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First Page: Having It All

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Wearing only a red lace thong, Alison Giancarlo slid through the partially open bathroom door and came up behind her fiancé. Wrapping her arms around his waist she smiled at the scratch lines she’d put on his back that afternoon while thrashing around in the sheets with him after a warm ocean swim. She couldn’t wait to be Mrs. David Hollister and have him in her bed and life forever. Her hand dipped slowly into the front of the towel wrapped around his waist. It fell to the floor. He was a tanned, perfectly sculpted Greek god. She kissed him between the shoulder blades, already wanting to go to bed with him again.
His reflection smiled at her as he cocked one eyebrow and paused, razor in mid-air. “You’re going to make me cut myself.”
She splayed her hands across his muscled back, breathing in soapy male smell. Her hands skimmed lightly past his stomach to fondle and tease his growing erection. “Then stop what you’re doing. Come back to bed. We have time before dinner.”
He put down his razor and twisted out of Alison’s grasp to retrieve the towel. Um…we need to talk…I…uh… need to talk. Let me finish here, babe, and I’ll be right out, okay?”
Nonplussed, her hand fell away. She was quite willing to give him an impromptu hand job, making him watch in the mirror, of course, and ask for nothing in return, until later that is, and he wasn’t even breathing hard, or abandoning all thoughts of shaving. She reigned in her lust and forced herself to flash a smile “Sure. I’ll be in the bedroom.”
What was that all about, she wondered. A We need to talk sentence was usually followed by a I don’t think this relationship is working, I’m gay, or a This awkward, I already have a wife/fiancée/girlfriend/boyfriend sentence. Surely, he wouldn’t have come to Turks and Caicos with her to say something like that. On the other hand, she was pretty sure he wasn’t going to announce that he’d like his eggs sunny side up and his toast cut into neat triangles every morning once they were married.
They’d been here for four days and it had been pure bliss; they’d spent every second together. No arguments, no disagreement, just paradise. She hadn’t even checked the two Blackberries she’d brought along. Okay, she’d checked them a few times, but only for a couple of seconds.
They’d spent all their time swimming, napping naked in the sun on the ultra-private beach their hotel room faced, having hot sex, sipping cool tropical drinks, having more hot sex, and eating. Not necessarily in that order. She gazed out their hotel room’s sliding glass door. The ocean, a gorgeous blue green during the day, was now an extension of the black sky.
She was hungry. Hopefully, this conversation wouldn’t take too long. They had reservations at Skippers downstairs. Their seafood was phenomenal. She scooped up her bikini from the floor where David had flung it that afternoon after peeling it off her.
She slid her bare feet into her midnight blue Manolo Blahnik pumps, put her red lace bra on, and dug through her purse to find lipstick. She had just stepped into her dress when David came out of the bathroom clutching the front of his towel. He stared intently at her for a few seconds. “I don’t know how to say this.”
Uh-oh. Something told her this wasn’t going to be pleasant. Her heart thumped as her appetite vanished. “Just say it. What is it? It can’t be that bad.”
“That’s the thing. It is that bad. Allie. I don’t want to get married.”

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

22 Comments

  1. SAO
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 06:07:03

    You need to fix the formatting.

    The problem with starting with a MC being dumped is that it’s hard to make them sympathetic. If she didn’t know anything was wrong with her relationship, she’s either dim or superficial. You’ve gone with superficial. We get told about the hot sex. And the perfect bod and the perfect vacation but David never becomes real. There isn’t one single line about what she sees in David beyond the superficial. Her midnight blue Manolo Blahnik pumps get as description as he does and about as much characterization.

    Nothing happens here that tells me about how Allie is going to react. Is she going to be pissed that he’s spoiling her perfectly planned wedding? Is she going to be heartbroken because she really loves him? Is she going to be furious that he’s made a fool of her?

    You need to go beyond the tokens of a great time (fantastic food at the restaurant, private beach, greek god-bod, Manolos on her feet) and get to what makes this a great guy and a great vacation. Or maybe, you don’t want to waste that much space on David.

    In any event, I think you could strengthen this by making it a face-to-face conversation. “Four days of pure bliss. I can’t wait until we’re married,” said Allie. Then let us see David’s face and response and hers to him. Or start after she’s dumped and when she meets the new guy. Unless she’s going to keep David?

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  2. Cara Ellison
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 07:39:07

    I feel like you’re starting this in the wrong place. It all feels very superficial to me, and that is reinforced by the title and the emphasis on sex-sex-sex. I do like your voice, but I think this needs some work to sound more engaging.

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  3. Beth
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 08:17:58

    I agree with the other commenters that the intro is just too superficial. Your protagonist comes across as a vacuous party-gril. Her fiancé is little more than a piece of meat she’s sexually attracted to. And sorry, but it was obvious from the first paragraph that he was going to dump her. (Frankly, I would too.)

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  4. Beth
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 08:19:25

    Gah, that should be “girl” not “gril.”

    Though if he’s a piece of meat, perhaps “grill” would be the better word. :)

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  5. Caro
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 08:27:19

    I’m not getting either of these two. Allie seems a bit vacuous – her entire connection to her fiancé appears to be about the sex. I don’t know much about David other than he’s a Greek God (I am tired of GGs). Am I supposed to hate this cad for taking all the sex he can get for four days and then announce he’s out? Or is this beginning of her awakening to the fact that all they had was sex and she needs to find more with David?

    I don’t know. I don’t have a clue. All I know is that I’m not really getting either of them. I don’t care.

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  6. cecilia
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 10:11:55

    I agree with the others. And you also might want to look into misplaced modifiers, because “Nonplussed, her hand fell away” makes we wonder how she got a sentient hand.

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  7. Lil
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 10:23:53

    I basically agree with above. From what we see of her, he’s smart to dump her. But there is one thing I have to mention: She REINED in her lust, she didn’t REIGN it in, even if she does seem to think she’s the queen bee.
    Sorry, that just happens to be one of my pet peeves.

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  8. hapax
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 11:26:12

    I don’t want to dogpile, but I agree with the commenters above. I have no problem with the set-up; there’s a reason this is a classic beginning in romances (and murder mysteries, for that matter), and that’s because there’s all sorts of interesting places it could go.

    But as of now, I don’t care. I feel distanced from your characters; worse, I feel like a voyeur, like I’m watching two naked people make out and break up through a plate glass window.

    You need to put me in your characters’ heads, or at least their bodies, for me to care. When Allie walks into the bathroom, does her breath quicken and her hands tingle in anticipation? Or maybe she feels sleepy and relaxed, her whole body heavy after days of great sex?

    When David says “We have to talk”, does her heart plummet and her body go cold with dread? Or does she flush hot, furious that he should wait until NOW to bring this up? Or maybe she rushes out to her Blackberry (who still has a Blackberry, anyhow?) to text all her best girlfriends for advice?

    Every thing I said up there is a dreadful cliche, of course. But at least they would give me a sense of who Allie was, and make me feel invested in what she did next.

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  9. Lynne Connolly
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 14:21:04

    Did my comment drop off the grid?

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  10. QC
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 14:33:45

    I just want to mention that while I agree with the comments above, that perhaps this character’s arc is one in which, due to getting dumped, she grows beyond being vacuous and superficial. Not all characters are likable on page one. Granted, this heroine isn’t even particularly interesting, but if I knew from the back cover copy that she was going to be dumped on her butt and have to start looking at life differently, I’d read on.

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  11. jch
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 14:37:10

    Lynne – You’re not the only one. My comment disappeared, too. I posted about 5 hours ago, and it never showed up…

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  12. cleo
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 14:55:10

    @jch: @lynne – if you had two reply links in your comment, it may have gone into moderation (I remember Jane mentioning that issue in the comments recently) – one of the DA people should be able to fish your comments out of mod (no matter why it was sent there).

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  13. Sunita
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 15:05:11

    @jch: @Lynne Connolly: Sorry, but I can’t find comments by either of you in the spam or trash folders. I don’t know what happened. Cleo is right that multiple links will put a comment in moderation, but I can usually see those pretty quickly.

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  14. Jane
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 15:24:57

    Sorry guys. We have a huge spam problem so our spam settings are fairly high. The best thing to do is send an email if the comment doesn’t show up right away or we could accidentally delete it when we are clearing out the spam folder.

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  15. Lynne Connolly
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 18:03:54

    No worries. I more or less said what the others were saying. There’s no emotion in this, nothing to link us with the characters. And I didn’t like either one of the characters, so I wouldn’t read on.
    I did use the “p” word, so I bet it was that. Trying to explain that I wasn’t using it in a derogatory sense, but trying to point up the difference between It and the “e” word.
    I do miniatures (dollhouses) and I attended an online class once where we were asked to apply the glue with our “eartail” sticks. The chat room in question changed every vaguely naughty word for something else. So eartail sticks they are!
    The class degenerated into what naughty words we could get through. General hilarity ensued.

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  16. theo
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 20:29:33

    Agreeing with the other comments regarding the lack of anything happening here and the grammatical problems. Honestly, unless this had an award winning blurb on the back to lure me in, this first page would make the story a DNF for me. Your Hn is shallow, (she’s more worried about what things cost and how mind blowing the sex is than anything,) your H is a tool, (he didn’t want to get married so just took advantage of how expensive their four days of sex in some exotic locale is before he drops that bomb on her?) that there’s just nothing on this page to make me like either one of them. Granted, I don’t always like every character on the first page, but they usually have some quality that makes them interesting enough for me to want to find out. There would need to be a fantastic redemption to make this readable. Right now with this little bit to go on, I’m thinking that’s not going to happen.

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  17. SAO
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 00:38:14

    Reading all the comments, I’m struck by how much we say Allie is superficial, but not how to fix it. MCs need some vulnerability. All the more so if she seems to have it all. Lots of people (including me) read that as a form of bragging.

    Obviously, I know nothing about your character, but two ways to put it in would be:
    1) A cold stone formed in Allison’s stomach. A We need to talk sentence was usually followed by a I don’t think this relationship is working, This awkward, I already have a wife/fiancée/girlfriend/boyfriend sentence. She knew. She’d heard it all before. But that was when she was the girl from the wrong side of the tracks with the cheap second-hand clothes. That girl was long gone. She slid her feet into her Manolo pumps and pulled on her silk Versace sheath. She’d worked her butt off and now she wore Manolos and Versace. She had class. Guys don’t dump someone with class. . . do they?

    This gives her a backstory that allows David to be shallow and Allie shallow but we can still root for her, because we know where she’s coming from.

    2) They’d spent all their time swimming, napping naked in the sun on the ultra-private beach their hotel room faced, having hot sex, sipping cool tropical drinks and having more hot sex. Pure bliss.
    She’d hoped this vacation would give them a chance to connect. Deepen their relationship. Oh, well, plenty of time for that when the honeymoon was over. She smiled thinking of long, love-filled years with David —and lots of hot sex.

    Here, we just get a hint that she knows something isn’t quite right in her relationship and a hint that she loves David. So we can feel sorry for her when she’s dumped.

    Give her vulnerability.

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  18. Beth
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 06:04:22

    Vulnerable is an option, but it’s not the only one that will snag reader attention. Speaking for myself, I’d be much more interested in smart and capable.

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  19. SAo
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 09:53:21

    You can be smart and capable and still have some vulnerability. To me, vulnerability the the ability to be hurt and if your heroine doesn’t have a weak spot, you can’t have a character arc and she becomes a Mary Sue.

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  20. elizabeth
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 10:45:05

    Thank you all for the comments. I did this project on the advice of my agent (who did some minor editing); it’s for a Harlequin project and it did get accepted for publication. It called for lots of descriptive sex scenes, which I don’t write usually, but it was a lot of fun and once it’s out I hope everyone will read it! And I actually do have a Blackberry!

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  21. Lynne Connolly
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 14:42:43

    High powered people who wear Blahniks and Prada don’t tend to have BlackBerries any more. They’ve moved on to much smarter phones!
    Congratulations on the contract. I do review a lot of Harlequins, so you’ll have to tell me what the book’s called (“The Billionaire’s Cold Feet?) so I can pick it up for review! The sex level is about what Blaze comes up with, or at a pinch, Desire, but I found the flatness of both characters a bit off-putting.

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  22. Kierney Scott
    Jun 04, 2013 @ 12:23:35

    I was hooked, I would definitely keep reading. And congratulations on the book deal!

    ReplyReply

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