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First Page: Unnamed Historical

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"You do realize that she will be of age in a few months?" Silas Sprackett looked at his client -‘ or rather, at his client's guardian -‘ with distaste. He may have made a small fortune helping Herbert Craddock plunder the estate of the late Earl of Elsworth, but that didn't mean he had to view him with any fondness.

Craddock regarded Sprackett with equal dislike. "What difference does that make?" he asked. "She would not be able to take over the management of her inheritance even if she knew the terms of her father's will. She'll do as she's told, just as she always has."

"Lady Anne does know that your guardianship ends when she is twenty-one," Sprackett said. "And even if she were not aware of that fact, others are. She will no longer need your permission to marry, and I assure you any prospective husband would soon discover the fact that she inherited everything outside the entail."

Craddock was about to dismiss the warning with a sneer, but then he paused. For years he had made sure his wife's niece was kept isolated from friends or relations, and that included any potential suitors. However, his own daughter was now of an age to enter society, and isolation was no longer possible. So far Mrs. Craddock had been able to keep the girl at her side, hidden among the chaperones, while Corinne basked in the admiration of various young men. That had sufficed this season, but the admiration had yet to produce any offers. If this continued, sooner or later Lady Anne might attract some attention of her own. He narrowed his eyes. He had a glimpse of the future and the sight was discomfiting.

"I will have to find her a husband myself," he thought, "someone I can control. Perhaps. . . ."

Craddock rose and stomped out, not bothering with even a nod of farewell. Sprackett had grown accustomed to the rudeness. It had been different with the earl, but then the earl had been a gentleman.

Sprackett grimaced. If only he had not been so desperate for money when Craddock appeared with his proposition. But what was done was done.

It had all been most unfortunate.

Especially for Lady Anne.

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

18 Comments

  1. Tracey
    Feb 13, 2010 @ 06:31:16

    Looks like part of the first page got cut off mid-word.

  2. Lynne Connolly
    Feb 13, 2010 @ 06:47:55

    I’ll come back if the rest gets put up.
    But I see a couple of problems here. I prefer a romance novel to start in the pov of one of the protagonists, and I’m assuming the heroine isn’t going to fall in love with either of these unsavory characters?

    But – Legal guardianship was never bestowed on anyone who had anything to gain by the relationship. If Craddock is her uncle, even by marriage, he is ineligible.
    You can fix this by making him a non-relative. Legal guardianship, ie the people who take care of the land and estate, as opposed to the person who brings up the orphan, was often given to a group of people, or a company. So they can collude, can’t they?
    And she would probably know the terms of her father’s will. Unless she’s stupid, she’ll make sure of it, and yes, she could do so, even as a minor.
    Also, very hard to keep a wealthy heiress hidden. Society was just that and they were all related, or connected by business and legal agreements, so someone would have made queries.
    If her relatives take care of her, bring her up and embezzle the estate, someone would have wondered, and someone would have probably brought the matter to court (they loved court cases!) You can’t strip an estate without someone getting wind of it. The complex mix of financial deals, investments, industrial concerns, estate management – you tend to notice the blind spot.

    All quibbles, probably fixed by a bit of tweaking. Looking forward to reading the rest.

  3. Lynne Connolly
    Feb 13, 2010 @ 09:25:13

    Ah, now I see the rest of it. You mean nobody has approached Lady Anne because of who she is? The daughter of an earl who, by the sound of it, had no male heirs? That means the entail and title have gone, to the next heir or to the Crown, but there was often a lot left after that.
    I don’t think that she’d be allowed to moulder among the dowagers unless there was something wrong with her (ugliness or personal deficiencies wouldn’t be enough to put off the fortune hunters!)

    I can’t get enough of the voice to really get this, and I think you might be letting a lot of your story out upfront in a static, “kitchen table” scene, where everybody talks about the situation and decides what to do next. I’d be tempted to cut this and show the lady’s predicament instead of stating it like this. But I don’t know the rest of the story.

    If Craddock thought something without articulating it, it doesn’t need to be in speech marks. If he spoke it, it might be better to say so.

    If I saw this in a bookstore, I’d read this page, flip on to read a bit of the heroine/hero’s story, check the blurb and put it down if it didn’t take my interest. But the writing is competent enough to attract.

  4. theo
    Feb 13, 2010 @ 09:42:28

    “You do realize that she will be of age in a few months?” Silas Sprackett looked at his client -‘ or rather, at his client's guardian -‘ with distaste. He may have made a small fortune helping Herbert Craddock plunder the estate of the late Earl of Elsworth, but that didn't mean he had to view him with any fondness.

    The first sentence and accompanying tag tell me enough. I don’t need the backstory info dump now about how he’d helped good old Herb.

    It’s little things like that in the first page or two that can make me want to read on or wonder if I’ll ever get to the real story.

    And I have to agree with Lynne regarding your Hn. Everyone knew everyone else’s business in the upper echelon of society. There were no secrets. Oh, he might have tried to ‘hide’ Lady Anne, but with the money involved, he’d have been better off to pack her off to Bedlam with a twisted tale of insanity. As long as she was able to go out in public, she’d be noticed for who she was. Daughter of a wealthy Earl.

    Get me involved with the Hn instead of telling me about her in such a round about way. Maybe she’s in an argument with uncle Herb about how she’ll be one and twenty soon and he’ll no longer have a hold on her. Gets the same information across but makes the reader an active participant who can root for one or the other, rather than listening to a conversation that, since we have no sense of character, is rather boring. Right now, I’m not ‘in’ this scene. I’m waiting. A lot of readers don’t like to wait.

    That said, it’s an easy read meaning, I didn’t really stumble over anything glaring and I’d probably read another page. But if I was still waiting at the end of that page, it would go back on the shelf.

    Kudos for putting it out there.

  5. Eliza Evans
    Feb 13, 2010 @ 10:22:11

    This is all backstory. I assume we get to the heroine’s point of view immediately after this scene. Start there.

  6. Polly
    Feb 13, 2010 @ 11:00:48

    I’d change the last sentence of the first paragraph so that it’s about Anne and not the late earl. So, instead of plundering the late earl’s estate, something like “He may have made a small fortune helping Herbert Craddock ‘manage’ the late Earl of Elsworth’s estate on behalf of the earl’s only surviving child, Lady Anne, but that didn't mean he had to view him with any fondness.” Okay, maybe not exactly that, since it’s a bit clunky, but the first sentence is all about “her,” and then we get “the late earl.”

    Everything the other people said about legal control and guardianship.

    And I agree that thus far, it’s very tell-y rather than show-y.

    I’d just beware moustache-twirling evil villains. I actually love to read a good evil villain, but it’s so easy to cross over into “ha ha ha,” moustache-twirling territory. We’ve got a lot of evil characters even in one page–Mr. Craddick, Mrs. Craddick, and the lawyer. That’s a lot of people conniving at keeping Lady Anne down.

    If Lady Anne is present at society events at all, she would have had to have some kind of come-out. She’s not even supposed to be with the chaperones without some kind of formal acknowledgment that she’s out in society, especially at her social status. It doesn’t have to be a large ball–a small neighborhood party wherever they live in the country would work too–but there has to be something. If not, then she’s not supposed to attend at all–again, the rules can be relaxed for small neighborhood events, but not for large society events. Big society events have a receiving line, for instance, so you can only hide a person so well. How would she not have attracted attention already? Even if not from suitors, at these big events, there would surely be people there who knew her father and might very well seek out his daughter.

    The writing worked pretty well, and I’d continue reading a bit more, as long as there aren’t too many logically-difficult-for-me-to-accept moments.

  7. Susan/DC
    Feb 13, 2010 @ 11:07:44

    Actually, if this is a short (one or two page) prologue, I like this beginning. It means I start the story knowing something the heroine doesn’t and get to watch her discover it. It also immediately lets me know that the hero is someone the villain thinks he can manipulate, and it will be fun to see that disproved. If inserted later, once we get the hero/heroine’s POV, it could disrupt the flow of the story a bit.

  8. DS
    Feb 13, 2010 @ 11:47:45

    For a change, it would be interesting to start with the hero’s viewpoint.

    He would have to be in desperate straits to even consider the idea of marrying the heroine and letting her corrupt trustees steal from the estate. Watching him pull himself back from the edge of moral bankruptcy might provide some entertaining angst if well written.

    It would have to be something really dire though– not just the usual gambler/alcoholic/rake thing. And, please, no more Regency spies.

  9. Charlotte Stein
    Feb 13, 2010 @ 12:49:44

    Minor backstory over-indulgence aside, I think this is an excellent first page. Really first rate. I would definitely read on.

  10. author
    Feb 13, 2010 @ 13:35:40

    Thank you all.

    I had been wondering whether to start with this brief prologue or with the heroine on the next page, which makes clear (I hope) that she is not the docile miss her uncle thinks. I’ll obviously need to clarify the legal and social positions, and see if there is a way to fit this prologue information in later. Flashback maybe.

    I really appreciate the comments.

  11. lynda
    Feb 13, 2010 @ 14:34:31

    @author: I’m interested to see how this plays out. I’ll read it. I like it when the heroine subverts the evil guardian and his minions.

  12. Anonymous
    Feb 13, 2010 @ 16:02:35

    A really minor point – “stomped” is American usage, not English (“stamped”). I mention it because it’s a word that I always find jarring in English-set historicals.

    Takes too long to introduce the heroine, but I’d keep reading long enough to see what Lady Anne was like.

  13. Julia Sullivan
    Feb 13, 2010 @ 17:42:57

    I can’t imagine a 19th-century solicitor thinking of an Earl as “a gentleman,” ever. I assume you’re using the word in its modern sense, of “an upright man who behaves with honor and courtesy to others” but it’s not a word someone would have used of the aristocracy in the 19th century, except with conscious irony–the aristocracy are superior to the gentry in the social order of that day.

    And I vote for starting with the heroine, and having her discover this stuff for herself (which would also show her independence and resourcefulness) rather than the infodumping prelude.

  14. Tasha
    Feb 13, 2010 @ 19:39:05

    Clearly I’m in the minority here, but I’ve seen this story line a few times too many, and I’d likely put it back on the shelf.

  15. Emma
    Feb 13, 2010 @ 22:54:50

    Am I the only one who found the head hopping between the two men to be jarring? Stick with one person’s POV.

  16. Kim
    Feb 14, 2010 @ 01:11:45

    Ditto to Susan/DC’s comments. I’m curious how the heroine will survive these thieving bedfellows.

  17. Saien
    Feb 14, 2010 @ 19:08:06

    “I will have to find her a husband myself,” he thought, “someone I can control. Perhaps. . . .”

    This is a big pet peeve of mine. First of all the thoughts of the character should be in italics and NEVER use “he/she thought.” That’s redundant.

    I’m with others, head hopping POV is annoying. Keep with one POV per scene.

  18. Leetid
    Feb 15, 2010 @ 02:56:19

    I like the first line as it does set up the story. You can tell that there is going to be some conflict at some stage with the Uncle and Lady Anne.

    Sounds like it could be a really good story and I would carry on reading.

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