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First Page: Blood Gods: Captured by the Pirate (historical paranormal romance)

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After a week in Port Royal, I’ve learned only that I hate Jeffrey even more living under his roof. He shows me off at his daily garden party, like I’m proof of his superiority, bragging about his young fiancée while his so-called friends snicker behind their hands. They stare at me, whispering slurs about foreign races, yet gorge their bloated bellies with the food and drink my money buys.

I could kill him. I will kill him, once Charles reigns and I can escape this farce. Even a blood-born man as debauched as Charles will remember the favors he owes me. I’ll settle for Aberdeenshire.

Finn Bannantine sways in his chair, repeating the same gossip he slurs in a drunken muddle day after day. The others pay no attention. I’d ignore him too, but watching him taunt Jeffrey is the only amusement I’ll get from these stiffs.

“Better save your gold, boy-o. You’re too old to play the gallant for Charles,” Bannatine says, wagging a thick finger in Jeffrey’s face.

“Not this madness, again.” Jeffrey’s hands ball into fists. “Charles will never rule.”

“Then, why does the Governor bow and scrape like a blackie to MacGregor?” Finally, Bannantine offers good news; the Governor changes his allegiance.

“I’ll tolerate no more talk of royalist swine,” Jeffrey shouts, his face bright red.

Damn him. Years of empty promises, and I still don’t have my lands back, yet he stalls to keep his hand in my purse. When I can confirm the rumors of Charles’s return, I’ll enjoy ending him as slowly and painfully as possible. I’d drain the bastard dry, but I have no taste for failure.

While I seethe, a slipper nudges my calf. “Miss DeEsse,” Mrs. Bannantine says. “I’ve heard so much about the lovely antiquities of your toilet.”

Her wan face brightens with a sly smile. She knows something.

“It’d be my pleasure to show them to you,” I offer, standing to leave the table. “Would the ladies care to join me in my rooms?”

The other women rise for the lark, bowing their heads demurely to conceal impish grins on the way to my rooms. As my maid sees us in and closes the door, the women start to chatter.

“Thank you, love, please see we’re not interrupted.” Her lips glance my cheek. My mouth longs for scandal. She curtsies, giggling, amused as ever at feigning propriety.

I usher my guests to the salon, where we can gossip in comfort. Mrs. Pike claims my favorite chair, leaving me to perch on the chaise while the others plop onto the sofas. They’re already half-way to hysterics.

“Seamus MacGregor,” Mrs. Bannantine sighs.

“Angels weep.” Mrs. Dalton fans her neckline.

“I ran into him outside the Exchange. He caught my waist in those big, strong hands. I could’ve fainted,” Mrs. Hale says, breathing in thrilled gasps.

“He could put them all over me. Such a fine cut of a man.” Mrs. Bannantine says. I peek into her thoughts, but they’re too jumbled with adventurous urges to sort out. Her minds’ eye, however, provides the dashing image of a dark man with the most piercing eyes I’ve seen in centuries. Considering the mate her father chose, it’s little wonder she fantasizes about this one. If MacGregor is half the man she imagines, I’d swoon, too.

They say nothing valuable, but youthful merriment is a welcome change. Excepting the aging Mrs. Pike, my companions have had maybe twenty years. I can’t believe these lively girls are the same ghosts who’ve haunted the garden all day.

But now my curiosity is too piqued to be satisfied with tittering. “Who is MacGregor?”

“They say he’s a pirate,” Mrs. Bannantine says with hushed awe. “Not a soul knows, with any faith, where he was for all those years.”

Their excitement infects me, and my heart races at the prospect of a beguiling riddle. “All which years?”

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

10 Comments

  1. Kate Sherwood
    Dec 28, 2013 @ 06:38:49

    I was a bit lost. There have been quite a few King Charles – I’m guessing this is Charles II of England, but it’s just a guess. And there’s more than one Port Royal, too. I’m guessing Jamaica, but again, there’s no confirmation of that. I’d like to have had a firmer idea of where/when this is taking place. The dialogue didn’t really help. It felt quite modern in places.

    I really like the idea of a supernatural heroine in a historical romance, but I need things presented to me a bit more clearly to really bring me into the story.

  2. Nemo
    Dec 28, 2013 @ 07:35:22

    If I picked this book up in a shop I’d have stopped reading after the first paragraph. Gluttony, Envy, Pride, and a nice dose of racism. ‘Could the author fit any more sins in?’ I’d be wondering. The villains are just too much too fast with no explanation. And it’s all telling. Those things together make me turn against the heroine because it’s obvious I’m supposed to root for her. The men talking seems to get really heated really quick and I still don’t have my footing in the world so I have no idea if this is typical for either the people of this time or the characters. For all the hints of scandal and treason, I don’t feel like anything is really in danger or happening. The ending sounds just like any other novel “Intro Hottie, Heroine is interested” start with a little hint of something about those missing years.

    Though to be honest the violent, powerful, manipulative, female character has never interested me. I’m not very fond of the male version either. Perhaps if someone did like this kind of character they would read on, but the plot just doesn’t carry me off on its own.

  3. wikkidsexycool
    Dec 28, 2013 @ 08:18:37

    Hello Author,

    Thanks for having the courage to submit this. I think you’ve started your novel in the wrong place. Imho this doesn’t read like a beginning, but a summary of what has already transpired for your heroine. I like the premise, but as others have already pointed out, its simply dialogue with nothing happening (except the heroine recounting how much she loathes her husband) and that much of the dialogue reads fairly modern. Also, its made plain in the title and with the mention of the pirate that these two will get together, however your heroine doesn’t strike me as strong or cunning, and I really enjoy reading tales of women with backbones and devious minds.

    What’s she doing to take hold of her own future? On this first page, I’m not sure what to think about her, except that she blames everyone else, and despises just about everyone around her, and expects others to come to her aid. But to do this right, she needs allies in her corner, and its hard to believe that she wouldn’t have some of her own people in place, even at this type of gathering, especially when she thinks “Even a blood-born man as debauched as Charles will remember the favors he owes me. I’ll settle for Aberdeenshire.”

    There were a number of things women did throughout history to secure their positions, whether by having someone poisoned or lovers both male and female in strategic places, I think with this being a paranormal historical, you can push the boundaries of what she does and is willing to do to win her freedom a bit more.

    I wish you all the best with this, and I hope you’ll post on here more info about the actual time period and a short synopsis of the premise.

  4. Carol McKenzie
    Dec 28, 2013 @ 09:29:12

    I’d like to know where I am, in time and place. If this is a historical, it would help to know where we are in history. As mentioned above, some of the dialog reads modern, while some is period.

    I’m not charmed by the heroine, yet. I’d like to be, but there’s nothing here to make me want to like her.

    I do love the idea of a paranormal historical, but I think very special attention needs to be paid to the historical aspect. The details still need to be spot on, as in any historical. I don’t know enough about this setting to know if the details are accurate. I’d like to hope they are.

    Thank you for letting us take a peek at your work. I might be interested in this, if I had a blurb and a few more pages to read.

  5. ABeth
    Dec 28, 2013 @ 10:15:02

    From a fantasy background… I’d keep reading in order to get the details (though the ones mentioned by everyone above should be showing up soon — especially the historical ones), since SF&F worldbuilding often has a habit of doling out the information on an as-needed basis, and right now, what’s needed is on the order of “there’s a party, there’s politics, there’s a bunch of thoroughly annoying people*, and our narrator is a telepath with a temper and High Expectations. (It’s only been a week since she’s had to take shelter with this person… she’s cultivating for some reason? Why she’s with Jeffrey will need to be one of the quicker details to show up… Anyway, only a week, so I can see that she won’t have fully established her political hooks in people yet — though as a telepath, she should be getting huge amounts of blackmail, quickly.)

    On the other hand, seekers of historical fantasy may founder on the rocks of romance, if you sacrifice the worldbuilding page-count for the relationship page-count; be aware of which side of the genres you’re writing to when you allocate your page-counts!

  6. Lynn
    Dec 28, 2013 @ 13:24:00

    I don’t understand what is happening. I feel like you are trying to shove too many things into one page. She’s trying to get her land back, she’s hates the guy she’s with, she’s telepathic (or some other paranormal being). The problem with throwing so much stuff at me is that I end up not caring about any of it.

    In addition, your protagonist comes off as unlikeable. Perhaps the guy she’s with is an asshat but, as the reader, I don’t know that. I’m just listening to your pro tell me that he’s an asshat in a very nasty way. And that’s the first paragraph. It’s not the best way to get me to like her.

    I agree with the previous comment that perhaps your novel is starting in the wrong place. Try and focus on one thing. If the first thing should be about her meeting the pirate, then start there. The rest of the story – her money problems, her asshat boyfriend, her paranormal abilities – can all be weaved in while the story progresses.

    Wish you all the best! I know it’s hard to submit your work for critique and I think you are really brave to do so!

  7. SAO
    Dec 28, 2013 @ 16:17:00

    I had a reaction a lot like other readers, above. My feeling is that this comes from two issues:
    You’ve hidden a GMC in a lot of backstory and have told, not shown the scene. I don’t know what or why the heroine is using Jeff. I can guess, but I don’t really know. I don’t know what he’s done, other than act obnoxiously like she’s a trophy wife, which, IMHO, isn’t a killing offense. You’ve mentioned a racial aspect, but as I have no clue about the various races in your world, I don’t feel it. As a result, I thought your heroine came off as rude, selfish, and a user. She’s acting like a (presumably loving) fiancee to a guy she thinks about killing as soon as his usefulness is over. Not someone I can sympathize with.

    Put some of the hints on this page into a scene, and I might get behind it. For example, if X was black and you started with a scene where there were vague hints from guests comparing X to an ape and Jeff didn’t object and throw the guest out AND (very important AND here) Miss DS couldn’t just walk out, then, I’d be on her side. Say, in the Jin Crow south Miss DS is being subtly insulted but she needs Jeff to get some inheritance/asset and knows if she loses it, she’ll be lucky to get a job as maid to one of the insulting women, then, yes, I’d be rooting for her, particularly if she had originally though Jeff was better than that. That he knew that skin color was skin deep.

    Next, the (I assume) love interest is being introduced by gossip. David Mamet said, “ANY TIME TWO CHARACTERS ARE TALKING ABOUT A THIRD, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.” He said that these scenes, which exist because the author needs the audience to know something, are boring. I agree. I find it boring to be stuck in a room with a bunch of women (none of whom has really earned the respect of Miss DS) gossiping, when I could be seeing the guy for myself.

    The first page is hard. You could have a great book here. Do more showing and a lot less telling and maybe we’ll be on board. You will realize this means sticking less stuff on page one. Choose what you want to show carefully.

    Good Luck.

  8. mich
    Dec 28, 2013 @ 20:53:24

    Author here. Thanks everyone for your comments! Sorry to hop in so late. I was waylaid by holiday shenanigans.

    The longer this scene lingers as I finish the 2nd part of the book, the more determined I become to plot its demise. Y’all have given me the last nudge I needed to break out the machete and cleansing fire.

    I’ve been grappling with this damned scene from the very start, and have seriously considered redrafting everything before Kadi (the MC) meets Seamus (the romantic antagonist). The tone and mood of it don’t mesh with the rest of the book, which is pretty jaunty and moored in action, and it’s not exactly Kadi’s best moment. She certainly has a cynical streak, but is by no means a nasty or vindictive person. I think ABeth hit on her character best by surmising she’s a woman with a temper and high expectations.

    In the opening of the book, Kadi’s trying desperately to get her lands in Aberdeenshire back before a major gathering of clans, because they hold the oldest history of her bloodline. Cromwell (the younger) still rules, and she’s a foreigner and known Stuart royalist, so has no friends in power to count on. Jeffrey is a gambler who’s promised for several years to use his status with the Protectorate to get her lands back if she pays his debts. With the rumors of Charles’s return to take the crown but no real confirmation, she’s already POed at feeling helpless, and now is extra annoyed that she’s lived among men hiding her nature for nothing. So she starts off in a fairly ugly place. It’s true enough to her character, but not the best first impression.

    To answer some questions, the story is a romance that happens in the context of a paranormal adventure story with underlying mythological themes. Kadi is the chosen queen of the weaker but craftier of the two main bloodlines, which is modeled after faerie, muse, and siren myths. She’s been estranged for hundreds of years from her sire/husband, who is the born warrior god of the other bloodline (based on warrior myths and Watcher/Grigori lore). For most of her life, she’s thrived in the human world by being a supernatral grifter of sorts, pretending to be gods or acting as an oracle, but now is subject to the usual problems of appearing to be a young woman.

    After the first few pages, she’s thrust back into vampire politics, but is rusty and gun-shy after spending so many years in hiding. She’s been at the business end of a torches and pitchforks kind of riot more than once, so tends to use her wiles before relying on her nature, especially without friends and support. Once she befriends Seamus, who’s an ancient of the warrior line, she’s confronted by her sire’s mortal protégé, who takes her hostage to “save” her from his nemesis. When crises on his ship bring them together, she falls for Henri and helps him fight off a mutiny. He’s critically injured, and she has to decide to risk her eternal life to save his, which would break the bond with her sire and risk all-out war with the stronger bloodline. Much of the theme deals with Kadi overcoming her past and trusting her instincts after millennia of taking hits for love, so dealing with her initial cynicism is fairly important, but obviously needs to be addressed another way.

    I’m also curious about your reactions to the modern sound. I love historical fiction, but have never been a fan of the stilted language, particularly avoiding use of contractions. So, while I’ve researched words and phrases to make sure they fit within a 1660s context, I’ve written with a more modern rhythm. All the historical elements are researched, but act mainly as the catalyst for propelling vampire history and the MC’s hero’s journey, so I’m not sure how much the story will resonate with historical readers of a more traditional vein vs paranormal readers. In all, the full of what I’ve outlined will tell Kadi’s life story from 3500 BCE to the 2040′s CE, so I’m torn between being absolutely true to period speech or keeping a consistent tone and voice throughout the series. Any thoughts and opinions on this are most welcome.

    Thanks again, everyone, for your feedback, plus Jane and DA for the opportunity to get it!

  9. Lynne Connolly
    Dec 29, 2013 @ 08:52:04

    I think you’ve bitten off a lot here. When doing historical research, it’s always better to narrow it down and then broaden your knowledge of that era. With me, it’s 1754. If I concentrate on that year, it means I have to know what went before, but I can learn as much as I can about that year, such as what people drank and ate, what London looked like, and the country, what the politics were at the time, what people worried about, what they read, the specific fashions of that year (like the weird fashion for not wearing hoops in the street that came and went in a flash). It’s the broad detail you need, not the general facts. That’s a starting point.
    When you are writing historical details, it’s not a world you’re making up. It existed, people lived then. You are playing in someone else’s world. But with the paranormal, that’s your world. You make the rules, and you create or adopt the mythology you want to use. It’s a heady mix, but two very different skills.
    I’m taking the plunge next year. It’s been quite a ride. So I do understand some of what you go through to get the balance right.

  10. Carol McKenzie
    Dec 29, 2013 @ 13:05:04

    Hi Author!

    The first sentence in particular, and the rest of that first paragraph threw me off, in terms of modernity. In my mind, it could have taken place anywhere from the mid 1800s to the 195os. I still am making the face (which you can’t see) that has me looking up fiancee and garden party for first usage. I also wondered at the propriety of an unmarried woman living under the same roof with the man to whom she’s betrothed. Is there a chaperon? An older woman who watches her like a hawk? That’s another detail that had me confused as to time, and sent be into the 1950s.

    And because my first impression was of some time much later than the mid-1800s, which is were I decided this must be happening, and now find out it’s much earlier…the 1660s, I have a hard time getting those initial images out of my head. And because I’m lost, in time and place, I attributed ‘blackie’ as a racial slur, when it’s probably not.

    I wanted to tell you I really love this line: “I’d drain the bastard dry, but I have no taste for failure.”

    It’s been in my head since yesterday. I like how it sounds; knowing who she is, I like how it tastes, as well.

    You also want ‘mind’s eye’…not ‘minds’ ‘…unless the lady in question has multiple minds from which to read.

    Your question about Kadi’s voice is interesting. Would she adapt to each and every period she’s in? Would she adopt the speech patterns she hears, or would she maintain her own true voice, regardless of how it may sound?

    If I were writing Kadi, I’d give her a voice so distinctive and strong that no matter where in telling her life’s story, her voice would be there, the constant voice she has throughout her life.

    I somehow don’t see her as a chameleon, seeking anonymity among the masses. She may not want to wear a scarlet V on her dress and advertise who she is, but I don’t think she’d give up how she speaks.

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