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First Page: Man of Her Dreams

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Jared lowered his suitcase, grimacing when it scraped the marble foyer. He paused. Had Mona heard him sneaking in? All remained quiet in the spacious apartment, so he let go the breath he’d been holding.

Ambient lighting cast a soft glow down the carpeted hall. Loosening his tie, Jared padded softly toward the bedroom. He and Mona hadn’t been getting along lately and by coming home early and surprising her, he hoped it would kick start their relationship again.

Before his writing career took off, and the subsequent media frenzy, he’d always been available for long romantic vacations, intimate dinners and attended the various charity functions Mona liked to be seen at. As a model for a high profile lingerie company, she was in high demand.

Also, Mona enjoyed the status and social clout from being the girlfriend of Jared Kane, only son of business magnate, Zachary Kane. Paparazzi dubbed Jared and Mona ‘The Golden Couple’, and spiralled into hyper-drive when Mona hinted an engagement wasn’t far off.

Neither of them had foreseen his Aiden Black – Murder by Choice series hitting both USA Today and the New York Times Bestseller’s lists, and after that, time was no longer his alone. He and his agent, Daran had been on a gruelling three month book tour. At this very moment Jared was supposed to be in Dallas on the Vicky Lee show.

Tempted, as the other guest was Golden Globe nominee Suzanne Swann, he’d asked Daran to have his segment taped so he could catch the red-eye home.

Jared stopped outside the bedroom and reached into the side pocket of his carry-on bag. He pulled out an elegantly wrapped gift and set the bag just outside the bedroom door. Inside the narrow, oblong box laid an intricate emerald necklace he’d spotted while in Los Angeles. It was Mona’s favorite type of gift; beautiful and expensive and— his cock twitched in anticipation— she would probably thank him most profusely.

She usually did.

About to push open the double French doors, Jared hesitated. From within the bedroom Mona’s throaty groan was unmistakable. Ice cold anger unfurled in his stomach. He recognized that groan. He’d heard it often enough when he plunged between her milky white thighs.

It seemed his soon-to-be fiancée had a lover. Too bad for her Jared hadn’t stayed away until tomorrow, like planned. With controlled movements, he opened the door, and took in the scene laid out before him.

Mona, astride her lover, arched, thrusting her breasts high into the air. Her long, silver blonde hair cascaded in riotous curls down her back. Beneath her, Jared could see the feet and legs of a man, his feet braced on the bed, large hands cupping her buttocks. As the man thrust up, Mona writhed and breathed out throaty encouragements.

Neither of them reacted right away when Jared tossed the wrapped gift over Mona’s shoulder. But both came to a shuddering stop when Jared leaned against the door jamb and called out in a deceptively calm voice. “Honey, I’m home.”

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


  1. Ros
    May 05, 2012 @ 04:35:16

    There’s an awful lot of backstory and an odd lack of emotion for such a dramatic opening scene. See how much you can cut of the stuff about his career for the scene to still work. And then ramp up the emotion as he realises what’s happening. Good luck!

  2. Abbie Rhoades
    May 05, 2012 @ 07:21:38

    Hi There!

    Kudos to you for putting this out there for everyone to see! Everything I say is just an opinion, my thoughts on your work, so don’t make any changes unless they resonate with you.

    I thought this was very written. You obviously have a talent for writing.

    But, (there’s always a but) I felt like this first page was predictable. The moment I realized he’d come home early to surprise his girlfriend, I knew he was going to find her in bed with another man. I’m not saying you need to have a different beginning, but don’t you want to hook the reader with something they’ve never read before? Or at least a new spin on it? As a reader I want to be surprised. If I already know what’s going to happen in the very beginning, when I should be most surprised, then I feel like I’ll be able to see what’s going to happen throughout the book, so what’s the point in my read it? That’s just me though.

    I agree with Ros’ comment about ramping up his emotion too. If you setup the beginning this way, then this is supposed to be a huge defining moment in this man’s life. But if the ONLY emotion he has is “Ice cold anger unfurled in his stomach” then it seems like he doesn’t care very much–so then I as a reader don’t care very much. I understand you are trying to portray how calm and unaffected he is outside when dealing with Mona, but the reader needs to see how he really feels on the inside.

    I also agree that some of the backstory could be trimmed.

    To me this excerpt could really be awesome with some tweaks. I found your writing enjoyable to read.

    Good Luck and Keep Writing!

  3. Anne
    May 05, 2012 @ 08:25:00

    I concur with the others on backstory and emotion, but you’d have lost me for good as a reader with this:

    He recognized that groan. He’d heard it often enough when he plunged between her milky white thighs.
    Mona, astride her lover, arched, thrusting her breasts high into the air. Her long, silver blonde hair cascaded in riotous curls down her back. Beneath her, Jared could see the feet and legs of a man, his feet braced on the bed, large hands cupping her buttocks. As the man thrust up, Mona writhed and breathed out throaty encouragements.

    The woman is described in such a cliché, porney manner that any guy falling for her immediately becomes uninteresting and earning himself what’s happening, along with an author resorting to such a dime a dozen shorthand, that I would reject the book on that alone.

  4. Author On Vacation
    May 05, 2012 @ 08:32:43

    This page has way too much “tell,” not enough “show,” and no emotional engagement at all.

    The scene you’ve described is relatively cliche (a person, presumably a main character, discovering a romantic partner’s infidelity.) It read like your main objective was to tell us as much as possible about your main character (successful author engaged to a lingerie fashion model, the two of them have been growing apart) and the infidelity “shocker” was simply a device, not all that important, to reveal the information.

    Also, why does Jared instantly assume his model/fiance has a lover when he hears groaning outside the bedroom? This immediate assumption of his gave me the impression Jared is a jealous, insecure person. I once dated a basically nice guy who distrusted women and it was way more trouble than he was worth. I’m not going to invest the time/money in reading about someone like that.

  5. Cara Ellison
    May 05, 2012 @ 08:34:17

    I agree with the others that it is rather predictable, but what bothers me more is wondering whose POV the rest of the book is going to be in. If it’s the woman’s, (the title is “Man of HER Dreams” – not “Woman Of His Dreams”) then I hate your protagonist already and won’t read any more of the ms. I don’t want to read about a cheating woman. If it’s the man, I’m not interested. Romance is written from the woman’s POV. So I think if there is another woman in this story, you need to start with her – not the man – and then use exposition to have him tell her how his girlfriend cheated. Hope this helps.

  6. Anon
    May 05, 2012 @ 08:46:58

    Sorry, author, but this would get shoved back onto the shelf as fast as possible. It is honestly the most predictable opening I’ve ever read – because I’ve read it so many times already! I have no desire to read a book by an author with so little creativity. I’m sure you have creativity, of course, but this opening doesn’t show me a drop of it. So scrap this (in fact scrap the entire idea of the cheating ex girlfriend as villain – because I can guarantee that she comes back into the story later, doesn’t she? Causing trouble for the H/h? Yeah, thought so.) and give us a book we haven’t already read before.

  7. Patricia
    May 05, 2012 @ 09:01:16

    I agree with the previous comments: less backstory, please, and a greater range of emotion from the protagonist.

    A different and less conventional opening scene might be good, but if you give us a much deeper understanding of the main character’s thoughts and feelings during what I assume is a pivotal moment in his life then this scene could work, too. There needs to be something unexpected here, if not the situation itself then the character’s reaction to it.

    Is the supermodel girlfriend going to be an ongoing character in the book? If not, I’m not sure it’s worth building up a major conflict with her on the very first page.

    I thought the girlfriend’s (and her lover’s) initial lack of reaction was strange and unrealistic. If I were making love to someone and believed we were alone in the house, and then suddenly an object came hurtling over my shoulder, I would freak the hell out. That is scary shit, from the girlfriend’s perspective. You might spend more time in her head while thinking about the scene so that her reactions are more believable and personal, not just those of the “cold unfaithful woman” stock character. All the characters need to react based on their own experiences and motivations, even when they are not the focus character in the scene.

    Good luck!

  8. Lil
    May 05, 2012 @ 09:03:43

    I have no objection to starting out with the hero’s POV, but aside from that, I agree with most of what’s been said.

    Think of it this way: At the end of paragraph 2, the hero is about to take a step. His foot is up in the air, and then you stick in half a dozen paragraphs of backstory before he gets to put his foot down again. It’s not just the hero who is knocked off balance here, it’s the reader and the reader’s expectations.

  9. Metal Queen
    May 05, 2012 @ 09:21:32

    I like when an author focuses more on the hero than the heroine. But as everyone else said, there is too much backstory and not enough “thoughts” or emotion coming from Jared. The scene is also predictable. I knew he’d catch her in bed with another man. Someone else pointed out the milky thighs and her cascading blonde hair. It is sort of on the purple-prose side.

    You are a really good writer and have something here. I am interested in how this will play out. Personally, I don’t think you need this scene. I’d rather read about his life post-Mona since that’s where his story really starts. At least it seems to start after leaving her.

    Thanks for sharing.

  10. Loreen
    May 05, 2012 @ 11:47:57

    Like others, I think the writing itself is smooth. I have a big problem with stories where the plucky, average looking heroine is pitted against the gorgeous supermodel. Why does the beautiful ex always have to be the evil character? I’d love to read a novel where the ex turned out to be a really nice person and found happiness of her own. Maybe she gives up modeling to become a spokesperson for UN refugees, then falls in love for the first time with a brilliant, compassionate nurse in Africa….
    The competition between two women for the love of the hero is such a tired trope. I don’t need all other women to be evil adulteresses in order to like the heroine.
    Also, what does it say about the hero that he was in love with a woman based only on her body? Clearly he thinks she is a greedy, materialistic witch and he isnt too surprised to find her in bed with another man. The description of her body is objectifying and clinical. Frankly, I would ‘t want to sleep with a man who would describe his fiancée as if she is a porn actress with no personality.

    You are a good writer, so I hope you will rethink this and ditch the evil model ex trope.

  11. PA Wilson
    May 05, 2012 @ 13:16:38

    I think there’s too much back story. It feels like false tension because coming home early and finding your lover with their lover, is predictable. I’m not saying that’s a bad opening, but I suggest getting it over with fast so that we can get on to the story.

  12. rebeccaj
    May 05, 2012 @ 13:36:31

    @Cara Ellison: You stated that “romance is written from the woman’s POV”. Not always. I’ve read some very good books that included male POVs. As a matter of fact, I prefer them BECAUSE they’re so few and far between.

    I do agree though with others in that there’s too much “clutter” in this opening scene, although I liked the “honey I’m home” comment;)

  13. Jane Lovering
    May 05, 2012 @ 14:57:10

    I can see what you’re trying to do here – you tell a story very nicely,but, as others have said, a little too much ‘telling’. Maybe simplify your beginning, bring a little more emotion and a few less names. We get Jared, Mona, Aiden Black, Zacchary Kane, Daran, Vicky Lee, Suzanne Swan…and it’s only the first page! I can only really get to know one or two new characters at the start of a book, maybe drip feed the other names in (if they’re absolutely essential) through the first chapter, not all in one gobbet.

  14. Madison
    May 05, 2012 @ 16:37:43

    Thank you for all the comments. Honest!
    We need to hear what the readers/authors have to say about our work, otherwise how else do we grow in our career.
    All you suggestions will be looked at, and I once again I thank you for taking the time to critique my first page.
    Crawling back to the hovel that is my writing den…..
    Small note – Mona’s lover is Jared’s father *cue music*

  15. Cara Ellison
    May 05, 2012 @ 18:03:19


    Of course romance books can include a man’s pov, but the books are about the woman’s journey (provided they are m/f). This was drilled into me by an editor at Bantam. Her reasoning, I suppose, is that romances are bought by women and women apparently like to read about other women.

  16. galwiththehoe
    May 06, 2012 @ 05:12:06

    Another vote for liking male POV, and another vote for liking how smoothly this is written.
    I agree with the suggestions that the reactions and descriptions are too clinical and detached. He seems cold.

    I like the idea of a “professional heir” embarking on an unexpected career without the help of the family fortune.

    I don’t like that the evil woman happens to be a lingerie model. Of course. If you really want to portray as her as this over-the-top evil stock character without any unique or redeeming features, I have to wonder why anyone would want to date her. It reflects badly on the guy.

    Thanks for sharing and good luck.

  17. ang
    May 06, 2012 @ 05:51:03

    This reminded me of romance novels that were written back in the 70’s and early 80’s. Jackie Collins-esque. Rich, important, mega stars who cheat on each other, do drugs, end up in some po-dunk town where they meet the man/woman of their dreams.

    I didn’t mind the back story so much, because it was on the first page and you set it up nicely for when he opened the door. However, I thought it could have used a little more polish. It sounded mechanical. This, that, then door opens and bam.

    Also, reading this from the beginning, I thought it might be a Christian novel, or possibly, just a quick read for one of the Harlequin imprints, but then you threw “cock” out there, and well, I guess not. It starts off sweet but then it becomes, whatever it becomes. I don’t know how you can fix that, but for me, (and no I’m not a prude) it was kind of jarring. I don’t mean to take it out, but perhaps restructure some of your earlier paragraphs to read like a contemporary kind of romance instead of something sweet.

  18. sao
    May 06, 2012 @ 10:42:18

    I’m late to the party, and I’d love to call this cliched, but with a little more thought, I realized my problem is that there’s nothing in this to explain what Jared feels for Mona. He was thinking of marrying her, why? All I get is the classic beautiful bitch and so Jared is well rid of her. If it takes him the whole of the book to realize what I’ve figured out on page one, I’m not going to want to read the book.

    I might buy a hero who’s been hurt by his bitch of a fiancee-to-be, but only if the romance of the book is good and it is completely missing from this page.

  19. Lauren
    May 06, 2012 @ 11:27:09

    You would have changed it up a bit by making Jared’s girlfriend being found in bed with his sister, rather than his father. I knew as soon as he was worried about his suitcase making a sound when it scraped the floor what was going to happen. It being the sister would have at least surprised me a bit.

    I hate the ‘milky thighs’ description. I think it was Carol Finch who used that in just about every single 1980’s Zebra romance.

  20. Elizabeth McCoy
    May 06, 2012 @ 20:09:38

    It occurs to me that you might want to consider cutting everything possible till he opens the door (and trim a lot of that, too), gives the good line, “honey, I’m home,” and then you can have a lovely screaming argument for all the As-You-Know-Bob infodumping you want. (E.g., “Well, if YOU weren’t GONE all the time–!” “I have to promote my books or the publishers will DUMP me! I gave up a talk show spot opposite Suzanne Swann to get home early!” “What, so I could fawn at your feet for giving me the time of day? Your father’s twice the man you are!”)

  21. Jane Lovering
    May 07, 2012 @ 06:13:19

    I’d quite like Jared to lean against the door and, instead of the ‘hi honey I’m home’, just to say ‘Hi Dad’.
    And, re the women/men’s POV in romance, my publisher actually specifies that we have the male POV as well as the woman’s. So it must be reasonably popular…

  22. Katie
    May 07, 2012 @ 12:23:08

    I would get rid of all the passive verbs. It will read better. I also agree with changing the start.

  23. kim
    May 08, 2012 @ 10:35:54

    TBH, I don’t think I would read this. The first page info-dump reads like we’re getting beaten over the head with how perfect/charmed they are. I don’t know about anyone else, but I tend not to gravitate toward books about beautiful people and their wildly successful careers.

    Perhaps this information could be spread out over the whole chapter, bringing the discovery of adultery to the chapter end? That way we could get to know Jared a bit more, learn how much he cared for Mona, how much he was looking forward to coming home to her, etc., but at a more leisurely pace. And then that would let the reader cozy up to his character a bit more, and share his pain when he finally discovers her cheating.

    Also, I totally second the sister idea.

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