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First Page: Forbidden Destinies (PNR Romance)

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The sound of sandals slapping the black marble floor of his foyer alerted Cupid that he had a visitor. He already knew who. She had been haunting his dreams, driving him mad with lust for over a century. In all that time she had never once paid him a visit. He wondered which screwed up couple she’d come to complain about. He’d messed with enough of them lately in order to get her attention.

“Cupid, you twisted son of a bitch,” the sound of her cursing made him smile. Carefully schooling his features into a bland expression he turned around slowly.

The sight of her took his breath away. Agatha at peace was a beautiful woman but Agatha angry was incredible. Her eyes sparked with fury, her untamed hair surrounded her head in an ebony cloud as she marched toward him, her unbound breasts heaving with each outraged breath she took. He fought the instant hard on that erupted as he watched her swaying hips, enjoying the view so much, he forgot she was here because he’d finally managed to piss her off enough to find him.

“How could you be so cruel?” she demanded, her lips quivering with emotion as she stopped in front of him and placed her hands on her hips.

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. Carolyne
    Jan 05, 2013 @ 07:52:04

    Hi, author.

    This excerpt is a bit short for a First Page. I wish there were more! It feels more like the sort of brief excerpt that might be placed in the front matter of a book as a teaser, before the title and the blurbs and the copyright. But, it doesn’t tease enough. With so little description of setting and none of the POV character, I’m not sure where we are–Mount Olympus? A California beachfront mansion? The wording (“screwed-up,” “messed with,” “twisted SOB”) gives it a modern tone from the get-go, so I assume “magic creatures in modern day,” but I’d have liked more of an anchor for the surroundings. I felt the mental equivalent of floating in a space with nothing but a floor, and of my eyes drifting around for some more clues.

    But, the excerpt is so short, there was no time for you to establish more of the setting. I’d love it if you could send Jane more to add to the entry.

    This could be an interesting set up–some sort of conflict, some sort of heaving-bosomed woman. I’m of the opinion breasts just shouldn’t be heaving unless you’re deliberately going for broad humor. Also, to get all analytical, we have an opening that’s all about a male character gazing at and assessing a female character’s attributes. That’s absolutely fine if that’s the POV you want, but for me as a reader, it makes me wonder whether I’m going to get a chance to gaze at the male character(s), or whether all the adoring and lustful physical assessment will be of the female characters. Judging from only these paragraphs, some readers might assume that this story isn’t for them, might assume the story starts as it means to go on.

    If that’s not how you mean to go on, a few hints of Cupid’s physical attributes would temper that. It doesn’t have to be a description of “lean legs” or “muscled abdomen” or what have you–it could be that he turns “with a sinuous movement” or that he watches her “unconcerned under half-closed lids and pale lashes.” Just enough to give him a physical form too. He could be “schooling his features into an expression as mild and perfect as a statue”–and that could be as “perfect as a Praxiteles statue” or “as perfect as an attempt by Praxiteles to sculpt the gods in marble” to reference the past, or “as perfect as a well-preserved statue in a museum corridor” to establish a modern-world reference point and to implant a mental image of Cupid as being handsome and flawless.

    On a personal preference side, starting off with Cupid fighting an “instant hard on” is a bit of turn-off for me–the wording sounds so mundane and modern and ordinary. But that may well be what you’re going for, so that isn’t a criticism of the writing, just a note that it sets up an expectation that this is going to be a story with a modern attitude.

    If this were a sample at the front of a book, it wouldn’t turn me away from the book, but I’d ignore it and go to the real first page instead and read about twice as much: to see how the story introduces us to the setting; to see whether all the characters get as much descriptive attention and how the points of view are handled; and to find out whether the tone and language are going to be light and casual, or funny and broad, etc.

    It’s not a bad start at all, but I’m not sure which direction it’s going, so I might conclude it’s going to be on the fluffy and jokey side with an emphasis on the guy’s view of the women.

  2. Willa
    Jan 05, 2013 @ 08:46:35

    I thought it was a bit short too as an excerpt – but it made me want to turn the page and that is the point!

    Enjoyed it.

  3. Melissa
    Jan 05, 2013 @ 10:21:38

    Agatha?! Where’s Psyche? I love the story of Cupid and Psyche! I’m not picking up on anything unique in the excerpt, and if you are messing with Cupid and Psyche, I’m probably not reading more unless I’ve heard tons of rave reviews.

  4. Lynne Connolly
    Jan 05, 2013 @ 11:20:22

    I’m with Melissa. I want Psyche, one of the most beautiful love stories and if it interferes with that, I’m out. Besides, Cupid and Aggie doesn’t have the same ring to it.
    It’s very like Kenyon’s stories, with all that modern American vibe. It’s cliche, with all the heaving bosoms and instant hard ons, and it doesn’t bring anything interesting to the myths. No sense of attraction, other than physical, and a bad-mouthing heroine. I’m not really interested in people who walk into rooms cursing.
    And if he’s ‘the’ Cupid, why doesn’t he shoot her with one of his arrows, take her and have done?

  5. Avery Shy
    Jan 05, 2013 @ 11:31:20

    So Cupid has deliberately screwed up the lives of several people just to attract the attention of a woman who is purposefully avoiding him. And now that she’s here and she’s pissed off (for good reason) all he thinks is “Wow, she’s hot.”

    I’d put the book down. Cupid is an enormous dick (and not the fun kind).

  6. Carolyne
    Jan 05, 2013 @ 11:42:44

    When it turned out to be an Agatha, not Psyche, that twist actually drew me in more (“Wait? What? Not the same old same old story? Will we find out what happened to Psyche?”). Had it been Psyche, I would have been far less intrigued.

    Maybe from too much Xena during my formative years, I’m willing to start with a Cupid who seems a bit of a prankster (or jerk, depending on your scale of measurement), and see where his personality goes from there. Maybe he’s tired and bored of the love job. Maybe he’s lost his touch. Maybe he truly is a jerk who needs a wake-up call. Maybe this Agatha has good reason to be so mad and cursy that she overcomes centuries of aversion to visiting his dark-floored foyer of love (hey, I think I just discovered a new euphemism for sexy-parts).

    But on the first page I do want to know I’m getting a story that’s going to be about more than a guy with insta-erection checking out a woman’s curves.

  7. Lucy Woodhull
    Jan 05, 2013 @ 12:37:16

    I’m with Avery in that Cupid sounds like a manipulative asshole. I would not read on. Also, the heaving breasts, etc., kinda turned me off. The writing was not bad, although I’d encourage you to take a look at comma rules. There are several necessary ones missing. There are no internal physical reactions for him (that pesky showing vs. telling). I’d rather read about his heart racing that she’s finally come to see him, or a panicked sweat, over a hard-on any day.

    As for the length, it’s 214 words, which is not quite a full page, but closer to it than many we see here, which are 2-4 pages. Maybe it ought to be “At Least 500 Words Saturday” or something. Something catchier. I need coffee.

  8. Carolyne
    Jan 05, 2013 @ 12:46:49

    @Lucy Woodhull: I’m thinking I usually don’t comment on comma rules or missing hyphens for First Page if it’s pretty minor, since any editor will clean that up. But that may be a disservice if a good manuscript becomes a chore to read in first-draft form and loses an audience’s (or slush-pile reader’s) attention. So, I think it’s good that you pointed that out.

    I’d be very happy with “First At Least 500 to No More Than 1500 Words Saturday.” That’s catchy, right? I need cold medicine.

  9. SAO
    Jan 05, 2013 @ 13:43:47

    Ditto Avery, Cupid’s a selfish, immature jerk. And he’s passive, since it’s taken him a century to get Aggie’s notice. Agatha isn’t winning prizes either, with her quivering lips and heaving bosom. Once we’re out of the Cupid’s juvenile POV, she might improve, but I wouldn’t read on to find out.

  10. Connie Clark
    Jan 05, 2013 @ 19:01:25

    (For those who said they wanted a bit more, I included the rest of this short segment. This is actually the beginning of the third book of my Destinies series. Yes, Cupid needs a lesson in what love really is, and Agatha is just the one to teach it to him. In the other books I had done everything from her point of view, so I thought it would be a different take to put things in his for this scene. Agatha and Cupid are not the main story in the book.)

    “I don’t know what you mean,” Cupid shrugged as if he had absolutely no clue why she could be upset.
    “You’ve dabbled in screwing up people’s love lives before, shooting your stupid little poison arrows into the wrong couples, but how could you cause that poor woman to fall in love with such a …..a……a… asshole,” she sputtered. “I thought even you had more integrity than that.”
    He knew immediately which couple she was referring too. When he’d pricked the woman with a love arrow, he’d actually felt a twinge of guilt because he’d known it wasn’t even remotely right, but he’d been so eager to see Agatha again, and he’d known that she would have to seek him out if he screwed up a match so badly. She’d need his help to fix it.
    “I don’t make mistakes,” he said, making sure his tone was properly arrogant.
    “I adamantly disagree,” she said. “You wouldn’t know true soul mates if they bit you on the leg.”
    “As if you do,” he watched her face turn pink and thought about how much he enjoyed baiting her.
    “I was given the gift,” he noticed she was clenching her jaw, probably so she wouldn’t scream at him. “Perhaps when it came to me you lost it. It would certainly explain the deplorable matching you’ve created lately.”
    “I was born a God, I don’t make mistakes,” he turned and started walking toward his inner courtyard to keep her from seeing his lips twitching with the laughter he was fighting to hold back.
    She followed, as he’d known she would.
    “Truly, I cannot allow this couple to remain in this misery you’ve created for them. They must be allowed to bond with their true soul mates,” he felt her hand touch his shoulder and stopped in surprise, turning to face her. “You must help me.”
    “Must I?”
    She dropped her hand back to her side and nodded meekly.
    Agatha begging? This was getting better and better. He wasn’t sure if the hard on he had was from his arousal at her nearness or that he had finally found a way to make her beg.
    “There may be something I can do,” he admitted. “But I’m going to need to break a few rules.”
    “When has that ever been a problem for you?”
    He grinned, knowing it was only a matter of time before he saw her lush body naked once again. This time he’d make sure to get a taste.

  11. Connie Clark
    Jan 05, 2013 @ 19:17:26

    Thank you all for the comments and observations on my first page submission. I still have a ways to go in getting this book ready for submission!

  12. Heather
    Jan 06, 2013 @ 02:38:51

    Sorry author, even with the expanded scene I wouldn’t read this book. Cupid with anybody other then Psyche, big no. Plus Cupid’s a dick and I don’t like Agatha.

    Heather who’s been celebrating the Packers win

  13. sao
    Jan 06, 2013 @ 08:02:44

    Did I get this right? You’ve got two characters on thus page and the beginning of a plot, but they aren’t the main chars or the plot of the book?

    If we liked the start, we might be annoyed to discover the book’s about something else and if we don’t like it, we out the book down and never get to the real story. Sounds like a lose-lose scenario to me.

  14. Carolyne
    Jan 06, 2013 @ 08:06:56

    ETA: I completely missed that Cupid & Agatha aren’t the main characters of the story, so my critique below may be moot. If the author is going for the “gods meddling in the affairs of the main mortal characters” premise, that well has been drained pretty dry for way too many books, stories, movies, television series, etc. I probably wouldn’t read another book on that premise unless it came with phenomenal recs.

    Hi, Connie.

    I’m afraid the expanded section doesn’t work for me either. It’s not the premise, it’s the execution. I’m a fan of things mythological and things ancient and mythological characters translated into the modern day, and even I’m not so glued to the OTP of Cupid and Psyche that I wouldn’t be curious to see how an author could cleverly weave a variation or convince me that their H-Eternally-A became an amicable HFN after a few thousand years. Seeing only the first section of the story, for all I know this is how Cupid and Psyche form a happy polyamorous relationship (but her presence in his life would have to be indicated from the start).

    Unfortunately my overall reaction to the longer excerpt is pretty negative.

    I don’t mind a jerk of a hero at the beginning if he feels interesting and layered, or conflicted and confused. I don’t even mind a hero who at the beginning is ruled by uncontrollable lust, if there’s more going on in his reaction to a woman than “she gives me a hard on.” If it’s his innate nature that his every reaction is sexual, it can also be sensual and shape his every interaction with his surroundings. It’s unfortunate, though, that Cupid in this excerpt just comes across as a dope who just wants to get his hard on at Agatha. This Cupid doesn’t feel layered–he does feel juvenile and shallow.

    The writing in the first few paragraphs has its flaws but it’s fairly smooth, but the rest of the section feels rushed, stiff, grammatically a bit clumsy, too explain-y. Actually, it reads as if you rushed it together to post it. It wasn’t where I thought the story was going–my expectations don’t HAVE to dictate the story, of course, but from the first few paragraphs I’d given Cupid the benefit of the doubt that he hadn’t meant to mess up so many lives, that Agatha’s arrival was an unexpected “benefit” of his goof ups, there was some underlying cause for messing up those lives beyond “maybe this will goad her to coming here and I’ll have sex.” As I’d speculated above, maybe he’d lost his touch, or the modern world made matching couples go awry in weird ways, or that there was a wisdom in his “cruelty” that Agatha couldn’t fathom yet.

    All the dialogue that follows–it’s almost all dialogue, in fact–and almost no description of setting (sights, sounds, smells, breezes, etc.), are part of what makes the second section feel like it was rushed to the page. There’s a lot of misuse of words that aren’t verbs of speaking, which can be fixed by using a period instead of a comma to separate the action from the utterance, as in these sentences:

    “I don’t know what you mean,” Cupid shrugged
    “As if you do,” he watched
    “I was given the gift,” he noticed she was clenching her jaw
    “I was born a God, I don’t make mistakes,” he turned
    They must be allowed to bond with their true soul mates,” he felt her hand [which is confusing, since I think this is Agatha speaking here–so it needs not just a period after the dialogue, but a paragraph break too]

    So…after reading this excerpt, I’m afraid I wouldn’t keep reading the whole story. It isn’t bringing across a sense of time, place, unique story idea, or giving me a hero who has qualities I’d like to see develop. If he’s going to be unpleasant, let him be a magnificent bastard, not a common jerk. If he’s going to be juvenile, make him fully rounded with the conflicts of someone trapped in adolescence for millennia. Something interesting in his personality that would make me want to see him become a better person. I’m not really seeing why I’d care about someone who’s using inelegant baiting to get into Agatha’s undies.

  15. Beth
    Jan 06, 2013 @ 10:39:41

    Relentless male gaze, dull prose, and punctuation abuse. You can fix the second and third problems easily enough, but it’s the male gaze that made this opening particularly unpleasant for me. I would not read on.

  16. wikkidsexycool
    Jan 06, 2013 @ 12:56:42

    Hi author,

    I took the liberty of searching out your books on Amazon, because I wanted to know who Agatha was. Maybe you can include that in your revision, so that those who don’t have the first two books know just how important she is to your series right up front.

    You’ve got writing talent, but a less generic opening might help. Thanks for sharing this page, and I really wish you all the best.

  17. Connie Clark
    Jan 08, 2013 @ 20:37:14

    I truly appreciate all the comments and constructive criticism. I will be tearing apart this beginning and seeing what I can do to make Cupid more fleshed out as a character. I hadn’t planned to make him a pinnacle part of the series as a romantic interest for Agatha except that they seemed drawn to each other in Unexpected Destinies and I felt they needed to have more interaction. I think I will write it more toward the attitude I did in the last book, where he was angry she was moving in on his turf and trying to sabotage her. This book is called Forbidden Destinies, and is about people married to the wrong person when they find each other. Very unconventional for a romance, I know.

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