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First Page: Falling for the Nanny

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Tyler Jefferies needed a nanny.

Anger, and for the first time ever, fear, thrummed through him in time to the incessant foot tapping on his kitchen floor. Before him, the face of his seven year old niece was filled with misery, and his heart beat the slow, livid thud of sorrow.

He felt impotent in the face of her pain.

He was a self made man. A very wealthy man. A corporate raider who’d faced and conquered huge risks, yet one wee girl had the power to bring him to his knees.

He needed a nanny.

He knew nothing about kids and had never wanted any of his own. There was no such thing as happy families. He, at least knew that. His business, making money, was his baby and his mistress both. He loved the rush of the deal almost as much as he loved sex. Okay, as much.

And he didn’t intend to give up either to the demands of a wife and family.

Unfortunately, all the women he knew were not nanny material. They hadn’t one maternal bone in their super slim bodies. Actresses to be bedded, or aspiring super models to be seduced. No one who would know the first thing about caring for a young girl, let alone his seven-year-old niece who’d just lost her grandmother, after losing her mother at the age of three. Too many people had left her. The agony of life was written on her little face and she was only seven.

God damn it to hell, life was not fair.

“I’m sorry, Uncle Tyler.”

He looked at the carton lying on its side with the milk spreading across his tiled kitchen floor.

He bent down and picked Tessa up. Disregarding the milk dripping from her tiny shoes he carried her upstairs. “Its fine, sweetheart, Alison will clean it up. It’s been a long day. Why don’t you get ready for bed and I’ll come and read you a story.”

“Any story I want.”

He nodded, hugging Tessa closer.

Her tiny arms wound tighter around his neck. “You won’t leave me, will you? I’ll have no one if you do.”

Her words slayed him. Tessa’s grandmother and his mother, had been dead for two weeks, and Tessa’s world now revolved around him, her only living relative. She panicked if he wasn’t around, or if he was late home, or if he didn’t call her at least once a day, and it was putting a cramp on his very active social life, and his libido was taking a hammering. A reason he was desperate for a live in nanny.

“I’ll never leave you, Tess. Like it or not we’re a team now. We stick together.”

She remained silently clinging to him until Tyler lowered her to the bed.

“I’ll be up soon,” and he watched with his heart breaking as she scampered off the bed and slowly walked into her bathroom.

He walked back downstairs to be greeted by Alison Clark, his house-keeper and temporary nanny, cleaning up the spilt milk.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Jeffries.”

“Hey, accidents happen.”

He gave her a bland smile, running a hand through his hair. “Thank you for agreeing to move in here and watch her until I find a nanny. I have no idea how long that will take. I’ve had trouble finding anyone suitable.”

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and 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


  1. sao
    Mar 16, 2013 @ 04:31:34

    Wow! in the course of one para, practically the opening para,Tyler manages to whip through anger, fear, sorrow and a feeling of impotence. All in a moment of time, while he’s just standing looking at his niece. You lost me there.

    Then you have a long bunch of expository back story. Next, you are either having Tyler put Tessa in bed dripping with spilled milk (her room’s going to smell ghastly tomorrow and she’s going to get cavities) or you forgot a few details.

    This can be fixed. You can show some of this, rather than telling it. Have Tyler on the phone to an agency that places au pairs, and have to cancel a date while Tessa spills the milk.

    But more importantly, I struggle to believe that a rich guy can’t manage to locate a nanny. Presumably, he has an admin assistant who can find an agency or friends/colleagues/employees who have some advice.

    On a personal level, I seriously dislike the meme of the beautiful, selfish, skinny model because it says a lot about the hero –none of it good — that he doesn’t give a damn about anything except the looks of the people he dates. And it’s often a harbinger of cardboard characterization — the all-bad ex and the all-good heroine with zero nuance. Why not have another hard-charging executive woman who is good with kids, but ultimately concludes she doesn’t want to sacrifice her career for his grieving niece? That’s a hell of a lot more realistic and makes him someone who values women for more than their superficial appearance.

    Make your characters real! Not generic versions of chars we’ve seen millions of times.

  2. Willa
    Mar 16, 2013 @ 05:29:21

    Totally agree with SAO. Was taken aback by the range of emotions credited to the hero in the first paragraphs.

    This reads like a Harlequin Presents with all the requisite tropes present and correct.

  3. Lynne Connolly
    Mar 16, 2013 @ 08:01:27

    SAO has this one right.
    It has far, far too much backstory. You have about a paragraph of usable material, especially, as I suspect, if you’re going for category. Category romance has a short word count and you don’t have time for static scenes like this. We don’t even get to see the kid spill the milk. And presumably the woman is the heroine, so involve her more, get her taking some action. Do the scene without the gamut of emotions, make the actions depict the emotions, get Alison involved more and you could have something.
    Plus, romances with sweet kids give me hives. But that’s just me, because lots of people do like them.
    Totally agree about the stick-thin models. Hate it when a man doesn’t respect the women he dates.

  4. Shy
    Mar 16, 2013 @ 12:08:16

    “Unfortunately, all the women he knew were not nanny material. They hadn’t one maternal bone in their super slim bodies. Actresses to be bedded, or aspiring super models to be seduced. ”

    I realize you’re trying to portray a flawed and misogynistic hero (or at least, I’m hope so), but this line was over-the-top for me. It presents a false dichotomy between attractiveness and maternal instincts — as if being super slim prevents a woman from from having personal worth. And that’s on top of being a really irritating, over-used cliche.

    Handsome millionaire beds lots of beautiful women he doesn’t care about: not original. Unless you’re doing a deconstruction of the trope (wherein “handsome millionaire” turns out to be really bad in bed due to his misogynistic and arrogant attitude, the women he date only sleep with him for his money and don’t actually find him attractive, the one woman he cares about doesn’t care for his money and thinks he’s an arrogant bore, and he’s forced to come to the horrifying realization that women don’t actually like him and he must become a better man in order to attract the nanny he loves) then I’m out.

    Your entire beginning is one cliche after another. Well-written, yes, but when I pick up a book I’m not looking for a laundry list of things women are supposed to find attractive. Focus on what makes your character unique.

  5. Maria
    Mar 16, 2013 @ 14:44:30

    I agree with all the above comments, but what also sounded untrue to me was the repeated use of “tiny” for a seven-year-old. Most healthy children of seven no longer have tiny arms, and are not carried around routinely like toddlers. And as long as the guy has a temporary nanny at hand, why is he so desperate, anyway?

  6. Jane
    Mar 16, 2013 @ 17:56:29

    Agree with everyone else. If you are aiming for a Harlequin Presents audience then this is standard albeit unoriginal fare.

  7. Angela Booth
    Mar 16, 2013 @ 18:31:54

    I like your writing style. It’s smooth.

    However, I have to agree with what previous commenters have said.

    From this excerpt, I get the feeling that you haven’t spent enough time getting to know your characters.

    Your main character’s emotions are all over the place: “Anger, and for the first time ever, fear, thrummed through him in time to the incessant foot tapping on his kitchen floor.”

    He sounds petulant at best, here. Foot tapping in response to anger/ fear? (I assume he’s the one tapping his foot.) Would an adult male do this?

    Beyond the petulance, both characters have challenges.

    * Your hero comes across as an incompetent sleaze. Incompetent because there’s no way a wealthy business man would be worried about a nanny. He’s got people to handle his new hires. He’d NEVER think about hiring a nanny from his dating pool of willing women.

    He’s sleazy because of this: “it was putting a cramp on his very active social life, and his libido was taking a hammering.”

    If you must have this — I think it’s a mistake in any form — at least show him on the phone with a woman telling her he can’t see her because he’s looking after his niece. (It’s still sleazy, no matter how you put it. The man’s grieving too, isn’t he? — his mother died two weeks ago.)

    * Your child character: “You won’t leave me, will you? I’ll have no one if you do.”

    Would a kid of seven say this? I doubt it.

    Show the child’s character. Maybe she’s scared of the dark now, or can’t sleep, or has nightmares, or won’t eat — ANYTHING which makes the child more real.

    Why not start your book with the nanny his human resources director or assistant has hired. Show CONFLICT between characters immediately, and right throughout your book.

    At the moment, your hero is too incompetent and woe-is-me (“I can’t find a nanny — I need one”). Make him heroic. The readers need to fall in love with him. Make him lovable and lust-worthy.

  8. Elizabeth
    Mar 16, 2013 @ 18:37:58

    I’m with everyone else. There is way too much backstory. I don’t need to know all of that on the first page. Just tell me the necessary things: man gets custody of niece after his mother dies and now he needs a nanny. I don’t need to know about the women he usually dates just yet. It isn’t all that relevant to the spilled milk situation.

    Also, I don’t buy a little kid asking if someone is going to leave them like that, especially since the narrator was just thinking that everyone leaves the kid. That was too much. Instead, you can have the kid be really clingy–show us that she’s afraid that she’s going to lose Tyler. Plus, it is a little too early in the narrative for him to understand this. From the backstory we’ve got, it doesn’t sound like Tyler is the type of guy that is in touch with his paternal side, so the fact that he has already figured the kid out is very surprising.

  9. wikkidsexycool
    Mar 16, 2013 @ 19:06:00

    Your story actually started for me here:

    “God damn it to hell, life was not fair.”

    And onward.

    I like the premise. I agree that during the whole spilled milk sequence he was thinking too much. He can be conflicted, he can be a rogue, but deep down he’s got a heart of gold. Right now his opening thoughts make him unlikeable. I’d take his inner thoughts, which come off more like he’s whining, and look at the suggestions given earlier to why he’s not clicking with some readers. Maybe work that first part in a bit later in the novel (but not too much later), perhaps a few pages later after some changes. I like that he was afraid. Clumsy would also work. And I didn’t think it was odd that the seven year old blurted out about him not leaving her, however since she spilled the milk, she might be even more unsure by wondering if he’d send her away. Or even possibly give some sort of punishment. Him remarking that it was putting a cramp in his libido, that part I didn’t care for. His mom and her grandmother just died two weeks prior, so his grief and shock would still be fresh. That’s partly why I thought the line about life not being fair worked.

    Still, even with all the backstory upfront, I’d read on. Thanks for having the courage to post this, and I wish you all the best with this. You’ve got skill, and I can see this getting published.

  10. Jane Lovering
    Mar 17, 2013 @ 04:00:35

    Well of course the actresses and supermodels weren’t ‘nanny material’. They already have jobs, being actresses and supermodels. Being a nanny is a vocation, like being a teacher – it’s not a job you go into simply because you have a uterus. Why does it not occur to your (billionaire, and therefore presumably bright) hero, to go to an agency? And I echo the above sentiments, a seven year old girl would just start to mop up the milk herself, not sit crying about it – is there any reason your girl is seven as opposed to, say three?

    Your style is good, and I like your voice, and I think this could be a successful Category romance, with a bit of thought (and pruning!). Good luck with it.

  11. JL
    Mar 17, 2013 @ 11:24:40

    @Jane Lovering:
    I really agree with this. The hero’s take on nannies is extremely off-putting to me. Also, if he’s a billionaire and cares so much about giving the girl a chance at a family, then why not become a stay-at-home parent himself? He can afford it. Unless he feels that only women are supposed to give up their careers to become stay-at-home caregivers, since he’s admittedly not prepared to give anything up in order to raise this child. I just can’t get behind his whining that life is unfair when he has every resource at his finger tips to figure this out.
    As it is, I’m probably not the target audience for this as I don’t read many category romances. The writing itself is smooth as others have said, but the feminist in me spent far too much time being nit-picky and annoyed while reading this to be able to enjoy it. If this is intended for a contemporary romance, I would suggest considering a different way to create tension for the hero. Right now, I feel like the story should just end where it starts. He doesn’t want to give up anything for a wife and family (not that a kid needs to come with a I wife, but I digress), and the kid needs stability. Don’t take her in. Find someone willing to take care of her full-time. End of story. If there was a stronger reason than ‘I don’t wanna!’ for the hero not alter his life and work in anyway, then I might get interested in the conflict.

  12. Patricia
    Mar 17, 2013 @ 22:23:31

    I strongly agree with wikkidsexycool that the story should start with God damn it to hell, life was not fair. Cut everything before that and your plot loses nothing, but your main character becomes a lot more likeable.

    Assuming you start at that point, I would make a few more recommendations:

    1) Delete the word tiny everywhere it appears. It is repetitive and unnecessary, and an odd choice to describe a seven-year-old.

    2) Why don’t you get ready for bed and I’ll come and read you a story. This is a question (a rhetorical one) so use a question mark. Any story I want, also sounds like a question to me, given that this girl is supposed to be needy and apologetic, not demanding. Without a question mark it becomes a command.

    3) Cut I’ll have no one if you do. It’s overkill. We already see that she is clingy without it.

    4) Replace and it was putting a cramp on his very active social life, and his libido was taking a hammering with and it was taking a toll on him or something similar. Or, just cut that part of the sentence altogether. Comforting a small child and contemplating how much he wants to have sex do not belong next to each other in the text.

    5) The girl scampered off the bed and slowly walked into her bathroom. One cannot scamper slowly. She seems to have instantly decelerated in the middle of the sentence. She could slide off the bed and slowly walk to the bathroom, or scamper off the bed and dart to the bathroom instead.

    Since this is a very typical set-up for a category romance, the characters and voice really need to shine for the story to hold the reader’s interest. Leading with the hero’s tenderness toward his niece rather than highlighting his wealth and sex drive will help the audience relate to him and root for his new family to succeed, I think. Good luck.

  13. Loreen
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 12:41:41

    This billionaire would have many friends and associates who employ at least one full time nanny, if not several. He probably already has a housekeeper, gardeners (if he has a house), a personal assistant, and an estate manager who runs his vacation home. He would be completely used to hiring (and firing) people to deal with his personal life. Why doesn’t he start by asking a friend for a reference or just calling an agency, the same way he probably hired his housekeeper? It is not hard to find a nanny at all. It seems a little odd that he would even consider hiring a model or an actress when all of his friends probably have either a mature immigrant nanny who is supporting her kids back home or some recent American college grad who hasn’t been able to find work in her field yet. There is no delimma here – billionaire needs a nanny so he picks up a phone to call an agency his lawyer’s wife used and interviews at least five qualified candidates by the end of the week. End of story.
    What is the conflict that motivates your story and keeps the nanny heroine and billionaire hero apart? Start there.

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