Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

First Page: Insecure – Contemporary Romance

Welcome to First Page Saturday. Individual authors anonymously send a first page read and critiqued by the Dear Author community of authors, readers and industry others. Anyone is welcome to comment. You may comment anonymously. You can submit your own First Page using this form.


She waited till he was alone. She leant across the desk and said three words in a dirty low whisper. “I want you.” Then she walked away. The heels, the legs, that black suit, and the no nonsense hairstyle that should’ve made her look sexless, forbidding. She was so freaking gorgeous she couldn’t hide it in all that stiff expensive tailoring.

He laughed, louder than was sensible and earned a sharp look from Nolan.

She didn’t want him for his ability to code a program or provide IT support. This was a bad idea, but the city was burning, so if the girl was on fire he had a duty to put her out.

He followed her across the empty hotel ballroom, Nolan’s eyeballs stuck to his back. She waited, but she wasn’t in a socialising mood. “Look Mason, you either want this or you don’t.” She spoke softly in that you will obey me voice, looked him dead in the eye, daring him to misunderstand.

He was hooked. He’d been snagged by her from the moment she’d stood at the front of that meeting room, explained the game plan and called him on not paying attention in front of nineteen other people. She didn’t care if she’d embarrassed him. He didn’t care enough to be embarrassed. But if he didn’t find his tongue now he’d lose his chance. And it wasn’t the most disciplined organ. It either sat thick in his mouth and refused to move, or said inappropriate or ill-timed things that irritated people. “Mace.”

She frowned. “What?”

There it was, irritation—and he’d only said one word. “No one calls me Mason except Nolan, and he’s an idiot.” Which she was smart enough to know.

“Get too cute and I’ll start thinking this is a stupid idea.”

No point not saying it. “It’s a monumentally stupid idea.”

She let out a sigh, noisy with attitude. “That’s all you had to say.” She stepped around him to leave.

If he wanted her, he’d have to suck up the tough bitch programming. “I’ve got nothing else to do.”

She stopped. She was so straight backed, so crisp in her movements there was little left over for loveliness. She was military, her own parade. He was cannon fodder. If he did this, he’d get to see her without the armour, without the authority that kept her separate, like another species of woman, one without warmth or softness. He’d get to see her stripped of all that made her a corporate machine, the heiress apparent. That alone was worth the snark.

She turned back to face him, fixed him with a hard stare. “Changed your mind?”

He shrugged. “Why not?”

“Why?”

“Maybe the world will end tomorrow.” Yesterday that comment would’ve earned him too cute points and he’d be going home alone. After what just happened, he’d scored a break. Why me?” Jacinta Wentworth could choose anyone she wanted, but it was risky choosing someone she worked with, even if two office towers and fifteen layers of authority separated them.

She raked his face with eyes so stunningly certain, so sure of what she wanted, he didn’t need her answer, but he got it. “Because you’re hot.”

He laughed, too loud again, and across the ballroom Nolan scowled at him, a hundred censures radiating from under his mono-brow. Mace was fraternising way above his pay grade and for that there’d be words.

She stepped closer. “Because it’s been a long campaign, an awful day and I’m pissed off. And maybe an asteroid will smack down, cause a tsunami and the world will end. If that’s the case, I’d like to go out with a bang. You look like you know how to handle that.” One hand went to her hip and he couldn’t stop his eyes going there too. “Good enough?”

He nearly laughed at her phrasing, but she was fierce with it, so he checked it in time. “Almost.”

“What do you want—a contract?” She’d lowered her voice and upped her sarcasm.

“I want to hear you say this is no strings, we go our separate ways afterwards and we—”

“Can work together without it being weird.” She eye-rolled her impatience.

He grinned. Word was she was always wound tight. He could see that the failure of the shareholder meeting, the collapse of the takeover, the wrath of the CEO, had her pulled taunt like a muscle about to snap. “It’ll be weird.”

She slapped a hand on her thigh and looked down at the carpet. “This is over.”

“You have no sense of humour.”

Her chin jerked up. “And you have no sense of self preservation.”

That wasn’t news. He wouldn’t be in this conversation now if it was. He leant towards her, a little too close to be collegial. “And that’s exactly why you hit on me.”

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

15 Comments

  1. Carol McKenzie
    Jul 26, 2014 @ 05:23:47

    Hi Author, and thanks for sharing.

    I admit I’m confused. First I thought we were in the female POV, but then we were in Mason’s and it seemed jarring. I needed to go back to the beginning to untangle that thread.

    It’s also not clear to me where this is set. I think it’s a work-related conversation, but ballroom took me out of the story. The double entendre are pretty thick, so again, I’m not clear what Jacinta or Mason wants. I suspect the double entendre are intentional, but here, IMO, they need to be used sparingly, and not in narration unless it’s abundantly clear to the reader what the underlying meaning of the scene is.

    Aside from confusion over the basics, there are a few other nits: if he’s alone, who’s Nolan? And please replace Nolan’s eyeballs back in Nolan’s eye sockets. The image of a man walking across a room, literally with eyeballs stuck to his back, is not the image you meant to convey with that sentence. Also, pull something taut other than a muscle. Again, the visual is a little too visceral.

    This: She slapped a hand on her thigh and looked down at the carpet. “This is over.” The actions seem totally out of character for the character. Not sure thigh slapping is out of frustration, or we’re having a thigh-slapping good time. And she doesn’t seem the type to drop her gaze for any reason.

    Would I read on? Not sure. Maybe a blurb would help, offer a little guidance. As it is, I’m lost. I don’t know enough about what’s going on to know if I care about Mason or Jacinta. I’m actually slightly interested in who Nolan is though. I suspect the conversation between those two would shed light on what your story actually is.

  2. SAO
    Jul 26, 2014 @ 07:07:27

    I liked the immediate interaction on page one. We get a sense of both chars, have a sense of where the book is going.

    What didn’t work so well:

    In the first line, you tell me she waited until he was alone, but then it’s pretty clear Nolan is there (but I have no idea where). In fact, it wasn’t until he says no one calls him Mason except Nolan, I assumed Nolan was Jacinta.

    At times I got confused. She says, “Changed your mind?” He says, “Why not?” which, after her comments sounds like, “why not change my mind?” not “Why not F*?”

    Then she asks “Why?” which seems out of character. She seems to be going for she’s totally hot, he’s going to just follow, so does she care why?

    He answers, “The world might end tomorrow” which is an awful answer IMHO. Instead of saying anything remotely close to ‘You’re hot, I want you, It’s going to be so good,” he’s saying, hell, it’s better than going back home and doing my laundry. Not exactly a sexy reply.

    He asks why him, but it was lost in the para and you didn’t have all the quote marks, so I didn’t see it and really, does he care?

    In short, the scene went on too long. Plus, if she cared, she could be more discreet and if he cared, he could have made it look like he was going somewhere else for Nolan.

    So, hot opening, would be a lot better if shorter.

  3. Kierney Scott
    Jul 26, 2014 @ 07:18:17

    I agree with Carol, I did not know who was telling the story. Is this from his POV or hers? The confusion pulled me out of the story.

  4. Michele Mills
    Jul 26, 2014 @ 09:50:57

    I was so confused! I couldn’t figure out who anyone was! I thought we were in her POV and the two main characters were Nolan and Mason, then later you finally give her a dialogue tag with a name, so now I’m going to have to go back and reread to figure out who everyone was again…

    Okay, it would be nice if in the first paragraph you could let us know he’s watching her and her name is Jacinta, that would help.
    I like the set up, the immediate attraction at a work conference? But you need to make the POV clear, let us clearly know who said what, and give more detail with the setting.
    Carol and SAO had great ideas on how to tweak the dialogue.
    Good luck. Thank you for posting.

  5. Abi
    Jul 26, 2014 @ 11:17:17

    I think I would have a difficult time investing any interest in these characters as they are on this page–there’s no hint that either of them were attracted to each other before this conference, so the set up seems very Sexual Harrassment Nightmare to me. From this, she just seems like a higher up trolling for sex and he could care less if they actually do it or not, he just wants to see her stripped down of her authority. There needs to be more there between them, which can easily be added with a few lingering gazes or mention of previous fantasies about her or referencing a previous interaction.

  6. Liz Mc2
    Jul 26, 2014 @ 11:44:07

    I’m going to be contrary. I wasn’t confused by the POV. I thought it was obvious in the opening paragraph that we were seeing the woman from someone else’s POV. It was closer to omniscient than deep third person point of view, I guess, but I just interpreted it as Mason being good at reading Jacinta (he can tell she’s impatient, etc, from her body language). I can see why some readers would accuse this of head-hopping, though, and I think the comments are showing you that romance-readers generally expect a deep POV that you haven’t achieved here, and you may need to give readers what they expect if you’re going to draw them in.

    I was confused about other things–is this the start of a dystopian, or is the asteroid/world-ending stuff just a metaphor for the business disaster? This is a good kind of confusion for me, though; I like to start a bit mystified, with the need to read more to understand the situation. I also liked the fact that neither character is stereotypically likeable right off the bat and that Jacinta is aggressively going for what she wants. I’m curious to see if/how you’re going to win me over to them. This could go off the rails, or it could be great. But I’d read a whole sample to find out which.

  7. Lucy Woodhull
    Jul 26, 2014 @ 12:42:52

    I didn’t enjoy this, for many of the reasons outlined above. But I was done at “If he wanted her, he’d have to suck up the tough bitch programming.” Ugh, so many stereotypes. She’s in business, so she’s a bitch in ugly suits that the man will save her from. Oh, wait, he’ll “put her out.”

    I would not read on, not even if the writing problems were corrected. The back and forth isn’t charming or playful, it just sorta lays there woodenly like the lead up to the action in a porn. I don’t like the “hero” one little bit. He’s icky. There is a market for alphaholes in romance, but calling a strong woman a bitch on page one goes a little far even so. And she turns back to him after he says “I have nothing else to do”? Wow, what flattery. I’m sure a gorgeous, wealthy businesswoman who can get anyone just loves being told she’s one step up from nothing.

    I’m sorry to be harsh, but I have no idea who your audience is. It’s definitely not me, I’m afraid.

  8. Lucy Woodhull
    Jul 26, 2014 @ 13:11:46

    @Lucy Woodhull: Okay, I felt bad that I didn’t offer a lot in the way of help to fix my problems with this.

    If this is your hero, I think you should go back and think about him as a person. I feel like you’re going for charming, self-effacing guy, but it doesn’t work. If he’s going to be a dick, he’d better be a damn funny or charming one, or else why would anyone spend more than a moment with him? The only payoff I’d like to see from this page of behavior is her telling him to bug off. Him growing from that might be an interesting read.

    And who is Jacinta? Why do you think she’s a corporate machine? Maybe because major corporations are male-dominated? And is she a woman of color? That would make life even tougher for her. She’s a person; you should figure out who she is, because right now she’s a pile of negative female stereotypes.

    If you’re going for a powerful, wealthy woman and a regular Joe, I really like that switch up in concept. I’m not sure who is “Insecure,” but I don’t love that for a title. I wouldn’t pick up that book. I really hope it’s him; that would be a nice reversal.

    You have some mechanics problems in grammar and punctuation, and in proofing. I would recommend a strong writing basics book to fine-tune that stuff.

    Everyone is a pile of good and bad. I encourage you to find the person in both of these characters.

  9. theo
    Jul 26, 2014 @ 13:20:06

    Too confused to give any constructive comments. Sorry, but because I was so confused, I started skimming shortly after the first few sentences and my first inclination was to rewrite it. Though one or two are not, the rest of us clearly are confused so much tightening of POV is needed here.

    After trying to get through it again, the POV does smooth out some, but those first few sentences are gold and if they’re not clear to your reader, the book goes back on the shelf. Don’t make that mistake.

  10. Kristi
    Jul 26, 2014 @ 13:39:03

    Thanks for sharing! Just wanted to comment that I liked it but had a lot of problems like the other people mentioned. Once I read it again, I could see it was his POV but the first three paragraphs were confusing because it did feel like a head hop.

    There were a lot of double entendres. A little too much. Maybe you can relocate them in the story. And at the end it seemed to go back and forth too much as people have commented.

    Just a note that I was confused… empty ballroom? Did he have a desk in the back of the ballroom? Or was it a folding table that you would normally see. I started to think of a campaign in government from the ballroom but later saw it was a shareholders meeting.

    And definitely get rid of the eyeballs on the back, lol. The commenter above made me laugh about it, I totally noticed it! I would probably read on. He seems like an annoying ass and she a total bitch but I’m hoping they can be redeemed.

  11. Lori
    Jul 26, 2014 @ 14:39:37

    This was a difficult read for me because I like your writing and think it’s strong but I disliked your characters too much to want to read about them. They’re both trying so hard to be cocksure and edgy that they come off unlikable.

    I agree that you need to clear up whose POV we’re in because it was a little confusing.

    I wouldn’t read on as this is but I say that with regret because you’re a strong writer. If you gave me at least one of the two characters to root for then I’d be all in.

  12. Lindsay
    Jul 26, 2014 @ 15:01:31

    Hi author, thanks for submitting.

    I’ll be honest, I was much more interested in the hints of the world ending than in the characters — neither seemed likable (although I’d be more likely to sympathize with Jacinta from what detail we get, that she’s heavily armored because that’s what corporate execs who are women often have to do). If this was erotica, I would expect the immediate opening of let’s-get-laid, the-world-is-ending to make more sense, but if it’s a contemporary romance then I would expect a little more background and more reasons to care about the characters. More chance to emotionally invest in them. Right now it’s two rather unlikable people who are standing around arguing a pretty foregone conclusion (that they’re going to have sex for zero emotional reasons).

    Folks above have addressed the POV issues, the language issues, and anyone who calls a woman a bitch on the first page generally has me setting the book down, but I would almost give this one a pass (I get the feeling it’s the persona she has created, AND if there were some supreme growth from the hero down the line to not dismiss women as bitches). There is a dissonance in the hero’s actions and thoughts, between that and the negging, like he’s trying to put her down and put her in her place even though you’ve said he isn’t embarrassed and doesn’t need revenge.

    Right now all of my interest is involved with the window dressing (the ballroom, the conference, the potential end of the world) and not your characters. I’m still very intrigued and totally your target market so I hope you will let us know more.

    Also do heels and long legs really make a woman sexless?

  13. Carol McKenzie
    Jul 26, 2014 @ 15:11:35

    Is there really an end of the world in this page? I’m under the confused thinking it was just a joke between them. But is the world really ending tomorrow?

  14. wikkidsexycool
    Jul 26, 2014 @ 16:05:49

    Hello Author,

    Thanks for having the courage to submit this. I think you’ve got something here, but you’ll have to limit the head hopping, at least until readers can pinpoint who is who. Taking into consideration most of the other comments, I did some quick re-arranging and editing (I hope you don’t mind):

    He was hooked.
    He’d been snagged by her from the moment she’d stood at the front of that meeting room, explained the game plan and called him on not paying attention in front of nineteen other people. Jacinta Wentworth didn’t care if she’d embarrassed him, and he was too wowed by her to be embarrassed.

    When she stormed into his cubicle looking ready to chew his ass out again, Mace got the shock of his life. Leaning across the desk, the woman he now reported to said three words in a low, dirty whisper. “I want you.”

    Before he could answer she backed off, letting him soak in her offer. It was a lot to process, just like the new projects he’d been assigned that were taking up half his desk. Jacinta wanted him? Hell, the woman acted like he had a bag of rocks for brains and hadn’t showered in days. Weeks. If she wasn’t riding him, he didn’t exist. Until now.

    Mace laughed, louder than was sensible and earned a sharp look from her. The woman both terrified and aroused him, making everyone dance to her tune since temporarily taking over for his old boss. Jacinta had swept into his department like a tornado with her fiery management style, black suits, and no nonsense hairstyles. Everything about the woman made her appear untouchable, forbidding. But she was so freaking gorgeous she couldn’t hide it in all that stiff expensive tailoring.

    “Look Mason, you either want this or you don’t.” She spoke softly in that you will obey me voice, looked him dead in the eye, daring him to misunderstand.

    If he didn’t find his tongue he’d lose his chance. And it wasn’t the most disciplined organ. It either sat thick in his mouth and refused to move, or said inappropriate or ill-timed things that irritated people. Somehow he found his voice, though it came out deeper than he’d meant it to. “Mace.”

    She frowned. “What?”

    There it was, irritation—and he’d only said one word. “No one calls me Mason except Nolan, my old boss. And he was an idiot.”

    Her nod of agreement made him think she already knew that. “Get too cute and I’ll start thinking this is a stupid idea.”

    No point not saying it. “It’s a monumentally stupid idea.”

    Jacinta let out a sigh, noisy with attitude. “That’s all you had to say.” She stepped out of his cubicle, ready to leave him with nothing but regret.

    “I’m putting that file together and I’ll have it in your office, ASAP.” That earned him another nod, but this time her curt smile acknowledged what he was attempting to do. Let everyone think he was about to get his head handed to him once she had him cornered in her office. He was giddy with thoughts of her bent over Nolan’s elephant sized desk, with that skirt hiked up around her hips. Or maybe they’d hit the floor with her on top, giving orders as usual. She was military, her own parade. He was cannon fodder. If he did this, he’d get to see her without the armor, without the authority that kept her separate. He’d get to see her stripped of all that made her a corporate machine, the heiress apparent. That alone was worth the snark.

    ******

    Like I said, I think you have something here. I like the idea of your main character being floored by her style and her aggressiveness. And I love your title, “Insecure.” Another suggestion would be to take their conversation about how all this goes down, no strings, etc, in her office.

    I’m not sure about the ballroom, because they have there’s too much of a chance that someone could overhear them. I’m thinking if she’s not his actual boss (temporarily taking over until someone else is hired), and if she works primarily in a different department, then the risk of both of them losing their jobs won’t be as great. It still may not sit well with other employees or her boss, though.

    I hope you’ll post a short blurb on the premise, and I wish you all the best with your novel.

  15. Lindsay
    Jul 26, 2014 @ 18:33:16

    @Carol McKenzie: I took the phrases “the city was on fire” literally, as well as how his line about the world ending would have been too cute yesterday but was valid today to mean that they’d just learned something today that could make it real. The asteroid/tsunami seemed a little too specific for the heroine as she didn’t seem the type to speak in hyperbole.

    Maybe my hopes are too high!

%d bloggers like this: