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First Page: Gemini: The Twins (Historical/Regency)

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***

Lady Selina Hamilton woke in a meadow, grass tickling her nose. The first rays of the sun reached her, spreading warmth over her face as she brushed an ebony lock of hair from her eyes. She stretched and slid her spectacles back into place on the bridge of her nose. The sunrise was beautiful, causing the dew to sparkle, though she preferred the night sky with its twinkling diamonds.

Sunrise!  I’m going to be late!

Her father would be expecting her at breakfast before he went out to the stables. She pushed herself up, grabbed the blanket she’d been lying on, and grabbed the small bag with her writing utensils and charts. With care, she checked to make sure the rolled sheets of paper in the bag were present and unharmed, and then she ran with unladylike speed toward the servants’ entrance. The gardens she loved became a blur of spring color as she raced through them.

Father warned you not to leave the house at night again.

I wasn’t finished mapping my star charts and I can’t go to London without them.

She grimaced. London was everything she detested. Crowded, polluted, and the home of her twin sister, Martha. It was enough to make her consider feigning an illness to stay. She began to silently catalogue the diseases she knew enough about to be convincing.

What are you doing? You promised your aunt you would chaperone Anne for her first Season.

I must be a candidate for Bedlam to have agreed to such a thing, after my own wretched Season.

Who else could have done it? Your grandfather is too ill, and Aunt Margaret cannot leave him to flit about London with Anne.

Selina’s stomach lurched as memories flooded her. She had no time to dwell on them, because she caught sight of her mud-splattered skirts. Her maid was going to throttle her. The wrinkled day gown was too short for her tall frame and a bit tight in the chest, but she didn’t mind because it was the warmest one she owned.

She reached for the door handle but stumbled as Clara, her maid, pulled it open. Clara eyed her from head to toe and shook her head.

“I know,” Selina said, heading off a lecture. “Just help me get ready for breakfast.”

Her maid grumbled, but followed her up the stairs.

“Not to worry, miss. You know you only have to smile at him and all is forgiven.”

“And what of you? Does a smile earn your forgiveness, too?” Selina turned and grinned, batting her eyelashes.

“Nay.” Clara’s tone was harsh, but the corners of her mouth betrayed her. “Save those looks for the earl. He’s already arrived in the breakfast room.”

“Oh!” Selina bolted up the remaining stairs to her room, pulling hairpins out as she went.

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

55 Comments

  1. sao
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 04:39:12

    Okay, I like unusual heroines, but I finished reading and I don’t know much about Selina or the conflict. She doesn’t like London. Is she going there?

    Is the Earl her father or a suitor?

    The conversation has some conflict in it, but she is talking to herself, which makes it musing and musing is never thrilling.

    There are hints that you have some conflict in this book, but it’s not on this page. Put it here.

    I really don’t know what this book is about. Would I read another 2-3 pages to figure out if I’m interested? Probably. Would I pay to buy this book if this is all I get to look at? Definitely not.

    So, to sum up, I’m not saying it looks like an awful book, it could be quite good, but for a winning page one, you need to start a lot faster.

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  2. Marianne McA
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 04:53:08

    Seems a bit odd to name a character Lady Hamilton. And it’s hard to imagine that an Earl’s daughter wouldn’t have clothes that fit her properly: if she’s old enough to chaperone someone, she wouldn’t still be growing.
    Also, while I know there are a variety of opinions on how period language in Regencies needs to be, for me, a sentence like ‘Her maid was going to throttle her’ – just breaks the illusion that these are the thoughts of a 19th C. lady.

    The moment that did hook me into the story was ‘London was everything she detested. Crowded, polluted, and the home of her twin sister, Martha.’
    That seemed to promise an interesting story.

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  3. Lynne Connolly
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 05:43:33

    It’s an engaging start, with a heroine I could like, but it needs a little tweaking before it’s completely ready.
    The first paragraph is an infodump. I’d leave out the “lady and Hamilton” because if this is in her pov, people just don’t think like that. And she pushed an “ebony” lock from her eyes. Is she going to think that? Or just hair, with a less poetic description.
    The ill-fitting dress doesn’t sound right. I think it’s gilding the lily. Enough if it’s practical and a little on the dowdy size, but unless her father is deliberately keeping her short of clothes, I find it a little hard to believe. And in those days “dress” referred to the whole thing. Even a simple dress was referred to as a “gown.”
    “Her maid was going to throttle her” is modern and no, just no. I’m assuming the earl is her father. Maids did not consort with their mistresses, if they wanted to keep their jobs and the respect of their peers in the kitchen. They were subordinates, even if their mistress was friendly toward them.
    Unless she is over 30 or a widow, she can’t chaperone anyone. She needs chaperoning herself.
    The main problem is that you’ve conveyed her troubles in introspection. Nothing happens in this scene. And the introspection seems forced, not natural. It doesn’t follow smoothly. You could speed this up by referring to the London visit in passing, instead of pointing at it and saying “There!”

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  4. Tolouse
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 06:59:00

    I liked it. I would definitely keep reading. The thing about the twin sister i particular caught my attention. Hinting at trouble without telling me outright. Nice.

    There are a gew small things like the word throttle, but otherwise very promising.

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  5. job
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 09:28:42

    Sounds like an adventurous heroine in an interesting situation.
    .

    There’s a bit of infodumping. I’d suggest saving the London-related information until later.
    Right now, her problem is getting inside and cleaned up. That’s probably sufficient to occupy the reader.
    .

    Maybe spiffy up a few bits of cliched language like ‘Ebony lock’, ‘memories flooded her’, ‘bolted up the stairs’, ‘eyed her from head to toe’,'twinkling diamonds’.
    .

    I am puzzled by two things.
    .

    If she had the presence of mind to put her notes away safely, (which she wrote in the dark, needing her glasses to do so,) why didn’t she go inside right then?
    .
    England is chilly at night in the spring. And damp. It is hard to fall asleep unless you are wrapped up warm in a sleeping bag.
    .
    Second, why is she making star charts of stars visible to the naked eye? Can’t she just go buy one?

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  6. Danielle D
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 09:33:20

    I would want to read more? I like a good twin storyline.

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  7. sao
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 09:49:02

    Something Job brought up. Having looked at stars sufficiently far from a city, there are too many stars to chart. You need to know the constellations to find your way around the sky. The Constellations serve as landmarks.

    She needs to know the constellations, which, since they were important for navigation were a topic of books, even books were so rare and precious that a public library had oh, say, 20 books, all chained to the shelves to prevent theft.

    To see anything new, she needs a telescope, as people were studying the sky with telescopes long before the regency. She’s not going to discover anything new, except with a telescope and very careful observations of minute changes in orbits.

    The very sad thing is that in America, we are losing the night sky. We see so few stars. We just can’t see what was clear to the naked eye for millenia of humans.

    Fight light pollution!

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  8. job
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 10:19:21

    @ Sao

    She might have been watching the Lyrids and marking origin points of shooting stars. (Did they have the Lyrids in early C19?)
    .
    I wish the character were more specific though. This is her passion. I’d be more comfortable if she were detailed and exact about it in her own head. It would also lead to more ‘character concentrating on the here-and-now of the story instead of something else’ which is always nice.
    .
    I miss
    – the lantern she’d need if she is making notes.
    – the hard, solid backing she needed for her ‘rolled papers’ if she is making notes.
    – ‘writing implements’ being called pencils.
    –the coat any sensible person would wear outside if they were sitting on the ground all night in April in England.
    – the hat every Englishwoman wore outside that our character either slept in or has taken off and not picked up.
    –some sense that she is carting a major blanket and a carrying bag (at least) through the gardens and up the stairs. Her burdens seem to have dissovled after she picked them up. (i.e. she didn’t hand them over to the maid.)

    I was probably unfair about the glasses. She may need those for the stars, rather than the writing. But if dew is falling everywhere I suspect she has to wipe them off before she goes running.

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  9. query1
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 10:36:44

    I have similar thoughts on the astronomy, sleeping outside as others have mentioned. The chaperon comment had me wondering how old she was because I found her rather youthful and not chaperon material. The interaction with the servant let me know that this will be a more fanciful depiction so I let the modern phrasing pass for the moment.

    The one thing I do worry about is that it appears she’s heading for London so either this is a prologue to introduce the character or we have a road trip. Road trips can be really fun when used to confine the leads in an intimate setting but I’ve also seen them as wasted if nothing happens or the character suddenly appears in the new location. So if the character does venture to London and nothing significant happens, the story MIGHT be starting in the wrong place.

    There are enough details and control here to get me interested to read more pages but it would really depend on the rest of the scene played and whether or not this is just backstory.

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  10. query1
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 10:40:54

    Oh, one more thing. The internal monologue can be cute or tiresome. Be very careful with it because here it’s rather an infodump. This information could easily be gleaned through interaction with another character.

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  11. Courtney Milan
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 10:48:01

    In my misspent youth, I spent some time camping in the English countryside. With an extremely crappy tent. I have an extremely vivid memory of water soaking through the tent floor and collecting on the walls, until I woke up at 3 AM in a thoroughly soggy sleeping bag…

    So I find myself irrationally worried about how her papers (clearly so valuable to her) would survive being outdoors. There’s a lotta dew there. It doesn’t just sparkle on the grass and look pretty. Basically everything would be damp at the beginning of the day. Really damp. And, it being England, there’s really no guarantee that it wouldn’t rain in the middle of the night.

    So if she is truly worried about her star charts–and it looks like she actually put them away–I don’t understand why she would stay outside with them. That seems like a big risk.

    I’m also not in the “she wakes up feeling warm and toasty from the sunrise” camp. She just slept outside in the damp and the cold with nothing but a blanket. This is not romantic. It is actually really, really uncomfortable.

    Beyond that, I suspect that this beginning is not where your story starts. All she’s doing is thinking about things that either will happen, that she wants to happen, or that she doesn’t want to happen. Start the story when things actually start to happen.

    All that being said I do like your voice–it has a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and so all of this being said, I would keep reading, which is the most important thing.

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  12. AnneD
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 11:51:16

    Okay, so I have a silly nitpick:

    “writing utensils”

    While technically it’s correct, utensils are for the kitchen and instruments/implements/tools are what you write with.

    Like I said, a stupid nitpick. Otherwise I wouldn’t mind reading further despite some of the issues raised by others. I’m a sucker for an ‘evil’ twin story

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  13. Author On Vacation
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 13:25:02

    Thanks for sharing this first page with DA. I realy enjoyed reading it.

    I’m intrigued by the heroine and the setting. I don’t have much critique to offer that hasn’t been provided in other posts. The work needs “tightening up” and a bit more “focus.” The reader is being told a lot of things that are already being shown in the story.

    Best luck with this! : )

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  14. Gianisa
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 13:34:27

    I’m a twin. I strongly suggest that you have at least two pairs of twins read your draft. The vast, vast, vast majority of book featuring twins that I have read got everything wrong. There are so many stereotypes and cliches about twins and IMHO it’s important to make sure that you’re not relying on them as a plot point when in reality they never happen.

    The stereotypes for twins who don’t get along include “they’re opposites!”, “their parents raised them to always be in competition with each other!”, and “they used to be each other’s best friend but then they had a falling out over a guy/job/relative!” Try to avoid these if possible – they’re like nails on a chalkboard.

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  15. Fia
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 13:47:21

    I have a mild problem with the name choices, considering the time period and location. A servant named Clara and the twins’ names, for instance.

    It would fit if Selina was Celina or Celia and Martha was something like Mirabelle, Minerva or something like it.

    Selina was, although uncommon, in use during 18th-century England, but unfashionable during early and mid 19th century (like what ‘Ethel’ is to us today), probably due to a political conflict, a religious movement or both. Frankly, I really don’t know why it fell from grace during this period. I wish I had a time machine!

    Martha, on the other hand, was a highly political name. It was already recognised as an “American” name by then. Naming a child Martha would show her parents were pro-American, which wouldn’t be an English thing to do (English people can be such a bunch of silly snobs!), or old-fashioned / conservative traditionalists.

    And Clara? Such an odd name choice for a servant, considering her background and the time period. It carries so many connotations that I was more interested in Clara the servant than Selina.

    Traditions, trends and politics of the the British name system were still highly regarded during the Georgian/Regency/Victora era and remained so until WWII. I know historical authors commonly, and often blatantly, disregard this aspect (and why not), but I thought you would like to know.

    Lastly, “then she ran with unladylike speed toward the servants' entrance.”

    A daughter of an Earl entering an off-limits territory? Wow. I bet the cook, the housekeeper and the like weren’t happy about that. It’s same as having a man entering the women’s changing room at a public pool. :D Not even an earl’s wife could enter the servants’ areas (including the kitchen) without causing a ripple of silent disapproval among the staff.

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  16. Tamara Hogan
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 14:03:59

    Courtney Milan said:

    Beyond that, I suspect that this beginning is not where your story starts. All she's doing is thinking about things that either will happen, that she wants to happen, or that she doesn't want to happen. Start the story when things actually start to happen.

    Courtney said it better than I ever could. ;-)

    Even though there wasn’t a lot happening on this page, I found the heroine likeable and wanted to keep reading. I agree with the POV/detail nitpicks several others have raised – would she notice the color of her own hair? – but I enjoyed your voice a lot. I also thought you did a really nice job using dialogue and physical description to convey the intimacy in the relationship between Selina and her maid, Clara.

    I’m also intrigued by the juxtaposition of the book’s title and the fact that Selina has a twin. Being that the book is called “Gemini: The Twins”, I find myself wondering how big a role Martha will play in the book.

    Good luck with this!

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  17. Julia Sullivan
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 15:36:53

    I love the idea of an astronomer heroine.

    The overfamiliar maid feels odd here, but maybe there’s a reason for it–is she the daughter of Selina’s old nurse? The gatekeeper’s daughter who was a childhood playmate? I’m not going to pass judgment on the character if you have the cash to pay that check later in the book.

    Agree that pretty much anyone named “Clara” in England during the Regency is German, and that “Martha” is a disastrous choice of names for a belle of the ton.

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  18. Karen
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 16:25:45

    Okay, where the hell do I begin? Another stupid Regency era heroine dumb enough to let her maid talk to her like that? Maybe if the author had done her research well then she would’ve known that the maid would’ve gotten a well desrved slap or two for her “disperct”. Royals back in those days would even kill the man/woman who would even dare to beat them a game of chess. Though your girl is no royal, I expect her to have a mentality befitting her time. Therefore, the maid should be too scared of even grumblin.

    Other than that, you do have a nice way writing and I would’ve kept reading if the circumustances were otherwise… However, from your initial indication if all I’m getting is a TSTL heroine who is led around by her subordinates? Forget it.

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  19. okbut
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 17:02:27

    this is going to sound grouchy but why another historical that makes no sense?

    If youre going that route, do your homework, and then reconsider. You are competing with much better writers than you are at this point…

    Why would a well to do cultivated young woman be interested in charting stars during this period? these were already done by someone much more educated than her in astronomy, obviously. What’s the point.

    She is not acting as her class would dictate, and the maid is going to give her hell? come on!

    tired of these, sorry.

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  20. Bibliotrek
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 17:06:34

    @sao: Books wouldn’t have been that rare or inaccessible for an earl’s daughter, and by the Regency era, subscription libraries were popular. But I think you’re absolutely right to point out that acquiring knowledge was far more expensive and involved a lot more effort then than it might today.

    As for the rest of the piece, I love the idea of a bluestocking heroine (LOVE it), but I confess that I was put off by the heroine’s observation of her own ebony hair, and completely thrown out of the story when the heroine wasn’t chilly, cramped, aching, and damp after sleeping outdoors all night in England. I also found the internal dialogue kind of weird.

    Also, “Selina” and “Martha” as sister names seems a bit odd to me — they just don’t seem to go together very well.

    I would probably persist in reading this to see whether it got better, again because I love a bluestocking heroine. But I wouldn’t go forward with a very charitable mindset, I’m afraid.

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  21. Bibliotrek
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 17:12:34

    @Karen: Royals back in those days would even kill the man/woman who would even dare to beat them a game of chess

    In England? I’m not so hot with other nations’ histories, but I’m trying to come up with an English monarch that would have had someone executed for winning a chess game and am finding it very difficult.

    I mean, yes, maids were expected to kowtow to their masters/mistresses, but life wasn’t quite so totalitarian as all that.

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  22. Anon
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 17:38:39

    Jane Austen used the name “Selina” with an “S” in Emma. She was Augusta Elton’s sister. If it works for Austen, I’d say it should work fine here.

    As for Martha, it could be a family name.

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  23. Lynne Connolly
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 18:16:34

    I’m with Bibliotrek. The royals didn’t really make much difference by this period, and they certainly wouldn’t and couldn’t have anyone executed for disagreeing with them, otherwise the Stuarts would still have been monarchs! Absolutism had given way to the oligarchy.
    However, the master or mistress to servant relationship was by this period complex and detailed. A servant would have a certain standing belowstairs, and the pecking order was as rigid, if not more so, than it was upstairs. There is no question of a personal maid scolding or harrassing her mistress, unless the circumstances were exceptional. A mistress could be friendly to her maid, but in return the maid had to always treat her with respect.
    Watch the upcoming “Downton Abbey” for a perfect exposition (it’s set during the Edwardian era, but the master/servant relationship is well depicted there, and it hadn’t changed overmuch).

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  24. Ros
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 18:22:38

    @Bibliotrek: Quite right. I can’t think of a situation of that kind other than possibly Henry II and Thomas a Becket, but that was hardly a mere chess game.

    And, actually, I do find it plausible that there could be a close-ish relationship between a lady and her maid, that would allow the maid to take certain liberties, especially if the maid was once a nursery-maid while the lady was a child.

    The names are a problem for me. Not Selina, so much, because although it may not have been especially common in Regency times, it was certainly still around, but Clara and Martha feel all wrong. And the thing with names is that it’s very hard for a reader to ignore them. Any other historical inaccuracy may appear once or twice within a story, but names of main characters appear on practically every page. It’s like banging your reader over the head with your lack of research.

    I recommend thepeerage.com as a place to start in looking for period and class-appropriate names. But be careful to look for the English families – there are some Europeans listed on there too.

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  25. Fia
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 18:23:43

    @Anon: I’m aware of Selina Hawkins in Austen’s case. Think Selina Davenport. :)

    It still doesn’t explain why it fell from grace between approximately 1790 and 1840. We are still looking into it by trawling publications for news and events during that period.

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  26. query1
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 18:48:40

    @okbut:

    Why would a well to do cultivated young woman be interested in charting stars during this period? these were already done by someone much more educated than her in astronomy, obviously. What's the point.

    Maybe a woman of peerage would unlikely to pursue scientific adventures, however, there were women such as Mary Somerville who were elected to the Royal Astronomical Society around the time period. Who’s to say that the women of peerage didn’t also dabble like their gentlemen peers only without recognition?

    I believe at the time the Royal Astronomical Society wasn’t filled with “professionals” as we know them now and education certainly was readily available to the degree that it is today.

    I really wish this was more of the Victorian era where they are at least more documented females in the sciences. I think women were much more involved than most people believe but their contributions either weren’t attributed or were purposefully erased.

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  27. Fia
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 18:55:40

    @query1: That is true. There are historians attempting to find out, as illustrated in this recent article about this at The Guardian: The Royal Society’s lost women scientists
    “A study of the Royal Society’s archives reveals that women played a far more important role in the development and dissemination of science than had previously been thought, says Richard Holmes”

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  28. Penny
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 20:39:38

    After reading the first page, and the comments there-after, I have to laugh. I was under the impression the writer intentionally put the main character in a situation, and with a hobby that was odd for her status, to hint to the reader that she is unconventional.

    Since she musses over not likeing London, I also assumed her relationship with Clara might be a bit more friendly if she were in the country, less people her age perhaps?

    I think the hobby is an interesting note.

    Though I do wonder over throttle is the right word. And I imagine it is cleared up pretty swiftly as to who the Earl is.

    For a first page, I think this starts off wonderfully. She is heading off to chaprone in London, a place she doesn’t want to go, and a place that will have her confronting a twin she is has bad blood with.

    I would read on for certain.

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  29. query1
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 20:46:35

    @Fia:

    Thank you for the wonderful link.

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  30. query1
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 21:11:19

    @Fia:

    Sorry, author, don’t mean to distract the thread but I love the paragraph in the article about the water molecule and sexual chemistry. Here’s modern me, instead of unrequited love I’m thinking menage. LOL

    And Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was one of my favorites from the Age of Enlightenment.

    To the author, I did enjoy your authorial voice so please keep writing.

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  31. C.J. Chase
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 22:20:08

    Fia & Anon,

    Also, Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, who died in 1791.

    I noticed many of the same things as everyone else (the sleeping outside, the relationship with the maid). But those were small compared to my problem with the notion of the heroine going to London as a chaperone. To be a chaperone, I’d expect her to be older and widowed — but her too short gown suggests she’s only stopped growing in the last few years. If she is indeed older and widowed and hates London, the author needs a good reason why Selina wouldn’t go take care of grandpa herself and let Aunt Margaret take Anne to London. (Especially since she wouldn’t have to do the dirty jobs associated with nursing since anyone who could afford a London season could afford a nurse to care for grandpa.) I could overlook some of the other issues, but this one seemed to figure too prominently into the plot — I’m guessing her being in London is what sets up the conflict with the sister and (eventually) the hero.

    But it’s a good start, and I hope the author immerses herself in the period a bit more and then looks at this with fresh eyes.

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  32. whome
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 23:24:28

    @C.J. Chase:

    Who’s chaperoning the twin? Or why can’t the twin chaperon instead?

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  33. whome
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 23:25:35

    @C.J. Chase:

    Oops! Meant to continue on with your train of thought not to question you.

    Where’s my edit button!!!! LMAO

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  34. Janine
    Dec 05, 2010 @ 03:39:25

    @Gianisa:

    The stereotypes for twins who don't get along include “they're opposites!”, “their parents raised them to always be in competition with each other!”, and “they used to be each other's best friend but then they had a falling out over a guy/job/relative!”

    Funny, I know of a pair of twins in real life who had a huge falling out (over a choice of career, too!) and last I heard they weren’t speaking to each other anymore. I don’t know if they were ever best friends, though.

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  35. Susan/DC
    Dec 05, 2010 @ 08:46:18

    I had the same question as whome: if Selina is old enough to chaperon, why doesn’t her twin (who is already in London) act as chaperon? Is Martha in London because she’s married? If so, she’s a much more appropriate chaperon. If she’s there living with a female relative, that relative would also probably be a more appropriate chaperon. This is a fairly small quibble, but on top of the stylistic and structural issues raised by everyone else, they add up.

    Also, I know London was crowded and polluted, but I’m tired of the “big city bad, rural life good” cliche, whether in historicals or contemporaries. A more balanced approach would be better; she doesn’t have to despise the city for me to get the point. Selina could, for example, think with regret about how she would miss being able to see the night sky.

    OTOH, I do love a bluestocking heroine and would be interested to see this once reworked.

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  36. okbut
    Dec 05, 2010 @ 10:15:37

    To: QUERY1

    “”I believe at the time the Royal Astronomical Society wasn't filled with “professionals” as we know them now and **education certainly was readily available to the degree that it is today**.”"

    Your last sentence made me laugh. Are you kidding? What was readily available and to whom? The education available in 1850 is definitely not comparable to our degree of knowledge today, or the widespread opportunities we have.

    Educated young women of the privileged class, did not study the same subjects as privileged young men. Science being one of them. Universities were few, and women were not welcome. I don’t doubt that some women still managed to learn astronomy, just as some learned medicine, in the midst of a society that frowned on the whole idea.

    We are talking rigid class distinction here but also rigid gender bias. What bothered me was that the heroine character behaved foolishly, seemed very immature for her age on one hand, and then we are meant to believe she has this important quest of mapping stars on paper that SHE MUST BRING TO LONDON… Just does not work in my opinion.

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  37. Jane Lovering
    Dec 05, 2010 @ 10:34:04

    I liked the writing, but I’m afraid I stopped reading as soon as I heard she’d been asleep outside in Britain, in Spring. If the dew is plentiful enough to sparkle then she’s absolutely SOAKED. And chilled. In fact she’d have got approximately half an hour’s sleep before hypothermia set in and killed her. Sorry. Unless she IS dead, and this is a paranormal…

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  38. query1
    Dec 05, 2010 @ 12:40:36

    @okbut:

    You’re right my sentence contained a typo. It should’ve said:

    **education certainly WASN’T readily available to the degree that it is today**.

    I would’ve corrected it if I’d realized my mistake but in my head I read wasn’t when I read it back to myself so that’s totally on me.

    I agree that the opening has issues including “mapping stars” then falling asleep outside. She does seem much too immature to be engaged in serious scientific discovery and there’s missing class restrictions. Mostly importantly, given the time period, familial support would have been key for most women in the period.

    But I stand by my initial objection to this paragraph:

    Why would a well to do cultivated young woman be interested in charting stars during this period? these were already done by someone much more educated than her in astronomy, obviously. What's the point.

    I don’t know. Maybe because scientific discovery was moving at a very fast pace. Women like Herschel and Somerville had been doing research since the late 1700s. Herschel had done observations for more than 30 years, had discovered 8 comets when only 30 were known.

    By the 1850s there were female celebrity scientists (a term coined by a female) touring the European continent. Women were beginning to break down all kinds of barriers or at least making the attempts. So depending on the exact date of the story and the circumstances surrounding the heroine, I say why not?

    Most fictional characters are “exceptional” characters regardless of whether they are female or male so if the author cleans up some of the details to make it more “authentic” while still giving us a romantic tale then why couldn’t this female protagonist be engaged in scientific discovery?

    —–

    I do highly recommend that any one interested in female scientists at least take a look at the link Fia provided in comment #27.

    I personally plan to get a hold of the book once it becomes available in the States and to look into Mary Somerville’s autobiography although I suspect that Maria Mitchell would’ve been even more interesting if she’d wrote one.

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  39. Pat
    Dec 05, 2010 @ 12:48:58

    One minor buttinsky point. Since this is Regency period, feel free to call a dress a dress, rather than a gown. That’s what the ladies’ magazines called it.

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  40. Karen
    Dec 05, 2010 @ 13:17:34

    @Bibliotrek

    While Regency era monarchs certainly didn’t kill servants or close associates for beating them in a game of chess, that practice was still prevalant in many parts of Asian kingdoms. Though of course the ruling king/emperor did not go out of their way publicizing it… I believe you can still find that sort of behavior in some parts of the world to this day if you look. And of course, I wasn’t just talking about a game of chess (duh…) any form of disrespect or angering their master had severe consequences (not limeted to execution) … Just take a look at some of the Nobel Peace prize winners of our generation hailing from totalitarian regime for further understanding.

    Anyway, what I meant to demonstrate by that info was that lower class people were painfully aware of their position and took great care not to insult the upper class in any shape or form. However what the maid had done here made me drop my jaw to the floor and am still having a tough time picking it up.

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  41. SAo
    Dec 05, 2010 @ 14:44:23

    In the regency, women could study science — on their own. They weren’t going to be recognized, but self-study was fine. Eccentric, maybe discouraged, but this book doesn’t have Selina attending Oxford. So, her astronomy is unusual and possibly the author is going to have her do something that betrays a lack of understanding of the level of scientific knowledge or gender relations in the Regency, but that isn’t on this page.

    The maid doesn’t do much more than shake her head. Sure, in Asian countries, maybe the maid would lose her head. Not in England. Servant behavior was a function of opportunity (ie you had to pay them better than the mills, which wasn’t the average servant wage, or give them opportunities for tips from lots and lots of guests) and how the employer treated them.

    Jane Austen is full of references to over familiar servant behavior from employers who don’t know how to run a household (for ex, Fanny Price’s mother’s servants).

    While what is depicted here is unusual, it isn’t outside the possible, and the “throttle’ is all in the mind of Selina.

    I don’t think much of anyone who limits their behavior to make laundry a mite easier, but that’s a separate point.

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  42. Karen
    Dec 05, 2010 @ 16:33:58

    The maid has done nothing more than shaking her head? She spoke to the earls daughter in a harsh tone. Then, when asked for forgiveness, she denied it. Why, I can already imagine a Regency era lady slapping her maid silly for such disrespect; or at the very least firing her with bad recomendation.

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  43. Sharon
    Dec 05, 2010 @ 20:33:46

    @Karen

    You have a valid point (echoed by several other commenters) that it is surprising, if not unrealistic, that Selina would tolerate that sort of attitude from her servant. It really does not strengthen your point, however, to offer examples from cultures so far removed from Regency England as Asia and modern totalitarian regimes. Yes, atrocities have occurred in nearly every culture throughout history, but that has no relevance to this story or to the point that you’re trying to make.

    More importantly, I’m troubled by your unnecessarily condescending tone towards both the author and the other commenters. Perhaps in future posts you could avoid terms like “stupid”, “dumb”, “TSTL” and “duh” and instead adopt a more mature, respectful tone as demonstrated by the other commenters.

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  44. Noelle
    Dec 05, 2010 @ 20:35:16

    Hi everyone. Thanks so much for all the feedback–there are definitely a few things you all mentioned that my critique partners hadn’t caught, so they will go into the revision I’m planning before I resubmit to interested agents. I appreciate all your comments and want to thank you for taking the time to read it!

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  45. SAO
    Dec 06, 2010 @ 02:00:46

    @Karen:

    In Georgian England, good servant were hard to keep, according to Amanda Vickery’s study of genteel women’s lives at the time (Gentleman’s Daughter is the title of the book).

    Because a 10 hour/day live-in job made it impossible to have a family, female servants were often flighty teens. They quit often for other jobs, for the mills, for marriage, etc. Long term female servants were women who didn’t have families, and if they were well-trained, they were in demand. They, too, had other opportunities.

    While a lady who slapped her servant silly might not face any legal consequences, it is far from clear that she’d have loyal and long-serving servants. Since gossip passed around, she’d probably be training a series of flighty teens, who might look on their job less as a career and more the way a teen today looks on a stint of burger-flipping.

    Further, living in close proximity with someone, relying on them for food and help dressing creates an intimacy. A lady’s maid would be the first person a lady saw in the morning and the last before going to bed. The maid would never rely on her personal relationship — and her close knowledge of the lady’s character to speak her mind?

    Vickery states that the women she studied frequently expressed frustration in their attempts to meet the ideal of having dedicated and loyal servants. The women whose diaries she studied paid the going wage and treated their servants well and for some servants, more like a family member than a servant.

    Author: Never trust the stuff uninformed commenters on the internet tell you. So many people are happy to act as experts on subjects about which they don’t know much.

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  46. okbut
    Dec 06, 2010 @ 06:54:15

    We may not ALL be experts about the Regency or Georgian manners and mores, history and class hierarchy.

    If you write a book set during this period, you can count on the fact that most of your readers won’t be either. Fiction or poetic license not withstanding, characters and behavior have to make some sense to any and all potential readers.

    Isn’t that the whole idea of writing and selling a novel? entertain but be believable from the first page onwards….

    You can’t have a silly heroine that sleeps outside in England during the spring season at night, with her important star chart project on paper for company, unless she has a personality disorder.

    I’m not disputing the fact that some women may have been involved with astronomy during this period, I’m saying this particular character does not have the right attitude to be pursuing this kind of scientific study.

    It’s a right brain, left brain thing.

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  47. Karen
    Dec 06, 2010 @ 07:18:48

    @Sharon:

    I wasn’t trying to make any point that has a relevance to this story in that comment of mine that I hadn’t already made; rather, I was trying to make a point to the person whose name I mentioned in the very first line of my post. Its not very had to miss.

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  48. Karen
    Dec 06, 2010 @ 07:25:21

    @Sharon:
    Ooops me again, sorry. People use “stupid” “dumb” “TSTL” all the time. If it offends you then I regret it. I actually hang around SBTB and Mrs. G all the time and we have a blast using those words. If you don’t like it *shrugs* then there’s nothing I can do.

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  49. Karen
    Dec 06, 2010 @ 07:31:34

    @Sharon:

    Me again, and I’m really, really sorry that I’ve posted 3 times in a row (we need an edit button)… Anyway, I’ll make it short and just say that I used “stupid” “dumb” “TSTL” when describing a fictional character as is done everywhere. I definitely did NOT use it when describing the other commentators or authors as you thought. Anyway, I hope I have managed to clear up some misunderstanding and hope we can stay in good terms.

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  50. Lynne Connolly
    Dec 06, 2010 @ 07:59:56

    I think that everybody is entitled to an opinion, just as the author is entitled to ignore it if she wants to.

    As a writer of historical romance, I can say that sometimes non experts can pick things up, just because it doesn’t sound or feel right. I’ve had brilliant editors who have done just that.

    The servant problem – first, the Vickery book was based on research dating from a period 50 or more years before this book is set, and the Napoleonic war, and growing industrialisation had wrought some changes in the interim.

    And I can highly recommend Vickery’s new program on BBC2 on Thursdays, if you can catch it. Her research into lost letters and journals, and Lucy Inglis’s researches into the poll tax and other documents of the mid-Georgian period are adding oodles of valuable information into the lives of women in this era.

    But no, basically, a servant, however close, wouldn’t do more than give her mistress a scold, maybe remind her of the master or mistress’s orders. She could expect a slap, but she would never behave like a surrogate mother, even if she’d brought up the person she is now maid to. Attitudes downstairs were as restrictive, if not more so, than attitudes upstairs. You sat at table according to your own station in the household, and the station of the person you served, for instance.

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  51. whome
    Dec 06, 2010 @ 08:32:54

    @Lynne Connolly:

    You sat at table according to your own station in the household, and the station of the person you served, for instance.

    Something like the scenes in Gotsford Park? I was fascinated by the nuances I picked up and wondered how accurate a depiction that was. I also remember how everyone was uncomfortable when the lady of the house ventured “downstairs” while staff was about to eat.

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  52. Tamara Hogan
    Dec 06, 2010 @ 08:33:36

    Having only seen one page of the story, I don’t feel I know enough yet about THIS lady and THIS servant to draw any overarching conclusion about the nature of their relationship.

    I’m inclined to give the author some room to motivate and craft a relationship which might be very unusual for its time.

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  53. v
    Dec 06, 2010 @ 14:09:56

    How is she cahrting stars without (apparently) any instruments? Just drawing pretty pictures of them while lying on a blanket?

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  54. job
    Dec 06, 2010 @ 14:26:31

    One minor point that strkes me is that sunrise on May 1 would be about 5:30 am.

    It appears her father commands her presence at breakfast at sixish. This feels unusual for the time and place and social class. It’s a niggle, but I keep worrying about it.

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  55. Jaclyn
    Dec 06, 2010 @ 20:12:47

    From what I’m reading here, Selina is loved by her dad and her lady’s maid, interested in astronomy, and unconventional. Based on that she reminds me a little bit of Alexandra from Something Wonderful.

    I’m not a huge fan of good twin/bad twin stories (cliche), but twins not getting along doesn’t automatically mean one is good and the other bad; I’m curious about their story.

    In general, I like spunky/blue-stocking heroines in historicals, so this shows the promise of a story that would appeal to me.

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