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First Page: Everything I’ve Never Had

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At the first gut-wrenching note of one of the most erotic songs I’d ever heard, my head instinctively flies up; and I make eye contact with the band’s rhythm guitarist. He looks like he’s having a great time. I feel like I just got sucker-punched.

I lean in to my best friend, Bonnie, and shout, “I’m going to get some fresh air, OK?”

She flips her blonde hair over her shoulder, and her worried dark brown eyes meet mine. “You, OK? You need me to come with?”

I paste a fake grin on and shout back, “No, no. I’m good. Just need a minute. Keep dancing, ma belle amie!”

With one last glance at the stage, I make my way through the sea of elbows and hips. When I reach the back porch, I take a huge breath and let the lyrics permeate my brain. Oh my goodness! Was there a sexier song than this on the entire planet? I think not! And him up there strumming it. I think back to all of, what I hope were, my surreptitious glances of the evening. Geez, he is gorgeous. I think about running my hands through that shaggy darkest of brown hair and staring into those exquisite ice blue eyes. What if I had enough guts to place my hands on his chiseled jaw and bring his impossibly full lips to mine? I close my eyes and revel in what had to be the most luscious lips I’d ever laid eyes on.

I know I’m not supposed to want him. He’s my own hunky slice of forbidden fruit—my deceased husband’s outcast cousin. Could I get any tawdrier than that? Pretty sure that’d be a no.

My conscience takes a nosedive and picks up where I left off with my explicit daydream. I’ve only allowed this one other time, and I’d promised myself I wouldn’t permit it again. But, surely, I could make an exception because of this my favorite among favorites of songs.

So I allow myself to imagine my lips mumbling his name against his lips…Adrian…even his name is sexy. I feel a shiver course throughout my body. It’s on this thought that I hear the screen door bump closed behind me. My eyes fly open, and I take another deep breath to collect myself and know immediately that it’s him. Yes, his scent is that unique. It somehow reminds of the desert and the ocean all at once—hot yet quenching. Why does he have to be an assault on all my senses? Wait…What in the world is he doing out here? He’s supposed to be on stage! I search frantically for some semblance of control over my body. What is the proper etiquette for getting caught in your lustful musings by the very object of your desires? Hmm…

His rich timbre reaches across the porch as he asks, “Celeste, everything good?” If whiskey possessed the ability to speak, that’s what it would sound like—his smooth, sultry voice.

I spin around too fast, and my head seems to keep spinning. There he is in all his glory. Even with my heels on, he is incredibly tall. He’s so broad that I could imagine him double-timing it up a couple of flights of stairs with me thrown over his shoulder and I’m no waif. My eyes meet his, and I’m lost. Lost to this song. Lost to his look. Lost to my fantasizing.

I stride over to him as the guitar plays out a little stalking march for me. I’m gonna do this, I think. I’m really gonna do this. When I get close enough to him, I can see the worry in his hypnotizingly beautiful eyes. He’s worried about me. He must care about me on some level. Is it enough, though? I’m close enough now to breathe him in fully, and when I do, I hear Zach sing out, “‘Breathe out, so I can breathe you in, hold you in.’” I take a deeper breath and my eyes flutter to half-closed as his scent saturates my every pore. Even though my eyes are almost closed, I don’t miss the flare of his eyes; and I take this as encouragement. That’s all it takes. The edge I was clinging to seemingly dissipates from my tenuous grasp.

When the guitar rift hits its crescendo, I watch helpless as my hands dart out and pull his face down to mine just like in my fantasy. Maybe I’m still fantasizing? My doubt is quickly shredded as his lips are softer than anything my feeble imagination could ever envisage. I move my lips over his in what, I hope, is an enticing way. I’m not sure yet because he hasn’t responded. He hasn’t thrown me off, though, so I continue my assault. I slant my head to the side a little more and my tongue, apparently with a mind of its own as well, darts out to help itself to a taste. Mmm…His taste can barely register, though, because as soon as my tongue touches his lips he opens his mouth under mine, scattering my would-be thoughts.

That’s all I need. Desire like I’ve never felt before wars with my good sense. I feel his tongue move with mine hesitantly; nonetheless, it moves. Thank you, God! Oh my…This is…everything. Everything I’ve never felt, everything I’ve never tasted, everything I’ve never had.

When the song breaks off into what I call “the voices in my head” section, my conscience decides to make itself known again; and I wrench myself free. Adrian wasn’t holding me. I was holding him, but I was suddenly overcome with self-doubt, which was quickly followed by self-preservation. This would lead to absolutely nowhere good.

As I back away slowly, my frantic eyes assess his also frantic eyes. Then, his look changes, and he just looks downright unhappy. I clear my throat and offer, “Adrian, I’m so sorry. I…I don’t know what I was thinking.” My hand flutters up to push my hair back off my face. “I wasn’t thinking, I guess.”

He just stares at me like he’s never seen me before, and it scares me. Panic seizes my throat. He’s been amazing to my boys and me. We can’t lose him. I’m such a fool. I open my mouth to continue groveling when that damn stalking rhythm starts up again and all of the sudden Adrian is the one stalking toward me, but he looks…pissed. I lick my lips, swallow hard, and stumble back until I feel the porch rail behind me.

When the crescendo hits this time, it’s Adrian who assaults me; but I am a more than willing participant so that when his hands run down my back my body melts into his. Even though I feel melded to him, it’s not enough for Adrian because his big hands keep going until they clasp my behind so hard that my right leg springs up to rest around his hip. Oh my God! It was great the first time. This, this is spectacular.

I moan in time with this new knowledge and Zach sings Dave’s lyric, “You gotta promise not to stop when I say when.” One realization crashes into another as I realize I never want this to stop. I never want to stop kissing him. Squeezing my eyes shut tighter and tightening my grip on him, I throw myself even more into this soul-stealing kiss. Mmm…His hair is just as soft as I thought it would be. I pull it through my fingers roughly. When I do, he groans into my mouth and deepens his kiss momentarily before completely throwing me by pulling back a little and softening the kiss. It’s excruciatingly tender. Desire wars within me as I want to savor it but also want him to devour me again. Greedy—I feel so greedy.

When he pulls back to place closed-mouthed little kisses on my lips, I fulfill my fantasy and mumble, “Mmm…Adrian.” Adrian’s shudder reverberates through me, and he leans back to grasp my hands and pull them down from around his neck. I hear the song come to its beautiful end, and Zack tells the crowd they’ll be back in ten.

The kiss I never wanted to end has ended, and I feel bereft. I finally open my eyes to stare into his most expressive ones. Like I thought, expressive. His eyes are filled with regret.

I gasp at the sudden sharp pain that pierces my heart. I snap my mouth shut, drop my leg from around his hip, and pull my hands from his. “Adrian—”

“No, that’s all on me, Celeste. I’m…” He runs his hand through his hair, proving what I thought impossible by making himself even sexier with mussed hair. “Shit…I’m sorry. I’m a shit. It’s just…”

“I’ve had too much to drink,” I blurt out. “This is the first time I’ve been out, and…I was just having fun but feeling lonely and I had too much to drink.” So, about one-third of that statement is true. I’d only had one glass of wine, and I did not feel lonely. I can’t tell him that, though. Best he think I’m inebriated and missing my husband rather than know the truth of the matter—I want him for my very own.

He pulls his big hands down over his face and massages it for a second. Blowing out a deep breath and intoxicating me with his essence a little bit more, he insists, “Yeah, and pig that I am, I took advantage of all that.”

“You’re not a pig,” I protest. “And, to be honest, I really needed to be kissed. So…thank you.” Oh my! Did I really just thank him for kissing me? I. AM. SO. PATHETIC!

He scrunches his face up a little bit. “So, we’re good then. No, uh, awkwardness?” He asks me with a look of disbelief crossing his features.

“Of course, I’m not one of your simpering groupies. I promise not to stalk you and demand any more kisses.” I joke. None of what I said sounds funny, though, so we just kind of stare at each other for a couple of, you guessed it, awkward beats.

His hand comes up and the look on his face tells me he’s going to console me or something. I pull back a little. He lets his hand drop before putting them both in his pockets and rocking back on his heels a little. When he does this, he draws my attention to his nicely toned pecs. I groan inwardly. “You ready to come back inside then?”

“Umm…I just need another minute. I’ll be right in, OK?” I give him a small, albeit shaky, smile.

“OK,” he agrees. He makes his way back to the door before turning back to tell me, “See ya inside.”

“Yep,” I lie. The second the door snaps closed, I yank out my cell phone and fire off a text to Bonnie and Farah telling them that I got a cab and would talk to them tomorrow.

There’s no way in hell I could go back in there, I punctuate that thought by hitting my lock button. I snicker—a lock button—if only it were that easy for me.

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

16 Comments

  1. wikkidsexycool
    Jul 14, 2013 @ 07:35:39

    Hello Author,

    Thanks for having the courage to post this.

    This reads like the start of many other New Adult novels. First person narrative, hot guy (although how he walks offstage in the middle of performing is a bit of a stretch. While he’s not playing lead guitar, unless there’s an awfully long solo by another member of the band, he’d still be needed), tormented/emotional female lead character needs to rush off because she can’t deal with her attraction, and both leads (male and female) make contact on the first page without any real character development.

    At first I thought this would be a great set up for the heroine feeling devastated because the song either reminds her of her husband, or it was perhaps written by him. While I enjoyed your writing and even your set up, like I said, I’m reminded of how many other NA novels now tend to start like this. Imho this is overwritten, but parts of it are good. I think the main problem is how your heroine comes across. She’s more teen sounding in her inner dialogue and actual dialogue, yet she uses the word “simpering” which again threw me off, so the first page is almost a mash up of YA, NA and a older phrases imho.

    Her description of how hot Adrian is was like cold water for me. It was too much, too soon.

    Because of the voice of your main protag, I couldn’t connect with her. You’ve thrown in the dead husband without any time frame (did he die recently, or several years ago?), and then you have her acting on her desire for his relative. You jumped right into the action, but with so many names inserted, it takes a while to figure out who is who.

    I think for some readers this may be a fine opening, but I needed more character development. I wouldn’t read on in its present form, but I wish you the best. Somewhere there’s a story in all this, and one that could be good because you can write.

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  2. SAO
    Jul 14, 2013 @ 07:51:19

    You start with a charged moment. She locks eyes with a guy, in the middle of a very erotic song and she feels sucker-punched. But where’s Adrian? We don’t see him. We don’t see what was in his eyes to give her a sucker punch. I thought he was a musician who didn’t know her, glancing randomly at the audience.

    Then, when she’s kissing him, you’ve got 3 paras (starting with “I spin”) long sections with Celeste thinking and so little of Adrian, I thought it was still fantasy. Plus, the song is still playing and isn’t Adrian part of the band? So, I kept thinking Celeste would wake up and it would be a dream.

    Find Adrian and bring him into the story!

    If you are trying to create immediacy with present tense, you need to be aware that in English, simple present tense is used for actions with no determinate time. “I walk to work,” is something that occurs everyday, while “I am walking to work,” is taking place at a specific time. You’d comfortably say the former on vacation or the weekend, but you’d use the latter to mean your feet are, right now, moving on the sidewalk between home and work.

    So when I read, “I paste a fake grin on,” I sometimes read it as a general fact (she pastes grins on every day) not what is happening now. When this happens, it’s distancing. At some points, I don’t notice and I read it as what is happening now, but at other points, I read simple present as repeated actions or actions of no specific time.

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  3. Cleo
    Jul 14, 2013 @ 08:03:01

    I think you have something here but it needs some work. I’m not sure if this is really where your story begins – I don’t know your characters well enough to care about their first kiss yet.

    I was also confused by a few things. This song she recognizes from the first note. Aparently it’s important to her but all the references to it just confused me and made me feel like I missed something. Who’s this Dave that wrote the lyrics? And where are they? Someplace with a stage and a porch? Maybe it’s because I live in a city where bars and concert venues don’t have porches but I’m lost. Agree with wsc that the narrators age seems to shift from younger to older and back.

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  4. Marianne McA
    Jul 14, 2013 @ 09:47:08

    Might just be me, but I found the first line confusing – I read it as ‘While I’ve only heard one note of the song, already I know it’s the most erotic song I’ve ever heard’. Your meaning sorts itself out further down the page, but initially I was confused.
    If you’d phrased it say ‘the first gut-wrenching note of their most erotic song’, that would have more clearly spelt out that it was a song she was familiar with.
    Also “Even with my heels on, he is incredibly tall.” made me laugh, because I pictured him in her heels.
    Mostly I’d agree with wikkidsexycool, it just seems a bit overwritten. ‘My doubt is quickly shredded’ sounds an unnatural construction to my ear – the language is getting between me and the story.
    I don’t write, so what do I know? but I’d slightly wonder if it was a case of following William Faulkner’s advice ” In writing, you must kill all your darlings” and just taking it back a notch. (Though don’t kill ‘If whiskey could talk…’ because I liked that.)
    I think, as far as the story goes, it’s an interesting place to start.

    Good luck.

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  5. hapax
    Jul 14, 2013 @ 10:14:23

    It takes a lot for me to overcome my dislike of first person present tense, so I’m probably not the audience for this. But you lost me on your first sentence: too convoluted, too confusing. Even just breaking things up a bit would help:
    It had always been the most erotic song I’d ever heard. (or something else to let us know she was already familiar with it) At the first gut-wrenching note, my head (ditch the “instinctively”) flies up; and I make eye contact with the band’s rhythm guitarist.

    In fact, I’d ditch pretty much ALL the adverbs; I adore them when I write, but when I go back to edit, they always scream “over-written!”

    As does the kissing scene. Now I admit that I tend to skip sex scenes anyway, but this is just a kiss; and still it makes me uncomfortable. These folks are strangers to me — I know nothing about them except she’s got the hots for a guitarist and is all verklempt with shame, and he’s so impossibly gorgeous that he might as well been dropped from an alien spaceship — and all of a sudden I’m inside four dense paragraphs of lips and tongues and metaphors, and it’s all a little embarrassing.

    So, yeah, I’m probably ever so much not the target for your story. But I admire your courage, and I hope your voice finds its audience!

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  6. Liz Mc2
    Jul 14, 2013 @ 10:37:17

    First I, too, thought that she was looking at a stranger on stage, and that she’d never heard the song before. Then I realized she knew the song, and the man. THEN I realized it was a Foo Fighters cover. I really think you need to give the band their own song, both for copyright reasons, and because you want a romance with a musician to be kick-started by HIS OWN music, in my opinion. This song needs to be theirs (and not also a lot of other people’s song).

    It’s interesting that one commenter thought this was New Adult. If she’s a widow with two kids, I don’t think it can fit the parameters. But that suggests that, though are there some appealing things about your voice here, you haven’t found a voice that seems natural for this particular heroine. The voice seems immature for someone with the life experience you’ve given her. (Also, I personally hate it when the relationship with a dead husband/wife is described as lacking in some way so that the new romance can be the best/hottest ever. I feel like that’s where you’re going. But many readers feel differently about this).

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  7. Mary
    Jul 14, 2013 @ 12:17:23

    I was also confused by the first sentence. Then I thought “oh no, first person present tense”. I know there are many people who like this tense, but for me it doesn’t work. The best way I can describe it is that it makes me feel tired, like I’m running along with the character. However, personal preference, so if you like it keep it.
    The thing that gets me is “my dead husband’s outcast cousin” being super tawdry. One, tawdry seems odd for a contemporary, especially since to me (even being a widow with two children), the rest of her voice comes out young. Second, I don’t get why this is a big deal. In the 21st century dating your dead spouses relatives isn’t a big deal generally, so it has to be that he’s an outcast. But we don’t get any of why he’s an outcast, in fact here he seems pretty fan freakin’ tastic so the reader doesn’t get the forbidden aspect.
    And finally, I am also really confused as to how a member of the band managed to leave the stage, get outside, and make out with someone during a song. Even if he did manage to get off the stage, isn’t he so super hot that hordes of women would be following him? And why doesn’t she see this as a big deal? I read the whole scene as a fantasy of hers until they started talking.
    Oh and after reading the other comments, if the song in question is actually a foo fighters song I too think you should give them their own song…you don’t need to actually give lyrics but just make it their own.
    I like the idea of this, building a scene around the structure of a song, but at the moment I’m too confused about your characters and what they are doing to appreciate it.

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  8. Shelly @ Read, Write, Watch
    Jul 14, 2013 @ 13:22:00

    I too think that there is a great story in here for you to write, gauging from the intro. But like the other readers here, I felt I was on information overload too fast, too soon. I like to connect with the characters and unfortunately, I just didn’t feel it with their first kiss. There are so many names and pieces of information to attach to them, that I became confused and had to re-read a few things to set my head straight.
    I think the song is an excellent connection point for Celeste and Adrian, but I need to clearly understand why it is. I also think, it would be easier to give some of this information through more dialogue than through introspection, but that’s just a personal preference of mine. Good luck with the story!

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  9. Lynne Connolly
    Jul 14, 2013 @ 14:48:59

    This is a bit of a mess. When you write stories featuring musicians you should give some indication of what the music sounds like. And I agree with the others – it’s too confusing, too convoluted. One of the most erotic albums of all time is supposed (from several polls by various music sites) to be Massive Attack’s Mezzanine. So they’re playing trance? Or what?
    I attended a conference this weekend in which a Harlequin editor said that New Adult was all about firsts – so by that definition, it’s not NA. She’s been married, so it’s not first sex, it doesn’t sound like first love. Her backstory makes her too old for the genre, unless she was a child bride. She sounds odd – like a teen, then like a much older person.
    If he isn’t in some kind of professional band, then that’s okay, but otherwise, he’s in trouble leaving the stage during a performance. I don’t find it romantic, either.
    And first person present tense? Why? I mean, what’s the point of doing it? Instead of doing the obvious, think it through and decide which is the best for your story. If this is it, then I’m out of here. It would annoy me too much to read a whole book written this way.

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  10. Jane
    Jul 14, 2013 @ 14:51:21

    First person present tense is super popular in new adult and a lot of self published books. I’m not a fan of this particular first page, but I’ve actually seen complaints by readers who find third person, in particular, very distancing. It might be a paradigm shift for long time romance readers, but newer entrants into the reading marketplace are not only used to first person and present tense but might even be expecting it.

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  11. Lynne Connolly
    Jul 14, 2013 @ 14:58:21

    I know that, but it would be nice to think of the book instead of the intended market. I can’t really tell from a first page, but is first person present needed, or would it be better told another way? It’s a really tricky style to get right.
    When I wrote Richard and Rose I had the same problem. A historical in first person? All my crit partners, beta readers and potential editors said the same thing. Try it in third. And to date it’s the only series I’ve written in first person. But I rewrote some of the first book in third, and tried other techniques, and the thing just died on me. I still don’t know why, but that series needed the first person.

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  12. Viridian Chick
    Jul 14, 2013 @ 15:00:09

    Your heroine is coming off as a bit vapid. Like this:
    “He’s my own hunky slice of forbidden fruit—my deceased husband’s outcast cousin. Could I get any tawdrier than that?”
    That isn’t tawdry in the least. Who cares if he’s her husband’s cousin? Who cares if her former in-laws have cast him out? If there’s a good reason that he’s an outcast, focus on that. If it’s tawdry because her husband died very recently, focus on that.

    And while you have quite a bit of description relating to how hot he is and how attracted they are to each other, I’m seeing zilch in the realm of Actual Connection. Focus on what makes your characters unique — and not only unique, but uniquely attracted to each other. This could be a good setup if your characters had something real between them. You can go on for ages about how erotic the song is, how gorgeous Adrian is, how hot the kiss is, but in the end, none of it really means anything unless we know and care about the characters.

    ["Oh my goodness" is what you say around a small child. "Holy shit" is what you say when you're fantasizing about that hot piece of ass onstage. Did that bother anyone else? Maybe it's just me.]

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  13. SAO
    Jul 14, 2013 @ 16:44:32

    First person does not have to be with present tense. I’ve happily read plenty of books in first person, Richard and Rose being one. I hate present tense, though.

    To my mind, first person is a valid literary choice, present tense is abusing the English language. We have a tense for specific actions taking place now and it uses to be/ing, as in ‘I am writing’.

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  14. anon
    Jul 15, 2013 @ 07:58:55

    Lost me on the first line. This is first-person present tense, so it should read:

    At the first gut-wrenching note of one of the most erotic songs I’ve ever heard

    Even with correct verb tense, this is a super clunky opening line. Then there’s an unnecessary semicolon in the same opening sentence and I’m done. I can’t get beyond the clunky writing. What is an “erotic song,” anyway? Why does the narrator feel sucker-punched, when she seemed to be aroused initially (else why comment on how “erotic” the song is?). And how does “gut-wrenching” modify “erotic?” Is her gut being wrenched with pain? Pleasure? Huh?

    Too many questions and doubts in my mind with the first paragraph. No trust in author’s ability to handle them. Would not read on.

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  15. anonymous
    Jul 15, 2013 @ 08:03:45

    @SAO

    ReplyReply

  16. Maria
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 02:42:13

    The first sentence was hard to read, but ‘head flies up’ got me. Her head flies?

    ReplyReply

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