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First Page: Legacy of Love (book three of the Legacy series)...

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“You bastard!” Amanda Montero wailed. Her voice was hoarse from the past hour’s symphony of heartbreaking sobs and angry shrieks. Black stripes from mascara-tinted tears created an abstract design on her cheeks. As her weeping gradually tapered off, she raised trembling hands to her face and then took a settling breath that came out as a shaky sigh.

The range of emotions displayed by the always-unpredictable Amanda fascinated Sebastián. He watched her with the kind of wary fascination a cobra would have demanded. He wasn’t surprised when her mood suddenly shifted and she glared steadily at him — the man who’d just broken her heart. With the speed of the striking snake he’d just visualized, she drew back her arm to slap him, but he caught her wrist before it had a chance to connect with its target.

“Enough!” Seb roared in a tone of voice that left no doubt that he was out of patience. He hardened his expression so that the woman he once thought he could love would recognize that his mind was made up. Their year-long affair was over the moment Mandy began to talk about a wedding and babies as if he’d put a diamond on her hand. Women never believed him when he made it clear that marriage wasn’t part of the deal and neither were children. Although none of them ever heard him say the word love, each inevitably thought she would be the one to change his mind about commitment.

He loosened his tight grip on Amanda’s slim wrist when she grimaced in pain as the diamond tennis bracelet she always wore pressed into her skin. “Enough,” he repeated. This time he gentled his voice in an attempt to soothe. He liked to think that he wasn’t a total bastard and he owed her that.

“But I love you. I’ll always love you,” she whispered, her voice cracking as she rubbed her reddened wrist. When he didn’t answer she raised her head and saw the truth in his hard expression. “You mean it this time, don’t you?”

“Yes.” Sebastián knew there was no way to soften the blow. Experience told him that a clean break always worked best.

Mandy’s tanned shoulders slumped as she turned away and dragged herself back to the luxurious Cabo San Lucas villa they’d shared for the past week. Seb watched her go, relieved that she finally seemed to believe him. He picked up his phone and booked a first class seat on a flight that would have her back in San Francisco by evening, then arranged for a car to the airport and for another to meet her at SFO. He’d ask one of the household staff to pack for her. It was expected and the least he could do.

When the limo arrived an hour later, he carried her bags to the car. “Thank you for arranging the car, but I’m not going home,” she said. If they weren’t in Mexico, her voice would be cold enough to cause a snowstorm.

Sebastián panicked. Was she refusing to leave? Amanda no longer seemed upset and must have finally accepted that he didn’t love her. He couldn’t exactly force her into the car.

“Don’t look so scared,” she said and stroked his face. Her diamond bracelet glittered in the sun.

Despite his tan, Seb grew pale when he spotted the growing bruise on her wrist. He’d never injured a woman — physically at least — and shouldn’t have grabbed her so tightly when she’d tried to slap him. Before he could apologize she stepped away from him. “I’m leaving, but I’m not going home. You can cancel my reservation to San Francisco…or not…I don’t care.”

“Where will you go? I can arrange…” he began, worried about her mental state.

“I called my brother. He’s sending his plane for me. He and I need to spend some time together. He’s…” she hesitated and lowered her sunglasses with one finger. She kept her eyes on Sebastián. “My big brother is very protective.”

Seb wasn’t sure whether her words were a threat or a warning. “Your brother? You never mentioned a brother. Where does he live?”

“My life is no longer any of your business,” she said coolly as she slid into the limo’s back seat.
Sebastián felt immense relief that she was leaving so he paid no attention to her final words, ones he’d heard many times before. Some day one of his women might be clever enough to come up with an original parting shot, but evidently Amanda wasn’t that person. She lowered the black-tinted window and glared at him as rage replaced the calm of a few minutes earlier. “You’ll be sorry for this,” she said, the words delivered almost like a curse.

Amanda had promised herself that she would not let Sebastián see her devastation, but once hidden behind the limo’s black glass, the composure she’d held on to so tightly slipped and she gave in to the tears she’d been holding back.

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. Kate Sherwood
    Apr 26, 2014 @ 06:06:51

    I don’t think this is my style, but I might read on just to find out whether Sebastian is as much of an asshole as he seems, and whether Amanda is any less annoying when we’re in her POV.

    I’m a bit confused that we’re switching to her POV, to be honest – I was assuming this story was going to be an uber-alpha tale, and if Sebastian’s the hero then we certainly need a fresh heroine, But if we’re jumping to Amanda’s POV… yeah, I’m lost. Which isn’t necessarily a problem with the book, but it makes it difficult to say anything too useful about this first page.

    The writing seemed good. Verging on over-the-top, but I think that’s the style you’re going for.

    I don’t really buy that Sebastian would ‘panic’ when it seems like Amanda isn’t going to leave the rental villa – couldn’t he just leave instead?

    I don’t know if it’s possible (and I don’t know what your story’s actually about, so this could be off base), but would you be able to dial back Sebastian’s misogyny at all, do you think? I know (or at least, I think) you’re going for the full alphahole, but could he not be disappointed in this woman, and maybe even in other women he’s dated, without the sense that he thinks all women are idiots? (I’m thinking of the “women never believed him” and “he’d never injured a woman-physically at least”-style thoughts. They turned me off.)

    And in real life, I absolutely agree that if a woman attacks a man, he needs to defend himself and that may result in mild injury to her. I wouldn’t judge a real-world man if he bruised an ex’s wrist after she tried to slap him. But I think I expect more from a romance hero. If he’s going to be all ‘I know your body better than you do and will teach you how to feel true pleasure’ with the heroine down the road, then I expect him to know THIS woman’s body pretty well, too. Well enough to not injure her, even accidentally.

    I’d probably read on, or maybe go look at a review or two. If this book is going to subvert the tropes it’s setting up, I’d be intrigued. But if it’s just going with them, it’s not the book for me. But it could certainly work for others.

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  2. Carol McKenzie
    Apr 26, 2014 @ 08:11:03

    Hi author, and thanks for sharing your work.

    I’m not sure I’d read on. I’m not really grabbed by anything I’ve read. We’re starting at a break up, which, to me, signifies the end of something. I’d rather start at the beginning of something…why Amanda turns to her brother (who seems an odd, but intriguing, person to add to a romance), why that bothers Sebastian.

    Also, his reactions seem very superficial, and not all that believable: he’s panicked, he’s apologetic, he’s concerned about her mental state, he’s relieved she’s leaving. He has a new reaction every paragraph, and it’s more confusing than Amanda’s rapidly shifting emotions. From her I expect the swings; after all, she’s just been dumped. But from the alpha dude in the story, who’s bedded and left more women than he can count, the ping-ponging emotions leave my head spinning. A world-weary ennui, maybe, “been here, done this” again kind of thing, but not so much all the others.

    But beyond that, the writing has issues. You have POV breaks, more than the big one at the end. Shifting abruptly to Amanda’s POV is jarring. One subtle break comes earlier on:

    “When he didn’t answer she raised her head and saw the truth in his hard expression.” If we’re in Seb’s POV, he can’t know she saw the truth in his expression. He can deduce, assume, but he cannot know what she saw. Maybe I’m getting oversensitive to them, but POV breaks take me out of the story.

    There’s a great deal of shallow POV telling rather than deep POV showing. Your first two sentences:

    “Enough!” Seb roared in a tone of voice that left no doubt that he was out of patience. He hardened his expression so that the woman he once thought he could love would recognize that his mind was made up.

    I’d like this better if I wasn’t hit over the head with what you’re trying to convey. There are much subtler ways of telling us he’s out of patience and his mind is made up, and you can also just say the words. I think it’s lack of confidence in the writing–or lack of confidence in the reader, that they’re actually going to GET IT–that results in long, over-telling sentences. It also reminds me of writing I used to do ages ago, when I was paid to write to a certain word count and would pad the sentences to make that count.

    “Enough!” Sebastian’s patience finally deserted him. He glared at Amanda, jaw clenched. How could he have thought he could love her? His mind was made up.

    Other little things: “…he grew pale.” He can’t see his face. He can sense blood draining from it, feel it going numb…but he can’t feel pale.

    There’s a couple books I’d recommend, by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglist. The Emotion Thesaurus first off, for how people physically express emotions. It gets writing away from the “He felt impatient”…which tells us how he felt, and into showing us that impatience by letting you describe the physical attributes, the tapping fingers, clenching jaw, eyebrows up or down. It also lets you write far more concise sentences, tighter paragraphs, and gives back some much needed first page real estate that could be devoted to giving more story.

    There’s also a Negative Trait Thesaurus and a Positive Trait Thesaurus, which are just as helpful in keeping reactions and emotions consistent for whatever trait you want your character to have.

    Thanks again for sharing your work. I’d be interested in a blurb to understand more where this is headed.

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  3. Carol
    Apr 26, 2014 @ 08:15:47

    Hi author, and thanks for sharing your work.

    I’m not sure I’d read on. I’m not really grabbed by anything I’ve read. We’re starting at a break up, which, to me, signifies the end of something. I’d rather start at the beginning of something…why Amanda turns to her brother (who seems an odd, but intriguing, person to add to a romance), why that bothers Sebastian.

    Also, his reactions seem very superficial, and not all that believable: he’s panicked, he’s apologetic, he’s concerned about her mental state, he’s relieved she’s leaving. He has a new reaction every paragraph, and it’s more confusing than Amanda’s rapidly shifting emotions. From her I expect the swings; after all, she’s just been dumped. But from the alpha dude in the story, who’s bedded and left more women than he can count, the ping-ponging emotions leave my head spinning. A world-weary ennui, maybe, “been here, done this” again kind of thing, but not so much all the others.

    But beyond that, the writing has issues. You have POV breaks, more than the big one at the end. Shifting abruptly to Amanda’s POV is jarring. One subtle break comes earlier on:

    “When he didn’t answer she raised her head and saw the truth in his hard expression.” If we’re in Seb’s POV, he can’t know she saw the truth in his expression. He can deduce, assume, but he cannot know what she saw. Maybe I’m getting oversensitive to them, but POV breaks take me out of the story.

    There’s a great deal of shallow POV telling rather than deep POV showing. Your first two sentences:

    “Enough!” Seb roared in a tone of voice that left no doubt that he was out of patience. He hardened his expression so that the woman he once thought he could love would recognize that his mind was made up.

    I’d like this better if I wasn’t hit over the head with what you’re trying to convey. There are much subtler ways of telling us he’s out of patience and his mind is made up, and you can also just say the words. I think it’s lack of confidence in the writing–or lack of confidence in the reader, that they’re actually going to GET IT–that results in long, over-telling sentences. It also reminds me of writing I used to do ages ago, when I was paid to write to a certain word count and would pad the sentences to make that count.

    “Enough!” Sebastian’s patience finally deserted him. He glared at Amanda, jaw clenched. How could he have thought he could love her? His mind was made up.

    Other little things: “…he grew pale.” He can’t see his face. He can sense blood draining from it, feel it going numb…but he can’t feel pale.

    There’s a couple books I’d recommend, by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglist. The Emotion Thesaurus first off, for how people physically express emotions. It gets writing away from the “He felt impatient”…which tells us how he felt, and into showing us that impatience by letting you describe the physical attributes, the tapping fingers, clenching jaw, eyebrows up or down. It also lets you write far more concise sentences, tighter paragraphs, and gives back some much needed first page real estate that could be devoted to giving more story.

    There’s also a Negative Trait Thesaurus and a Positive Trait Thesaurus, which are just as helpful in keeping reactions and emotions consistent for whatever trait you want your character to have.

    Thanks again for sharing your work. I’d be interested in a blurb to understand more where this is headed.

    ReplyReply

  4. Author
    Apr 26, 2014 @ 08:32:03

    It may be helpful to know that the genre is romantic suspense, hence the set up with Amanda’s brother (a bad guy). The feedback is very helpful so far.

    ReplyReply

  5. cleo
    Apr 26, 2014 @ 09:01:07

    I’m with Kate Sherwood about the misogyny and the bruises.

    I was confused by this line – “Amanda had promised herself that she would not let Sebastián see her devastation” – because I thought she’d just spent an hour crying and shrieking. Isn’t that a sign of devastation?

    Right now this seems very plot driven, as opposed to character driven. I don’t have a good sense of either character – just that they’re doing something necessary to set up a romantic suspense plot.

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  6. SAO
    Apr 26, 2014 @ 10:07:48

    This begins like an HQN. I can get into an overly emotional rollercoaster with an uber-alpha hero, but at present, I don’t like either of your chars.

    Amanda wails, sobs heartrendingly, and angrily shrieks, hits, then she says “you’ll be sorry” the only thing to make this a perfect example of a two year old’s tantrum is her to fall to the floor and drum her heels.

    So what is Sebastian doing with her? He had a year-long affair with a tedious, tantrumming child because all he cared about was a hot bod and sex? You’ve made it clear that this is his general approach to relationships. Frankly, when he meets the heroine, I’m going to be thinking she should stay away from this loser.

    You don’t need this scene. Start with “You’ll be sorry,” as she slams the door and have Sebastian think yep, he’s sorry he didn’t end it a lot sooner, then I’d be with him.

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  7. theo
    Apr 26, 2014 @ 10:45:43

    @SAO: This. Right here. Same things I thought.

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  8. Willaful
    Apr 26, 2014 @ 11:16:34

    I agree that it begins like a Harlequin Presents, which I actually like, but I’m a little confused about whether Amanda is our heroine because she seems so obnoxious.

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  9. Lil
    Apr 26, 2014 @ 12:05:37

    I was kind of hoping that the brother would be a Good Guy and give Sebastian a severely needed lesson in how to treat people and teach Amanda to stop being an idiot and take some responsibility for her own life.

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  10. Author
    Apr 26, 2014 @ 12:28:19

    Thank you for taking the time to write such thoughtful comments. Some clearly illustrate the shortcomings of one page as far as figuring out the rest of the story, especially one with a complicated plot.
    @Kate and Carol: The POV shifts are consistent flaws in my first drafts and are (mostly) straightened out by edits. I agree with your (Carol) show don’t tell comment. I own the Emotion Thesaurus and find it a good resource once the entire story’s on the page, but sometimes telling works too.
    @SAO: Very good point about Sebastián not tolerating a full year with someone like Amanda. Their relationship just became shorter.
    @Willaful: Amanda isn’t the heroine. Once she leaves Cabo, she only serves as a catalyst for her brother’s actions.

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  11. Lucy Woodhull
    Apr 26, 2014 @ 12:41:54

    The very beginning, with her screaming for an hour and him calmly what — watching? And THEN she slaps him? It read as so very sexist to me. Look, crying for an hour after a break up is normal, but shrieking hysteria that the noble hero calmly accepts just reads like contempt for the character, and, if she’s the heroine, well, I don’t want to read a heroine who is thought of as stupid by the author. That may not have been the intention, but I felt icky after the beginning. Then alphahole growls, and she finally comes to her lady senses. Ugh. I’m not saying every woman has to be a saint of restraint, but this right off the bat, from his POV…

    The other thing I wondered was — why break up with her ON vacation? Home is so much easier! Especially when the dumping was planned. I feel like they broke up on vacation because the author said so, not because it makes sense.

    The writing is pretty smooth except for the POV breaks others have pointed out. I think if you take a step back and start this in the right place, that will solve some problems. But as these characters are? I hope the hero and heroine are other people. Sorry for the harsh critique, and I wish you good luck!

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  12. cleo
    Apr 26, 2014 @ 13:11:37

    One more thing about the POV shifts. When I read a romance, I tend to assume that most, if not all, of the POV characters will get a romance, even the secondary characters. If Amanda doesn’t have a secondary romance (or at the bare minimum, an interesting character arc) I wouldn’t write from her POV. As a reader, it jarred me – I thought I understood her role in the story until that bit from her POV.

    (Although, as soon as I wrote this, I remembered that Nora Roberts’ first Chesapeake Bay book starts with the hero kicking a supermodel out of his bedroom, and there’s a bit from her POV, and then we never hear from her again. So I guess it can work, since that book’s one of my DIKs. But I still think it’s jarring in this case. YMMV)

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  13. Willaful
    Apr 26, 2014 @ 14:39:36

    @cleo: I think you put your finger on the source of our confusion about whether she’s the heroine or not.

    Roberts tends to give minor characters flashes of POV. I hate it, personally… I find it very jarring.

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  14. Carol McKenzie
    Apr 26, 2014 @ 14:46:38

    So then we only have Amanda’s POV because we’re going to have to introduce her brother somehow? Then I am confused as to why she’s taking up first page real estate, if she’e not the heroine and only a catalyst. I really feel then that this needs to start somewhere else, and now I think it’s with the brother.

    And now I’m wondering if it’s a M/M romance.

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  15. Kate Sherwood
    Apr 26, 2014 @ 15:40:03

    @Carol McKenzie: Oooh, I’d like this as an m/m! Why has our hero been having trouble finding a woman who satisfies him? Because he craves a different kind of partner!

    But, assuming that’s not going to happen… yeah, I agree, this may not be the place the story starts.

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  16. cleo
    Apr 26, 2014 @ 15:54:47

    @Willaful: Yeah, the more I think about it, the more I realize that I really don’t like it in romance, although I’ll overlook it in books that I otherwise love. It’s jarring, and so early in the story, it muddies the romance contract (or at in my least my understanding of it).

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  17. cleo
    Apr 26, 2014 @ 16:11:53

    @cleo: Gah – this is the reader contract link I meant to post – http://www.arghink.com/2014/03/07/the-contract-with-the-reader/ (the other one is good too).

    I think my problem with this first page is that I can’t tell what type of story I’m signing up for. It reads like the beginning of an HP, but it’s supposed to be romantic suspense. Plus, I’m confused about the possible heroine.

    The writing is smooth and engaging – I do think you have something here, but it needs polishing.

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  18. Author
    Apr 26, 2014 @ 18:19:59

    I’ve incorporated some of your suggestions in a rewrite. Thank you for a thorough analysis.

    This is the third (and final) book in a series. The reader has already met Sebastián in book two as well as his love interest (not Amanda) with whom he has a HEA at the end of this book.

    He is not cheating on the heroine with Amanda. This book starts five years after the second one ends and the H/H’s relationship (yes, they have one) is rekindled. The brother is not Sebastián’s lover, he’s the man who wants to destroy Seb for reasons too complicated to go into here.

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  19. theo
    Apr 26, 2014 @ 18:47:05

    Now I’m sure I would not read on. When I read romance, it’s with the expectation that a HEA comes at the end of every book. Since there’s no clue to what this is in the title except for the word ‘series,’ I thought this was a self-contained romance of three brothers/best friends/ex-military buddies and this one centered on the third guy. If it’s taken three to get to the HEA for one character in this series, I would have been extremely irritated with the first one (providing it grabbed my interest enough to read in the first place) only to find out that I had to read two more to get to the end.

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  20. Author
    Apr 26, 2014 @ 19:37:45

    No, no, no, Theo. Book one had a HEA for its H/H. Book two had a HEA for its H/H. Sebastián was a minor character in book two and THIS is his book and his HEA. Three books = three HEAs. That’s the rule. That’s the contract with the reader. No exceptions.

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  21. theo
    Apr 26, 2014 @ 21:44:28

    @Author: I understand the contract with the reader! But your explanation, and maybe I’m the only one who got it wrong, was that we’ve met this character and his arc already and this is where he finally gets his HEA, BUT, you didn’t say book two wasn’t about him. I’m not waiting that long for any HEA, no matter how good the writing. That’s all. If this is a series about three brothers/buddies/what-have-yous, I didn’t get that from your initial response. Again, probably just me.

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  22. Elizabeth
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 08:48:43

    I have no problem waiting through multiple books for a HEA, as long as the writing is good and something interesting is going on.

    I don’t see anything that interests me going on here, though. She’s having a temper tantrum and he’s waiting it out with a total absence of sympathy. There’s nothing likable about either of them and no reason given readers to be interested in this breakup.

    The woman is the person to whom interesting things are happening, and who is actively reacting to them. Granted, she’s reacting like a petulant child, whipsawing from tears to anger to regret to revenge. And, um, she wears a tennis bracelet. So that’s the sum of her. You tell us she’s not a main character — but why, then, make her the active party in the opening scene? He’s basically an observer, except for the bruising grip and, oh yes, the phone calls! But he’s the POV. The unevenness in his advance planning skills is jarring: there’s the practiced handling of the details of her departure (ride, plane, packing), but also the total lack of thought that went into breaking up while on a luxury vacation in a foreign country. There’s also an emotional unevenness to his reactions: he has apparently been patient, then he loses patience; then he’s all steely resolve, but he’s relieved when he wins; he regains his composure to call a plane but he PANICS (really, dude?) at her petulant declarations. This guy needs meds.

    In a nutshell: the scene gives me no reason to read on, since it does not present me with a) an intriguing situation or storyline, b) intriguing characters, or c) compelling prose. ONE of those elements has to exist to keep me reading past the first page. I strongly recommend that you move a more central element of your story onto the first page, or if you feel that you can’t, layer in some thoughts or details that will give us a reason to be interested in THIS scene — WHY is he so set against marriage? What makes him different from any other commitmentphobe? What attracted him to her in the first place? Why will she always love him? She said, “You mean it this time” — were there other times? If these characters have more depth, readers should be able to see it.

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