impression you want him to have.

    You kept sending mixed signals.

    He first thinks of her as “cute,” which is acceptable. When cute morphs into “most unpredictable, gorgeous girl he could ever remember meeting” in the space of just a few paragraphs it was very jarring.

    He shudders and flinches when she gets angry, but he still wants to touch her even though she just kneed him in the balls.

    Either you are setting this up for some BDSM or it is just cliched and he is stupid bordering on TSTL. Either way, not my preferred read.

    Unlike some other commenters, I didn’t figure out that she was black until she threw it in his face. Which was also weird. “Corkscrew” hair is not necessarily “black” hair and with the media obsession with white teeth these days, I assumed it was product placement for Crest White Strips ™ or something and it amused me that it has gone from expensive shoes to white teeth. Why no panegyrics on her Mocha Frappuccino ™ colored skin?

    You understand the mechanics of writing quite well. I suppose there is still a market somewhere for alpha males who rape their women until they love them back. Maybe try it from her POV, so we can see his attraction. From inside his head, he has no redeeming hottness.

  6. Rose Fox
    Sep 18, 2010 @ 09:19:06

    Good for her! I’d kick him too. What a jerk.

    I think the single huge problem with this first page is that the story continues past it. It should end right here, with Angie triumphant and powerful, and the harassing, arrogant, privileged dickhead put in his place. I suppose the rest of the novel “redeems” him? Ugh. I couldn’t care less about his redemption. I want her to walk out of there and find some nice man who doesn’t have to be painstakingly taught to treat her with respect and kindness. Harris isn’t the least bit worthy of her. To hell with him.

  7. Rose Fox
    Sep 18, 2010 @ 09:27:18

    Oh, and anyone who claims that England doesn’t have the same racist baggage as America (which is entirely untrue) can still get angry that this is a well-off man putting the moves on his female employee, and one who does pretty menial work at that. The class issues and race issues and gender issues just reinforce themselves: he is more powerful and privileged in pretty much every way possible. He’s even taller and stronger than she is. A novel about a black female housekeeper falling in love with her white male employer is just about guaranteed to be a novel of apologism for the privileged. I don’t care if he ends up on a leash and groveling at her feet; reversing the dynamic of privilege still reiterates and reinforces it.

  8. romsfuulynn
    Sep 18, 2010 @ 09:40:19

    And if it turns out that his assessment of her status is wrong (e.g. she’s studying law/medicine/science and her parents are reasonably well off upper class types, one of whom works for the guy who owns the flat, or is even the daughter of the guy who owns the flat) or if she in fact owns the flat, or the building and is the landlord, it still doesn’t help. He doesn’t know that.

    If she is the daughter of the guy who owns the flat, she still is getting privilege from her association with him, which is problematic.

    Historically, the stolen kiss is always been problematic, but this one is gross.

    The only thing he could legitimately do is ask her to do something that is in fact in line with her perceived status, given that he thinks she’s skiving off.

  9. Carole & Chewy
    Sep 18, 2010 @ 09:56:37

    Once again I am out of the mainstream -I didn’t even realize/consider/didn’t occur to me that she was black until she says so – overall I thought the writing was a little wordy, but it didn’t particularily offend me, and seemed like a more-than-plausible way for a guy to conduct himself (not saying that he didn’t need to have lines drawn for his behavior, butmost guys do, sooner or later). Also -this guy isn’t her employer, but instead there for a summer internship -so I’m thining they are about the same age – the whole “white person in authority taking advantage” seems a little farfetched. But hey, that’s just me.

  10. Elyssa Papa
    Sep 18, 2010 @ 09:58:24

    I’m agreeing with what everyone else has already stated. A couple of things: the opening sentence didn’t grab me at all. What is so odd about a woman being in the kitchen? I mean, I get it later on why. But I don’t think it has the hook or impact that you meant to.

    And the hero’s last name of Bond. After I read that I kept picturing James Bond and couldn’t shake the image out of my head and you lost me as a reader.

  11. Rose Fox
    Sep 18, 2010 @ 10:01:38

    @Carole & Chewy: Age has nothing to do with it. One of my bosses is about my age. If a friend of his came into the office, was surprised to see me working after hours, and kissed me, I’d be furious–and I’d also be in an awkward position wondering whether my boss would be upset and maybe take it out on me professionally if I justifiably raised a stink about his friend’s behavior. That is a class differential.

    @Elyssa Papa: “Mr. Bond” threw me the same way! Heh. James Bond this guy ain’t.

  12. okbut
    Sep 18, 2010 @ 10:01:43

    My first thought was WoW that is one long beginning page. More like two or three I think.

    The first third was good I thought, the writing is well paced, the style and voice is interesting and there is an unexpected element in the action that’s always great to have in this section.

    I agree with the other comments about the desintegration of the story line into some kind of romance gone wrong. Boring.

  13. Kristi
    Sep 18, 2010 @ 10:23:11

    I’m trying to think how you can fix this.

    I think the biggest problem is that your man isn’t acting like a real man, but your puppet to create a situation that is almost out of an Old Skool romance. “Because I want to kiss her I should…”

    Then you’re using that to create your tension, but I think you need a bit more careful plotting than that.

    When I read the scene where he comes in and she’s in the kitchen, I was expecting this to be a “mixed up roommates” story.

    Like two roommates are away for whatever reason and both got someone to stay in their part of the flat, thinking their boarder would be the only one there, sort of thing. Now two people who don’t know one another have to live together as roommates, and attraction ensues even though they shouldn’t consider it…

    I’m with the others, I don’t like that she’s the housekeeper. I do like that she’s black, but hopefully you can tread those waters with some delicacy.

    I didn’t understand why she’d be sitting in a kitchen studying if she’s supposed to be working.

    I didn’t catch where she told him her name, yet he uses it in his thoughts.

    The kiss is right out. Don’t let that be your tension, create tension elsewhere and slowly build it.

    And I feel like there’s a general lack of depth to the internal thoughts and observations of the point of view character.

    I do think there’s some quality to the actual writing that can be built upon, but there’s a lot of work to be done here.

  14. evie byrne
    Sep 18, 2010 @ 10:32:21

    I’m going to leave aside the sexual/racial/class problems with this scene, which are already established by the other commenters, and just address some more technical issues.

    There were two places where the interior logic of the scene jammed up. The first was when he asks her to do something before she leaves, and she reacts very defensively. The natural, easy –and proper–response would be to say “Sure, what can I do for you?” instead of listing off all she’d done already. Especially because he hadn’t been hassling her prior to the request.

    So, either we’ve got a heroine with a serious attitude problem, or, more likely, we’ve got an author trying to whip conflict out of thin air. If they need to fight, find something real for them to disagree over.

    Second bump was the big bump, the kiss. If you’re going to keep it, you need a longer ramp up to it. I was totally surprised that his “request” was going to be a kiss. He didn’t seem all that attracted to her til the very last second, where she goes from being merely “a cute girl” to “the most unpredictable, gorgeous girl he could ever remember meeting” And he transforms into an 18th century rake who feels entitled to paw the servant girls. A were-rake????

    I mean, there are badly behaved men in the modern world, but it stretches credibility that he’d be so badly behaved so fast–and all while suffering jet lag! You need to lay a much firmer groundwork to lead a reader to an indiscretion of that size and get them to buy it.

    And I feel bad for ragging on you so much, but I have to add one more thing. I really disliked the implication that she felt some attraction toward him, too (e.g. her shaky voice and hesitation). Because we all know it’s so darn sexy to be arguing your job with some soda-breathed weirdo friend of your employer. And it also means “she was asking for it.” This strikes me as forcing the sexual attraction between them, just as you forced the argument between them.

    If you want to keep the stolen kiss, wouldn’t be better for her to totally unaware and offended (innocent of collaboration)–and then have him have to work hard to win her trust and affection? Everyone loves the reformed rake plot.

    But you know, outside of these issues, you write well. Your voice is clear, your prose tight. I’m sure you could write a very good story. It just seems this one is starting off on the wrong foot.

  15. Courtney Milan
    Sep 18, 2010 @ 12:06:32

    Writing is great–very natural voice.

    Agree that hero is an irredeemable dirtbag. Asking someone to kiss you as part of her employment is completely not okay. Ever.

  16. Suze
    Sep 18, 2010 @ 12:14:35

    I didn't catch where she told him her name, yet he uses it in his thoughts.

    This. It’s his POV, she’s identified as Angie, and then she introduces herself in the next paragraph. Unless he’s psychic (which he CLEARLY is not) she needs to remain nameless until AFTER the introduction.

    I agree with the many comments regarding his ass-hatted behaviour of assuming an attractive woman is his for the taking. If you want to set the conflict up of his offending her at their first meeting, I’d greatly prefer you base it on something that doesn’t read as “Ugh. Woman hot. Must have. Her not matter except as hot woman.”

    He’s in a new city, new country, he’s jet-lagged and groggy. Have him say something inarticulate and stupid, have her react badly, so that they have to get to know each other and realize their first impressions were wrong.

    As it stands, her first impression of him is that he’s a sexually-aggressive asshole, and she’s right.

  17. Stephanie
    Sep 18, 2010 @ 12:19:22

    I read mostly historicals, though I’ve been branching out into contemporaries on the recommendations of friends and bloggers.
    If this were a historical, Harris would most likely be the horny eldest son home from university and trying to molest the family governess. I wouldn’t root for him there, and I’m not rooting for him here. At least Angie isn’t as helpless or dependent as a governess or maidservant would be.

  18. Patty H.
    Sep 18, 2010 @ 12:34:57

    Aside from all the technical issues already mentioned, and the fact that I didn’t get enough lead up to the kiss, and his behavior could qualify as harrassment–why is he racist? I read the whole bit as him being color blind. I read it as, he thinks she’s younger than his image of a housekeeper, or prettier than the average housekeeper. I don’t think he had any issue with her color (he does have issues with being a jerk). She assumed the racism–does that make him a racist? I am being sincere here. This is one of those moments where I feel like I’m missing something critical.

  19. adobedragon
    Sep 18, 2010 @ 12:48:02

    I thought the writing itself was clear and accessible. My problem, prior to the whole kiss debacle, is that the characterization felt flat. I’m not a fan of the practice of throwing the hero and heroine together on the first page and having them immediately lusting after each other (I prefer a slow build up of sexual tension). But for me, the interactions between these two was Dullsville and mechanical, completely absent of any spark of attraction. The hero really doesn’t have much of a personality. In fact, his turn to creepy, sexual harasser is the first indication of personality. Honestly, the heroine wasn’t terrible interesting either.

    While the writing was competent, it just didn’t feel to me like the author cared about these characters. So, uh, why should I?

  20. Shorty
    Sep 18, 2010 @ 12:58:24

    I am curious about the whole “first page” idea here. This selection is over 1300 words – roughly 5+ pages. If the idea is to see whether we’re hooked by a first page, this does not serve the exercise. Maybe call it “first scene,” as the selections from week to week do seem to be getting longer and longer.

    Yes, I hate the dirtbag, too, frankly. He seems like every asshole, self-entitled, sexist, blinded-by-their-own-privilege, white exec I’ve ever worked for. That, together with the stereotypical full-lipped, slim-but-curvy, cleaning-woman Black heroine and I’m cringing already. I’m sorry to be so harsh, but there it is.

  21. Maryann Miller
    Sep 18, 2010 @ 12:58:42

    I agree with most of the comments already made, so I won’t repeat those. Just want to add that this opening read so much like so many other books that I lost interest even before I discovered he was a jerk. The challenge always is to come up with something fresh and different.

  22. RebeccaJ
    Sep 18, 2010 @ 16:16:27

    into the dark corkscrews of hair

    So her hair is made of corkscrews?

    PLEASE do your readers a favor and take out the word corkscrews and don’t replace it with “riotous curls”….

  23. anon
    Sep 18, 2010 @ 20:04:40

    I had problems with your command of craft.

    The first line isn't a grabber. I nearly stopped reading at it. Then we get to the fact that he's trying to focus, so obviously he can't see properly, but he can see her biting her lip?

    The sentence in the second paragraph beginning … her left hand…is run on.

    Your pov switches. How does Harris know that she clearly has no idea she's being observed?

    The second paragraph is too dense compared to the first line. I didn't even make it through the second paragraph. I made it to, “that she had just about constrained” and thought it's overwritten.

    Your sentence structure needs work eg: Her left hand was twisted into the dark corkscrews of hair that she had just about constrained with a brightly coloured bandana, and the other tapped a pen against her cheek impatiently. — When you have ‘the other' after the comma, you are referring to the noun before the comma which is the bandana. So, it means the bandana tapped a pen against her cheek.

    Your description is brightly coloured bandana. Was it yellow or red? Your use of adverbs in this sentence is unwarranted. As also is the use of ‘was' and ‘that'.

    Take out all the unnecessary words eg: Her left hand twisted into her dark corkscrew hair constrained by a bright red bandana.

    If I see this kind of sloppiness in craft, then I know there will be bigger problems. Plan of attack = notice the details in your story. Practice and study your craft.

  24. Tasha
    Sep 18, 2010 @ 20:50:15

    Doesn’t anyone use “said” anymore? That alone would turn me off this.

  25. Lisa R
    Sep 19, 2010 @ 02:04:18

    As a draft, I was with the story up until…

    “Angie's fingers tightened around the leather strap. ‘I can manage.' Her eyes met his, daring him to disagree, but her breath was coming quicker and her voice was shaky.

    ‘I'm sure you can,' he murmured, but he couldn't stop his fingers from curling themselves around hers…

    Her quick breathing and shaky voice said to me that she’s a victim of sexual violence and his nearness (and creepiness) is scaring her, despite her tough-girl facade. From that standpoint, I expected him to back off and let her go, then spend the rest of the night wondering when he’d see her again. Instead, creepy molester man comes out and, well, molests her. She’s given no hints that she finds him attractive, but he thinks it’s okay to kiss her? I was hoping he’d be nicer than that. Even if he is a first-year university student (18-19 years old), that neither excuses nor explains his belief that he can kiss whoever he wants.

    On another note, the ending was jarring for me because setting was finally established. I assumed they were in New York and she was white, so when she brings up the whole “in your country (America, which isn’t where we are)” and “because I’m black” spiel I’m rather thrown.

    Also… Mr Bond? Find a new surname for Mr Harris. “Bond” already has too many associations to be used as a man’s surname.

  26. Rosario
    Sep 19, 2010 @ 02:52:51

    I’m going to disagree with everyone else and say I liked it. This first scene intrigued me and I would have kept reading. Yes, he’s a bit of an asshole, but she calls him on it, and that makes all the difference for me.

  27. anon 2
    Sep 19, 2010 @ 12:20:41

    Orrrrr maybe she is completely creeped out because she finds herself suddenly alone with some dude that wants to bone her and doesn’t respect boundaries?

    Dude’s creepy as hell. Pass.

  28. Sao
    Sep 19, 2010 @ 14:36:42

    Aside from the kiss (and I’ve been kissed by a semi boss, dodged the full frontal, but he got me on the corner of the mouth, let me tell you it was NOT romantic, major league creep out and guess what your page reminded me of?) I kept being confused. I didn’t realize angle was black until she said so, which required a disruptive change of mental image. I got jet lag more than the hots, so the desire to kiss her took me by surprise too.

    Who calls people mr any more? No one I’ve met, and I lived outside of London for 5 years. Everyone I know who has a cleaner, the cleaner calls them by their first name, true in England as well as the us.

    Nor did it make sense that the cleaner had not gone into the bedroom and figured out the apartment wasn’t empty, nor would she do homework at his kitchen table, if she knew he was home.

    All in all, none of the characters’ actions or statements seemed the slightest bit real to me.

    Usually, I offer encouragement, but frankly, the dustbin is the place for this.

  29. JenD
    Sep 19, 2010 @ 14:43:40

    I enjoyed your voice. For the most part, it read easily to me.

    I didn’t find the description to be problematic from the get-go; however, that’s probably because of my white privilege and the innate assumption that everyone is white until further notice that comes along with privilege. Re-reading it with the knowledge that she is a POC, I would find something more unique, and less stereotypical about her to describe.

    What’s drawing him in so fast? Does she smell like lavender? Does she make small mouth movements when she reads or perhaps a snarky smile? Perhaps something makes her chuckle to herself? I would like to know what beyond her physical features attracted him to such a degree that he would risk possibly psychologically harming a woman he apparently wants to eventually get in the sack with.

    Perhaps instead of kissing her, you could have him think about it. Then he could possibly blurt out something considered mildly inappropriate- then there is tension but without the possible sexual assault.

    I think it’s very brave of you to put your work out here and I commend you for that.

  30. Kate
    Sep 19, 2010 @ 16:54:58

    Off the bat he calls her lazy and disrespectful when in fact she does her job more efficintly and quickly then any other house keeper. As an independant woman myself who employs a cleaning lady, let me just say that my house keeper would bite my head off if ever I told here to stay until her official sign off. She gets all her work done in 2 hrs flat and runs out of there. Also, that excerpt seemed more than 1 page.

    Anyways, having said all that, I must tip my hat off to you for featuring a biracial couple. I like her and I like the fact that shes got balls! Never in any same-racial romance novel has the heroine ever kneed the guy in the balls! I like it! Heres hoping she keeps her head cool and her body strong – something that many same-racial romance novel fails to do.

  31. sao
    Sep 19, 2010 @ 23:43:41

    He thinks she might be a thief and wonders why Simon didn’t fire her. Then, “her jaw tensed and her mouth set into a hard line.”

    “Her eyes met his, daring him to disagree, but her breath was coming quicker and her voice was shaky.” This is the first sign that she has any reaction to Harris, but it could be fear as much as sexual interest.

    Then he kisses her. No note of her reaction. He leans in for second “attempt” implying the first kiss wasn’t as successful as he hoped. She knees him in the balls.

    Never does he even think about his actions and why she responded as she did. Not once. That’s why a stolen kiss makes him look like a rapist. He’s all about what he wants and doesn’t even think about what she wants.

    He’s even startled that she heads towards the door after this scene. Cluelss as well as self-absorbed.

    And, BTW, going East across the Atlantic, you never arrive tired, late at night. England is about 6 hours ahead of America (or more, depending on what time zone in the US). So, late night by your body clock is early morning UK time. Late night English time is mid-afternoon by your body clock. You are not tired.
    You never, ever miss the difference between night and morning, no matter how jetlagged you are. Maybe during a total solar eclipse.

    I also note that what seems to me to be your first page ends with Angie explaining she is the cleaner. One of the points of the first page exercise is to help you start off with a bang. On page 1, not page 5. You posted a lot more than one page because you knew your page 1 was a bore.

  32. Karen
    Sep 20, 2010 @ 02:52:27

    God yes! I so agre with sao! You knew that your first page was a bore so to give yourself comfort you posted 5 page. But whats gonna happen in the bookstore where the potential customer stops after page 1 and decides its a bore? Ever thought of that?

    I think you should start from Angies POV and have her say what a hot guy Harris is. Also change his surname. He could be the aloof but gorgeous British guy. Much sexier that way. Minus the lecherous perverted tendency of course. Angie could work a bit to gain his attention. Whats the fun if a guy likes the girl straight off? Wheres the excitment? Anyway, thats just my opinion. Still like the bi-racial couple though.

  33. Joanne Renaud
    Sep 20, 2010 @ 07:11:48

    I actually disagree with Sao strongly. While I feel this excerpt wasn’t the best I’d ever read, it was interesting enough to hold my attention. I don’t think that a book needs to start with car chases or explosions. As a fan of Mary Stewart and Virginia Coffman, I often prefer a slow and subtle build-up to ACTION and EXCITEMENT (in all caps, of course). In regards to First Page Saturday, I often prefer reading a large-ish scene to 450-500 words. With a scene, I feel I can get a better idea of the novel in question.

    Anyway, as was discussed above, this story has a lot of problems. Harris is a douche and Angie seems to… overreact. The pacing seemed off (I actually wished it was a bit slower, to see them react in a more nuanced way to each other), and Harris’ male POV wasn’t convincing.

    However, the idea has a lot of potential. The writing is fine, and I like the idea of a biracial romance set in contemporary London. I even don’t particularly mind the boss/housekeeper dynamic (even though there would have to be significant revisions for this to work). It could be really awesome.

    Thanks for sharing– as an earlier commenter said, it takes a lot of bravery to post something on First Page Saturday. Good luck!

  34. Meri
    Sep 20, 2010 @ 07:27:34

    I share a lot of the concerns already noted – the voice isn’t bad, but it’s nothing unique, and the hero is very unappealing. If there hadn’t been mention of an iPod, I would have thought the author was going for a retro, old school vibe.

    Angie has potential, but the way she’s described has to be less stereotypical for me to have any real interest (though unlike one commenter, I don’t have an issue with corkscrew hair).

    Honestly, I feel bad for the author – it is brave to post here and this excerpt has gotten an overwhelmingly negative reaction, which can’t be fun to process. Maybe it would be better to give up on this story and just use it as a learning experience for the next one. I can see the potential, but I don’t see how this can be fixed.

    @sao:
    Sao, I disagree with the jetlag comment; most people I know find it much harder to adjust to local time when flying east rather than west. I’m not sure why that is, but I think that part was accurate.

  35. Karen
    Sep 20, 2010 @ 11:27:40

    @Meri:
    I don’t think she should give up on the story. She probably has the whole novel writing out and probably spent a good 6 months writing it. I think some major tweaking here and there should suffice. My advice to the author, print out this whole page here, and tick off every single point after revising your novel.

  36. Meri
    Sep 20, 2010 @ 11:46:40

    I don’t mean give up on the idea – but sometimes it’s actually easier to start over with only the barest outline of the original than to do a major revision (I’ve done both, though not as a writer of fiction).

  37. deborah conner
    Sep 20, 2010 @ 19:56:49

    alas, poor lovelace. not his century. but this from anon:

    Your sentence structure needs work eg: Her left hand was twisted into the dark corkscrews of hair that she had just about constrained with a brightly coloured bandana, and the other tapped a pen against her cheek impatiently. -’ When you have ‘the other' after the comma, you are referring to the noun before the comma which is the bandana. So, it means the bandana tapped a pen against her cheek.

    Not helpful: not correct.

  38. Julia Sullivan
    Sep 20, 2010 @ 20:08:33

    Wow, holy crap. Right now, I hate this Harris guy with the fire of a thousand burning suns—he tries to kiss a woman who is doing her housecleaning job a minute or two after meeting her?

    That’s not “alpha male,” that’s “sociopath.” I would never be rooting for an HEA between these two characters.

    If he was flirting awkwardly? That would work much better for me, much more redemption-worthy.

  39. anon
    Sep 21, 2010 @ 00:18:44

    @deborah conner: Check out dangling modifiers. The last part of the sentence I referred to needs to have a ‘doer’ involved, a who. It doesn’t, it just has ‘the other’. There needs to be a noun, otherwise, it refers to the nearest noun there is. Not only that, but how does a reader know what ‘the other’ is? They look for the nearest noun. The verb refers to the noun before it.

  40. deborah conner
    Sep 21, 2010 @ 20:45:07

    yes, we know about the dangling bits. but who is this written for? did reader get lost, confused? how does one speak? we aren’t writing this for english class, now are we? as for that noun — “the other” fx fine.

  41. deborah conner
    Sep 22, 2010 @ 10:24:01

    Slept on this, apparently. I only hope to convey that the editor hat can spoil so much. Read fiction as reader. What jars jars, and is a flaw. Except when it isn’t. Because ambiguity is also craft. For example (not the best, but what pops in head):

    “Marry me, Olivia.”
    “Sure thing, Tom.” Tom was always asking me to marry him. “No problem.” I was sure Tom was gay, even if he wasn’t.

    As for Harris, I can only smile. Sure he’s an asshole. And I bet Author is going to take him apart. (Yes!) What makes you read a book? Usually, it’s a pleasing past with the author, or maybe a friend tells you she loves it. So you stay with it — even when you tell friend, “This Harris. Arg! What a conceited jerk.”
    Friends smiles: “Just wait.”

  42. ElanaPaige
    Oct 08, 2010 @ 12:51:51

    I like the suspense created in this passage. The ending disappoints… I don’t think you have to have so much happen in one chapter. I guess I”m echoing the “ambiguity is also a craft” of deborah conner’s insightful response. There is such a thing as too much…

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