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First Page: Dark Romance “Dear Paris”

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From Susannah to Paris

San Francisco, September 14
Dear Paris:

On this day of thunder and heavy storm over northern California I swear you are driving me mad. I can’t stop thinking about you. Still not to know what you look like sets all my senses racing. I imagine you at once as a smart-dressed man, in European styling, with a tilt to the chin and knowing eyes; or as a brash young thing with horse’s legs and trousers rather too tight for a woman’s eye. Sometimes you are a boy to me, too eager and overspilling with a desire to please, and in my mind I admonish you and readjust my clothing while you plot my disadvantage. At other times you are older, much older, aloof and stony-hearted, with a thinker’s brow and a heavy chin, turning your back on this small voice at this edge of North America.

But always, always, you are maddening to me, because you are elusive, and of superior fortitude, and I feel you look down on me. And a woman should not be looked down on.

I want you to swear to me that you will never reveal our secret. Nobody knows I write to you like this. Not my closest friend, Miranda; and certainly not my husband. Talbot would never understand the things I tell you. You are my only outlet. You are the Niagara Falls to my rivulet. For you I wear my heart, not on my sleeve, but as my grandmother Teshura did when she faced execution at Auschwitz-Birkenau: on my chest, like a yellow star, glowing in darkness, made of heat, defiant and indestructible.

Paris, my darling, just say the word, and I’ll throw everything over for you. I will tell my husband that I have heard the call, and must go. Tell me, Paris. Just say the word.

Forever and ever,

Susannah.

******

From Susannah to Paris
Atherton, September 14

Dear Paris:

In the South, or more precisely in the French Louisiana Cajun South where I was born, we have a saying: fais do-do: (“fay doe-doe.”) The nearest translation to that I think is make sleep.

Tradition has it that mothers wished sleep upon their little ones at the early Cajun dance halls, so the mothers could get up and do what they’d come to do: dance. I wish, dear Paris, to fais do-do with you. I want to make sleep with you. I want to open a room on tippy-toe and cross the floor and close the shutters and lay down along the bed and take your hand and place it on that lower part of me which rises like a little hill when I lie down, but which is flat and smooth when I stand up. I want for you to make do-do with me. I want for you to fold me in your arms and sing sweet and low in my ear so the sound trickles all the way, deep down, to where I fais do-do.

It’s a big wild night in Atherton, California, tonight. My new neighbour is having a party. That would be Gracia Santa Ana from Valparaiso. Some say that the mayor is there. If he is, he must be one of the long white frogs I can see from my bedroom balcony skinny-dipping in my neighbour’s pool. My neighbour is a strumpet. But she’s a multi-millionaire strumpet. She made her money selling weddings to South American girls who wanted to marry rich in the USA. By all accounts she has broken state and federal law more than a thousand times. But tonight she’s the emerald hostess, with diamond eyes and a heart of rubies, and she will retire at dawn with four strong lovers.

Forever and ever,

Susannah.

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

39 Comments

  1. Kate Sherwood
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 05:43:28

    I’ve got no idea what this is. In terms of plot, I’ve got nothing. In terms of character, apparently there’s an unhappily married woman who seems fairly well educated and therefore, I assume, probably fairly able to work toward a goal of travel, who really, really, really wants to go to Paris, but apparently doesn’t plan to go. There’s a bit of voice, but until the Holocaust was mentioned I was thinking this was a historical – the word choice, the character names, but mostly, the fact that this woman hasn’t just gone to Paris, already! Some of the language is interesting (eg. the “long white frogs”) but in other places it feels like you’re trying too hard (eg. “with horse’s legs and trousers rather too tight for a woman’s eye”). We’ve got the beginnings of setting, I guess, but…

    Yeah. I don’t know. I think the point of this “First Page” format is that a lot of readers only get that far in a book before they dismiss it. If we’re accepting this idea, I think you need to give serious thought to changing your first page. I’m just not sucked into this at all. I’m curious to see what others say, though, because I really don’t know what to make of this.

    It has just occurred to me that possibly you don’t mean Paris, the city in France. Possibly this woman is obsessed with a man named Paris?!? I don’t know. Mystery in an opening is good, but confusion is not, and you’ve got me, at least, pretty confused.

  2. ang
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 06:19:39

    The writing is good, or at least interesting. I like the first letter much better than the second. The repetition of “I want to make sleep with you” I want you to make do-do with me.” Makes her sound like she’s in second grade. And making do-do is not the same as Fais do-do. Be careful of your short cuts.

    Immediately upon reading I thought Paris was a woman. And even then with all the description “a brash young thing with horses legs and trousers” only reminded me of Katherine Hepburn.

    I agree with Kate above, this has no plot. So an unhappy woman is writing to WHO? We don’t even know that. Some androgenous person named Paris. (Sorry, the name Paris just reminds me of Paris Hilton. Can’t get her out of my mind.) Why should we care about that?

    Writing a book with letters is challenging to say the least. And if this is what this is, it’s an interesting idea. You do have a very nice voice, and I quite like your writing style, but you’ve left us with nothing to glom onto. So far, we know, she’s unhappy, she lives in CA, she’s in love with some guy who may or may not possibly know she’s in love with him, she spies on her neighbors who give too many parties, and she might have at one time lived in the bayou. And ???? Where’s the plot?

    Perhaps if you gave us narrative before the first letter, gave us a reason to care about this woman, we might. But right now, I’m closing the rest of the book. Good luck.

  3. Melissa
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 07:57:30

    While reading, I thought Paris was the character from Greek mythology.

    My response to this excerpt was pretty much, “WTF?!” On the plus side, I was not bored. I was actively engaged in trying to figure out what the story was and where it was going. The letter writer strikes me as pretentious or overwrought or something. I have the suspicion that this story would not be my cup of tea, but I would read a bit further to try and get a handle on it.

  4. Milena
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 07:57:40

    First, I don’t have a problem with a guy named Paris. I do have a problem with grammatical contortions that happen to faire dodo in the second letter, but that’s probably just my knowledge of French.

    I have to agree with the previous commenters that there’s very little to latch onto here. The writing is fine, but what little we do get to see of the heroine is not particularly strong, and as there’s no plot so far, so I can see that many people would just stop there and not go on. I might give it a few more pages, but not much more — either something would have to start happening quickly, or else I would have to get a much better sense of Susannah. As it is, her voice is already starting to sound a little whiny, and gives me no particular desire to find out what happens to her.

    Sorry if this all sounds negative. If this were a published book, we would at least have the blurb to clue us in on what to expect, and that would — perhaps — give readers more patience. In any case, I like that you’re trying for a different direction and tone, and hope that all this rambling is at least remotely useful.

  5. Author on Vacation
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 07:59:56

    OK, fais do-do isn’t a verb. It’s a noun, the actual terminology for traditional Cajun community dances. I could be mistaken about this, my source is the Dictionary of Louisiana French as Spoken in Cajun, Creole, and American Communities (University Press of Mississippi.) I’ve heard plenty of Louisiana locals say, “make do do” in reference to going to sleep, but never “fais do do.” Again, I could be mistaken, perhaps your sources are better than mine, but I was born and raised on the Louisiana Gulf Coast and I’ve never heard “fais do do” used as a verb or as erotic innuendo.

    Errors like this irritate me to no end, and it’s one of the reasons I’ve become extremely picky about selecting books featuring New Orleans settings or characters of Louisiana Cajun and/or Creole heritage. With one paragraph, you’ve convinced me you’re not local AND that you haven’t researched Louisiana Acadian/Cajun culture sufficiently to write plausibly about it. I would not buy this book because it’s not worth my money or my time if you can’t offer accurate, authentic portrayals of the culture you’re working into your story.

    OK, with that said, I have to say your prose and tone are very compelling and interesting. There’s a timelessness to Susannah’s letters, a delicious energy and honesty that kept me reading even after the annoying “fais do do” mess. I’ve always admired epistolary styles in fiction and I wish they were more fashionable in popular fiction. Her style is very literary and strong, and quite refreshing and genuine to the 19th C. and early 20th C. when letter writing was an art form. I have a clear sense of Susannah’s restlessness and how these letters serve as an emotional outlet for her. I’d be interested in knowing more about her, her life, and her relationships (with her husband and with “Paris.”) I’m not positive Paris is even a real person, but I’m invested enough to care to find out.

    You’re writing about infidelity, which is usually a tough sell within the romance genre. As of this page I’d be willing to give Susannah a chance before writing her off as a faithless ho. But I wouldn’t be willing to read a novella or novel-length work where all along the book suggests she’s carrying on a torrid love affair with another lover only for a “twist” or “payoff” where Paris is just the nickname of her diary or whatever.

    Despite my irritation with the cultural misappropriation, I think you have something pretty good here. It held my attention and I wouldn’t mind reading a bit more to see where you were taking it. It deserves your attention and your best work. I sincerely wish you the best with this.

  6. Author on Vacation
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 08:27:33

    P.S. — Sorry, I had to add I’m not sure how I feel about Susannah’s comment:

    For you I wear my heart, not on my sleeve, but as my grandmother Teshura did when she faced execution at Auschwitz-Birkenau: on my chest, like a yellow star, glowing in darkness, made of heat, defiant and indestructible.

    I respect writing and storytelling as an art form and I believe with all my heart nothing should ever be off limits concerning what authors use to convey storytelling elements in their work. But I can see how some readers could be alienated by a protagonist referencing an ancestor’s tragic suffering and death under a mass-murdering regime as a fit comparison to the protagonist’s romantic complications. That’s just my opinion.

    Also, after re-reading this page, I realize that Susannah is a much more contemporary protagonist than I thought, and I’m unsure her letters “fit” her life and times. Not that post -1950′s people can’t write lengthy, involved, and dramatic letters, but if she is a present-day woman under 35, letters are probably not an important communication device to her generation.

    LOL … I have to say that, despite my ambivalence about your page, your writing is doing what great writing does, it raises questions and inspires analytical interpretation, including criticism. Again, wish you the best with this.

  7. Patricia
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 08:46:42

    I can’t hear “make do-do” in a positive way. Perhaps that phrase is actually used among Cajuns or New Orleans locals, but as an outsider “make do-do” sounds to me like a childish euphemism for what you do in the toilet. It definitely does not sound romantic or erotic.

    Beyond that, I find this narrator very irritating. Her obsession with a person she has never met (and who might not even exist, as far as I can tell) is rather pathetic, and her willingness to “throw everything over,” including her husband, if Paris tells her to does not speak well for her character. She comes across as self-absorbed and inconstant as well as passive and needy. I didn’t like reading her voice for even the length of this page and would not continue on with a longer piece.

    I like the concept of a story told through letters. Some response from Paris, some back-and-forth exchange between the characters, would make this more dynamic and compelling. If Paris isn’t an actual person that obviously won’t work, though.

    It takes some courage to write about an unsympathetic character in an unconventional form, and while crafting such a story is not easy it can be done well. Although this piece is not for me in its current form, I wish you luck with it.

  8. Author on Vacation
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 08:59:07

    @Patricia:

    I can’t hear “make do-do” in a positive way. Perhaps that phrase is actually used among Cajuns or New Orleans locals, but as an outsider “make do-do” sounds to me like a childish euphemism for what you do in the toilet. It definitely does not sound romantic or erotic.

    Hi, Patricia.

    The “do” in “fais do do” is pronounced “doe,” not “doo.”

  9. Patricia
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 09:23:44

    @Author on Vacation: To her credit, the author did explain the pronunciation. Even so, my non-French non-Cajun brain insisted on reading “do-do” as “doo doo,” and I had to stop and correct myself each time I encountered the term. Not fair or sensitive of me, I know, but there it is. I’m sure I would have had a different, more appropriate reaction if I had heard the piece read aloud instead of reading it. I thought the author might benefit from hearing about one reader’s knee-jerk response since I’m sure it wasn’t what she intended (even though admitting my response is rather embarrassing and unflattering to me).

  10. LVLMLeah
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 09:52:07

    If this were a first page I wouldn’t read further. Two letters in a row from the same person on the same day is boring. I got a good feel for who Susannah is in the first letter and the second is just overkill.

    I was expecting the second letter to be a response. I think then I’d be engaged. At first, like a commenter above, I thought who she is writing to is a woman. There’s a sort of ethereal or feminine quality to Susannah’s description of Paris.

    I’m not too disturbed by the suggestion of infidelity as others only because I don’t know who or what Paris is and the context for how Susannah knows or relates to him/her/it.

    But as written, I like the first letter but I would need something more to grab onto to keep reading.

  11. Gianisa
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 09:52:41

    Hopping on Author on Vacation’s bandwagon here, I get the same impression from your description of Atherton. It’s a tiny little rich town right above Silicon Valley, and most of the inhabitants are in their 40′s, 50′s, or 60′s. Nothing big happens in Atherton because they like it like that. I think it’s got around 7000 people and most of the houses are pretty separated because they have very large lots. Atherton is a bunch of rich people who like their privacy and having a cute little downtown.

    “Gracia Santa Ana from Valparaiso”

    Santa Ana’s a place. If it’s a last name, it’s Santa Anna. You need to be careful about this because Santa Ana is not that far away from Atherton (less than 500 miles) and is very well known, especially for the winds. People talk about the “Santa Anas” and we all know that it means the winds that blow down in So Cal. I’m guessing that you mean that she’s from Chile and not Indiana. Remember that for a lot of Americans, the Indiana city is more well-known than the one in Chile. And her name doesn’t sound Chilean – I may be wrong, but I’ve never heard of anybody named Gracia or Santa Ana from Chile. There’s a place called Santa Ana in Chile but that’s it.

    I’m also weirded out by the reference to the Holocaust. If you’re trying to say that this love-thing she’s got going on is incredibly unhealthy and will kill her, then I guess it makes sense. But it’s really jarring to suddenly be reading about Auschwitz in the middle of a description of how much she loves this guy. Again, it’s clear that you did your research b/c you mention Birkenau. If you’re trying to give her background info without doing a background dump, there must be a better way of saying that she’s an American-born Jewish woman of Ashkenazi decent.

    Don’t take this the wrong way, but to me these letters don’t read as real letters but as a way of dumping info. It reads like she’s been writing letters to him for a while, so why is she putting in things like “Not my closest friend, Miranda”? It doesn’t flow right.

  12. Melissa
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 10:15:02

    @Gianisa:

    Remember that for a lot of Americans, the Indiana city is more well-known than the one in Chile.

    I didn’t mention that because I felt rather provincial for thinking of the city in Indiana first. I live in Indiana, and I wasn’t sure if others in the U.S. would have the same reaction to “Valparaiso.”

  13. Bren
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 11:01:50

    I am not familiar with the Cajun usage of “fais/faire do-do” but in France, it is the expression used to tell little children to “go take a nap” (do–the shortened form of dormir, to sleep). It is a childish expression and has no double entendre–at least in France.

    The writing here is lovely. I enjoyed the lyrical images, the voice. But I personally despise epistolary stories. I could barely make it through LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES for that same reason. I, too, was thrown off by the time in which this story takes place because the voice and the fact that it was an actual letter spoke to me of an earlier time. Then you mentioned the Holocaust (in an extremely jarring and uncomfortable way, I might add) and I was completely thrown off. I wonder why you put the dates on the letters but not the year?

    One last thing… referring to the person who criticized the use of “Santa Ana” as a name. It is a name of hispanic origin. I’ve known people with the last name of Santa Ana who live in the city of Santa Ana (which is not close to Atherton at all, but on the complete opposite end of the state). I’ve never seen the last name spelled with two n’s, as that person suggested.

    If your novel continues in the epistolary format, as this first page suggests, I would hope there would be responses. If it’s all just one way then I have questions: where’s the plot and how will you show it? Why not switch to a first person narrative if it’s only from Susannah’s point of view? You can throw in the odd letter or journal entry at the end of a chapter or as a chapter opener but I fail to see how you will incorporate story elements into a succession of one-way and very short letters that give us plenty of flavor for setting and voice but no real meat of the story.

  14. Lori
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 11:17:54

    Sorry, but I zoned out before the end of the first letter.

  15. cecilia
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 11:19:52

    In response to a few comments, I don’t think response letters are necessarily going to make it better; one of my favourite childhood books was Daddy-Long-Legs – an epistolary novel, with no response letters. The hero’s response becomes evident through the heroine’s letters. I think in the hands of a skillful writer, one-way works fine.

    However, I wasn’t particularly taken with the letters as they are here – the first one was kind of die-away purple in voice, to be blunt, and then the second one vacillated between purple and pedantic.. And the Holocaust reference was way too strong. Shades of Sylvia Plath. Unless your heroine is meant to be mentally ill? In that case, disregard this paragraph.

  16. Cara Ellison
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 12:20:25

    @cecilia: I don’t think it harkened Sylvia Plath at all. Sylvia was much more exact and deliberate in her Nazi references – much more thoughtful and original. Mention of the yellow star and Birkenau don’t necessarily make an effective Nazi reference.

    In any case, the first page was a bit purple for me, especially since this takes place after the 1940s. Modern America simply does not talk that way. There was no plot for me to glom onto, and I didn’t like the woman because she was seemingly unfaithful to her husband.

    This was a pass for me.

  17. SAO
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 13:09:52

    Stylistically, the first letter was interesting. An interesting approach, a definite voice. But what I can make of the MC, I wouldn’t read further. It sounds like she’s never met Paris. Doesn’t even know what he looks like, but she’ll abandon everything for him? Not a woman I can respect.

    Next, it looks like he doesn’t even bother to answer her letters. So, she’s pathetic. Maybe she has issues with her marriage, but imagining a love affair with a guy she’s never met isn’t the solution.

    I did know how to pronounce fais do-do, but it’s associated in my mind with nursery rhymes and as make do-do, it just sounded monumentally silly. Like the pee-pee goes in the vay-jay-jay and that makes do-do. Terms you’d use for explaining the facts of life to 4 year olds and not the slightest bit romantic or erotic.

    The Auschwitz reference was jarring. It’s a tragedy and she’s using it to color her prose purple. Blecch.

    I suspect this is the start of erotica or similar subgenre that I probably wouldn’t read or like anyway, so take my comments with that in mind.

  18. Sofia Harper
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 13:55:48

    I never had one opinion or another about books written in letter form or text or e-mail. Until I read one and realized what you lose–scenes, dialogue, being shown instead of told–has to be made up by compelling character. Much more so than usual. From the word go you have to make me want to stick around for the second letter. There is no sense of who this woman is from the first letter. The letter lined out a situation–this book is going to be about adultery. Instead of this book is about a woman named Susanna who is filled with longing for a different life. Write a compelling character and you can get away with murder.

  19. DS
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 14:31:20

    Is there a consensus about what a “Dark Romance” is? I know what I expect with a Dark Fantasy– but one of the assumptions there is that the ending may be ambiguous or even bad for the main characters. I’m not sure how that could square with romance novels where the end is usually supposed to be positive.

  20. Lilly
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 15:15:36

    As a literary piece this works for me. Lovely writing, good use of words and phrases. I wasn’t sure if Paris was man, woman, or the city itself. Susannah’s grandmother being in the holocaust would put S in her late 30s to early 40s. I have no problem with a modern woman actually writing letters. (It’s refreshing! ) I don’t need to see a reply; I expect the story to unfold in the ensuing letters. I never thought this particular Valparaiso was anywhere but Chile. Clear up a few things some have mentioned, but don’t lose that intelligent voice.

  21. Janet Mullany
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 15:23:08

    I love this. Love the voice. Why does everyone assume it’s romance? (because it’s here?). The only thing that pulled me out was the Auschwitz reference because I was thinking 19th century, not modern day until that point.

  22. DS
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 15:40:14

    @Janet Mullany: Only because that is how its described in the title. I think those are provided by the author. I thought literary genre myself, which is why I asked about Dark Romance.

  23. theo
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 15:50:13

    @Janet Mullany:

    Probably because at the very top of the page where Jane puts the title, it says, Dark Romance, “Dear Paris”

    This one is definitely not for me for most of the reasons listed. I don’t do well with one sided conversations. Unless they’re done brilliantly, they become quickly boring as evidenced by the second letter. It had a different voice and ‘feel’ to it than the first and wasn’t as intriguing to me as the first. The prose in the first letter was very reminiscent to me of Gatsby’s era where there was a genteel overlay to the often sordid underbelly. The second lost a lot of that. Also, the second didn’t move the story forward at all. It was just information. That might not be a bad thing in the overall scheme of the story if it only happens occasionally, but in this case,too many letters like that will throw most readers off eventually.

    That coupled with the fact that, like DS said, it doesn’t seem like it could have a “HEA,” which is the norm in romance and that in itself would piss off a lot of romance readers. It would me, anyway.

    Kudos for putting it out there. It’s a tough thing to do, but I hope some of the feedback helps you.

  24. Bren
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 16:16:31

    @theo “The prose in the first letter was very reminiscent to me of Gatsby’s era where there was a genteel overlay to the often sordid underbelly.”

    This is EXACTLY where I pegged it too, which is why the Holocaust reference was doubly jarring to me (even beyond using the image of a brand of shame to equate to where she wears her heart). I think this author has a lot of talent and a fresh voice but I don’t particularly care for the format.

  25. theo
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 16:34:51

    @Bren:

    I too found the Holocaust reference jarring, especially since I didn’t expect it to be so ‘modern’ with the prose as such. That said, I really liked the voice in the first letter. If I hadn’t seen the header for the second, I might have thought it was supposed to be a different character.

  26. DM
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 16:49:04

    I found this a pretentious muddle. I don’t know what a “dark romance” is either, but let’s say that this isn’t a genre romance–let’s say it’s literary fiction, where standards are often lower for storytelling craft and higher for precise language and concrete imagery, and look at what we’ve got:

    “On this day of thunder and heavy storm over northern California I swear you are driving me mad.”

    No imagery here. No idea what the sky looks like, whether it is windy or still. No color, no motion, and as a result, no emotion.

    “I can’t stop thinking about you.”

    Why?

    “Still not to know what you look like sets all my senses racing.”

    All your senses race? How? Does your sense of hearing race? Your sense of touch? Your sense of smell? This makes no sense. Do you mean your heart races?

    “I imagine you at once as a smart-dressed man, in European styling, with a tilt to the chin and knowing eyes; or as a brash young thing with horse’s legs and trousers rather too tight for a woman’s eye.”

    You can imagine him at once as one thing AND another, but not at once as one thing OR another. I have no idea what European styling means here. Smart-dressed? How? Is he wearing a suit or a pair of jeans? And whatever he is wearing, what makes it European? And how can you tell?

    Carefully chosen details can convey a world of meaning. Vagueness is not a virtue. Aim for the vivid, the precise, and the specific.

  27. job
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 16:55:37

    I do have a couple suggestions.

    I’d recommend you seek some gnarly beta readers. The Star of David and the term ‘do-do’ simply don’t work. You need a beta reader to tell you this.

    I’d also suggest you base Susannah’s letters on the nitty gritty of her real world — stuff she can touch, taste, smell, hear and see. Stuff that matters to her in the here and now. Not her grandmother, not the strumpet neighbor she’s never met, not Cajun dialect. The imagined love affair is sufficiently abstract that the reader could probably do with some grounding in the concrete.

    Finally, I’m sorry to say I wouldn’t read this book myself. I don’t find the protagonist appealing.

    This is an ambitious project. Go for it. Good luck.

  28. Lori
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 16:58:55

    I don’t know if Paris is a man or the city and right now I’d be intrigued enough to want to read more. I love journals and epostilary novels and stories that are told with poetry and imagination and this strikes me as something I would greatly enjoy.

    The Holocaust reference didn’t bother me, I didn’t think of making doo-doo and truly, this worked for me. A little precious perhaps but as a lover of poetry, precious is not necessarily a bad thing.

  29. Jane
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 19:43:30

    The Dark Romance classification comes from the author as does the title. I post only the intro. The rest is supplied by the author.

  30. R. Sleuth
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 20:19:43

    I’m not sure if this has been mentioned or not yet, but:

    “My closest friend, Miranda.” That doesn’t sound right.

    What you are doing is telling the *reader* her name, not Paris. Which is okay, but it’s going to irk the readers that notice it. It doesn’t sound right. And really, the information is completely unnecessary right there. Whenever Miranda come into play, the reader will be smart enough to pick up on who she is, trust me.

  31. Linda Hilton
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 21:20:56

    I loved it. Period.

  32. Maya M.
    Feb 18, 2012 @ 22:35:40

    I loved the first letter. Loved the voice, loved the situation it appeared to set up, loved how it showed how much the letter-writer relied on her imagination to keep her going.

    I was a little more put off with each repetition of faire do do, not because of any associations or lack of understanding the phrase (high school French pays off) but because of, well, the repetition, and how she went from imagination to full-on fantasizing about someone else while she’s married.

    I also was surpassed by the Birkenau reference, made me shift my thinking about time period. I think it wasn’t just the style that fit into a historical setting, it was the fact that it was a letter. Not an email or phone call or text. Maybe she’s writing these letters into a diary?

    Overall: I like that this was something different. It drew me in, I would read on.

  33. SAO
    Feb 19, 2012 @ 00:14:09

    It occurred to me that you might have a showing versus telling issue in the first letter. When you say, ‘my husband, Talbot’ you’re showing the reader that Paris knows little about Suz, which makes her longing one-sided and pathetic. If your story started after a more developed, but long-distance relationship between Paris and Suz, your adding clarification for the reader is a problem, because when you tell us that they’ve been corresponding about deep, meaningful issues, we won’t believe it, we’ve been shown otherwise.

    But here’s the issue with the adultery thing. If Suz longs for Paris and would throw over everything for him, then her husband is basically the consolation prize, second best. She makes him sound like excess baggage that she’d dump at the first opportunity. Who wants to be that? In a historical, she might be tied to him, but when divorce is easy, the action that is fair to him is to divorce him.

    If she can’t treat him fairly, she’s not a character I can respect. Nor could I expect she’d treat Paris fairly. Note, this doesn’t change much if Hubby is a jerk not deserving of much honesty — that would only make me wonder why she didn’t dump him long ago.

  34. Anthea Lawson
    Feb 19, 2012 @ 02:05:41

    I really liked the voice, despite a few overblown places (the horse-leg description threw me). I chose to read it as Paris the city, and a woman longing for another life, in another place. Clearly, if the author means it to be the city, that is not coming across (obviously). I agree on the “gnarly beta readers” too, very much. I rely on mine a great deal. :) That said, don’t let anyone change your really excellent voice – maybe just help you hone what works and what doesn’t from this side of the page. (And again, *that’s* subjective too.) This did not read like romance to me, either. I’d call it ‘literary women’s fiction’ if pressed.

    Congrats for putting your work out there, and personally, I enjoyed it. Keep it up~

  35. Kate Sherwood
    Feb 19, 2012 @ 07:08:34

    Anthea, I was SO glad to see your comment saying that you thought it was the city, too… I thought I was the only one for a while, there!

  36. Melissa
    Feb 19, 2012 @ 08:33:54

    I am loving the diversity of opinions on this piece. I wish my book club had such interesting discussions!

    @Kate Sherwood:
    I think “Paris = city in France” makes much more sense than my initial reading of “Paris = mythological figure.” When I got to the signature, I was wondering, “Susannah? Why isn’t she named Helen in this author’s universe?” Clearly, I am a little thick sometimes. I do think that the language of the piece, which reminds me of the magic realism style of someone like Borges, lends itself to many different interpretations.

  37. Maura
    Feb 19, 2012 @ 09:56:48

    I thought Paris was the city, too. It makes a lot more sense that Susannah should be writing such overblown prose to an abstract concept she has of the city, rather than to a person. I will say that this piece isn’t my personal cup of tea. Some of the writing is appealing, but assuming she’s writing to the city, I don’t really see where this is going to go, and I’m not that interested in finding out.

    What is a “Dark Romance” anyway?

  38. Jane Lovering
    Feb 19, 2012 @ 13:51:59

    Just a personal thing but my husband left me for an imaginary relationship (he had some kind of breakdown which made him imagine that friendly overtures were sexual/intimate in nature and that this was the sign of another person wanting him). I’d think that anyone who has had a partner leave after carrying on this kind of behind-the-back behaviour would avoid this after reading the first letter.

    BTW, I promptly met someone else and am now much better off, but still wouldn’t read this. Sorry. It really is you not me…

  39. Rachel
    Feb 20, 2012 @ 11:45:33

    This whole thing was just filled with mini-info dumps. (Introducing her friend, husband and grandmother very awkwardly.) Covering them up with flowering writing doesn’t change what they are. I was so distracted by them that I stopped reading halfway through the first letter. Either the person she is writing too should already have a basic understanding of her life and the people in it, or if she’s really just writing these letters to herself (which I thought might be it), it’s unnecessary to include those blatant telling descriptions of people. This just didn’t work for me at all.

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